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Chapter Text

A few quick notes:

1. This story is rated T due to some very violent content.

2. I intend to update weekly. I don't write that fast, but the writing is all done. I don't like when a story I'm interested in dies without an ending, so I figured I would make sure this story was finished before I posted any part of it.

3. I don't own any Legend of Zelda character or setting. I'm just borrowing them and I hope Nintendo won't mind too much.

4. Thank you so much for reading!


Link stared at the key for a long time, his heart thumping madly in his chest. All he had left to do was turn the key, and the final chamber of the Tower would be opened to him. He knew Ganon would be there: he could feel it. Besides, he had looked everywhere else, so Ganon had to be in this last room. He also knew, without question, that it was his destiny to find Ganon and to kill the demon using the Master Sword.

So what if the Master Sword was really big and heavy? It was the Sword of Evil Bane; it was invincible. There was nothing to be worried about.

So what if he was a bit young? He was almost six years old, after all: he was a big kid. And Ganon was really old, so he'd be weak and tired. He'd probably be coughing all the time and walking with a cane. It would be an easy fight and everybody in Hyrule would be okay.

Besides, even if something did go wrong and Ganon managed to hurt him, it didn't matter. Link was carrying four fairy spirits and two blue potions that would make him all better if he got hurt or if his magic spells started not working. So! There really was nothing to fear.

Link took a deep breath, turned the key, pushed the door, and entered Ganon's chamber. The door closed behind him, and when Link turned around to try to open it again, it had disappeared. Link's eyes widened, and his heart started to thump a little harder still: he was trapped. He turned away from the wall in a hurry to face the center of the room, but there didn't seem to be anyone there. He took a few hesitant steps forward and drew the Master Sword, holding it with both hands because it was too heavy for him to lift with only one arm.

A laugh suddenly resounded when Link reached the centre of the room. The sound sent a cold chill down Link's spine, but he fought back the panic and stood his ground. After a few moments, the air seemed to thicken in front of him.

Link launched at the thickening air and slashed it repeatedly with the Master Sword. After a dozen slashes, something hit his arms and the sword went flying to the side of the room. Link cried out in pain, and instinctively backed up a step. He started for the sword, but what had hit him materialized next to the blade and picked it up. It then turned to face him, and Link could not help but take a step back again.

Link knew how Ganon was usually described: a huge moblin-like creature. He also knew that moblins were supposed to look like pigs, so he had imagined that Ganon would look a bit like a pig and that he would be big. He was not at all prepared for the real thing.

Ganon was at least twice the size of any man Link had ever seen, and he did not just look a bit like a pig. His hands and shoes looked normal (although big), but his legs and arms, although covered with clothes, looked too chunky for a human. The worst part by far however, was his head: it was not a human head with a funny looking nose that looked a bit like a snout, it was a pig's head. The ears, the eyes, the mouth, and of course the nose, everything was pig. The monster held the Master Sword with one hand on the handle and the other on the end of the blade. It smiled at Link.

"Well! Isn't this yours, boy? Don't you want it back?"

Ganon grinned as the child just stared at him. This would be so much fun… it was a shame that it would be over so fast. His smile widened as the would-be hero frowned and charged him. Ganon raised his arm, holding the Master Sword above his head and well out of reach for the child.

Link tried to jump for the sword, and his enemy let him hop hopelessly around him, laughing all the while. After a dozen jumps, Link actually managed to touch the sword, but the monster quickly backed away and the hero's fingers closed on nothing. Before the boy had even landed from this last jump, Ganon kicked him in the chest, knocking the wind out of him and sending him flying into the wall behind him. Link struggled to his feet, massaging his chest and gasping for air.

Ganon was still smiling at him and holding the Master sword in front of him, with one hand on the handle and the other near the end of the sacred blade. Link started for him again, limping and panting and keeping his eyes focused on the Master Sword, the only weapon capable of defeating Ganon.

Ganon raised his right knee and brought the sword crashing down on it.

Link fell to his knees as he saw his only hope break in a dozen pieces.

Ganon laughed, thoroughly enjoying the look of despair on the hero's face. He threw the two pieces of the Master Sword that were still in his hands behind him.

Yes, it was definitely a shame that this would be over so fast.

Chapter Text

A few quick notes:

1. This story is rated T due to some very violent content.

2. I intend to update weekly. I don't write that fast, but the writing is all done. I don't like when a story I'm interested in dies without an ending, so I figured I would make sure this story was finished before I posted any part of it.

3. I don't own any Legend of Zelda character or setting. I'm just borrowing them and I hope Nintendo won't mind too much.

4. Thank you so much for reading!

Chapter 1: 1500 years later

It was still pretty dark. The sun was technically up, if barely, but dark clouds covered the sky, so that the dawn's light was all but non existent. Still, it was bright enough for Link to spot the supervisor waiting by the door of the workshop.

Link, who had already been walking as fast as he could, started to run and cast his eyes downward to avoid having to look at the man waiting for him. He stopped in front of the supervisor and waited, his head hanging and his eyes locked on the supervisor's boots. His heart was beating a bit hard, and not just from the run.

He was in trouble: he was beyond late, and the supervisor was going to discipline him. He very much wanted to run away, but then what? He didn't exactly want to starve and he'd never be able to find another position if he ran away from this one.

The supervisor's upper lip curled with disdain as he glared at the kid. All the workers knew that their quota this month was especially high and that everyone needed to do their very best. Being late this month was just not an option, and all the workers understood that. In fact, most of them had been showing up early almost every day.

"You are late." He said.

"I... I'm sorry, I... "

"Shut up."

Link gulped and kept quiet.

"Do you remember anything special about this month's quota? Answer."

"It... it's... big. I... I've been doing pretty g..."

"Shut up!"

Link hung his head a bit lower, fighting with all his might the urge to run away screaming.

"Do you remember what happened the last time our quota wasn't filled?"

It was a rhetorical question: it was not the kind of thing you could forget. Presidential Guards had come to the shop and executed one supervisor and three workers. Link nodded.

"Why are you late, then?"

The supervisor smiled and his menacing tone transformed into baby talk.

"Let me guess... wikle Winky was up all night because of big bad nightmares again?"

Link felt the blood rushing to his face. Nightmares were exactly what had happened, but he was not about to admit it. He had tried to explain the nightmares the last time he had been late, months earlier. He had tried his best to explain that he couldn't wake up until the nightmares were done with him, no matter how hard anyone yelled at him or shook him. As the supervisor had just demonstrated, all anybody had understood was that he was complaining about bad dreams, and he was going to be mocked forever for it.

He had not been asked to talk, so he just shook his head.

The supervisor switched back to threatening mode.

"You will work later tonight to make up for this. And you can forget about your breakfast, it's long gone."

Link nodded his understanding. If that was his only punishment, he was getting off amazingly easy: he had expected to be severely beaten.

The next moment, he was sagging to his knees and clutching his stomach, following the supervisor's sinking his knee into it.

"Get up and get to work." The supervisor said.

The supervisor stepped away from the door and watched as the worker got up, still clutching his stomach, and walked into the shop nearly bent over. The supervisor was still furious: he had wanted to do a lot more to the kid than a knee to the stomach, but he needed him to be able to work. Link was, maddeningly enough, a very good worker, and even if he had only been average, replacing a worker would have meant having a vacancy for nearly a day - not something they could afford at the moment. He had to get back to work himself, too, so he followed Link inside and shut the heavy door behind him.

Link hurried to his workstation, avoiding the eyes of pretty well everyone in the shop. He figured that if they did miss their quota, everyone would seize the fact that he had been late to blame him for it. Considering that Link had already exceeded the share of work assigned to him, a full three days before the end of the quota-month, that wasn't fair at all. That fact wouldn't stop anyone, however.

As if to prove him right in this intuition, his station neighbours came down on him as soon as he got to his place, before he had even picked up a chunk of wood and his hand axe. On most days, they didn't get started picking on him until lunch.

"Oooo... look who's here!" Koma said from his own position, right in front of Link.

"Why, it's our dear pointy eared coward!" Belly answered.

"Oh, goody! I was afraid he had been scared to death by a house fly!" Odupo said.

Link sighed but elected not to answer. They'd get tired of talking eventually, and in the meantime, he just had to concentrate on cutting down his piece of wood into a decent shield: thick enough to be solid, thin enough to be light, and of the mandated size.

"So, Link..." Belly asked. "You must have seen the sun on the way in."

"Just a bit, it was too cloudy." Link answered, hoping this was the start of a civilized conversation.

"You know, the sun can set things on fire. Didn't it scare you?"

Koma and Odupo snickered. Link rolled his eyes and went back to ignoring his neighbours as best as he could.

"I don't get why he hasn't quit yet." Koma said. That was an exaggeration: Koma knew as well as anyone that people who left their job usually never found another one. "Notice how he always walks as far as he can from the fire pits?"

"He's really scared when they go out though. It gets too dark for him." Odupo said.

"He makes nothing but shields, either." Koma said. "He's too afraid of the swords. I'm surprised he can work with a blunt hand axe."

Link glanced at his axe nervously. As a matter of fact, he hated having to work with it. Thankfully, his station "buddies" were not looking at him and didn't notice. They merely went on with their conversation, all the while talking about him as if he weren't there. By lunchtime, they were done making fun of all his fears and had moved on to their next favourite topic: monsters.

Oh, they simply loved talking about monsters. Stalfos and Re-Dead were their favourites, because they were the ones that got the most reaction out of Link. Since the whole fun of talking about monsters was that Link was scared of them and consequently disliked hearing about them, the best monsters to talk about were the ones that scared him the most.

They didn't rest during lunch, either. Despite his hunger, Link barely managed to swallow the cheese sandwich that was brought to him. He kept picturing a re-dead holding him like he was holding the bread, and feeding off his life.

Unlike the workers, the supervisors were allowed a half-hour long sit-down lunch in a small cafeteria off the main working area.

The supervisor who had been waiting outside for Link, Migo, put his tray in front of Zelda's and sat opposite her.

"That boy!" He said.

Zelda looked up from her Cuckoo stew, puzzled.

"That Link, I mean." Migo said while dipping his bread into his own stew.

"Which one?" Zelda asked. There were two workers called Link in the shop.

"Which one? The one who was late this morning!"

"Ah yes," Said another supervisor, sitting down next to Migo. "The pointy eared wonder."

"Ah, see?" Migo said. "Ejar knew who I meant right away!"

"No, he knew who was late this morning." Zelda said with a touch of annoyance in her voice.

"I just don't get this kid." Migo said. "He's lucky he's good with his hands, because he certainly has nothing else going for him."

"I'll say." Ejar said. "Late twice in three months. I hear you let him off easy, Migo?"

"Kind of had to, didn't I? He wouldn't be much good with his arms broken."

"So what was he late for this time?" Zelda asked.

"He didn't say. I'm getting him to work tonight to make up for lost time, so all in all, I'm pretty happy he was late."

"Why?" Ejar asked.

"He lost half an hour this morning, I'm making him work at least two hours tonight. I think I can reach our shield quota tonight, with him. We're not that far off. How are you doing on swords?" He asked Zelda.

"On schedule. I think we'll reach our quota tomorrow. We've all been doing extra hours, but it's paid off."

"Are you staying two hours tonight, too?" Ejar asked Migo.

"Have to. Link'll sneak out, otherwise. I mean, most people don't like being out at night, and I'll bet he likes it even less."

"Are you sure you want to make him stay that late?" Zelda asked. "I know last night's incidents were not near here, but still..."

"Oh, puh-lease." Migo said. "They were in New Hyrule, last night. And there was what, fifteen? More than ten usually means there's none the next night."

"Not really," Ejar said. "Half the time, there's still some the next night, just less. My cousin was one, the night right after that dozen last winter."

"Sorry," Zelda said. "How old was he?"

"Thirty, I think. Oldest person I've ever known. Not a single tooth left, white as snow. There's no way he'd still be alive now even if he hadn't been murdered." Ejar said.

Migo shrugged.

"Last night was still beyond Death Mountain," He said. "And they don't travel that fast."

"It once went from Lake Hylia one night to far past the desert the next." Zelda said. "They're not even sure there's only one murderer. Come on, Migo. It's just not smart to be out that late."

"Like being home is safer!" Ejar said, rolling his eyes.

Zelda insisted.

"Not staying late will keep at least one of them safe. Besides, the houses are usually attacked later in the night, so Migo'll be home during the dangerous period anyway."

"Oh, fine." Migo said. "I'll only make him stay one hour tonight, and one more tomorrow. That's about as long as I can stand to look at him anyway. I wish boys were allowed to grow their hair so he could hide those ears."

"I wish people weren't allowed to name their kids Link." Ejar said. "Zelda, I can see. They were the princesses and all, and it's cute to give a girl a princess name. But Link? It's like asking for the kid to go off and get himself killed before he turns 6. They may as well make him wear green."

Migo almost choked on his milk.

"Don't talk about that Din blasted colour!" he cried. "What are you, crazy? You want the shop to suddenly crumble or what?"

Ejar snickered. Before he could start making fun of Migo's superstition, Zelda changed the subject.

"Link is not that bad of a name. Nobody knows exactly how many heroes there's been, but historians are pretty sure it's more than 20, and only one of them lost against Ganon. That's a pretty good average."

Migo snorted.

"Yeah, well, one was enough, wasn't it? Ganon ruled for about 600 years!"

"Yep." Ejar agreed. "Because unlike Ganon, the Great Hero never bothered to come back and try again."

"You know, Zelda," Migo said. "Maybe your name is getting to you. First you convince me not to keep that Hylian wannabe too late, and now you're defending his name?"

Zelda rolled her eyes.

"Don't be silly," she said.

"And those ears..." Migo said. "I hate Hylians, and that's almost what they make him look like."

"I don't care about his ears, other than the fact they're ugly," Ejar said. "The Hylians are gone, so what's the point of hating them? Besides, their ears were supposed to be really long, not just a bit pointy."

"It's because they're gone that I hate them! They ran away when Ganon took over!" Migo said. "Quite nice of them, disappearing right when Hyrule needed folks who could use magic."

"There's a theory," Zelda said. "That they didn't run away at all. Some people think that Ganon spread the rumour that they had fled, but actually just killed them all."

"Why would he do that?" Ejar asked. "Lie about killing them, I mean."

The bell that signalled the end of lunch break rang. All the supervisors promptly got up and headed back to the main room. Zelda, Migo and Ejar got up with the rest, and Zelda waited for the rumble of chairs being backed away from the tables to subside before answering.

"Don't know." She said, shrugging. "Dishonour their memory, I guess."

The conversation ended there, as Migo stayed on the central aisle of the shop, around which the shield making stations were located, while Ejar and herself turned left, towards one of the two sword making sections of the shop.

Link sighed and cast a glance at the high windows far above the shop's door. They were so dirty that they were hardly nice to look at, but they still kind of allowed him to see outside, and that was some comfort. Of course, they were so near the high ceiling that all you could see out of them was the sky, and since they were filthy, you only saw a grey-brown version of the sky. When the day was cloudy or rainy, like today, this resulted in a grey-brown version of a grey sky: not a cheerful view by any standard.

Link still needed to look at them every now and then, because otherwise, the shop just felt too closed in and Link was very afraid of closed-in places. He needed to see an exit to be comfortable. The windows were the closest thing to that in the shop, because the only door was shut so tight that it let no light in at all. In the dark shop, it was just about invisible unless you were standing right next to it. Also, the door was kept locked, and to Link, a locked door was even worse than no door at all.

The windows were not exits either, really. They were too high to access, too narrow to go through, and they didn't actually open. Still, if push came to shove, it would be possible to pile up some tables, climb to the windows, break them, break the bit of wall between them, and get through. If anyone did that, they would be about two stories above ground, but they would be outside.

Link returned his attention to the shield he was working on, wondering if the day was nearly over yet. He was nearing the end of his resistance to being inside the shop, which was quickly getting darker, and therefore more threatening. He was just about ready to throw his hand axe as far away from himself as he could before it could hurt him. He was getting increasingly certain that someone would suddenly get the idea that throwing him into one of the fire pits would be hilarious. The air, thick with smoke, made him feel like he may choke, and it was getting harder not to imagine all kinds of things jumping out from the shadows. He didn't think he'd be able to keep himself from screaming if Belly, Koma and Odupo started talking about monsters again.

Somehow, he managed to keep under control until the windows were almost completely dark and the bell signalling the end of the day rang. Belly, Odupo and Koma threw their tools down and rushed to the door with the rest of the workers. The supervisors glowered at their staff for leaving right away.

Link stayed where he was, knowing he had to work overtime. He did drop his axe and pushed it away, however. Taking a break might just give him the extra endurance he'd need to get through the extra hours he would likely have to work.

The break did not last long. Within a minute, the supervisor who had punished him that morning was in front of him.

Migo's upper lip curled again, and he made no effort to keep the dislike he felt out of his voice when he spoke.

"Get back to work! We're staying for an hour tonight, and an hour tomorrow."

Link picked up his axe again and set to work.

The hour passed relatively fast for Link. The supervisor did not talk at all, concentrating on sanding and painting the shields that Link and Koma had finished cutting but Belly and Odupo had not got to. When he finished that, he started cutting more shields himself. The silence between them was a huge relief from his station neighbours constant chatter.

He was a bit surprised when the supervisor dropped his hand axe and the shield he had been working on and told him he could go. He looked up at the windows, and found he could barely make them out: the sky outside was now even darker than the inside of the shop, which was no small feat. A shudder ran through him and he just managed to keep himself from whimpering.

"O… okay." He said. "I'm sorry again for being late. Are... are we close to the quota?"

Migo, who was already on his way to the door, stopped and turned around, looking profoundly annoyed.

"Yes, we're close. We should be able to finish sometimes tomorrow, unless the President stays too long. You'd think he'd at least have the decency not to visit on the same month as he increases our quota."

"The... the President? He's visiting? Tomorrow? Here?"

"Yes. Are you coming or do you want to spend the night here?"

Link deposited his hand axe and his shield and followed the supervisor to the door.

"Hmm... can I ask you... which way do you live?" He asked when they reached the door, which the supervisor unlocked with a key attached around his neck.

"Well, let's see." Migo said. "Everybody in the upper class lives in the South part of town, don't they? And I'm in the upper class, so take a wild guess, genius. Where do you THINK I live?"

"In the South of Town," Link replied with a sigh.

"Right." Migo said. "And since you live in the North of Town, we're going in opposite directions. So no, I'm not walking you home. You're what, 16? You can walk yourself home."

Link nodded and followed the supervisor out, his heart already accelerating. He stopped outside the door, wondering if he really would be allowed to sleep in the shop and whether he wanted to.

Migo rolled his eyes when the kid stopped right in front of the door and shoved him out of the way to lock it. He checked it, and without another glance at Link, quickly set on the road going south from the shop. Link watched him walk for a few seconds, then turned around and looked at the road he had to take home, which went east. Link had to walk on this road for about 5 minutes before turning on his own North-South oriented street. He would then have to walk another 5 to 10 minutes before he got to his dorm.

That meant almost 15 minutes alone in the dark, with a murderer on the loose. Link did not read and nobody had shared news with him on that day, so he had no idea the previous night's murders had been North of Death Mountains, in New Hyrule. Not that knowing would really have reassured him: he believed the murders were committed by a bunch of monsters lurking in the night, everywhere, and who were always just waiting for someone stupid enough to be out after dark.

Link gulped and pulled his tunic away from his neck. He felt like he was choking. He started breathing faster, and couldn't seem to move. He wanted to scream for help, but only managed a whimper. The sound, weak as it was, at least seemed to unlock his legs, and he sprinted down the road.

He tripped twice, but met no monsters. He arrived safely at his dorm, exhausted and trembling, but intact safe for his scraped knees and hands. Others in town were not so lucky on that night.

Zelda was stopped by Ejar on her way out of the shop. He offered to walk her home, and after a short hesitation, she accepted. If nothing else, a bit of conversation on the way home would be nice.

"I can't believe the President is coming tomorrow," Ejar said almost as soon as they set on the Southern Road. "Right near the end of a work-month where our quota almost doubled, talk about bad timing!"

Zelda nodded.

"There's got to be a reason for it," She said. "Every President does it; they all spend a lot of time visiting shops. Maybe they're inspecting the quality of the merchandise? Telling off the managers when necessary?"

"Don't know," Ejar said. "They're all the same on everything, anyway. I remember the last three Presidents - I was too young to remember the one before that - but I've never seen any actual change from one to another."

"Hmm. The earliest election I remember was when I was 8. My parents were really excited because they really liked the new candidate. As far as I can remember, they hated him as much as the old President within a month. It was the same when I was 13."

"They died a few years ago, didn't they?"

Zelda nodded. "Three years ago." she said. "And in the last election... do you remember the campaign?"

"Yeah, I do. This candidate really seemed different. I fell for it, as much as I hate to admit it."

"I did too. I'm blaming it on wishful thinking."

Ejar laughed.

"You know you're going to get a bit of attention tomorrow, don't you?"

"Oh, yes. Another thing that's the same with all the Presidents. They all love historical names. At least there's five Zelda's in the shop, and two Links, so he won't concentrate on me TOO much."

They were almost to Zelda's front step now.

"Since you walk home by yourself usually," Ejar said, "I'm guessing your servant works somewhere else than at the shop? You don't have to wait too long for her to get home and cook dinner, do you? Mine works closer to my place than I do, so my dinner is already started when I arrive."

"I don't have a servant," Zelda said. "I don't feel right asking a lower class, with more physical work than mine, to do my chores."

They were on Zelda's front step now, but she had turned toward Ejar, as if challenging him to justify having a live-in servant. Ejar nodded, acknowledging her point, and had the good taste to look slightly embarrassed.

"I'm really careful not to overwork mine," He said defensively. "He just cooks my dinner and cleans up a bit. I rather think hiring them is doing workers a favour: they get their own room, even if it's the living room... I mean, at least they don't sleep with ten or fifteen more people; and they get a supervisor dinner. In addition to living in the South of Town, which is still safer than the North."

Zelda smiled gently. She could tell Ejar felt a bit guilty, and she really didn't think he had any reason to. He was only taking advantage of one of the privileges of being in the higher class, just like the great majority of them. What she had told Ejar was mostly the rationalization that she had trained herself to believe in order to be less bitter about not having the servant she should have been entitled to. Her smile had the intended effect as Ejar seemed to relax again.

"Thank you for your company," She said.

Ejar smiled and blushed.

"Pleasure's all mine," he said. "Listen. I know I'm a bit older than you are..."

Zelda couldn't help smiling. At 19, Ejar was only one year older than she was, and it was quite obvious that he was only bringing it up because he wanted to appear more mature.

"... But anyway," Ejar continued. "If you don't mind, I'd really like to... to get to know you better. That was nice, walking with you today. We could do it again tomorrow, what do you think?"

Zelda lost her smile and sighed.

"I really did enjoy your company, Ejar, but..."

She stopped. Ejar looked so disappointed that she suddenly felt like the meanest person in the world.

"I'm sorry," she said. "I don't mind spending a bit of time with you, I really don't, but I..."

"It's okay!" Ejar interrupted her. "I'll see you tomorrow, all right?"

With that, he turned his back on her and left, looking very much like she had just broken his heart. She sighed again, unlocked her door and got in.

Link went straight to his dorm's kitchen, looking very much forward to whatever he would find there. His lunch time sandwich had seemed even smaller than usual, and he had spent the whole afternoon longing for more food. He found a plate on the table, in front of his assigned chair, and sat down with a reassured smile. He had half expected someone to steal his dinner, despite the dorm's strict rules.

Even though he was still out of breath from his run, he inhaled his cuckoo drumstick in a few bites, and the two slices of tomatoes did not last much longer. He then ate his bread, cleaning the tomato juice and cuckoo fat from the bottom of his plate with it. All this took less than three minutes, and did next to nothing to calm his hunger. He stared at the plate, trying to will food back on to it. It didn't work, of course.

Link got up and put his plate back in the cupboard with the other ones. He noticed some of them still had a bit of fat or juice on them and for an instant, wished he was rude enough to lick them clean. He wasn't, so he closed the cupboard door and joined the common room.

His roommates sat around in small groups, chatting or playing games on the dirt floor. Link joined the two of his many roommates he got along with the best: Kariko and Dekussay.

Kariko was a girl with a severely scarred forehead and cheek and one missing eye. She had been attacked by a giant spider when she was 4 years old, and the monster had almost bitten half of her head off. She was very bitter about her disfiguration and was not friendly with anyone except for Link and Dekussay. She was almost constantly talking, and a good part of her speech consisted of insults and complaints. Link and Dekussay just ignored most of them, which seemed to suit Kariko just fine.

Dekussay was a boy three years younger than Link, and like Kariko, he had been attacked in his youth. The resemblance with Kariko ended there, as Dekussay had been attacked by a human and his wounds had healed without any visible scar. In his case, the permanent damage had been done to his spirit, and had left him afraid of everyone. He kept mostly to himself, and even Link and Kariko had a hard time getting more than a few words out of him at a time. For everyone else in Hyrule, Dekussay may as well have been mute.

"Hey," Link said, sitting down next to Dekussay.

"You're late. He was worried." Kariko said, pointing to Dekussay. "Of course, he's always worried, so no big change there. I wasn't, though. I'm sure you run faster than any monster."

"Sorry." Link said. "I had to work longer because I was late this morning."

"Sorry." Dekussay said. He sounded utterly miserable. "I TRIED to wake you up. Were you punished?"

"Just a kick in the stomach and no breakfast." Link said. "And the extra work. Don't worry about it, nobody can wake me up when I'm having those dreams. Thanks for trying, though." He smiled, trying to look like being late really was no big deal. "How about you? How were your days?"

"Fiiiine," Kariko said. "Unless you don't like everyone staring at you all day, again. They won't admit to it, either. Bunch of jerks. I'm the best worker in the place, the rest are all either super lazy or they spend all their time telling on everyone else that's not working. I picked twice as many tomatoes as anyone else today. The Din blasted supervisor said that I didn't, of course. She hates me because I'm smarter than she is."

Link nodded to the familiar tirade and turned to Dekussay, who worked as a cook and cleaner in the bomb shop.

"How about you?" He asked.

Dekussay shrugged. "Nothing special." He said.

"Nothing EVER goes on at your shop, according to you." Kariko said. "The whole place could blow up and you wouldn't tell us because it would take more than five words. Come on... nobody pissing you off?"

"Not really." Dekussay answered.

"How was breakfast? Lunch?" She asked.

"One of the cooks made himself a supervisor's lunch."

"Did they catch him?" Link asked, his eyes round with the sheer astonishment that someone could have that kind of nerve.

Dekussay shook his head. "Says he's doing it again tomorrow."

Kariko then proceeded to describe what they had for lunch and breakfast at the farm, at great length and in quite unflattering terms. Link had to admire her ability to talk for ten minutes just to describe an egg for breakfast and a lettuce sandwich for lunch, but it was making him even hungrier. He chimed in as soon as she paused for breath, just to change the topic of the conversation

"The President is going to visit my shop tomorrow."

"Ooooohhh," Kariko said. "Aren't you special! He visited the farm three months ago, I didn't make a fuss about it."

That was a blatant lie. Kariko had talked of nothing else for weeks. If the President knew one tenth of the things she had said about him, he would have had her and possibly the whole dorm executed.

"He's going to talk to you." Dekussay said. He sounded as though this was a terrible thing.

"Probably not too long," Link answered. "Nobody likes looking at those for too long." He pointed to his ears with his index fingers.

"How do you think they like looking at my face?" Kariko asked. Said face had turned a bright red from anger, except for the scarred tissue, which looked very white by comparison.

"Sorry," Link said. "I just hope he doesn't find them interesting and end up talking to me MORE."

"He might." Dekussay said. "Maybe you shouldn't go."

"I can't do that. They'll never take me back in if I miss so close to the end of the quota month."

"It's just so cute how you'd be even more of a coward if you weren't afraid of what would happen." Kariko said.

Link didn't know what to answer, and Kariko took over the conversation, ranting about the President, until the dorm owners sent everyone to bed. Link and Dekussay proceeded to the boys' bedroom, upstairs, and Kariko left for the girls' bedroom, which was adjacent to the common room.

Link took his boots off and got in bed. He was exhausted, and fell asleep within seconds.

He suddenly found he was having a lot of trouble breathing. He tried to get up to get help. The bedroom was empty, so he walked to the door to the corridor and tried to open it, but it was stuck.

Link, gasping for air, tried his best to open it, without success. He turned sideways and tried to break through with his shoulder, but the door did not budge at all.

Link could not breathe at all by now. He kept pounding on the door, trying to attract attention, but the door was too soft, his fists made no noise on it. He used the last bit of his air to cry out, but no sound came out.

He collapsed against the door, and a cold feeling started creeping over him. It wasn't exactly painful, even the burning sensation in his lungs seemed to have subsided. Still, he desperately wanted to stop it, even if it meant feeling the pain in his chest again. He was powerless, though, and the cold sensation completely washed over him, leaving him in total darkness.

Then, he felt something similar to a slap in the face. He got up, confused. He had died, he knew he had. His eyes widened with terror as he suddenly wondered if he had been turned into a re-dead. He checked himself over and cried with relief. He was still himself, he was not an undead monster. His relief was short lived, however. He had died, he was certain that he had. So how was he still alive? Was he really, or was he a ghost that didn't know it?

He was in the shop, lying next to his workstation. He got up, and Belly, Koma and Odupo made fun of him for falling. He shrugged them off and started banging the sword he had been working on. He had never worked on them before, so he didn't really know what he was doing. He supposed banging it with the mallet, against the flat stone made it thinner and straighter, but it was really more of a guess than anything else. The sword had a pretty blue handle that he supposed he had attached to it, but he didn't remember doing it. He didn't remember anything about the morning, just that he thought he had died, asphyxiated.

He heard a sharp cry to his right. Belly was screaming. She had been too close to the fire, and she was burning. Horrified, Link took a step back from her, but since he had switched position with her and was now between her and the fire, this was not a good idea. He fell into the pit.

The pain was even worse than Link had ever imagined. The fire was engulfing him, turning his body itself into fire. The pain was impossible to endure. Link was screaming, but his damaged throat could not emit a sound. He tried to get up, but his legs crumbled under him, turning to ashes. He tried pushing himself out with his arms, but they too, crumbled. Link had time to briefly wonder why he was still alive, then the fire started growing colder and darker.

Like before, Link tried to fight it, but once again, there was absolutely nothing he could do. He felt his chest crumble like his legs and arms had, and even though he was burning, he was again overtaken by a feeling of icy coldness. All his senses seemed to stop working, and there was nothing anymore.

Then, the slap again.

Link jerked up, breathing hard. He found himself surrounded by assassins, and each of them had a sword pointed straight at him.

"The worst monsters are people." Dekussay's voice said from next to him.

When Link turned to face him, and ask him if he knew what was going on, the Deku Scrub squealed and hopped around, looking very much panicked. Link stared at him, because Deku Scrubs did not actually exist: they were just a legend. His attention was wrenched back to the assassins when he saw one of their swords poke at the Deku Scrub and felt the tip of another one against his side. He slowly turned to face the assassin, hoping to negotiate.

The assassin smiled at him and thrust his sword into him. Link felt the sword piercing his flesh like an overripe tomato, slipping past a rib and piercing something inside of him. The assassin ripped his sword out, and Link felt that whatever it was inside of him that the sword had pierced was bleeding. Blood was also pouring from the opening between his ribs. He tried to scream, but all that came out was a weak gasp. He fell to his knees, clutching his side. It didn't hurt as much as the fire had, but the pain was still considerable. The feeling of disgust at the sensation of the sword forcing its way into him did not help matters any.

He didn't have time to recuperate before another assassin slashed him across the chest. It was like a paper cut, only a hundred times worse. Blood was coming out from the large cut at a frightening speed. Link started to cry and tried to plead for his life, but only a whimper came out.

A third assassin drove his sword through his left thigh. More pain. It was a mixture of the worse cramp he had ever had and having his leg burning all over again. Since his left leg could no longer support him, even at a kneeling position, he fell to his left, painfully crushing his injured thigh. He looked for the Deku Scrub, his only ally, but the poor thing was in pieces.

He hardly had time to feel sorry, as a fourth assassin had his turn and impaled his hand to the ground. Link screamed. He had felt every one of the little bones in there shattering under the sword. The assassin removed his sword and Link's hand was soon swimming in a pool of blood.

Link was starting to feel drained. A fifth assassin plunged his sword into the small of his back, piercing some other organ inside and slashing through his spine. Link jerked from the pain, and tried to crawl away from the assassins, forgetting he was surrounded. He found he could not move his legs.

One of the assassins rolled him on his back with his foot, and Link found himself staring through half closed eyes at the leader of the group of assassin. He bent close to Link, so that their faces were inches apart. Link, panting, tried to push him away with his good hand, but he was too weak.

The assassin never moved his face, but Link felt something poking his chest and his eyes widened in fear. The assassin smiled and pushed his sword in.

The cold was very quick this time, and the assassin's face quickly faded, along with the sound of the other assassins laughing and the smell of his own blood. Soon, there was only nothingness again.

For the third time, Link felt as though he was being slapped awake. He sat up in his bed, panting, and his heart racing.

At the foot of his bed stood a moblin. Link gulped in disbelief and horror. Moblins did not exist. Most people agreed they never had. Link closed his eyes and when he reopened them, another moblin had joined the first one. Link screamed for help.

"Shut up!" Came the supervisor's angry voice.

The moblins attacked, and tore him apart with their claws, tusks and fangs. When the cold came, Link did not fight it.

Link did not wake up before he had been killed 9 times. After the moblins had come stalfos, then he had found himself in a room that shrunk until it crushed him, then he was in a dark place and keeses had very slowly scratched and bitten him to death, following him wherever he ran. After that, he had been executed by archers, and finally, a giant pig had crushed him under his weight.

He stayed sitting up in his bed, determined to stay awake until it was time to go to work. He didn't want to go through the dreams again. It didn't seem to matter that he had these kinds of dreams almost every night, he just couldn't seem to get used to them at all: while he was having them, he couldn't even remember that he'd had them before. He never recognized them for what they were until he was really awake, and therefore, could never understand what was going on and why he kept coming back to life.

Thankfully for his plan to stay awake, the moon was up and even though it wasn't full, it was bright enough for Link to see, so he could keep his mind busy by looking at the things and people in the room. After a while, a scream pierced the night.

His roommates jerked awake and looked around, confused. Link's eyes went straight to the room's window, three beds over to his left. More screams resounded. Everyone in the room stood frozen. The screams stopped after a few minutes, and were replaced by a roar that sounded quite a bit like a laugh. After that, the night was silent again.

The boys spent the rest of the night talking, nobody intent on getting back to sleep. Link stayed mostly silent, but listened attentively. The conversation was a good distraction, and the boys were avoiding the subject of what had just happened, and anything closely related like monsters and death. Like him, they were trying to forget and to not wonder who the victims were.

Zelda stayed by the door for a while, listening to Ejar's steps fading away. She brushed her shoulder length hair away from her face: the day had been hot and humid, and it had been sticking to her face all day. She tucked it behind her ears, the very things responsible for her having to endure her hair clinging to her cheeks and chin all day.

Like the morning's latecomer's, they were pointy. From the few times she had seen him, she judged his were no worse than hers. Luckily, she was able to completely hide hers under her thick hair.

She still had to be careful, though, and at times, it was really taxing. She could never wear her hair up, or even just pulled back, in public. She never dated, either. Each time she met a boy she liked, she found herself picturing him running his hands through her hair, feeling her ears, and backing away in disgust. She had also never dared to hire a servant, afraid she would discover the ears and tell the whole town about them.

Ejar, who prided himself on being tolerant of everyone, had admitted he found Link's ears ugly at lunch time. From him, that meant he found them absolutely repulsive and would not for any money spend time close to them if he could help it. Zelda had never actually been interested in Ejar, but she did find him good company, much better than that ignorant bully Migo, and she was not about to let him find out about her deformity: he'd probably never talk to her again.

She pushed the matter away from her mind and went to the kitchen to start fixing her dinner. The food had been delivered the night before, as always. It didn't take long to fix: the meal of the day was noodles with pieces of beef and onions, one of the quickest of the regular meals to prepare. The desert was even easier: the apple needed no cooking at all.

Once dinner was done, she sat down with a history book and read until it was time for bed.

She woke up to the noise of heavy footsteps below her. Her heart skipped a beat, and started thumping like mad, as if to make up for that one lost beat.

She crept out of bed and squeezed herself between her headboard and the wall. She had been rehearsing this in her head for a while, and had even gone so far as putting the head board just far enough from the wall to fit behind it. She had also made herself stay in the cramped spaces for increasingly long times, which had not been easy. She was so afraid of enclosed spaces that even though she was even more afraid of whatever it was killing people in their houses, it had taken her months just to work up to staying behind the headboard for 3 minutes. She was up to almost double that, now, and she could only hope it would be enough. She waited, hoping whoever it was would not have a lamp and could not see in the dark. She also desperately hoped the thing was not patient and would not make any significant effort to look for her.

The curtain separating her room from the stairway was torn off and the monster walked into the room. Zelda squeezed her teeth and lips together to keep herself from gasping at the sight.

In her doorway was an enormous moblin-like creature. It had limbs like a man, only bigger, but his head was that of a particularly ugly pig. It saw the empty bed and entered the room. It headed for the closet and Zelda shrank back further against the outside wall. The monster ripped off the curtain to her closet and searched through it, tearing her clothes apart.

After a very short while, the creature turned away from the closet. It drew an enormous sword and started stabbing through the mattress, obviously in the hope of getting her if she was hiding under it. It stabbed the bed in about 20 places, and growled in frustration.

It then left the room without noticing the bed was not flush against the wall. Zelda waited for the footsteps to leave the house before coming out from her hiding place. She sat on her bed, breathing heavily.

She replayed the whole thing in her head. Something about it what so familiar... but she had never been attacked before, so why would it be? Her parents had been killed, but Zelda had been spending the night at a friend's and had not witnessed it. She shuddered as she realized she had just escaped the killer for the second time. For a wild moment, she wondered if the monster was after her specifically. There was no reason why it should be, and it was not like it had attacked the same house twice: Zelda did not live in the house where her parents had been killed. Logically, there was no justification for even thinking for a second that the monster was looking for her in particular.

Except, that is, for the eerie familiarity of it all. It seemed like she had been hiding from that monster all her life, and that it had been after her for even longer than that. She visualized the monster and concentrated hard on it.

She could see it in her doorway again. She could see the ugly beast that looked almost human from the neck down. She could see it drawing its sword, the enormous sword that was probably longer than she was herself. She could see the face very clearly: a pig's face, blue in color.

Memories soon started to flash before her eyes. She remembered countless times when the creature had been trying to use her, or to hurt her, or both. She remembered being rescued by the Hero. She remembered both the Hero and the creature calling her "Princess"...

Zelda pressed her hands against her head and tried to shake the memories away. It didn't work. They kept flooding through her, several lifetimes worth of brief flashes where both the monster, Ganon, and the hero, Link, figured prominently. She had no idea how long it lasted: it stopped when she heard the screams.

She jumped up from her bed, and rushed to her window. The screams seemed to be coming from a few houses down, and they stopped as abruptly as they had started. Zelda backed away from her window, shivering.

She sat back down and forced herself to order her thoughts.

She only remembered bits and pieces of her past lives, but it was enough to identify herself. She was not merely named after the princesses of old, she was several of them, reborn. It kind of explained the ears, anyway: they were an echo of sorts: a leftover from her previous lives as a Hylian.

The monster who had been killing people was Ganon. He was back, again. She couldn't tell if any other monsters were killing people at random, but she felt quite sure that all the murders that happened in the homes of upper class people were committed by Ganon himself. She also had a feeling that Ganon was doing it at least in part because he was looking for her. He was always after her, why would this time be any different? Besides, if he hadn't been looking for someone in the upper class, why attack these houses? Most of them only had four occupants or less, while the dorms of the working class typically had about thirty people living in them, and the Ganon she remembered would definitely choose to kill thirty people over killing only four.

Zelda shivered as she pictured Ganon laughing away while ripping victims apart one after the other. He had to be stopped and it was obvious that it wasn't the President who would do it, or anybody working under him: the President and his cronies had never shown any concern for the murders, merely advising people to be careful.

No, the authorities would be of no help whatsoever, she was sure of it. The task would fall to the Hero again.

Zelda's eyes widened as she thought of the Hero: her thoughts had immediately centered on the boy who had been late to work at the shop this morning. She frowned and tried to think of the other Links she knew. Her thoughts did not cooperate with her wishes, however, and kept coming back to the Link she least wanted to have to rely on. Her emotional side was soon fighting over the matter with her logical side.

Logic pointed out the name was right. Emotions replied that it was a common name, there were two right at the shop and there had to be at least a dozen in town and possibly hundreds in all of Hyrule.

Logic argued the age was right too. As far as Zelda could remember, the Hero was always her age or just a bit younger. Emotions argued that lots of people were her age or just a bit younger.

Logic asked about the ears. Emotion refused to answer.

Logic finished the argument by stating that being in denial was just wasting time.

Zelda sighed. The Hero was a coward who, at last count, was afraid of: the dark, fire, magic, magical creatures, especially monsters, especially undead monsters, death (more so than normal people), sharp things, such as hand axes, swords, or just about anything else that could be used as a weapon, and just to top it off, who was just as claustrophobic as she was herself.

She resisted the temptation to just accept the idea that Hyrule was doomed and spent the rest of the night thinking about Link and of what the best course of action was.

By morning, she had only managed to decide that she should try and see whether Link knew who he was and what needed to be done.

Ganon growled in frustration. It was always a disappointment not to find Zelda in every house he visited, but not finding anyone was infuriating. He gave a last slash through the bed and the floor under it. There was nobody there. He contemplated kicking the bed across the room, but he didn't really feel like it. Destroying objects had gotten boring about 1400 years ago.

Truth be told, just about everything was boring, and had been for some time. He had enjoyed not having to worry about the Hero for a while, but the lack of a worthwhile enemy to crush had gradually become maddening. If not for a nagging worry that the Hero could possibly defeat him this time, Ganon would have been quite happy that his nemesis was alive once more. If nothing else, looking for the boy and the girl kept him somewhat entertained.

He left the house where he had found no toy, and walked up the street. He entered the next house he sensed had female inhabitants, hoping these women were home, unlike the last one.

They were. Ganon tried to make them last, but enthusiasm quickly overtook him, as it usually did, and it was all over in a minute. The two females, a woman and her child, and the one male, presumably the father of the child, were ripped apart until the whole room and Ganon himself were covered in their remains. Ganon stood there for a while, feeling like his toys had been taken away from him too soon, before leaving to return to his closest lair.

Chapter Text

A few quick notes:

1. This story is rated T due to some very violent content.

2. I intend to update weekly. I don't write that fast, but the writing is all done. I don't like when a story I'm interested in dies without an ending, so I figured I would make sure this story was finished before I posted any part of it.

3. I don't own any Legend of Zelda character or setting. I'm just borrowing them and I hope Nintendo won't mind too much.

4. Thank you so much for reading!

Chapter 2: The President of Hyrule

Link got to work early, walking with three of his roommates, who worked in the same shop he did and who were largely ignoring him. Link didn't mind: they were there, which meant he wasn't walking in the dark alone, and that was good enough. Also, they were talking to each other, which made the walk a bit more interesting.

The hot topic of the day was the presidential visit. Link listened to them wondering if they would get a reward for being so close to finishing their quota, and whether the President would give them their next quota personally, and what it would be if he did. The conversation eventually slipped on historical names and the President's well known interest in them. Link cast his eyes downward so that he wouldn't meet those of any of his dorm mates.

"Say, Link," said one of them. "You have a historical name. The Hero!" He laughed, quickly joined by the others.

Link chose not to reply.

"He's got those weird ears, too." Said another. "You think the President will think they look Hylian?"

"He looks more like some kind of Kokiri, if you ask me."

"Yeah! Scared little Kokiri, hiding away…"

"It's going to be funny watching him trying to look like he's not there when the big scary President starts talking to him."

"Is the President really big and scary?"

"A Deku Scrub would be big and scary to Link, so for sure the President will be."

Link let his mind wander away from the conversation.

The door was not opened yet when his roommates and himself got to the shop, so they waited outside with the other early workers and supervisors. Link looked around to see how many people had arrived before his roommates and himself, and caught one of the girl supervisors staring at him. He quickly looked away, guessing she was staring at his ears.

They didn't wait very long until one of the key-carrying supervisors arrived. She opened the door and let everyone in. Link went straight to his workstation, intent on getting as much done as possible before the President arrived and interrupted them all. Belly and Koma joined him soon after, and the bell announcing the official beginning of the work day rang.

Link felt a chill run down his spine and looked around the shop, trying to spot Odupo. He had no luck, and turned to Belly and Koma, who looked back at him without the merest sign of being about to make fun of him. They were both as pale as Link felt.

They set to work in silence, and Link couldn't help wondering if his absence had worried his work mates as well. He figured it might have, but probably not nearly as much, because unlike Odupo, he simply wasn't Belly and Koma's friend.

"Maybe he's just late, like you were." Koma said.

"I was actually a bit worried, yesterday," Belly said to Link.

"Yeah," Koma said.

"You were? For me?"

"Not much, mind you. I mean, you can run faster than any monster, can't you?" Belly answered.

"And there's no law against making fun of dead people." Koma added.

Link rolled his eyes and got back to work. He expected Belly and Koma to start talking about how monsters would go about catching him, but they didn't. They stayed silent, and for the first time in Link's memory, concentrated on their work.

Their breakfast, a peeled banana per worker, arrived and they dropped their tools to eat it. The supervisor lingered, and Link, Belly and Koma stopped eating to look at him, waiting for instructions. After all, more instructions were all supervisors ever hung around for.

"You will get a new station neighbour tomorrow." The supervisor said once he had their attention. "Odupo was one of four victims last night."

Belly and Koma both started crying. They hugged each other and Link looked down, frowning. He felt angrier than sad. He was sick of being afraid the next one would be himself or someone he cared about.

The supervisor let Belly and Koma cry and hug for about a minute before he spoke again.

"I understand how you feel, but as you know, more people will die if we don't meet that quota. Get back to work, you need to make up for him."

Link grabbed his hand axe and went back to work. Belly and Koma went back to work as well, sniffling occasionally and otherwise silent.

Although he wouldn't personally be missing Odupo much, Link felt utterly miserable all day. Apart from the discomfort of not being able to do anything to ease Belly and Koma's pain, it was just a painful reminder that anybody could be next, including himself, Kariko or Dekussay. This in turn reminded him of the previous night's nightmare, where Dekussay had turned into a Deku Scrub and been cut into pieces.

Link was therefore quite determined to avoid looking at his two station companions and made a point of looking around the shop whenever he raised his eyes from his work. He soon noticed that the same female supervisor who he had thought had been staring at his ears outside the shop was constantly looking his way. He started to wonder whether she liked him and found the thought difficult to dismiss, ludicrous as it was.

His thoughts stayed on the fanciful theory all day, and he couldn't pretend to mind. He knew that the more he allowed himself to think the pretty girl was not just a victim of a morbid curiosity for his ears, the more he'd be disappointed when it turned out that this was indeed what was going on. However, it kept his mind from wandering back to Odupo, death and his dreams. Link figured it was worth risking being disappointed.

Shortly before lunch, the bell that signaled that the quota for shields had been reached rang. This bell, much to Link's chagrin, did not signal that the workers could take a break. It merely meant that from that point on, the supervisors, after gathering and inspecting the completed shields from each table, had to hide them instead of putting them into the room used to store finished products until they were taken away. Link didn't know where they were hidden, as the workers were not trusted with the information: if the inspectors ever found that a shop had significantly exceeded quota, they were bound to sharply increase that quota. Inspectors were wise to the practice of hiding extras, and shops that suspiciously just reached the quota, with no surplus at all, month after month, were searched. The supervisors had to decide, each month, how much over the quota it was safe to be. Because of the increased quota this month, it was likely that they would pretend it had barely been reached just minutes before the inspectors arrived, tomorrow evening. Link wasn't surprised when the supervisor, on his next stop at their station, told them that if the President asked, they were to say the quota had not been reached yet.

The day wore on. Almost every time Link looked at the girl supervisor, he caught her looking at him.

Zelda was trying her best to stop staring at Link, aware that he had noticed, but it was difficult and it got worst as the day went.

As his fatigue increased, Link was becoming less and less able to cope with his phobias. He was obviously nervous about handling his little blunt axe and he was slightly leaning away from the closest wall, seemingly anxious to put more distance between the fires and himself. He was also constantly looking at the high windows, the only thing other than the solid locked door that led outside the closed-in shop. She bit her lip and tried to tell herself that at least he wasn't actually climbing to the windows, or throwing his axe away, or screaming. It was hard not to notice, however, that he wasn't far from doing any of these things.

The bell for the swords' quota rang towards the end of the day. Zelda sighed in relief: no executions this month. She quickly went around to each of the tables she supervised to tell the workers that they were to pretend the quota hadn't been reached yet if the President asked. It seemed obvious, but it was an unnecessary risk to assume that all the workers would realize that not admitting the quota had been filled a day ahead was much more important than not lying to the President.

Said President arrived as the sun was almost done setting, mere moments before the shop would have been closed for the day.

Everyone in the shop had been waiting for this moment all day, and all were on their knees before the Presidential Speaker finished bellowing the command to pay respect to the President. Zelda sank to her knees like the rest, but was seized by violent shivers. She looked at the President, and was filled with the same dread as the night before, when she was hiding while Ganon trashed her room. She squinted, instinctively trying to see the President better, to see why he had the same effect on her as Ganon. She didn't see anything more than the man who had been elected the year before by making dozens of promises he never had any intention to keep. She suddenly realized he had started to speak and forced her mind as far away from Ganon and the previous night as she could.

"Good evening everyone," Said the President in a tone indicating rather plainly that he did not really care whether they had a good evening or not. "It is a pleasure to meet you all," he recited. "Workers like you make Hyrule strong and safe from invasion. I've been informed that one of your own was a victim in last night's attacks. I can only hope that it will inspire the rest of you to be more careful."

There was a bit of a stir in the workers at these words. Link could actually hear Belly and Koma grinding their teeth, and he found he was clenching his fists himself. The lack of verbal response to such a thoughtless comment could only be explained, Link felt, if the rest of the shop was as afraid of being executed if they dared criticize the President as he was himself.

The President wasted no more time on generalities and started going around the shop, asking each worker and supervisor for their name and saying some platitude to each of them. Zelda felt her dread increasing as he got nearer, mixed with cold fury: she was angrier than she had ever been. The President got to the sword-side worker called Link and when he muttered his name, the President's face lit up. Zelda just managed to repress a gasp of horror. The President's feature had moved to an expression of innocent interest, but his eyes had, for one second, expressed something quite different, like the President would have loved the rip the worker apart and drink his blood.

He did no such thing, of course. He merely asked the worker a series of personal questions, such as whether he had ever taken a particular interest in the legends of the Heroes, and whether he ever felt like he'd like to live up to his name. The worker answered with monosyllables, most of them being "no". The President's features were neutral again, but his eyes, once more, expressed something more for an instant: disappointment.

Those two fleeting expressions were enough for Zelda to know why she felt such dread and hatred. The President was working for Ganon, looking for the reincarnation of the monster's enemies: the Hero and the Princess. This was probably the very reason shops were visited: this little routine of going around and exchanging a few words with all the workers was simply a way to question anyone with the name of Link or Zelda.

Evidently, she had to make sure the President didn't suspect he had found them. She could only hope Link's ears, which were, unlike hers, in plain sight, would not betray him. When the President got to her, she composed an air of adoration and eager anticipation, feeling the best strategy was to act in every way opposite of how she naturally would.

"Hello, miss," said the President, standing in front of her. "What is your name?"

"Zelda," She said, putting as much happiness as she could into her voice. The President automatically looked a lot more interested in her.

"Ah, Zelda. The princesses of yesteryear... did your parents want to name you after a particular princess, or did they just like the name?"

"They just liked the name," Zelda said. "I mean, the princesses were just someone that the hero always had to save, weren't they? I don't know why he bothered."

Zelda knew quite well that the princesses often greatly assisted in defeating Ganon. However, since their role was usually discrete, though essential, she knew that the opinion she had just expressed was not unpopular. Furthermore, she knew she would have a key role to play herself: at the very least, she had to whip the current hero into shape, not to mention keep him alive. She was quite certain that if the President had any suspicion that the little shield maker who was afraid of everything really was the Hero, Link would be dead before the sun rose again.

Her answer did not have as much effect as she had hoped. The President still looked quite interested in her.

"The Princesses were deemed to be very wise," he said. "Perhaps you think you could have done a better job helping the Hero than they did?"

Zelda quickly considered and chose to stick with her strategy, but add a bit of idiocy and selfishness for good measure.

"Well, yeah, if I wanted to." She said. "I don't see why I would, though. I mean, if there's a big monster around, it's not exactly a princess's job to deal with it. That's what guards are for."

"Indeed," The President said, and his eyes briefly showed a bit of disappointment. Zelda decided not to push her role to the point of talking without being asked and contented herself with looking self important while staying silent. She spotted a few of the people who knew her looking puzzled at her behaviour but ignored them.

The President turned away from her and proceeded with asking everyone for their names. He stopped at each Zelda, and finally, arrived to the second Link in the shop. His eyes widened when he saw the ears. Link turned beet red and turned his eyes downward.

"Yes, I suppose they would be a cause for shame," The President said, his tone harsh. "What is your name, boy?"

"L...Link, sir. I... I'm sorry about... about the ears. Sir."

Zelda's heart sank as the President's eyes flashed in triumph. Clearly, the ears and the name were enough to convince him that he had found his quarry. Zelda had to change his mind. She forced a loud laugh.

"And what a name for THAT one!" She barked. She hoped that others would join in, and was not disappointed.

Link turned toward the voice and even though he had been trying to tell himself all day that the pretty girl was only staring at his ears, he still felt oddly betrayed. Most of the shop started laughing.

He cast his eyes back down and clenched his jaw, ready to ride it out.

"What is so funny?" The President asked, irritated. "Boy!" He growled at Link, clearly indicating that he was to provide the answer.

Link whimpered, causing the laughter to increase.

"It's... it's because I'm afraid of... a lot of things, sir." He said, wishing he could just disappear.

"Try 'everything'!" Zelda yelled from the other side of the shop.

Random people in the shop helpfully started enumerating. Link stared at his knees, wishing the President would just go away. This was beyond humiliating.

"Look at me, boy!" The President snarled.

Link slowly forced himself to obey. The President's expression made him shrink away and he barely held back another whimper. He couldn't remember being more afraid of anything. He had been feeling worse and worse as the President had been slowly making his way towards him, and he had thought his heart was bound to bounce right out of his chest when he had finally gotten to him. And yet, it had been nothing compared to the sheer terror he felt now. He desperately wanted to run.

"You are a shame to your name, and to Hyrule." The President said. "Then again, if you have Hylian blood, like those ears suggest you do, it's not surprising. Cowards who left when Hyrule needed them the most... you had better be good, boy. If I ever receive the smallest complaint about you, I will be all too glad to sign the execution order. You are a stain."

He finally turned to Belly and Koma and resumed his visit, not sparing Link another glance. Link stared at his back until he was a few tables away, trying to recover from the shock and to understand how he deserved that much hatred. He then turned to Belly and Koma, eager to see some good old fashioned, not hateful, mockery on their faces. They were staring at him, with no trace of a smile.

"What was THAT about?" Asked Belly in a whisper. Link didn't know what to answer and did not reply.

Of all the shop, only Zelda understood why the President was so angry. As everyone had started enumerating Link's phobias, and as the President looked at the trembling, whimpering boy kneeling in front of him, he had concluded that he wasn't the Hero after all, and was bitterly disappointed. He had done a good job looking disgusted instead, but not quite good enough to fool someone who knew better.

The President's tour of the shop ended fairly quickly. Once he had talked to everybody, he made his way back to the door, stopping long enough by Link's workstation to cast him a hateful look and spit on him. Link sank his head between his shoulders, his eyes closed. He was expecting to be hit next, but the blow never came. When he opened his eyes, the President was going through the door of the shop.

The supervisors waited a few minutes after his departure, just in case he came back, then told the workers to go home. Link stayed at his station, miserable and trembling at the thought of a Presidential goon waiting for him to come out alone, long after everyone else, so that he could be killed without witnesses – this way, monsters would be blamed for it.

Migo took one look at him and sighed. It was a bad precedent to set to let Link off so easily after being late the previous morning, but it would have been sheer cruelty to make him stay late tonight, especially with the quota already reached.

"You really think I want to stay here tonight?" He barked at him. "Go home!"

Link could hardly believe his luck. He thanked the supervisor and ran out to catch up with his dorm mates. Like Belly, they did not look like they wanted to make fun of him. Some of them looked like they had half a mind to hug him.

"I'm okay!" He grumbled, irritated. He didn't need to be reminded of how bad it was to be disliked by the President. Enemies of the President usually did not last very long... outcoming presidents even had a very clear tendency to get themselves killed shortly after losing an election.

His dorm mates turned away from him, embarrassed. They started down the road in absolute silence, and although he would have given anything to break that silence, Link could not think of a single thing to say. He looked at the sky, hoping to see some stars, but the sky was overcast again and there were no stars to be seen. His thoughts drifted back to the President's words, and he found himself wondering how long the President would take to find an excuse to have him killed or arrange for him to be one of the victims some night. He felt like screaming: he hadn't done anything wrong, he was always doing his very best at work... this was only happening because he had been born with pointy ears and his parents had had the bad taste of naming him Link. There was no way the President always reacted this strongly to people who were afraid of a few things: it had to be because he hated Hylians and didn't like to see a Link who was a coward. It was understandable: the Hero had never returned after his one defeat to Ganon, and most people felt that he was not showing much courage after all, while at the same time, refusing to admit the Hero was anything but the bravest soul to ever exist. When you thought of it that way, it was not surprising that a Link who seemed to be afraid all the time aroused some anger and resentment.

They had only taken a few steps when he felt a hand on his shoulder. He startled, then stiffened in dread. It had to be a Presidential Guard... it had to be that the President had chosen not to waste time waiting for a complaint, or used a past one. Maybe he had a complaint to his name from being late the day before. He closed his eyes before he turned around, and waited to hear his sentence. He debated whether he should try running, and decided that if the sentence was indeed death, he would. The Lost Woods were not very far and he was a fast runner, as most people loved to point out when making fun of him. The thought that an executioner might kill him without saying anything first did cross his mind, but he couldn't bring himself to open his eyes.


Link was so surprised to hear a feminine voice, especially one that did not sound hostile, that he opened his eyes. He frowned upon seeing the Nayru forsaken girl who had been staring at him all day and had started the shop going on his being constantly afraid.

"You're going to make me fall behind my group." He said, controlling his voice not to shout at a supervisor.

He turned and started trotting after his group, who had indeed kept walking.

"Wait!" Zelda called.

Link ignored her, pretending not to hear.

"Worker Link, wait!" She called again, this time too loudly for Link to pretend he hadn't heard her.

Link stopped. He couldn't afford to get in trouble with a supervisor, now less than ever. He turned back toward the girl, fuming.

