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Enormous hooves shook the earth as the beast bellowed. Ganondorf's rage had transformed him into a true demon, a great horned hulk that wielded twin broadswords each as long as the Hero of Time, who faced him, was tall.
Bruised and battered after the escape from the crumbling Tower and still aching from magical attacks that had coursed through his body, Link wasn't backing down. Navi had vowed to fight with him, despite the evil energy that permeated the air. She flitted around, desperately trying to find a weakness in the Dark Beast Ganon.
Link danced and dodged. He dealt a swipe to one of Ganon's hooves that did no damage. He looked up just as one of Ganon's golden blades came straight for him. That's when his world fragmented.
The young Hero did not feel the slice, only its force. He was sent backwards and tumbled on the earth like a tossed toy. He barely registered landing face-down. The Master Sword sang in the air as it was tossed along with him. It landed tip-first beyond the barrier of flame, nearly cleaving Princess Zelda in twain. She jumped out of its way, a split-second saving her.
"LINK!" she called.
"Link, wake up!" Navi pleaded to the Hero's prone form, "Ganon is coming!"
When Link realized where he was, he felt wet about the middle, then a ripping pain. He recognized the smell of his own blood. Navi was screeching at him. He got up and suddenly felt fine. The searing agony in his middle had ceased and his body-aches were gone. He saw the shadow of Ganon and heard him laughing.
Link looked down and saw himself. He stood before his own body. It was splayed out upon the ground on the belly, head tilted to the side, dark red seeping beneath it. The boy hadn't felt this way since the last time a healing fairy had restarted his heart, but even then he was never fully separated from his flesh like this. He wondered if this was real or just a dream. He startled when he saw his own eyes – half-open, blue but without depth, flat, dead eyes. His lips were slightly parted. He looked surprised. Navi was still trying to rouse him. The spirit turned and saw Zelda. Her face held a look of pure despair.
Then her face took on a look of unadulterated anger. The barrier of flame fell and Ganon stalked toward her. She strode toward him, holding her hands up. A ball of light formed in her hands. Ganon roared. Zelda thrust her arms forward and called upon the Sages. The entire scene was flooded with light.
After the light faded, Link saw a castle. He was in the garden of Hyrule Castle and it was restored and as magnificent as it was before he fell asleep for seven years. Zelda, Ganon and Navi had vanished. He was alone, staring up at the beautiful palace.
Fishes swam among the towers. Link scratched his head. The sky was deep blue around the brickwork. The flags fluttered, but slowly as if in a liquid current rather than by wind. Silvery and golden fishes were everywhere. Link looked up and sunlight was faded and in waves, filtering down and barely penetrating.
Suddenly, he felt pain again. The Hero of Time found himself on the ground. The boy staggered to his feet, everything below his waist wet.
"Look!" Navi shouted. Link shook his head. The middle of his tunic was soaked in blood. It ran down into the water that was up to his knees and draining. The water drained off and his legs felt dry, the water merely an illusion. Link dodged as another giant golden blade came for him, wrenching his pained body. He was alive and able to fight. He'd never been so glad to be in horrible pain.
"The tail, Link!" Navi cried. "His weak-spot is his tail!"
Link reached into one of his magical pouches and pulled forth the Megaton Hammer. He wheeled around and slammed it into Ganon's tail over and over again. The flame-barrier fell and Link made a run for it, headed right to the Master Sword.
The dreams remained at the front of his memory. He knew they were more than dreams. He'd felt his soul for a moment fragment and then come back into itself. Were these different outcomes, some visions of prophecy the Goddesses had given him? He'd felt as though the universe itself had stratified, or like three different parallel worlds had merged together and were somehow merged within him. He was sure he'd just died, yet he was alive. He was sure that the land was just beneath an ocean, yet he was breathing air. He'd seen disaster – of two different kinds – Hyrule damned twice.
Link wasn't going to let that happen. His stomach felt as though it was threatening to drop right out of him. He could feel blood cooling on his legs. He ached and he hurt and his vision was growing fuzzy. He wrenched the Master Sword out of the ground and felt a sudden strength travel up his arm, though his veins, nerves and his very spirit. He rushed back to the fight and Ganon was felled.
The Hero of Time found his body restored when he stood in a cloud-filled spiritual plane with Lady Zelda. It was her wish to send him back to his own time, to give him his lost years back. He begged to stay. He had not gone through the trails he'd gone through for the sake of himself – his reward was to see Hyrule restored. Nothing could go back to the way it was for him, for he'd known too much of battle and knew that he was not the eternal Kokiri child he'd once thought he was. Zelda assured him that she would rule Hyrule justly and that it was for him to regain the life he'd lost. She also had hope that the seven years of Ganon's reign could be prevented if only the Hero of Time would go back and give her younger self warning.
In the end, Link relented and did as his Princess wished. He would go back to being a child again and he would fight the future – all the bad futures he had seen. As the Ocarina of Time was played, he felt himself warp and flow again. His body shrank and became youthful. He found himself small again, standing in the Temple of Time before the Master Sword, wondering, for a moment, if the life he'd lived had been in dreaming. It was almost as if reality had no meaning for him anymore, as stratified as it had become. He knew it had all been real.
He looked at his left hand, flexing his fingers. He was alive, but he could have sworn he heard the echo of the sea in his ears.
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