Link did not want to examine the ruins that were his house. He walked to the Forest Temple, buried deep inside his own thoughts.
Was that supposed to happen? Could sages really die? Could the Sages work while one was gone? Would she be replaced?
The Kokiri would need a new leader. Who would it be? Were there anymore Kokiri?
He had known her for as long as he could remember. She knew his fears, his hopes, his dreams. Oh please, no, forgive me Saria, forgive me...
"Link! Link, over here!" Link's blue eyes snapped up when he heard a familiar voice. Someone was waving at him from a pond. He ran to it.
"You're alive!" he exclaimed. It was Seciri, Byron, and Cleesla, three Kokiri.
"Is it safe to come out of here yet? I'm freezing!"
"Yes! Come out!" Well, some of the Kokiri were safe.
"Is anyone else around here?" Link asked them.
"I think Fern made it out too. T'others..." Seciri started, but her voice trailed of into silence.
"Come with me, we're going to the Forest Temple to stay. That's the safest place."
Sure enough, they found Fern in another pond, looking very pale.
"Link, help." she said softly, and he saw that she had a large gash across her forehead. "They were throwing things at some of us who tried to run. They hit some of us, and they hit me too, but I still got away...oh, I'm so cold..." they helped Fern out of the water, and she fainted.
Link had to carry her someways, and she came to not remembering where she was. Maybe it would be best not to remember, Link thought sullenly. They bandaged her head with some cloth torn off of Byron's tattered shirt. She said she could walk all the way there, and she did, but they watched her carefully to make sure she wouldn't fall over again.
They walked slowly. The Forest Temple shouldn't have burned down, because it was made of stone, but Link knew that Ganondorf had set a magic fire, so it might have went through stone. You could never tell.
As they entered the Sacred Forest Meadow, they saw it had been burnt even worse than the other parts of the forest. It was evident that the fire had started here. The dawn sifted its way through the smoke rising from the ruins, causing it's rays to scatter. There was one tree left. It was the huge tree that allowed one to climb up to the Forest Temple. The fire had not touched it, so that meant Ganondorf evidently had to use it.
He was starting to climb the tree with the Kokiri, when he heard a strange, smooth voice behind him.
"Link," it said. "You've come."
He turned to face Roe.
"You were supposed to protect her!" Link said, suddenly angry. "Instead you-"
"I did protect her," Roe interrupted, sounding confused. "Saria is not dead."
Roe's voice sounded so strange. He remembered it from somewhere...
It was the first time he had ever met Zelda, in North Castle's courtyard. She was explaining to him his role in her prophetic dream, when they suddenly saw a small girl with bare feet and tangled black hair run out one of the side doors.
"Zelda?" she asked breathlessly, in the same musical tone. "Are you talking 'bout that man again? The one with the red eyes?"
"Yes. This is the boy I was telling you about," Zelda said, gesturing at Link.
The girl looked at him.
"Wow! A sword! Lemme see!" she exclaimed, and started reaching for it. Just then, a woman stuck her head out the door.
"There you are! We've been just worried sick about you. Come back and finish your sewing right now," the woman said in a tired tone.
The girl shrieked playfully and climbed a tree before the woman could reach her.
"No more climbing! Get down from there young lady!" the woman said, irritated.
The girl swung down from a high branch on effortlessly. The woman let out a gasp as the girl dropped to the ground, but she landed on her feet and grinned mischievously. Then she sprinted out of the courtyard, the woman following after her.
"Your father will hear of this," Link heard the woman mumble.
"Sorry about that, Link. Guests," Zelda told him, blushing. From where? he was about to ask, but Zelda was talking again, and soon he forgot all about his question.
Seven years later, here he was, in the ruins of what was his forest home, and all he could think about was a sellsword's accent.
Suddenly, Roe's mask, which had been soaked from staying in the pond for so long, fell off of his face and to the ground. Link shivered with the scary realization that he was looking at...the girl!
"Who are you?" Link asked in a low tone. She chewed her lip and looked at the ground.
"My name is Maarei," she said in a voice that was anything but Hylian.
After the Kokiri were safely in the temple, Maarei told him her story.
"When the Three Goddesses left this land," she began. "They did not leave only Hyrule. They also created two other countries, Melanthos and Cyreene. The common people don't know about the other two countries. I was the princess of Melanthos. On the night of the Harvest Day Feast-that was where I got my sword-Ganondorf laid siege to the castle and killed my father. He kept me for questioning. I lied good enough, and he believed me. That is, until one of his spies told him the truth. So he planned to execute me. I escaped him and came to warn Hyrule-he let it slip out that he was going there next-but you left, and Saria needed protecting.