"What?" He said. He didn't quite manage to keep the anger out of his voice.

"I'm really sorry," Zelda said.

Link softened just a bit. She looked like she really meant it.

"Why?" He asked, whispering to be certain not to yell. "Why did you shout out like that? I don't even know you!"

"I was trying to help," She said.

"HELP?" Link could no longer keep his voice down. Sorry as she looked, she had still basically signed his death warrant. "I'M AS GOOD AS DEAD! I'M GOING TO HAVE TO RUN AWAY!" Link got even angrier as he said it. He didn't want to run away and live in hiding for the rest of his life: that was the only reason he hadn't already.

"You don't need to run," Zelda said. She did her best to hide her exasperation, but she could tell from Link's reaction that she hadn't quite managed: his fists were clenched and he looked like he'd love to punch her.

"You're a good worker," she explained. "Nobody at the shop wants you dead. Just because they make fun of you doesn't mean they hate you! And who else than a supervisor or the manager would put in a complaint with the President? Your dorm keepers would just throw you out if they got angry with you, wouldn't they?"

"The President wants me DEAD!" Link said, clearly enunciating each word as if he was talking to someone who did not speak Hyrulian. "He's going to kill me even if there is no complaint!"

Zelda looked around. There was nobody left nearby, so she felt safe to get to the point.

"He would have killed you on the spot if he hadn't been convinced you were a coward," She said. "He works for Ganon, and was looking for the reincarnation of the Hero."

Link stared at her in disbelief.

"The President works for Ganon, the Hero is reborn... you're insane, aren't you?" He said. He clasped his hands on his mouth right away. He hadn't meant for that last part to actually come out.

"It's not insane!" Zelda said angrily. "Why do you think he asks everyone's names and tries to evaluate the personalities of any Link and Zelda he sees?"

"He likes historical names. Everyone knows that!"

"Right, he likes them," she said. "That's why he spends so much time visiting shops. He's got nothing better to do than travel all over the place and waste hours in shops just to talk to people with historical names for about 1 minute each."

Link rolled his eyes. He could argue, point out the President obviously had some other reason for visiting the shops, but it seemed like a waste of time. It was dark, monsters could jump out at them at any time, and he was hungry.

"I'm going home." He said.

He started walking away from the girl but she grabbed his arm and spun him around. She didn't let go.

"Did you hear when I said he would have killed you on the spot?" She asked angrily.

Link's frown deepened. He really wanted to jerk his arm away and escape before he said or did something he'd regret. He tried, but her grip was solid and he couldn't risk hurting her.

"Well?" She said.

"I heard!" He sighed. "You think he thought I was the Hero because my ears look Hylian. I'm not stupid. I just think..." He stopped. He figured it may not be a good idea to question her sanity twice in a few minutes.

"You just think I'm crazy," She supplied.

Link was about to deny it when he heard rustling in the bushes to the left of the road. The girl seemed to hear it too: she tensed right up and looked nervously at the bushes. Link did not waste time looking. He twisted his arm to grab her instead of merely being in her grip, and took off running in the direction he was facing, which happened to be back towards the shop, dragging her along.

Zelda did her best to keep up, but Link really was a fast runner. She glanced behind and what she saw frightened her enough to make her legs move faster. Right behind them was a Stalfos, his sword out and his empty orbits somehow managing to convey a very strong lust for their blood.

Ganon was in the foulest mood the President had ever witnessed. It had been a good hour since they had left the shop, and the beast, still controlling the President's body, was using it to angrily pace back and forth in its encampment.

The President knew why, too. He had no control at all over what Ganon did with his body, but he could still see, hear, smell, taste and feel everything.

The President, like Ganon, had been sure right away that this had to be the Hero. Why else would he look Hylian? Hylians had been extinct for generations. His name had only confirmed what seemed already obvious. Not for the first time, he had desperately tried to seize control of his own body, but Ganon was moving the President's hand towards his sword and there was no stopping it, no matter how desperate the President was for the Hero NOT to be killed. It wasn't surprising, really. As strongly as the President wanted the boy to live, and eventually, to defeat Ganon, Ganon's desire to slaughter the boy was even stronger.

So, the boy had about five seconds to live, and busy as he was staring at his own knees, he was completely oblivious to that fact. The President's cape hid Ganon's movement to everybody else, so there was simply no way anyone would even know the boy needed saving. It was debatable whether anyone would have reacted had they known, but it didn't matter. The President could not even close his eyes: all he could do was brace himself to witness his own hand killing the only hope to free Hyrule and himself.

But then, someone - neither Ganon nor the President could tell who - had shouted something about the boy's name being a joke, and the rest of the shop had joined in. It had turned out that the boy they had thought was the hero was a spectacular coward, afraid of just about everything. The President could have kissed the girl who had started the mockery: even though she couldn't know it, she had just saved an innocent life.

Ganon had moved his hand away from his sword, but only because being seen murdering someone for no apparent reason was not conductive to finding the Princess and the Hero. It could even spur a coup, which would mean there would be no clear head of Hyrule for months, and thus, nobody to possess which would have much political power. Ganon was so used to ruling Hyrule, having done so first as King for centuries after defeating the last Hero, and by possessing every new President since he had allowed himself to be dethroned centuries earlier, that he could not stand the idea of losing power for any length of time. He would not allow that to happen for anything less than taking the Hero's life. This alone kept him from decapitating the boy out of pure spite.

So, Ganon was extremely disappointed. The President would have liked to think that his own happiness over Ganon's failure to find and kill the Hero fuelled the beast's anger a bit further still, but in all honesty, he did not think the monster was even aware that the person who actually belonged in this body was conscious, and even if he was, it was safe to assume that Ganon could not possibly have cared less about his host's feelings.

Besides, his happiness was very tainted. The ideal scenario would have been for Ganon to kill the boy, mistakenly thinking he was the Hero, and thus to stop searching for the real one. True, one boy would have died, but at least the night attacks would have stopped. Ganon would not need to hunt anymore, and more than likely, would not let his "pets" out either: doing so made the Stalfos, Wolfos and Moblins happy, something Ganon would prefer to avoid. He only let one of them out every night to draw the Hero out: the more dangerous Hyrule was, the more likely it was that the Hero would come out of hiding and start slaying the beasts. If Ganon didn't stumble upon him himself, the Hero was bound to find some monsters and destroy them. When that happened, the spell that Ganon had cast on said monsters would activate and Ganon would be able to identify the Hero.

The one flaw in the plan was that if one of his monsters killed the Hero, Ganon would have no way to know. It was entirely possible the Hero had been killed a long time ago. The President knew that Ganon was very keen on killing the boy himself, and could not figure out at all why this possibility did not seem to bother the beast: Ganon hardly ever spared it a thought.

Chapter Text

A few quick notes:

1. This story is rated T due to some very violent content.

2. I intend to update weekly. I don't write that fast, but the writing is all done. I don't like when a story I'm interested in dies without an ending, so I figured I would make sure this story was finished before I posted any part of it.

3. I don't own any Legend of Zelda character or setting. I'm just borrowing them and I hope Nintendo won't mind too much.

4. Thank you so much for reading!

Chapter 3: From Hero to Servant

Link turned left when he got to the shop, heading for the south of town. Zelda glanced behind and saw with some relief that they were gaining on the Stalfos. She decided not to tell Link what, exactly, was after them: he was scared enough as it was. They ran for what seemed like an eternity, although she knew it couldn't be more than a few minutes.

"Link!" She panted. "Ta..take the first... right!"

He didn't reply but when the side street came, he turned.

"Thi...third house on... the left!" She panted again.

Link glanced back for the first time and his heart skipped a beat. What was following them was far enough for them to get into a house, but it was still following, even though they were now in the South of town, and it was a Stalfos. He accelerated, even though he hadn't thought he could go any faster than he already was, and finally stopped in front of the third house on the street.

Zelda already had her key out and she quickly unlocked the door. She ducked inside, followed closely by Link, and slammed the door shut and locked it. The Stalfos started banging against it moments later. Thankfully, it gave up in less than a minute and they heard it rattling away, probably back towards the North of Town.

Link collapsed, falling sitting on the floor right next to the door, shaking badly.

"Stalfos..." He muttered. "They're not real," he chanted. "They're not real. They're not..."

Zelda kneeled in front of him and put a hand on his knee.

"Obviously, they are." She said. "But they're slow. You were able to outrun it even though I was slowing you down."

This had the opposite effect than what Zelda had hoped. Link started moaning and his shaking got even worse. He was hugging his knees and looked and sounded as if he was going to be sick. In desperation, Zelda put her arms around his quivering form and murmured shh's at him, like she was trying to comfort a baby.

It had no effect at first. Link was shaking so badly Zelda was starting to feel sick herself. Zelda kept trying, not knowing what else to do. It took several minutes for the shaking to start subsiding, slowly giving place to an occasional shiver. The moaning, thankfully, also stopped.

"Better?" Zelda asked after a while, when the shivers had all but stopped.

Link nodded miserably. He couldn't understand why he had felt so scared AFTER they had escaped, and at the same time, he felt very close to breaking down again. He raised his head to look at the girl and suddenly realized something that sent his heart into overdrive again.

"I have to go back..." he whimpered, his eyes widening at the thought. "It's going to be waiting for me somewhere out there..."

"You're not going anywhere," Zelda said quickly. The poor boy looked like he was going to start another panic attack. "You're going to stay here tonight."

Link looked up hopefully.

"I can stay?" He asked.

"Yes," She said. "In fact, I wouldn't let you go back if you tried."

"Th... Thank you," Link blabbered. He turned his head back down and took a few big breaths to try and calm down.

Zelda got up and bit her lip. He looked pathetic, but he had grabbed her before running away. He could have left her there and run for it by himself, couldn't he? She glanced at him and saw with some satisfaction that he looked extremely ashamed of his behaviour. Her satisfaction quickly turned to pity, and she opted to get the conversation going again.

"Why didn't you just leave me there and run away by yourself?" She asked.

Link looked up, now looking insulted as well as shameful.

"Something was about to attack us," He said in a tone implying this should have been obvious. "I couldn't just take off without you."

"But," Zelda said. "Weren't you afraid it would catch us if you were slowed down by me?"

Link snorted derisively.

"Like you told the President, I'm ALWAYS afraid. Of everything."

"My point is, you took a risk to save me." Zelda said.

Link shrugged.

"I just grabbed you without thinking."

"I don't think you're a coward at all." Zelda stated. "Whether you thought about it or not, you put yourself at risk to save me, and I'm not even sure you know my name. You were staring at the floor when the President asked me."

"If I'm not a coward, how come I'm afraid of so much stuff, huh?" He asked, glaring. "How come I didn't try to help when I heard screaming last night, huh? We all just sat there! That could have been Odupo! And no, I don't know your name! It doesn't matter: I have to call you 'supervisor' anyway!"

"Did anyone else in your dorm even think of going out?" She asked.

"I don't know! What does it matter? The point is, we heard someone screaming and I never even thought of trying to save him until today!"

Zelda lowered her eyes. She couldn't deny that it hadn't been very courageous to just stay hidden while you could hear someone being murdered. On the other hand...

"If you had gone out, you would only have been killed as well. You don't even have any weapon, do you?"

"What do you care, anyway?" Link asked, shrugging.

Zelda kneeled back down in front of him.

"I told you the President thought you were the Hero," she said. "That is, until everyone started making fun of you and pointing out all your phobias. He..."

"What's a phobia?" Link asked.

Zelda blinked then shook her head. She knew workers didn't have much education, she should have expected Link's vocabulary to be limited. The poor boy could probably not even read.

"It's something you are more afraid of than is reasonable," She explained. "Anyway, I was about to say, the President was right."

Link frowned, then sighed and sagged a bit.

"I know," he said. "But it's not like I WANTED to have the name of the Hero. I know it doesn't fit."

Zelda cocked her head, completely lost. When Link had said "I know", she had thought that her job of convincing him of his identity was already done. But the rest of what he said didn't make any sense. It took her a second to realize Link thought she meant the President had been right to tell him he was a shame to his name and to Hyrule.

"No! Not that!" She said. "He wasn't right to tell you off, he was right when he thought you were the Hero!"

Link stared at her blankly for a moment, then his mouth started to twitch and Zelda could tell he was trying not to laugh in her face.

"I know it sounds crazy," She said. "But I realized it last night. I was attacked..."

Link's eyes went wider than she would have thought possible.

"That's why I'm wearing mismatched clothes," she said, thinking something mundane may take the edge off the surrealism of the whole conversation, and feeling the urge to complain out load about this at least once. "This skirt and this shirt are the only thing fit to wear that I have left. The rest of my wardrobe is too torn up."

Link blinked. He thought that was a typical higher class, complaining about something so trivial in such circumstances. He wouldn't have noticed the shirt and skirt didn't match, but now that he took a good look at them, he could see they were both in rough shape. Like his own clothes, they were patched and sown back together in various spots, which, though it was the norm among the worker class, was definitely unusual for a supervisor. If the rest of her clothes were worse than this, whatever had attacked her must have been downright ferocious. This brought his thoughts back to the fact she had been attacked.

"How did you survive?" He asked. "Nobody survives these attacks."

"I hid behind my headboard." She answered hastily, eager to get to the point.

"That's all it took?" Link said, incredulously. "It didn't look for you?"

"Of course it did. That's why it tore my wardrobe apart. It also stabbed through my bed repeatedly, in case I was under it. But it wasn't doing a good job of searching me," she admitted. "It barely looked in the other rooms. I think it was too frustrated to concentrate. Anyway, the point is, it was Ganon."

She got up again as she said it: her legs were getting cramped. This time, Link got up too and she led him to the kitchen. She sat on her only chair and he sat back on the floor. She saw him glimpse towards the night's food: a potato, a slice of ham and for dessert, a peach.

"I thought supervisors got even more food than that," he commented when he sat down. "We get ham and potato sometimes too, although just half a potato and less ham, and we don't get a fruit. The dorm keeper cooks it, though. You have to do that yourself, don't you?"

Link was blabbering on, trying to steer her away from talking more nonsense. He could not afford to be anything but polite. She was a supervisor, and she was doing him a huge favour by letting him stay for the night. She'd be right to put in an official complaint if he was rude to her, for example by rolling his eyes at her crazy stories.

"You're changing the subject." She said accusingly. "You don't believe Ganon was in this house?"

Link looked away and wondered briefly if he'd be better off going back home after all. This girl, not content with having made the most powerful man in Hyrule positively loathe him, had delayed him going back home and caused a Stalfos - Link still shuddered at the thought - to come after him. And now, she was talking complete nonsense and Link did not think he could take much more of it without losing his manners. He sighed, knowing full well that he'd rather take his chances with the crazy supervisor than with the Stalfos, and forced himself to look at her again.

"What makes you think it was Ganon?" Link asked prudently.

"Well I admit that I didn't ask for its name," Zelda said acidly. "But it WAS a huge man dressed like a King, with a blue pig's head."

Link didn't know what to say, so he just nodded.

"The whole time, while he was looking for me, it felt very familiar. Once he left, I remembered that I had lived similar things plenty of times before. In fact, it seems like in every life I have, Ganon is after me." She said, hoping Link would be too scared to make her angry to refuse to hear any more.

Link kept his eyes fixed on hers to avoid rolling them. She thought she was the reincarnation of the Princess Zelda. And she had said earlier that the President thought he, Link, was the Hero and that he had been right to think that. He considered leaving again, but the image of the Stalfos imposed itself to his mind and he stayed put.

"So..." He said when she didn't continue. "Your name is Zelda, then?"

She nodded.

"I also have the same ears you do," she blurted out, tucking her hair behind them. Link's eyes went wide again, before they narrowed in a frown.

"You're lucky YOU can hide them," he said. "But why were you staring at mine all day?"

Zelda cocked her head, once again having no idea what he was talking about. She'd been looking at him all day, not at his ears.

"Wait..." Link said, interpreting her puzzled look to mean she had not been staring at his ears all day. "Don't tell me you DO like me...?"

Zelda shook her head, as if trying to clear it. "Like you?" She asked incredulously.

"No? Good." Link sighed in relief. The last thing he wanted was to have to pretend to like the crazed woman back. "Wait… I get it. You were staring at me because you think I'm the Hero." He groaned. "You didn't notice I don't even like using my axe? You really think I want to use a sword, in combat?"

"I don't think you want to," Zelda said gently. "I think you have to."

Link's frown deepened.

"Well, I don't think so." He said, his voice trembling with repressed anger.

Zelda sighed. They were getting nowhere, and she was exhausted. Link seemed angry, and she couldn't help thinking that it was the part of him that knew she was right and yet desperately wanted not to have to fight that created that anger.

"All right." She said.

She got up and started on dinner. Link looked at her for a while, expecting her to start raving again, but thankfully, she didn't. He let his thoughts wander, trying to keep his mind from the food: his own dinner was back at the dorm, so he would have to fast tonight. He was in the middle of wondering whether Deku Scrubs really existed, since Stalfos did, when the supervisor called out his name.

"For you," Zelda said once she had his attention. She was pointing at the table, to the plate with her dinner on it. With everything going on, she wasn't all that hungry, and she felt that after the day Link had had, he deserved a square meal.

It took a bit of convincing, but Link eventually accepted to eat and she went to bed, letting him sleep wherever he wanted to.

She found him asleep sitting at the table, his arms crossed on the table and his head atop them. She called on to him and he jerked awake.

It took a second for Link to remember where he was and why he was there, and when he did, it was all he could do not to groan and put his head back on his arms.

"I bet my place at the dorm is going to be gone by tonight..." he sighed. "They'll think I'm..."

He stopped and his eyes widened as he realized that Kariko and Dekussay would think he had been killed. He wouldn't even be able to reassure them until he got off work this evening. He let his head drop back to his arms and groaned.

"You have friends who will worry at the dorm?" Zelda asked.

Link nodded in his arms.

"Where do they work? I can have a message sent that you are alive."

Link's head sprung back up.

"You can? And you don't mind?"

"It's the least I can do, seeing you won't be going back to the dorm." Zelda said.

Link stared at her with a mixture of shock and incomprehension. Zelda gulped, knowing he would not take this well but also knowing she had to be able to spend as much time alone with him as possible.

"High class citizens are entitled to one live-in servant of their choice." She said. "You're it."

Link's face fell.

"You're kidding." He said. "I'm a guy. Everyone will think I'm a 'special' servant."

Zelda reddened.

"I don't intend to make you do any work," she said, keen on driving the conversation away from what this would do to her reputation. "The very reason I don't have a servant yet is that I think it's silly to expect someone to work hard all day and then to serve in the evening and morning. Well... that and I wouldn't want her to see my ears."

Link's expression made Zelda realize that he had interpreted that in the worst possible way: he looked like he couldn't decide between horror, disgust and anticipation. She resisted getting mad and merely rolled her eyes.

"I don't intend for you do THAT, either." She sighed. "I just want you around. We have a lot of things to talk about."

"Do I... have to?" Link asked. "My friends don't work at the shop. If I don't go back to the dorm, when am I going to see them?"

"I'm sorry," She said honestly. "But we can't talk freely at the shop. You can see your friends on days off."

Zelda bit her lip at the face Link made. Thankfully for her resolve, it only lasted an instant and was replaced by a look of resignation.

"Come on," She said. "We need to get going or we'll be late."

The next few days were not among the happiest of Link's life.

Zelda had been true to her word and sent messages at Kariko's farm and at Dekussay's bomb factory. Messages had been sent back - Zelda had been nice enough to read them - that Link's friends were extremely relieved, and that Kariko was going to punch him for scaring her like that next time she saw him.

He couldn't complain about any extra work, either. Like Zelda had said, she didn't make him do any: she even cooked both their meals and had made sure nobody at the shop thought he was some kind of love slave. It wasn't difficult: nobody could believe that a woman would be attracted to him anyway. Link also enjoyed not sharing a room with 16 other guys and having a supervisor's dinner every night.

The only problem, and it was a big one, was Zelda's belief that he was the Hero and she the Princess. She wasn't giving up on it and from the time they got home to the time they went to bed, she in her room and he on the futon in her living room, she would just go on and on about how his ears were a sign and how she just KNEW he was the Hero. Sometimes, she'd start retelling some historical accounts of one of the battles between Ganon and the Hero, apparently hoping that it would make him remember. Once he was reasonably certain she would not punish him for it, he had taken to ignoring her as best as he could, but it was not always easy. She would nudge him, yell, and sometimes, even cry if he did not respond to her at all. The crying was the worst: it made Link feel so miserable that when she did it, he couldn't help but apologize and pretend to listen to her for the rest of the night.

It was getting worse, too. Zelda seemed to be getting desperate: every night, she was more insistent than the one before, and by the fifth night of Link's employment, she would spend most of the evening crying or yelling, accusing him of causing more people to die by refusing to face his destiny. Link didn't know how much more of this he could take.

He wished he could help her, and thus end the nightmare, but he was not enough of a good actor to pretend to believe her or agree with her, and nothing he said seemed to make her so much as doubt her insane beliefs. It looked as though the only thing that would satisfy her would be for Link to genuinely share her madness, which Link figured was only a matter of time: she was literally driving him insane.

Eight days into Link's new employment, the master of the shop shuffled the working arrangements, shifting most workers who had been making shields to swords and vice versa. This happened about twice as year, but Link was always exempt because the first and last time he had been assigned to swords, 9 years before, he had proven to be completely unproductive, incapable as he was of touching the blasted things. He had been punished severely, and had a few scars to show for it, but despite these encouragements, he had barely been able to handle one of the unfinished swords for a few instants before throwing it and begging to be returned to shields. Every now and then, at the time everyone else was shifted, he was ordered to hold a sword and when he could not do it for more than a few seconds, he was disciplined and sent back to shields with a different set of co-workers until the next shift change when his usual team would return to shields.

Link braced himself when one of the supervisors came towards him this time.

"Servant Link," Ejar said, "You are transferred to the swords, just like everyone else. There will be no returning to shields until the next shift change. You are expected to get over your fear of swords quickly."

Ejar turned on his heels as soon as he had given Link those instructions. He had never been able to look at him for long, and even less so now that he lived with Zelda.

Link stared at the departing supervisor's back, horror-struck, until someone grabbed his arm and led him towards a new workstation. He turned his head and saw that it was Zelda, with an unreadable expression.

"I can't do this..." He muttered. "I can't..."

"I'm really sorry," Zelda whispered.

"Can't you do anything?" Link begged.

Zelda refused to answer or even to meet his eyes. She showed him to his station and left. Link glanced nervously at the fire to his left, which was behind a tight grill with a slot opening through which the moulds were slid into the flames. There was a guy between the fire and himself, looking rather amused.

"I'm sliding the blades in and out," He said. "So you won't burn your pretty little hands. Your job is to pound. A supervisor is going to come to train you. In the meantime, just stay out of the way, 'kay?"

Link nodded and stepped as far as he could from the boy and the fire without actually leaving his station. He glanced towards the windows and caught a glimpse of a greyish brown version of a cheerful blue sky, which helped a tiny bit. He let his eyes wander around the shop while he waited to be trained. He supposed he should try to touch one of the swords on the table, but he could not bring himself to it. And Zelda thought he was meant to fight Ganon with one... she really was crazy.

Link frowned, thinking. He was going to have to work with swords, and would not be able to get out of it this time, for the first time ever. This was also the first shift change since one of the sword supervisor, who had also hired him as a servant so she could try and fill his head with nonsense, had taken to believing he was the Hero reborn. She wanted him to go after Ganon, and to use the Sword of Evil Bane to fight him... how convenient that he was suddenly forced to become use to handling swords, no matter how much he was scared of them and how much more productive he was making shields.

He looked for her, and found her looking guiltily at him. His frown deepened and it was all he could do not to snarl at her. Her guilty expression confirmed his suspicions: she had requested him, and for some reason, her request had been granted. Link turned his eyes away from her, furious. He'd have to ask her how she had done it this evening. It was about as close as he could get to telling her off without overstepping his boundaries as a servant or even a lower class. He also resolved not to stop ignoring her when she started crying from now on. He'd be a perfect servant, just one that did not seem to hear anything she said that was not an order. It was her problem if she hadn't hired him to give him orders: if her little fantasies were going to make him work with swords, he was done indulging them.

A supervisor, the same one who had told him he was going to be making swords, showed up after a few minutes and explained what he had to do. It sounded fairly simple, if terrifying: he had to use a hammer to pound the blades of the swords while they were still hot, until they were straight and had the required thickness. Link had no problem with the hammer, but he had to hold the swords in place with a kind of pincer and he could just picture the blade flying out of his grip and straight into his chest, even without his pounding it.

The supervisor was watching him intently, waiting for him to demonstrate he had understood the instructions. Link grabbed the pincer and with it, lifted a sword, red from the heat, from its mould. As soon as the sword was in the air, held by nothing but the pincers, he threw both of them away from himself with a yelp. The supervisor punched him and ordered him to try again.

Most of the day went like that, but late in the afternoon, Link was finally able to hold the sword in place and pound it a few times before he had to drop it and step back, panting. The supervisor punched him just as hard as all the other times, shoved him back towards the sword, and Link picked up the pincers again. He was hurting everywhere, and the sword was looking less threatening than yet another blow, so he kept pounding it, trembling. The knuckles of his left hand were white from gripping the pincers as tightly as he could.

Worried as he was of hitting the sword sideways and sending it flying, Link was particularly careful of his aim with the hammer, which turned out to be a good thing. He finished the sword quicker than the other pounder on the table had been finishing his all day. The supervisor put his hand on his shoulder.

"There. Not that hard, now is it? You better not go back to dropping the pincers tomorrow, or I'll hit a lot harder. Now, put the sword in that bucket."

Link did so, still using the pincers. The water hissed and fumed when the sword hit it.

"Okay. This one is done, so grab another one." The Supervisor said.

Link did as he was told, biting his lips and still trembling slightly. The bell signifying the end of the day rang just as he was putting it on the table, but he couldn't assume he wouldn't have to make up for loss time, so he grabbed the hammer anyway.

"Put that down," the supervisor said. "You can go home."

Link couldn't help but smile in gratitude as he put the sword back in the mould. His smile quickly faded when he spotted Zelda walking towards him. She looked miserable, but he could not have cared less.

"I'm really, really sorry." She whispered.

Link snorted and started walking towards the door. She kept pace with him but said nothing else. She remained silent all the way to her house, and only started talking again once the door was closed behind them.

"You understand why I had to do that, don't you?" She asked in a pleading voice.

Link did understand, but since it fell under that crazy Hero fantasy of hers, he was going to ignore her question.

"Does my mistress want me to cook dinner?" He asked.

"What? Don't call me that! Why do you ask? I didn't even know you could cook."

There was an order in there (not to call her 'mistress'), as well as a question (why did he ask?) that didn't have anything to do with her belief he was the Hero, so he answered, he thought, as a perfect servant.

"Yes, Madam. And I can't cook. I'm just trying to find out what you want me to do. Should I clean something?"

It was a stupid question, and Link knew it. Zelda kept the house spotless and other than the knowledge it involved rubbing things with a cloth, Link was no more qualified to clean than he was to cook. Zelda frowned slightly.

"What are you playing at?" She asked. "You know I don't want you to do any chores, and don't call me 'Madam'! You've been calling me Zelda for days, why are you changing now?"

"I'm just trying to be a good servant, Miss Zelda." Link replied, trying hard not to laugh. "Do you want a massage? Forgive me for saying that, but you look a little bit stressed."

Zelda sighed.

"Link... I'm sorry. I really am. But you NEED to be able to handle a sword!"

Once again, Link ignored the part of what she said that had to do with the Hero of Hyrule and acted like the perfect servant.

"You don't need to be sorry, Miss Zelda." He said. "You own me. You can do whatever you want to me."

"Please stop this," She pleaded.

Link raised his eyebrows in mocked confusion.

"I... I thought you'd take to the swords faster than this. I didn't think you'd get hit so much..."

She collapsed on her chair and buried her hands in her face. She started sobbing, much to Link's satisfaction.

"You can't go on like this!" She sobbed. "Ganon is already after you! I thought if you had to, you'd get over your fear of sharp weapons!"

Link had to concentrate to understand her, drowned as her words were under her sobs. His satisfaction was starting to fade. He clenched his jaw and worked on building it back up. He couldn't let himself sympathize with Zelda anymore. She was becoming dangerous.

Zelda had many more things to say, but she didn't know how to say them or where to start. She was once again losing control of her emotions, and was finding herself crying harder and harder. Getting Link to work on swords had been a desperate move: she had hoped he'd remember holding the Master Sword, or at the very least, that a bit of shock therapy would get rid of his phobia. But instead, Link had been completely unable to handle a sword, even indirectly, with pincers, until he was even more afraid of being hit again than he was of the weapon. Most likely, he would be so bruised tomorrow that he'd still be more afraid of the hits than of the swords, so he would do okay. The next working day, however, could go either way. She could kid herself that he'd get used to the swords after a full day of working with them, but she knew it was very unlikely after watching him today. Instead of curing his phobia, all she had managed to do was condemn him to pure misery until the next shift change, which was not due for months.

Link was starting to lose his battle to stay angry. He shifted on his feet uncomfortably, and was debating trying to console her so she'd stopped crying. If she stopped crying, he could stop feeling sorry for her and go back to hating her. His stomach grumbled and helped him make his decision: he wouldn't be able to eat if she didn't calm down.

"Look, Zelda..." He started.

He stopped. He had no idea what to say. He couldn't very well tell her that everything was okay and not to worry about it: things were not okay and he felt it only fair that she feel miserable for what she had done, however she had done it.

"How did you talk the manager into making me work on swords, anyway?" He said.

Zelda managed to get her crying under control a bit to answer. The answer may make Link feel a little better, so she really wanted to give it to him. When she spoke, her voice was broken by sniffles, but relatively calm.

"I... I complained that... that it was not fair. The best... worker in the shop, and... and he only works on shields. I said... I said it wasn't fair for us sword supervisors."

Link blushed. Zelda, her eyes still soaked, smiled meekly.

"I'm not the best worker in the shop." Link mumbled.

"Yes, you are." Zelda said, calming down now that Link didn't look so betrayed anymore. "Why do you think you got away with being late twice in a few months?"

Link looked away, blushing even more.

"We had a big quota, last time..." He muttered.

"Right," Zelda said. "And it didn't make sense to lose a full day of work from our best worker so you were not injured."

"I'm not saying I'm bad," Link said, still muttering a bit. "But I'm not THE best."

"Well, I don't know if anyone is even better than you," Zelda admitted. "But you are definitely one of the best. Enough for the manager to agree with me that it was high time you started working on swords."

Mentioning the swords was a mistake: Link's face automatically hardened.

"I still don't know what you want me to do, Miss Zelda."

Zelda sighed heavily.

"Well, there is one thing." She said, suddenly getting the idea that if Link wanted to play servant, she might was well take advantage of it. "But will you really obey my orders?"

Link tutted.

"Of course, Miss Zelda."

"You promise?"

"I am your servant. Of course I promise to obey you." Link said.

"If that is how you feel, I order you to have dinner with me - I'll cook - and then, we will have a conversation. It is possible, make that certain, that the subject matter will not please you, but I order you to pay attention and to answer when I ask a question, no matter what the question is about. This order is valid until we both go to bed. You are not to go to bed without my telling you to, and you are not to deviate from the conversation we will have, for example by asking to go to bed. Do you understand?"

Link's expression was priceless. He had obviously not considered that his plan to play servant and ignore the fact he wasn't meant to be one could backfire. He wasn't saying anything, so she repeated her question.

"Do you understand or not?"

Even if Link had wanted to go back on his promise, he would not have been able to. Disobeying a direct order by a supervisor, or worse, by his mistress, was unthinkable.

He muttered a yes and sat down on his chair. Zelda got up and started to cook, satisfied.

When he finally got to bed, Link could not decide which had been worse: the day, or the evening. He was so angry at Zelda that he had half a mind to just run away and go live in the Lost Woods. Even though he had seen a real Stalfos a few nights before, he still didn't believe the old tales that the Lost Woods turned people into StalChildren were true: they were just woods, for crying out loud.

The only thing stopping him was that life as a hermit was even more unappealing than life here.

He lay in bed for a while before he fell asleep, scowling at the ceiling, above which was the house's one bedroom, where Zelda slept. He thought of her bed, which she had patched as well as she could but would never be quite the same after being slashed repeatedly, and smiled grimly. He hoped she slept really badly. The nerve she had...

She had spent the first hour of the evening trying to convince him his ears had to mean something. He had confirmed, because he had engaged himself to answer any question she asked, that his father had had normal ears. His mother having died in labour, he didn't know what she had looked like, but his father had once told him he didn't know where Link got his ears from, so he assumed she had had normal ears as well. Zelda had taken that to mean that he had not inherited the ears through blood, but through his Hylian soul. Link had protested that the Hylians had abandoned Hyrule and their souls weren't likely to come back, but Zelda had countered by saying the Hylians had actually been killed off by Ganon, and had not left at all. Every argument Link had brought up had been countered by something equally nonsensical. She had even suggested that Ganon may have been responsible for the Hero and Princess not being reborn sooner, even though she had also admitted that she couldn't see how he could possibly have done something like that.

For the rest of the evening, she had tried to get him riled up and motivated to go hunt monsters or kill Ganon or something. She had told him many people were killed every night, and told him the bodies were always horribly mutilated. She had used Dekussay and Kariko - Link had made the mistake of describing his friends to her - as examples of how bad Hyrule was. When Link had pointed out Dekussay had been attacked by humans, not monsters, she had snapped back that it didn't make it right and that in a proper place, such humans would be locked up. She had gone on and on about the deaths, injuries, and various monstrous occurrences and at the end of it, Link was not only depressed but terrified.

So now, he lay in bed, exhausted but wide awake. After an evening like that, he was certain the nightmares would be bad. The fact his body was aching everywhere would probably make it worst, so he was almost grateful that the pain was keeping him awake. He tried thinking of happy things, such as the day off they had scheduled the day after tomorrow, and how nice it would be to see his friends and spend a day away from Zelda and her insane fantasies.

Later, a slap jerked him awake after a Stalfos had attacked and killed him. He was in some kind of dungeon, surrounded by ReDeads.

Zelda woke up when Link started groaning and moaning in his sleep. She sighed, and got up. She didn't think she could wake him up - she had tried before and it had proved absolutely impossible -, but she figured if she was going to be kept up anyway, she might as well be there for him when he woke up. She put on her dressing gown, or rather, the clumsily sown together pieces of what had once been a dressing gown, and went downstairs with a lit candle.

Link was lying absolutely still, except for his eyes, which were rapidly moving under his eyelids. His mouth was slightly opened, but despite the moans and groans, which were quite loud, it didn't seem to actually be moving.

Zelda went to sit into the kitchen. She'd know when Link would wake up: he'd gasp, and the moaning would stop, replaced by hard breathing. It seemed to take longer than usual, but eventually, Link woke up with the expected gasp and she got up to join him in the living room. He didn't seem to notice her: he was curled up in a ball, sobbing silently. Zelda bit her lip: his nightmares must have been worse than usual, and it was her fault. She retreated upstairs, choosing to leave Link alone after all: she was probably the last person in the world he'd want to see at the moment.

"I just don't get it, Zelda." Ejar said, putting his tray down with a clang.

Zelda looked up at him and winced. He was looking just as hurt and angry as he did every day since she had explained Link's arriving with her after the first night he had spent at her place by revealing she had hired him as her servant. This bothered Zelda for two reasons: one, she liked Ejar and had not wanted to hurt him; two, the reason he was hurt so much was that just as Link had guessed, most of the shop figured he was a rather particular kind of servant. Ironically, Link had chosen to blindly believe her efforts to prevent this had worked and was completely oblivious to the fact they had not. Zelda was not so lucky, and just thinking of it, like now, was enough to put her in a rotten mood for hours.

"What don't you get?" She said defensively. "You convinced me the other day that getting a servant would be a good idea after all."

"But Zelda... a boy servant? If you are THAT lonely, why did you reject me?" Ejar said. "And why THIS boy? I don't get it! You were making fun of him just like the rest of us when the President visited! You started it!"

"He is not THAT kind of servant!" Zelda said, straining to keep her voice down.

Migo, who had just sat down next to Ejar, snickered.

"What else would he be good at?" He asked.

"You know full well that he's very agile." Zelda hissed. "He's even been doing great with the swords today, and it's only his second day at it."

"That's only because I beat him senseless yesterday!" Ejar cried. "I'm willing to bet anything that in a few days, he'll have forgotten the pain enough that I'll have to do it all over again!"

Zelda frowned at him.

"Speaking of which, you didn't have to hit so hard." She said. "Like you said, you'll only have to do it again in a few days, and I would prefer he NOT be constantly covered in bruises."

"Why's that?" Ejar asked. "Does it interfere with his duties to you? I assure you I stayed above the belt, except for a few kicks in the calves."

Zelda reddened and Migo, tired of sitting with two people practically spitting at each other, intervened by changing the subject.

"Have you heard? They've reopened Ganon's museum." He said.

Zelda's eyes widened and Ejar and his allegations were driven clear out of her mind.

"Have they?" She asked, in a would-be-casual voice.

"Slipping, aren't we?" Ejar said. "Only a week ago, you would have been telling us about it, not Migo. It's like you're distracted by something, lately."

Zelda did not gratify him with an answer and pretended to be absorbed by her meal for the rest of the lunch break. She had an idea, although Link was likely to hate her for it, whether it worked or not.

Link worked wonderfully well for the rest of the afternoon, as expected. He was, however, positively shaking when the day ended. Zelda decided to wait until after dinner before letting Link know she wanted him to spend at least part of his day off with her instead of back at his old dorm. She knew he wasn't going to like that at all: he was already very unhappy that he could only see his friends three days a year.

They didn't talk on the way home, nor during the preparation of dinner, nor while they were eating it. Link was sulking worse than the day before, but after being ordered to participate in the very conversation he had been keen on ignoring the night before, he had apparently learned not to ask for instructions and was just staying silent. Zelda let him be until she was done with the dishes, and then, feeling she couldn't put it off any longer, let it out.

"I know you're not going to like this," she said flatly. "But..."

"You said I could see my friends on days off." Link interrupted her. "You are not going to go back on your word, are you?"

"Well... no." Zelda said after a moment's hesitation. "I want us to visit the museum dedicated to Ganon, but..."

"How is that not going back on your word?" Link cried out, getting up to better stare her down.

"It won't take all day." Zelda said evenly, meeting his stare.

Link frowned, but sat down.

"How long?" He sighed.

"Well, it will take a little while to even get there... we could leave early and be done before noon."

"Do we really have to go?"


Link scowled.

"Why does this monster even HAVE a museum?" He groaned.

Zelda didn't have an answer and didn't think any further conversation with Link tonight would accomplish anything, so she shrugged and pulled a history book off her bookshelf.

Link chose to catch up on some sleep and went to bed, but Zelda retired to her own bedroom long before he finally fell asleep. He didn't die in his dreams on that night, but he kept dreaming of waking up, which, as monotonous as it was, was a welcomed change.

They got up only a little bit later than they usually did, still well before dawn. Since they were not going to work today, their breakfast had been delivered to their door sometimes during the night. Link had the pleasant surprise to find that as a servant, he was entitled to a supervisor's breakfast on days off. He usually had an egg or a piece of fruit for breakfast, but by the door were two plates each containing an orange, an egg and even some bread. To Link, this was basically the equivalent of three breakfasts. Zelda took it all in and pan fried the eggs, much to Link's amazement, who had never had anything else than hard boiled eggs. She showed him to soak the liquid yolk with the bread and Link, happy as he was to have such a big and unusual breakfast, forgot to be sulky right until they left, which they did just as the sun was coming up.

It was a sunny day, and although he had been out on sunny days before, Link still had trouble adjusting to the brightness. He glanced at Zelda and saw that like him, she was blinking and shielding her eyes. They started walking, neither of them saying a word.

Link stayed silent because he was still angry with her. Zelda stayed silent because she was hoping Link would be a lot more receptive after the visit to the museum. She felt a pang of guilt: if her plan worked, Link may not be in the mood to visit his friends after all, and either way, it was a safe bet that he would not enjoy his day off very much.

She had visited the exhibit long before it had been vandalized and closed 4 years earlier. She felt a pang of nostalgia when she remembered that it was the current President, while he was running for Presidency, who had destroyed the museum. He had gotten away with it because one of his supporters had admitted to the crime and taken the fall, and at the same time, he had been elected because everyone knew it was him who had done it. And here we were, not quite four years later, and the same person had had the tribute to Ganon renovated and re-opened. It would have been extremely disheartening if not for the hope it brought her to get Link to finally realize who he was.

Link glanced at her, and wondered if she was thinking the same thing as him: they didn't get to be outside during the day often enough. Despite the fact that the sun could indeed burn things, Link had never been afraid of it. In fact, the very idea seemed ridiculous. They were approaching the museum now, and Link scowled. Why Zelda wanted to come here was so obvious it was irritating: she was hoping that seeing a bunch of stuff about Ganon would awaken the Hero in him, or something like that. This obsession of hers would drive him to madness yet, he just knew it. He could already picture himself banging his head on walls and muttering incoherently. He briefly considered doing it inside the museum to annoy Zelda, but crazy people usually disappeared; all things considered, he was going to hang on to his sanity as long as he could, even if it meant putting up with Zelda.

The museum was decorated with a big banner, announcing the grand reopening. Zelda reflected that grand as it may be, the re-opening was not particularly successful. Nobody else than Link and herself was heading that way. There was no line up to get in, and once they were in, they found the place empty of visitors save for themselves. Zelda looked around nervously, wondering whether she was going to attract the President's attention by being the only visitor to the museum. She forced herself to brush the matter aside. It was not likely they would be the absolute only ones to visit, even if they were the only ones in right now. Furthermore, even if they did turn out to be the only ones to visit the museum today, the President had no reason to suspect that the Hero would do such a thing.

Zelda hardly remembered anything from her previous visit, which she had done as a child, for a school trip. All she had was a vague recollection of a particularly horrible exhibit. She instructed Link to stay with her and started down what seemed to be the intended path of visit.

The first room was dedicated to what was believed to be Ganon's first apparition. Zelda scowled at it: even the quickest look around revealed that the exhibit ignored all the interesting parts of that time period and concentrated solely on Ganon and things directly related to him. Link noticed and out of sheer boredom, decided to break the silence.

"What's wrong?" He asked.

"There's nothing about the sages, nothing about the Sheikah, it's all Gerudo stuff." She growled.

Link shrugged.

"It's a museum about Ganon." He remarked.

Zelda sighed. She looked around, and spotted a replica of the Ocarina of Time. She showed it to Link, who shrugged and said he didn't play any instrument.

She showed him clothes that had belonged to Ganon, and a replica of his sword, with a similar lack of result.

They proceeded to the next room, and then to the one after that, and Link still had no reaction to any of the artefacts. Even the painting of the Triforce in the Dark World left him completely unimpressed. Room after room, all Zelda was getting out of him was the occasional monosyllable answer to her attempts at conversation.

The last room was behind a closed door, marked with a sign inviting visitors to enter and see the final exhibit. Link asked what the sign said, and Zelda read it to him before opening the door. Link frowned and took a step back, not keen on going into what appeared to be an enclosed room on his day off, but Zelda grabbed his arm and he had to follow.

This was the room Zelda remembered from her last visit: it was a recreation of the room in which Ganon had defeated the last Hero. What she assumed was a fake skeleton was pinned to one of the walls with a replica of Ganon's sword, and under his feet were fragments of a smaller sword with a blue handle: a replica of what was left of the Master Sword. Zelda could never entirely forget the room: even as a child, she had found the skeleton to be smaller than herself, as it should be. She had been 7 years old at the time, and the young Link had been 5 years old.

She could not imagine anyone not reacting to that room, and would have preferred not to bring Link here. Since he had not shown any sign of remembering who he was at any of the other exhibits, however, she felt she had to try him on this one. It may not work (in fact she was almost hoping it wouldn't, because if it did, it would be a nasty way for Link to remember his past lives) but she thought she couldn't allow herself not to try everything possible to wake up the Hero.

She changed her mind the second she got into the room. The blood drained from her face when she saw the child's skeleton impaled on the wall with a sword that was bigger than he was. This was a lot worse than she remembered... the room seemed to breathe despair and horror. It smelled of death, and although the room was warm, she couldn't stop shivering. She imagined what had come before the young Hero had finally been killed: a battle between a monster who was more than likely enjoying himself and a 5 year-old boy. Ganon had probably ripped the Master Sword from the child's grasp and shattered it before his eyes, and then what? What was the Hero supposed to do without the only weapon capable of defeating Ganon? How was a weapon-less little boy supposed to defend himself from a monster about 4 times his size? And Ganon, with Link at his mercy... what had he done to him before finishing him off? She would have liked to think even Ganon would not torture a child, but she knew that was a foolish hope.

She turned to stop Link from coming in. She would have to find another way: she couldn't bring herself to make him remember this battle.

Link stepped in behind her before she could stop him and looked around without stepping away from the door. The room was not only closed in, it was barely lit, and at first, he didn't see anything. Zelda opened her mouth to tell him they should get going and he could do whatever he wanted for the rest of the day, but she was not quick enough. Link's eyes widened as they found the room's only feature.

Zelda try to push him out and turn his head, but Link seemed rooted in the spot. He shuddered once and collapsed. Zelda gasped and tried to shake him awake, with no success.

"That sword was too big anyway..." He muttered, in a barely audible voice, higher pitched than his own: it sounded like a child's.

Zelda gulped. It sounded like something the young Link may have said upon losing the Master Sword. She shook him harder, all the while begging him to wake up. She didn't care that he was used to nightmares, she couldn't let him relive this battle and then wake up with the knowledge that it had been real. She didn't think anyone should have to live through something like that, much less live through it twice, and least of all Link, who would be completely terrorized by the experience.

Chapter Text

The usual notes:

1. This story is rated T due to some very violent content.

2. I intend to update weekly. I don't write that fast, but the writing is all done. I don't like when a story I'm interested in dies without an ending, so I figured I would make sure this story was finished before I posted any part of it.

3. I don't own any Legend of Zelda character or setting. I'm just borrowing them and I hope Nintendo won't mind too much.

4. Thank you so much for reading!

More Notes:

A word of warning: this chapter is one of the main reasons "Hero" is rated T and classified as a horror story.

A couple of people asked me when the story was taking place, in terms of the games. This made me realize that it may not be as obvious as I thought, at least at this point in the story. So, for all who are wondering, even the prologue takes place after any of the released games.

Chapter 4: Ganon's Victory

"That sword was too big anyway!" Link shouted defiantly. He hit his right palm with his left fist in a challenging gesture. He had no idea what to do next, but he wasn't about to let Ganon know that.

Ganon laughed.

"Your game face needs work, kid." He growled merrily.

Link frowned.

"Awwhhh!" Ganon mocked. "The wittle hero is all angwy and tough looking!"

Link snarled and launched at him, or rather, at the pieces of the sword on the floor. He had a plan: he was going to get one of the pieces and attack Ganon with it.

He had barely moved an inch forward when Ganon's magic hit him: some kind of lightning, black instead of white. The force of the attack threw him backward and he screamed in pain.

He stayed as he landed for a while, unable to move, unable to see anything else than dancing light spots even when he forced his eyes open, barely able to breathe. He had never even imagined anything could hurt that much. The pain faded slowly, and eventually became more of a sting. He could see again and breathe almost normally. He got up, surprised his body was still working at all.

He was immediately hit by the same attack again. He heard himself scream and was thrown all the way to the wall, on which he rebounded like a rag doll.

It seemed to hurt even more this time, and it was taking even longer to fade away. Link suddenly wanted to sleep. He forced himself back on his feet as soon as he could move, despite the pain.

He was hit by a third attack, just like the previous two. He screamed as he hit the wall again, and was held against it by the attack for a second. He collapsed on the floor and for what seemed like an eternity, he fought the urge to sleep. The pain helped a bit to keep him awake. This time, it didn't seem to be going away at all. He reached for one of his potions, shaking so badly it was very hard to grab the little bottle and then bring it to his mouth. He managed anyway, but spilled a bit.

He felt like new the moment he swallowed the blue liquid, and jumped back to his feet. He wiped his eyes, which were full of tears, although he hadn't realized he had been crying. He flashed Ganon a cocky grin.

"Is that all you've got?" He asked mockingly.

His smile faded quickly. Ganon was grinning. Link frowned and started towards the pieces of sword again.

Ganon laughed and picked him up by the throat, lifting him so that they were face to face. Link struggled to keep an eye open: Ganon was not quite strangling him, but being held like that really hurt, and made it hard to breathe.

"So nice of you to bring some blue potion, boy." Ganon said. "I was holding back so you would last longer, and I was so disappointed to see you almost dead after only three weak little attacks! Do you have any more of it? "

Link poked his tongue out at him in answer, all the while struggling to get free and back to ground level where the shards of the Master Sword were. Ganon laughed and hovered his free hand over Link's body, revealing another serving of blue potion and four bottled fairy spirits. The monster laughed harder, truly delighted.

He tightened his grip on the boy's throat, just a bit. Link's struggle became frantic. Ganon resisted closing his fist and crushing his enemy's neck: it was an unexpected treat that he'd be able to kill him five times, and he intended to enjoy it as much as he could.

Link didn't seem to be getting weaker, so Ganon tightened his hold a little bit more. The boy's movement became chaotic with panic, and quickly grew weaker, until he was no longer moving. Ganon released him and the body fell to the floor with a satisfying thud.

Zelda had stopped shaking Link and had started slapping him. Sadly, this tactic worked no better and Link refused to wake up.

She nearly jumped for joy when his hands finally moved, but they went to his throat and Link started strangling himself. It took all her strength to force them away. Link muttered something about shards, but still did not wake up.

Ganon had always hated fairies: in fact, he had every intention to eventually hunt them down and destroy the whole lot of them, and the sooner the better. How often had he thought that he had won, that he had outlasted the Hero in one of their battles, just to see a little winged, pink, glowing pest fly circles around his fallen nemesis until he jumped back to his feet, as good as new? He had tried to stop it, or at the very least to have his sword on the Hero's throat, ready to kill him again as soon as the fairy's work was done. However, the blasted things, in addition to healing the boy, always created some kind of barrier that kept him safe while they worked and for a few seconds afterward.

This time, however, the familiar sight of the fairy healing the boy gave him more joy than he had felt in a long time. This time was, after all, completely different: the Hero did not stand a chance, and was nothing more than a toy at his mercy. The sight of the fairy did not mean that the Hero was fresh again while Ganon was still worn out from the battle: it merely meant the Hero was ready for more punishment.

Ganon waited until the fairy disappeared. Link's eyes flew open and he got up. Once again, he tried to get to the shards of the Master Sword, completely unaware that even if he did manage to get one, it would do him no good whatsoever: without the silver or light arrows to weaken him, even the Master Sword could not harm Ganon's flesh.

Link was grinning. Dying and coming back had felt really, really weird, but it had been worth it: Ganon was not moving, just standing there, stunned by his recovery. Obviously, the monster hadn't expected him to come back to life. He darted to the side, intent on going around Ganon and recuperating a shard from the Master Sword. Then, he'd jump and stab Ganon with it, right in the chest if he could jump high enough.

He was stopped by a kick in his chest, which winded him and sent him to the floor on his back. Before he could get up, he felt Ganon's boot on his chest again, holding him against the floor.

"No fair!" Link yelled. "Let me up, you... you pig!"

Ganon laughed and, without moving his foot, shot a fireball at the boy's left arm, igniting it. Ganon did not move his foot: he was immune to fire and keeping the boy unable to put out the small, but spreading fire would be so much more satisfying than burning him in one second with a more powerful spell.

The boy screamed and squirmed, and tried to blow on his shoulder to put it out. Ganon laughed, ecstatic. The fire spread, and the boy started trying to move Ganon's foot with his remaining good arm. Ganon lifted his foot a bit under the weak push before pushing it back down, teasing his enemy. The boy might have moaned, it was hard to tell with all the screaming he was doing. The fire eventually spread to the neck and Ganon suddenly realized that it would be over too soon. He stopped the fire with a wave of his hand and started a new one on the boy's leg.

Ganon kept laughing even when the screams finally died. The boy's second fairy set to work right away, and Ganon was pushed away. He stumbled and fell, but could not stop laughing. He got up and waited for the child to live again.

Zelda had to let go of Link: his body was suddenly scorching hot, as if he were taken by the worse fever in history. His right hand was clasping at the air right above his chest and pushing up, as if he had a weight there. She unhooked her water pouch from her belt and poured it on his face, but there was hardly any water left: they had both been sipping at it a lot since the morning, especially on the walk here. It evaporated almost as soon as it touched him. Zelda started crying, panic settling in. At this rate, reliving this battle wouldn't scare Link, it would kill him. She started shaking and slapping him again, ignoring the pain in her hands, dimly wondering if Link was hot enough for her skin to blister.

Link's temperature finally went back to normal after a few minutes, and other than the fact he could still not wake up, he looked no worse for the wear.

Link got back up to his feet and immediately backed a few steps away from Ganon. He did not care to be burnt again: he had thought the black lightning was painful... this had been much, much worse. He glanced at the shards of the Master Sword: Ganon was still standing in front of them, and the pig was laughing his head off.

Link clenched his jaw and started running around Ganon, trying to circle him to get to the shards and hoping the monster would keep laughing and not notice him.

It didn't work. Ganon heard Link running, stopped laughing and unsheathed his sword. Link saw the blade from out of the corner of his eyes and stumbled, his legs momentarily forgetting to keep running: the sword was quite a bit bigger than he was. He got back up, facing Ganon, and tried to think of a spell that might help. He concentrated and chanted Nayru's name, causing a blue shield to form around him. Ganon, with the hand that was not holding his sword, threw a ball of magic at him, and although the attack did not reach him, the shield collapsed, leaving Link defenceless. Link tried to cast the spell again, but Ganon was on him before he had a chance.

Ganon aimed for Link's left hand, and slashed most of it off, leaving only part of the thumb and the palm. Link screamed, and stared at his hand, in shock. Ganon seized the opportunity to slash at the other hand, severing that one at the wrist. Link screamed, brought back to reality by the new injury. With what was left of his left hand, he tried to grasp his remaining bottle of potion, with no success: he was trying to squeeze it between his thumb and his palm, but he couldn't get a decent angle and his hand was so numb he couldn't feel whether he was even touching the bottle or not.

Ganon grinned broadly. He debated the relative merits of letting Link bleed to death from these two wounds or of giving him a few more. On one hand, letting him bleed would keep him alive, and suffering, a bit longer, but on the other hand, he wouldn't last long anyway and it was always fun to inflict injuries to his enemy.

He slashed at the boy, getting as many hits in as he could. The boy was running away, and Ganon realised with a mixture of amusement and irritation that the Hero was still trying to get the sword shards. Ganon wished Link would stop running: it's not that it was difficult to keep up, but the motion and the fact his heart was beating harder from the effort was accelerating the flow of blood. Sure enough, Link collapsed in less than a minute, falling face down.

Link tried to turn on his back, but he had no energy left. He tried to get at his potion again, but he couldn't even move his arms. He was very sleepy, and although he knew he had to stay awake, he simply couldn't. He drifted off.

Ganon sighed in disappointment as Link's third fairy appeared and started circling around the small body: that had been too fast. The cuts disappeared, and the Hero's hands where made whole again. Ganon glanced at where the boy's previous hands had fallen, curious as to whether or not they would still be there: they were not.

Zelda's eyes widened and she stopped shaking Link when the scars appeared on his hands: the one on his left hand cut across the middle of his palm; the one on his right hand was actually more on his wrist and went around it. She examined his left hand and found that the scar on that side, like the one on his right wrist, went all the way around. More scars appeared on his arms and his face, and, she suspected, under his clothes. Zelda stared at Link, trying to think of a way to wake him up other than those she had already tried, and coming up with nothing. After a couple of minutes, the scars disappeared. She resumed her attempts at waking him up, now yelling at him as well, no longer caring that she might be overheard.

Ganon put his sword back in its sheath, determined for the fun to last longer this time. Link was up, circling around him and staring at what was left of the Master Sword. Ganon gestured for him to come closer, but Link backed away a step instead. Ganon teleported next to him, causing him to stumble and fall in surprise.

Link scrambled back to his feet and darted for the Master Sword, seizing the opportunity Ganon had just given him by moving away from the shards. Ganon teleported again, this time reappearing between Link and the sword. He was laughing. Link tried to pass between his legs, but he closed them, painfully trapping him.

Ganon bent down and grabbed him by the hair, lifting him to his eye level before throwing him away. Link landed badly and hurt his right arm. Before he could really get up, Ganon was on him.

Ganon worked hard to resist the urge to just rip Link's head off his body, or to do anything else that would kill his toy instantly: he limited himself to kicks, punches and shoves, all of which too close together to give Link a chance to reach for his remaining potion: each time he tried, Ganon kicked his arm away from his body, or otherwise stopped him. Eventually, Ganon tired of the boy's attempts: he seized Link's hands in his and crushed them. His enemy's scream was like sweet music, and Ganon was overwhelmed by the desire for more of it. He gave up on the relatively soft blows that were only getting grunts and yelps, and started putting a bit more strength into each blow.

He found the result satisfactorily loud. Most of the blows were now breaking something, and each of them generated tears and cries from the boy, who was now just trying to get away, without any success. Ganon was trying to aim for the limbs, but missed a few times, hitting Link's chest or abdomen. After a few of those misses, the boy started coughing up blood.

Ganon knew that this meant the end was near, and he knew that he should relax his attack if he wanted the boy to last. Knowing changed nothing, though. As it had when he had cut the boy's hands, the smell of blood drove all rational thoughts from his mind and Ganon picked the boy up by his feet. He started swinging him in circles, fast enough for the Hero's body to be horizontal, and he released him as he was pointing to one of the nearest walls. Link's head crashed into the wall and burst opened.

It was all Zelda could do not to run for help when blood started flowing out of Link's ears and nose. She redoubled her efforts to wake him, more afraid than ever that this revival of his last battle would kill him. Nothing she could do had the slightest effect, but at least, the bleeding quickly stopped.

The boy's last fairy started circling him as he slipped to the ground. Everything that had been left on the wall when his head had impacted it disappeared and Link got to his feet and immediately tried to back away from Ganon, only to find himself with his back to the wall.

Link knew this was his last chance, and although it was a shock to realize it, he was very, very afraid. He didn't want to die again, and he didn't want to stay dead. He didn't want to hurt anymore, either. Most of all, he didn't want Ganon to win. He had to kill the monster, so he had to get a shard. He thought he'd tried to trick Ganon away from the shards and then run for them. He'd get Ganon just as he was jumping on him to get the shards back.

He was trying to think of a way to trick Ganon, and wondering why the Monster was just looking at him and doing nothing, when Ganon waved his hand and all the lights went out.

Ganon smiled in the darkness. He looked as the boy looked frantically around, his eyes wide but unseeing. He had thought carefully on what to do with the boy's last life, while enjoying looking at the Hero with his back against the wall, looking scared and desperate, and he liked what he had come up with. The darkness was the first step: the boy was blind, although Ganon could see just as well, if not better, than in full daylight. The darkness spell was draining him, but it wasn't as though he needed much strength to finish the boy off.

He conjured the keeses as the second step: hundreds of them, and they all went for Link. Ganon leaned back against a wall and enjoyed the show.

Link cried out when he felt something biting him and tried to bat at it, but his arm was stopped by something floating in the air in front of him. The something bit his arm and Link cried out again. Those two bites were followed by several more, along with scratches, all within a few seconds. Link started flinging his arms around and running blindly. The bites and scratches followed him wherever he went, and although he managed to hit several of the things attacking him, it didn't make any noticeable difference in their number.

Ganon watched, and had to admit he was only mildly amused. The keeses formed a cloud around Link, and he could only catch glimpses of his nemesis. He ordered two thirds of the keeses away, and got a better view. He grinned: just as he cleared up some of the keeses, one of the remaining ones clawed at the boy's right eye and punctured it. Link fell to his knees, clutching his eye and crying in pain. The keeses kept attacking, and the boy started feeling for his remaining potion. Ganon made the remaining keeses disappear and lit up the room again. Link got his bottle out and uncorked it.

"Are you certain you want to do that?" Ganon asked. "Think about it. You DO realize you don't stand a chance, don't you?"

Link stopped, confused, and looked back and forth from the bottle to Ganon. He didn't understand what Ganon meant: he had a better chance with the potion than without, he knew that much.

"Let me spell it out for you, 'hero'. You are near death. None of your injuries are serious, except for your eye, but you have hundreds of them. You have lost a lot of blood, and the keeses possess weak venom. That venom would barely make you a bit queasy if you had received one dose, but you must have been bitten a hundred times at least. If you do not drink that potion, all the pain will go away in a few minutes. This fight will be done."

Link frowned.

"Only because I'll be dead!" He yelled at Ganon.

He brought the potion to his mouth and drank it. Ganon sighed. He had hoped to tempt the hero into choosing the easy way out: he had hoped he had not only defeated this child, but also the Hero's courage. He didn't know which was more disappointing: the fact that Link had drunk the potion, or the fact that he hadn't even understood why it would be wiser not to.

After the bleeding from his ears and nose, the tiny cuts appearing everywhere were almost a relief at first. They kept appearing, however, until not an inch of skin was bare. Zelda forced herself to stay calm, even when blood started pouring out from under Link's closed right eyelid. She waited it out, gently stroking Link's hair, hoping it would help soothe Link. The cuts disappeared after a few minutes, and Link's eye stopped bleeding. She kept stroking, and started whispering reassuring words.

The once again intact Hero was trying to get at the useless shards again. Ganon was about to stop him but decided otherwise.

Link let out a cry of triumph when his hand closed on the handle of the Master sword, to which a bit of sharp metal was still attached. He whirled around to face Ganon, a big grin on his face. His grin changed into a puzzled expression when he saw that Ganon was also grinning, a cruel smile that looked a lot like a snarl. Link shook off the confusion and charged at the pig, holding what was left of the Master Sword in his left hand, high above his head, like a knife.

Ganon did nothing to stop him, and Link jumped and managed to stab him as high as in the lower abdomen. The sword rebounded strongly, as if repelled. The rebound made Link fall on his back. Ganon laughed harder than he had yet.

Link stayed on the floor, in shock, looking back and forth between Ganon and the piece of the Sword of Evil's bane.

"What's the matter, boy?" Ganon asked in mocked concern, laugher in every syllable. "Oh, don't tell me... you didn't know the Master Sword cannot harm my body?"

Link's eyes widened even more. He uttered an interrogative sound, which Ganon answered with renewed laughter before he managed to calm down enough to talk.

"That's right, 'Hero'. The Sword of Evil's bane cannot hurt me. Dear, dear. So much for your only hope, hmm?"

Ganon burst out laughing again.

Link got up and walked slowly towards him, still in shock. He tried to stab his leg with the piece of sword half heartedly, and the blade, once again, rebounded on the monster's skin. Link dropped it and fell to his knees, his eyes vacant. Tears started dripping from them. Ganon thought he had never, and would never again, feel such pleasure.

He picked up the boy by the throat with his left hand. Link didn't react. Ganon slammed him against the nearest wall, still holding him by the throat. Link flinched a bit, but didn't make a move to try to escape. Ganon was grinning in triumph and in pure joy. He unsheathed his sword with his free hand and drove it through the hero's middle section and into the wall, pinning Link to the wall. The boy was so small that the sword width extended from just below his neck to below his waist.

Link gasped, shuddered, and sagged, lifeless. Ganon took out his sword and the hero's body fell to the floor in a heap. Ganon grinned at it.

"And now, let's make sure you STAY out of my way." He said.

The numerous little cuts had barely healed when the front of Link's tunic suddenly stained with blood. Zelda's eyes widened and she was about to tear the tunic open to survey the damages when the blood evaporated and Link jerked awake.

Chapter Text

A few quick notes:

1. This story is rated T due to some very violent content.

2. I intend to update weekly. I don't write that fast, but the writing is all done. I don't like when a story I'm interested in dies without an ending, so I figured I would make sure this story was finished before I posted any part of it.

3. I don't own any Legend of Zelda character or setting. I'm just borrowing them and I hope Nintendo won't mind too much.

4. Thank you so much for reading!

5. Even more thanks go to everyone who has reviewed. It's really, really appreciated. Thanks!

Chapter 5: The Lost Woods

Link sat there for a while, staring into space and trembling. Zelda desperately wanted to talk to him, explain why she had done this to him, hear him say it was okay, that he remembered now and that she had done the right thing. Yet, she waited. She didn't know how to begin to explain herself, she didn't know how much explaining was necessary, and at any rate, she didn't think Link would hear a word she said just now, so she waited, barely aware of the tears filling her eyes.

After a while, Link turned towards her and slowly focused his gaze until they made real eye contact.

"Link, I... I'm sorry." Zelda babbled. "I had to. You understand, right? I didn't want to. I tried to get you not to come in here, but…!"

"I don't know what you're talking about." Link said. "Sorry I passed out. I'm okay now."

Zelda stared at him for a moment, at a loss for words. Was Link actually trying to pretend nothing had happened? She could see in his face that he was still shaken by the memories, and he was still trembling.

"Link, I'm talking about your reliving that battle. I know you did. You strangled yourself, you had a terrible fever, you started bleeding from everywhere..."

Link shrugged, but the blood had drained from his face and when he talked, his voice was trembling.

"I still don't know what you're talking about." He lied.

Zelda was quickly loosing her calm. They hadn't gone through all this for Link to decide to just ignore what he now knew to be true.

"There is no point pretending." She said. "You relived that battle. I'm sorry you did, I told you that already. You're still shaking, for Nayru's sake! Don't act like you don't remember what just happened, or what happened 15 centuries ago!"

Link got up and started for the door.

"Where do you think you're going?" Zelda asked, getting up after him and holding his arm.

"You're crazy!" Link cried. "I've never been in a battle! I don't like skeletons and..." Link hesitated before continuing. "That one scared me so bad I passed out!"

"It's a FAKE skeleton, Link!" Zelda sighed. "I think you knew that, and a Stalfos didn't make you pass out, so even if this skeleton was real, I really don't think it would have terrified you THAT much, unless it reminded you of your defeat against Ganon!"

Link actually snarled at her.

"It's not fake!" He growled. "That bloody pig wouldn't even leave my bones alone!"

He slapped a hand to his mouth, looking horrified, and Zelda couldn't help smirking despite the disgust she felt at Ganon exposing the Hero's real skeleton for all those centuries, somehow preventing it from crumbling into dust, or burning with the rest of the museum 4 years earlier

Link shook her off his arm and took off running. Zelda, who had not expected this but now thought she should have, could only stare at his back in shock for a second, before she called out to him and started running in pursuit.

He shouted at her to leave him alone, without slowing down.

She followed him through and out of the museum, but she was so far behind that once outside, she couldn't see where he had gone. She shouted his name one more time, but this time, there was no answer. She wanted to curl up against the wall and cry, but instead, she just started walking back home. It was bad enough the whole town would know by tomorrow that Link had run away, and that she had run after him. There was no need to add to the gossip material: drawing more attention to Link's reaction to Ganon's museum was the last thing she wanted to do.

Link kept running, going towards the Lost Woods. He entered them without a second thought, slowing down just enough to avoid crashing into the trees or tripping on the uneven forest floor. He only finally stopped when he was completely out of breath. He sat down, leaning against one of the trees, and tried to catch his breath.

A quick look around confirmed that he was deep within the woods: there was no end in sight to the trees, which looked just as thick in every direction. Link sighed in relief: he wouldn't be found here: nobody ever went into the woods, and absolutely nobody ever went far into them.

Link wanted to think it was foolishness on everybody's part, like he used to. He wanted to go back to this morning, back when he thought Zelda was completely insane and the Lost Woods were just an old forest. He knew better now, and oh! Did he wish he didn't.

Zelda was not insane at all: she had been right all along, or at least, she had been right about who he had been. Obviously, she was still wrong about who he currently was. And the Lost Woods... they did feel different. Link could tell he was welcomed, but he also could tell that he was an exception. He had felt the Woods examining him, and something about them made it clear that if they had not liked what they had sensed about him, he would have been in great danger. It was nothing concrete, but he could certainly understand why for as long as anyone could remember, nobody had ever taken more than one step within the Woods before running back out, screaming in anguish.

He took another look around, and his eyes widened. He didn't remember seeing any of what he was seeing now. Everything looked completely foreign, even the ground right next to his feet. He shook his head and looked again. Everything looked completely new again, as if he had not seen any of it a few seconds earlier. Link gulped. It seemed there was a reason for this forest being called the "Lost" Woods specifically, instead of a more general name such as "Cursed Woods" or "Magical Forest".

Link got up and tried to retrace his steps and find his way out. He walked for about an hour without seeing anything familiar, and without finding an exit. He figured he should be terrified by now, but although he couldn't imagine finding a way out anytime soon, he found he didn't really mind all that much. Many of the trees had fruits and he kept coming across little streams, so he wouldn't starve, anyway. Also, compared to enduring Zelda's begging him to go fight Ganon until he finally accepted to go get himself killed just to shut her up, being hopelessly lost didn't sound all that bad.

He sat back down and let his thoughts wander: they quickly settled on how terrible his life was. He hated his job at the shop back when he was making shields, and he hated it even more now that he was making swords. He hated the dorm because even there, most people just made fun of him all the time. He hated not being in the dorm anymore, because he missed Kariko and Dekussay. He hated going to work before the sun got up because it meant being out in the streets while it was still night. He hated going back home in the dark as well. He couldn't stand to think of his past lives, and he was even more irritated with Zelda's certainty that he was the Hero reborn now that he knew she was right.

After a while of this, he got up and started pacing, staring at his feet. Even though he was only pacing a small space, turning around every few steps, the ground managed to look completely unfamiliar every time. This phenomenon kept him amused for a little while, but his thoughts soon deteriorated into self pity again. Eventually, he sat down against a tree, with no idea as to whether it was the same one as before or not.

He kept up this routine until the night, and then fell asleep. He was not worried about monsters: even they never came into the Lost Woods.

Unlike Link, Zelda did not sleep. She spent the night pacing her house, climbing up and down the stairs, cleaning things that did not need it, and mostly, panicking.

Word would get out about Link's running away from the museum, she thought. It was lucky they had been alone in the final exhibit room, lucky no one else had witnessed Link's reaction to said exhibit, but she didn't think it would be enough. If the President heard of it, he was bound to reassess his earlier conclusion about Link. Why would anyone run away like that from a museum, if not because something in it spooked them a lot more than an average guest?

Now that she thought of it, she wondered whether the whole museum might be a trap designed specifically to make the Hero react and thus reveal himself. Even though it was so old, having existed in different incarnations for well over a thousand year, it might indeed be a trap. She bit her lip. If it was, she had shoved Link right into it. And even if it wasn't, Link's behaviour would still seem suspicious to everyone, the President included. And if he also heard that Link now lived with a higher class girl called Zelda, who had insisted he learned to work with swords, what would he conclude? Would he realize it was the same Zelda who had pretended to be the exact opposite of the historical princesses and who had called attention to how Link was afraid of just about everything? He would surely see through the act and send Ganon after the two of them.

And where WAS Link? Was he out? It wasn't safe out. He could get himself killed tonight, and it would be her fault if he did. Like dragging him to the museum and making him enter that Nayru forsaken room hadn't been enough, she just had to push, to try and force him to admit who he was, despite the fact he obviously didn't want to; even though he was clearly not ready to face the truth. And if anything did happen to him...

Zelda shuddered. If something happened to Link, there would be no one to oppose Ganon, until a new hero was born. It had taken 15 centuries for this one to be found, how long would it take for the next one? How much longer could Hyrule stay under Ganon's paw before the monster crushed her completely? How many more would die? Ever since the President's visit, there were about 20 to 30 victims per night on average, so for 405 nights, there would be between 8,100 and 12,150 victims per year. Multiplying that by 1500 meant... too many.

Zelda rolled her eyes at herself for bothering to figure it out. One victim more was too many, although it was probably unavoidable: even if Link was back at the shop tomorrow morning, even if he came around and they started working on defeating Ganon, it would probably take them a while to actually succeed at doing so.

Her thoughts wandered on the shop. What would she do if Link wasn't there tomorrow? She would have to keep her cover, continue working there while trying to figure out a way to get Link back or to defeat Ganon by herself, while making sure not to draw the wrong kind of attention.

She hadn't been able to think of any course of action by morning. Each time she tried to think of the shop and how she should act, she pictured one of the managers telling Link's new station buddies that he was not coming back, that he was one of the previous night's victim, and she started panicking again. She was at least decided on going to the shop, so she cleaned up and left her house, setting down the road to the shop by herself. Although that is what she had been doing most of her life, she felt extremely alone.

Link was not at the shop, but at least, there had been no report of his death, either. Zelda ignored all questions, still unsure of how to answer them. Ejar finally provided her with a cover story that would launch the gossips in the wrong direction entirely.

"Link got tired of being your boy toy, did he?" He asked coldly, sitting down in front of her at lunch time.

Zelda would have choked on her cuckoo breast had she been eating it. That was the perfect story! It would ruin her reputation to 'admit' feelings for Link, but she knew she looked just as bad as she felt, and spurned love would be a very good excuse for her feeling miserable. In addition, it could explain why Link had run off from the museum, bolting out of a room where they had been alone.

She closed her eyes tight, pretending to be holding back tears.

"It's not funny, Ejar." She said bitterly.

"So you finally admit it, do you?" Ejar growled. "I don't get it! What do you see in HIM?"

Zelda thought for a second of revealing her ears to explain her supposed attraction to Link, but she quickly dismissed the idea: a Link and Zelda couple, both with pointed ears, would probably strike the President as very interesting.

"I don't know!" She said, letting her voice show all the despair she was feeling. She didn't know, all right. She had no idea what to do next, or how to get Link back. "I can't believe he just ran off!" She cried honestly. "After all I did for him!" She added for effect.

"And what would that be?" Ejar asked. "Set the President after him, make him work with swords, giving me an excuse to beat him up... what else?"

Zelda glared at him and said nothing. Even though he had made it following her pretending to be disappointed by Link's lack of gratitude towards her, Ejar had a point. The fact was, she had given Link so many reasons to hate her that it was surprising he had tolerated her that long. It didn't give him the right to run away from his responsibilities the moment he finally found out he really was the Hero reborn, though. She sighed and let herself look as miserable as she felt: it worked well with her story, anyway.

Link woke up around mid-morning. He had had nightmares, as usual, but they didn't seem that bad anymore, compared to what he remembered had really happened. It also helped that he felt like he was perfectly safe in the woods. He had heard some screams, but they were distant, as if from another world. He looked around and smiled at the completely unfamiliar surroundings. He closed his eyes, shook his head and looked around again, to find the woods looked completely different again. He laughed. He would never find his way out of here, and that suited him just fine, especially since it meant even if someone else found him, they would not be able to get him back out of the Lost Woods: they would just become completely lost themselves.

He got up and looked around for a fruit tree. There was a pear tree, with perfectly ripe fruits, just next to him. He tried to remember if he had seen any pear trees the day before, but could only remember he had seen some kind of fruits. He picked a pear, ate it, and started walking, towards nowhere in particular, enjoying his new found freedom.

When he got bored, he settled under a tree and had a nap.

Zelda was lying in bed, wide awake and glaring at the ceiling. She didn't know who she was most angry with: Link for running off, herself for making him run away, or Ganon. She tried to think of where Link might be hidden but couldn't think of anything. She had hoped he was back at his old dorm, but one of his dorm-mates had asked her about him in the afternoon, and had told her he hadn't been to the dorm at all, and that a couple of friends of his had been expecting him. Zelda stuck to her story and told him he had run away in a heartbroken voice.

If he wasn't at his dorm, where had he spent last night? Where would he spend this one? Link wouldn't sleep outside, he was much too afraid of monsters. He would have gone somewhere safe, somewhere where monsters wouldn't go: in other words, inside of a house or building.

She sighed. She had to find him: if he did not come back, Ganon had won again, this time without even having to fight at all. She couldn't let that happen; she had to get Link back. The only problem was, she had no idea how.

By the next evening, Link had to admit that as nice as it was to be free and outside during the day, especially since the weather had been perfect up to date, he was getting tired of fruits (despite the fact he could not remember from one meal to the next what kind of fruit he had eaten last). He was also bored and lonely: being a hermit was just as bad as he had always imagined it would be.

He settled for the night, wondering whether he'd get used to this new life. He wasn't asleep yet when the screams started to pierce the night. He took a long time to fall asleep, worrying that the victims might be people he knew.

Zelda tripped and fell on the swords she was carrying to the storage room. She got up and picked them back up absently, not even thinking that she had been lucky not to hurt herself. She did not see the stares directed at her, and did not hear any of the people asking her whether she was all right.

Link had been gone for 4 days, and nobody had heard anything from him. The increase in murders that had started the night following the President's visit at the shop, and which Zelda attributed to Ganon's disappointment with Link, had not abated at all. A dorm had actually been attacked the previous night, and all inside had been slaughtered. Zelda was torn between despair at the thought that Link was not coming back, that their fight against Ganon was over before it had even started, and a strong desire to find Link just so she could kill him herself.

How could he be so selfish? He now knew who he was, he knew it was his job to stop the monsters in general and Ganon in particular, and what was he doing? He was hiding somewhere, hiding from his own destiny! To think he was supposed to be courage incarnate! It was maddening.

And what if he stayed hidden, or died before she found him? Without Link, there was no hope of destroying Ganon. The murders would continue until there was nobody left in Hyrule. She shuddered, knowing that this scenario was more likely each day that Link stayed hidden.

Link woke up screaming and without thinking, reached behind his shoulder, only to find there was nothing there. He dropped his hand back and lay still, staring into the night and for the second time in as many nights, determined not to go back to sleep.

The nightmares had been growing steadily worse. Things were not worse for him, of course. How much worse for him could it be than being painfully killed repeatedly? The problem was that where it had once been a rarity to see anybody he knew in his dreams, Dekussay being attacked with him by thieves and then turning into a Deku Scrub having been an exceptional occurrence, it was now pretty well the rule.

Tonight, Link had seen Dekussay, not turned into anything this time, Kariko, some other dorm mates, a bunch of people from the shop and Zelda brutally murdered by various monsters. He was killed himself every time, as usual, but he was always the last.

He looked at the hand that had reached behind his shoulder and scowled at it.

"Stupid reflex." He muttered.

He vaguely remembered that he had carried the Master Sword on his back with the hilt just over that shoulder in some previous lives, but he was not about to do so again. He told his hand so and moaned upon realizing that he was talking to his own hand. He laid there for a while, wishing there was someone else around so that he wouldn't have to talk to himself.

Somewhere in the distance, screams pierced the night. Link tensed and screwed his eyes shut, wishing he could do the same with his ears. He couldn't, of course, and despite pressing his hands against said ears, he heard the screams continue for several minutes. There were several voices again. Link wondered how many victims there were this time and rolled into a ball.

There was nothing he could do, no matter what Zelda said. So why did he feel so guilty? None of this was his fault. It wasn't like he could just go and defeat Ganon: he had about as much chance of surviving as the last time.

He stopped fighting sleep, wanting to escape from his conscious thoughts even more than he wanted to escape his dreams. Sleep was quick to come, and so were the dreams. They were worse than ever and the following morning, he decided he was never sleeping again.

Two days later, this resolution was becoming impossible to keep. He had only been able to really stay fully awake for the first night. By the second night, he had been dozing on and off, shaking himself awake each time he realized he was asleep. He had managed to keep the dreams away, but he found he was dreaming awake more and more. It was getting pretty bad: his eyes couldn't keep focus, and it was a constant challenge keeping them opened. He couldn't think coherently, and half the time, wasn't quite sure why he didn't just lie down and go to sleep - he still knew it was important, but it usually took him a while to remember why. He was seeing things that weren't there and he walked into a few trees, not seeing them until colliding with them.

He was walking around, trying to keep himself awake in the growing darkness, dimly aware he wouldn't be able to keep this up for much longer and wondering if he'd be asleep in his dreams, so that he wouldn't see all these people being murdered.

He stumbled and fell. He tried to get up, but the ground was particularly comfortable in this spot, despite the root painfully poking at his chest. He tried to will his arms to push him up for a while, then gave up, figuring he should save his energy if he wanted to stay awake. He was asleep in seconds.

He was dreaming that the shop was being attacked by an army of moblins when screams woke him up. At first, he couldn't tell whether he was asleep or awake, but the pain in his chest soon convinced him he was awake. He got up, just as the screams started again. He tensed and looked at the ground, trying to concentrate on something else. His mind focused on the fact that something had actually managed to wake him up from his nightmares. It was the first time that had ever happened.

A new scream sounded, and Link clenched his fists. He was starting to wish the President had killed him on the spot, like Zelda said he was about to until she and the rest of the shop convinced him he couldn't possibly be the Hero. He was starting to wish monsters did venture into the Lost Woods so that one could find him and kill him: it's not like there was any chance he'd ever stop being miserable.

Another scream pierced the night, and died abruptly. Link clenched his teeth. He couldn't stand this any longer. He wasn't even worrying that it was someone he knew anymore: he was assuming it would be eventually, and he realized that it was always someone somebody knew. Each scream felt like an accusation, each one reminded him that he was the one who was supposed to put a stop to these murders.

"I can't!" He cried out into the night. "I can't do it! I don't even know WHAT to do! I can't fight! I can't even hold a sword! I can't win! LEAVE ME ALONE!"

He let himself fall to the ground and curled up in a ball, crying. Another scream, this one particularly long lasting, answered his cries.

"I don't even know what to do..." Link sobbed.

Zelda will know.

The thought flared in his head out of nowhere, and stayed there. Link tried to shake it off, but couldn't. He sat up and frowned.

"It doesn't matter." He said. "I still can't hold a sword."

But even as he said it, he knew that wasn't true. He didn't WANT to hold a sword; in fact, he was terrified of even coming close to a sword. Still, he could hold one. He had done so for a whole day at the shop.

"I can't..." He started.

He was interrupted by another scream. He clenched his fists. He was sure there never used to be that many victims every night, especially not in the same area several nights in a row. Was this going on all over Hyrule? He wanted to think not, that it was just a coincidence that there were so many around the Lost Woods, night after night, but he found it difficult to convince himself. He had to admit that it was likely the murders had increased everywhere, and he could almost hear Zelda saying it was because Ganon was getting tired of looking for the two of them.

He pounded the ground with his fists.

"I CAN'T DO THIS!" He yelled at the dying screams. "I CAN'T HELP YOU!"

Only silence answered. It still sounded like an accusation to Link.

"I WOULDN'T STAND A CHANCE!" He protested.

This was absolutely true. Even if he wanted to go after Ganon now, he thought, even if he found his hiding place and bravely went to confront him, he would just be getting himself killed. It was possible that Ganon would stop killing so many people after he had had the satisfaction of finishing his enemy off, but Link knew that the monster would not stop completely: nobody was safe as long as Ganon wasn't stopped, and nobody could stop him but the Hero.

Link frowned at his own thoughts and shook his head, trying to chase them away. This technique had not worked before and it failed just as spectacularly this time.

He didn't want to spend another night hearing the screams of the victims. He wanted Ganon stopped; he wanted the Din blasted beast gone forever. He knew that wouldn't happen unless the Hero defeated Ganon, but seeing as HE was the Hero, that scenario was pretty well out.

"I don't stand a chance." He repeated.

He sighed heavily. He didn't stand a chance, but nobody else did, either. Nobody else ever would, so unless he did something, Ganon would kill everyone sooner or later. At the rate he was going, sooner than later.

He hugged his knees, and thought harder than he ever had before. He raked his brains, trying to find a way to believe he didn't have to go after Ganon. He found none. Even though he could not possibly fight and defeat Ganon, there was just no denying that he had to. He sighed, wishing he was at least brave, like his past lives: he probably wouldn't even mind the idea of fighting Ganon, then.

He got up and set out straight ahead, figuring it was as good a direction as any. Unnoticed in the darkness, his clothes gradually changed colour as he walked.

He walked for the rest of the night and finally made it out of the Lost Woods just as the sun was rising. The frustration of walking without knowing whether he was going anywhere or just wandering in circles, coupled with his newly found resolve to stop Ganon, had worked him into a frenzy. He still didn't notice that his tunic and pants had turned green: his mind was too busy with more important things to register the colour his eyes were seeing.

Had he not been so tired, he would have started running as soon as he had cleared the dense forest. Instead, he just looked around, found that he was not far from his former dorm, and started walking faster, towards the shop and Zelda. The day was bright and sunny, and even though the reason for his being outside was that he had run away and that he was now going to start something which was likely going to get him painfully killed, Link was kind of glad he was not going to spend such a nice day inside the dark shop.

Link tried to open the door to the shop, intent on swinging it in violently and making an entrance. He wanted to let Zelda know without a doubt that he was going to do his best now, and it seemed like making a grand entrance was the heroic thing to do. The door, however, was locked, as usual.

Link cursed at it, than started pounding on it as hard as he could. He didn't think it was necessary to knock very hard to be heard, since he knew there was always someone right inside the door (the supervisors took turns), but pounding the blasted door was much more satisfying that a normal knock.

He heard the lock click within seconds, and the door opened on an angry looking supervisor, who stared at him without saying anything. Link squeezed past him. The supervisor stepped back with a yelp, as though Link was burning hot.

"No!" He yelled, backing away, looking horrified. "Get… get out! You don't work here anymore! STOP! Don't come in here wearing THAT!"

Although he was yelling, the shop was so noisy that Link could barely make out what the supervisor had said. Between the banging of the swords, the crackling of the fires, the noise of the axes cutting the wood, the various things dropped on tables or on the floor, the chatter of the employees and the supervisor barking orders, Link felt like he was drowning in noise.

The people inside were obviously used to the noise level – Link supposed he must have been too, having never even thought of the shop as noisy before - because the supervisor's yells were noticed and workers and supervisors glanced at the door and gasped. Most of the noise died as everyone stopped working, staring at him in shock.

Link stood his ground, but looked down at himself, wondering just how dirty he could be to be getting that kind of reaction. The blood drained from his face.

"What in the Dark World are you trying to do? Get us all killed?" Someone yelled.

"For Farore's sake!" Someone added.

"Get that Din-blasted freak out of here!"

"Get rid of that Nayru forsaken idiot!"

The supervisor, apparently one of the most superstitious ones, was now well away from him and was shaking too much to continue yelling at him. Link gulped. He had wanted an entrance, but this wasn't quite what he'd had in mind. And he certainly had not intended to cover himself in a cursed color right as he was setting out to repeat the very thing that had caused green to become so hated. He wondered whether the Lost Woods had anything to do with it, decided they did, and brushed the matter aside: the colour green was one of those few things he was not afraid of, so all in all, he didn't really mind wearing it. Even though last time he had…

He gulped again and took a step back, thinking his brains must have been asleep for the last little while to even think of seeking Zelda and setting out on a quest to defeat Ganon. What was wrong with him? He'd just get himself killed, again! He was still so close to the door that the single step back took him outside and the light of the sun hit his eyes.

He blinked. His eyes had not quite adjusted to the darkness of the shop yet, so he wasn't blinded, but the contrast was surprising. He looked back in the shop and clenched his teeth. It wasn't only dark and incredibly noisy, it stank, too. It was probably a good thing the workday started so early, he thought. People couldn't tell how nice and bright it was outside, and they were still too sleepy to fully notice the smell and the noise. It occurred to him that he never wanted to get back in there. He could never go back to being trapped in that hole all day: he'd rather go back to the Lost Woods and starve or freeze come winter time.

He went back in, just in time to avoid being locked out again by the supervisor, who was back at the door and almost closed it on Link. The supervisor bravely tried to push him back out once before scurrying away again, but he wasn't very strong and Link just stood there, looking around, searching for Zelda and for something to call out to her: he needed something heroic, but at the same time, he wanted it to serve as an apology for running off.

He finally spotted her at the back of the shop. She was looking right back at him, with an odd expression. He had expected her to be either angry with him for running away, or delighted that he was back, but instead, she just looked like she was about to cry.

No, he corrected himself as his eyes picked up more and more details in the darkness. She looked like she HAD cried, a lot. Link swallowed, and for a while, could think of nothing at all to say.

Some people in the shop started to shout out to him again, demanding that he go away and that the manager do something, and cursing his clothes. More people joined as they realized the supervisors were not trying to put a stop to it and were even joining in themselves. Link soon couldn't hear himself think, and Zelda was still just staring at him, looking miserable and without hope.

"Zelda!" He cried out. "I'm sorry, okay? But I can't beat Ganon by myself. I need your help, so come on, alright?"

The mention of Ganon shut everybody up for about two seconds. They then started to laugh, except for Zelda, who looked terrified. She dropped the swords she was holding on the nearest table and joined him at the door, walking very quickly. She grabbed his arm and dragged him out, closing the door behind them. The sound of laugher was shut out completely.

"We need to hide." She said quickly. "It won't take long for Ganon to hear about this, and when he does, he'll start looking for us. If anybody knows where we are, he'll find us. Why did you go and TELL everyone we were going after him? You know Ganon is looking for us!" She finished angrily.

"I..." Link paused. "Sorry." He said finally.

Zelda softened.

"Well, what's done is done." She sighed. She turned towards him and smiled. "I can't tell you what a relief it is that you came back."

Link sighed.

"I kept hearing screams." He said. "I... I don't want to go fight Ganon. He's just going to kill me again. Can you let go of my arm?"

Zelda looked down at her hand, clutched around Link's forearm, surprised to see it still there. She released him.

"Sorry." She said. "But you came back. And you said you wanted my help to fight Ganon. What do you mean you don't want to do it?"

"I mean I don't want to! But I know no one else can do it, and I don't want people to keep dying! I heard a lot of screaming… I didn't know that many people got killed every night!"

"It's been steadily getting worse ever since the President visited the shop. You couldn't hear them from inside my house, but it was bad even then. It's gone from none to 10 or so a night, for the whole of Hyrule, to 5 to 20 a night, per region. Last night was the worst yet... over two hundreds in all of Hyrule. Two dorms have been attacked up to date."

Link grabbed her and whirled her around so she'd face him.

"Dorms? What dorms?" He asked, panic in his voice.

"Not yours." She answered. "Neither was in this town."

He relaxed and let go of her. They resumed walking.

"Where are we going?" Link asked.

Zelda stopped. She had no idea.

"Er... where were you hiding?" She said.

"In the Lost Woods."

Zelda's expression was priceless. Link smirked.

"They're not THAT bad." He said. "You can't help getting lost, but the monsters don't go there, so it's safe."

Zelda said nothing for a moment, lost in thought. Unnoticed by her, Link changed the direction of their rapid walk to be heading towards the Woods. If she didn't want to go, they could always change direction again, but it seemed to him like the only safe place around.

"Why can't you help getting lost?" She asked.

"The woods keep changing. Each time you look up, everything looks totally different." Link answered.

"Have you seen it while it was changing? Do the trees just fade in and out, or jump around?" Zelda asked. She couldn't understand why Link hadn't been afraid of trees that are constantly moving around.

"No, they just do it when you're not looking." Link said. "I stared at some spots for a long time and nothing was changing. But, if I looked away just one second, everything was different again."

"That's strange..." Zelda mused. "Can you see things that don't change? Like, can you recognize that such and such tree is still in the same spot, or just a bit to the left or something?"

Link shook his head.

"I can't remember anything I see or do. I'm sure I ate some fruits, but it's only because I'm tired of eating them. I don't even know what kind I ate."

"Hmmm... if you can't remember how it was before you looked away, how can you be sure it changed at all?" She asked.

Link blinked at her.

"I know it LOOKS different." She said. "But it could be because you really don't remember it at all. Try to think. Can you remember anything of the Woods? One tree? One rock?"

Link tried to think of what had been hurting his chest when he had woken up. He couldn't remember whether it was a root, a rock, or something else. He tried to see himself eating a fruit, but he couldn't remember at all even picking any.

"Maybe you're right." He finally said. "But it doesn't matter. My point was that the Woods are safe, except you get lost."

"My point was we may not have to get lost." She said.

Link's eyebrows raised in interest. Zelda smirked.

"It's about time I have a GOOD idea, don't you think? I think I filled my quota of bad ones in the last couple of weeks."

Link sniggered. Zelda smiled back.

Chapter Text

A few quick notes:

1. This story is rated T due to some very violent content.

2. The story is actually completed, and I intend to post a new chapter weekly.

3. I don't own any Legend of Zelda character or setting. I'm just borrowing them and I hope Nintendo won't mind too much.

4. Thank you so much for reading!

Chapter 6: The Master Sword

Ganon heard of the incident towards the middle of the day and spent the next hour using the President's body to destroy everything in the Presidential Parlour while cursing at the Princess and the Hero. By the time he was done, they had both been thoroughly insulted and there was nothing left unbroken in the room: even the walls, floor and ceiling had holes in them.

He could not believe how foolish he had been. How could he have been convinced so easily that the pointed ears meant nothing? And the name! A Link with pointed ears, when nobody, NOBODY had had anything else than round ears in Hyrule for centuries! And it had taken nothing more than a few mockeries directed at the boy for Ganon to be tricked into believing he was not the Hero after all! A girl had started it, he remembered: probably the Princess. There had been a few Zelda's in the shop, including one portraying herself as the exact opposite of the Princesses: she had employed the same strategy to hide them both and Ganon had fell for it.

It was debatable whether she'd had to lie about the boy: he certainly did seem like a coward, and the whole shop appeared to be convinced that he was. She had, however, drawn Ganon's attention to the fact, fooling him into thinking the boy was not his eternal nemesis.

The bitter disappointment he had felt was therefore her fault. The Din-blasted Princess had tricked him. At least, Ganon had the satisfaction of having made all of Hyrule pay for the girl's deceit: the first night after he had visited that shop, he had set the Stalfos, Moblins and various other beasts completely free, out of pure spite. He had not bothered to rein them in again since: why would he have? It was extremely enjoyable to feel, through them, dozens of lives ending every night, rather than the meagre one, two (and sometimes none at all) that used the be the norm back when he only set one beast loose every night, in addition to himself. Sure, it meant his slaves were happy too, but it was worth it.

In addition to letting his pets loose, Ganon had also increased his own self inflicted quota of murders. After visiting that shop, he had spent most of the night hunting, and had found and killed nearly two dozens. He had done it out of anger, and not because he was trying to find either Zelda or Link, and he had enjoyed it a lot more than usual. So, the next night, he had indulged himself again. He had killed at least 9 a night since, and on two occasions, had even treated himself to entire dorms.

As enjoyable as those last few nights had been, however, no amount of random killing could compensate for a delay in finding the Hero and the Princess and disposing of them.

He could not wait to get his hands around the Princess's throat and to crush it under his fists... Her death had been much too quick the last time: she had been but a child, hardly older than the Hero, and other than crying pitifully for help, she had not put up much of a fight at all. She had caused him so much grief for so many centuries, it did not seem fair that she should only suffer for a moment.

He had cast the spell to collect her soul and trap it in a bottle, but as much as he could imagine the misery of being trapped inside a small bottle, it was a misery that Ganon could neither see nor hear: it was not satisfying in the least.

The princess dispatched, he had gone in his lair to wait for the Hero. He had known he wouldn't have to wait for long: after all, he had all but gift-wrapped the Master Sword for the boy, and he had made sure to empty the Tower of any monster. He had even gone as far as making Death Mountain as harmless as he could, stopping the avalanches and chasing every monster he could find from it. There was nothing left to stand in the way of the child or to delay his arrival.

He was not disappointed: within hours, the very young boy had walked into his trap, and he had provided much more amusement than the Princess had. Still, it seemed like only too soon after the 'battle' had started, the Hero's soul was also trapped in a bottle.

The bottles were meant to ensure that both of them stayed out of Ganon's way forever. What made the Hero and the Princess were those souls, and since they were his prisoners, they could not be reborn and they would never threaten him again.

It had worked wonderfully. For 6 centuries, Ganon had ruled Hyrule unopposed. He had tortured and killed anybody with a drop of Hylian blood, and hunted down the last of the other magical races. He was soon left with only common Hyrulians, with which he amused himself for quite a while. He forced them to worship him and learn every detail of his many incarnations, excluding, of course, anything related to his defeats. His one victory, however, was drilled into the heads of every one of his subjects. Ganon had had the satisfaction of seeing Hyrule gradually come to hate the color green, barely tolerating it in nature and avoiding it whenever possible, and more importantly, to see each generation grow more angry at the Hero for not returning to try again to defeat Ganon: after all, Ganon had returned countless times, so why couldn't the Hero do the same? Ganon knew why, of course, but he was not about to tell them.

After about 600 years, the Hyrulians had engineered a revolution, and Ganon, bored with Kingship, had allowed himself to be defeated and had kept a low profile for a few years, time to let the Hyrulians choose a leader and start rebuilding their society. When they did, Ganon possessed that leader and made a game of making the population as miserable as possible without revealing himself. When that leader's turn to rule was up, he possessed the new one and killed the old one. He kept that up for close to 900 years, passing the time by conquering neighbouring lands, and Hyrule was eventually four times its original size.

Boredom had settled in again so gradually that he could not remember when it had started. Eventually, it came to be that he was bored almost all the time, and even hunting for people to kill seemed more bothersome than amusing.

The thought that he would soon not enjoy killing at all, when it used to give him so much pleasure, scared him badly. In desperation, he cut himself off, hoping that depriving himself for a while would bring back the excitement and thus, the enjoyment, when he picked up killing again. What he had not banked on was the intensity of his addiction. After a mere few days of not letting himself go back to his own body, he was just about driven mad. He decided he had waited long enough and that night, hunted again. He had hoped to derive immense pleasure from it, but instead, he gave up hunting and entered a house almost at once. He had torn the inhabitants to pieces in a sort of daze, and when it was over, he had had no fun at all: he had only stopped suffering from the withdrawal he had submitted himself to.

He had not gone back to the current President's body that night. He had gone towards his main hideout, killing every animal he spotted on the way, raging that nobody was out yet refusing to go into another house and feel the joyless relief again. By the time he had reached his hideout, he was mad with anger and frustration. He had stormed inside his dungeon for a while, throwing any object he found on the floor or on the walls, no longer caring for any of his treasures. He eventually came face to face with the two bottles containing the souls of his nemesis. He stared at them hard, trying to see the souls, or rather, their suffering. He could see nothing but a faint glow coming from the bottles. He snarled at them.

Ganon cringed upon remembering how he had felt that night. He had been on top of the world, powerful and unopposed, his enemies defeated and at his mercy, and although he could remember it quite clearly, he could no longer understand the despair and the rage that he had felt in that moment. It pained him to admit it, but he had simply lost his mind that night. He supposed it was unavoidable that such a thing should happen every now and then when you lived so long, especially if your life was the same year after year.

He remembered staring at the bottles, snarling at them, blaming them for everything. Even back then, it hadn't been clear whether he was blaming the bottles or their occupants, and what he was holding them responsible for. What had been very clear was the insane desire to destroy the bottles, a desire which he had gratified immediately. He had grabbed a bottle in each hand, and crushed each of them in his fists.

His sanity had then returned.

He had looked in horror as the glow that had been contained within the bottles dissipated in the night, too stunned to even look for new bottles and cast the imprisoning spell again. It would have been no use, and that was the only consolation Ganon had for being so helpless at that moment: there were no empty bottles in the dungeon, and by the time he had found a full one he had not broken yet and emptied it, the souls would have been gone. They had left so fast, in fact, that it was doubtful Ganon would have had the time to cast the spell, had he had empty bottles in his hands, ready to be his enemies' new prisons.

To his credit, Ganon had not remained in shock for long, and had started planning on how to find the Princess and Hero before they became a nuisance. The plan, however, had proven to be inefficient and had now officially failed.

It had been in three parts: The first was that Ganon would search for the Princess in houses where the higher class lived. There was no royalty left in Hyrule, so the girl would not be a princess, as such, but it was almost certain that she would still be close to royalty, or as close as possible: in other words, she would be a member of the upper class. In retrospect, Ganon thought that although she had turned out to indeed be in the upper class, she could easily not have been: she had been disguised as a criminal once, and could have been disguised as a worker this time.

The second part of the plan was to draw the Hero out by letting monsters kill people at night, and by killing a few himself. He had been aware that the President could not understand why he was not worried about the possibility of the Hero being killed by a monster. Ganon didn't know whether the Hyrulian's belief that a lower monster had any chance at all of killing the Hero was more insulting or more satisfying. On one hand, it demonstrated the low opinion the people of Hyrule now had for their champion, but on the other hand, it made it sound like a silly Wolfos might be able to do what Ganon himself had only managed once. It was rather interesting that the President's belief that there was even a chance of that happening was so strong that although he shared Ganon's thoughts and thus had to realize that foolish belief was not shared, he couldn't seem to come to grip with it and kept on wondering why Ganon was not worried.

The third part of the plan had been the most time consuming and the least amusing. As the President, Ganon visited shops after shops, looking for workers called Link and Supervisors or Workers called Zelda. There was always a few in each shop, and Ganon would talk to them, try to assess whether they might be his quarries. That last part of the plan had only been implemented 6 years after the souls had been released, since the lower class started work at that age.

Everything had gone wrong. There were too many upper class houses, and Ganon did not like to empty more than one or two a night: he did not want killing to become even less enjoyable than it already had, so he was restricting himself to a few victims every night.

In addition, Link had not been made to play the hero by trying to protect people at night. Ganon could not understand why, and had to consider the possibility that the boy had not been acting when he had met the President, that the rightful holder of the Triforce of Courage had spent his life up to date being a coward. It was an amusing thought, but the fact the boy had taken the Princess from the shop while announcing that they were going to come after him seemed to indicate that the Hero had found at least some of his courage.

Finally, when he had found Link and Zelda, in the same shop no less, he had been fooled into thinking they were just more ill-named ordinary hyrulians; despite the boy's ears, he had been fooled like a simpleton. Fooled by The Girl.

He roared in fury, but the sound that came out of the President's throat was more pathetic than satisfying. That last vexation was too much for Ganon to endure today. He left the borrowed body and went back to his own. Once there, he roared again, ranted to himself some more, and when the sun set, went out for a bit of fun. After a day like today, he figured he deserved some entertainment.

Left behind, the President occupied his time, as usual when Ganon left him, trying to regain control of his body.

Zelda insisted they stopped in a shop before going into the Woods, and Link had no choice but to wait for her to buy whatever it was she was so certain they needed. She had refused to say anything more about her idea for not getting lost in the Woods, and Link had gradually fell from grateful to have her help to thoroughly irritated with her. He found himself thinking that she had better help him, considering it was her fault he was in this mess in the first place. He knew he wasn't being fair at all, but as soon as she had gotten over her shock that he was back and that he had been in the Lost Woods for about a week, she had reverted right back into her bossy self. Link, who had thought they could be civil and even friendly to each other now that she didn't have to try and beat the truth into him anymore, was now wondering how he could have been so naive.

She finally came out of the shop, with, to Link's astonishment, some paper, ink and writing brushes, as well as a bag. He glared at her.

"What in the world do we need THAT stuff for?" He whispered angrily. "I thought you were going to buy something useful! You said we had to hide quickly and you stop to buy paper? What is wrong with you?"

"I didn't know where we were going when I said we needed to hide right away." Zelda replied, whispering as well. "It's different now. We could stop at the edge of the Woods and yell out that we're going in, and still nobody would believe we actually did go in there, so nobody would ever find us."

Link grunted in irritation.

"But why buy paper?" He asked, still whispering.

"To draw the Lost Woods," Zelda explained. "That's how we're going to avoid being lost. Since we cannot remember what we have just seen, we'll draw everything we see and the paper will remember it for us. I hope."

"'Draw everything we see'? Isn't that going to take forever?" Link asked.

"It will be simplified drawings." Zelda countered. "And it will take less time than wandering around aimlessly."

Link shrugged. It seemed a bit complicated, but he had no alternative plan to offer.

"The thing is, I don't know that it will work." Zelda admitted.

"You don't?" Link asked, stopping. They were not very far to the edge of the forest, and he didn't really want to go in again without knowing they wouldn't be stuck there. Being lost was fine when you just wanted to disappear, but he did not want to be stuck in the Lost Woods anymore. He had been willing enough to go back in there when he had first told Zelda where he had been, but the closer he got to the Woods, the least he wanted to waste more time than he already had wandering aimlessly in the forest.

"The magic of the Woods constantly erases the memory of whoever is in there. I'm sure if it's powerful enough to do that, it's powerful enough to erase the ink from a piece of paper. I'm hoping the magic won't know to do that, but I can't be sure until we've tried." She grabbed Link by the arm and tried to drag him forward. Link resisted.

"I really don't want to get lost. A bunch more people are going to die if we get stuck in there. Can't we hide somewhere else? Or not hide at all? What do you think we need to do? We can start doing that right away."

Zelda could scarcely believe Link had to ask.

"We need to find the Master Sword, of course. What did you THINK we'd need to do?" She answered.

"Well..." Link started. Zelda cut him off.

"I mean, isn't it obvious? Ganon can only be defeated with the sword of Evil's Bane, so to defeat him, we need the Sword!"

"Err..." Link stammered. He didn't quite know how to break the news to Zelda that the Master Sword had not been able to harm Ganon.

"And even you must know that the Master Sword's resting place is in the Lost Woods," Zelda added, cutting him off again, seemingly without even hearing him.

"You think it's in there?" He asked. He didn't wait for an answer. "It doesn't matter..."

"Yes. I'm sure it's in there. If Ganon had it, it would be in the museum. It wasn't, I'm sure we would both have recognized it. What was there HAD to be a replica. I'm sure the Sword has returned to its natural 'home' when the last Hero died."

"Yeah, okay. But the sword doesn't work anymore." He blurted out.

Zelda stared and blinked at him.

"What do you mean, it doesn't work anymore?" She finally asked.

"I stabbed Ganon with a piece of it, and it didn't do anything to him." He summarized.

"It must have been because the sword was broken." Zelda said. "It lost its magic because it was broken."

"But Ganon said it couldn't hurt him. He knew it couldn't. He let me stab him." Link insisted.

"That wasn't YOU, Link." Zelda said, her voice suddenly soft and gentle. "You are a new person now."

"It WAS me, and don't change the subject. The Master Sword doesn't work."

Zelda bit her lip, thinking.

"We can't take his word for it." She said after a moment. "But it's possible the Master Sword alone is not enough."

"'It's possible' the Master Sword is useless!"

"No! All the legends can't be that wrong. The Master Sword is the key. It's the weapon that, ultimately, defeats Ganon."

"But it doesn't WORK!"

Zelda sighed and looked around, mainly to avoid looking at Link. She knew if she looked at him, she'd glare at him. He was so pessimistic, it was maddening. What did he want her to do? All the legends, all the history books even, said very clearly that the Master Sword was necessary to defeat Ganon. Therefore, they needed the Master Sword. From what Link was saying, it may not be the only thing they would need, but the fact was that it was one of them. Her eyes caught the sun, and she gasped: it was starting to set.

"The sun is setting." She said urgently, grabbing Link's arm again. "We need to be in the Lost Woods before the sun sets."

Link did not budge, still hesitating. Zelda bit her lips, wishing she were strong enough to actually drag him along.

"Look." She said. "All right. We'll just take a few steps inside the Lost Woods, and then we'll turn around so that we are looking out and only need to take a few steps in a straight line to get out. We'll draw what we see, wait a bit and then see if the drawing is still there and if it matches what we see. If it does, we'll know we CAN make a map of sorts and we'll go further in. If it doesn't, we'll come back out or better yet, stand right where we are until the morning. How's that?"

Link thought about it for a moment, then shook his arm free, grabbed hers just to show her how it felt, and marched towards the Lost Woods.

Zelda's eyes narrowed in annoyance when he grabbed her arm, but she followed without a word.

They followed the plan to the letter: they took a few steps past the dense edge of the forest, then Zelda made Link turn around until he was facing the direction exactly opposite to where she was facing. She then turned around so that they were both facing exactly back the way they came. Like Link, she had felt judged and approved when she had passed the edge of the forest, but unlike him, she assumed she was imagining things.

She sat down, still facing the right direction, took out a piece of paper, the ink and a brush from her bag and, as Link watched, she started making a rough sketch of what was around them. After a short while, she had a reasonable map of the area immediately surrounding them.

The sun was setting and the light was getting very minimal, but it was still just bright enough, a few minutes later, for them to see the map was still on the paper, intact. Zelda could not remember drawing any particular bit of it, but it was there. They compared it to their surroundings and found that the map was as accurate as you could wish it. Reassured they would not get lost, Link sat down next to her and actually smiled at her.

"Good job." He said.

She smiled back.


"I still don't know about the sword, though." Link said, losing his smile.

Zelda lowered her eyes pensively.

"I'm sure you need it." She said after a moment. "History and Legends agree on that much. It can't be a coincidence."

"So how come it didn't work?" He asked, anger creeping into his voice again.

"It must not be the ONLY thing you need."

Link shrugged, then seemed to relax.

"Yeah, that's probably it. That's good. It didn't seem right that it didn't work."

Zelda nodded, but Link could barely see her doing so. Night was falling.

They both sat there, tense, wondering how long it would be before they started hearing the screams of the victims. They had their answer much quicker than they would have liked: barely a moment after it became too dark for them to be able to see each other, they heard a long, drawn out scream, thankfully faint for originating from far away. Zelda's blood froze in her veins.

More followed, some closer, some almost as far. Zelda did not sleep, wishing for the warmth and silence of her home. Although he said nothing, not even to answer her few attempts at conversation, she assumed Link was awake as well. It was a moonless night, and the light from the stars could not reach through the canopy of the forest, so the darkness was absolute. Zelda could not see her own hand even if she put it right in front of her face, and the lack of visuals made the screams stand out in the otherwise silent forest even more. She started shivering, curled up in a ball and pressed her palms against her ears, trying to block out the noise and unable to do so. She started sobbing, and soon, she was crying and thinking Link could at least SAY something.

She was still crying when Link was awakened by a sunbeam hitting him in the face. He put a hand on her shoulder, knowing quite well how she felt. He could hardly believe he had slept all night: he remembered hearing one scream, and then, nothing. He hadn't even had any nightmares, which was a rarity.

Zelda startled when he touched her and glared at him.

"What?" She demanded.

Link drew his hand back, startled. He swallowed his saliva.

"I said I was sorry about running away," he said. "But I'm here now! Why are you still angry?"

"Why am I still angry?" She growled. "I've been crying all night and only now do you even acknowledge I'm here! You were punishing me for having had to hear this for several nights by yourself, weren't you? Well it wasn't my fault you ran off!"

"You were crying all night? Wow. I mean... sorry. It's just... I didn't hear you, I was asleep."

Zelda stared at him wide eyed. She looked so miserable with her red eyes and her soaked face that for a moment, Link felt even sorrier for her than for himself.

"You were asleep? Through all those screams?"

"Yeah," Link said, shrugging. "I only heard one scream. I guess I was tired. I didn't sleep much in the last few days."

Zelda wiped her eyes with her arm and looked around to avoid looking at Link. She gasped. Everything looked completely alien: she was absolutely sure she had never seen any of what was around them before.

"It's weird, isn't it?" Link said.

"It changed..." Zelda whispered, horrified. "I was wrong. It did change."

Link bent over her shoulder, his heart racing. If the maps didn't work, they wouldn't find their way back. They couldn't see the edge of the forest and they had shifted position during the night, so they didn't know which way they had been facing. They would be lost in the Woods while people kept getting killed all over the place.

He frowned. Zelda didn't have the map out yet.

"Why did you say that?" He asked. "You didn't even look at the map yet! You scared me!"

She took the map and passed it to him impatiently.

"It looks too different." She said. "It can't be the same."

Link examined the map for a moment, looked around, tutted and handed the map back to her. "It's the same, O Wise Princess."

Zelda stared back and forth between the map and their surroundings: Link was right, it was the same. She got her bottle and ink out and wrote "1" in a corner of the map. She had never dreamed that the Woods would be that effective at confusing her, and wanted to take no chance. Numbering the maps would ensure that they knew which one belonged where.

Link was right to make fun of her supposed wisdom, too, she thought. She couldn't seem to get anything right.

"You need to think more." Link said, as if he had read her mind. "You're smart, you just don't think."

Zelda wanted to glare at him, but couldn't make herself do it. He was right.

"Sorry." She said. She wasn't really sure what she was apologizing for, but it seemed to satisfy Link. He sat down next to her and asked her what she had written in the corner of the map.

"The number one." She replied. "If we number the maps, we'll be able to put them back in order if they get mixed up. I'm going to put an arrow saying where we're going, too."

Link nodded.

"See? That was smart. I don't get ideas like that." He said admiringly. Zelda smiled a bit.

"So… where to?" He asked her.

"I've never heard any details on where in the Lost Woods the sword was." She said. "Have you? Or better yet, do you actually remember?"

Link shook his head.

"I'm guessing it's far into the Woods." He said.

Zelda nodded and drew an arrow on the map, opposite the spot where she had noted they had entered.

"That would be my guess too." She said, getting up. "And besides, it's possible you remember subconsciously, so I say we go wherever you think we should."

"Sub what?" He asked, getting up too.

"It means that you don't realize it, but deep inside, part of your mind remembers."

Link shook his head in disbelief, but he didn't mind leading the way anymore than he would have minded following her, so he didn't pursue the matter further.

They passed the two trees that were at the edge of the map, the one on the left with the apples, and the one on the right with the rock under it and the low split branch, between which Zelda had drawn the arrow. She stopped, sat and took out her paper, ink and brush again. She flipped the sheet with the map and started drawing.

"You're making another map already?" Asked Link. "Come on! We only walked about 10 steps! We'll NEVER find the sword at this rate!"

"Each map needs to start where the last one ends, or they'll have gaps in which we'll get lost." Zelda explained. She tried to make it sound apologetic rather than lecturing, but she couldn't quite tell how well she had succeeded.

Link rolled his eyes, grunted, and picked a couple of apples from the tree they had just passed. He polished them on his tunic and handed one to Zelda.

Eating his own apple killed very little time, and by the time Zelda had completed the map, Link was just about ready to tear all her paper and spill her ink so she'd have no choice but give up on it and keep going. He knew it was a bad idea, but that didn't make it any less tempting.

They finally got going again, but Zelda stopped after a few steps to draw another map. Link looked up, trying to see how much the sun had moved to determine how long this was taking, but the trees' canopy hid the sky almost completely. He sighed and slunk down.

"You need to draw faster." He said. "This is taking WAY too long. I thought you were going to do simple drawings!"

Zelda tutted. "It's only taking me about a third of an hour every time." She remarked. "You have no patience whatsoever."

"What in the Dark World makes you think that's all it's taking?" He asked.

"I'm used to spending a lot of time doing something quiet like this. I have a good idea how much time I'm spending doing these drawings. I could be wrong by a bit, but not by a whole lot. It just feels longer to you because you have nothing to do but wait."

Link sighed and started looking around, trying to think of where the sword would be. He desperately wanted to find it quickly, so he could get out of the forest and be done with those blasted maps.

He paused, startled by his own thoughts. Having the sword and getting out of the forest would mean he was one step closer to taking on Ganon, so why was he in such a hurry?

He sighed. He knew the answer, of course: he was impatient because he didn't want people to keep dying. He had to stop Ganon, and the sooner, the better.

"Why do I have to fight Ganon?" He moaned, sitting down next to Zelda.

She looked up from her drawing, frowning.

"You're not backing out, are you?" She said. "You're not going to run and hide again, right?"

"No!" Link said angrily. "I just don't understand why I'm the one that has to fight him. I don't even know how to fight!"

"Nobody else can use the Master Sword, and only the Master Sword can destroy Ganon." Zelda recited. "You know that. Why do you even have to ask?"

Link glared at her. Zelda glared right back.

"Because I don't stand a chance!" Link yelled. "I don't even know what to do! And you! You don't know where the Sword is, you don't know why it didn't work, and you don't know what else I need! You're not helping at all!"

"You stand a better chance than anyone else!" Zelda yelled back. "You KNOW that! And I may not know everything, but I still know more than you do! You weren't even going to bother getting the Master Sword, and why? Because Ganon - Ganon! - told you it was useless! You didn't even know who you were, until I told you!"

Link wanted to scream at her that he had been a lot better off not knowing who he was, but it was plain from looking at her that she'd just somehow manage to turn that argument against him too.

"Look," he said instead in a voice as calm as he could muster. "I don't WANT to fight Ganon. But I'm going to anyway, because I know I have to. I wasn't asking because I wanted an answer. I was just complaining."

Zelda lowered her eyes. Link had only been asking a rhetorical question, and she had assumed the worst right away. It was no wonder he'd gotten angry with her.

"Sorry." She said. "It's just... I thought for sure you weren't coming back when you ran away."

"Well I did." Link said, rolling his eyes. "So what does that have to do with anything?"

Zelda sighed. She couldn't bring herself to be blunter: telling Link outright that she didn't trust him not to run away again would only make him angry and make it more likely that he'd abandon her and their quest.

"Nothing." She lied. "I'm done with the map. We can go."

They got up, walked a few more steps and Zelda stopped again. Link sighed.

"We're spending more time doing those maps than walking."

"I know." Zelda sighed. "Hopefully your instincts are good and we're heading straight for the sword, at least."

They covered a bit more ground than Link would have expected during the day. By nightfall, Zelda had drawn 24 maps. Link picked some fruits and after eating them, they settled for the night, mostly satisfied with their progress.

Their satisfaction was short lived: the sun was barely down when the usual nightly murders began. Link had been so exhausted the night before that he had fallen asleep despite the cries of the victims, but he was not so lucky this time. After lying down for a while, he took a look at Zelda, just able to make her out in the almost total darkness. She was lying still, but he couldn't tell whether her eyes were opened or not. He listened for her breathing, and found it slow and regular: she was asleep. Link promised himself to act like he couldn't believe she had managed to sleep in the morning, for a bit of revenge.