"I heard Ganondorf coming through and sacking the forest, so I got Saria out. She has the disguise of brown hair. She is also mute. That was one of the conditions that she would be able to leave the forest. When she left, I stalled Ganondorf and acted like Saria was in the temple. I fought with him; he said he liked my attitude. I beat him, I really did, but my sword broke, and well, look at it."
She held up the broken blade for him to see. Link didn't know what to say. He was a little cynical of this girl. It was a pretty farfetched story but...
"I met you before, didn't I?" he asked.
"Maybe," Maarei said. "A long time ago. Anyway, we have to go see Zelda."
"Who would defend the Kokiri?" Link said. Maybe as soon as he left the forest, Ganondorf would be back...
"The whole sacking was Ganondorf's way of ruining you. He has no reason to come back. Besides, I don't even think he knows that there are still some Kokiri alive. We must ride immediately. He'll be back in three days. We haven't much time."
"Three days? How do you know?" Link asked suspiciously.
"He told me." Maarei turned and walked toward the exit, holding the broken blade. Link followed, a thousand things running through his head.
If she was lying, he could just be walking into another trap.
If she was telling the truth, the girl was a powerful weapon against Ganondorf and all concerning him.
But Link couldn't stay here and wait for Ganondorf to come and kill him. He had to go see Zelda anyway...
How can he be alive? I killed him. Didn't I? Has he risen from the dead or was he never dead to start with?
What is going on here?
It was night by the time they reached the castle. Maarei was pulling on her mask again.
"You don't have to," Link said. "No one can tell out here anyway."
"Don't tell them I'm Maarei. I don't want to make a scene."
"So you're my friend? My sellsword?"
"I don't care. Just get me inside the castle and Zelda will recognize me."
They rode up to the gate.
"Hello Link," the guard said. "Why here so late?"
"It's urgent," he said quickly.
"Who is this?" the guard asked.
"My, um, sellsword." The guard seemed to digest the information.
"Sellsword," he repeated. "You may enter. He may not." The guard smiled apologetically. "No one's being allowed into the castle lately, but I guess you're an exception. I'm sorry, it's a strict order."
"Stay here," Link told Maarei and rode in through the gate.
Zelda hated being woken up. It was past midnight, and there was a messenger knocking on her door. She wanted to pretend she didn't hear and go back to sleep, but the messenger wouldn't give up.
This better be good, she thought as she trudged out of bed and flung the door open.
"What?" she said angrily.
"Link is here, princess," the messenger said.
"Can't he just wait till morning?" she asked, rubbing her eyes. There had been so much going on, she hadn't been sleeping well for several nights now...
"He says it's urgent, my lady."
"Well, tell him to wait, I'm not properly dressed. I'll be in the courtyard in a few minutes."
The guard left, and Zelda changed into day clothes. She gave her hair a quick brush and glanced at the mirror. She looked fine, but tired. Oh well.
Walking into the courtyard, she found Link sitting on the far side. Visibly, something was troubling him.
"What is it, Link?" She said, sitting down beside him.
What should I tell her about first? Link thought. If I told her about the forest, she might be upset and not care who I brought with me. So I'll start with Maarei.
"I...have someone you should meet," he said.
"A sellsword?" Zelda frowned. "Link, we can't let sellswords in here anymore. Not with all that's been going on around here. I ment to tell you-"
"No. You have to meet, um, him," Link said.
"Are you sure? I don't know..."
"Really Zelda, it's fine. You have to let him in."
"If you insist," Zelda said, calling a guard and telling him to open the gates.
"Link, what's this all about? What are you trying to tell me?"
"You'll see." If the girl was lying now...
"I mean-" the girl walked into the courtyard, and Zelda did a double take. Squinting hard, she whispered,
Zelda ran to her.
"You're safe!" she practically shouted across the courtyard. "Oh, I was so worried...please, tell what's going on! We tried to get to you through the passage but the other end was blocked, and we didn't know what to think!"
Maarei explained what had happened. Zelda got a stricken look on her face.
"Oh! King Phelan! Dead? Maar, I'm so sorry."
"He came through and demolished the forest too," Link added. He told her about Saria.
"He's going to try to take your castle soon. We need to protect it. He's got stronger troops now. Gerudos, Melanthians, and some southern Cyreenians," Maarei said.
"Maybe we can get help from Melanthos," Zelda said thoughtfully.
"Or what's left of it," Maarei added darkly.
"Now time for my bad news," Zelda said to them. "The Triforce of Power is missing."
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