He got up and walked around, trying to ignore the victims. Most of them seemed to be far away tonight, but there was still the occasional nearby one. He lied down when his legs got tired, thinking that even if he wasn't sleeping, he should probably try to rest his body. He closed his eyes and tried to picture the Master Sword in the hopes of seeing where it was. He only saw it in his own hands, or rather, his former hands. He could remember how it had felt and looked before he had gone in the room where Ganon would kill him: he had felt invincible, he had felt like he could fix everything that was wrong with the world. Even though he knew how it had ended before, he wanted to feel that way again: he wanted the Master Sword in his hands again. That desire had played a big part in his accepting Zelda's reasoning about the blade, and now that he had, the desire was even stronger.

He tried all night to get a better idea of where the Master Sword was, but was only left with a vague impression that it wasn't too far. He shared the feeling with Zelda when she woke up, more to let her know he had been awake all night than anything else. She had looked horrified at the fact she had been asleep, so Link decided not to torment her about it after all.

She showed more enthusiasm for his feeling that their goal was close by than he had, and it seemed to cheer her up a bit. She compared her last map to their surrounding, and, satisfied, drew an arrow on it in the direction that Link indicated and they set out again.

Link found the sword, much to his amazement, shortly before the sun set. More precisely, he found a long space devoid of trees, looking much like a corridor, at the end of which they could just make out some kind of altar.

As soon as the initial shock of the discovery wore off, Link took off running towards the altar. Zelda, having no hope of catching up with him even if she tried running as well, walked there. She was about a third of the way to the altar when Link reached it. He stayed still for a moment, staring at the top of it, then slumped to his knees, his head hung down, looking utterly miserable. Zelda's relief at having found the sword quickly turned to panic and she ran the rest of the way to the altar, imagining Link's reaction could only mean the sword was not there.

Reality turned out to be only slightly better than what she had thought. The sword was there, but in pieces: a dozen of them, each stuck into the marble of the altar.

Link was looking up at her, apparently waiting for her to fix things.

"Maybe we can fix it." Zelda suggested, fighting back the urge to just give up and panic.

"I knew it was broken." Link said. "But it's a magic sword! I thought it would fix itself!"

"Me too. I didn't even let myself consider the possibility that it wouldn't."

Link got up, and walked away from the altar, along the corridor. He looked thoroughly defeated. Zelda caught up with him and put a hand on his shoulder. He stopped.

"I'll find a way to fix it." She said. "I promise."

Link didn't look at her, but when they started walking again, he wasn't quite as slumped. They walked out of the corridor, but stopped for the night after only a few paces into the woods: darkness was falling, and they had things to discuss.

Neither of them slept that night, and they shot ideas back and forth to each other on ways the sword may be fixed. They quickly agreed that just melting the pieces and forging the blade again would likely only create a new, ordinary sword: neither of them wanted to take that chance and they decided to seek a more magical way to restore it. The blade was magic, after all, so it stood to reason that magic should fix it.

It took them all night to agree on their next course of action, but eventually, Zelda managed to convince her companion that they had to come out of hiding long enough to research how to go about fixing a magical sword. Thankfully, most of the murders sounded very far away tonight, which suggested that Ganon expected them to flee their own town and was looking for them somewhere else, somewhere a good distance away.

They set out as soon as it was bright enough to read the maps. Retracing their steps, they quickly found their way out of the forest.

They first headed for Zelda's house.

"Say, Zelda..."

Zelda turned back to look at Link, who was trailing a few paces behind her. She thought for a second that he was stalling, but quickly pushed the thought away: she couldn't go on constantly thinking that Link was about to turn tail and run if she had any hope of preserving her sanity. She walked back to him. He was looking at a wanted sign, and she looked at it too. Her eyes widened.

"That word..." Link said, pointing at his name, "isn't that my name?"

"Yes." Zelda confirmed.

"So that IS us on that poster?"


"We're wanted just for quitting our jobs?"

"Let's start walking again." Zelda said. She followed her own advice and Link followed.

"I should have expected something like that." She groaned. "The President works for Ganon, so now that he knows who we are, he's making it so all of Hyrule will help him catch us. We're not wanted for leaving our jobs, he's accusing us of multiple murders."

"What? But... but... we didn't kill anyone!"

"I know. But the poster makes it sound like we are responsible for some of the nightly murders."

Link stopped, forgetting to walk in his shock. Zelda elbowed him in the side and he started walking again.

"You think people are going to believe that?" He asked.

Zelda nodded.

"They'll want to believe it. Just picture it: if we really were the murderers, it would mean catching us would put an end to the murders. We have to assume that anybody who sees us will report us. On top of that, I bet guards are posted right at my house and at your dorms, so we definitely can't go there."

"So what do we do?"

"I don't know." Zelda admitted. "I need history books. I'm sure I've read something about the Master Sword being restored at some point, but I don't remember any details. I don't think there WAS any in the books I read, so I need a different one."

"So we should go to the library?" Link suggested.

"It's a public place. It will be guarded." Zelda said, a trace of panic in her voice.

Link was about to mind his own business and let her panic if she felt like it, but he knew that if she lost her calm, she wouldn't think things through, and he didn't want that. He grabbed her by the shoulders and forced her to look at him.

"Zelda, calm down." He said. "You don't think right when you're scared, and you keep doing stupid things!"

"Like what?" She asked, outraged.

"Like stopping me to talk after work, at night! Like making me work on swords! Like taking me to that museum! Like when you woke up and the Lost Woods looked different, and you thought the maps were no good! I TOLD you it always looked different!"

Link had to stop to catch his breath, and Zelda took the opportunity to jump in.

"It all turned out fine, didn't it?" She asked angrily.

"What? That time after work, a Stalfos attacked us! I got hit all day after the shift change, and after the museum, I ran away! 'It all turned out fine' because you're lucky!" Link insisted, working hard to keep the anger out of his voice.

"I had to do SOMETHING to make you remember!" Zelda said. "I was desperate!"

"You weren't thinking." Link concluded. "Like when you stopped me after work? You could have talked to me the next day! You're the one who said I wasn't going to get executed because nobody was going to complain about me!"


"And when you made me work on swords, so I'd get used to them?" Link snarled a bit at the memory. "I didn't get used to them, I was just even more scared of getting hit again!"

"I already apologized for…" Zelda started to say. Link cut her off again.

"And your first morning in the Lost Woods? You didn't even LOOK at the map before you gave up! You just panicked! You need to use your head more!"

"Look who's talking." Zelda finally managed to say. "You do nothing but complain and wait for me to give you answers and solve your problems!"

"Because that's your job!" Link said. "I don't know what to do! I didn't even know that I needed the Master Sword! I can't even read about what I did before! I need you for that, and I need you to think!"

"But I don't know what to do either!" Zelda protested.

"Yes. You. Do." Link said. "You knew we're us, and you even knew to not let the President find out. You thought of those maps, and you knew how to make me find the Master Sword!"

"But I don't know how to fix the Master Sword, and I don't know how I'm going to find out!"

"You promised you'd figure it out." Link said.

"I know, but..."

"So calm down! Let's sit somewhere, or hide, or keep walking, whatever you want, and you think about it as long as you need."

"We need to hurry, Link. Every day we waste means another night with dozens of victims."

Link sighed. He agreed with her on that, and he didn't really know how to explain what he had meant.

"I know." He said. "I want to hurry too, but... what if we hurry too much and Ganon wins again?"

Zelda bit her lip. She knew Link was right, she knew they couldn't afford anymore mistakes and that as frustrating as it was, they had to take whatever time was necessary to figure out each of their move. If they spent a day planning, it meant one more night of murders. If they got captured or otherwise failed to ever defeat Ganon, it meant countless such nights. She knew Link was right, but she didn't like it.

She forced herself to stop walking and considered the options Link had outlined: sit somewhere and think, hide somewhere and think, or keep walking and think. Sitting somewhere was out of the question, and walking was only slightly better: hiding was definitely safer, even though she was sick of it by now. She didn't want to backtrack to the Lost Woods, but it was probably the best place: nowhere else was nearly as safe, and they didn't have to go in very deep, or to draw more maps.

"I think we should go back to the Lost Woods for now." She said. "Until I think of how to get the books we need."

Link nodded and back they went. They were lucky enough for no guards to be around, and since most everyone was at work, no civilians saw them either.

Zelda thought that her choices were limited to two: breaking into the library at night, or sneaking in during the day. Both were risky: the night had the advantage of offering the cover of darkness, but they could run into some of Ganon's minions, or even into the Monster himself. Going during the day meant they were likely to be spotted by Presidential Guards.

All in all, the Presidential Guards were probably not as dangerous as the monsters. On the other hand, they were more likely to encounter them. Then again, there were more monsters than there used to be, so going out at night was riskier than ever.

She was pacing around their campsite, occasionally rubbing her temples and groaning, and Link was playing with a branch. She frowned at him. He turned his back on her and kept playing with his branch.

"What are you doing?" She asked irritatingly. "You're distracting me with that stupid branch!"

"Don't talk about the Sword of Evil Bane like that!" Link said in mock reproach.

"You're trying to practice using the Sword with that branch?" She asked.


Zelda stopped pacing, at a loss for word. It was admirable for Link to try so hard, but...

"Link... that branch is almost as big as you. You can barely lift it."

"The Master Sword is big." Link explained.

Zelda's eyes widened: Link looked serious. But the sword couldn't possibly be that big... Link looked like the younger workers did when they had the normal sized swords in their hands. She smacked her forehead.

"Oh, very funny." She said. "I know the last hero was a tiny boy and that the sword felt that big to him. There's no need to remind me. What happened to him was not my fault, and unlike him, you're not 5! You are not as helpless as he was! I am not sentencing you to certain death!"

Link finally stopped playing and turned to face her. He looked completely confused.

"What?" He said. "I'm just trying to practice! Are you saying I should have done that back then? What's the point of telling me that?"

It was Zelda's turn to be confused.

"You're not trying to point out that the sword was way too big for the last Hero?" She asked.

"I just said it was big!" Link protested.

"Of course it was, for a 5 year old!" Zelda cried.

Link blinked a few times, blushed bright red and dropped the branch.

"You didn't realize it was only big because he was so small?" Zelda asked, not knowing whether to believe it or not.

Link blushed a bit more and looked away.

"I just figured I should practice," he said in a very small voice. "So I found a branch that was about the weight and size I remembered."

Zelda sighed.

"It's you that's supposed to be wise!" Link said in a stronger voice, insulted. "Not me!"

"Sorry." Zelda said. "I guess it must be confusing. You remember that battle so well that you feel it happened to you, so I guess it also feels like it was recent. And if you're like me, you're almost too tired to think straight."

Link visibly relaxed.

"Yeah. It doesn't feel like it was very long ago. And I just remember it happening. I don't see myself, and I didn't feel small, so..."

Link stopped. He felt like an absolute idiot. He let himself fall into a sitting position.

"Like you said, I'm too tired." He concluded, looking down. "Do you know what to do yet?" He asked, more to change the subject than anything else.

"Guards are less dangerous than monsters, so I think we should sneak in during the day."

"You thought of going at night?" Link asked incredulously.

"The Presidential Guards may be a bit less dangerous, but we're almost certain to run into them, and they're looking for us. The monsters might not be smart enough to be looking for us, and with a bit of luck, we would avoid them altogether. The thing is, we can't just hope to be lucky."

Link nodded vigorously.

"So, do we go now?" He asked, getting up.

"We need a plan. How to get to the library without being seen, how to get in without being noticed, how to find the books I need as quickly as possible, how to get out and back here without being seen or noticed. And, what to do if all that doesn't work and the Guards come after us."

"Hmm... be quiet and run very fast?" Link offered.

"That's definitely the basic idea, but let me think for a bit longer. I may be able to come up with a slightly more detailed plan than that."

Link shrugged and got up. He started looking around for a branch comparable to the swords that they made at the shop, then stopped and called out to Zelda.

"So, you think the Master Sword is about the same size as the swords we make?" He asked. He figured he had better be safe than sorry.

"Probably a bit bigger, but not that much." Zelda guessed. "You know, while we are out, maybe we should pick one up. Just so you can practice in the meantime if it takes a while to repair the Master Sword."

Link didn't reply. It made sense, but he wasn't exactly looking forward to having to handle a real sword: swords didn't have that nice lack of sharpness that branches did. He found a dead branch that looked about right, picked it up and started attacking the nearest tree.

It was shortly after midday by the time they got out of the Lost Woods again. Zelda had plotted a course to the library, picked an entrance point, plotted a course from that point (which was a window in the basement, in the back and not in view of anything) to the historical section on the main floor, and had picked a spot for Link to stand guard while she browsed. They would get out the same way they had gotten in. For each section of the library that they would pass through, Zelda had plotted the quickest escape route in case they met with some guards. She had shown the maps to Link and made him memorize them.

Then, much to his dismay, she had dressed him up as a girl using her undershirt and underskirt and using his own shirt for a scarf to hide his short hair and most importantly, his ears. The end result was that Link looked like a very poorly dressed woman, with no trace of green clothing and with ears that could be assumed to be normal; Link thought it was cruel, she thought it was perfect. He had finally agreed to it only because she had reminded him he was the one who decided that she would do the thinking.

The streets were still mostly deserted, and the few people that were there - mostly lower class children under 6 and their dorm keepers - paid them no attention. They walked right past the library and around the block a few times, until there was nobody in view, then quickly rounded the building to end up behind it. The library had its back to the back of a clothing shop, and the small alley was perfectly quiet.

Zelda found the window she was looking for and pushed it, praying the goddesses that it wasn't locked. It wasn't, and they slipped in.

"How come you knew about this window?" Link whispered once they were in the small storage room.

"It used to be our classroom." Zelda answered, whispering as well. "It became a storage room just before my last year of school: we were moved to the second floor."

They got out of the storage room, and in accordance with Zelda's instructions, Link stopped even whispering and tried to look lost. The idea was to make as little noise as possible and hope not to be spotted, and to look innocent if they were spotted: thus, no talking because it's too loud and no whispering because it's suspicious. Looking lost would hopefully add to the air of innocence by providing an explanation for their presence in the basement.

They made it to the main floor without seeing anyone, and quietly slipped into the main library. They both changed their fake facial expression from "lost" to "concentrated" and walked to the "History" section. Once there, Link stayed near the end of the row, picked a book and started pretending to be looking at it, facing the corridor and actually looking out for guards. Zelda was not very happy with this part of the plan, mainly because Link's clothes strongly suggested that the woman he was impersonating was from the lower class and lower class members did not usually read, but she needed a lookout and had not been able to think of anything less suspicious than look at a book for Link to "do" while watching out for incoming trouble.

She stayed close to him long enough to make sure he was holding the book right side up then moved down the aisle, looking for historical records.

Link barely resisted tutting at her for checking how he was holding the book. He had told her he could tell whether text was right or wrong side up, but she couldn't seem to trust him about anything. He tried not to think of it, afraid to frown without realizing it, and concentrated on the hallway.

Zelda tapped his shoulder a few minutes later, and he put the book back to follow her to the basement. Zelda had hidden the books she had taken in her bag, and walked a bit faster than usual while Link followed doing the same thing: anyone who noticed them would hopefully be convinced they were hurrying to the bathrooms, which were right down the stairs, in the basement.

They walked right past the bathroom and started looking around hopelessly, once again trying to appear lost. They made it without problem to the storage room, went in, and climbed out of the window.

The guard who had been circling the building and who saw them creeping out of the window did not, for a second, think they were lost, looking for the bathroom, or innocent. He ran up to them, screaming for back-up.

Chapter Text

A few quick notes:

1. This story is rated T due to some very violent content.

2. The story is actually completed, and I intend to post a new chapter weekly.

3. I don't own any Legend of Zelda character or setting. I'm just borrowing them and I hope Nintendo won't mind too much.

4. Thank you so much for reading (and for reviewing)!

Chapter 7: Unorthodox Research

Despite the fact that it brought about more guards, the scream proved to be a blessing. Zelda and Link, upon hearing it a few paces behind them, automatically ran in the opposite direction, Link dragging Zelda by the wrist in a daylight replay of their flight from the Stalfos.

A guard who arrived from the direction opposite that of the first one almost toppled them, but Link veered left and only turned the right direction again when the guard was a few paces behind them. Zelda, while running, was staring at Link's skirt and praying he wouldn't trip on it.

Which, of course, he did.

They both went down and scrambled up, but not quickly enough: a hand closed on Zelda's ankle. She kicked wildly with her other foot and the hold loosened enough for her foot to slip free. She wasn't even on her feet yet when she felt herself being yanked away by Link, who had scrambled right out of his skirt and whose green pants were showing.

The guards automatically recognized them for who they were and called more of their comrades. Zelda managed to get back to her feet and run, which only meant that she wasn't quite as difficult for Link to drag along.

Link was heading straight for the Lost Woods. Zelda was completely out of breath less than halfway there, but Link did not seem to slow down, or at least to slow down less than their pursuers, who were steadily loosing ground.

There was a close call when more guards, noticing the chase, joined in by trying to block their way. Link had veered left in an alley, right at the next opportunity, and the new guards had joined the other ones behind them.

Zelda did not think she would manage to stay on her feet all the way to the Lost Woods, expecting to fall and be dragged face down for the rest of the way at any moment, but somehow, she made it. Link dashed into the forest and kept going for a bit, just in case the guards dared to take a few steps past the Woods' dense edge.

They didn't, and were left shouting threats at Zelda and Link from beyond the trees, which their quarry ignored. They eventually gave up yelling, but stayed at the edge of the forest, hoping the boy and girl they believed to be murderers would come out before long.

Needless to say, this hope was not realized.

Once safe in the Lost Woods, and certain they were not still being followed, Link let go of Zelda's wrist and collapsed on his hands and knees, panting and shaking. Zelda did much the same thing, except she fell to her side after a few seconds. After a few minutes, still panting a bit, Link lied down as well, on his stomach with his head turned to look at Zelda. She was amazed to see him grinning, but it was contagious: she grinned back.

"You really can outrun anything, can't you?" She said, panting.

"They were faster than that Stalfos." Link said, wheezing but still grinning.

"Too bad we couldn't re-enter the Woods where we left them." Zelda said, losing her smile. "We're lost."

Link lost his smile too. He somehow managed to gather enough strength to push himself up on his elbows and frantically looked around in a panic.

"It's okay!" Zelda said, still out of breath. "I bet you can still find the Master Sword, and from there, we can find our way."

Link didn't look convinced, but he was simply too exhausted to worry.

"Yeah, maybe." He sighed.

They set out as soon as they could both breathe normally again. They stopped at the first stream they encountered to have a drink, but after that, just kept walking, Zelda following Link who was dearly hoping he would get lucky again. Zelda did not bother with maps this time: they had no use for a map that lead nowhere and besides, she was confident Link would find the sword again and thus put them back on the path of their first maps.

They found the treeless corridor a few hours before nightfall, arriving, as they had before, right at the far end of it. Link scratched his head in amazement, and turned to Zelda.

"Weird." He said. "I didn't know where I was going at all."

Zelda shrugged and smiled.

"Are you complaining?" She asked, sitting down and pulling the books she had taken from the library out of her bag.

Link shook his head and sat down as well.

"Hrm. Some of this is written in Hylian..." Zelda muttered.

"Can you read it?" Link asked. "I know some people learn it."

"I studied it, but I can only understand about half of the words I see here. Let me see..."

After a while, she sighed and closed the book she had been reading.

"That can't be right." She said. "I must be remembering those words wrong."

"What words?" Link asked.

"Sea, water, islands, boat... they keep appearing in the text, but it makes no sense."

"Maybe it's about Lake Hylia?" Link suggested.

"I doubt it... it's hard to explain, but these words appear so much it's like there is no land to speak of, except for a whole bunch of islands. I even thought one of the phrases in there was 'giant fish' when I read it."

Link got up to stretch his legs. Zelda picked another book, which was, thankfully, written in normal Hyrulian. She skimmed through it until it was too dark to read anymore.

"It's definitely been fixed before." She said to Link, putting the book down. "It says here the Hero of the Wind's legend was inspired by the sword having to be repaired by one of the heroes. It doesn't say how he did it though."

"What's the Hero of the Wind's legend?" Link asked.

"He would have been one of the early heroes." Zelda explained. "The story is not even set in Hyrule, it's in the ocean. Hmm... The book I was reading before might have been talking of that legend, come to think of it, but it sounded like it was talking about facts, not stories… no, I must have been reading it wrong. Anyway, the Hero of the Wind was a kid who showed up to defeat Ganon, and who could control the wind, which was very useful for sailing in the ocean. In the legend, he finds a powerless Master Sword but magicians he rescues fix it for him."

"I don't know any magician we could rescue. Do you?" Link said, trying, and failing, to sound amused.

Zelda ignored the question.

"When you relived that battle, it felt like it was you fighting, didn't it?" She asked instead.

Link stiffened.

"So what?" He asked. "And it WAS me."

"It was part of you." Zelda corrected. "Past lives are part of us, but they're not exactly us. Everyone is a sum of all their past lives and of their new self."

Link shrugged. "If you say so. But again, so what?"

"If you can remember so well what happened to this one past life, maybe you can remember how another fixed the sword." Zelda explained. She resisted the strong desire to complain about having to spell it out for Link.

"Sorry." Link said. "The only stuff I remember from the past is that fight against Ganon."

"But you remember it perfectly! And, you found the sword, twice." Zelda insisted. "You obviously have some memories from your past lives. You have to at least try."

Link sighed. This was such a waste of time, but Zelda looked like she would refuse to come up with another idea until that one had officially failed.

"Just try for few minutes." Zelda persisted, confirming his impression. "I really think it could work."

Link sat down with another sigh.

"Fine." He said. "But only to show you it's a stupid idea."

Zelda ignored the insult and smiled at him.

"Thank you for humouring me. Now, close your eyes so you can concentrate better."

Link closed his eyes, but not before rolling them.

"Now, try to conjure memories of magicians fixing the Master Sword. Imagine yourself watching them do it."

Link tried, but found he couldn't. He could see what felt like himself but looked like a young Hylian boy holding the sword, and the sword starting to shine, but there were no magicians around. There was a leaf with a face on it, but that was it. He tried harder, concentrating on his happy past self.

Link opened his eyes in surprise: it felt like he was falling. A split second later, before he could even start to make sense of his surroundings, he was plunging into the water. He miraculously managed to keep his head above the surface long enough to scream for help, hoping the flash of red he had seen out of the corner of his eye was a boat with someone on it.

It was, and a hand closed on his arm and pulled him up on said boat. Link coughed up water for a bit, and when he looked up, found himself looking at a young Hylian dressed in green and obviously trying not to laugh.

"W... what's going on?" Link managed. "Where am I? How come you look Hylian?"

"Hold on!" The Hylian interrupted him, still looking very amused. "One at a time, okay?"

Link nodded, fighting back the urge to scream and panic.

"Where am I?" He asked.

The apparition's shaky voice killed the Hero of the Wind's urge to laugh at it, replacing it with pity.

"You're in Hyrule." He said, trying to sound reassuring but not knowing whether this would be good news or not.

"Hyrule? This is Lake Hylia?" Link asked, looking around. There was nothing but water all around them: he couldn't make out any coastline. "I never knew it was THAT big… wait. How did I get here? If this is Hyrule, why do you look Hylian?"

"This isn't a lake." The Hero of the Wind answered. "It's the sea. We're not very far from Windfall Island. And I look Hylian because that's what I am."

This confused Link even more.

"The sea is not part of Hyrule." He said.

"Hyrule is nothing but a sea." The other said. "With some islands. It was flooded a long time ago."

"It was?" Link interrupted him. "So Zelda was reading the book right? But it's not anymore…"

"Zelda?" The other Link asked. "You know Tetra?"

"I'm in the past?" Link said, not paying attention to the boy. "I can't be…"

But even as he said that, Link knew, beyond any doubt, that he was indeed in the past. How he knew, he had no idea, but he knew it just as surely as he knew the sky above his head was blue. It was a very strange feeling, because even though he was absolutely certain of this fact, part of him still couldn't believe it. After a few moments of reflection on the subject, he decided he'd never figure it out and he might as well just go along with it.

He looked at his rescuer again. Now that he knew he was in the past, he recognized him.

"You're the boy I saw with the sword!" He exclaimed. "Your name is Link, right?"

The boy nodded.

"You're the Hero of the Wind, right? The one who was in the Ocean? Except it WAS Hyrule!"

"Well, yeah…" The boy stammered, blushing. "I've been called the Hero of the Wind. It's the baton though, I'm not controlling it myself."

"I'm Link too!" Link said, delirious that Zelda's crazed idea was working out after all, and better than he would ever have expected. He wondered how she would explain that one. "I'm from the future!"

The boy's eyes widened.

"You're the Hero of Time?" He asked. "What were you doing in the future? Is that why you didn't come back? You traveled to the future? Why are your ears so small? Anyway, you're too late, job's done." He added proudly.

"No, no. I'm not the Hero of Time! I'm just another Hero. I have to fight Ganon in the future, not here. You did that."

The boy's eyes widened a bit more.

"Ganon?" He asked angrily. "He came back? For crying out loud!"

Link kicked the side of his boat in anger. After all that, Ganon had returned? And now, a future hero had to fight him, again? How many times did the pig need to be defeated?

"Well... yeah." Link said, completely stunned by the boy's reaction. "He always comes back. Everyone knows that."

The color drained from the boy's face, and Link intensely regretted having said that. He tried to apologize, but the boy raised his hand to shut him up.

"Not your fault." The boy said. "I should have known. He came back after a hundred years, that's why I had to fight him. It makes sense that he'd come back again eventually. Urgh!"

He kicked the side of his boat again, looking, for all his words, completely furious. Link deeply wished he hadn't mentioned Ganon, but there was nothing for it.

"I'm going to try and beat him." He promised instead. "But I need your help."

The boy looked at him grumpily.

"What's the point? You defeat him, he'll just come back again!"

"So what?" Link argued. "At least Hyrule's going to be safe for a while!"

The boy sighed.

"I suppose. What can I do to help you? You promise you'll try to get rid of him for good? I can't believe I did all that and he just came back a bunch of times afterward!" He started pounding his fists on his legs for lack of someone else to punch.

"Well…" Link stammered. He wasn't quite sure how to explain. "You know those magicians that fixed the Master Sword? How did you find them?"

The boy had a puzzled expression, and Link suddenly wondered whether he had arrived at a time after the Master Sword had been fixed.

"It WAS fixed already, right?" He asked. "It has to. You needed it to… oh no." Link's eyes widened.

The boy blinked, but Link cut him off before he could answer and ask what magicians he was talking about.

"You didn't beat Ganon yet?" Link asked, looking horrified. "And I told you he comes back... I'm so sorry! I can't believe I did that! I..."

"I DID defeat Ganon. I told you the job was done, didn't I?" Link interrupted him. "But I didn't get any help from magicians to repair the Master Sword."

Link frowned, relieved but also very confused.

"You didn't? But… how did you fix it, then? It's broken again, and we don't think it's a good idea to just melt it back together. We're afraid to ruin it."

"Melt it back together?" The boy asked, taken aback. "Whoa. It was still whole when I got it, it's just its magic that was weakened. The sages fixed it."

"Sages?" Link asked. "What's that?"

"They guard temples..." the boy stammered. He didn't seem to be entirely clear on the point himself. "The old ones helped the Hero of Time lock Ganon away, but there's only two left. And the worse thing is, neither of them even knew who they were. I had to play them a song to awaken them as Sages, so they can be hard to find. Maybe it would be easier to bring the ones from here to your time?"

Link shook his head automatically, surprising himself. He knew at once he couldn't do as his past self had just suggested, but it was the strangest feeling: he had no idea why he couldn't, other than the certainty that it was a bad idea.

"I can't do that." He sighed. "So that's all you can tell me? I need to find sages?"

The boy nodded.

"Sorry." He said. "And like I said, the sword wasn't actually broken. It was just the magic that needed to be fixed, so I don't even know if Sages will be able to fix it in your time."

Link sighed again.

"Thanks anyway." He said. "Sorry about Ganon."

The younger Link shrugged off the apology, but his future self didn't see it. The ghostly form, which Link had found so funny when it had been "drowning" in the water that was just flowing right through it, and which had lifted itself up effortlessly when Link had "grabbed" its hand (he had actually went right through it), was gone, and Link now fell thoroughly depressed. He slunk back in the boat and wondered whether he could catch up to Tetra and the pirates: he had left them over an hour before, but he could really use the company. And he had been having such a great day until the future Link had mentioned Ganon, too.

From Zelda's point of view, Link's trip into the past was far less exciting: he breathed slower for a moment, leading her to think he was asleep. She had just decided to let him sleep rather than try and wake him up when his eyes flew opened and he shook his head. She smiled at him so he wouldn't think she was angry he had dozed off.

"What?" Link asked, honestly puzzled. Zelda did not look remotely surprised that he had vanished: she looked mildly amused. "Did it look funny when I came back? You knew this was going to happen? How?"

Zelda blinked. What was Link talking about now?

"Came back? You didn't go anywhere, you fell asleep. You must have been dreaming." She said.

"What do you mean, 'I didn't go anywhere'?" Link said indignantly. "I was trying to remember how to fix the sword, and next thing I know, I'm falling into the Ocean! The Hero of the Wind saved me! He was real! And that Ocean, it was Hyrule! It was flooded!"

"You met the Hero of the Wind." Zelda said. "In a flooded Hyrule. And that doesn't tell you that you were dreaming?"

"I wasn't dreaming! I'm sure of it!" Link protested. "Hear me out, will you?"

Zelda sighed very slightly and nodded. It was quite obvious Link wouldn't let her get away with not hearing his tale, whatever it was.

Link related what had happened. When he finished his story, he waited for Zelda to react. It was now too dark to properly see her facial expression, but she was sitting very still and not saying anything. Link assumed she was thinking it over, probably trying to decide whether she still believed he had been dreaming.

"Incredible..." She finally said after a moment.

"What is?" Link asked.

"I think you're right." Zelda said. "You were not dreaming, but you didn't seem to go anywhere. And you weren't 'asleep' for very long at all. A couple of seconds, that's it. Wait… you traveled through Time!" Zelda suddenly realized the enormity of the situation. "Goddesses." She whispered. "Link… you're a Hero of Time. Just like Him!"

Zelda could hardly believe it. She knew Link had some magic: he had changed the colour of his clothes without even trying to, judging by his surprise when he had realized they were green. She also knew that he was very connected to his past lives, as attested by his ability to find the Master Sword and by how he had relived his last encounter with Ganon so vividly as to exhibit physical symptoms of the experience. But time travel was well beyond anything she had dared hope for.

"Just like who?" Link asked, interrupting her reflections.

"The first Hero on record. The only one that was the Hero of Time. Some of the other ones got called Heroes of Something or Other as well, but he was the only Hero of Time. Until you!"

"So what?" Link asked.

"Well…" Zelda said, surprised by his lack of enthusiasm. "Nothing, I guess. Except you can apparently send your spirit into the past. But… don't you realize?" She started back. "I… err… I mean, many people DREAM about meeting the Hero of Time. He's a legend! There are a lot of girls who…" At that point, she trailed off and looked down.

"He's dead." Link pointed out. "Tell all those girls to start liking ME." He added with a mocking smile.

Zelda seemed to shrink in embarrassment. Link took pity on her and switched the subject back to what had happened.

"So you didn't see me leave and come back? I must have come back right after I left. And you didn't notice because it's already pretty dark..."

"Not dark enough for me not to notice you disappearing and then reappearing. Besides, you looked asleep for a few seconds: even your breathing was slower." Zelda said. "Like I said, I think only your mind traveled in time. Your body stayed here."

Link shrugged.

"Maybe." He said. He didn't really see the point of the distinction.

"Do you even realize what this means, Link? You can travel through time!"

"Well…" Link said. Zelda sounded more excited than he would have thought, seeing he couldn't bring the sages back. It then struck him that at least, he had learned they were looking for sages, not magicians. "Hey… I can find out things when you can't!"

Zelda nodded vigorously, grinning. Her eyes went wide as another possibility presented itself to her mind.

"What if... what if you went back to your last life and helped yourself fight Ganon?" She said.

As before when his past self had suggested bringing the Sages back to this time, Link had a very strong negative feeling about that idea. He said so to Zelda, who quickly sobered up.

"Yes... you're right." She said. "We have no idea what would happen in the following 1500 years if we changed the past like that... for all we know, Ganon would come back again in between and just kill everyone. But... to think we could help the last Hero... I hate not to." She concluded.

"No kidding." Link said miserably.

There was an uncomfortable silence between them, broken after a few minutes by the first painful scream of the night. It seemed so close that Link and Zelda could have sworn it was within the Lost Woods themselves if they had not been so certain that no potential victim would come into the forest.

"Those guards know we're in here." Link remarked. "You don't think Ganon can find us, do you?"

"I hope not." Zelda said. "I'm hoping the guards will not even admit knowing where we are. If we are lucky, they had orders to catch us no matter what and they will be too afraid to admit they stopped pursuing us just because we entered the Lost Woods. But it's possible they will tell their superiors the truth, too. And if they did…" She trailed off. If Ganon found them in the Woods, they had no chance to survive.

Link's eyes had widened and he looked around nervously. She decided to change the subject, partly to get their minds off the possibility of Ganon jumping out of the trees at them in the middle of the night, partly because they did need to talk about what they were going to do next.

"So." She said. "Sages. How do we find them?"

"No idea." Link answered. "They don't even know they're sages. I told you that, right?"

Zelda nodded.

"The Hero of the Wind said I should bring the two he knows back here, but it's just like helping my past self... I don't think I should."

"You told me that too." Zelda said testily. "I wish you didn't feel that way, but since you do, we'll just have to figure out something else, won't we?"

Link didn't say anything. He couldn't really blame her for being annoyed that he was ruling out the most obvious solution to their problem.

"Maybe we can do some genealogical research." Zelda suggested.

Link tutted at her. He had the distinct feeling that she was going out of her way to use words he had never heard before. He could often guess what they meant, but not always. In this particular case, he didn't have the faintest idea what "genealogical" might mean. In fact, he suspected she had just made it up.

"What I mean is," She said, "you could travel back in time to find the descendants of the Sages the Hero of the Wind knows of, then go forward a bit to find THEIR descendant, and so on until we know who all their current descendants are. I'm sure the current Sages will be among them."

"That sounds... long." Link said.

"Long for you, but you were only gone for a moment from my point of vu. You're travelling in time, so you can come back right after leaving, and that's what you did. I think you may be able to find the descendants before dawn. It probably won't even tire you out, since it's only your mind travelling."

"Okay, okay." Link sighed. He still thought that would take forever, but he didn't know what else to do. "I'll try."

And he did. He seemed to fall asleep again, and after a few seconds, opened his eyes and slumped, looking depressed.

"I found the kids of one of the Sages the Hero of the Wind met, but that was it. I couldn't go to the time when THEY would have had kids, I kept ending up too late or too soon. It's like I can only go to certain times. I think it's no good anyway: one of them was a talking leaf-thing – he didn't have any kids - and the other one was a bird-girl with wings and a beak. There are no bird people around now, so…"

Zelda's eyes widened. She had never even heard of such species, which meant they were either extinct, as Link suggested, or had been in hiding for centuries. Out of sheer unwillingness to dwell on the Sages' apparent lack of descendants, she concentrated on the fact Link could only travel to certain times.

"I think..." she said, "I think you might only be able to travel to where you already are. Where your past selves are, that is." She said. "It's easy to check. Try to go just a few years before you were born."

Link obliged, and although Zelda could not see him as more than a silhouette in the darkness, she assumed from his silence and immobility that he was doing as she had asked. It was several minutes before he broke the silence.

"I can't." He sighed. "I can't go anywhere closer than when Ganon won."

Zelda sighed as well. She would have loved to cheer him up, but she was so discouraged herself that she couldn't think of anything to say. Link's ability to send his mind through time to talk to his past selves was an unexpected treat, but right now, it really made no difference. The revelation that he had not been reborn at all since Ganon's victory, instead of his reincarnations having merely failed to face Ganon, was not helpful either, as interesting as she would normally have found it.

"I think I'll go back and get the old Sages. I don't even know why I shouldn't." Link said.

Zelda could not bring herself to disagree. She knew that if Link had been given the power to travel through time, any instinct he had also been given should not be ignored, but the situation was desperate.

"The two from the Hero of the Wind's time were only able to restore the blade's magic, though." She thought aloud. "The Master Sword is in pieces now... I don't know whether they'll be able to fix it. I wonder if you shouldn't go for the first Sages. History says they were the most powerful."

"Where are THEY?" Link asked.

"Well, come to think of it, there is no guarantee that they were the actual first ones. The ones I meant, the ones history calls the first and the most powerful, were around in the time of the Hero of Time, back when Ganon first became Ganon instead of Ganondorf Dragmire."

"So, what, I should try to remember Ganondorf? What if I arrive right in front of him?"

"Maybe you should try to remember preparing to go battle Ganondorf, as opposed to Ganon. This way, if you arrive next to the person you were thinking of, it will be the Hero of Time."

Link nodded and one second later, appeared to have fallen asleep again.

He found himself in a vast field, at dusk. No sooner had he taken in that much of his surroundings that an arrow whizzed by his ear. He yelped and threw himself on the ground, trying to be as flat as possible while looking up and around in the hope of seeing his past self and calling him to his rescue.

That hope was squashed by the fact his attacker appeared to be none other than his past self. He was on a horse, a Hylian of about his age clad in green with bright white pants and undershirt, and pointing an arrow at him with a fierce expression on his face.

Chapter Text

A few quick notes:

1. This story is rated T due to some very violent content.

2. The story is actually completed, and I intend to post a new chapter weekly.

3. I don't own any Legend of Zelda character or setting. I'm just borrowing them and I hope Nintendo won't mind too much.

4. Thank you so much for reading (and for reviewing)!


Chapter 8: The Heroes of Time

"Cute trick, Poe!" The Hero of Time said.

Link looked behind him in a hurry, his heart racing. A Poe? They didn't exist, did they? He did not see anything behind him, and automatically assumed the Poe had made itself invisible.

"Where is it?" He cried out in a panic, getting up and shifting from one foot to another, trying to decide which way to run. "I can't see it! WHERE IS IT?"

"Oh cut it out! I'm talking about you, and I don't think a Poe would be afraid of another one!" The Hero said. "Are you trying to look like me? It's not much of a job if you are!"

Link turned his eyes back on his past self, who released the arrow he had been aiming at him. Link threw himself back on the ground and cried out, dearly hoping that he was wrong and that the insane archer was not himself, and that he would miss him. Link did not feel any arrow hitting him and concluded the archer did miss. He got up with his palms facing away from himself in a peaceful gesture. His past self frowned at him in a puzzled way.

"Please don't hurt me!" Link pleaded. "I'm not a Poe! I just…"

"You're transparent and you appeared out of nowhere." The Hero said, readying another arrow. A yellow light flew away from him and started circling Link. From close up, Link saw it was a fairy and instinctively jerked back and batted at it. The problem of his past self aiming an arrow at him was driven clear out of his mind by the more immediate danger of having a fairy close-by. He didn't even register what the archer had just said.

The fairy circled him a few times, flying right between his arms as he tried to hit it, following him as he tried to back away, and completely ignoring his yelling at it to get away. Link was curled in a ball, whimpering, by the time it finally went back to the Archer.

"I can't see any weak spot. I... I'm not sure it's a Poe. It could be another kind of ghost." It said.

It took all of Link's willpower to look up again. Having a fairy nearby would have been quite enough to scare him out of his wits. Being aimed at with a loaded bow, even before he knew there was a fairy around, had been doing the trick just fine as well - arrows were notoriously pointy and sharp. The idea that he was a ghost was just too much to handle on top of it: ghosts were worst than dead, they were undead. If Link had to pick which one of his fears scared him the most, the undead and the possibility of becoming undead himself would have been it, hands down.

It didn't occur to him that if Zelda was right and his body was still in its own time, he could look like a ghost without being dead.

"G…Ghost? M… Me?" He asked weakly.

The archer's eyes widened as he looked at him, and he burst out laughing, bent double over his horse, who somehow looked amused too. Link forgot to be scared long enough to be insulted.

"What's so funny?" He demanded. "What makes you think I'm a ghost?"

The Hero of Time only laughed harder. The fairy, on the other hand, flew inches in front of his face and pouted at him very sternly. Link backed away, but the fairy, undeterred, started to tell him off.

"Quit it with the denial business! If you are not a ghost, why can we see through you and why did that arrow go right through you, hmm? Maybe if you just try putting it in a bottle right away, Link."

This last comment, at least, made the boy on the horse stop laughing. He suddenly looked very downcast.

"The old witch won't take him." He sighed. "Why can't I find that last Big Poe again? Just one more...!"

The fairy flew back to him and talked low to him. Link couldn't hear what they were saying, but it seemed to work: the young man cheered up.

"Err..." Link said, trying to get his attention.

Now that the fairy was a few steps away and that there were no arrows pointed at him anymore, he felt much better. Even being called a ghost didn't seem as much of a big deal: obviously, the fairy and the Hero were just wrong. Link figured they might have been spooked by his appearing out of nowhere.

"Oh, right." The Hero said, looking back at him. He started laughing again.

Link rolled his eyes and pondered announcing Ganon would keep coming back, just to wipe the smile off the Hero's face. He resisted, barely.

"I need help." He said instead.

The young man stopped laughing long enough to look a bit concerned and to ask what he needed help with. He ruined it, however, by starting to chuckle again before Link could answer.

"Or maybe you just need help to stop being afraid of yourself!" He cackled.

"I'm not afraid of myself!" Link protested. "I'm not a ghost! Wait…" The truth had suddenly dawned on him. "Zelda said my body didn't go anywhere…" He thought aloud. "So I'm just my spirit! That's why I look like a ghost!"

"Zelda?" The hero said, almost falling off his horse. He dismounted instead and walked up to Link. He tried to grab him by the shoulders, but his hands went through him.

"That's strange." Link remarked. "My other past self pulled me out of…"

"When did you see the Princess?" The Hero interrupted him. "Ganondorf doesn't have her? She's okay?"

Link blinked at his past self, completely confused for a moment. He then realized the Hero must be thinking he was talking about the Zelda from this time.

"Oh! No, sorry." Link said. "I mean MY Zelda. From MY time. I'm from really far in the future. Like I said, I'm here because I need help."

The Hero's eyes widened.

"Why do you need help?" He asked. "And who are you?"

"I'm your future self." Link said. "We're the same person, so how about you stop making fun of me, hmm?"

"Sorry. It's just... a ghost who gets all panicky when ghosts are mentioned... it was too funny." He said, grinning. "So, you're my great great great great great grandson or something?"

"No." Link said. "Not as far as I know, anyway. I'm YOU. Reborn. And I'm NOT a ghost!" He sighed. "It's not important. I need to find the Sages."

The other Link raised his eyebrows.

"Why?" He asked, suddenly sounding suspicious.

"I need them to fix the Master Sword. It's broken." Link explained.

The Hero's eyes widened and he quickly drew the Master Sword from behind his shoulder. A quick inspection revealed, of course, that it was fine. He frowned at Link, but then smacked his forehead and groaned.

"In the future." He said. "It's broken in the future, right? You'd think I'd be used to that stuff by now."

Link nodded. "So, I need the Sages." He repeated.

"They can't leave the temples until I defeat Ganondorf." The Hero said. "I'm going to the Castle now, I was just trying to get that Poe one last time. The old witch promised me something good, and I figured it might help against Ganondorf."

Link had no idea what he was talking about, but he did understand that the Hero was saying the Sages could not come with him. He frowned thoughtfully.

"Besides..." His past self started.

Link frowned deeper. He had a feeling he knew what was coming, and he didn't want to hear it.

"Do you really think you can bring them back with you? I mean... you can't even touch anything."

Link's eyes widened. This hadn't been what he had expected, but it was arguably worse. If the Hero of Time had argued it was not a good idea to bring people into the future, Link could have argued back and rationalized that it was the only choice he had left. But if his past self was right (and Link guessed he was), if he could not bring people with him at all, there was nothing to argue. He sighed and sagged on the spot, completely discouraged.

The other Link bursting out laughing again would not have improved his mood, but it would have been better than the disgusted sigh he did instead. Link looked up at him and fantasized again about telling him Ganon would just keep coming back after he defeated him.

"I can't believe we're related." The Hero of Time said. "You're afraid of ghosts, the best you can do when someone shoots at you is beg them to stop, and now you're giving up? What's wrong with you?"

"We're not just RELATED! We're the same person!" Link snarled. "And this is a HUGE problem! Now I'll never find Sages! And even if I did, I don't even know if they CAN fix the Sword! And even if they can, it didn't even work last time! And I KNOW I'm not much of a Hero! It's not like I have a choice! You think I WANT to fight G..."

Link stopped himself just in time. As angry as he was with his past self, he did not actually want to tell him Ganon would never really go away.

The color was draining from the Hero's face. "Ganondorf?" He guessed. "He's there in the future? I'm going to lose?"

"Of course not!" Link said vehemently. "It's not Ganondorf. What's his name again… G... G... Gorag!"

"Gorag." The Hero of Time repeated. "You're sure?"

"Yes. Gorag. I remember now. Come on. I wouldn't ask YOU for help if you lost." Link improvised.

"So, I'm going to win?" The Hero asked.

"Yep." Link said with a wide smile.

The Hero of Time grinned, having obviously decided to believe him.

"Cool." He said. "Hey, what happens after? Do I stay an adult? I find it confusing, but I'll get used to it. Thing is, Saria is going to miss me for 7 years, isn't she? But if I go back, am I going to have to live through Ganondorf doing all that stuff?"

Link stared at him.

"No idea." He said truthfully. "You're a kid? Well, that explains a lot… "

The Hero tutted at him, but he was smiling.

"You should be nicer to me: I have an idea to solve your problem." He said.

Link raised an eyebrow doubtfully.

"Like what?" He said. "I need the Sages and I can't take them with me!"

"We don't know for sure you can't take the Sages with you." The Hero corrected him. "But I don't think you should, anyway. Doesn't seem like a good idea."

Link sighed.

"Yeah, I know, but I don't have a choice! I have to try, but how? I can't even touch them!"

Link sagged a bit more, wishing he could just curl up in a little ball without his past self laughing at him or worse, telling him off again. He didn't like the idea of someone who was basically himself thinking he was worthless, and it was just embarrassing to be moralized by a prehistoric version of himself who was actually a child in a young adult's body. His heroic efforts not to completely give in to his misery went unnoticed: the Hero sighed and rolled his eyes.

"Yeeesh." He said. "There you go again! You think those temples were easy? Nuh-huh. That Water Temple was bad even before Dark Link showed up! And when I first went back home, Saria was gone! And everybody else was hiding in their houses because there were monsters all over the place! And even before that, I saw the Deku Tree DIE! And everyone thought it was MY fault! And Princess Zelda! Just as I find out she's alive, Ganondorf gets her! Bad things happen, okay? You just have to deal with it! I can't believe you're about to cry just because you need to fix the Master Sword!"

Link lowered his eyes, partly out of embarrassment and partly so he didn't have to look at his past self, who was now the one who looked like he was about to cry. He didn't need to understand exactly what he was talking about to get the gist of it, and he could understand why his past self was so disgusted with him: he was a kid, even if he didn't look like it, and he had obviously gone through a lot more than Link himself had, at least in this life.

"What's your idea?" He said, mostly to change subject.

"I've got medallions with the Sages' powers in them." The Hero said, sounding almost cheerful again. "I could hide them somewhere, and you'd just have to go get them in your own time. Think you can manage that?" He teased.

"Yes." Link said. "But you're going to have to hide them really well. And I have to be able to find them, so we need a place that won't change. Not even in hundreds and hundreds of years."

"Hundreds and hundreds? You're from that far away? How do you know I won, then?"

"It's only the Hero right before me that lost. All the others won."

"The one before you lost? What happened?"

"G... Gorag took over." Link said, refusing to elaborate into all the deaths that had followed.

The color drained from the Hero's face again anyway.

"Did he kill anyone? Ganondorf froze the Zora domain, and I don't know if they're going to come back to life when they thaw. He fed the Gorons to a dragon, too, and even though Darunia denies it, I can tell I didn't save all of them. There's a lot less than before. He killed a whole bunch of people in Castle Town, too. Some of them escaped to Kakariko, but Castle Town had more people than that."

Link realized denying any deaths at all had occurred would be foolish: the Hero would never buy it. Still, there was no need to let the Hero know exactly how bad things were and how long they had been that way.

"It's not that bad." He lied. "He kills people who don't obey him, but that's only a few every now and then."

"That's bad enough! Why haven't you stopped him yet?" The Hero demanded. He looked horrified.

"I need the Master Sword." Link reminded him.

"Well, let's get working on fixing it, then." The Hero said, his expression changing from horror to resolve. "Let's see… where to hide the medallions… how about the Deku Tree clearing?"

"I never heard of it. I heard of Deku Scrubs, but they're not even real, so…"

"What do you mean, not real? I've fought some. And I've bought some Deku Sticks from one, once. He ripped me off, too."

Link shrugged.

"Maybe they're all dead, or hiding." He said. "How about close to the Master Sword's altar?" He suggested.

The Hero thought about it for a while.

"What?" Link asked. "Scared to go in the Lost Woods?" He teased.

"Lost Woods? I grew up there, but what does that have to do with anything? The altar for the Sword is in the Temple of Time."

Link cursed. The sword hadn't always been in the Woods? Now what? Unless it hadn't moved, unless it was the Forest that had moved… It was a rather slim hope, and Link half suspected he was imagining things, but he thought he could vaguely remember finding the ruins of a Temple of Time in the Lost Woods, in some other life.

"Maybe the Woods just grew over where the Temple is." He said hopefully.

"You think that's possible?" The Hero asked. "The Temple is in Castle Town, and that's pretty far from the Lost Woods."

"I don't know!" Link sighed. "But I don't know what else than that altar isn't going to change!"

The Hero rolled his eyes.

"Quit whining already! Look, we'll just assume the altar didn't move. If that doesn't work, then we'll try to think of something else. Now, next problem: I can't bury them in the temple next to the altar, because there is a marble floor and it will be obvious there's something buried there if I break a chunk of it."

They both crossed their arms, trying to think of a solution.

"I'll bury it outside and you'll have to count steps from the altar." The Hero said after a few minutes.

"What if I can't find them?" Link asked. "Maybe the altar is going to move, or maybe someone else is going to find them."

"Tell you what. You go back to your time and try to find them, and then you come back here and let me know if it worked or if we need a better hiding place."

Link liked that plan, and they immediately started working. The Hero "helped" him on his horse, and brought him to a town next to the Castle.

They had to dismount before entering the town, because the horse could not manage the broken draw bridge. The Hero continued on foot, but stopped after a few steps and turned toward Link, who was following.

"You're afraid of ghosts, aren't you?" The Hero asked. "I mean, I think it's stupid, but..."

Link frowned at him and his upper lip curled a bit.

"I'm asking because the town is full of re-dead." The Hero said.

Link's eyes widened and he started shaking. The Hero had a strong impression that if his future self had been in his body, he would have fainted at the very idea. He snorted at him.

"Yeah, I figured. All right, wait here. I'll come back and let you know where I'll be putting them."

Link nodded, feeling very relieved despite the embarrassment.

The Hero was back very quickly, too quickly for Link's reckoning.

"100 steps east, 50 steps north." The Hero announced. "I'll bury them after defeating Ganondorf."

Link was taken aback by the delay. The Hero read his expression correctly and explained himself.

"I might need them for the fight."

"Oh." Link said. "But what if they get broken during the fight?"

"Why would they? Don't worry, it'll be fine."

"We don't know that!"

"Sorry. But I can't assume I won't need them. The Sages gave them to me especially to help me fight Ganondorf."

Link sighed in resignation.

"Right." The Hero concluded. "So, you need to come back to see me AFTER I defeated Ganondorf. I don't know if I'll still be this age, but I don't forget anything when I go back to my own time, so even if I'm a kid again, I'll remember you. So, you might be visiting me in the past, but I'll know what happened 7 years later, so it's okay."

Link blinked at him.

"After you beat Ganondorf." He said, repeating the only part of what the Hero said he really understood.

He closed his eyes and concentrated on going back to his own time. When he opened them again, it was completely dark and he could barely make out Zelda kneeling in front of him.

"We need to go to the altar, then go east for 100 steps, then go north for 50 steps. There should be medallions buried there." He summarized.

"What do we need medallions for?" Zelda asked. "Where are the Sages? You changed your mind again?"

Link explained everything to her. Since they could not very well search for the medallions in the middle of the night, they decided to try and rest. They both slept sporadically: there were some particularly close-by screams that night and even in between them, it was difficult to forget them and relax enough to go to sleep.

Ganon was not happy. He had spent the night walking the edge of the Lost Woods near the Hero and the Princess's town, cursing his inability to go into the forest itself. Ever since the last Hero, the Lost Woods had banned him from themselves, and try as he might, Ganon could not even take one step past the dense edge of the Woods.

Therefore, he was stuck outside and his enemies were safe from him as long as they stayed in the accursed forest. Ganon had killed every Hyrulian he had encountered, hoping their screams would draw out the Hero, but the sun was now rising and the Hero had not taken the bait. It hadn't been much of a bait, anyway: hardly anyone ever went near the Lost Woods and Ganon had only found five victims.

Ganon had thought of sending his monsters into the Forest, since he could not go himself, and could not remember any rational reason not to do so. He vaguely remembered shrugging off the idea, but when he tried to think of why he had done so, the only explanation he found was that he found it humiliating that his minions, his inferiors, could do what he could not. Given how important it was, such a reason was not nearly good enough. Ganon could see this clearly now that it was too late.

It wasn't the first time that his mind played such tricks on him: every now and then, he just seemed to become completely irrational, and what's worse, he would absolutely not realize it until later. He'd go about his business, making completely insane decisions and thinking they were perfectly reasonable. Hours or days later, he'd look back and see so plainly that what he had done made no sense that he could not even remember why it had seemed perfectly logical or at least acceptable at the time. Ganon did not think this kind of thing had always been going on. As near as he could tell, it had started some 300 years ago. He had made mistakes before, he had underestimated the Hero countless times, but those had been due to errors in judgment, not to a temporary complete lack of judgment.

Before the Hero had escaped his bottle, Ganon had welcomed those episodes: they added a welcomed bit of randomness to an otherwise very predictable life. Tonight, however, was absolutely infuriating. If his wits had not taken such a badly timed leave of absence, the Hero might be dead this morning. Ganon hissed at himself and resolved to send the monsters into the forest the following night. He would have liked to be able to send them in immediately, but they wouldn't have lasted an hour before disintegrating in the daylight. He couldn't send the Presidential Guards, either, because they were so terrified of the Woods that they would surely prefer to be executed than to go in there. Ganon briefly considered asking them anyway, and executing them upon their refusal just for the fun of it, but he had to give up on the idea. Soldiers, unlike monsters, might unite against him and start refusing all his orders if he treated them too poorly, and Ganon did not need the extra irritant. He returned his body to his lair and sent his spirit back to the President's body.

The sun rising indicated to Link and Zelda which way was East, and from the altar, they took a hundred step, cutting through the forest since the treeless corridor was oriented south. They turned left and walked another 50 steps, to end up almost right next to a patch of wild flowers blooming splendidly despite the tree canopy which blocked out most of the light.

"They have to be there." Zelda said. "Those flowers..."

Link saw nothing special about a bunch of wildflowers, but he started digging. Sure enough, he found six medallions in a bag buried about three feet into the ground. He took them out of the bag and held them out to Zelda, grinning. Her frown erased his smile.

"What?" He asked in a worried voice.

"There should be seven." She answered. "There were seven first Sages. Where is the missing one?"

"Maybe those six will be enough." Link said, trying to sound encouraging.

"They might, but I'm still worried about the seventh one." Zelda said. "What if Ganon has it? That would make him even more powerful."

"I'm going to go ask The Hero if there was six or seven." Link said. He also intended to confirm the medallions had some kind of power with his past self: they looked pretty ordinary to him. "We can decide what to do after."

"Alright." Zelda said. She might as well have not said anything: Link was already gone.

Link, as instructed, was aiming for the victorious Hero of Time, in times of peace following Ganondorf's defeat.

When Link opened his eyes, the age old trees of the Lost Woods had been replaced by a clearing with a single, small tree in it. Link had yet to get used to disappearing from his present and appearing in a different place, into the past, and figured he would always find it a bit disorienting. In the present case, the fact that the tree facing him had a face and seemed to be looking right at him didn't make his surroundings any less alien.

Link stared at the tree, wondering where the Hero was. He was just starting to relax and figure the Hero was bound to be somewhere close when the tree said something, in a language Link could not even identify.

Link literally jumped at the sight of the carved mouth moving and at the sound that came out of it. He baked away from the tree, his heart beating madly and his hair standing on end.

The tree talked again.

Link screamed and backed away faster, practically running backward. He quickly lost his balance and fell. He got up and turned away from the tree in order to run from it faster, only to find himself facing some kind of huge carnivorous plant, stretched towards him and chomping away, in an obvious attempt to eat him. Next to that plant were two other similar ones. Link jumped back with a yelp and after consideration, figured he'd take his chances with the plant that had tried to talk to him rather than with the ones that were trying to eat him.

He turned back towards the tree and slowly walked towards it, while scanning the area for another exit to the clearing. As he had expected, there were none. He started talking in a soft, peaceful voice to the tree, like he would have for a wild animal he had been unable to stay away from.

"Nice tree... nice tree... you don't want to eat me... I'm just skin and bone... I'm not going to hurt you, I just want to get away from these biting flowers there... you don't mind, right? I'm going to leave you alone as soon as I figure out how to get past them. How's that?"

The tree looked at him and listened for a while as Link went on and on. Finally, as Link was once again right in front of him, he talked again, this time straight to the boy's head, since he obviously didn't speak Hylian.

"I am the Great Deku Tree," he said.

The boy gasped and looked around, looking for the source of the voice.

"I'm talking through your mind." the Tree explained. "It's telepathy."

"Wha... what's that?"

"Talking mind to mind without using your voice. It also bypasses language."

"You're talking to my mind?"

"Yes." The Tree confirmed patiently.

"And you're the Great Deku Tree?"


"And... you're... alive?"

"All trees are. If you meant to ask whether I am capable of coherent thought and language, the answer is yes."

"You're alive," Link repeated, desperately trying to get used to the idea. He finally opted for a strategy that would take care of the fact it was a tree talking to him and of the fact the tree was talking right to his brains: he closed his eyes and pretended he was talking to a normal person in a blacked out room.

"Do you know where the Hero of Time is?" He asked, remembering the Hero had mentioned the Great Deku Tree.

"Why should I tell a stranger whose motives are unclear where someone like that might be?"

"Hey!" Link protested. "I'm a Hero of Time too! And I just want to TALK to him!"

"There is only one Hero."

"There's a whole lot of them! A new one shows up each time…" Link stopped himself just in time again. Not mentioning Ganon was harder than he would ever have thought: he had grown up in a world that knew Ganon always comes back, and people talked about the dozens of time he had been defeated without a second thought. "…each time he's needed. I'm one from the future." He concluded.

"A big boy like you, who is afraid of both myself and of the DekuBabas, who looks every bit like he might be afraid of his own shadow, the Hero of Time? I think not. You should leave, whoever you really are."

Link started to answer something less than friendly, but was interrupted by the feeling of something pointy poking him in the back. He yelped and stayed very still, until he heard his past self bursting out laughing. He turned around angrily, and tried batting the stick he had been poked with, only for his ghostly hand to go right through it. He felt it, but he could not actually touch it. He groaned.

"It's okay, Great Deku Tree." The Hero said. "He's armless, and I'm pretty sure he's telling the truth."

The Deku Tree answered in the language Link could not understand, moving his mouth again.

"Yeah, I know. He's still trying though." The Hero answered.

"You can understand what it says?" Link asked his past self.

"Why wouldn't I?" The Hero asked. "Don't you?"

Link shook his head.

"But I'm talking the same language the Great Deku Tree is, and you understand me, right?"

Link nodded. The Hero shrugged.

"It must be because we're the same person." The Hero said. "Kind of, anyway. Remember when we last met, I thought you were my great great great grandson or something? I didn't really understand reincarnation back then. I've looked into it since."

"You did?" Link asked. "How long ago was that? When you saw me, I mean? You look the same age. Wait, you thought you were going to become a kid again, didn't you?"

"I did become a kid again, about seven years ago. I've been wondering whether you found the medallions. I was assuming you would have come back if you hadn't, and I was kind of upset you didn't bother to confirm you did."

"Sorry. I guess I arrived now because I was thinking of you as an adult. I found some of them... how many did you bury?"

"None." The Hero answered with a mischievous grin. He paused for effect, enjoying the face his future self was making, before continuing. "Zelda buried them. She wouldn't tell me why, but she said it was better that way. She would have buried all six of them. Did you find all of them? I got a thing that's supposed to let you talk to her from back then if you didn't find them. It's no good talking to her now, she doesn't remember anything she did before. She doesn't even believe me about Sheik!" The Hero chuckled to himself.

Link nodded, very relieved. He hadn't paid much attention to anything the Hero had said, other than the fact there were just six medallions.

"Zelda thought there should be seven, and that…" Link paused a second, trying to remember the fake name he had given Ganon. He quickly gave up. "…our enemy might have the last one. I still can never remember his name." He finished.

"Ganon." His past self said with a cocky grin.

Link's face fell before he could compose an air of denial. The Hero laughed and waved the matter off.

"Princess Zelda told me we only sealed him, it's okay. And your Zelda is right, there WERE seven Sages. The Princess never created a medallion."

"Wait. You don't even care that he's back?" Link asked.

"Well I'd rather he wasn't, especially since you told me he's been controlling Hyrule for a while. I've seen what he can do in just seven years, and it must have been at least double that this time, since you had to actually be reborn and to grow up, but at least, from what you said, he's not killing much this time around."

The Hero paused. It was depressing and he didn't really like to think about it, but when it came right down to it, there was nothing more he could do about it than help his future self set things right.

"The way I see it, I can sulk for the rest of my life or take comfort in the fact you said you came from really far into the future and that Hyrule will be free of Ganon for a long time before suffering again."

Link swallowed and decided to quickly change the subject before he betrayed how much worse things were than he had led his past self to believe.

"So… the Princess was the last Sage? Zelda? And she didn't make a medallion?"

"That's right."

"And the medallions… they have some kind of powers?" He asked.

"Don't look like much, do they?" The Hero asked, smiling. "Yeah, they've got power."

"Alright." Link said, still a bit unconvinced. "Well, let's hope six will be enough."

"Your Zelda may be able to help too." The Hero said.

Link nodded, trying to hide his lack of enthusiasm.

"Thank you." He said. He then concentrated on his own time and vanished from the Deku Tree clearing.

When Link reopened his eyes, he was back in the Lost Woods, with Zelda looking at him with a puzzled expression.

"I still have them." She said. "Didn't you tell him to hide them somewhere else, that one was missing?"

"There's supposed to be only six." Link answered, sitting up. "The Princess was a Sage and she didn't make one."

Zelda looked down and frowned slightly, obviously pondering what to do with the information.

"We're just going to have to try with the six." Link said.

She nodded.

"I'm trying to think of what we'll do if it doesn't work." She said.

Link tutted at her pessimism, more to fight his own than anything else. He guided her back to the Master Sword, taking 100 steps West and 50 South.

They walked to the altar and stared at the medallions and at the sword for a while.

The medallions did not spontaneously fix the sword, so they piled them on top of the altar and waited.

Nothing happened.

They spread them across the altar so that they touched as much of the sword as possible and waited.

Nothing happened.

They scratched their heads.

"Maybe we have to say something." Link suggested.

"You mean, ask them to fix the sword?"

"Err... medallions...? Please fix the sword?" Link asked.

"Please?" Zelda added.

Nothing, as near as Link or Zelda could tell, happened. In actuality, the medallions glowed very, very faintly.

"Maybe we need to pray." Zelda said.

Link goggled at her. He had heard the word before, and as far as he knew, it basically meant begging to the Goddesses. He had never seen the point: the Goddesses had left Hyrule a long time ago, and they couldn't possibly hear people begging at them from wherever they were.

"It can't hurt." Zelda said, shrugging. "Those Sages may hear us and activate the medallions. Look, I'm out of ideas." She added defensively.

"How is begging the Goddesses going to make dead Sages help us?"

"Not beg, pray. And not the Goddesses, aren't you listening? We need to pray to the Sages."

"You can do that?"

"Why not?"

Link shrugged.

"What do I do?" He asked.

Zelda sighed. She was not exactly an expert at praying herself, although she was at least familiar with the concept, having run across it constantly through history texts: assistance from the Goddesses and from other powerful beings seemed to often be required in the fight against Ganon.

"Just repeat after me." She said. Link nodded.

She took a deep breath, and started improvising something that sounded like a formal request for assistance, addressing it to the Sages who had bestowed the medallions unto the Hero of Time. Link dutifully repeated everything she said.

They were at it for a few minutes, and Zelda was running out of ways to repeat herself with some kind of variety, when the medallions started shining fiercely. She was so stunned that she forgot to continue to pray.

It did not matter. The medallions were soon shining so brightly that it was impossible to look at them without being blinded. The light was so bright, in fact, that neither she nor Link noticed Zelda was glowing too. She closed her eyes, and still had to cover them with her hands and turn her head to shield her eyes from the powerful light. Even then, she still knew it instantly when it vanished.

She looked back at the altar expectantly and let out a cry of joy: the sword was complete again, embedded in the Pedestal and shining in the daylight. She turned to Link, beaming. He was grinning at her.

"You know, at this rate, I'm going to have to stop thinking you're crazy." He said, laughing.

She smiled and gestured him to the altar. He climbed the few steps that were behind it and his smile disappeared as he stared at the sword.

It looked very sharp.

Link could just picture dropping it on his foot: it would go straight through it and only the handle would stay out, and he would bleed to death. Alternatively, it was quite possible that he would just slash his back or his side with it while carrying it, because that blade looked like it would have no trouble cutting through any sheath. He gulped, trying to will his hand to grab the handle and his mind to stop being so silly, but his hand was shaking uncontrollably and his mind couldn't get past how sharp and deadly the sword looked.

He tried to think of Ganon and what would happen if he tried to fight him without the Master Sword, hoping to duplicate the fear of the supervisor that had convinced him to pick up a sword in the shop. Instead, his mind chose to focus on Ganon cutting him to pieces with his own sword and on the Master Sword shard bouncing off the monster's skin. He whimpered.

He felt Zelda's hand squeezing his shoulder. She said something, although Link had no idea what. He tried to focus on her voice, but instead, some of his more violent dreams, where Ganon killed everyone he knew before finishing him off, called themselves to his memory. He swallowed down another whimper, frowned, clenched his teeth and grabbed the handle of the sword.

He immediately felt very proud and very relieved. He took a deep breath and pulled.

And pulled some more.

He pulled, and pulled, and pulled. He was using both hands now, and putting absolutely all his strength into it. Still, the Master Sword did not move. His hands eventually slipped and he fell backward off the altar. He landed on his back and stayed there, feeling like his only hope of defeating Ganondorf had just been yanked away.

Chapter Text

A few quick notes:

1. This story is rated T due to some very violent content.

2. The story is actually completed, and I intend to post a new chapter weekly.

3. I don't own any Legend of Zelda character or setting. I'm just borrowing them and I hope Nintendo won't mind too much.

4. Thank you so much for reading (and for reviewing)!

Chapter 9: The Hero's Test

Zelda collapsed on her knees when she saw Link fall back from the altar. This couldn't be happening. After all that, after the sheer triumph and joy they had felt when the medallions had restored the sword, it couldn't be that they could not have the Master Sword. It was destined to be Link's! Why was it stuck in that altar?

She got up and went for a closer look. The slit in the rock in which the Master Sword was embedded was, far from tight, actually a bit loose. She grabbed the handle and moved the sword around in its hole without trouble. She pulled: the sword did not come. She could almost feel it grabbing at the rock, refusing to budge.

"Why?" A voice asked.

It sounded so far from Link's usual voice that she had to turn around to confirm there was nobody else there. The sight that greeted her was nothing to lift her spirits: Link had gotten up from his back, but had only made it to his knees. He was shaking with sobs and he was pounding the ground with his fists. She clenched her jaw to keep herself from tutting at him.

Some hero she was paired with, she thought bitterly. She had had to drag him through every step, and now this? She felt like crying too; she had no desire to have to be the one staying calm and collected, and she certainly didn't want to comfort him. He was supposed to be the bravest soul in Hyrule, for crying out loud! Not this pathetic, sobbing wreck of a boy!

"Stop it!" She cried angrily. "STOP CRYING! GET UP!"

"I know why." Link sobbed. "I just don't deserve it. I'm too useless."

"You're only useless because you WANT to be! I'll bet that's why the sword rejected you: deep down, you want it to! Now, you have an excuse not to fight Ganon!"

Link didn't seem to hear her, or at least, he ignored her completely.

"I don't want to die..." He sobbed. "Ganon is just going to kill me if I don't have the Master Sword! I know he can only kill me once this time, and I know that at least, the Master Sword won't be broken next time, but... I thought I could win! I thought I had a chance!"

"I knew it! You're already rationalizing not fighting Ganon! Well, I've got news for you! We'll get that sword out of that altar if we have to gnaw it out!"

This, at last, caught Link's attention.

"You think we can get it?" He asked, looking up at her for the first time and not sobbing at all anymore. "I don't have to go fight Ganon without it?"

Zelda's eyebrows shot up and she let out a small gasp of shock.

"You were going to fight Ganon anyway?" She asked, goggling at Link.

Link frowned at her.

"What did you THINK I was going to do?" He asked.

"I... but… without the Master Sword, you wouldn't stand a chance!"

"I know that." He said irritably. He hesitated a second before he said the rest: he really wanted Zelda to understand, even though he expected he was going to sound a bit melodramatic. "But I'd try anyway. I'm not going to be reborn into a better Hero until I die, so if I can't beat Ganon, it's better if I die soon. And I don't think I can kill myself, so..." He trailed off. Since he couldn't work up the courage to kill himself, the logical thing to do was to get Ganon to do the job, but he didn't like to think about the actual process.

Zelda didn't know what to say. She felt like the worst person in the world: Link had regained his hope without so much of a hesitation when she had declared they would get the Master Sword no matter what. He had trusted her completely, while she had been chewing him up because she had assumed he was the coward everyone believed him to be. Coward indeed…

"I... I'm..." She staggered. She wanted to apologize, but the words suddenly didn't seem to be enough. She had never felt so rotten in her whole life.

Link, on the other hand, had not actually heard a word she was saying before she had promised they would get the Master Sword, so he was not at all upset with her: quite the contrary. She had given him back hope, and he was feeling much better for it.

"So how do we do it?" He asked. "You don't really want to use our teeth, do you? I still got them all, but I don't think I can break a rock with them."

He had gotten up and was walking around the altar, examining its every angle. Zelda was completely astonished by his change of attitude. He trusted her that much? Or was he just particularly good at making himself whole-heartedly believe whatever he wanted to believe?

"Hey!" He said when he reached the front. "I think there's something here, under the moss!"

Zelda brushed the matter aside as something she had no control over and rushed to his side. She could just make out a glimmer of gold under the moss and lichen on the altar. She started brushing, soon imitated by Link. They quickly unveiled a small rectangular golden plate, marked with Hylian symbols.

"Hylian?" Link asked.

Zelda nodded. "Even older than what I've learned." She said. "I can only make out some of the words..."

"The true... can't read the next few... pendants of courage, power and wisdom - those three words never changed. They're actually the same in Hyrulian." Zelda commented.

"That's all you can read?"

"Wait, that word earlier, that's Hero. The true Hero... the pendants... and it ends with Sword of Evil Bane. I think I know what this says." She said. She sighed.


"It's the very thing that didn't work last time… I didn't think of it at all. Historically, there were supposed to be safety measures to ensure the Hero could not take the sword unless he was strong enough to face evil. Some historians think the first Hero was sent seven years into the future so that he did not face Ganon as a child."

"Yeah…" Link said pensively. "That makes sense. He said he was really a kid, and when I went back, he said he beat Ganon and became a kid again seven years before."

"It is said that the safety measure evolved over time, which makes sense." Zelda continued. "The land changed, old training grounds disappeared, artefacts were lost... you know. But there was always supposed to be some kind of task for the Hero to accomplish to earn the Master Sword."

"And right now, it has to do with those pendants?" Link guessed.

Zelda nodded.

Link frowned, and kicked the altar.

"So how come I didn't have any problem taking you last time, you stupid sword?" He yelled. "I was only 5 years old!"

"I don't understand it either." Zelda sighed. "Maybe the safety measure were long gone, but just... reactivated after last time?"

"AH! That's a whole lot of good!" Link shouted angrily at the sword, kicking the altar again.

"But that's not how magic works..." Zelda said, refuting her own argument. "Permanent magic like that doesn't wear out, and it certainly doesn't spontaneously reappear."

"You know what? I'm going to go see." Link said. "Maybe I did do whatever the sword wants. Maybe it's really easy. I'll hide in the trees so he doesn't see me."

Zelda nodded without enthusiasm, but Link didn't see her. His body had already sunk against the altar, his mind gone into the past.

He got up, as usual, only a few seconds later. He looked disgusted.

"They were there." He said. "Three pendants, right on the altar. I'm not sure I even noticed them. I just ran up, took the sword and ran off. Someone put them there for me… I don't know who the idiot is…"

"It was probably Ganon." Zelda guessed.

Link's face fell briefly, before recomposing into sheer rage.

"Din blasted Nayru forsaken PIG!" He yelled. He kicked the altar again, because it was the nearest thing he could kick.

"So he didn't do anything with the pendants, you say?" Zelda asked. "They were just there on the altar, and he took the sword without any problem?"

"Yes." Link hissed, still busy kicking the altar.

"It seems like we just need to gather the pendants here, then. That's good." She said, smiling. "I mean," she added upon seeing his doubtful look, "it's still a problem that we have to get them, but at least there isn't any spell we have to chant or anything like that."

"But we don't know where they are! What if Ganon has them?"

"Well, that's possible. But I think it's more likely that like the Master Sword, they've returned to their natural places."

"But we don't know where THAT is, either!"

Zelda looked surprised, and like something had just dawned on her.

"That's why you look so worried!" She said. "It's the first time you've ever heard of those pendants, isn't it?"

Link just looked at her, puzzled.

"The pendants of the Goddesses, made from the sacred stones. It doesn't ring a bell? Well, no matter. The point is, they're in the old Three Wonders."

"The what?" Link asked, dumbfounded.

"Never heard of them either? Well, most people haven't." Zelda said, looking extremely pleased with herself. "The Three Wonders were the three biggest, most magnificent structures at one time: the Eastern Palace, the Desert Temple and the Tower of Hera. They're very old, so there is probably not much left of them, but if the pendants went back to their homes, they will be in the ruins."

"You know where those places are?" Link asked.

"Yes." Zelda answered confidently. "Roughly."


"The Eastern Palace will probably be the easiest," she continued, ignoring the interruption, "so I'd rather start there. If the pendant is not there, we can at least avoid going to the desert or to Death Mountain. It would be faster to start with the desert, but it's just too dangerous to go there unless we know for sure that we have to."

"Death Mountain?" Link exclaimed, his face suddenly drained of all colour. "One of those things is on Death Mountain?"

"The Tower of Hera." Zelda confirmed. "Don't worry. I'm sure Death Mountain can't be as bad as they say."

Link shuddered, not sharing her optimism.

"Well, it's not like we have a choice." He sighed. "Should we get going now?"

Zelda looked uncertain.

"I don't like leaving when it's getting late like this." She said. "Almost half of the day is gone already. But on the other hand, it will take more than a day of walk to get all the way east, and that's where the palace is. So, we'll be outside of the Woods at night no matter what."

"I really think Ganon knows we're here." Link said thoughtfully. "I think we should try to be really far from here before we're out at night."

Zelda nodded.

"You're right." She said. "We'll leave as soon as the sun rises."

They both slept that night, pretty much passing out as soon as the night fell. They were jerked awake by the sound of howling beasts.

Link shot up to a sitting position and whipped his head around, seeing nothing at first, but extending his arm towards Zelda to shake and wake her anyway. His hand found hers, and she squeezed to let him know she was awake. Link looked slowly around, looking for a gap in the circle of eyes he could now just make out.

The Wolfos howled again. Link tore up, grabbing Zelda's hand, and running blindly towards the only gap he had seen. He hit a tree head first and bounced back from it, falling on his backside. Zelda felt him hitting something and managed to stop in time to stay up. She helped him back to his feet and started going around the tree, but felt Link pulling her up. Understanding he was climbing the tree, she let go of his hand and started climbing too.

Link had not climbed a tree since he had started work at 6 years old, but his hands and feet were finding branches and knots with a supernatural ease. He could feel Zelda's hands brushing his ankles, so he knew she was right behind him. He could hear the Wolfos growling, howling and scratching, and could feel the vibration when they clawed and jumped at the tree. They were already out of reach, but he kept climbing, wanting to put as much distance as possible between the monsters and himself. He only stopped when he ran out of holds, just as he reached a big fat branch that was almost perfectly level with the ground. He scurried on it and sat, hissing at Zelda to get on as well. She followed and they stayed there for what seemed like hours, listening to the Wolfos trying to get up the tree. Their noises were eventually augmented by the sound of rattling bones and piggish grunts as they were joined by Stalfos and Moblins.

"That sounds like Moblins!" Link whispered. "But... they're not real!"

"Yes, they are." Zelda whispered back. "Why are we whispering? They know we're here."

"You're… you're right." Link said, forcing himself to speak in a normal tone but unable to keep his voice from shaking.

Zelda put a hand on his shoulder, and found that it was not just his voice shaking, but his whole body. She could understand why: it was dark and they were surrounded by an army of monsters: two things he feared all in one. She blinked in the dark. Link hadn't had any problem on any of the previous few nights with the darkness, yet she had been sure that it was indeed one of his phobias.

"Link... aren't you afraid of the dark?" She asked.

"Yes." He snapped.

"I thought so… I wonder why the dark didn't bother you last night, or the ones before that. I mean, we haven't even had night candles like at my house."

"I just... felt safe. I thought monsters never went into the Lost Woods." Link said, feeling very foolish to have made such an assumption.

Zelda did not answer, and as they waited, the noise below them grew steadily worse. Link found himself wishing the Lost Woods lived up to their legend a bit more, although he didn't really think all the monsters turning into StalChildren, who were, if he was not mistaken, just slightly smaller Stalfos, would help all that much. He gripped the branch they were both sitting on with his hands, wondering how long he'd resist the urge to seek shelter in Zelda's arms. He could feel himself shaking, he thought his heart was about to jump out of his chest, and he felt more terrified each minute that passed.

Zelda was terrified as well, and her only company being a shivering and nearly hyperventilating 'hero' was not in the least reassuring. She wanted to hug Link, half to provide him with some comfort and half to provide herself with some, but she did not dare. He didn't seem to want to touch her. She nuzzled against the trunk of the tree instead.

Below them, the monsters were getting louder and louder as their numbers swelled. From their position, Zelda and Link could only see the horde's glowing eyes when they looked up, and so, had no idea exactly how many there were. From the volume of the noise, they could only guess there were a lot.

Ganon's minions were trying to cut the tree down, but they couldn't even get through the bark. They were very afraid: they knew they were not welcomed in the Lost Woods, and they feared what would happen to them if they did not leave soon. At the same time, they were completely bound by Ganon's order to bring him the boy and the girl if they were found, and they could not leave without them until they started melting in the sun. So, even though they desperately wanted to leave the Lost Woods and even though their simple minds already understood that they would not succeed in bringing the tree down, they kept trying. The sun rose with all the monsters Ganon had sent into the Lost Woods grouped around the tree at the top of which sat the exhausted and trembling boy and girl. The Wolfos were still clawing and howling, the Stalfos were still hitting the tree with their swords and screaming, and the Moblins were still using their various weapons, or in some cases, their claws, to try to pierce the bark and down the tree, without success. Zelda and Link had long since abandoned their pride and were holding each other close, each of them shaking as much as the other.

When the Deku Tree woke at dawn, he knew only two things: two friends were hiding in his branches, and monsters were trying to down him to get at them. The presence of the monsters would have been unacceptable any time, but the threat they represented to whoever it was he could feel hiding on him was what decided him to take decisive action and to give them the most severe punishment the Lost Woods were capable of inflicting.

The noise suddenly stopped and when it did not start again for several minutes, Link and Zelda slowly opened their eyes and peered downward. They gasped.

Zelda didn't know whether she felt more relieved or more horrified. Below them, as far as they could see, the floor of the forest was covered with them: every little bit of space between the trees was occupied, and to leave the forest, it was obvious that she and Link would have to walk over them.

"They're statues?" She heard Link ask next to her.

"Yes." A voice answered before she could. It was a powerful, booming voice, yet the tone was gentle. The gentleness was completely lost on Link, who cried out and held her tighter.

"Who's there?" Zelda asked loudly.

"There is no need to shout, young girl." The voice answered. "I am the tree you are in."

Zelda froze and tightened her own grip on Link. They were in a tree that turned living things to stone? She expected Link to start shaking all over again, and was doing a good job convincing herself that it was to reassure him that she was holding him so tight, but Link let go of her, thankfully not going so far as to make her let go of him, and lifted his head, looking at the trunk.

"You talk!" He said. "Did you help me climb last night?"

Zelda stared at him, stunned.

"I thought I was only dreaming." The tree answered. "I had a dream where a long lost friend was in great danger and was trying to climb on me, and in my dream, I guided his hands to my knots and branches. A long lost friend... yes. Yes, I thought so. I do know you."

"You're the Great Deku Tree, right?" Link asked. "And you remember me? But that was really long ago..."

"I don't remember you. I KNOW you. You are the Hero. I will know you no matter how many times you are reborn. So did my ancestors, so will my descendants."

"Link... what is going on?" Zelda asked. "You know that tree?"

Link nodded. "I saw it when I went back to see the Hero of Time after he beat Ganon. He scared me half to death, but he was friends with the Hero."

"You saw the Hero of Time AFTER he defeated Ganon?" The Great Deku Tree asked.

"Yeah." Link confirmed. "And you. But it was really long ago, it's no wonder you don't remember."

"After he defeated Ganon, the Hero of Time disappeared, never to return." The Tree said. "The rumour was that the Princess arranged for him to grow up into an alternate version of Hyrule, where Ganon never ruled. If you have met him after his victory, those rumours must have been true, and you must have met him and my ancestor in this alternate Hyrule."

The Tree smiled.

"Thank you, Hero. I am glad to finally find out for sure that my child was all right."

"So that wasn't really you…" Link mused. It explained why the Princess had buried the medallions for the Hero. She knew if he buried them, it would be in that other Hyrule, not the one the medallions needed to be in.

Zelda finally let go of him and turned to look at the trunk too. "Thank YOU." She said to it. "You saved our lives."

"You must be the Princess." The tree said. "Yes... I can feel the aura. You are welcomed."

"I don't mean to be rude," Zelda said. "But we must get going. We meant to leave the Woods at the crack of dawn and that was almost half an hour ago."

"Right." Link said.

They climbed down the tree onto the pile of statues, which were already half covered in vegetation, thanked the Deku Tree profusely, and after a quick check of their map, were on their way.

Ganon, back in the President's body, could just barely restrain himself from ripping apart everyone nearby. His monsters, who, on his orders, had been scouring the Lost Woods for the boy and the girl, had just been somehow destroyed, all at once. Ganon could not imagine the boy having done that: even the most dangerous heroes armed with a full arsenal would not have been able to kill that many monsters at once.

Not knowing what had happened was infuriating, but if it had only been a few dozens of his monsters, it would not have bothered him all that much. It would have been nagging enough for him to do his best to try and find out how his minions had been disposed of, but it would have been simple curiosity driving him, not the blinding rage he felt now.

The problem was that he had been impatient, and sent every last one of his Stalfos, Wolfos and Moblins into the Lost Woods. His whole army, all of the creatures smart enough to actually obey commands, every last one of his slaves, were lost. He would now have to hunt down the Hero and Princess alone, and if he did not want to have to deal with the Hyrulians trying to hunt HIM down, he still had to keep in control of the President's body. That meant he had to spend as much time inside that weak and useless body, playing President, as he did in his own body. He could not afford to spend another day away from his 'host': the last time he had tried, the President had almost managed to regain control.

Despite the Presidential Guards looking for them, without Ganon himself or monsters to threaten them, the boy and the girl would be able to move from one location to another, making the search for them more difficult. Ganon clenched his teeth and tightened his lips to keep himself from snarling. He turned his attention back on the farmers that were currently begging him to reduce their quotas. He silenced them with a hand gesture, denied their request and sent them away crying. He smiled in spite of himself: there would obviously be some executions at that farm this month.

Once the farmers were gone, he called the guards and ordered for the edge of the Lost Woods to be lined with guards so that nobody could get out without being caught.

It was less than an hour since dawn when guards from all over Hyrule started to arrive at the Lost Woods. Link and Zelda had escaped them by a mere half hour.

"Aren't you hungry?" Link asked. "I'm hungry."

It was a perfectly legitimate question: they had not eaten anything but fruits for days and were generally hungry all the time. And today, they had left the Woods without any breakfast at all. She sighed and admitted that yes, she was hungry too.

"Good!" Link said. "Let's go see if Kariko can slip us some food. She told me some of their quotas are easy to reach." He chose not to elaborate on his friend's cursing about the supervisors' taking all the surplus for themselves.

Zelda considered for a moment before following Link, who was already walking south, towards the town's farms. Her stomach grumbled. She trotted to catch up.

"We have to be very careful." She said. "Nobody else than your friend should see us."

Link nodded and led the way to the right farm.

They had to creep along for nearly an hour, hiding behind the taller crops and any big object they could find, before Link finally found Kariko. She was feeding the cuckoos, and had a look on her face that plainly said she would have much rather been feeding herself with said cuckoos. There was nobody else around.

Zelda was trying to stop herself from staring before Link's friend noticed them, but it was difficult. The poor girl was hideous. Zelda tried to imagine the face as it might have been if half of it had not been missing, and came up with a mental image of a spectacularly ugly girl. She shook her head to chase the thought, but her eyes went straight to Kariko again. In addition to her scars, she was sunburnt, just like most farm workers. Zelda idly wondered whether the scarred tissue was more sensitive than the undamaged skin. She didn't have time to consider the matter further, as Link tapped her shoulder to signal he was about to reveal himself.

Kariko was staring into space in their general direction. Link got up partway from behind the wheel-barrel they were using as a hiding place and waved. Kariko gasped and dropped her basket of chicken feed. She looked quickly around, then rushed to the wheel-barrel. She went right around it and threw herself in Link's arms.

"You're alive!" She whispered, hugging him. She sounded beyond relieved.

"You thought I was dead? Why?" He asked, returning the unexpected hug.

Kariko backed away, but she was grinning in joy. Zelda would have loved to think Kariko looked better when she smiled, but if anything, it made her look worse.

"They say the guards chased you into the Lost Woods." Kariko said, still whispering. "I can't believe they think you're a murderer!" She added.

"The President made that up because he works for Ganon." Zelda whispered as an explanation.

Kariko turned to her, her remaining eye narrowed in a scowl.

"You." She hissed. "You're Zelda, aren't you?"

Zelda swallowed her saliva and nodded.

"You're crazy." Kariko stated. "Go fight Ganon… AH! He's already dead, for crying out loud! I don't know how you dragged Link into this..."

She turned to Link.

"Why are you doing this?" She asked. "And where have you been? How did you stay safe? Lately, anyone who goes out at night gets killed!"

"We were in the Lost Woods..." Link started.

"You were? So the guards really did chase you in there? How did you get out? Dekussay is going to be really happy! We thought you were dead! But you didn't answer me. Why are you playing along with her?" Kariko said, putting all the contempt and disdain in the world into the pronoun and looking sideways at Zelda with a disgusted look on her face.

"Because we need to defeat Ganon!" Link answered as if it should have been obvious.

Kariko looked at him with pity, and shot Zelda a murderous look.

"Link... you don't really believe that, do you? She:" she pointed at Zelda. "Is not a wise Princess, she's a crazy supervisor. And you? Come on! You're a coward! A nice coward, and I really like you, but you're not a Hero! And Ganon! We killed him about 900 years ago!"

"I believe I'm the Hero because I remember my last battle with Ganon." Link cut in when Kariko paused for breath. "We went to the museum on Farore Day, and I saw my skeleton, and it made me remember it. I remember EVERYTHING about it, like it happened yesterday." He shuddered. "And it wasn't a dream, trust me."

Kariko swallowed her saliva. Link's argument was rather hard to counter.

"Well, it explains the ears." She sighed. "But how do you know she's the Princess? I still say she's crazy, and she was just lucky to find you. And Ganon? He's GONE. Whoever you are, you don't need to fight a monster that's not there! And even if he was, you can't even fight!"

Zelda tucked her hair behind her pointy ears and coughed a bit. Kariko turned towards her, looking quite furious that Zelda dared to try and say something. Her jaw fell.

"That doesn't prove anything." She said, but it was clear that she didn't believe that herself.

"I also remember encounters with Ganon." Zelda whispered, starting to feel quite angry with Link's friend. "Who, by the way, IS back and is responsible, along with his army of monsters, for all the murders. And whether you believe me or not about this, your friend", she pointed at Link, "is hungry and we came to see you hoping you could give us some food. We need to get going, so can you or can't you?"

Kariko hesitated. The quotas this month were insanely high, and would be very difficult to reach. She went through the different stocks they had, trying to think of one for which even this month's quota would not be a problem, and could only think of one, which happened to be close at hand as well.

"How about some eggs?" She asked Link. "I don't know if I can give you anything else."

Link grinned.

"That would be great!" He said. "I don't care if we have to eat them raw..."

"We won't. We can cook them on a stone in ashes." Zelda said. "Thank you." She said to Kariko, smiling the smile of peace.

Kariko rolled her eye.

"I still hate you." She said. "If anything happens to Link… "

"I'll never forgive myself and will gladly let you kill me slowly and painfully." Zelda interrupted her.

Kariko rolled her eye again.

"You're not going to have to LET me." She said.

She got up and went into the cuckoo den. She came back a few minutes later with 12 eggs, which Zelda put into her bag. Kariko turned to Link, and much to his surprise, hugged him again.

"I'm really happy you're okay." She said into his shoulder. "Take care, all right?"

Link nodded, at a loss for word. If Kariko hadn't been so nasty to Zelda, called him a coward and had not talked too much for him to even be able to answer her questions, he would have thought she was a fake.

Zelda poked him and he disengaged himself from the hug, smiled in what he hoped was a reassuring manner at Kariko, and turned to leave through the corn field that was a few steps away from the wheel-barrel. He felt a hand on his shoulder and turned his head. Kariko had a blank expression on her face, but her eye was burning a hole into the spot between his.

"So, you're sure about this? You're the Hero, and Ganon is back, and you have to fight him?" She said.

Link nodded. Kariko sagged a bit, looking utterly miserable.

"Good luck." She said. She had meant to try to talk him out of it, but he looked so certain of himself that she didn't think she'd accomplish anything more than get him angry and waste his time.

Link smiled at her, thanked her and ran the few steps to the corn. Kariko watched the pair disappear into the corn, clenched her teeth and went back to the cuckoos.

Zelda refused to stop as long as they were still near town, so they kept walking east until the morning changed into the afternoon. They had passed the last outskirt houses a while ago, and there was nothing around them but open fields dotted with a few trees. They weren't following the road, so the fields around them were unbroken and it looked like they might go on forever.

Link started picking any branches he could find on the ground near the trees, hoping Zelda would take the hint and finally stop. She did, took the branches from Link and started to build a fire.

"We're far enough from anyone now, I think we're safe to stop for a bit." She said. "We'll still need to walk until night time after we eat, though. You're not too tired, are you?"

"I'm going to be fine once I eat." Link said. "I'm going to go find a stream or something while you cook. Aren't you thirsty?"

"Yes." Zelda answered with a small chuckle. "But I filled my water pouch in the Woods last night, before we went to sleep. I don't remember whether it was from a river, a waterfall, a puddle or a great big lake, but it's full."

"Why didn't you tell me?" Link scowled. "I've been thirsty all day!"

"Sorry." Zelda said. "But you didn't ask, and besides, we don't know how long that water has to last, so we need to save it. Find me two rocks to start the fire, would you?"

Link grumbled something about water not being that hard to find, but got up and looked for the rocks she had requested anyway. He wanted the fire going and the eggs cooking even more than he wanted to annoy her. He found suitable rocks fairly quickly, brought them back to her, and took a few steps back to avoid any sparks and to be a safe distance from the fire once it got going, which didn't take long.

"Now, let's see..." Zelda said, getting up. She looked around and started digging. Link went in behind her to see what she was doing just as she was extracting two flat topped rocks from the ground. She squirted a bit of water on them and used her skirt to wipe them clean of the dust that was on them, then dropped one right next to the fire and the other one a pace or two further.

"We just have to wait until this stone is hot from the fire, then we crack the eggs on it and hopefully, they'll cook."

"You don't know for sure?" Link asked. "Hey, weren't you going to put the stone in the ashes? Do you know what you're doing at all?"

"I know I need a hot flat surface to cook the eggs on, so I'm trying to get a flat rock to become hot!" Zelda said angrily. "The ashes would be fine if you want to wait an hour, but I don't, so I'm trying to save time!"

"Just asking." Link said, making a peaceful gesture with his hands.

Zelda grunted at him and made a drop of water fall from her pouch to the stone. Link wanted to ask why she had done that, but thought better of it.

"I'm sorry about Kariko." He said instead, trying to make peace although he didn't know why she was angry. "She's almost always mean, even with me and Dekussay, but she doesn't actually mean it."

"She meant it for me." Zelda said. "But it's okay. She gave us some food, so it was a good thing we went to see her. I'm sorry for getting angry."

She almost didn't add in the apology, but she meant it. Link's asking whether she knew what she was doing had hit a nerve, because she really didn't. She was going east because the Eastern Temple was in the East. She didn't actually know quite where it was, though, and she had no idea whether there would be anything left of it, or whether the pendant would be there after all. Here they were, in the open, with Ganon and who knew what else after them, having barely escaped death the night before, and she didn't even know exactly where to go and what they would find there. None of that was Link's fault, however, and she had no right to take it out on him.

"It's okay." Link said, relieved. He could understand how Zelda felt: he too was feeling angry a lot lately. "Can you cook the eggs yet?" He asked, more to change the subject than out of impatience.

"I'm waiting for the stone to be hot enough." Zelda said. She dripped a drop of water on the stone again, and this time, it hissed. "There, that should do it."

She cooked them 3 eggs each, using a flatter branch among the ones Link had picked up as a spatula and transferring the cooked eggs to the second flat stone she had brought. Although they ended up with very messy eggs that they had to eat with their fingers and although they had no bread to soak the yolks with this time, Link was so hungry that he enjoyed them even more than the first time he had had fried eggs. They ate quickly, put out the fire and set out again, veering a bit north. Link wondered if the fire's ashes would give away where they had been, but Zelda just shrugged the matter aside.

"If he looks for signs of us here, it will be because he already knows we are going east, and a single fire won't tell him which way we went from there."

"Do you think he knows we're going to go get the pendants? What if he's waiting for us at that Palace?" Link asked, voicing a worry he had had ever since they had left the Lost Woods.

Zelda did not answer for a long time.

"I'm sorry, I just don't know." She finally said. "If he is, we're dead. I'm hoping he'll assume we don't know about the pendants and where to find them, or at least that he can't be out during the day at all."

Link left it at that and they walked without mentioning Ganon again until the sun set. They stopped for the night, but neither of them slept, too afraid of being caught by Ganon or his monsters.

No monster found them, and they didn't even hear any screams attesting that they had found anyone else.

They ate their remaining eggs the following morning and set out again.

"We should have gotten you a sword." Zelda sighed shortly after they had started to walk. "We're completely unarmed. I should have thought of that... I wanted to get you one when we went to the library, remember? I haven't thought of it since. Stupid!" She scolded herself.

She sounded miserable and Link, although he felt like refusing to even consider getting a sword other than the one he would have to fight Ganon with, took pity on her and tried to reassure her instead.

"There's a town this way." He said soothingly, pointing ahead of them. "See the smoke?"

Zelda looked where he was pointing and could see, coming from right on the other side of the low hill they were climbing, smoke rising into the sky.

"There might be a sword shop!" She said happily.

Now that she was not so gloomy anymore, Link's fear took priority over his pity for her again.

"I don't really want a sword, though." He said. "I know I HAVE to use to Master Sword, but I don't want one until then. And anyway, we don't have any money to buy one."

Zelda ignored his protest entirely, except for the practical part of it.

"We're not going to buy one." She said. "We'll steal one. If we bought one, it would be reported and Ganon would hear about a boy and a girl buying a sword, and would guess it's us."

"But if we steal one, Ganon is going to hear about that too, isn't he? And I don't WANT one."

"He won't. Swords get stolen all the time, we used to have to count them every morning and one or two a month would go missing. People swipe them to try and defend themselves at night."

"But I don't WANT a sword!"

"I know," she said, finally acknowledging this part of his argument, "but you need practice and you need something to defend yourself with. Would you rather have a sword if we come face to face with a monster in that palace, or not have one?"

"I bet I can run faster without one."

"You can't run. Not until we find the pendant or until we're sure it's not in there."

"We could make the shop miss their quota." Link said as a last resort. He knew that if swords got stolen regularly, that scenario wasn't likely, but he was running out of arguments.

Zelda cast her eyes down and stopped walking, her head hung low. Link stopped too and stood there looking at her, waiting for her to argue back that they were trying to save the world and that they really needed a sword, and that it was the only way. She didn't say anything, so he eventually got closer to her and bent down to look at her face to face. He backed away immediately, shocked: she was crying.

"Zelda?" He called. "Why are you crying?"

"Because you're right." She said with a trembling voice. "They can probably make up one missing sword, but what if they can't? I... I just don't know what else to do. We can't go on without any weapon, we can't go on just running away... even the Lost Woods aren't safe anymore!"

"Yes they are." Link lied, trying to be reassuring. "The Great Deku Tree turned all those monsters into statues! I bet he can do it again!"

"In the morning, he did." Zelda said, her voice still trembling. She looked and sounded like she was trying very hard not to burst into tears again. "And they were attacking him, they were all close to him. He didn't do anything all night, and I don't think he would have known the monsters were there if they had stayed away from him."

"Where do the swords go when they leave the shop?" Link asked, hardly believing he was actually trying to help Zelda figure out how to make him carry a sword around. "Can we try to get one from there?"

"In our town, they go to Town Hall until they are taken to the soldiers, guards and merchants." Zelda said. "But if we take one from there, we may get a guard into trouble."

"Will they notice if there's one missing?" Link asked. "You think they count them every day?"

Zelda shrugged.

"I don't know." She admitted. "But I doubt they stay in storage long. Even assuming they are stored in Town Hall and we can find where that is in this town, chances are there will be nothing there."

Link sighed, defeated. He didn't know what else to suggest, although at least, Zelda was calm again.

"Let's keep walking." Zelda said after a minute. "We might think of something when we get there."

They arrived at the town less than an hour later, and found its streets to be just like the ones in their own town during the day: practically deserted. They first passed farms, and then dorms, indicating they were in the lower class side of town.

"We should try to see if we can find Town Hall. We might be able to see how many guards there are around the sheds... assuming the shops' productions are in sheds at Town Hall here too, anyway." Zelda whispered as they walked. "I can only see two other options if we can't steal a sword from there: the sword shop or a high class house - to swipe one someone else stole. I don't really want to do either." She added.

"How about we just forget about it?" Link suggested helpfully, whispering as well. "I think I told you before, I don't WANT..."

"You need one." Zelda interrupted. "Look, I'll help you carry it, alright? Whenever you can't take it anymore, I'll take it for a while."

"Maybe you could just keep it and fight the monsters for me?" Link said. "Who says you're not going to be better at this than me?"

"I'm not nearly as good with my hands as you are, for one thing." Zelda said. "I also think you need all the practice you can get before you face Ganon and him, I really can't fight for you."

Link sighed resignedly. They stopped talking, both of them looking around for the downtown area. Zelda finally spotted a flag in between buildings and, hoping it was in front of a public building, headed in that direction.

The flag, it turned out, was in front of the very building they had been looking for: Town Hall. They walked the streets around it, looking for sheds and guards. They found the sheds, in behind the building, but there were no guards around. Zelda frowned.

"No guards..." She murmured.

"How many are there at home?"

"I don't know." Zelda answered truthfully. "I've never actually been to Town Hall other than with school, and then, there were extra guards to guide us and tell us what everything was about."

Having no idea that almost all the guards in Hyrule were now around the Lost Woods to try and catch them when they came out, Zelda had to assume another reason behind the sheds not being watched.

"It's probably because they're empty." She said. "There's no guard because there's nothing to guard in there. But let's look anyway, just in case."

She looked around, making sure there was nobody in the vicinity. She then walked right towards the shed, trying to look like she belonged there. She made it to the nearest one, opened the door and peered inside. She gasped. She stood at the doorway, staring inside the shed.

Link swallowed his saliva, knowing he should join her but feeling like something was bound to jump at him if he walked in the open. He braced himself and ran to Zelda as fast as he could. He looked past her shoulder into the shed and his eyes widened. The shed was very big, and was completely filled with swords: there were piles upon piles, almost all the way to the ceiling.

"Whoa." He said. "I never thought we made that many swords every month! Unless… do you think the shop in this town is bigger?"

"I think this is at least 10 years worth of swords." She said. "Look at the dust on some of these piles!"

"But if they have extra swords here, why did they increase the quota for our shop?"

"You don't understand." Zelda said. "Some of these swords have been here for years. And there are so many... our quota used to be about 300 a month, and even now it's still only 500, and there are thousands here. With that many swords just sitting in storage, all the sword shops should be given very small quotas, or even closed for a few months. Last time we didn't fill our quota... they executed four people, but the few swords we were missing didn't even matter!"

"So you're saying it would be okay to stop making swords for a while? But then, why did our quota go up?"

"Busy work..." Zelda murmured angrily. "It's just busy work! We're working ourselves sore to meet insane quotas and it's just busy work! They could at least distribute the swords to the population! We need to get out of here quick, Link. They can't want anyone to know about this, so whatever the reason is that we haven't seen any guards yet, it won't last."

She grabbed the nearest sword and suddenly thought she couldn't really just walk out with a sword and expect not to be noticed. She had to hide the weapon until they were out of town.

"I need something to attach this to my leg, so I can hide it under my skirt." She said, looking around.

Link looked around too, but there was nothing at all remotely resembling a piece of string around. He pondered ripping part of his clothes off, and looked down at himself, wondering where the least inconvenient place to be missing a piece of fabric would be. That's when he noticed the string that held the head opening on his tunic closed to his neck. He took it off and handed it to Zelda.

"Will that do?" He asked. "I lost it once and I didn't have one for days, and nobody asked me any question."

"Your tunic being green will probably attract more attention than it being opened at the top anyway." Zelda said, smiling and taking the string. "I think it's long enough... turn around, please."

Link did as told and killed the minute it took Zelda to tie the sword around her thigh by looking out for guards. He saw none.

"Still no guards?" Zelda asked when she was done, joining him at the door.

"No." Link said. "How about we get out of town as fast as we can? I don't like being here... I'm afraid someone is going to see us."

Zelda nodded and they walked as fast as they could without actually running until they were out of the little town. They saw no one safe for a few children playing.

Zelda untied the sword as soon as they passed the last farm and gladly took it off her leg. The tip of it had scratched the side of her calf pretty badly. She did not want to put the image of the sword maiming her while she carried it into Link's head so she didn't mention it.

They had to stop walking when the sun set: the night was too dark to keep going. Link clenched his jaw and gulped. He did not think he could go without sleep for another night.

"Maybe we can take turns staying awake, so we can wake the other up if anything comes this way. We're pretty far from that town, so maybe it will be as quiet as last night, but we can't count on it." Zelda said.

He nodded. "Do you want to sleep first?" He asked.

"Sure." She said, too tired to return the courtesy he was showing. She lied down and was asleep within seconds.

Link stayed up until the moon finally rose, with no idea how much of the night was left. He had waited for the moon to rise simply because with the glow of the moon, it was not as dark and he would be able to relax enough to sleep.

Like the night before, he didn't hear anything. He found himself wondering whether it was possible that all the monsters had been in the Lost Woods the previous night.

He woke Zelda up and promptly fell asleep.

She woke him up the following morning, just as the sun was rising, and after a drink of water, they set out again.

"Did you hear any screams last night?" Link asked almost as soon as they started walking.

"A short one, coming from far away." Zelda answered. "How about you?"

"Nothing. I wonder if the monsters that got turned into statues were killing a lot, and I wonder if there are any left."

"I've been wondering about that too." Zelda said. "It's possible Ganon is the only one left murdering people, I suppose... it would be nice. Less victims, and..." she stopped, suddenly looking very ashamed.


"Well, if Ganon is the only one left murdering people, we'll know he is far when we hear faraway screams and close when we hear close ones." Zelda muttered.

The idea left Link happy to have a way to know where Ganon was and utterly miserable to find himself happy about people being murdered. He tried to tell himself that it was the fact that less people were being killed that was useful, but he still felt like a monster.

"I really hope I can win." He said after a few minutes.

"Me too." Zelda said.

They were both quiet until they stopped for a break hours later, each lost in their own thoughts.

Zelda had been carrying the sword until their break, but handed it to Link as they got up to head east again.

Link stared at the sword and started shaking. The blade was naked and did not look friendly at all. He looked at Zelda with the best pleading look he could muster, but she gave him the same look right back, still holding the sword out to him, handle first.

Link looked at the sword again, trying to concentrate on the handle. He had grabbed the Master Sword's handle, he had to be able to grab that one. He willed his hand to move towards the handle and to close on it. He then jerked his hand back with a yelp and it was all he could do not to take a few steps away from the sword.

Zelda was patiently holding the sword out, her face expressionless. If Link had bothered to try and guess what she was actually feeling, he would have bet on anger and disappointment, mostly because that was pretty well how he felt about himself at the moment. He grabbed the sword again, and concentrated on not letting go of it. After a while, Zelda let go and he was holding the sword by himself. It fell downward a bit before he could adjust to the weight that Zelda had been carrying, and then he was holding it parallel to the ground, pointy part as far away from himself as he could. Zelda took a step sideways so the sword would not be pointed right at her anymore.

She smiled, very proud of Link. He did not seem to notice, concentrated as he was on holding the sword. She had kept herself from showing any emotion while he was trying to grab the handle, to avoid distracting him, but she had felt like grinning: he was actually trying to take the sword, without any threat to him if he didn't!

Link eventually made some movements with the sword, swinging it very slowly and carefully. He held it from then on, if rather stiffly, and never asked Zelda to take it back. The following morning, he even started talking again and his eyes were no longer constantly locked on the blade. There had been no screams again that night, safe for one that sounded very far away.

Chapter Text

A few quick notes:

1. This story is rated T due to some very violent content.

2. The story is actually completed, and I intend to post a new chapter weekly.

3. I don't own any Legend of Zelda character or setting. I'm just borrowing them and I hope Nintendo won't mind too much.

4. Thank you so much for reading!

Chapter 10: The Pendants of Courage and Wisdom

It took them almost two more days to reach the Eastern Forest. They had subsisted on berries found in the fields for two days, along with a lone cuckoo they had managed to catch and which had become Link's first living target. Link had been so hungry that he had barely even hesitated before decapitating the bird.

It started raining on the morning of the second day and they were pretty miserable until mid-afternoon, when they reached the edge of the forest: the trees blocked out most of the rain. By nightfall, the rain had stopped and they were deep within the woods. Link kept looking around, amused by the way things did not look any different if he looked away for a second and then looked again. They settled for the night in a small clearing, lighting a fire to dry and warm themselves.

"How are you feeling?" Zelda asked. "With the sword, I mean."

"Not too bad." Link admitted. "But I'm glad you thought of wrapping it in our undershirts. It was scratching my leg pretty bad before."

Zelda nodded sympathetically. "It scratched mine when I carried it under my skirt." She said.

"So, which way is that Palace?" Link asked.

"I don't know." Zelda said. "I'm hoping you can find out."

"You don't know where it is? At all?" Link cried out. "What if I can't find it? Why didn't we go back to the library so you could find out where it is?"

"Why wouldn't you be able to find out? And do you really think we would have gotten anywhere near a library again? After we were almost caught in one, they are probably heavily guarded!"

"But what if…?" Link started again angrily.

Zelda interrupted him.

"If you can't find out where it is, we'll look for it, or for a town with a library!" She growled. "But how about you at least TRY before worrying about that?"

"Fine!" Link growled back.

He closed his eyes and tried to concentrate on going to an Eastern Palace to get a pendant. When he opened them, he was standing in a desert, a few paces behind a Hylian boy dressed in green, presumably his past self.

"Hey!" He called out.

His past self whirled around, sword out. He lowered his sword and shield upon seeing what had addressed him.

"A ghost?" He asked. "You look a bit like me... what are you? What do you want?"

"I'm your future self." Link said, wondering if he'd ever get used to introducing himself like that. "I need help to find the three pendants so I can get the Master Sword."

"Uh?" His past self answered. "Future self? Why would I believe that? You could be one of Aghanim's tricks."

Link blinked at him, speechless. He had no idea who Aghanim was, and could only assume it was an enemy of his past self.

"Err..." He said, trying to think of something. "I... don't know. But I really need your help! Zelda doesn't know where the East Palace is! If you don't help me, we're going to have to go to a library and the guards are after us, and..."

"'Zelda'? Don't you mean PRINCESS Zelda? You're not going to convince me by being rude to the point of talking about her like she's just some girl. And it's called the EastERN palace."

"She's not a princess in the future." Link explained. "Look, everyone knows those three buildings right now, don't they? I mean, they're still there, so they're still the Three Wonders, right? If I was working for that guy Aga-whatever, I wouldn't need to ask you where they are, right? I would know and he would know!"

His past self hesitated.

"Did you say the guards are after you? They're after me, too… You already know the pendants are in those three palaces, do you? But you don't know where they are? Well... I suppose I can show you that much. But how do you know about the pendants?"

"Zelda read it on the stone the Master Sword is in." Link said. "And she said they should be in the Three Wonders. Hey, how come this is a desert? Aren't you going to the Eastern Palace? Is it past the forest?"

"There's no forest around here." His past self said. "All right. You can look at my map. It won't hurt if you're with Aghanim, so I might as well help you just in case you're telling the truth."

The past Link sheathed his sword and pulled a map out of his pocket. He kneeled and unrolled it on the ground in front of himself, then gestured Link over.

Link bent down to look at it, but as he would have guessed, it didn't help a whole lot. He spotted Death Mountain and Lake Hylia, but the Lost Woods were not quite in the right spot.

"See here..." His past self said, pointing at a mark towards the East of the map, " the Eastern Palace. It's on top of a high hill, north of here. Not far from the end of this desert and so, from the mountains between it and Zora's fountain."

Link nodded.

"You might want to note this down." His past self suggested.

"I'll remember." Link said. "North of a desert, close to the mountains between that desert and Zora's fountain, whatever that is. Maybe Zelda knows about it."

"I don't know exactly where the other two are yet, because Sahasrahla wouldn't tell me until I had proven myself by getting the pendant of courage." The past Link said. "I think he just wants to make sure I visit again."

"But he knows where they are?" Link asked.

"Yeah, but..."

"I just have to come back when you go see him again, then." Link said. "See you!"

Link willed himself back to his present, leaving his past self staring at the bit of ground Link had been standing on, insofar as ghosts stand anywhere. He finally just shrugged, picked up his map and turned back towards his destination.

Link opened his eyes, but before Zelda could even ask him if he had found out where the pendants were, he had closed them again.

This time, Link found himself next to his past self, who was talking to a very, very old man. Link took a step back, first thinking the man had to be a corpse, but he didn't seem to be rotting at all, and his eyes twinkled when they spotted him.

"Is that who you were talking about, my boy?" The elder asked of the past Link. He had such a strange accent that Link could barely understand him.

"Yep." That Link said, nodding. "He says he is my future self and he wants to know where the three palaces are. He already knew that's where the pendants are."

"Well, well. There is no harm in telling Aghanim where those palaces are, he already knows." The elder said. "And if our ghostly friend really is who he says he is, helping him would be wise."

"That's what I thought too."

"Well then, let me mark this and we can show it to him. Can you carry things to the future, young man?"

"I don't think so." Link answered. "I can't touch anything, so..."

"We'll try something." Sahasrahla said. "Let me see..."

Much to Link's amazement, who kept expecting the poor man to die at any moment, Sahasrahla walked to the back of the room effortlessly, opened the chest that was there and pulled out a rolled up parchment. He closed the chest and opened the parchment on it. Even from a few pace, Link could easily see it was another map, apparently identical to the one his past self had. Said past self was looking bored and seemed to be wondering whether he should leave yet.

"Don't leave yet, Link." Sahasrahla said as he marked the new map on three spots. "I have a present for you, which I believe you will find useful. And after that palace, I really don't think being inactive for a few minutes will hurt you."

Link's past self nodded and sat down on the floor, resigned to wait.

Sahasrahla had rolled the map back up and walked up to Link, holding the roll of parchment out as if expecting Link to take it. Link frowned quizzically, suddenly thinking the old man's mind might not have held up as well as his body.

"I can't touch..." he started.

"I know." Sahasrahla interrupted. "You just told me and besides, you're obviously immaterial."

"I'm what?" Link asked. "So why are you giving me that map?" He continued, not waiting for an answer.

"I want you to put your hand around it, as if you were holding it." Sahasrahla said. "Then, I want you to concentrate on bringing it along as you go back to your own time. With any luck, the map will follow. If it doesn't, come back and you'll have to memorize it."

Link sighed, but he knew from experience he was not very good at judging which ideas were crazy and which were good. He did as told.

He put his fingers around the scroll, just shy of through it, closed his eyes and concentrated on bringing the scroll to the future with him.

"Bring the map, bring the map, bring the map..."

He willed himself back to his own time, still chanting.

"How did you do that?" Came a very surprised voice. "You say it's a map? But how..."

Link opened his eyes and although he could feel the map in his hands and hear Zelda asking about it, he had to look down and see the scroll to believe it.

"Yes!" He cried out. "It worked! I CAN bring stuff back! I have to go back, tell the old guy it worked..."

Before Zelda could say anything, his body collapsed as his mind left again. He jumped up again a few seconds later.

"He already knew it had worked." He said, grinning from ear to ear. "But I had to say thanks anyway. Can you believe it? We went through all that to get those medallions, but I could have just borrowed them! Hey, I could go get food in the past… or the Master Sword! Wait, no. That's not a good idea. It feels wrong, even more than with the Sages."

Zelda was just smiling at him.

"I'm just going on and on, ain't I? It's just... it's really nice for a change that something is easy!"

He handed her the map, still grinning. "There you go. You figure it out."

Zelda examined the map carefully, frowning. The geography was just similar enough for the differences to really stand out and give the old map a very alien feel.

"There are some badlands at the foot of those mountains..." She said, more to herself than for Link's benefit. "But nothing as big as this. It's just a few hills, between this forest and Zora River Country. Meanwhile, this forest is not on this map at all. I would have thought it would have always been there, seeing the Lost Woods used to be around here..."

Link shrugged, unnoticed by Zelda.

"He said, my past self, that the palace was north. It's supposed to be in a desert close to those mountains."

"North we go, then. We'll look for the badlands."

They left the following morning, and arrived at the badlands the morning after that.

"I'm pretty sure the Eastern Palace would be in ruins by now, so we should look for ruins." Zelda said.

"What would that look like?" Link asked.

It didn't surprise Zelda. It wasn't like Link would have seen history books, and there were no old ruins to be seen anywhere near their town.

"Low walls, barely sticking out of the ground if at all, and probably just bits and pieces of them." She said. "According to pictures, anyway. I've never actually seen any."

"Let's hope we're in the right place, at least." Link said, looking worriedly at the ground around them. "This could take forever."

"Try to follow your instincts. It worked for the Master Sword, it might work for the pendants. Just keep your eyes opened for ruins while you're at it."

Link forced himself to relax and, keeping his eyes to the ground, just let his feet go where they wanted to. After a while, Zelda called out she had found ruins, just a few steps to his left. Link didn't feel he needed to go that way, so he didn't. He soon found the remains of a wall to his right, and assumed that they were standing right where the palace used to be. It seemed Zelda's instincts – she was the one who had stopped in this particular area of the badlands – weren't half bad either. He kept walking for another minute, than stopped. He felt like checking out the spot he was on would be a good idea.

He crouched on the ground and started digging. His finger quickly found something hard, only a few inches below the surface. He dug around it and in a few minutes, had a small chest in his hands.

"Zelda!" He called out happily. "You know, when this is over, maybe I should be a treasure hunter!"

Zelda rushed to his side, beaming.

"Open it!" She urged.

Link did. Inside the chest was a gleaming green pendant attached to a small gold chain.

Link was starting to feel quite heroic: he had a sword on his side, and it barely bothered him at all anymore, mostly thanks to it being wrapped, and he now had a pendant of courage hanging from his neck. Even more so than heroic though, he felt hungry.

The Eastern Forest, unlike the Lost Woods, did not have many fruit trees, and they had hardly eaten anything since they had reached it. While he was focused on finding the pendant, Link had been able to just about ignore how miserable he felt, but now that his thoughts were focusing instead on another long trek, to the desert no less, he didn't think he could last much longer without a half decent meal.

"I think you should try to bring food from the past." Zelda said, obviously sharing his concerns. "I'd rather avoid going near people in this time if we can."

Link nodded.

"I'm sure one of my past selves will help me find some." He said.

He sat and chose to concentrate on a happy time, with Ganon long since defeated, and whatever past self he ended up with about to eat a big meal that he could share.

When he opened his eyes, an old man, thought not nearly as old as Sahasrahla, was eyeing him curiously from across a table laden with food.

"Hullo..." the man said. "What have we here?"

Link could not respond right away. His mind had instantly and completely focused on the incredible quantity of food that was on the table. There was a whole pig, several cuckoos, mounds of something white, piles of vegetables and fruits, baskets full of breads, dishes he could not even identify... he shook his head and willed himself to look at the old man.

"Err... are you Link?" He asked. He had a strong feeling that the man was indeed his past self, long after his own battles were over, but it was difficult to think of someone looking so much older than he was as himself in the past.

"Why yes, I am." The man said. "And what are you? You're lucky my guests aren't here yet... If they were, I'd have to be much fiercer to some ghost who appeared out of nowhere... expectations, you know. I used to be a warrior of sorts... well, maybe more like an adventurer. Either way, I used to fight a lot of things, including ghosts. But, they're not here yet. So I'll play nice and ask you what you are first."

"I... I'm Link too." Link started.

"Really? I was under the impression that nobody else had that name. You'd think some children would have been named after me after I saved Hyrule, but nobody else than my closest friends know I did, so I guess no little babies will be named after me any time soon, right?" The old man winked, indicating he was not being serious. "Well, Link, as nice of a name as that is, it doesn't quite answer my question: what are you? And I have another one: what do you want?"

"You talk as much as Kariko." Link smiled. "I'm your future self. I'm not a ghost, it's just that my body is still in the future."

"Oh? Really? Well, you do seem familiar, and expectations aside, I would normally have attacked you and trapped you in a bottle without a second thought except that I was just so certain you weren't a threat... except maybe to my food. Future self, eh? Let's say I'll believe that. Hylian blood seems to be running a bit thin in your time, doesn't it? Your ears are minuscule, they almost look human."

Link didn't know what to answer to that, so he changed the subject to matters more pressing to him.

"Zelda and I need food, and the guards are looking for us…" He started.

"Ah, so you DO want food." The old Link said. "The Princess is wanted by the guards as well? What did you two do? Elope?"

"Zelda is not a princess. We don't have kings anymore." Link said, trying to give as little away as possible: he was pretty sure that describing Hyrule in details to any of his past selves would just depress them. "And... yeah. I'm looking for food. Sorry."

Link had no idea what 'elope' meant, so he ignored that question.

The old man laughed.

"There is no need to apologize." He said cordially. "I was never wanted, so I just bought food in the nearest town or village when I needed some. Money was never exactly a problem: Ganon was paying his monsters in rupees and they don't use banks." He winked.

"Oh. Err... hey, yeah." Link said, completely embarrassed. His old self looked so content and happy, and was so friendly, that Link felt bad for still being miserable.

"But I wonder..." His past self said, not seeming to mind his gloomy companion at all, " will you take it back with you? You can't touch things, can you? Seeing you're standing in a chair?"

Link looked down and although he was just a spirit, he still felt his cheeks flaring up in embarrassment. He hurriedly took a step back from the chair he had indeed been standing through.

"I can bring stuff back." He said. "I didn't think I could, but someone showed me how."

"Alright then, let's see what you need. You can have some of this, hold on I'll get you a bowl or something..." He got up, went into the next room and came back with a big bowl.

"Here, let's put some potatoes at the bottom..." He scooped up the white stuff Link had spotted, then a bunch of different vegetables. "... and some vegetables, you DO eat them, right? Of course you do, you're almost an, a cuckoo, I'm sure at least one would have ended up as leftovers anyway..." He plucked a roasted cuckoo and deposited it on top of the pureed potatoes and of the vegetables. "... and I'll put in a few fruits, too. Apples and pears okay?" He dumped two red apples and two perfect pears next to the chicken and put the bowl in front of Link, who was staring at it with his mouth opened. He would have been drooling if not for the fact he had no saliva.

"We... don't need THAT much." He said.

"Don't be silly." The old man said, waving the objection aside. "There are two of you and I bet you're both almost starved. Now that I've got a good look at you, I don't think you're half of a runaway couple. You look terrified. There's something much worse than guards after the two of you, isn't there? And you've been on the run for a while already, judging by how skinny you are."

Link looked down at himself. He didn't think he was skinnier than usual.

"Anyway," The old Link continued, "if you do get too full, keep the fruits for tomorrow, they'll keep, even though the rest won't. Which reminds me, stay here a bit longer."

Link was so busy staring at the food that he was rooted to the spot anyway, so he waited. His past self was back into the kitchen, and he came back out a few moments later with a bag that he put on top of the bowl.

"What's that?" Link asked.

"Travel food." The old man replied. "Dried meat, nuts, dried fruits, dried cookies, and I threw in a pouch of water, although I do hope you already have at least one of those. There should be enough food in there for about a week. Oh, and before I forget..."

He was off again before Link could say anything, this time to the upper floor. He came back a few moments later, with a solid looking sheath. He walked right up to Link and held it next to his wrapped sword: it was a bit longer than necessary. The old Link shrugged and put the sheath on top of the bag anyway.

"It's better than that rag you're using now. I hope your sword is alright, I don't have a spare one to give you. I don't have a shield anymore, either. Sorry."

Link was alternatively staring at the pile of presents and at his past self, completely in shock.

"I... err... thank you!" Link was looking for a stronger expression, but couldn't find one. "Thank you so much! I... you don't have to give me all that, I just wanted one meal!"

"You're welcome, and trust me, you'll be looking for more supplies before you're done with... are you fighting Ganon again? I only managed to seal him. I'm really sorry if that's who you're fighting, I tried to get rid of him, but..."

The old Link trailed off, looking at the pile he already had gathered. He had lost his smile and looked very guilty.

"Anything else you could use?" He asked.

Link shook his head vigorously.

"No. Thank you." Link first thought of lying about Ganon, but didn't think the old Link would fall for it. "And it's not your fault for Ganon." He said instead. "Nobody can get rid of him for good."

"Well... I hope this helps you get rid of him for a while." The old man said, smiling again. "You better be off, you'll scare my guests and they'll be here any minute."

Link nodded, said thank you again, and wrapped his arms around the pile in front of him. He closed his eyes, concentrated, and almost immediately fell the bowl, bag and sheath materialize in his arms. He opened his eyes and grinned: Zelda was staring at all the stuff open mouthed and couldn't seem to say anything.

It was only after they had polished off all the fresh food except for the apples, which they decided to save for later, that Zelda, looking at all the stuff Link had brought back, suddenly thought that they would save a lot of time simply by getting the pendants in the past as well, as soon as a past Hero had used them to secure the sword and before they went back to the palaces, assuming that didn't happen in the same instant.

"Link, would you mind doing another trip?" She asked.

Link yawned, stretched, and shook his head pleasantly.

"I was just thinking..." She started. She then explained her idea.

Link smacked his forehead.

"I can't believe I didn't think of that! I even said I could have got the medallions like that, remember? And I thought of the Master Sword, too!" He groaned in irritation at himself. "I'll be right back!"

He was already lying down after his meal, so Link didn't fall, but his body went limp for a few seconds, before he stiffened up and sat up, looking at his hands with a smile that quickly vanished: they were empty.

"That's weird..." He said, frowning slightly. "... He had the sword, so he let me take them… Why didn't it work? Hold on, I'll try again. Maybe I wasn't thinking hard enough of bringing them back"

He flopped back, his spirit having left its time and body again. He sat back up a second later, his hands still empty.

"Farore!" He cried out. "Din-blasted things! Why isn't it working? I KNOW I did it right! They should be here! Urgh!"

He got up and started pacing angrily around, shooting Zelda looks that meant she was supposed to figure this out. She tutted at him, but the explanation came to her almost immediately, irritatingly making Link right to expect her to figure it out. She sighed.

"It's because they are already here." She said.

"I didn't try to bring the Courage one back! Just the other two! THEY're not here!"

"It doesn't matter that we don't have them yet." Zelda explained. "They're still already in this time. I didn't mean 'here' as a place, I meant 'here' as a time."

"Oh. But…" Link said, but he couldn't think of anything else to say.

"But it's a pain." Zelda said bitterly.

"Yeah." Link sighed. He slumped back down. "So, where do we go now?"

"We need to head south west." Zelda said. "Unless you want to go to Death Mountain first?"

Link goggled at her.

"No." He said, sounding like it should have been obvious.

"Well then." She said, forcing herself to get up although her full stomach made her long for a nap, "let's get going, alright? We'll digest better walking."

Link got back up and tried to stuff the wrapped sword in the sheath, without success: the fabric made the sword much too wide. He eyed it wearily, knowing he had to unwrap it and remembering quite well that getting his hands cut off had hurt a lot. He swallowed.

Zelda hesitated a second, debating whether to unwrap the sword for him and save time or to let him do it himself to help him get over his fear. She was about to just take the sword and do it herself when Link started unwrapping it, very slowly and carefully. She felt her chest swell in pride and smiled in spite of herself. Link didn't notice and although it took him a while, he eventually had the blade naked again, for a split second before he stuffed it hurriedly into the sheath. The sheath had a belt attached to it, which Link tied around his waist. The belt was so long that it actually went twice around him and there was still a lot of it hanging out. The only reason Link didn't run out of holes was that the belt was made of woven leather strips and therefore, had holes down its whole length.

"You're amazing, sometimes." Zelda said.

Link blinked at her. He thought he was pretty pathetic to take so long to unwrap a sword, himself. Not to mention he had almost given in to the temptation of getting her to do it.

"What, for taking forever to unwrap a sword?" He asked.

"I was sure I'd have to do it for you." Zelda explained.

Link shrugged and smiled at the same time, managing to look proud, thankful and embarrassed all at once. Zelda got up and they set off south-west, towards the desert.

Ten days later, their provisions were gone and they were back to subsisting on field berries and the occasional critter. Neither of them was particularly keen on Link going to beg for food to one of his past selves again, so they had agreed to put it off as long as they could.

The nightly screams were still down to about one occurrence a night, and still distant, but they had started to grow steadily nearer. Zelda had asked Link whether he had noticed, hoping he would tell her she was imagining things, but he had noticed too.

They stopped for the night within sight of the rocky hill that, according to their ancestral map, marked the border of the desert. They settled in a little glade of trees and Link took first turn staying awake. He still had nightmares almost every night, and the longer they were on the road without making concrete progress, the worse they were getting, so he was in no hurry to go to sleep. He sat down to at least rest his legs and next to him, Zelda lied down.

He was killing time by looking at Zelda's sleeping form when he heard the footsteps. He froze, thinking he ought to get up and check it out, and at first, completely unable to do so. He eventually managed to get up and, hiding behind a tree, took a look towards where the footsteps where coming from. In the darkness, he could just make out a huge, vaguely human form, walking and looking around, as if searching for something.

Many thoughts jumbled into his head as he recognized Ganon's form. He should wake Zelda up so they could flee. He should not wake her up so she didn't gasp in surprise and betray them. He should wake her up so she didn't start making noise in her sleep. He should run. He should stay. Ganon was walking away from them, but was he turning around? It was hard to say in the darkness. Ganon's form stopped. Link thought he heard some sniffing and crouched to hide behind the tree better, hoping the trunk would help stop his smell. Ganon's head turned in his direction and Link saw his eyes shine.

Then, everything went black.

The scream, high pitched and very, very close, woke him up. He jumped to his feet and looked around frantically for Zelda. She was sitting, wide eyed, listening, and thankfully, alive and well.

He tiptoed to her and kneeled down.

"Nayru!" He breathed. "I thought that was you for a second!"

"What?" Zelda mouthed. "Couldn't you see...? You didn't fall asleep, did you?" Even though her voice was less than a whisper, it still sounded angry.

Link looked down, deeply ashamed.

"I saw Ganon." He breathed. "Over there." He added, pointing in the appropriate direction. "He looked this way and I... I..."

"He was here?" Zelda whispered. Even in the darkness, Link could see the blood had suddenly drained from her face. "How could you fall asleep with him close enough to..." She stopped, finally figuring out Link had not exactly fallen asleep.

"You fainted." She sighed.

Link nodded miserably.

"I'm so sorry." He whispered, choking up on the words. "I can't believe I did that... if he had seen me..."

"We would both be dead." Zelda whispered. "But he didn't. It's no good dwelling on it. Try to sleep, it's my turn to stay awake. Besides, I want to think."

Link nodded and lied down, miserable and feeling he didn't deserve to be alive, and certainly not to sleep. Nevertheless, he drifted off in seconds. Zelda promptly gagged him so he wouldn't make noise when he started dreaming.

She shook him awake when the sun rose, after undoing his gag. She was glad she had put it on, Link having mumbled and moaned through it most of the night.

"I think we are safe for now." She said. "Ganon is never out during the day."

"I'm really, really sorry." Link replied.

Zelda sighed.

"You're really terrified of him, aren't you?" She said. "More than of anything else?"

Link nodded. He saw no point denying it. In fact he would have thought it was obvious.

"You know, I'm afraid of closed spaces." Zelda said. She wanted to make Link feel less inadequate by letting him know he was not the only one with irrational fears. "I hated the shop. I noticed you were looking at the windows a lot that day I kept staring at you. I do that too."

"I don't mind that I'm afraid of him." Link said. "It's just... I passed out! He could have killed both of us! Just because I couldn't deal with..."

"…Sheer terror." Zelda cut him off. "You're not afraid of him, Link. You're terrified. Have you noticed that your voice trembles whenever you talk about him, or when someone else does? You're shaking right now, just at the memory of last night."

Link did not reply. He was still sitting, hugging his own knees, his face buried between his arms, shaking like a leaf. Zelda kneeled in front of him and put her hand on one of his arms.

"Link." She said gently. "It's alright. After what happened last time you met him..."

"You don't know what happened." Link interrupted her bitterly.

"Tell me." Zelda asked, after taking a deep breath. She didn't want to know and making the request had taken all her willpower. "It might help you deal with it."

Link snorted derisively.

"Link, you need to get past what happened if you're going to face Ganon again. As you are now, you'll just be paralyzed in front of him." Zelda said, still straining against her true wishes to get the words out. "Tell me. Please."

Link peered up at her, frowning.

"Ganon had fun." He said. "He made me pay for all the times before, and he was laughing his head off the whole time."

Zelda thought of reminding him that he wasn't actually talking about something that happened to him, just to his past life, but thought better of it: she didn't want to change subject or get into an argument, and if Link felt it had happened to him, it didn't really matter that it technically had not.

"I had four fairies and two blue potions." Link continued. "The blue potions were some kind of magic juice that made you better if you were hurt or tired."

Zelda nodded. She had heard of such elixirs.

"And fairies bring you back to life, good as new." Link said bitterly.

Zelda's eyes widened.

"You mean they're for real? Fairies really exist and they really revive people?" She said.

"They did back then." Link growled. "Din-blasted little demons! I had four!"

"But then, didn't they revive..." Zelda's eyes opened wider, this time in horror. She gasped and covered her mouth with her hands.

"Of course they did." Link sneered. "Four times. They don't care if there's any point to it or not. If they're around, they do it."

"I... I'm sorry. And Ganon, I bet he just got angrier each time, didn't he?"

Link barked a laugh that did not sound merry at all. He then related the whole battle to her, in every detail he could remember. He started out practically shouting, but by the time he got to the part about the Master Sword bouncing off Ganon's skin, his voice was barely a whisper. Zelda was white as snow, looking completely horrified. He felt much the same way, but he couldn't stop.

"That's when he told me the Master Sword couldn't hurt him." He continued. "That's when I realized I couldn't win. I tried stabbing him a couple more times, but after that, I just... gave up. I didn't even try to run away, I just let him kill me."

Link was now speaking so softly that Zelda barely heard the last part.

"Do you think it will be the same this time?" Zelda asked softly. For her own part, she refused to believe that it might, but if that was how Link felt, she wanted to know.

"Goddess! No." Link said, his voice coming back to normal. "I won't have any fairies, and you're going to figure out how to make the Master Sword work."

"So, he'll never be able to hurt you that much again." Zelda said.

Link took a while to answer.

"No." He finally said. "But if I lose, everybody else..." He trailed off. If he lost, Hyrule would stay in Ganon's grasp, and he couldn't be sure he would be reborn right away. Ever since he had realized who he was, he had been entertaining the thought that if he got himself killed, he'd at least be likely to be reborn as someone more hero-like: after all, he could hardly be even worse suited to fight Ganon than he was now. The thought had been somewhat reassuring, but now that he had met some of his past selves and spent a bit more time actively worrying about fighting Ganon, he had found himself wondering why he had not been reborn sooner after his defeat, and more importantly, wondering whether it might take that long again if he lost a second time. "What if I lose and I'm not reborn right away? What if it takes hundreds of years again? Ganon would have all that time to kill people!"

"Don't lose, then." Zelda said. "I told you historians thought there were at least 20 heroes, right? Well, the score stands at 1 to at least 19 in your favour. I'd say you have a pretty good chance if we don't mess up."

Link sniggered.

"I guess so." He said, smiling. "And I can ask my past selves for advice, too! Hey..." He punched the palm of his hand, having just thought of something. "I can ask them how to get the Master Sword to work!"

"Let's concentrate on GETTING the Master Sword first." Zelda said. "We should try not to get too sidetracked." In truth, she was afraid Link's past self would reveal he needed some kind of magical artefact that would turn out to be difficult to find and she didn't want to know about any future difficulties until they were over the current ones. Now that Link was feeling better, her mind went right back to worrying about said current difficulties.

Link nodded.

"Want to get going? Hey, what's wrong?" He asked, noticing Zelda was suddenly looking sombre.

"I wasn't sure until last night, but now I am. Ganon has been getting progressively closer. He's chasing us, and now he's caught up."

"You think he's still going to be here tomorrow night?" Link asked, his voice trembling.

"Yes." Zelda confirmed. "We could try to fool him and head to Death Mountain first." She suggested.

"But we're almost to the desert!" Link protested. "You keep saying we wasted time going to the Eastern Palace first, that we should have come here first after all! We can't go all the way to Death Mountain and then all the way back here! That would take almost a whole month!"

Zelda nodded grimly. She didn't much like the idea of the detour either, even if she had felt the need to share it with Link.

"Did you say he looked towards us last night?" She asked. She was grasping at straws and she knew it, but she really needed reassurance right now, and if straw was all she had, she'd take it.

"Yes." Link said. "I thought for sure he was going to see me. That's when I..." He blushed, looked down and didn't finish.

"Even if he didn't see you, he must have seen these trees." Zelda mused. "And he obviously didn't bother to make sure we weren't hiding there."

Link raised his eyebrows.

"That's... weird." He said. "Why not? What's the point of following us and not look for us?"

"He might be trying to cover a lot of ground." Zelda said, thinking out loud. "But what good is it if he's going to be that sloppy? It's almost as if he's not trying very hard. As if he wants to find us, but he doesn't want to bother to really search for us. Oh, Nayru!" She suddenly gasped.


"He doesn't NEED to search for us!" Zelda blurted out, grabbing Link's shoulders. "If he knows we are around here, it's because he knows we're after the pendant! He can just set a trap for us at the Desert Palace! He wasn't looking for us last night, he was just... hunting! He was just looking for someone to kill, anyone!"

Link's eyes widened.

"A t…trap? We… we can't go there! Ganon wants us dead! It's too dangerous!"

Zelda forced herself to frown. She didn't want to walk into a trap any more than Link did.

"We need the pendant." She made herself say. "We'll have to be careful, that's all we can do."

"I know we need it!" Link moaned. "But..." He trailed off, unable to think of any counter argument.

"Exactly." Zelda said. "Let's get going."

Without waiting for an answer, she picked up her bag and set off towards the desert. Link sighed, picked up the two water pouches (he was carrying Zelda's as well as in own), put on his sheath and sword and followed.

They entered the desert towards the end of the day and started to walk along the mountain wall surrounding it, looking for a cavern to hide in, with a narrow opening Ganon would not be able to squeeze in. They found one as the sun was setting and crawled in, both extremely uncomfortable as they went through the narrow opening. Thankfully, the cavern got much wider a few paces in, the ceiling climbing to more than twice their height and the walls receding far enough away for the chamber to be about the size of Zelda's old living room. They could see all this because the cavern was home to countless fireflies, buzzing near the ceiling.

"You're not afraid of insects, are you?" Zelda asked Link.

"Nope." Link replied with a smile. "I'm glad those guys are here: it would be way too dark if they weren't."

"We probably wouldn't even have been able to tell how big this chamber was." Zelda agreed. "I'd probably be convinced that the walls were caving in on us within an hour."

Link shuddered and said nothing. He guessed he would have lasted all of 30 seconds before screaming in panic if the cave hadn't turned out to be large and reasonably lit.

The following day was dedicated to searching the desert for the palace. They found it around midday, or rather, they found what was left of it: the remains of a huge statue with a half caved in opening for a mouth.

"These 'wonders' sure didn't hold up that well." Link remarked, eyeing what was left of the opening warily. He knew he had to go in to find the pendant, and although he had managed to spend the night in a cave, he absolutely did not want to crawl into a collapsed door to a collapsing building. Therefore, he was trying to kill some time. "Did you hear any screams last night?"

"No." Zelda answered. "We weren't likely to hear anything from inside a cave with such a small opening."

"Yeah, I guess not." Link said, fishing for something else to say. "I should get some food!" He said suddenly, his hunger reminding him of the perfect excuse to delay going into the Desert Palace.

Zelda rolled her eyes, but didn't protest. Link chose to interpret that as a blessing and sat down. He closed his eyes and concentrated on one of his past self buying some food. He was too embarrassed to go back to the overly generous old Link.

Link sagged and a few seconds later, bags of food and two covered trays materialized in his hands. He got up with a disgusted expression on his face.

"What's wrong?" Zelda asked.

"Nothing." He sighed. "It's just… he already had the Master Sword, and he was trying to spend money because his wallet was too full! And WE have to beg for food! He had this backpack full of stuff and a leather raincoat on, and we have NOTHING! Not even something to keep us dry when it rains! We'd have to beg for that, too! And he can just walk around in any town he wants, too! HE's not wanted!"

After getting that off his chest, Link stopped for breath and continued in a calmer tone.

"So anyway, he thought I was some kind of crazy ghost and that I needed food to move on, so he bought all that stuff for me. Nice guy, actually."

Zelda smiled indulgently, feeling a bit jealous herself. She would have loved to be able to meet all those past heroes and to see the past, like Link.

Once they had eaten, Link was out of excuses and grudgingly, he started digging out the collapsed entrance, with Zelda's help. They had only barely started when they felt the ground shaking and were thrown aside. Link heard Zelda cry out somewhere to his left, but the sound did not quite register with his consciousness, which was completely overcome by the sight of what had caused the ground to shake and swell, and was now coming straight at him.

It was a worm, shining as if its whole body was made of polished metal, and about the same size as a very big tree. Link was still sitting where he had landed, and started pushing himself back with his hands and feet. The worm lunged at him and Link, although he had not been aware he had unsheathed his sword, swung it at the beast desperately. It bounced off the monster's hard skin, causing it no harm whatsoever, but thankfully pushing it back a little.

Link was not afraid of bugs, but a worm that big was not a bug: it was a monster. Link fought the temptation to curl up in a ball and cry. Instead, he got to his feet and swung the blade again just in time to avoid the worm swallowing him whole. He caught the inside of the monster's mouth with his sword.

The creature reeled back, squirming as if in pain although no sound came out of it. Blood was dripping out of its mouth, and for a glorious second, Link thought it may be enough to make the worm flee.

It wasn't, and the worm attacked again, plunging towards Link head first. Link waited until the mouth of the monster was opened wide right in front of him and swung his sword upward.

The blade went through the roof of the creature's mouth before Link quickly pulled it back. The worm jumped away, swinging its head madly.

It attacked again, the same way as before. Link thanked the Goddesses for the monster's dumbness and swung his sword towards the bottom of the creature's mouth, with as much success as before: the blade sank through the bottom jaw of the monster and the beast squirmed wildly. Link just managed to get his sword back from the trashing worm and he had to back away quickly to avoid being hit by the tail. After a few moments, the beast slowed and stopped. To Link's amazement, it crumbled into sand, rejoining the desert.

Link collapsed on his knees, his teeth shattering and the rest of his body shaking badly. Monsters were bad enough, he could have done without it turning into sand. He felt like he was going to pass out again, he even wanted to. It seemed like everything would be all better if his mind just took a little break. When he came to, he might even be able to believe the worm had been a nightmare. He was staring at the sand, wondering if he hadn't imagined killing the monster after being eaten by it: it seemed more likely than his having defeated a giant worm with invincible skin.

Zelda's voice brought him back to reality. She was lying next to him, her hand on his thigh.

"It's okay." She was saying. "It's gone. You got it. You were stronger than it was."

Link shook his head, his eyes unfocused. Zelda patted his leg a bit.

"No." He said in a far-off voice, as though his thoughts were still not quite re-ordered yet. "I wasn't stronger, it was just dumb. It kept coming at me with its mouth wide opened... so it IS gone? I actually beat it?" He asked, his eyes finally refocusing and his voice sounding more normal, if a bit awestruck.

"Yes." She said, smiling. "I saw your sword go through the roof of its mouth. He must have been right on top of you." She had been about to point out that if his sword could poke out of its skin, that skin couldn't be as strong on the head as on the rest of the body and just aiming at the head would have worked as well as the more dangerous strategy of aiming for the inside of the mouth, but she decided not to.

Link nodded slowly.

"Are you okay?" He asked, suddenly vaguely remembering she had screamed after they had been projected into the air by the emerging worm.

"Not quite." Zelda sighed. "I hurt my ankle and I can't walk. I crawled here from where I fell." She said, pointing behind her.

"You can't walk?" Link said, his eyes wide. "Oh no..." He moaned. "It's going to take forever to get to Death Mountain If I'm carrying you!"

"Go get the pendant." Zelda said. "We'll think about what to do next after."

Link sighed, got up and went back to the crumbled entrance.

"You think that was the trap? The worm?" He asked before he started digging again.

"It had to be a trap." Zelda answered. "There's no way this thing was natural. I just hope it's the ONLY one."

Link sagged a bit.

"There's nothing for it." Zelda reminded him. "Just dig. We still need to find a hiding place before the night."

Link sighed and started digging. He started talking at the same time to keep his mind off the possibility of another monster jumping out of the sand at him.

"I don't understand." he said. "If Ganon was here, why didn't he just take the pendant? That way, I'd never get it and I'd never get the Master Sword."

"I don't know." Zelda answered truthfully. "He might have, yet."

The possibility had been bothering her since the previous morning, when they had determined that Ganon was around and probably headed for the Desert Palace.

"All right!" Link said, pulling a chest right from behind the door, smiling broadly.

He opened it and, grinning, pulled the pendant out and turned to show it to Zelda.

"He didn't take it! And that worm WAS the only trap!" He said. "Maybe he's just stupid. What do you think?"

"No." Zelda said. "He isn't. Don't think that for a second."

"What am I supposed to think? He knows I need that pendant, and he comes all the way here, and he doesn't take it!"

"Well first, like you said, he somehow knows we're after the pendants. How could he have guessed I'd be able to read that altar? Nobody speaks Hylian anymore, except for a few people like me who study it so they can read older texts. I think he put a spell on the pendants when he had them way back when, just so he'd know the next time a Hero started collecting them. That's not the kind of things an idiot does."

"So, he's going to know we just got this pendant." Link said.

"Yes." Zelda replied. "It could even be the only reason he didn't take it. He might have wanted to know for sure that's the one we got next. Now, he knows where we are and where we are going."

Link didn't reply. He was looking deathly pale.

"But to be honest, I don't think that's why he didn't take it." Zelda continued.

"Me neither. I don't like that he knows where we are, but it's still better than if he took the pendant." His voice was almost normal, which Zelda found encouraging.

"I'm sure there IS a reason, though." She said. "Maybe the pendants, after he used them to kill the last Hero quicker by letting him bypass the usual requirements to get the Master Sword, developed a magical protection against him and he can't take them anymore. Or maybe nobody can unless they intend to bring them to the altar where the Master Sword is. Maybe they just automatically come back to the temples as soon as they're gone, unless the person who has them intends to use them to get the Master Sword."

"Maybe." Link agreed. "But then, are you sure he knows where we are and where we're going to go next?"

"Probably." Zelda answered regretfully. "We'll need to make a detour to lose him."

Link sighed.

"How's your ankle?" He asked. "If we make a detour, it's going to take even longer to get to Death Mountain."

Zelda gingerly sat up and lifted her skirt a little to look at her ankle. She winced: it looked even worse than it felt. She looked up at Link, who was staring at her ankle with a sort of resigned look on his face.

"There is no way you can carry me around all over the place and up Death Mountain." Zelda said.

Link blinked.

"It's not like we have a choice. I can't leave you here."

"Well, no. Not RIGHT here, anyway." She said. "But you need to leave me somewhere, and the closer the better so that you can get on your way."

Link spent the next several minutes telling her there was no way he was going to just leave her alone somewhere when she couldn't even walk, and that besides, he needed her help to get the last pendant. Zelda patiently waited until he was done ranting on the subject.

"I'd slow you down way too much. Don't you think even one victim a night is too much? Don't you want to get rid of Ganon as soon as possible?"

"Well..." Link stammered. "Yes, but... I can't leave you, it's too dangerous! And I need your help!" He repeated for the tenth time.

"You don't need my help to get the pendant. You could have gotten these two just as easily without me." Zelda said. "We'll look at the map together, but once we figure out which way you should go, I'll only be dead weight."

"How am I going to get all the way there without someone watching out when I'm sleeping?" Link asked angrily, once again repeating part of his earlier rant. "Who's going to tell me what's going on if something weird happens? Who's going to figure out how to even GET on Death Mountain, and to that Tower? And what you going to eat?"

Zelda had closed her eyes, trying to hold back tears. She didn't want to separate either. They did not, however, have a choice.

"We are all the way back West now, so the Lost Woods are probably only a day or two away." She said, her voice cracking a bit. "Let's go there and see how my ankle is by that time."

"Fine." Link said, still sounding angry. He picked her up, surprisingly gently, and started walking back towards the entrance to the desert.

Chapter Text

A few quick notes:

1. This story is rated T due to some very violent content.

2. The story is actually completed, and I intend to post a new chapter weekly.

3. I don't own any Legend of Zelda character or setting. I'm just borrowing them and I hope Nintendo won't mind too much.

4. Thank you so much for reading!

Chapter 11: The Pendant of Power

Link wasn't talking, afraid he'd yell at Zelda for her injury and knowing, even now that he was so furious with her, that he wasn't being fair. It wasn't like she had injured herself on purpose, or like she had been careless. She had been thrown in the air by a giant worm and landed badly, that was all. It was only bad luck, and no fault of hers; besides, she was the one in pain, and it would have been really low to pick on her at that point.

His arms quickly got tired of carrying her in a cradle position, and his neck was getting tired of his efforts not to look her in the face and to keep her out of his field of vision, while still seeing the ground in front of him so he wouldn't trip on a rock. He put her down.

"Can you get on my back?" He asked, crouching in front of her, with his back to her, without waiting for an answer.

Zelda carefully got to her knees and wrapped her arms around his shoulders. He secured her legs with his arms, got up with some effort, and started walking again, still not saying a word. Zelda frowned at the back of his head.

"I said I was sorry!" She said bitterly.

"I know." Link replied.

"Look, I'd rather you yell at me and get it out of your system than not talk to me for days."

"I don't WANT to yell at you!" Link hissed. "You didn't do anything wrong!"

"So yell at the sand, or the sky, whatever you want! You're making me feel a lot worse being quiet and seething like that than you ever could if you just let it out!" Zelda begged.

Link sighed, stopped, put her down and turned towards her.

"I can't even believe I'm still alive!" He growled. "That worm was trying to EAT ME!" He stopped, aware that his tone was rising. Zelda gestured him to continue.

"And now, you say Ganon knows where we are, and where we're going!" He took a deep breath, determined not to yell, especially since he had already complained about the rest before.

"And you want me to go to Death Mountain alone? Din-blasted DEATH MOUNTAIN? If Ganon left that worm here, I bet he put a whole bunch of monsters on the mountain, AND on the way there! I bet I'm always going to be running away from them! And forget about sleeping: they'd get me for sure! I can't stay awake that long! Death Mountain is at least 15 days away! And what about food?"

He stopped, apparently waiting for an answer. Zelda obliged.

"You'll have to hide as well as you can and sleep." She said. "As for food, you can always go into the past."

"Okay, maybe you're right and I CAN go there alone. But what about you? You can't even walk! What are you going to do? I can give you the travel food, but what are you going to drink? Our two water pouches won't last that long! And how are you going to hide to sleep? If I leave, you're going to die. I can't do that!"

Zelda sighed.

"Let's go the Lost Woods." She said, repeating her earlier advice. "We'll try to think of something on the way there."

"Argh!" Link yelled. "There is nothing to think about! We have to stay together!"

"Maybe the Deku Tree knows of a safe place for me to wait for you." Zelda said. "If we cannot figure out how to safely separate, we won't. I promise."

"Really?" Link asked, looking a bit calmer already.

"Really." Zelda said. "I don't WANT to die, you know. Besides, I think you'll still need me before the end."

Link relaxed.

"Alright." He said.

He crouched in front of her again and helped her on his back.

They slept in the same cave they had the night before. By the following morning, Zelda's ankle looked even worse than before. Link helped her on his back and they set off towards the entrance of the desert.

They were within view of the gap in the mountains that would lead them back in Hyrule Fields when Link stopped in front of a cave with a wide entrance.

"What's wrong?" Zelda asked.

"Nothing." Link replied. "That cave just…" he paused, not knowing how to explain himself. "It's like it's calling to me." He finally said.

Zelda twisted herself to try and look inside the cave, but it was too dark in there to see anything.

"Your instincts have always led us right." She said. "Maybe you should take a look. Who knows, maybe there's something in there that you need. Just be ready to run."

Link laughed.

"I'm always ready to do that." He said mockingly.

Despite saying that, he felt no danger whatsoever from the cave, and he walked in without the slightest worry.

Once inside, shaded from the harsh light of the desert, they both saw another light source, within the cave itself. Link walked towards it and they soon found themselves in front of an opening set on the back wall of the cave. On the other side of the opening was a forest.

"This isn't possible." Zelda said. "We're facing east. Even if the mountain was very thin here, we'd be seeing the fields, not a forest."

Link, who had turned his head to look at her while she was talking, looked back at the opening and gasped.

"It changed!" He exclaimed.

Zelda's eyes widened. She closed her eyes, to see for herself. When she opened them again, the forest they could see through the opening looked completely unfamiliar.

"The Lost Woods…" She said.

"We can't be there yet, can we?" Link asked. "You don't think it's a trick, do you?"

"It was calling to you. I don't think Ganon could pull off something that convincing."

"But why would the Lost Woods be calling me?"

"I don't know, but they always have, haven't they? You've never been afraid of them, and you ran straight there when you ran away. You feel completely safe in them, even though legend has it that most people who dare to enter run back out in sheer terror."

"So you think that's really the Lost Woods?" Link asked.

"Yes. It has to be." Zelda said. "I don't know how it's possible, because they don't stretch all the way to the East of the Desert - they stop at least a day's walk north of here – but that's obviously the Lost Woods through this door. I mean… look at it! It can't be anything else!"

Link was mainly asking because he thought he would have been foolish to do what felt right and just walk right through the opening without checking with Zelda first. Now that he had her blessing, he walked through the opening without so much as a hesitation.

Once in the forest, there was no way to have any more doubt that they were indeed in the Lost Woods. Each time they blinked, their surroundings looked completely new again.

Zelda spent the next little while thinking aloud on how this could be possible. Link let her babble, but he didn't really care about the how: he was just happy they had shaved at least a day off their trip.

Finding the Deku Tree again was a little bit more difficult. Link first headed for the Master Sword, finding the far end of the corridor within an hour, but neither of them could remember how far back towards their mapped exit they had camped the night they had been attacked, so they had to go very slowly towards that exit, examining, and sometimes calling out, to every big tree they saw on the way. They had hoped the turned-to-stone-monsters would make it easy, but there were none to be seen: the forest had consumed them completely.

They got all the way to the edge of the forest without finding the tree, and they both started wondering if they had dreamed the whole incident. Link asked Zelda if she remembered it too, and she replied that she had been about to ask the same thing. Working on the assumption they were not both crazy, they turned around and started walking back towards the Master Sword. They stopped by every big tree and talked to each for several minutes.

Until, finally, one talked back. Link had been telling a tree that they really needed some advice and that he was really tired of carrying Zelda around the forest and that he really wished the Deku Tree wasn't so hard to find, and suddenly, knots and branches on the trunk of the tree had looked just like a face, of which the mouth moved as the tree talked.

"I'm sorry you had such trouble finding me, Hero." It said kindly. "Although I don't see why you did."

Link almost dropped Zelda in surprise. He deposited her on the ground with a sigh of relief and smiled at the tree.

"Why we were looking for you?" He asked. "Like I said, we need some advice and... well, we don't know who else to ask." He finished, a bit embarrassed. It seemed like he was the neediest hero ever.

"No, no. I heard you the first time you said that." The Tree said. "I was wondering why you had trouble finding me. Couldn't you see me?"

"Err..." Link said.

"You looked like an ordinary tree until you started talking." Zelda interfered. "It must be part of the magic of the Woods... just like how it always looks different."

It was hard to say whether the Deku Tree's features moved at all, other than his mouth opening, but he still somehow looked astonished.

"Are you telling me the Lost Woods' magic is affecting you?" It asked. "Oh dear... how do you find your way around at all?"

"We drew a map and Link's instincts can take him to the Master Sword." Zelda replied thoughtfully. "Do you mean that the magic should not affect us?"

"It shouldn't affect the Hero." The Deku Tree explained. "The Lost Woods are an ally to the Hero: the magic should not be fully effective on him. Past heroes only reported finding the forest big and maze-like, none of them ever suffered the complete confusion everyone else suffers. But it WAS reinforced..." The tree trailed off.

"Because of Ganon?" Zelda asked. "Because he found the Master Sword once, and left the pendants there so that the Hero would face him unprepared?"

"Yes." The Deku Tree answered. "Ganon's magic was stronger than that of the Lost Woods, but he thankfully lost interest in them after defeating the Hero. My ancestors spent centuries strengthening the magic so that even Ganon could not defeat it. He cannot even come IN here anymore. I never imagined that it would also affect you." He said, looking at Link.

"It doesn't matter." Link said, feeling it wasn't fair for the Great Deku Tree to feel bad about their being lost when without him, they would be dead. "We still managed."

"You'll manage better with this." The Tree said.

A leaf detached itself from a branch directly above Link and floated down to him. Link plucked it from the air it and looked at the tree questioningly.

"Go on, try it and look around." The tree instructed.

Link looked quizzically at the tree for a second, then at the leaf, and finally, turned his head this way and that, looking around for something different. It all looked different on the right, as it should. The left was the same, that is, nothing looked familiar at all. He looked to the right again, just in case the leaf took a second to kick in, but it all looked just like it had before. He looked back at the tree and opened his mouth to say that he didn't see any difference, but before he had said a word, his head caught up with his eyes.

His mouth hung opened and he looked back to the left, than to the right. He closed his eyes, then opened them and looked again. It all looked the same. Up to date, he had never been able to so much as blink in the Lost Woods without his surroundings looking completely foreign when he opened his eyes again, and glancing sideways made the view ahead look completely new - the effect was dizzying and Link had trained himself not to glance sideways.

"Link?" Zelda called from the forest floor.

"It's not changing anymore..." He whispered in an awed voice.

Zelda's eyes widened.

"You're immune to the magic!" She exclaimed. "That's perfect! We can move a lot faster without checking our maps, and we can exit anywhere instead of always in the same spot! And the Lost Woods extend far to the North, almost all the way to Death Mountain! It will be a lot safer for you in here!

"This is great!" Link said, beaming at the tree. "Thanks!"

"You are welcome. It is my fault you needed it in the first place. And what advice were you seeking?" The tree asked.

"I injured my ankle and I can't walk." Zelda answered. "Link needs to go to the Tower of Hera on Death Mountain, but I don't think he should carry me all the way there and he doesn't think it's wise to leave me behind."

"You will be safe in my branches." The Deku Tree answered. "You would be well hidden and even if Ganon's minions were to find you, they would not be able to bring me down."

"The thing is," Link said. "Death Mountain is really far. I'd be gone for at least 30 days. She's going to run out of water, and maybe of food, too."

"I don't think I can climb, either." Zelda said with a sigh.

The Deku Tree did not answer. Instead, with a noise of strained wood, he lowered a long, high branch all the way to the ground right in front of her.

"I realized that." The Deku Tree said, sounding insulted. "And you, Hero, do you think I do not know how far Death Mountain is? Even if you did have to take the long way there, I would take care of the Princess until you came back. She would not go hungry or thirsty."

"The 'long' way? You mean there's a short way?" Link asked.

"Not all the way." The Deku Tree said, his tone once again kindly. "As I've told you, the Lost Woods are meant to be your allies. One of the ways they can help you is by providing you with shortcuts to many distant locations: in this case, to Death Mountain. You will find, somewhere in the forest, a door that opens to the ancient city of the Gorons. This city is on Death Mountain itself, although much closer to the base than the Tower of Hera. You will need to climb the rest of the way, but at least you won't have to walk all the way North to Death Mountain. I expect you can be at the Tower before the sun sets."

"There is one of those going to the Desert, too, isn't there?" Zelda asked. "That's what we found! That's how we got back!"

Link did not answer. His eyes had widened and his lips were quivering. Zelda had no trouble guessing what was bothering him.

"Gorons are extinct, Link. There is nothing to worry about." She said.

"We don't know that for sure!" Link complained. "I used to think Moblins and Stalfos weren't real, and they are! It could be the same for the Gorons! A whole city of rock monsters..." Link shivered violently.

"Gorons are no monsters." The Deku Tree intervened. "As for whether there are any of them left, I don't know. Even when they were thriving, they never came into the forest: they have no use for vegetation other than their own crops."

Link looked unconvinced but sighed resignedly. He cast a look at Zelda, who was still sitting with her leg extended, next to the branch the tree had lowered.

"We have a bit of food." He said, talking to the Deku Tree. "I can leave it with her. That would save you a bit of trouble, right?"

"It's no trouble." The tree said. "My sap will keep her safe from thirst and hunger. Keep your food, you will need it more than she will."

Link nodded and cast his mind about for something else to say that would keep him here for a few more moments. He thought of asking whether one of those magic doors went to the Eastern Palace but decided he didn't want to know. He could think of nothing else to say, so he helped Zelda on to the branch.

"Take care." She said.

Link nodded grimly and turned back to the tree.

"Where's that magic door?" He asked.

"You will find it west of here. Good luck, child. The tower is a fortress that has been shrouded in black magic almost since the day it was built. Be careful."

Link swallowed, waved at Zelda, and started walking west.

He was tempted to rush back several times. He had grown accustomed to Zelda's company, and he now felt very alone. He also dearly wished he didn't have to go on Death Mountain and anywhere near a city of rock monsters: the very thought terrified him. He could see it now: he'd find the door, go through and get ran over by a rock monster in boulder form. If he survived that and was lucky enough for the Gorons not to have noticed him (because if he was noticed, he would surely be eaten), he would climb to the summit of Death Mountain, losing a lot of blood and perhaps a limb or two to various monsters along the way, only to find an army of worst monsters waiting for him at the Tower of Hera.

He stopped walking and stood there for a while, shaking and breathing harshly. He closed his eyes and took a few deep breaths, trying to relax. A rock hit him on the shin.

"Ow!" He cried out, rubbing his shin and looking around for where the rock may have come from. There was nothing around but a large, low flower on the ground. Link stared at it: it looked very odd.

Just as he was about to shrug the matter of and get on his way, somewhat grateful that at least, he had stopped shaking, a wooden face with a long snout popped out of the flower and spit another rock at him. Link was still bent in two, rubbing his shin, and that rock got him on the forehead.

He fell backward, momentarily stunned. Another rock hit his leg.

"OW!" He screamed, as much in anger as in pain. He picked up a rock of his own and angrily hurled it at the flower. The thing that had spit the rocks tried to sink back in, but was not quick enough and the rock hit it on the snout. It squealed, popped out of the flower and started running around in all directions, not actually getting anywhere in its panic.

Link was staring at it wide eyed. Now that he had had the chance to get even with it, the shock of what 'it' was had finally registered.

"A Deku Scrub...?" He asked of nobody in particular.

The wooden creature darted close to him, apparently not too sure of what it was running from anymore. Link grabbed it and lifted it in the air, snout pointing away. The creature looked at him sideways, shivering.

"You ARE a Deku Scrub!" Link exclaimed. "It's okay, I won't hurt you! Just don't spit more rocks at me." He added, frowning meaningfully while thinking there wasn't much point talking to the thing, who could surely not speak.

"No hurt!" The creature squeaked.

Link almost dropped it in surprise.

"You let me go and me give you something nice!" The creature begged.

"You don't have to give me... wait. Like what?" He asked, suddenly thinking it wasn't wise to refuse something that could prove useful.

"Anything you want!" The Deku Scrub squeaked. "Leaves! Nuts! Seeds! Fruits! Anything! Please!"

Link sighed. It figured: the poor thing only had stuff it had found in the forest.

"You not lost!" The Deku Scrub continued. "Me find way for you! Magic doors to far away!"

Link's eyes widened. Could the Deku Scrub save him the trouble of looking all over the place for the door he needed?

"You know where the door to Death Mountain is?" He asked.

"Yes! Yes!" The Deku Scrub exclaimed. "But you no hurt me!"

"Deal." Link said, smiling. "Bring me to that door."

He let the Deku Scrub down, dearly hoping the thing wouldn't just take off, but his worries were not justified: the scrub hopped away fairly slowly, and Link could more than easily keep up. Even at the slow pace, they soon found themselves next to a stone archway standing by itself in the middle of a small clearing.

"Door to big mountain!" The Deku Scrub squealed, turning back towards him. "You no hurt me now!"

"I won't." Link promised, smiling down at the little creature. "And you don't spit any more rocks at me."

"Me won't!" It squealed, and then hopped away out of the clearing.

Link, left alone, stared at the doorway. It stood in the middle of nothing, and the inside was black as ink. He walked around it, and the doorway looked the same from the other side.

It really was very dark in there.

Link was trying to decide whether to proceed slowly and carefully or to run for it. He didn't know whether he was very grateful that the Deku Tree had told him about that doorway after all.

Why did it have to be so dark? Link asked himself miserably. It was bad enough that it lead to a city full of rock monsters or, possibly, rock monster ghosts; for crying out loud, it was bad enough that it lead on Death Mountain! Death Mountain, the not quite sleeping volcano crawling with monsters! Why did it have to be pitch black when it was still daytime?

The answer presented itself suddenly, courtesy of Link's past memories, and was anything but a relief: it was dark because the city was INSIDE Death Mountain, and quite possibly caved in.

Link gulped. Up to that moment, he had thought that he'd have to go through some kind of corridor, which happened to be extremely dark, and that he would emerge in an open air city on Death Mountain. The realization that it was the city itself that was completely dark, and the thought that it was inside the mountain and that the roof of it could come crashing down any moment was almost enough to send him back running to the Deku Tree and Zelda to beg not to be made to go there. The only thing that kept him from doing just that was that he knew there was nothing for it, no matter how much he begged: he needed the Master Sword, therefore he needed the last pendant, therefore he HAD to go on Death Mountain, and to save as many people from Ganon as possible, he had to get there as quickly as possible. Therefore, he had to go through that door into the cavern-city of the rock monsters. He could go and beg Zelda and the tree as much as he pleased, he'd still have to go in the end and he would just have wasted a lot of time.

He unsheathed his sword. He then looked at it in surprise, wondering why he had done that. He started to put it back in its sheath, but stopped and took it back out, shrugging. Mere weeks ago, he would have called anybody crazy for suggesting he'd ever feel safer with a naked blade in his hand, but the fact was that he did. He took a deep breath and stepped into the doorway.

As soon as he had stepped in, Link was in complete darkness. He turned his head around, and could see the bright clearing, only a step away, but the brightness did not go past the edge of the door at all, and everything around was completely black.

He whimpered before he could help himself. He frowned at himself, swallowed his saliva, turned his head back forward and away from the only light around, and took another step. His foot landed on a rock, slipped and he almost fell. He cursed and took another, more cautious, step.

He proceeded one cautious step at a time, more and more tempted to turn back and go back to the Lost Woods, until he spotted a bit of light ahead and to the left. He turned that way and kept walking, suddenly wondering if he'd find the way back or if he'd have to walk back to the Lost Woods the long way. He made a mental note to try and find a torch: with any luck, there would be some in the Tower.

He was still walking very carefully and slowly, not taking his weight off one foot until the other was solidly on the ground ahead. He hadn't tripped on anything since that first time right off the doorway, and was starting to consider accelerating, when his foot failed to find ground in front of him. His eyes widened in the darkness and his breathing, which was already a bit fast, accelerated even more.

He re-sheathed his sword, kneeled down very carefully and with his hands, searched in front of him, wondering if the lack of ground was due to a shallow hole in the path or to there not being a path anymore. He quickly found where the hole started, but found no bottom to it and following the edge of it with his fingers, he found that it was very wide and that he could not find the other side of it either. Crawling on his knees, he followed the only side of the hole that he could find, which thankfully led him towards the light. As he got closer to the source of the light, his eyes were slowly able to confirm his guess that the hole was actually the edge of a ledge he had been walking on. He continued to proceed on his hands and knees, feeling his way along, until he could see well enough to get up again and walk to the light, which turned out to be seeping from a partly crumbled doorway to the outside. The light was only dim because the doorway was oriented eastward and the sun was just past his zenith, putting the doorway in the shade.

After carefully moving a few rocks, hoping that it wouldn't cause the whole wall to come crashing down, Link managed to walk, crouching, through the opening. He found himself on a wide rocky path.

He blinked in the shadowy light, and took a moment to evaluate his surroundings. It didn't seem right, somehow. The path looked normal enough, and there were only a few tektites on it, which, though not exactly cuddly, were still not monsters – as far as Link was concerned, anything that ever ended up on the menu was not a monster, and tektites were eaten almost as often as cuckoos.

Link frowned. Death Mountain, or at least this part of it, did not look threatening at all. Where were the crevasses filled with molten lava? What had happened to the constant avalanches and to the armies of monsters? He took a hesitant step forward, looking all around for signs of the dangers he had expected. He found none.

Link gulped. This was too easy, and considering that Ganon had made things easy to lure him before, in his past life, there was a good chance that's what he was doing again. Link started walking down the path, killing the occasional tektite that tried to attack him and encountering nothing more dangerous.

The path eventually branched out, with one way going down the mountain and the other going up. Link took the latter, feeling more uneasy each minute that nothing threatened him. The path eventually narrowed and had Link been afraid of heights, he would definitely have been nervous: on his left, the mountainside was like a wall of rock; on his right, the path was delimited by a cliff which seemed to go all the way down the mountain.

He made it to the summit in the late afternoon, and the Tower of Hera came into view.

Link took a good long look at it, certain that nothing good waited for him in there. He would have liked to believe that he had beaten Ganon to the Tower, that the pig hadn't had a chance to set a trap for him here, but he couldn't count on that. As far as he knew, Ganon could have been here before even going to the desert.

The tower had stood up to time a lot better than the other two Wonders in that it was still, mostly, standing. Big chunks were missing from the upper floors, and it looked like the current top floor was missing a ceiling. It was impossible to say whether the tower had once been taller, but there were still many stories left. There were no windows and only one door, which was actually just a doorframe - the door itself was missing. The bricks were black with grime, and whenever a speck of color managed to peek through the coating of dust and dirt, it was a bloody red. As admirable as it was that it still stood so high after so many years, the fact was that the Tower was among the ugliest things Link had ever seen.

It wasn't merely ugly, either: it looked downright evil. Link would not have been able to explain how a building could possibly be good or evil, but he was nonetheless certain that this Tower was no good at all. It oozed evil and it was beyond unwelcoming: it was repelling. Link could almost feel the air thickening between the tower and himself.

He walked to it slowly, reluctantly. When he made it to the entrance, he stopped altogether and stared at the empty doorframe. He could see some light inside the tower, a red dancing glow he guessed was produced by flames. Despite his need for a torch in order to find his way back inside the Goron City, this was not reassuring to Link in the least. For one thing, he hated fire. He had already not been looking forward to having to carry a torch, and the only thing that had made that thought tolerable was that it would dispel the darkness, of which he was just as afraid. For another thing, fires burning meant someone had been to the Tower recently, and might even still be there.

Link gulped. Night was falling, and despite the distant glow of the flames, the inside of the Tower still looked very dark. Link thought it would probably be wiser to wait until morning, so that the light of day could light at least the front room of the Tower, and so he'd be rested: the hike up the mountain had not been easy and he was genuinely tired.

He clenched his teeth, ashamed of himself. He was only rationalizing, looking for an excuse not to go in just yet. He couldn't allow himself to do that. Each night until he faced Ganon meant more victims, and he was absolutely sick of it.

He took a deep breath and stepped into the tower.

The flames, at least, were all under control. The distant walls were lined with lit torches and nothing else than these torches was burning. In front of Link were two stairways, both leading down. A third stairway was behind these two and led to the above floor.

Link unsheathed his sword and walked to the nearest torch. He wasn't in any hurry to carry a flaming stick around with him, but he couldn't assume all the rooms would be lit or that they would all have torches that could be carried, so unless he wanted to risk having to backtrack all the way here from halfway up the tower (which he most definitely did not), he needed to get a torch now. He grabbed it carefully, holding it as far away from himself as he could. He walked to the staircase leading up, because it felt like the right one and when it came to finding things, he was learning to just trust his instincts.

There was a door at the top of the stairs. Link put his hand on it to push it open but stopped before applying any pressure: this reminded him of entering Ganon's room. His teeth started shattering.

"It's just a door." He thought. "It doesn't even LOOK like that other one, and Ganon can't be here."

He tried to sound certain to himself of that last assertion, but failed miserably. In fact, he didn't know that Ganon wasn't in the Tower. It was possible the sun had set since he had first come in, and even if it hadn't, Zelda could be wrong about Ganon not being around during the day. Come to think of it, if Ganon knew Link was on his way here, wouldn't it make sense for the pig to wait for him right by the pendant?

Link gulped. If Ganon was indeed behind that door, or anywhere between the pendant and Link, the battle was lost, whatever Link did. If he chose to open the door and go after the pendant, Ganon would kill him right there and then. If he ran for it back to the Lost Woods, he would never get the final pendant, he would never get the Master Sword, and he would never be able to defeat Ganon, who would find him sooner or later, tear him to pieces, and in the meantime, kill a lot people.

Link's only hope was that Ganon wasn't there, for whatever reason. Maybe he hadn't reached Death Mountain yet, seeing he had been in the Desert just two nights ago. Link clenched his jaw to stop his teeth from shattering and pushed the door with his foot, his sword at the ready in his left hand and his torch in his right hand, still held as far as his arm could stretch.

Ganon was not in the room, but that was very little comfort to Link: there were a good dozen re-deads sulking around a chest that Link was sure contained the pendant.

Link would have really loved for the Hero of Time, who had happily strolled into a city he knew to be full of re-deads, to be here with him right now. Obviously, his past self had known of some way to deal with the living dead creatures, while his present self didn't have the slightest clue.

The re-deads did not seem to have noticed him yet. Link tiptoed back out the door and closed it softly in front of him. Since his past self could not be there, he'd just have to ask him how to deal with re-deads.

He looked around for a hook for his torch, found one and carefully hung the torch in it, then concentrated on finding his past self right after he had defeated a bunch of the things, just in case the Hero of Time had only been bragging and had never actually even seen a re-dead. Almost immediately, he found himself transported from the dark and smelly tower to some equally dark and smelly place, with his past self, one he didn't think he had seen before and who seemed just a bit older than he was, sitting against a wall and drinking something red from a small bottle.

Link coughed to get his attention. His past self looked up, groaned, got up and unsheathed his sword.

"A ghost now?" He sighed. "Ah! You must be getting desperate!" He yelled challengingly at the ceiling, seemingly addressing the dungeon or someone on an upper floor.

"I'm not a ghost." Link said, taking a step back and raising his hands in a peaceful gesture. "I'm you from the future, and I need you to..."

"My future self?" The past Link said, looking more than dubious. "Right."

He started advancing on Link, sword first. Link automatically forgot that nothing could touch him and backed away right through a wall, finding himself in another room, this one full of... well, he didn't know what they were, but they looked like bandaged up re-deads. He hurriedly passed back through the wall, only to find himself almost right on top of his past self's sword, which he recognized as the one he was working so hard to earn.

He opened his mouth to say something, but nothing came out.

Link sneered at the ghost who was pretending to be his future self. That was just about the lamest ruse Ganon had come up with yet, and on top of that, the ghost did not seem to be a threat at all, other than a delaying tactic. It was almost insulting, especially seeing the ghost seemed to be in complete panic: Link found himself feeling almost sorry for him.

He frowned and slashed at it with the Master Sword. The ghost cried out and tensed up in expectation of the blow, but it went right through him.

"No! Please! Don't!" It started begging. "I need help! Please don't..."

Link frowned in puzzlement. What was the point of begging him for mercy when he had already tried to destroy it, with no success? The ghost had had his eyes closed, maybe he didn't realize that the Master Sword had passed through it? Link put the sword back in its sheath and took a step back from the ghost, trying to think of what he could use to destroy something completely immaterial. He talked to win himself some time to think before the ghost launched some kind of surprise attack on him.

"What do you want?" He asked.

"Re-deads." The ghost whimpered, still crouched protectively on himself. "I need to know how to kill them! There's a bunch of them in a room, and I think that's where the pendant is! And if I don't get it, I can't get the Master Sword, and then I can't win against Ganon…" Link slapped his hand to his mouth, horrified he had just blurted out that he was fighting Ganon. "Sorry." He said, looking up miserably at his past self, expecting him to be devastated at the news that his future self had to fight Ganon.

"Filthy liar you are, aren't you?" Link growled. "So that's the idea, is it? Ganon is trying to scare me by sending some ghost to pretend that my future self is trying to defeat him, which would mean I never will? Honestly! Even if I believed you were what you say you are, I'd still go after Ganon just the same! He's been sealed before, and if I can't destroy him, I'll at least do that!"

"No! I didn't even mean to tell you that!" The ghost whimpered. "I'm sorry! Please… just tell me about re-deads? I can tell you something I know, too!"

"Hmmph. What could you possibly know that would interest me?" Link asked.

"What's in that room." The ghost said, pointing behind him. "You want to know, trust me."

"Right." Link said. "I'll know once I open the door, so what's the point?"

Link swallowed. He would have liked to leave and try again, hoping for a different past self, but if he aimed for the same thing, chances were he'd just end up here again. It was better not to give up until he had no choice at all. He decided to just give up his information – he had intended to tell his past self no matter what anyway, and maybe said past self would see it as a show of good faith.

"Have you ever seen re-deads all covered up in bandages?" He asked.

"Gibdos? Yes." His past self sighed.

"There's a whole bunch in there. The room is about this size," Link said, gesturing at the room they were in now, "and it's packed with them."

His past self paled a bit.

"You're kidding, right?" He asked.

Link shook his head.

"Goddess blast it!" his past self cursed. "And I just used up a red potion even though I'm drained magically, too, because I figured I wouldn't need a spell for a while! Argh!"

He kicked the wall angrily. Link had no idea what a red potion was, but the part about being drained magically had him rather worried.

"You need magic to kill re-deads?" He asked.

"Din's fire." His past self confirmed moodily, glaring at the door to the next room. "But it only took out a few at a time and they kept grabbing me. I had to drink a potion by the time there was about half of them left, and I had to drink another one once they were all gone. Why didn't I drink a blue one?" He asked plaintively. "Now I have to anyway, so I wasted the red one, and that blue one is my last one! Urgh..."

He sank to a sitting position, hands holding his head as if he had a headache.

"There's nothing for it." He sighed. "I'm going to have to drink the blue potion so I can cast Farore's Wind and get out of here, and then I'll have to go buy some more potions. It's a waste of time, but it's still quicker than sitting here waiting to recuperate on my own..."

"Can't you kill re-deads without magic?" Link asked his past self plaintively.

"Are you really my future self?" His past self asked, looking threatening. "Because if I go into that other room and there's nothing there and you made me waste all that time, I swear on the Triforce, I'll hunt you down and find some way to hurt you."

Link swallowed and nodded.

"Magic's not the only way to get rid of them, is it?" He asked again.

His past self shrugged.

"No offence, but you don't look like much of a hero." He said. "Do you even realize you were terrified of my sword but it went right through you and you didn't feel it? If you're afraid of ME, you should probably just walk away very quietly if you see any re-deads."

Link blushed, remembering that the sword could indeed not possibly hurt him in the past: nothing could.

"I wish I could." He admitted. "But I can't get the Master Sword without that pendant."

"Pendant?" His past self asked. "What do you need a pendant for? And who are you fighting? You said Ganon, earlier." He said accusingly.

Link looked down.

"You're going to win, but he always comes back." He said softly. "I didn't mean to tell you. I'm sorry."

His past self sighed heavily.

"Figures." He said. "Is Princess Zelda going to be okay?"

"I don't know."

"Is it true the Master Sword can't hurt Ganon? Some old guy said that it couldn't, but it doesn't make any sense: he also said I needed it to defeat him."

"It's true." Link said. "Zelda figures we need something else, too, but we don't know what yet."

"You get to call her just Zelda?" His past self said, sounding very jealous. "Whatever." He said, shaking his head as if to chase a thought. "I need to get going."

He took out a small bottle filled with blue liquid from one of his pockets and uncorked it.

"Wait!" Link cried out. "How do I kill those re-deads?"

"Well, if you don't have Din's fire, just use normal fire." His past self said, rolling his eyes. "Your sword will work too, it'll just take longer. Bring lots of potions and you'll be fine."

He drank the blue liquid.

"I can't drink potion!" Link said. He had absolutely no intention of pouring some kind of magic brew down his throat. His past experience with blue potion was nothing to encourage him, either: the stuff was just as bad as those blasted fairies.

"Better get some fairy spirits then." His past self said, throwing his arms up in the air. A glowing sphere appeared above him, engulfed him and he was gone.

Link came back cursing a blue streak.

"Better get some fairies!" He snarled, imitating, though badly, his past self.

He sulked for a bit, cursing magic and magic users, whoever's past selves they were. Magic that cheats on death was not natural, and he was not going to have any part of it: how would he be any different than those re-deads if he was only alive because of some magic brew or some fairy?

His eye fell on his torch, still burning brightly on its holder on the wall.

"They don't like fire..." He murmured to himself. "But he said he used DIN's fire. That's got to be stronger than a little torch…"

He scratched his head, thinking. He didn't really need to destroy all the re-deads, just to avoid them long enough to grab the pendant in the chest and get out. The torch might be enough to keep them off of him long enough to do that. As long as their so-called paralyzing scream didn't paralyze him for real, he could make it.

He took his torch off the wall and, hoping to go unnoticed for as long as possible, slowly opened the door.

None of the re-deads were looking his way. He forced his right leg to move forward, than his left. Now that he was fully inside the room, his legs moved much easier as Link was eager to get out again. In fact, he ran more than he walked to the chest, and made it to within hands reach of it.

But, just as he was about to open the chest, he heard the most horrible sound he had ever heard. 'Scream' hardly even came close to describing the horrible, evil, hungry sound.

Link's blood was instantly frozen in his veins, his mind went blank with pure panic and his body stiffened, paralyzed. The paralysis only added to his panic, and he felt like he might go insane, and that it would be a relief to do so. His panic grew and grew, until he deeply wished he would die so that he could escape.

Link felt something wrapping itself around him and the panic and paralysis all but disappeared, replaced by disgust and pain. He screamed and struggled frantically for what seemed like an eternity before the re-dead let go, leaving him exhausted, dizzy and feeling sick to his stomach. He wanted to curl up and sleep, but even more than that, he wanted to get out of here as fast as humanly possible. He scrambled to open the chest and made to grab the pendant which, thankfully, was indeed inside of it, shining softly despite the darkness of the room. Just as he closed his hand around it, another scream sounded.

As before, Link was completely paralyzed, mind and body alike. As before, he only regained his senses when a re-dead wrapped itself around him and started sucking away his life. As before, he screamed and struggled until the thing was off him, which seemed to take even longer than before.

Link stumbled to his feet, feeling sicker and weaker than he ever had. He started waving his torch around and tried to run for the door, but he tripped and the torch went flying out of his hands to the door, many steps away. Link struggled back to his feet, and another scream filled his head, once again driving all rational thoughts away and replacing them with pure panic, while paralyzing his body. The panic did not subside, this time, when a re-dead got hold of him. Link struggled, but he felt so weak and he was so terrified that his efforts were erratic, going back and forth from frantic yet weak to half-hearted. It seemed to take even longer for the monster to let go. When it did, Link collapsed on the floor and try as he might, he could not get up. He started crawling towards the door, just managing to drag himself on his arms and knees, convinced that any second, another re-dead would scream and then proceed to drain him of what little strength he had left.

He was right. Another scream resounded, and Link's mind went completely blank. He did not even notice when the re-dead grabbed him and he completely forgot to struggle, not that he had any strength left with which to struggle. The re-dead eventually let go, and Link lay there, unable to move, waiting for death.

It was only the thought that if a re-dead killed him, he might turn into one himself that got him going again. He dragged himself and managed to get a hold of his torch just in time to roll on his back with it and set a re-dead that was almost on top of him on fire. The monster's scream turned into a wail of pain, which, though it was still horrible, was at least not paralyzing. Link scooted out backward, using his backside, feet, and elbows. He dragged the torch along practically against himself, but he didn't care about being burnt: only about getting out.

Another scream sounded. Link didn't notice any difference in the intensity of the panic that was gripping him, but he was once again paralyzed. A re-dead, coming from his right (he was holding the torch with his left hand), lay on top of him. Link moaned weakly, tried to lift the torch, then everything went black.

He came to when the re-dead got up off of him, but he could not move. He tried wriggling his fingers, and barely managed after what seemed like an incredible effort. Once again, the thought of being turned into a re-dead was the only thing that gave him enough strength to slowly drag himself out of the door and kick it shut.

Once safely outside of the room, he passed out, feeling so miserable that he was half hoping he would never wake up.

He did not feel better at all when he came to. He had dreamt that Zelda had joined him inside the tower to help him out and although he felt silly for it, he was disappointed that it had only been a dream. He checked that he still had the pendant, found his right fist clenched around it; he found the torch lying next to him, his tunic singed by the close flame. He tried to get up and fell backward into the stairs. He tumbled down to the main floor, hitting his head a few times and his limbs plenty of time. He groaned weakly when he landed on the floor of the entrance room and lay there for a bit. He checked for the pendant again, found it still in his fist and with great difficulty, lifted his arm to put the chain around his neck where the other two pendants were still hanging. He felt a sharp pain when he lifted his arm and more of the same as he manoeuvred it to get the chain around his head: he had had broken arms before and recognized the sensation. If he'd had the energy, he would have cursed loudly, but as it was, he just groaned again.

He looked next for his torch, but that was gone: he had dropped it somewhere on the stairs. He looked up and saw it, still burning, about halfway up the staircase. He looked around for a closer one, and saw one on the wall just a few paces to the left. He crept there and once he was right under it, looked up at it and felt a wave of despair wash over him: it was much too high for him to reach unless he managed to get to his feet, and he didn't think he'd ever manage to do that.

Movement near the torch caught his eyes and he squinted in the darkness, trying to discern what it was. He had to stare for a while before he made out a pair of leathery wings folded over each other. He yelped and jerked back before he could help it.

This, of course, woke the sleeping keese. It squeaked and Link heard it take flight before seeing it plunge right into the flame. He goggled at the flames, unable to believe his luck: had the keese actually went and hurled itself into an open flame?

It turned out it did, but it also turned out that was no good luck at all: the keese emerged from the flame as a winged ball of fire that was aiming straight for him. Link screamed and tried to back away on his feet and hands, but the keese was faster and it impacted him on the chest before flying back into the flame.

Link looked down in horror at his burning tunic and as frantically as his diminished strength allowed, patted the fire out. He then took out his sword and waited for the keese to come back. He couldn't hear it coming because his heart was pounding into his ears, he could not get up to get a better view and a better position to use his sword in, and he could barely lift said sword.

The keese came back, screeching, and hit his arm before Link could so much as lift his sword. Link howled in pain as his arm caught fire and rolled on hit to extinguish it. In so doing, he cut himself on his sword. He shoved it in its sheath with a growl of pain and anger.

The extra pain, added to the embarrassment of losing to a keese AND cutting himself with his sword while being unable to hit the keese with it, gave him the adrenaline boost he needed to get on his feet, using the wall as support, and grab the torch. It was too heavy to hold with his broken arm, so he had to hold it with his sword arm, as painfully scorched and cut as it was.

He looked around for the door to the outside of the tower, and found, thankfully, that he could follow the wall to it. He proceeded as fast as he could, leaning on the wall for support, hoping the keese would not come back. He looked around for it and saw it heading his way, still in flames.

Link dropped the torch and unsheathed his sword. He waited for the keese to be close enough, than gave a big wide swipe. He felt the sword connecting with the keese, which fell to the floor with a small thump. He re-sheathed his sword, slumped to his knees to grab the torch back from the floor, amazed himself by managing to scramble back to his feet and continued around the room towards the door, leaning heavily on the wall. His legs felt like jelly, he could hardly believe they were supporting him, and it took all his willpower to take each step.

He stopped when he saw a pile of bones on the floor, about halfway to the exit. Bones made him nervous, and to make things worse, he thought that particular pile had just shuddered very slightly. It was right in his way, and he could not go around it without letting go of the wall, which meant he'd most likely fall off his useless legs and have to crawl to the exit, while holding a flaming torch.

He was weighing his options when the pile shuddered again. He gulped and chose to test his feet: he took his weight off the wall and straightened up, as slowly and silently as he could. His legs immediately gave out and he crashed down to his knees. He held back a yelp of pain and without bothering to check on the pile of bones, started crawling towards the door as quickly as he could.

He heard the bones rattling behind him and tried to accelerate, but a bony hand closed on his ankle and Link heard his own bones crack. He howled and turned around, kicking weakly with his other leg. The Stalfos seemed to smile as he let go of his ankle and grabbed his other one. Link jerked it back before the hand could close on it and swung his torch at the bony arm.

The result was better than he had expected from a desperate attempt to push the monster away: the Stalfos howled in pain and jumped back several steps. Link seized the opportunity to gain a bit of ground, scooting backward once again: his broken angle hurt like the Dark World each time he put weight on it, but he barely noticed, so eager was he to get away from the Stalfos.

It wasn't long, however, before the monster had regained his composure. It took out its sword and advanced towards Link. Link tried to scoot away faster, but the Stalfos was on top of him in seconds. It wasted no time to drive its sword into Link's good leg.

Link thought he might pass out from the pain, which just added to his growing list of injury and his feeling ill and being utterly exhausted. The Stalfos had its sword out of his leg and above his head, ready to plunge it somewhere else. In an effort to avoid the blow, Link rolled on his broken arm so that he wouldn't roll on the burning torch and as he crushed the already broken bones, everything turned black.

He brutally regained consciousness when the Stalfos's sword ran through his midsection, just a bit off center. It felt even worse than it ever had in his dreams. Link rolled back to his back, crushing his broken arm again but in too much pain and too afraid to be killed by the Stalfos to pass out again. He swung his torch toward the monster's head and knocked it clean off its shoulders. The pile of bone crumbled and Link pushed the torch away from himself, rolled on his relatively good arm, grabbed the torch again and finally managed to crawl out of the tower. It was morning outside, which meant he had been unconscious at the top of the stairs all night.

Nevertheless, he desperately wanted to sleep. He knew he had two gaping wounds, not to mention a broken arm, a broken ankle, a burn, and a pounding headache he figured was from his bad fall in the stairs, but none of it seemed to matter as much as his need to rest.

He shook himself awake and started crawling down the hill, towards the narrow pathway that would lead him back to the underground city. Every movement hurt and his clothes were sticking uncomfortably to his wounds. He didn't even seriously think of bandaging them: as far as he knew, the only purpose of bandages was to collect the blood so it didn't go everywhere. They certainly didn't stop the blood, as evidenced by the fact they constantly filled up with it and had to be changed. Ganon already knew where he was, so Link didn't care whether he left a trail or not. Therefore, he saw no sense in bothering to bandage himself up.

He crawled as well as he could, but he didn't get very far: he was getting even more tired with each step, and he soon collapsed, dead to the world.

Chapter Text

A few quick notes:

1. This story is rated T due to some very violent content.

2. The story is actually completed, and I intend to post a new chapter weekly.

3. I don't own any Legend of Zelda character or setting. I'm just borrowing them and I hope Nintendo won't mind too much.

4. Thank you so much for reading !

Chapter 12: Ganon makes his move

Zelda woke up that morning with such a strong feeling of dread that she thought at first she might still be asleep and having a nightmare. She could not explain her feeling, but it was the strongest she had ever felt about anything, and what she felt was that something was terribly wrong.

"Great Deku Tree?" She called out. "Do you feel... anything wrong? Is Ganon in the forest?"

"No." The tree answered. "Do you?"

"Yes." Zelda said, her voice shaking with the strength of her undefined worry. "I don't know why, but..."

She shivered. The Great Deku Tree lowered the branch she was on until she was at ground level. She got up, testing her ankle, and found it perfect. She looked up at the tree questioningly.

"The sap I gave you yesterday can heal minor injuries." The tree said. "Look at my base, I've filled a few large nutshells with it. You should take them with you."

Zelda nodded.

"Will it heal him if he has anything serious?" She asked.

"The sap should keep the Hero alive long enough for you to find something more effective, if need be."

Zelda nodded again before frowning in confusion.

"Wait." She said. "How do we know..."

"The Princess and the Hero always share one destiny." The Deku Tree said. "Princesses in the past have been able to summon young boys who knew nothing of who they were to their aid when needed, even when those same princesses also knew nothing of the boy's identity. It is possible what you are feeling has nothing to do with the Hero, but I would guess that it does. I believe he is calling you for help."

Zelda swallowed and nodded again. She started walking in the direction opposite the rising sun's light, because she remembered the Tree telling Link the door to Death Mountain was west.

She used the technique she had made Link follow several times already: she went wherever it felt right to go, paying no attention to her surroundings. She found the door quickly, and without a second thought for the fact she was facing a doorway in the middle of a clearing, without a wall to be a doorway through, she stepped in and found herself in a very dimly lit cavern. She walked carefully until the cavern opened into a bigger, slightly better lit one. She was standing on a walkway carved into the side of the mountain, with no rail to prevent its users from falling off the side of it. She stuck close to the wall and made her way to the opening, from which the light was coming.

She found herself on a mountain, although she was rather disappointed by how harmless it looked. The most dangerous looking things around were a few tektites, which did not bother to chase her as she ran more than she walked down the pathway, keeping an eye out for a turn towards the top of the mountain. It soon presented itself and she took the new path, still running. The nuts were nudged in her bag, between her other possessions, and she could only hope they would not leak too much, although she could always tip her bag itself into Link's mouth if all the liquid ended up in it.

She had to slow down before she reached the top of the mountain, out of breath and a cramp in her side. She refused to stop and simply walked until her breathing became a bit more normal and the cramp subsided, than she started running again.

She had to slow down several times, but still reached the summit before midday. She immediately spotted Link, between herself and the Tower, and her heart stopped.

She sank to her knees, thinking she was too late. Tears filled her eyes as she looked at him, covered in his own blood, pale as death and with unnatural angles to one of his feet and one of his arms.

"Link..." She croaked. "No...! This… this can't be happening...!"

Link's still form seemed to be mocking her, as if Link was just trying to be difficult again, like before he remembered who he was. Before she had managed to convince him to go on this quest, back when he was relatively safe...

"NO!" She screamed. "LINK!"

She got back to her feet and ran to him, taking a sap-filled nut out of her bag as she went. Thankfully, the nuts had barely dripped at all.

She rolled him over hurriedly, intent on forcing the sap down his throat in the hope it would bring him back to life.

He moaned when she rolled him, and his features twisted in a grimace of pain. Zelda could have cried out in joy, and felt like a huge weight had just been pulled off her chest. He was alive!

She made him open his mouth and poured the content of the nut into it. He wasn't swallowing, so she closed his mouth for him before the sap all dribbled out and rubbed his throat like she would an animal to make it swallow its medication. Link swallowed.

Almost instantly, he groaned and opened his eyes a bit before closing them again against the brightness of the day.

"Link, are you okay?" She asked before rolling her eyes at herself. It was obvious that he wasn't. "What happened?" She continued, just for something less idiotic to say.

"Got the pendant." Link croaked weakly. His lip twitched, as if he had tried to smile.

"That's good." Zelda said. "We need to get you back to the Lost Woods, now." She added, giving up on the small talk. Link was more in need of medical attention than of moral support right now.

"Can't walk." Link sighed. "Tired..."

"Stay awake!" She ordered him urgently. "We'll start by bandaging that wound you have. Where is it?"

Link groaned something unintelligible. Zelda inspected him herself and found not one, but two gaping wounds, in addition to a few nasty looking bruises on his head and a bad burn on his chest. She tore up her skirt in strips and used them to bandage them as well as she could, hoping it would be enough. Link had already lost an alarming amount of blood. She briefly considered making him go into the past and find some of that blue potion his last life had used, but quickly decided against it: she was pretty sure that his dying body would not be able to hang on to life for even a moment without his soul.

"Alright." She said. "I'm going to crouch in front of you and you're going to climb on my back."

There was no answer. She shook his shoulder roughly, the one not connected to the broken arm, and noticed another bad burn lower down the limb. She winced, remembering how Link was already afraid of fire.

"WAKE UP!" She yelled. He moaned. "Climb on my back and stay awake!"

She crouched in front of him and Link flopped his hands on her shoulder. She held back a sigh of irritation, knowing he was doing his best even if that happened to be pretty pathetic right now, and lifted him on her back herself. He leaned his head right against hers and Zelda guessed he was falling asleep again. She was too afraid he wouldn't wake up to let him do that, so she started talking loudly while walking as fast as she could towards the bottom of the mountain.

"That Goron City is pretty dark, isn't it?" She said idly. "You're really good, having gone through that! Are you awake? LINK!"

"Torch..." He whispered. Zelda barely heard him.

"It's okay. I could still see. We don't need a torch." She replied.

"Morning?" he asked weakly.

Zelda stopped and had she had a free hand, she would have slapped herself.

"You're right!" She moaned. "I only had light because the sun was shining straight into the opening, and it will be in the afternoon by the time we get there!"

She turned back and walked back towards where she had found Link. She remembered a torch lying not far from where he had been. It was still there, and still lit: the ground was bare rock and there was no wind, which Zelda silently thanked the Goddesses for.

"Can you hold it?" She asked. "LINK!"


"WAKE UP! Can you hold it?"


She crouched in front of the torch, sideways to it so it would be within arms reach for Link. He let his unbroken arm flop down and grabbed it. Zelda wondered for a second if he'd have the strength to lift it and keep it in a tight grip, but she shrugged it off: if he dropped it, he dropped it. Hopefully it wouldn't fall off the cliff at the side of the path and they could just pick it back up.

"Now, STAY AWAKE." She ordered. "I know you're tired, but if you fall asleep, you might not wake up. You might die." She said, hoping to scare him awake.

He grunted.

Zelda talked to him loudly all the way to the cavern, then before going in, she crouched and let him down. She took another nut out of her bag and told him to drink it.

Link was much too tired to argue, especially with what he suspected was a figment of his imagination, so he drank the content of the nut. He immediately felt a tiny bit less miserable.

"I need you to hold the torch a bit forward while we're in there, so I can see where we're going." She said, still talking unnecessary loudly. She kicked a tektite that was getting near and continued. "Now, let's get you back on my back."

It was a bit easier this time, Link helping a little more. Both his hands were over her shoulders, and he held the torch at an angle so that the tip was as far from the two of them as it could be, which wasn't really saying much. He was too tired to complain about the discomfort, so he didn't. He leaned his head against the back of hers.

"LINK!" She yelled. "STAY AWAKE! Tell me what happened up there!"

"Re-deads." He moaned, whishing she'd just let him sleep. The effect of the nut had been short lived and he felt like sleeping forever would be very nice indeed.

Zelda gulped and stopped walking for a second before catching herself.

"How did you escape?" She asked, more to keep him talking than because she wanted to know any details.

Link mumbled something unintelligible.

"What?" Zelda asked loudly. "I can't hear you. Speak louder!"

They were in the cavern now, and if not for the torch, they would not have been able to see anything. Zelda had to walk carefully, the light of the torch just barely allowing her to make out the edge of the pathway and the wall on the other side of it.

"One room." Link groaned. "Got in, got out."

"So they didn't get you?" She asked, knowing they had but once again only concerned with keeping Link talking and awake.

"Yes." Link growled testily. His tone clearly implied he didn't feel like talking.

"But you still escaped? How?" She asked.

"They let go." Link sighed. "Sleepy..."

Zelda finally found a corridor off the platform and since she didn't remember any other ones between the one leading to the Lost Door and the exit, she took it.

"LINK!" She yelled. "STAY AWAKE!"

Link did not answer.

"LINK! DON'T LEAVE ME HERE ALL BY MYSELF!" She yelled again. "I'm afraid of closed spaces, remember? Talk to me! Don't be mean!"

She had said it to encourage him to stay awake, but she had triggered the very fear she had mentioned. Suddenly, the walls seemed to be closing in and the cavern was looking like a tomb. She stopped walking, breathing hard. How did she know this was the right corridor? How did she know the door would still be there? The corridor could have collapsed, or the door might move from time to time: it was a magical door, who knew what it could and couldn't do?

Her teeth started shattering. The light of the torch was shaking, and she realized with a start that it was because she was shaking.

"Link..." She cried. "There's no way out... the door is gone... I'm sorry!"

She collapsed on her knees, hitting Link's bad ankle on the floor. Link woke up screaming.

"I'm sorry..." Zelda was crying. "I couldn't do it... I don't know where the door is..."

She was difficult to understand between her sobs and hard breathing, and her voice was much higher pitched than normal, almost a hiss. Link groaned as he looked around. They were underground, probably in the Goron City. They were in a large corridor.

"You turn off the ledge?" He asked weakly.

Zelda nodded, crying with her hands buried in her face, shaking like a leaf and letting out panicky whimpers. Link knew the feeling: he felt like doing that kind of thing several times a day.

"End of corridor." He said, already out of breath. "Go."

Zelda whimpered helplessly, hugging herself while he held on as well as he could to her shoulders.

"Go. Can't be worse..." Link started, but talking was too hard for him at the moment. He didn't finish and leaned his head on Zelda's back to rest a bit. Zelda whimpered loudly. He tried saying something reassuring, but he didn't even have the strength to think of something to say. He dowsed off.

Zelda's eyes widened in horror in her hands. Link was dead, she thought. He's dead because of me...

"No!" She screamed. She turned around, and Link's weak grip on her shoulders let off, causing him to flop forward on her lap. She turned him around and made him drink the content of the last Deku Nut.

He spit some of it back out in a fit of coughing, but at least, he was still alive. Zelda sighed in relief before her mind focused right back on the walls, which definitely seemed closer than before. She started breathing hard again and her hand, which was lying on Link's broken arm, tightened. He screamed weakly and gave her a pained, reproachful look.

"Come on!" He groaned. "Go to the..." He paused, out of breath. He continued after a few deep breaths. "...door! Then we can get out!"

Zelda hugged and rocked herself and for a few scary moments, Link thought she wouldn't be able to get over her panic and that they would both die here, a few paces away from the door to the Lost Woods. He wished he was strong enough to shake her, or maybe even slap her. He tried lifting his arms or even just his head, but he couldn't do it at all. He didn't know how he'd even get back on her back.

Finally, Zelda shakily got to her feet, crouched in front of him, helped him on and pushed towards the door. Her grip on Link's leg was painfully tight, but Link was too tired and relieved that she was moving again to bother complaining. He was barely managing to keep hold of the torch, which was pointing downward because he didn't have the strength to hold it higher.

They found the door at the end of the corridor, and through it, they could see the Lost Woods. As soon as the door came within sight, Zelda's grip loosened a bit and even half conscious as he was, Link could literally feel her relaxing. She went through the door as fast as she could carry him and once on the other side, sighed in relief and actually let out a short laugh. Link moaned just to remind her he still needed help.

"Can you guide me back to the Great Deku Tree?" She asked him. "You still have the leaf?"

Link looked around, or at least, he looked around as much as he could without moving his head. It was easier than trying to dig into his pockets to find out if the leaf was still there. He closed his eyes and looked around again. Nothing had changed. He nodded into Zelda's shoulder.

"Should I go straight ahead?" She asked. "Just nod if yes, do nothing if no."

Link nodded. Zelda started.

"When you want me to turn, move your head in the right direction." She instructed.

Link did, and like that, they made their way back to the Great Deku Tree. Zelda saw a small, pink glow flying around it. Link saw it too and recognized it at once. He stiffened on Zelda's back.

"Run!" He whimpered. "Get us out of here! That's a fairy!"

"A fairy!" Zelda exclaimed. "We're not going anywhere! That's perfect!"

Zelda grinned at the glow and at the tree. Link's wounds were too serious for any first aid she could administer to help him much, he had lost a lot of blood, and those re-deads seemed to have literally taken the life out of him: she couldn't think of any way to get him better other than magic, and she had been trying to figure out how to find some magic potion ever since she had first realized Link was still alive. As far as she was concerned, the fairy was a life saver, and an unexpected one at that: they had not been seen for centuries, and were believed to be extinct.

"No!" Link begged, feebly trying to get off her back. "I don't want to be a re-dead!"

"You're not going to turn into a re-dead, don't be silly." Zelda said. "You're not even dead… yet. And besides, I bet all the Heroes were revived or at least healed by fairies at least once."

"I don't need it!" Link moaned miserably. His struggling was becoming even weaker, but he still wasn't giving up. "NO!" He added urgently: Zelda had started walking again. "Don't!" He begged. She felt him stop trying to get off her and grasp her shoulders instead.

Zelda stopped with a sigh.

"Listen to me." She said sternly. "You're not going to get better by resting. You're dying. That wound in your back probably goes through some organs, and even if it didn't, you're losing too much blood, on top of having lost a lot of energy to those re-deads. Your ankle looks more crushed than broken, so the bones may very well be causing internal bleeding there, too. You. Are. Dying." She repeated.

Link started shivering and said nothing.

"The fairy, or death for you and Ganon for Hyrule." Zelda said, sterner than ever. She had no intention of abiding by his decision if he chose death, but felt it important that he chose the fairy. If they were still around, they could be very useful for the rest of their quest, too, and she did not want Link to keep on refusing them.

Link did not have to think too long about those options: as much as he was in pain right now, and more tired than he had ever thought it was possible to be, he was still terribly afraid of death, and on top of that, he absolutely did not want to let Ganon win again.

"Well?" Zelda asked.

"Fairy." Link sighed.

Zelda smiled and brought him to the foot of the tree. She did not even have time to set him down before the fairy squealed in delight and started circling around him. Zelda put him down while the fairy was working.

The glow of the fairy surrounded Link, who was looking at the light hatefully. Before Zelda's eyes, Link suddenly looked refreshed and no longer exhausted, his arm lost its unnatural angle, the burn on his other arm disappeared, his ankle returned to normal and the blood on his bandages vanished.

The fairy finally disappeared, and Link sighed in relief: whether it was from being healed or from the fairy being gone, Zelda could not quite tell.

"Thanks." He grumbled, blushing and not quite looking at her. "Some hero I am, huh?"

"You have the three medallions." Zelda said, smiling. "That officially makes you The Hero."

"No." Link corrected her with a snicker. "It's the Master Sword that makes it official. Where did you find a fairy, anyway?" He asked her.

"I didn't." Zelda said. "It was just there with the Great Deku Tree."

She turned towards the tree.

"You brought it here because you knew Link would need it, didn't you?" She asked it. "Thank you."

Link looked at the tree with renewed respect. It was the second time the Great Deku Tree had saved his life.

"Thanks." He said, smiling at the wooden face.

"You're welcomed." The tree answered. It sounded very relieved.

"Speaking of where to get fairies…" Zelda mused. "I have to ask. Didn't it occur to you to go get some potion or medicine in the past after you got hurt?"

Link's eyes widened and he turned red. Zelda sighed.

"You try having good ideas after getting almost killed by re-deads." He muttered. "I TOLD you I'd need you. You would have made me get them after my past self said I'd need some."

"One of your past self suggested it and you still didn't get any? Why?"

"That was before I got hurt. I… I didn't want to."

Zelda sighed again. It figured. Link had refused the magic potion just like he had tried to refuse to fairy, simply because it was magical. He probably would have accepted to get some potion once he was desperate enough, just like he had eventually accepted the fairy, but by then, he was too hurt for the thought to even occur to him.

"Well, it doesn't matter." Zelda said. "You're all right, now, that's the main thing. Come on, let's get your sword."

She got up, smiling bravely at him and holding out her hand. He smiled back and let her help him up.

Ganon spent most of the day pacing the President's office, furious and, for the first time in centuries, scared.

He had spent so many years and so much energy, 1500 years ago, to make sure the Hero would never bother him again. In the very off chance that he ever escaped his prison and was reborn, Ganon had tried to destroy the pendants, which had turned out to be impossible. He had then tried to take them and hide them in other places than the Three Wonders, so that they could never again be found: the pendants had thwarted him again by constantly vanishing from his grasp as soon as he left their respective buildings, presumably because the magic in them was designed to prevent him from hiding them somewhere else or keeping them for himself. He had then put a spell on them so that at least, he would be warned when they were collected.

All that time ago, he had even put beasts around the pendants to guard them. The ones in the Eastern Palace and Desert Temple had been destroyed when both building had finally collapsed completely, safe for one giant worm at the entrance of the Desert Temple, which Ganon had confirmed was still alive a mere few hours before the pendant was collected.

And after all that effort, he had allowed himself to be distracted by a fruitless, if fun, hunt while he should have been actively looking for the Hero and Princess. He had chased them from the Eastern Palace to the Desert Temple, but he had been sloppy, more interested in finding easy kills than in combing the fields for his real quarry.

As a result, although they had been near the Desert Temple at the very same time as one another, Ganon had completely missed the Hero. To think that both the Princess and He were probably asleep mere steps from where Ganon had been prowling was simply maddening.

And now, while he was still days away from Death Mountain, the spell on the pendant of power had activated, meaning the Hero had somehow made his way there already. If Ganon had thought there was any chance at all that the Hero would get to the Tower before he did, he would have teleported there despite the discomfort long range teleportation caused him.

Ganon could only hope that the monsters he had long ago placed in the Tower - including, he suddenly remembered, a few Stalfos, Moblins and Wolfos he could recuperate and send after the Hero - had at least managed to severely hurt him.

Even if they had, the fact that Link had managed to beat him to Death Mountain meant he had to have access to some kind of magic or be getting help from someone who did. Who was to say he didn't have light arrows already? How could Ganon be certain the boy was not already a threat?

The answer was simple, though unpleasant: he could not. Chasing the boy now would be foolish: he'd only be allowing him to fight on his own territory, and if the boy could travel instantly to any part of Hyrule, Ganon was unlikely to find him until the Hero wanted to be found and the fight would end up being not only where, but also when the boy wanted it.

Ganon snarled furiously: he had lost his chance to dispatch the Hero before he became a threat, and his only option was to stack all the odds in his favour, as best as he could.

"It's not going to jump into your hand, you know. You need to pull it out." Zelda said.

Link had put down the three pendants on the pedestal several minutes ago, and since, he had been staring at the sword, his hand just shy of closing on the handle.

"I know that!" He grumbled.

He knew Zelda had every right to be getting impatient, and as incredible as it seemed, he couldn't wait to have the sword in his hand himself. The only thing holding his hand back was that he was terrified that he still would not be able to pull the sword out of the altar.

The Sword was, after all, meant for the Hero of Hyrule. Whoever Link might have been in a past life, he felt he was certainly not a Hero in this one, and certainly not 'The' Hero.

"You're afraid it still won't budge, aren't you?" Zelda asked.

Link nodded and blushed, suddenly feeling like he was being ridiculous. He closed his hand on the handle and pulled.

The Master Sword easily slid out of the pedestal and its owner could do nothing else for a while than stare at it with a mixture of relief and admiration as he held it in front of him. The pendants vanished from the altar after a few seconds.

"So," Link asked over dinner (unidentifiable dried meat found in their travel food), "what do we do now? We need to find out what else I need."

Zelda hmm-mmed in approbation as she chewed on a piece of the meat.

"I think your best source of information might be your past selves." She said after swallowing. "If you visit one after he defeated Ganon, he can tell you how he did it."

Link frowned thoughtfully.

"I should go see the Hero of Time again." he said without enthusiasm. "I don't want to tell anybody else that Ganon is back, and some of the other ones don't really trust me. I don't think they're going to give me any weapon."

The Great Deku Tree, at the foot of whom they were eating, intervened.

"The Hero of Time was a very trusting boy, and will help whichever way he can."

Link sighed resignedly. The Hero of Time was only going to make fun of him again, but it was the best option, no matter which way he looked at it.

He concentrated on finding the Hero of Time at a peaceful time, after the Hero had met him already as a full adult.

Zelda watched him flop. A few seconds later, a bow and a quiver full of arrows appeared in his hands and he woke up. He looked down at his hands and nodded grimly when he saw the quiver and the bow.

"Light arrows." He said, holding out the quiver for Zelda to see. "Magic."

He sighed.

"And he took me to see those huge fairies, too, so I'd learn some spells." He shuddered. "Those things were bigger than me, and they were only wearing little bits of fur! And I couldn't even help learning the spells! The fairies just kind of opened their arms and there was a ball of light between their arms, and bang! I knew the spells." He complained.

"Don't you think it will help?" Zelda asked.

Link shrugged.

"I suppose. But I didn't want to use magic. I... I don't like it." He said.

"But your time traveling is magic, too! And how do you THINK you turned your clothes green?" Zelda said, rolling her eyes.

"I didn't do that." Link said. "It just happened."

"You probably did it without knowing. Maybe you wanted to be more like your past selves or something."

"Well, I did, but… I didn't change my clothes! I just didn't, okay?"

Zelda raised her eyebrows. Link really looked like he was desperate not to have done magic without knowing it. It made sense, in a way: he was afraid of magic, so it wasn't surprising that he would at least want to be very much in control of his own.

"It was just a guess." She conceded. "It could be the Lost Woods, or just Hyrule itself, or the Goddesses." She worried for a moment that the Great Deku Tree would pipe up to say it wasn't the Lost Woods, but the tree mercifully stayed silent.

Link still looked bothered. Zelda fished around for a change of subject and settled on the Great Fairies.

"So, those fairies… does it really bother you that much to see a half naked women?" She teased.

"Half-naked GIANT FAIRY." Link corrected her. He threw some dried fruits in his mouth and started chewing angrily.

"It didn't look like a woman?" Zelda asked, smiling.

Link glared at her, but was suddenly struck by the thought of what a normal woman would look like with the clothes worn by the Great Fairy and quickly looked away.

"Why are you blushing?" Zelda asked, now grinning. Link was obviously not thinking about clothes turning green anymore.

Link, who was having a hard time not picturing Zelda wearing nothing but tiny bits of fur, chose to change the subject.

"Are you ready to go?" He asked.

"Go?" She asked, becoming serious again. "Where? We don't know where Ganon is at all. And it will be night in just a little while!"

"He's probably still heading for Death Mountain." Link said.

"Why would he?" Zelda asked. "I'm sure he knows you have the last pendant now."

"Yes, but he doesn't know I used a magic door. He's going to think I have to walk back to the Lost Woods, so he's going to hope to run into me on the way." Link said. "Or maybe he's just going to head straight for the Sword. Maybe we can go back there."

"Ganon cannot penetrate these woods anymore." The Great Deku Tree reminded him.

"Then maybe he's waiting just outside." Link said.

"Or maybe he's just going about his business, knowing you'll find him and he doesn't need to bother finding you." Zelda said. "Like I asked you before, where would we go? He could be anywhere."

Link sat back down moodily.

"But we need to find him!" He whined. "I can defeat him now!"

"Speaking of which, how do these work, anyway?" Zelda asked, a bit dubious about the arrows. "And how do you use this thing?" She asked again, pointing at the bow.

"Light arrows will weaken his magic, because his power lies in darkness." Link recited. "So other weapons are going to work on him." He continued, no longer reciting. "And the Hero said the Master Sword will really hurt him a lot. And it can bounce his magic back at him, and that hurts him a bit too."

Zelda nodded.

"And can you use the bow?" She asked. Archery was a forbidden sport, and she couldn't imagine where Link would have learned it.

"The Hero showed me." Link replied, trying to sound confident. "I'm going to practice on the way."

Zelda cast her eyes down, unsure of what to say. She could understand Link's desire to do something, after all the delays they had already had, and like him, she just wanted Ganon to be dispatched as soon as possible. Unlike Link, however, she was thinking with her head instead of letting her emotions get the better of her.

"Practice now." She suggested. "We'll go after Ganon as soon as you're half decent."

Link rolled his eyes in exasperation.

"We should go after Ganon now!" He said. "He's going to kill people tonight! And tomorrow night, and the night after that, and the night after that, until we stop him! We need to find him as fast as we can!"

Zelda sighed. Back before she had got to know him better, she had been convinced Link was a coward and had deeply wished he'd be courageous. He had demonstrated that he was the very fist time they had talked, and had kept proving it over and over since: afraid as he was, he always got over it and did what he needed to. It had taken him a while to get over the terror Ganon inspired him, he had even run and hid for days, but in the end, he had pulled through. Even then, Zelda had constantly wished he'd show his courage more often, wished he'd get over his fears quicker, wished he'd actually act like the Hero he was destined to be instead of acting like a child who's only doing his work because he's afraid of what will happen if he doesn't. It was only after facing one of her own fears and completely falling apart that she had truly appreciated what Link was capable of. But even then, she wouldn't have said that he behaved himself bravely. He acted courageously, yes; but in an obviously reluctant manner.

Ever since he had pulled the Master Sword out this afternoon, though, he was a different person: he didn't even seem to remember he had almost died that very morning, and he was so confident that he'd defeat Ganon that it was alarming. Zelda did not want to put him back into a state of panic, but she had to inspire him some caution, and she didn't know how to do that without scaring him at least a bit.

"I want Ganon to be defeated soon too." She said. "But I don't want him to win. If you barge in his lair feeling like you do now, that you just have to wave your sword and bow around for him to fall dead at your feet, he WILL kill you."

"I don't feel like that!" Link protested, but a shadow fell over his face, as if he was suddenly remembering that his foe was dangerous. He sighed and took the Master Sword out of his sheath, which fitted it perfectly. He looked at it and moved it around a bit, catching the fading daylight seeping through the leaves.

"I can remember using it." He said. "I remember doing this..." He slashed at the air in a horizontal motion, "... and cutting a wolfos in two. I remember doing this..." He slashed downward, "...and stabbing a giant spider. And I remember doing this..." He slashed the air in front of him in a wide, diagonal gesture, "... and sending a spell back at Ganon. I remember thinking that this was it, that I could win! Hyrule could be safe again, and the Princess would..."

He stopped himself and looked down, blushing.

"Anyway." He said, sheathing the sword again. "It feels like it's going to be easy to beat him again. But you're right… If I'm not ready, I'm going to lose, just like last time…"

Saying the words seemed to have a magical effect on him, if not a particularly nice one: he suddenly shivered violently and sat down, shaking.

"What is WRONG with me?" He cried out. "I can't do this! I know I have to, I'm going to try, so don't yell at me, but... I can't! Fight Ganon? WIN? I can't...!"

Zelda interrupted him by putting a hand on his mouth.

"You can." She said softly. "I know it's difficult to believe after what he did to you, that's probably part of the reason he went so far: to terrorize you right into your next life."

Link looked at her sadly.

"That's just what you WANT to believe." He said. "When he attacked your house, you figured you just had to find the Hero and he'd take care of Ganon. I can hear you now:"

Link took on a high-pitched voice in a poor imitation of Zelda's.

"Oh, no! Ganon! I wish the Hero was here! I know, I just have to find him! Then he can kill Ganon for me and everything is going to be great! Yeah! I don't need to think of anything else, because that's going to work, because I want it to!"

"You're wrong." Zelda protested with a slight frown. "I know I've rushed into a few plans since I found out who we were, but I didn't that time. I was not thinking of anything but staying hidden while he was in my room because I had no idea why he seemed so familiar. After he left, I couldn't go back to sleep so I just sat there thinking, wondering why a huge pig monster would look familiar to me, beyond having seen it in a book. That's when I remembered him attacking me many times before, and you saving me each and every time."

"So you figured I could do it again." Link said. "That's what I said."

"No." Zelda said, her frown deepening slightly. "I spent a long time trying to convince myself that you were not the Hero, and when that didn't work, that Ganon could be defeated without you. Relying on you was the last thing I wanted to do and I tried my very best to avoid it. In the end, I just couldn't. I don't know why we're even HAVING this conversation: you know just as well as I do that you ARE Hyrule's only hope against Ganon. It doesn't matter whether I jumped on that conclusion or tried to avoid it, it's still true!"

Link closed his eyes.

"I was Hyrule's only hope last time, too." He said. "And that sword, making me feel like I can't lose… All I could think of was all the times I beat him."

Zelda lost her frown as her irritation at Link evaporated. She was kneeling in front of him, she pushed herself forward and hugged him. She had done it impulsively and was grateful Link didn't push her away in shock.

"Don't worry." She said. "I won't let you do anything stupid."

To her surprise, Link hugged her back.

"Thanks." He said.

The day ended with Link cursing a blue streak at the bow and the arrows. Archery was proving to be much more difficult than the work at the shop. He had only finally managed to actually shoot the arrows mere moments before the sun had completely set, and the two arrows he had shot had gone completely off course, not to mention they had only travelled a few paces before landing on the ground.

"Farore! The Hero made it look EASY! He was shooting and riding his horse at the same time!"

"You'll be better tomorrow." Zelda encouraged him, handing him a water pouch and some dried fruits: his dinner. She mentally pictured the Hero of Time riding a horse into the sunset and blushed. Link did not notice.

"And I HATE dried food!" He snarled, grabbing it anyway.

Zelda could understand his frustration and did not remark on his manners. He grumbled through his dinner and she kept quiet, lending a sympathetic ear to his ramblings about arrows, magic and past selves showing off.

"So." He said when he had swallowed the last of his dinner. "You're going to make me practice tomorrow, aren't you? Instead of getting on the move?"

Zelda nodded firmly.

"At least for a day. I'm sure it will make a big difference."

Link nodded reluctantly.

The screams started as soon as the darkness had settled. Both Link and Zelda automatically turned to each other in alarm: the screams were different. It was not, as usual, one or two people briefly screaming as they were killed: it sounded more like dozens of people crying in anguish and horror. The screams also sounded very close. Link pressed his hands to his ears, trying to shut them out and to keep his sanity intact. His hands barely muffled the sound at all and after only a few seconds, he couldn't take it anymore. He got up and started running towards the direction of the cries, unsheathing his sword as he ran.

He felt Zelda's arms closing around his waist and she dragged him nearly to a stop. He used his free hand to try and disengage himself, and for good measure, yelled at Zelda.

"LET ME GO! Can't you hear them?"

"You can't beat him yet!" She pleaded, tightening her grip.

"He's attacking a whole bunch of people!" He hissed. "I can't let him kill them! LET ME GO!"

"That's what he wants! He'll kill you as soon as you come out of the Woods!"

"I can't let him kill all those people!"

"If we rush in, Ganon will win again and be free to keep on killing a lot more people. Link, didn't you tell me you heard someone being attacked not far from your dorm, the night before the Presidential visit? You let HIM die, didn't you? Because you knew there was nothing you could do. It's the same thing now."

Link froze for a moment before he started struggling to get free again. Zelda didn't know how much longer she'd be able to hold on.

"No! I'm not going to let him kill anymore!"

"You have to!" Zelda protested. "You don't know how to shoot those arrows yet! Please, Link. One day. I know you'll be better with the bow tomorrow. Tonight will be the last."

Link's head hung, he sighed deeply and he stopped struggling to get free. He knew she was right, and seeing as he was still terrified of Ganon, it was a relief to know it was not wrong not to rush in. Zelda let go of his waist and as if on cue, the screaming suddenly got a louder and more frantic.

Link forgot all of Zelda's arguments and took off running again. She called out to him, but he didn't even seem to hear her. She ran after him, cursing as she went. It was difficult enough constantly re-making the heart-breaking decision of letting others die so that Link may stay safe long enough to stand a chance against Ganon, she really could have done without having to convince Link over and over again.

She could not catch up to him until he was out of the Lost Woods, and only caught up then because he had stopped running and had sunk to his knees. The terrain dipped down ahead of him and she could not see yet what may have made him react this way, but the screams had changed into terrified moans and cries. She gasped in horror and her vision almost instantly blurred with tears when she did catch up to him and could see what was below them.

There was a pile of corpses, at least two dozens: she recognized some of the faces, understandably so since they were right outside their town and the victims were probably all from there. Around the corpses were more people, surrounded by a sick green light that they could not seem to escape. Behind the pile, towering over it and still holding the broken body of a very young girl, was Ganon, who had stopped what he was doing when Link had arrived and was now looking at him with a sneer.

Ganon smiled when he saw the Hero run out of the Woods, and crushed the girl's throat. He didn't let go: the Hero had just sank to his knees and looked horrified at the sight of the child's corpse.

Ganon had spent the day planning and thinking, replaying things in his head over and over again until the sun had started to set, looking for holes in his logic, determined not to make any mistake. At sunset, he had cast a spell designed to find whoever was closest to the boy's heart. The spell had found his two closest friends, and Ganon had taken them along with all their workmates next to the Lost Woods, and had started killing to draw the Hero out.

Now that it had worked, all that was left to do was to give the Hero his instructions and make sure he followed them.

Link was looking at Ganon with mute horror. He recognized some of the people the monster had just killed, and recognized several of the ones that were still alive, among which Kariko and Dekussay. Ganon was looking at him with a cruel smile, and Link could not so much as move: between the terror Ganon inspired him and the fear that the beast would kill his friends if he charged him, he was completely paralyzed, the Master Sword laying uselessly on the ground next to his hand. He did not hear Zelda gasp next to him.

"I thought you two might come out if I made enough noise." Ganon said conversationally when he noticed Zelda. He had obviously been waiting for her, though he was addressing Link. "I am a bit surprised it took you so long, however. The Heroes of the past would not have let me kill so many before coming."

Link gulped. He wanted to get up and attack Ganon. He wanted to scream at him and hurt him for what he had just done. He could not move a muscle.

Ganon tutted at him.

"Pathetic." He snarled. "I had a spell ready for you, to keep you immobilized long enough for me to do what I intend to do here tonight. The same one that is keeping THEM" He pointed vaguely at the group of people surrounded by the green light "from running away. Maybe a bit more stimulation would make you more interesting company." Ganon said. He gestured at someone in the group, a teenage boy, who was automatically lifted from the ground. The boy started screaming and kicking, with no results whatsoever. When he was close enough, Ganon grabbed him by the neck, never ceasing to look at Link.

"I happen to know this is a friend of yours, Link." Ganon said.

Link's eyes had widened a bit more and he whimpered helplessly. Dekussay was kicking at Ganon, but the pressure on his throat didn't let anything else than muffled groans come out. He was looking at Link pleadingly.

"Never seen him before!" Link lied uselessly. Ganon laughed.

"Magic does not lie." Ganon said. "He is close to your heart, my spell clearly revealed that."

"Let him down!" Link cried, giving up on the lie. "You want ME! Leave them alone!"

"Ah. You've moved." Ganon said, sounding encouraged. "Look, your fists are clenched. I will give you one chance to save him, boy. It's a demonstration, to show you my word is good. Get up, now, and he lives."

Link got up at once, but forgot to pick up the Master Sword.

"Let him go!" He demanded.

Ganon let Dekussay fall at his feet, hacking and grasping his throat, then shoved him back into the green light with his foot.

"There." Ganon said pleasantly. "See, I can be reasonable."

Link snarled at him and reached for his sword, but did not find it at his side, so he took out his bow and an arrow instead. He nocked the arrow and aimed it at Ganon with shaking hands, but his enemy did not notice his tremor.

Ganon hissed and backed away a step at the sight of the arrows. His eyes narrowed. The Din-blasted boy did have the light arrows, just like he had feared he might. He pointed at Link, who immediately found himself surrounded by a green glow and incapable of any movement.

Ganon summoned the Princess to him.

Zelda was lifted in the air and before she could do anything but gasp in surprise, she was in Ganon's arms, his snout inches away from her face. He waved his hand in front of her eyes and she fell asleep.

"ZELDA!" Link screamed. He tried to run towards Ganon, but his legs did not move at all.

"I've shown you my word is good." Ganon said. "I will wait for you, without killing her, for three days. Join me where we last fought: you obviously know the way, seeing you just collected the pendant of power there."

He disappeared, along with the paralyzing spells he had cast, and Link collapsed on his knees again, disbelieving. Ganon had Zelda. She was as good as dead unless Link found the room where Ganon had killed him in his past life, somewhere within the very Tower that had almost killed him in this one, within three days.

"Zelda..." He whispered.

This couldn't be happening. He was alone again, he had to go up Death Mountain again, enter the Tower and this time, go deep inside of it. If he survived that, he'd face Ganon, who had Zelda and almost certainly intended to kill her as soon as he arrived.

His vision blurred and he felt four arms circling him.

"Link." A voice said. "Forget it. You can't beat him. She's dead."

"Yeah." A second voice rasped.

Link recognized them as Kariko and Dekussay and shook his head. He wiped his tears away from his eyes and got up.

"What happened?" He asked. "How did he get all these people?"

"They all work at my farm and at his bomb shop." Kariko said, pointing Dekussay. "When we got out, he was there and he put that light-thing around us and we couldn't move. After us, he went to the bomb shop: they were still just getting out too. You know that supervisor that hates me? She was the fourth one he killed. That last girl, her name was Milon and she was just 7. Dekussay said that cook that was making supervisor lunches for himself was the second one Ganon…"

She started crying and buried her face in Dekussay's shoulder.

Link's vision blurred again. Dekussay was hiding his face in Kariko's hair, but his shoulders were shaking and Link could tell he was crying too. They were not the only ones, either: Link could hear wails and sobs from all around him, along with a few curses directed at Ganon and a few directed at himself.

"I'm sorry." He said honestly. He wanted to explain that he couldn't fight Ganon yet, and that Zelda had held him back when he had first tried to run here, and that she had been right to do so. He wanted to explain that he didn't like Ganon killing people, but that he had to wait until he stood a chance to defeat him before he faced him. He wanted to explain that if he lost to Ganon again, Ganon would be free to keep killing people for who knew how long, and that was why he couldn't take any chance.

He wanted to explain all that, but he didn't because now that he was in the middle of so many victims, the arguments for his waiting to be ready before he faced Ganon didn't seem to be very good anymore. What's more, it didn't matter anymore: after all that waiting, after all those people Ganon and his monsters had killed since Zelda had stopped the President from killing him during his visit at the shop, Link was going to have to just run into Ganon's trap before he was ready anyway.

"I'm sorry." He repeated. "I better go."

"NO!" Kariko cried out, tearing herself away from Dekussay and throwing herself at his legs. "You can't! You know you can't! You're NOT a hero! Please, don't die too...!"

She started crying again. Link bit his lips before he bent down to unwrap her arms from his legs. He tried to unsheathe his sword, intent on using it to make her understand that he really did have to go after Ganon because he really was the Hero, such a Hero as he was, but it wasn't there. He looked around frantically and located it lying on the ground a few paces behind him. He abandoned Kariko for a moment to fetch it and walked back to his friends without bothering to sheath it. Around them, some people were starting to walk away, while others were digging into the pile of bodies, trying to find loved ones. Those were yelling at anybody else doing the same thing, afraid that someone would casually toss the one they were looking for aside. It was clear that the diggers would soon start fighting each other.

"I know it's hard to believe." Link said, forcing himself to ignore everyone but his two friends. Kariko shut her eye tightly, trying to block her tears and failing. Dekussay looked at him disbelievingly.

"He's going to kill you." He said.

"Well, he's going to try." Link corrected him. He lifted the Master Sword in front of them, showing off the beautiful, perfect, gleaming blade. "But you know what this is? It's the Master Sword. That means I'm the Hero, and THAT means I'm the one who's got to beat Ganon. And if I don't, he's going to kill a lot more people."

Kariko started crying louder and Dekussay shook his head sadly. Link wanted to cry too: seeing Ganon again had shaken him badly, he was terrified, and the only thing that kept him going was that he was more afraid for Zelda and his friends than he was for himself. He sheathed the sword and kneeled in front of Kariko. He wrapped her in his arms and held her close. He really wished she'd stop crying: it felt like he was holding a different person than the Kariko he knew.

"Listen. He knows you're my friends. If I don't go, he's going to come after you after he kills Zelda. I can't..." He trailed off. "Farore! She's going to die..." He muttered.

"Don't go! You can't save her!" Kariko sobbed into his shoulder.

"I bet he's already torturing her..." Link said, his voice taking on a panicky edge.

"Link, SHE dragged you into this! This is all HER fault!" Kariko yelled, lifting her head to look him in the eyes. "Who cares what Ganon does to her? She deserves it! Look what she's done to you! She's even making you wear GREEN!" She added as if this was the final straw, unaware that Zelda had nothing to do with the colour of Link's clothes.

Kariko stopped to take a breath, but intended to continue in the same vein: Link was looking very angry at Zelda, and that anger might keep him alive, so she intended to feed it.

"She even..." She started.

Link pushed her away and got up, looking angrier than ever.


Link forced his voice back to a normal tone upon seeing Kariko shrinking away from him, looking completely shocked that he was angry with her. He guessed she thought she was making him angry with Zelda.

"How can you say that?" He asked her. "He's going to TORTURE her! He's going to hurt her as much as he can! She does NOT deserve that! Nobody deserves that! And it's not like it's only me she got into trouble: we're in this together! And SHE was a supervisor, with her own house and three supervisor meals a day! She gave it all up to help me stop that Nayru-forsaken pig!"

It was the first time Link had even thought of these things, and he didn't like to think of how he'd repaid Zelda for her sacrifices up to date: he had made a point of being unpleasant more than once and it seemed like he had spent most of the last few weeks complaining.

"And now, Ganon's got her, and he's going to hurt her, and she's going to die as soon as I find her." Link finished, his voice breaking towards the end.

He sank to his knees and hit the ground with his fists. He felt drops of water falling on his arms and for a moment before he realized they were tears, he thought it was raining. He thought he heard Kariko and Dekussay still talking to him, but their voices seemed very distant and he couldn't hear what they were saying. They couldn't help him, anyway. He wished someone could, he wished someone knew what he was going through and could tell him how to fix things.

He wasn't conscious of trying to travel to the past, but when he looked up, he found himself looking at his old past self and at a very beautiful Hylian woman. He could see a table laden with the remains of a big meal out of the corner of his eyes. He thought he should leave, felt he was intruding and felt that the old Link had already helped him more than necessary, but just as he was about to do just that, his past self knelt in front of him, looking at him with a worried and gentle expression. Link was reminded of his father comforting him after he had a bad fall while playing.

"What happened?" His past self asked.

"Zelda..." Link said. He had to take a deep breath to be able to say more. It had been easy spelling it out for Kariko, who hated Zelda and could not understand why Link had to try and save her, but Link knew his past self would understand everything and somehow, it made it a lot more difficult to talk about it. Talking to someone who would take Zelda's fate seriously made the situation a lot more real.

"Ganon has her?" The old Link helped.

Link nodded miserably.

"He said he wasn't going to kill her yet because he was going to wait for me for three days." He said. "I think he's going to kill her as soon as I get there. And I'm sure he's going to torture her, and..."

"And you're going to save her." The old Link said. "Princess?" He turned to the woman. "Could you go into the garden and get me two fairies? There are some bottles in the kitchen."

The woman nodded and left for the kitchen. Link heard a door open and close and guessed she had gone out through a door in the kitchen itself. A few moments later, he heard the door open and close again and the Hylian woman came back out of the kitchen with two bottled fairies. Link clenched his teeth at the sight of them, but even he had to admit a fairy was Zelda's only chance.

"When fairies bring people back…" he asked, thinking he was being silly to think his past self would give him fairies if they did things like that but wanting to make sure anyway, "they don't become undead, do they?"

"Oh no." His past self replied. "Fairies just go back to their own realm after healing someone. Doing that is the only purpose for their being here. Undead fairies… where did you even dig up such an idea?"

"I meant the people they heal." Link said in a low voice, deeply embarrassed because he knew he was being stupid but he couldn't help it.

"Oh! Of course not!" His past self said, looking completely stunned that Link would even ask that. "And I thought the idea of undead fairies was strange! Haven't you ever been revived by one?"

"Just last time." Link said, thinking of his previous life but refusing to get into details. "But I wasn't sure…"

Link had been alive for such a short time after being revived by fairies in his last life that he could hardly be sure he wouldn't have turned into a re-dead the following full moon or something like that. It was a bit far-fetched, but reviving people was such an unnatural thing, could anything related to it really be far-fetched? Link didn't think so.

"Well, don't worry." His past self said. "The undead are the product of evil, fairies are good in nature. There is no relation between the two. Your Zelda will be just as she was before once the fairy is done with her, except without any of her recent injuries. Now, I'm giving you two of them because in my experience, fairies go for me anyway half the time I want them to go for someone else. If the first one you free goes for you, just free the other one right away, before the first one is done. That second one won't start healing the same person as the first one when there's someone else around, and will definitely go for your Zelda. Got that?"

Link nodded and smiled, feeling like a huge weight had been lifted from his shoulders. He could save Zelda!

The old Link returned his smile, but it disappeared when he looked at him up and down.

"Just how much combat experience do you have?" He asked. "Not a lot, by the looks of it."

"Well..." Link stammered. "I killed that giant worm, and I was attacked by re-deads, and by a keese on fire, and by a Stalfos... he almost killed me." He admitted, looking down. It was rather embarrassing.

His past self looked worried.

"You could barely handle a Stalfos and now you're going after Ganon?" He asked.

Link nodded miserably. If even his past self agreed with Kariko that he didn't have a chance, they were probably both right.

"How long can you stay? I can try to give you some pointers." The old Link said.

"I should go." The Hylian woman said before Link could answer. The old Link turned to her, bowed, thanked her for her company and walked her to the door. After she'd left, he turned back to Link.

"I can stay as long as I want." Link said, answering his past self's earlier question. "When I go back to my time, it's going to be right after I left anyway."

"Good!" The old Link said with a smile. He ran upstairs and came back with a bow, quiver and a sword in a sheath. Link noticed the sheath was much older and much more worn than the one his past self had given him.

"First, let me demonstrate why you want to wear your sword on your back." He said.

- End of Chapter 12

Chapter Text

A few quick notes:

1. This story is rated T due to some very violent content.

2. The story is actually completed, and I intend to post a new chapter weekly.

3. I don't own any Legend of Zelda character or setting. I'm just borrowing them and I hope Nintendo won't mind too much.

4. Thank you so much for reading!

5. I should probably have mentioned this before, but I'd like to credit Rose Zemlya's "The Return" for being the first place I saw the Goddesses' names used to curse in Hyrule. It made so much sense and it was so natural that I assumed every fanfic had to be doing it. I don't know how much use it does get, but just in case it's actually fairly original, I wanted to make sure everyone reading this knew I got the idea from The Return (which, by the way, is my favorite Zelda story: Rose is an insanely talented writer).


Chapter 13: Death Mountain Again

Link resurfaced in his own time to Kariko and Dekussay rushing to his side, looking panicked. He propped himself up from the ground, where he had been lying face first, and looked under him.

There were seven bottles there, two containing fairies and five containing blue potion. Link slipped the small bottles - they were only big enough to contain about a sip of liquid - in his pockets and got up. Kariko and Dekussay were looking more puzzled than worried now.

"My mind can visit my past selves." Link explained. "And I can bring back some stuff."

They nodded, but they still looked like they could not believe what they had just seen or what Link just told them.

Link smiled at them and undid his belt, finally knowing why it was so long. He rearranged it to make a sash and a belt, with the Master Sword's handle right above his left shoulder. He unsheathed it and sheathed it back a few times, for practice, and found the motion completely natural and familiar. Kariko and Dekussay were looking at him in awe: Link guessed it was because he was handling a sword.

"I'm still afraid of them if someone else is holding them." He said. "Like Ganon." He added grimly.

He took out his bow and an arrow, grabbing both in one motion with his right hand, pretended to aim the arrow, and then put both away again with his right hand, while taking out his sword with his left. The arrow fell off the quiver, so Link picked it up and tried the whole routine again. This time, the arrow fell into place.

Dekussay clapped. Kariko glared at the both of them.

"Cute." She said. "But you're not going to a talent show, you're going after Ganon! GANON!" She repeated, throwing her arms into the air.

"I got to go." Link said, trying to sound confident in an effort to feel less terrified. The more time he wasted, the more time Ganon had to torture Zelda, but the quicker Link got there, the quicker he'd be fighting with Ganon, and he was still not looking forward to that.

He hugged Kariko and Dekussay. He then turned his back on them and ran back into the Lost Woods. Kariko screamed something at him, which sounded like a plea. Link ignored it but he suddenly thought of the old Link explaining how blue potion healed absolutely everything. Had he implied that the stuff could heal even old injuries? Did that mean it could heal Kariko?

He shook the matter out of his head as something to think about later and ran on, heading back to where the Lost Door to Death Mountain was. He found it quickly enough, and next to it was the torch Zelda and him had used, abandoned. He grabbed it, thanking the Goddesses he had happened to drop it so close to the door. He supposed he might have stopped bothering to hold it once he was out of Goron City, but he could not remember.

He grabbed the torch without stopping and ran through the door to Goron City. He came to a stop then because he couldn't see where he was going.

Having to stop running allowed his mind to wander, and it wandered right into the fact that Link would have liked nothing better than to crawl under a rock and hide. Link frowned, put his torch on the floor, stepped away from it and cast Din's Fire to light it. It was a bit like using a boulder to smash a fly, but he had no other way to do it.

As it turned out, casting the spell was a very good move: Link hadn't known it, but high on the walls, higher than he could reach but still well within the range of the spell, dozens of torches came alive as Din's Fire touched them, illuminating the path as well as anybody could wish. Link picked up his own torch anyway, as useless as it looked in the well-lit corridor, knowing the ledge off the corridor would still be dark, and that Death Mountain itself would be as well.

Being able to see, he made his way out of Goron City without difficulty. Death Mountain at night was just as unexpectedly normal as it had been during the day, and even less threatening due to the tektites being asleep. Until, that is, Link started on the path up the mountain.

He had barely taken three steps uphill when something came down from above him and painfully knocked him backward. Luck was the only thing that kept Link from falling right off the narrow path. He let out a cry that was as much shock as pain: he had caught a glimpse of what had fallen almost right on top of him. He got back on his feet and unsheathed his sword, although he wasn't sure he dared get close enough to the monster to use it.

Hanging from a thread a few paces up the path was a spider which would have been very mean looking even if it hadn't been bigger than Link himself. It had a shell that reflected the light of Link's torch and which looked very polished and solid, and which, just to make the point even clearer, was adorned with a skull. The spider also had pincers on every leg and fangs the size of Link's hands. Link was examining it, not making a step towards it, looking for a spot not covered by the shell: he didn't think his sword would cut through that and he did not want to get close enough to hit the spider without being reasonably certain that he could hurt it. As he was looking at it, the spider spun around and climbed back up its thread.

Link's eyes narrowed. The spider had exposed its belly when spinning around and said belly was not protected by any shell or armour. Link was glad to have found a weak spot, but the spider was now out of reach and Link needed to get it back down, and then to strike it just as it was about to climb back up its thread. He could only hope the spider would spin around next time, too.

Link walked cautiously back to the spot where the spider had fallen almost on top of him, heard a noise above him and quickly backed away a couple of steps. The spider fell in front of him and in an effort to hit him, saved Link the trouble of waiting for it to climb back up by spinning around with its legs extended. Link took another step back to avoid the legs and when they fell, he leapt sword first at the beast, impaling it.

The spider screamed and fell off its thread on its back. Link took his sword out of it and stabbed it again, just in case the first injury didn't quite finish the job. The spider screamed weakly, shuddered, and turned to dust.

Link's eyes widened and it was with a shaky hand that he re-sheathed the Master Sword. Even though the giant worm in the desert had done this too, there was no getting used to things turning to dust: it was just too creepy.

He shook it off by thinking of what Ganon might be doing to Zelda right at that moment and started up the path again, keeping his ears attentive to any noise overhead.

"Well, princess." Ganon said conversationally. "It seems like we'll get to spend some time together."

Zelda was held magically to a wall, in what she thought was the spot where Link's past life's skeleton had been in the museum recreation of the room Ganon had taken her to. When she had first come to, the chamber hadn't had a roof and the floor had been covered in debris. Ganon had waved at the debris and they had reassembled into a roof.

She glared at Ganon and after a short interior debate, decided not to dignify his comment with an answer.

"Now, now." Ganon said. "You're not going to refuse to talk to me, are you? If you don't entertain me with conversation, I'll have to find other ways to amuse myself."

He threw a ball of light blue energy at her. It looked fairly harmless for the split second it took to actually hit her, but when it did, it seemed to simultaneously trigger every painful sensation her body was capable of feeling. Zelda screamed, her muscles convulsing so much that she twitched despite the magical bounds immobilizing her against the wall.

It felt like it lasted an eternity and when it stopped, Zelda felt sure that Ganon had kept the spell long enough for Link to have arrived – she knew he would come, even though she really wished he wouldn't. She opened her eyes and when her vision refocused, she saw she was still alone in the room with Ganon, who was smiling as benignly as a giant pig could.

"That was five seconds of pain, princess." He said, his voice like silk. "I'm sure you don't want me to keep it going longer next time. I'm sure you'd rather there not be a next time. Right? Answer."

Zelda was trying to catch her breath and did not answer quickly enough. Ganon threw another ball of light blue energy at her. It hurt just as much as the last one, and this time, Zelda was absolutely sure, by the time it stopped, that it must have lasted several hours.

"Ten seconds." Ganon stated.

Zelda thought he had to be lying. She was having trouble breathing, and although the worse of the pain had stopped, she still felt a dull ache all over, and she was having trouble thinking of anything else.

"Now." Ganon said. "Ask me not to do this again. Just say please."

Zelda did not hesitate. She couldn't see what pride would gain her at this point.

"Please." She hiccoughed between two ragged breaths.

Ganon hmm'ed thoughtfully and rubbed his chin, as though he was mulling things over. Zelda's eyes widened as she realized Ganon would not stop just because she asked him too. She fought back tears, thinking that if he was going to hurt her no matter what she did, she would at least make it as little satisfying for him as she could, and who knew? Maybe he'd get bored. She tried to adopt a neutral expression, but she was still breathing hard and she guessed the effect would be less than convincing.

"You know, Princess... It wouldn't please me much to stop. In fact, I would much rather do it again right now." Ganon said with a cruel smile. He threw another ball of energy at her, this one slightly darker than the previous two.

As bad as the other attacks had been, they did not compare to this one: Zelda could not tell whether she was screaming and she did not care. She was hurting horribly, everywhere, and she wanted it, needed it, to end.

She could hardly believe the pain had not killed her when Ganon finally stopped the spell. She didn't bother looking at him, or at anything for that matter: she couldn't see anything, maybe because her eyes were closed, she couldn't tell.

"You'll make yourself hoarse, screaming like that." Ganon scolded her mockingly.

Zelda started crying, or more accurately, she became aware of the tears streaming down her cheeks and started crying harder and sobbing with no more thought of denying Ganon as much satisfaction as she could.

Ganon laughed.

Link was exhausted by the time he reached the top of Death Mountain. He had encountered a good dozen more spiders on the way up, and although he had been listening out for them, a few had managed to surprise him like the first one. One had also closed a pincer on his arm when he had driven the Master Sword into its belly, and that arm now hurt quite a bit. Link remembered Zelda insisting to bandage his wounds when she had found him on his way back from the Tower, and had decided she might have had a good reason: therefore, he had ripped the bottom of his tunic and bandaged his arm as well as he could. He still doubted there was much of a point, since it didn't seem to reduce the pain any and since the bandage was soon stained with his blood.

Of course, none of that would really have made him so tired if he had slept at all instead of walking uphill all night. As it was, each step he took was a challenge and he ended up tripping and falling. He got up with great difficulty, and decided there was no way he was going into the Tower feeling like that. Taking a nap was also out of the question so he reluctantly - he still was not keen on using any kind of magic - took a bottle of blue potion out of his pocket and drank its content.

The potion worked even better than he remembered and right then and there, Link decided magic was not all bad. He felt better than he ever had: not only was all his tiredness gone, his arm was not hurting anymore and when he looked at the bandage, he saw even the blood that had stained it was gone, as if the injury had never happened in the first place. He removed the piece of fabric and stuffed it in his pocket, all the while marvelling at how good he felt. He was neither hungry nor thirsty; he wasn't cold, despite the chill night air, and he was not even out of breath anymore, despite having almost run up here. Some of his teeth had been bothering him for a while and he had expected he would start losing them soon, like any worker past puberty, but he couldn't feel any pain in his mouth anymore. He wasn't itching anywhere, either, which felt a bit strange, in a good way. Link thought he would definitely have to try and save some of the potion for his friends, or better yet, go back into the past and get more.

Now was no time for that, though. Feeling so good only reminded him that somewhere inside the Tower, Zelda was almost certainly being tortured by Ganon. Link ran more than he walked to the Tower, and only hesitated for a moment in front of the door before he went in, holding his torch in front of him.

Once inside the room, Link spotted the three staircases and stopped to think.

Ganon's chamber was up, he was sure of it. So why did it seem like he should go down first? Was it instinct, like when he had found the Master Sword and the pendants, or was it just his mind rationalizing not heading straight for the re-deads he knew to be in the first chamber up the stairs? He certainly did not WANT to go up, but he wanted to waste time even less.

He decided to go up.

Zelda could hardly believe she was still alive, and truth be told, she dearly wished she wasn't. Ganon kept throwing more of those blue balls of energy at her, no matter what she did. Trying to not scream or cry had not worked because she couldn't help it, and when she had begged for mercy, Ganon had casually told her he was not the merciful type and next thing she knew, she was in even more pain than she had been before. She had stopped thinking at that point, and she just waited for more pain, hoping the next time would kill her.

"Maybe that's enough for now." She dimly heard Ganon say. "I'm going to ask you some questions, now. If your conversation fails to be informative and entertaining, I will go back to amusing myself like I have since we've arrived here."

Zelda could not even muster the strength to groan in answer. She didn't know how she would manage to answer any question.

"Now, now." Ganon said in mock gentleness. "None of that. If you don't manage to talk at all, I will definitely hurt you again, and more than I have up to date. Did I mention that you had no refuge from that pain? The magic will not allow you to lose consciousness, or die. So, I suggest you find the strength to talk. Understood?"

Zelda started crying again: Ganon had just taken away her only hope of escape by telling her she could not die from the pain.

"Understood?" He repeated.

"Yes." She spat, with great difficulty.

"Good." Ganon said, sounding like he was praising a dog for performing a trick. "When I visited the shop, everyone said that Link was afraid of everything. Was that true at all?"

Zelda was not thinking straight, and didn't realize she hadn't known Ganon was there when the President had visited the shop.

"Yes." She said weakly. "Just about everything."

"I remember magic being mentioned. Is he afraid of that?"

"Yes." Zelda said. Her thoughts were so jumbled that she couldn't see the connection between Link and being tortured by Ganon. Was Link here too? She hoped not.

"Fire?" Ganon asked.

"Yes." Zelda breathed. Talking was difficult: she couldn't seem to find her breath.

"Swords?" Ganon asked.

Zelda nodded.

"Even the Master Sword?"

Zelda tried to think but could not align two thoughts together. She shrugged because she wasn't sure whether Link was still afraid of his sword at all or not.

"Darkness? Spiders?" Ganon asked.

"Darkness." Zelda said. "And any monster, even plain keeses. But..." She took a deep breath to be able to finish. "Not normal bugs."

Ganon did not say anything more for a moment. It seemed to him like the boys fears were a consequence of their last battle. The boy was afraid of magic because Ganon had used it. Ganon had burned him alive and he was afraid of fire. He was afraid of darkness and keeses because Ganon had made hundreds of them attack him in the darkness. He had been made to bleed to death and later, impaled, and he was afraid of swords. Ganon tried to think of what else he had done to the boy. He remembered beating him to death, but he hadn't used any weapons or magic, and he could not think what that would make the boy afraid of.

The information was not very useful, since Ganon had already intended to blast the boy as quickly as possible and was not about to change his mind, but it was a bit reassuring: in all likelihood, if the boy was afraid of all this because of their last battle, he'd be terrified of facing Ganon again, which would probably make him less of a threat.

It also gave him the answer to a question that had been nagging him since he had taken the girl here: how to kill her so that it caused the most trauma to the boy? It was clear now that impaling her to the wall, in the same spot he had the child hero, would greatly disturb the boy, since everything else that reminded him of his defeat scared him.

Zelda was gradually regaining her wits, now that Ganon was ignoring her. She was horrified at herself for answering questions about Link that may help Ganon, and her mind was spinning as she tried to think of a way to make up for it. She supposed getting information might be a start, but she couldn't bring herself to talk to Ganon and get his attention again.

She was still trying to assemble her courage when Ganon turned back towards her.

"You do realize I am going to kill you the instant the Hero walks into this room?" Ganon asked conversationally.

Zelda's eyes widened. It was indeed obvious now that she thought of it, but she would have preferred to remain blissfully clueless. Her mind, which was just starting to clear up, focused on the thought of her imminent death and she found herself completely incapable of thinking of anything else.

"Aww, you're shaking!" Ganon said, as though he thought that was the cutest thing.

"Go back to the Dark World!" Zelda spat at him.

"Now, now." Ganon scolded her. He threw a light blue ball of energy at her.

Zelda tried to brace herself in the split second before the ball swelled to engulf her, but it was no use. Her entire universe was once again reduced to a level of pain she would not have thought possible the day before. It was not as bad as the darker balls of energy were, but it was bad enough to make her wish she could die from the pain. But as Ganon had said, there was no possible relief from this torture, and the pain just went on and on.

It did end eventually, leaving Zelda completely exhausted, soaked with tears and with a very sore throat. She didn't stop crying when the pain stopped, because she already expected it to start again.

"Be nice." Ganon admonished. "Say you're sorry."

"Sor... ry." Zelda hiccupped between helpless sobs.

"Good." Ganon said. "I'm going to tell you a few things, now. It may make you angry, but if you so much as scowl at me, you will be in so much pain that everything you've endured to date will seem pleasant in retrospect."

Ganon smiled at her hungrily. It would be fun to watch her try to remain perfectly calm as he told her of what he had done before and intended to do again. If she somehow succeeded, he'd pretend she hadn't and deliver what he had just promised.

"You see these?" He said, fishing into his pocket. He frowned and searched into his pocket for a few moments, but found nothing: he had forgotten the bottles. He shrugged.

"Never mind. The building will do."

Ganon cast an imprisoning spell right away to bind souls within to the building and turned back to Zelda.

"I don't know what the best part was of disposing of the two of you: knowing you would not be back or being free to clean up Hyrule."

He stopped and looked at her, apparently waiting for a comment. Zelda thought he was probably trying to make sure she was paying attention and guessed that if he thought she wasn't, he would punish her.

"Clean up?" she asked.

"Magic is a funny thing, you see." Ganon said, sounding like a teacher. "It responds to need, through generations. A magical race will generate children who have stronger magic than the previous generation if there is a need for it, and children with weaker magic if the current generation's magical potential is not being fully used. So, in order to avoid having stronger and stronger enemies with each passing generations, it only made sense for me to get rid of all magical races."

"The Hylians!" Zelda exclaimed, exaggerating her surprise to hide her horror.

"Among others." Ganon confirmed. "They definitely gave me the most fun, and they still do. It is simply too funny to watch the humans so angry with them for 'leaving'. Of course, I also make sure the Presidents never miss an occasion to feed and encourage that resentment."

"We've already figured out the President was working for you." Zelda said, hoping the pig would be disappointed she was not shocked by the news.

Ganon burst out laughing.

"Working for me? Yes, I suppose you could call it that. Although my recruitment and motivation techniques are a bit unusual, and so is the payment they all end up receiving. Go on, ask me how I convince them all to 'work' for me."

Zelda was curious, but she had a feeling the answer would be horrible and she knew Ganon would start torturing her again as soon as she showed any emotion, so it's only because she knew the pain would only come faster if she didn't that she asked.


Ganon laughed throughout his answer. He told her about allowing his 'defeat' centuries earlier, and how he had never let Hyrulians rule themselves for even a second, taking over the bodies of every person they ever elected. He told her how much fun he'd had making Hyrule as miserable as possible while the population kept on believing they were choosing their leaders.

"You people are simply such fools." He said. "Nobody ever even questions how come children always seem to land jobs wherever they and their parents don't apply, and that's just one example. I'm sure you'd be able to think of many more if you were to survive much longer."

Zelda looked down and tried hard not to show any emotion, but her thoughts centered on Link, who had spent most of his life up to date in a place that terrified him, and of his friend Kariko, with her scars burning in the sun at the farm. It occurred to her that Link would probably love to work on a farm.

"Why, Princess." Ganon said, sounding hurt. "You look so angry! I will not have you frown like that in my presence!"

He threw another ball of energy at her, this one darker than any before.

Link was lying on the floor, panting. He did not want to have to use another potion already, not if a few minutes of rest could do the trick.

He had cast Din's Fire as soon as he was in the room with the Re-deads, and they had all been hurt by it, but only a few, presumably the weaker ones, had actually fallen. He had cast the spell again, but a Re-dead was already on him and since the spell did not set Link himself on fire, the Re-dead was protected. Link struggled as much as he could, but the monster still took a lot out of him before letting go.

At least, he had been the only one left. Link cast the fire spell again and the Re-dead turned to ashes like the other ones.

As a result, Link did not feel nearly as bad as after his first visit to this room, but he did not exactly feel grand, either. He finally understood what the Hero of Time had meant when he had said that using the Great Fairy Spells would tire his soul: he could not think of a better way to describe the empty feeling he felt in addition to the physical tiredness.

He stayed on the floor, resting, for a few minutes, but it didn't seem to help. He got up, tried to take a few steps, found that he could, and decided to wait until he felt worse than that to take another potion. He did not want to travel to the past again to ask for more unless he had to: not only was it embarrassing, he feared that Ganon, being so close, would find out about the trips and somehow prevent them.

He walked to the door on the opposite side of the room, tried to open it, and cursed loudly. The door was locked. As angry as he was, he couldn't manage to be quite surprised: he had known this would happen, hadn't he? That was why his instincts had wanted to go downstairs first. The key was downstairs, and Link had probably been in this tower a dozen times through various lifetimes, so somewhere deep inside, he knew he needed to go down first. He had ignored his instincts in an effort to save some time, and had only wasted it as a result.

He cursed at the door one more time for good measure, crossed the room back, and started back down in the long staircase.

He tiptoed his way across the entrance room, anxious not to attract the attention of any Stalfos or Keeses, and made it to the first of the two staircases going down. His torch revealed it was caved in a few steps down, so he proceeded to the second staircase, hoping the key would be in that direction.

Ganon growled in irritation and disappointment. It was his own fault, really. He had known this might happen, especially if he used a more powerful torture spell, but still... it was just too soon. He had barely started to have fun, and now he'd only get to enjoy the physical symptoms of the girl's agony, unless you counted the mild amusement her current state provided.

She was singing, fairly loudly and quite incoherently, switching back and forth between several childish songs and the occasional dirty song that an upper-class girl had no business knowing. Her brain had escaped the pain by shutting itself off as much as Ganon' magic allowed: the girl had gone insane. She could still feel pain, and Ganon knew from experience that her muscles would still tense and her body would still trash around, but she simply no longer cared. Ganon had seen some of his victims scream through the pain, others laugh, but in each case, it seemed to be to kill time more than anything else.

Out of spite, Ganon cast the most powerful form of the spell he could on her. A black ball of energy left his hand, sped towards her and engulfed her. In order to be able to enjoy her physical reactions as much as he could, he simultaneously released her from her magical bounds.

She turned out to be a screamer, and as expected, she trashed around, agitated by convulsions that made her froth at the mouth. Ganon left the spell on for several minutes, enjoying the Princess's pain, but he eventually stopped it, bored with the purely physical pain. He would have preferred to be able to play with the girl's mind longer: a slow descent into madness, starting with simple foggy mindedness and confusion, was a lot more entertaining than a sudden shutdown.

A few seconds after he had lifted the spell, Zelda started singing again as though nothing had happened.

Link stood transfixed in the doorway, and the Stalfos stared at him from the middle of the room, looking astonished to have company. A key dangled from a chain around his bony neck. Link didn't know whether to be happy about that or not: on the one hand, finding the key was good, but on the other hand, finding it in the possession of a Stalfos was less than ideal.

Once again, the thought of Zelda being tortured during every second he wasted spurred him into action. He knew Stalfos's heads came off and he figured that at the very least, if he decapitated this one, he'd be able to get the key and run for it before it got itself back together.

He dropped his torch on the stone floor, unsheathed his sword and jumped at the Stalfos. The Stalfos already had its sword out, and it used it to slash at the oncoming attacker.

Link went down in a heap, clutching at his stomach. He rolled sideways out of instinct more than reflection, and the Stalfos' jab missed him. He kept rolling until he managed to get up, still holding his stomach. He didn't dare look at it, but it felt like the Stalfos' sword had left a huge hole. He was barely on his feet that he had to dive sideways to avoid the living skeleton's sword getting him again. He landed badly and hit his head badly, one of his arms being busy holding his middle together and the other one being encumbered by the Master Sword. He jumped back to his feet, but almost stumbled right back down: the room was spinning, and his legs couldn't seem to stay straight. The Stalfos was coming for him again.

Link did the only thing that seemed to make sense, he sheathed his sword and while staying as far as he could from the Stalfos, he took out a blue potion and drank it.

The effect seemed less than before, but it was only because all the extra things the blue potion had healed before, such as his teeth, were still fine. The wound in his gut disappeared, the blood he had been dripping on the floor disappeared, and the room stopped spinning, much to Link's relief who had been half afraid that it actually was spinning, and that it wasn't just him being dizzy.

The Stalfos caught up with him as he was drinking the potion, and slashed at him again. Link jumped back to avoid the blade and in the same motion, took out his own sword again and stabbed at the monster's head. The blade slipped on the skull, barely leaving a scratch but apparently bothering the skeleton, who hissed and tried to stab at Link's head. Link easily avoided it, noticing for the first time that the monster was actually a bit clumsy.

He stepped sideways around the Stalfos and tried for the head again, this time making a horizontal slashing motion with the Master Sword, aiming at the neck. The Stalfos' head was cut clean off and went bouncing and rolling to the other end of the room. The body of the Stalfos crumbled into a pile of bones, the chain with the key resting neatly on top. Link grabbed it and quickly jerked his hand back, narrowly avoiding a bite. The head had literally flown back to its body and by the time Link had backed up to the door, the Stalfos was standing again. Link opened the door with his back to it, but didn't have time to slip out before he had to block the Stalfos's sword with his own.

The bag of bones was right on top of him, and Link didn't dare back up because behind the door was the narrow staircase leading back upstairs and he was afraid he'd trip if he tried to climb it backward. He couldn't manoeuvre his sword, so he used his free arm to punch the Stalfos in the head.

It came off again, and rolled away like it had before. The Stalfos collapsed on the floor and this time, Link had no key to pick up so he dashed out of the room, just taking the time to grab his torch back. He slammed the door shut behind him and ran up the staircase all the way to the ground floor. He expected the Stalfos to come out after him, but a quick check once he was out of the staircase revealed it to be empty: apparently, the Stalfos had not pursued him.

Link tiptoed back to the staircase to the upper floor, but was not as lucky as before: a sharp high pitched scream behind him gave him just enough time to throw himself on the floor and avoid getting a flaming keese in the back of the head. He got up and when the keese came back within range, he swept the air with his sword - just like he remembered doing in many of his past lives. The keese fell out of the air at his feet. Link jumped back from the flames. He didn't bother to wait and see the carcass burn to ashes: he walked around it and proceeded to the staircase going up.

The room which had previously been filled with re-dead was thankfully still empty, and when Link tried the key on the door lock, it opened as easily as if the mechanism had not been thousands of years old.

Behind the door was another pitch black staircase, which Link climbed holding his torch forward and his sword in his other hand.

Ganon knew it automatically when a locked door was opened in his fortress, and was therefore warned that Link was in the Tower already. He told Zelda so, but she just kept on muttering incoherently about boats and wind. Ganon was unpleasantly reminded of the time she had been disguised as a pirate and he cast another torture spell on her.

Link sat down, or more accurately, crashed down after the last moblin turned to dust. He had been craving his third potion since halfway through the fight, but the moblins had never given him the chance to get the bottle out. Link was astonished that he was still alive, if barely.

He sat for a long while, fighting the urge to sleep and trying to convince his arm to move just enough to get a potion out of his pocket and to his mouth. Both his arms were badly cut, and one of his hands was missing two fingers. His legs were in no better condition, and neither were his torso or his head. He had a nasty cut on the back of that, and he could feel the blood soaking his tunic at the neck and in his back. It was warm, sticky and disgusting, and even if he hadn't also been in terrible pain from all his injuries, he would have wanted to drink a potion just to get rid of the ickyness.

He finally managed to drag his hand to his pocket and to close it on a bottle. He dragged his catch out of his pocket and up his body to his mouth. He uncorked it with his teeth, which, although the rest of his body was miserable, were still feeling wonderful, and carefully tipped the content into his mouth. He swallowed with some difficulty and immediately jumped to his feet, feeling like all the pain had to have been an illusion. The sorry state of his clothes was the only testament that the battle had been real: the blood stains were gone, but the fabric was still torn and cut everywhere.

Link quickly inspected the small piles of ashes that were all that was left of the three Moblins, looking for their keys. They each had one on their belts when Link had entered the room, and Link was dearly hoping they hadn't also been turned to dust.

He found them under the ashes, along with the Moblins' wallets, which were, just as the old Link had mentioned, full of rupees. Link had never actually held money, and he was surprised by how light the little flat gems were. He hesitated between leaving it and taking it: he had no use for it at the moment, but if he actually survived his battle with Ganon, it could sure come in handy. He ended up emptying two of the wallets into the third one, adding the keys to it and finally, tying it to his belt. It was light enough not to be a burden, and if he ever got out of here, he'd be able to buy some new clothes.

Link was still rather uncomfortable with magic, so he refused to dwell on the fact that each of the wallets had already held too many rupees for their size – the gems had just kept pouring out - and that the lot definitely should not have fit into the third wallet.

Ganon cursed when he felt another door unlocking. He did not much like how quickly the Hero was going through the tower: it was starting to look as though the boy was more dangerous than he had looked when Ganon had taken Zelda. To make things worse, it also looked as though he would not be as injured and tired as Ganon would have wanted by the time he got to this chamber.

Link stood up over the chest he had just kicked open, staring at its content. He was breathing heavily, as a result of fighting the Wolfos which had been guarding the chest. There had been only two of them, but the room was full of blood – both dry and fresh - and bones, including quite a few Wolfos-like skulls, suggesting that there had been many more than two at one time. Link suspected they had killed each other off for food and the two remaining ones were simply the only survivors.

The Master Sword had made relatively quick work of them, but Link had spent a lot of energy running around the room, trying to avoid being bitten: he did not care to become a Wolfos himself, and there were rumours that it could happen if one bit you. As a result, he had no injury, but he was out of breath and his legs were sore.

That wasn't why he was not bending down to pick up the content of the chest, however. No, the reason for that was much less glorifying than being too sore or too tired to move: he was simply too scared.

The chest was lined with velvet and contained a very ornate and unusually big key. The very same key that had opened for him the door to the Tower's highest chamber, where Ganon had been waiting for him and where Ganon was now waiting for him again. Link knew that he would soon find the door that this key opened, and when he did...

He shook his head violently, trying to chase the thoughts away. He practiced the manoeuvre of switching from his sword to his bow and an arrow and back again a few times, executing the movement perfectly every time. He had been practicing that move while climbing Death Mountain, between rooms in the Tower, and sometimes, like now, before continuing forward. It wasn't that he needed the practice anymore, but he found it reassuring that at the very least, he could switch back and forth between holding the two weapons he needed to defeat Ganon without difficulty. He also tried shooting a few arrows, which was something else he had been doing at every opportunity, with much less success. He was getting a bit more distance every time, but his aim was still absolutely awful. He picked up the arrows and put them back in his quiver, along with his bow, with a sigh. He was not going to let Zelda be tortured while he practiced archery for a few hours: he'd just have to shoot as well as he could and hope for the best.

Next, he dug his remaining bottles out of his pocket. The empty ones were in his other pocket, so that he wouldn't grab an empty bottle at a crucial moment. Therefore, this pocket only had the three bottles that hadn't been used yet. He had had to use his fourth blue potion after an encounter with some kind of armoured knight, which he had only been able to finally defeat by hitting the leather straps holding the armour together at the back repeatedly, causing the armour to fall off and the knight to become just a... well, Link didn't know what the knight had been, some kind of cross between a human, a wolfos and a moblin it had seemed, but the point was that it hadn't been armoured anymore and that Link had been able to kill it. It had turned to dust just like everything else seemed to in this tower.

Link swallowed his saliva, looking at his one remaining blue potion. He had had two of those last time he had faced Ganon, and even that had not been enough. Going in with only one would be downright foolish, he thought. He had better go into the past and get some more, no matter how embarrassing it was to keep asking his past selves for help and supplies and regardless of the risk that Ganon might somehow sense what he was doing.

He concentrated on finding himself buying some of the stuff, hoping to at least run into a past self he had not met yet: it wasn't quite as humiliating this way. He closed his eyes, but when he opened them again, he was in the same room he had been, although he seemed to be floating for some reason, and his past self (he was assuming) was lying on the floor, wearing clothes that made Link's look good by comparison. Link frowned and willed himself closer to his past self, wondering why he hadn't found him buying potion somewhere and whether he had found him just before his death.

As he got closer, he noticed the ears, which were not long like Hylians, but only slightly pointy. He also noticed three bottles in the boy's hand, his three bottles. Link's ghostly eyes widened: that wasn't a past self, that was him! He had left his body and he was floating above it like some... ghost! He desperately concentrated on going back, panicked at the thought he wouldn't be able to.

Thankfully, he was back into his body without difficulty. He was so relieved that it took him a moment to realize that he couldn't go into the past anymore. He could only guess that Ganon had already found out about the trips to the past, probably from Zelda, and had done something to stop it. He frowned and clenched his teeth: this was proof that Ganon was indeed torturing Zelda. She would never have told him otherwise. As if the confirmation of his worries about her wasn't bad enough, he was now faced with having to face Ganon with only one blue potion, assuming of course he didn't end up having to use that one before even getting to the pig. Link got up and compulsively practiced switching from his sword to his bow and back a few times. He stopped himself after a few executions of the now familiar manoeuvre, picked up the key from the chest and went on his way.

Now that he knew Zelda was definitely being tortured, he wanted to waste no more time. He had no way to measure the time since he had entered the Tower, but he knew climbing Death Mountain had taken all night because it had been dawn when he had entered the Tower of Hera; he also guessed he had been in the Tower for several hours, and that added up to Zelda having been Ganon's prisoner for almost the length of a work day, perhaps more. Link could not bear the thought of leaving her alone with that pig any longer: he wanted to end the whole madness NOW.

The next room was empty, and at the other end of it stood the door that Link had been both dreading and longing to find: a door adorned with chains and a lock that matched the ornate key he was now holding, and behind which was Ganon.

Ganon was so preoccupied with waiting for the Hero, who had now unlocked the last locked door before the entrance to this chamber, that he did not even notice when the President broke his grip.

Because he had planned his confrontation with the Hero while in the President's body, the President knew exactly what Ganon was up to. He did not, however, have the slightest clue as to how long it would take the beast to dispatch the Hero, and thus, how long it would be before he lost control of his own body again.

Assuming he had no time to waste, he rushed out of his chamber screaming as loud as he could that he had been possessed and that Ganon was back. He soon had a crowd around him, among which guards he knew were not particularly shocked by the news. Afraid of what they might do to him if confronted, he chose to pretend he did not so much as suspect them and to instead concentrate on spreading the news that Ganon had been controlling every President Hyrule had ever had. While spreading the news, he directed his steps towards the stables.

Now that the word was out about Ganon and the Presidency, Ganon would face trouble when he took back control of the President's body. That suited the President just fine: if Ganon killed the Hero and took him over again, the President didn't care how long his body survived Hyrule's revolting against Ganon: life as the pig's pawn was not something he cared to prolong.

There was a small chance, however, that Ganon would never possess him again; a small chance that the Hero would win the battle. If that happened, the President wanted the boy to be his ally, not his enemy. After their meeting at the shop, the only way this would happen was if he managed to convince Link of the truth about Ganon and the Presidency, and a show of good faith would help in that. Therefore, he was off to Death Mountain. If the Hero won, he might meet him on the way down the mountain. If the boy lost, Ganon would take possession of his body again and find it on Death Mountain, which would add another inconvenience for the beast to deal with.

But meeting the Hero may not be enough. He needed to demonstrate his true allegiances. The solution came to mind quickly enough. He stopped walking long enough to instruct his secretary to have the museum to Ganon burnt by the end of the day. The secretary bowed and left.

Ganon was standing ready, next to the girl who was once more bound to the wall, with his sword to her chest, ready to plunge it into her heart as soon as the Hero opened the door. Zelda was singing and cooing at the sword.

The boy was taking his time. Judging by how long ago he had opened the last locked door other than the entrance to this chamber, he should have been here by now. Ganon narrowed his eyes, debating whether he should cast another spell on Zelda, so that her screams might make him hurry. He'd have to step away from her to do that, and the Hero might show up right at that moment. If that happened, Ganon would not be able to do what he had planned and kill her right as the boy came through the door.

He decided not to risk it.

"HERO!" He screamed instead. "Do you WANT me to kill her? I know you are near, do NOT make me WAIT!"

Link's eyes widened upon hearing Ganon's voice and a cold sweat coated him. He had been staring at the door for a while now, unable to move. For one thing, he knew that Ganon would kill Zelda as soon as he got there. It was just impossible that the monster would not do that. Ganon would then proceed to try and kill him. Link was painfully aware that as long as he couldn't shoot them properly, his light arrows wouldn't do him much good, and therefore, felt he wasn't very likely to fare much better than the last time he had faced Ganon.

He had his sword out in one hand, and was holding the key in the other. He had put his torch down: it was useless from now on. This room was lit and Ganon's lair would be lit if Ganon wanted it to be. If the pig wanted the room pitch black, bringing a torch in would make no difference whatsoever.

Link could hear his heart beating loudly, as clearly as if it had been right next to his ears instead of in his chest. He supposed it might be close to his ears soon enough, if Ganon ripped it out and fed it to him. He gulped and stuck the key into its keyhole.

He didn't even need to turn it. The lock and the chains disappeared, and the door even creaked ajar, inviting him in. He could hear low singing and recognized Zelda's voice. It was all so surreal that for the first few notes, Link thought he had to be dreaming and that he was bound to wake up soon, and to find himself back at the dorm, or maybe back at Zelda's house. The illusion quickly dissipated, however, and Link heard the singing like it really was: slurred, incoherent, and only low because the singer did not have the energy to put more strength into her voice. He didn't quite grasp why Zelda was singing, but it still disturbed him and sent shivers down his spine.

It was coming from the right, so Link burst into the room and veered right, already taking a bottled fairy out of his pocket.

End of chapter 13.

Chapter Text

A few quick notes:

1. This story is rated T due to some very violent content.

2. I don't own any Legend of Zelda character or setting. I'm just borrowing them and I hope Nintendo won't mind too much.

3. Thank you so much for reading!

4. I would like to credit Rose Zemlya's "The Return" for being the first place I saw the Goddesses' names used to curse in Hyrule. It made so much sense and it was so natural that I assumed every fanfic had to be doing it. I don't know how much use it does get, but just in case it's actually fairly original, I wanted to make sure everyone reading this knew I got the idea from The Return (which, by the way, is my favorite Zelda story: Rose is an insanely talented writer).

Chapter 14: The Latest Battle

Ganon grinned when the boy rushed into the room, already heading for Zelda. Still grinning, he locked his eyes into hers - he wanted to see them die - and impaled her to the wall. The sword had been pointed at her heart and death was instantaneous: the light left her eyes and she stopped singing, not even coughing or gasping. Her body sagged within the magical bounds, and Ganon lifted them, letting the corpse fall limply at his feet.

He quickly teleported away, expecting a light arrow to be flying towards him. He had positioned himself to face Zelda's body, and as soon as he was solid again, he readied a magical attack: not the black lightning, which took too much out of him for a full strength spell, but a cluster of light, bright yellow energy that would melt into the boy and hurt him from the inside, attacking his heart and lungs.

In his surprise, he let the spell dissipate without launching it. The boy was kneeling next to the Princess, an empty bottle in hand, and a pink spark was circling around Zelda, who soon reopened her eyes. Ganon's eyes narrowed and he snarled in fury. He readied the spell again and threw it at Link.

The boy's reflexes were good. He saw the light coming from the corner of his eyes and stopped it with the Master Sword. The energy bounced on the blade and went flying harmlessly into a corner, where it dissipated.

Link had only hid behind the Master Sword instinctively, because he had nothing else to hide behind, and had been expecting the spell to hit him. As soon as the spell bounced on the blade however, he remembered what the Hero of Time had told him and better yet, remembered actually using the Master Sword to send Ganon's magic spell right back at him.

"Link?" He heard next to him.

He did not dare take his eyes off Ganon, who was gathering energy for another spell.

"Are you okay?" He asked Zelda without looking at her.


"Of course she is! Where did you find a fairy, boy? I hunted them down! I destroyed every last one of them!" Ganon snarled furiously, completely unaware that his efforts in that regard had not been entirely successful. "You weren't supposed to be able to save her!"

With that, Ganon threw the magical energy he had gathered in Link's direction. Link was still kneeling and couldn't swing the sword comfortably, especially with Zelda right next to him, so he just placed the blade in front of him again, not caring where the spell rebounded. It went into the ceiling.

Link got up and took a step away from Zelda while Ganon was readying his next attack. Ganon smirked and sent it towards Zelda. Link barely caught it with the tip of his blade, and only just deflected it away from Zelda, who gasped and pushed herself against the wall. Link frowned, realizing that Ganon would just keep attacking Zelda whenever he wasn't right in front of her. Link knew he couldn't stay right next to Zelda, he was too likely to hit her while swinging the Master Sword around and even if he didn't, the thought that he might would keep him from moving freely.

He deflected the next attack by swinging his sword at it, trying to send it back to Ganon, but he missed and the magic went into the wall behind the Demon. He bent over Zelda and urgently called out for Nayru's love. A blue, glowing dome of energy formed around Zelda and himself. It was a lot brighter than Link remembered it, and he hoped that it meant he was a stronger magician than his past self and that the shield would not brake as soon as Ganon attacked it.

He then stepped out of the dome, willing it to stay around Zelda. For a second, it looked like the magic would not do what he wanted it to and follow him, but it finally settled around Zelda.

Link whipped around to face Ganon again, realizing a new attack was probably coming. He was too slow: the ball of mystic energy hit him in the chest, knocking him off his feet and seemingly melting in him.

Zelda gasped out his name, but Link barely noticed. He felt his chest burning and for some reason he could not fathom, his left arm was hurting. He cried out in pain and immediately started coughing uncontrollably. He was on his knees and hands, unsuccessfully trying to stop coughing, feeling dizzy and wondering why his arm was hurting like that, when a second attack hit him in the side.

The impact made him lose his balance and he rolled sideways. His arm was now paralyzed with the pain and his coughing worsened. He was curled up on the floor, dizzier than ever, and his vision was getting blurry, though he could still see well enough to notice the blood he was coughing up.

He rolled out of instinct, knowing Ganon had no reason to stop attacking. He narrowly avoided another attack and tried getting up, but his whole left half was stiff and the room was spinning madly. He fell back down and tried to think what to do. His head was getting foggy and his thoughts were swimming around meaninglessly, but he remembered feeling absolutely great after drinking that blue stuff someone had given him, so he searched his pocket for more. His hand closed on a bottle just as another attack hit him.

The pain in his arm increased sharply and spread to his whole left side. Link's scream came out as a weak cough and everything turned black.

Link was not conscious of rising the bottle to his mouth, but he obviously did, because he felt the blue potion filling his mouth and when he swallowed, the light came back and pain, dizziness, coughing and paralysis were completely gone. He slashed the air in front of him with the Master Sword, which he was still thankfully holding, and out of sheer luck, caught Ganon's attack and sent it flying away from himself, although nowhere near Ganon.

Link looked around for Zelda and saw her from the corner of his eyes behind him, still surrounded by blue light. He focused his attention back on Ganon, who looked absolutely furious.

"Blue potion?" He growled. "Nobody knows how to brew it anymore! How? How did you get this? How did you find a fairy? Where did you learn magic?"

Link did not bother answering. While Ganon was busy barking questions, he wasn't readying another attack, which gave Link an opening. He switched to his bow and arrow, aimed and shot. Ganon stopped talking at once and attacked with a quicker spell than the glowing balls of energy he had been using up to date.

Link had just enough time to see the light arrow miss Ganon by a good few arm lengths and to wonder if this quicker spell hurt less than the last one Ganon had used before the red arcs of energy that had sprung out of Ganon's extended fingers laced themselves around him.

They were burning hot and Link screamed in pain, but all things considered, they did little damage: they dissolved almost instantly, leaving only red scorch marks on Link's skin and burnt imprints on his clothes. Link switched back to his sword to deflect another attack, and sure enough, Ganon launched one that Link barely managed to deflect in time.

Ganon did not leave him any time to get his bow out again, and attacked again as quickly as he could materialize the glowing sphere. Link concentrated on where he wanted to send it and swung at it just before it reached him.

Was it luck or skill, Link didn't know and didn't care. Either way, the evil ball of energy shot straight back at Ganon and hit him squarely in the chest. Ganon growled in pain and put a hand to his chest. Link knew better than to expect Ganon to take very long to shake it off, so he quickly got his bow out again and shot another arrow at the pig.

The arrow missed by about two arm lengths. Ganon laughed and started readying another attack. Link got his sword back out.

Zelda did not like how the fight was going. Link was wasting his energy on this shield surrounding her, and just as she feared, he still could not shoot straight with his bow. To make matters worse, Ganon had already demonstrated that all he really needed was to get one hit in: Link could not recuperate from the magical attack quickly enough to avoid or deflect the next one, and the demon could just keep attacking until his foe died. The only thing that had saved Link before was the blue potion he had drunk, which had restored his health and his magical power, judging by the fact the shield around her had suddenly grown a lot brighter. And even then, the liquid would not have saved him if Ganon had not been so surprised that Link had any. In other words, blue potion would not save him again, even if he had more.

So, Link could not afford to take even one hit, and he couldn't hit Ganon with the arrows. Zelda's mind was racing, trying to think of a solution and feeling like it was all her fault for allowing herself to be taken by Ganon. The memory of what Ganon had been doing to her kept trying to push itself at the front of her mind, but she kept pushing it back. She couldn't afford to let herself dwell on the pain, or she wouldn't be able to think of how to help Link.

Unbeknownst to Zelda, Link was even more worried than she was about how the fight was going. He knew just as well as she did that he couldn't miss deflecting Ganon's attack even once, and that he was useless as an archer. Unlike her, however, he also knew for a fact that he didn't have anymore blue potion and that maintaining the shield protecting her was rapidly using up his magical capabilities, which he needed to activate the light arrows. On top of that, he remembered Ganon had at least one other magical attack he could use: the black lightning he had used in their last battle. Link did not think he could deflect that one, and he remembered it hurting almost as much as the spells Ganon was using now.

The worst part, however, was that he was absolutely terrified: his knees were shaking, his heart was racing, he was covered in a cold sweat and he felt like throwing up. He desperately wanted to get out of here, to run away. He had no intention of actually doing it, but it wasn't for lack of wanting to. He could hardly believe what was going on: was he really facing Ganon again?

He deflected the next attack and it hit Ganon, who growled in fury and sank to one knee, clutching at his chest. Link quickly switched to his bow and tried shooting an arrow at Ganon, feeling like his body was moving on his own. The arrow missed again, and Link had no time to try another one. Ganon was back on his feet, looking absolutely furious.

"You pest!" He snarled. "Oh, I wish your soul was still trapped in that bottle! It will be again, I promise you that!"

Link blinked in incomprehension and stood with the Master Sword waiting, ready for the next attack. What was Ganon talking about?

Zelda understood. It was so obvious, she couldn't believe nobody, in all those years, had guessed why the Hero was not coming back. Then again, she realized, it was quite possible a lot of people had figured it out and just couldn't do anything about it. She suddenly thought that if she kept Ganon rambling for a bit, Link could try another arrow and decided to give it a try.

"That's how you did it!" She cried out. "That's why it took so long for the Hero to be reborn! You trapped him like a Poe!"

Ganon turned to her briefly before refocusing his attention on Link.

"And I will again!" He growled. "I was going to let you haunt this building instead, but not anymore! I'll come back and trap you in the smallest containers I can find! And you will stay there forever this time! Oh, no you don't!"

Link had tried to take advantage of Ganon's rambling and had his bow out again, but Ganon had had enough of the boy and he cast an instantaneous black lightning spell. He did not gather energy for it, which had the benefit of not wearing him out much, but it also meant the spell was weak, and the boy would probably only be stung by it.

Link's eyes widened in horror for the split second it took for the spell to hit him. Thankfully, it didn't hurt his adult body nearly as much as it had his tiny 5 year old past self. It still hurt, a lot, but Link was still able to move and he switched back to his sword in time to deflect another attack. It went into the corner of the room, nowhere near Ganon, but Link didn't care: he was just grateful it hadn't hit him.

Ganon growled in frustration. This fight was not going nearly as well as it should. He had allowed himself to be trapped in the same pattern that had been his downfall on many occasions: if he kept using the quick yet efficient spell Link kept deflecting with the Master Sword, he'd be hit by it himself again and again, and each time, the Hero would try to shoot a light arrow at him while he was shaking off the effect of his own magic. The only reason Ganon was not in trouble yet was that banning archery from Hyrule had paid off: the boy couldn't shoot straight to save his life.

How the Hero even had a bow was yet another mystery that Ganon did not expect to ever solve. Nor did it matter: it was infuriating that the boy kept coming up with things that did not exist anymore, but in the end, it wouldn't matter. Ganon was done playing it by the book; it was time to take advantage of the boy's weakness.

The Hero was facing him with the Master Sword in front of himself, waiting for the next attack to deflect. Ganon sneered at him.

"Do you know I had a chat with your Princess while we were waiting for you?" He snickered.

The boy snarled.

The girl recoiled, much to Ganon's satisfaction. The fairy had restored her sanity as well as her life, but even the fairy could not make Zelda forget the pain she had felt.

"She told me all about you." Ganon continued. "Everything you fear."

He had hoped for the boy to feel betrayed, but the Hero only looked puzzled.

Link didn't know what Ganon was on about, or why he was talking so much instead of being busy killing him, but the break was welcomed, so he wasn't about to interrupt him. He thought of trying another arrow, but Ganon had already demonstrated that he could attack in a split second even in the middle of rambling on about something, so Link dismissed the idea.

"She told me how to defeat you, boy." Ganon explained.

Link rolled his eyes. Did Ganon really think he'd be upset with Zelda for whatever she had told him while he was torturing her?

"Everybody knows I'm afraid of everything!" He said. "And you were torturing her!"

"Ah, but you're NOT afraid of everything. Only things related to our last battle."

Link was starting to feel something bad was coming. He swallowed his saliva and gripped the sword tighter.

"Speaking of which..." Ganon said.

All of a sudden, most of the light in the room went out. The only light source left was the glow of Nayru's Love. Link stepped closer to Zelda, backing away from the darkness and cursing under his breath. It figured: Ganon was going to do everything he could to scare him even more. Link would have thought he couldn't be more afraid than he was already, but the darkness, even though it wasn't total, definitely brought him closer to complete panic.

He concentrated on his breathing, on the feel of the Master Sword's handle in his hand: anything but the fear. That was usually how he would end his workdays, when the shop was almost completely dark and it seemed like they would never be let out, and he could hardly see where he was hitting with his hand axe. He had never been nearly as afraid as he was now, however, and his mind kept coming right back to the darkness and the fact that Ganon was lurking somewhere in it. Link heard himself whimper. He heard Ganon burst out laughing right after. At least it sounded like he was still on the other side of the room.

Link tightened his grip on the Master Sword a bit more still. His hand started hurting and he tried to focus on that, without success. Instead, his head insisted on wondering what Ganon was going to do and how much it would hurt. He did not have to wait very long for the answer.

He heard them before he saw them: high pitched screams coming from the middle of the room, and the sound of hundreds, maybe thousands, of leathery wings flapping. Link strained his eyes, thinking if he could only see them, he'd be able to fight back.

And saw them he did. They became visible in the glow of Nayru's love when they got close enough, or more precisely, their mass became visible. There were so many of them that they were just a big screeching, fluttering, black cloud, and that cloud was heading straight for him.

Zelda saw the cloud of keeses and her eyes widened in horror. One keese, by itself, was not very dangerous: it could make you a little bit ill if it bit or scratched you, but nothing serious. Popular opinion was divided on how big a colony you had to stumble into to really be in trouble, but the general consensus was that more than 100 keeses could easily be fatal. The cloud heading for Link and herself seemed to be composed of thousands of the little monsters. She was safe as long as the shield Link had put around her held, but Link was completely defenceless.

She tore her eyes away from the keeses to look at him, hoping to see him about to cast a spell that would kill all the flying rodents or to pull some kind of miraculous item out of his pocket. He was doing neither. He was just staring at the keeses, holding the Master Sword in front of him defensively. Just as the cloud of keeses closed on them, he glanced at the Master Sword and his eyes widened. Zelda winced for him as the keeses started biting him and crashing on the magical shield in an attempt to get to her, but Link didn't seem to notice the bites. He stepped away from her, closed his eyes and positioned the Master Sword parallel to the ground and to his side. His head was lowered in concentration, his sword arm fully extended, and the keeses were still biting. One of them scratched his cheek right below his eyes. Link continued to make no attempt to chase them, only frowning in concentration. Almost right after he got that scratch near his eye, the Master Sword started glowing.

It became brighter and brighter until most of the chamber was lit. Ganon was on the other side of the room, staring at it with a furious expression on his face. And then, Link and the sword started spinning. It wasn't clear which of the two was dragging the other: the movement seemed to be much too fast for a human to achieve, and there had been no acceleration. One moment, Link had been immobile, and the next, he was spinning madly. The glow of the sword became first a ring and then a half-sphere of light surrounding Link. The keeses started falling, turning to dust before they even hit the ground. Within seconds, all of them were gone.

Link stopped spinning and promptly lost his balance, falling on his side.

He had never felt so dizzy, and he thought for sure the room would never stop spinning. He also thought he had just made a very bad mistake and that Ganon would be able to take him out easily now. Thankfully, the dizziness vanished in a mere second and he was able to get back to his feet and to deflect the attack Ganon had just thrown at him. The attack went back towards the monster, but missed by an arm's length. Ganon snarled in fury and unsheathed his sword.

Link's legs suddenly gave out and he fell on his knees, his eyes attached to Ganon's weapon. He remembered it being absolutely huge, twice as big as him, but he had thought that like the Master Sword, Ganon's blade had only seemed so big because Link had been so small.

In all fairness, the blade was indeed not twice his size. It was however, about as long as he was tall, and at its widest, about the same width as him, too. It was also very sharp looking.

Link heard Zelda talking to him urgently, but none of her words registered. All of his attention was focused on the blade. He remembered exactly how it had felt when that blade had cut most of his hands off, and he remembered all too clearly how it had felt when Ganon had run him through with it.

Zelda now sounded like she was crying more than talking. Link still had no idea what she was saying, but it didn't matter much: Ganon was slowly walking towards him, taking his time. He looked very happy.

Link frowned. He wanted to wipe the smile off the monster's face. He wanted to wipe the face off the monster, for that matter. Actually, he just wanted to wipe the monster off Hyrule.

He had no idea how he'd manage that when he couldn't even touch Ganon with the light arrows, but kneeling and staring helplessly at the sword - the big, shiny, sharp sword - was not going to do it. Link, with a lot of difficulty, tore his eyes away from the sword and stared at Ganon's smile instead. His frown deepened and he got up, trading the Master Sword for his bow even as he rose. He shot at Ganon just as the pig was swinging his monstrous sword at him.

Link dived sideways to avoid the sword, his heart beating so hard and fast he couldn't hear anything else. He kept his eyes on Ganon and ran around him to avoid the sword blows, which were still coming. He wondered what happened to his arrow until he saw it on the floor a few paces away: obviously, he had missed. Even with Ganon only a few steps away from him, he had missed.

He felt exhausted, not so much in his body but in his mind. He could feel the shield around Zelda slipping away in his head, and it was becoming difficult to keep it up without concentrating fully on it. Ganon had not attacked it yet, but Link knew that if it faded, the pig would kill Zelda just out of spite: Link knew the only reason he wasn't bothering with her yet was that if he tried, Link would take advantage of the time to shoot several arrows at him.

He needed to figure out something, and fast. Ganon grew tired of running after him and threw his sword at him, apparently in a last effort to make some use out of it. Link dived to the floor, but the blade still grazed his back. He yelped in pain but got back to his feet without slowing down, expecting another attack.

Ganon was gathering black energy, his teeth bared at Link.

"This is the end, boy." He hissed. He released the dark lightning on Link. He had only had a few seconds to power up the attack, but he knew it would be enough to slow the boy down and give him time to power up another attack. The boy would not be able to recover from one blow before the other hit, and all Ganon had to do was to keep dealing those blows until the Hero was too weak to move. He could then finish him off however he chose. The battle was won.

Link tried to deflect the lightning, even though he didn't think he'd be able to. Sure enough, the magic was not focused enough for the sword to deflect it and the lightning hit him. The thought that a spin attack might be able to deflect the lightning crossed Link's mind a split second before the spell hit him.

The effect was closer to what he remembered: a searing pain spreading to his whole body, seizing up his muscles, blinding him. He screamed, and next thing he knew, he was on his hands and knees, gasping for breath. He tried to roll, knowing that another attack was coming, but his muscles cramped and he fell on his side.

Ganon was taken by surprise when Link moved, even though he didn't get far, and he released his next attack a little sooner than he would have wanted, more out of reflex than reflection. The attack was the kind the Master Sword could reflect, but the boy did not manage to even raise the blade of Evil Bane and the attack hit him.

Zelda winced when the second attack hit Link. He started coughing again and grabbed his left arm. Unlike him, she knew that pain and paralysis in the left arm was a sign of heart trouble and she guessed that Ganon's spell was designed to injure the heart and, judging from the coughing and laboured breathing, the lungs and breathing passages.

More importantly, she knew that Ganon would keep attacking until Link was defeated, not giving him any chance to recover between attacks. If Link was to have any chance at all of defeating Ganon, she needed to distract the monster between one attack and the next. Her mind was racing, trying to find a way to do that.

What would distract Ganon from Link? Killing the Hero was the beast's primary goal, nothing was more important to the pig. Except... Zelda's eyes widened as she remembered what Ganon was after in the stories of old, the thing he had desired enough to turn himself into the monster he was now, after being born a Gerudo. But would it work? He might have given up on it after all that time, and even if he hadn't, would his greed for it really draw his attention away from killing his nemesis long enough for Link to recover a little and make a move?

Ganon hit Link with another attack and Zelda clenched her fists. She had to try, and if it didn't work, well, she'd just have to try something else.

"Ganon!" She screamed. "His life for the Triforce!"

Ganon had been so astounded by the fact Link had a fairy and some blue potion, not to mention a bow and arrows, that she was hoping he might just fall for the ruse and think that they had somehow managed to get the Triforce, too. Barring that, she was hoping the mere mention of the Goddesses' artefact might surprise him enough to slow him down.

Ganon turned to stare at her, his eyes wide and his nostrils flaring.

"Where?" He growled slowly. "Tell me where it is, girl, and you both live."

This was beyond what Zelda had hoped for. She didn't believe for one second that Ganon would keep that promise even if she did have the Triforce and gave it to him, but if she could engage him in negotiations, Link would have all the time he needed.

"Swear it." Zelda said, giving her voice what she hoped would sound like a begging tone.

"I swear." Ganon replied without hesitation. "Give me the Triforce, girl. GIVE IT TO ME!"

Zelda recoiled slightly. Ganon's eyes were dancing, and he was actually frothing at the mouth. He seemed to have forgotten all about Link. His desire for the Triforce had completely taken over.

Ganon snarled at the girl, his blood boiling in his veins. Finally, it would be his. If only this pathetic Princess stopped wasting his time and handed it over, the Triforce would finally be his again, and this time, in the real world. With it, destroying the Hero and the Princess would be a breeze, and he would be able to rule forever. The Triforce could even bring back the Hylians and he'd be able to kill them all over again. And the boy! The boy would be at his mercy. The boy... Ganon frowned. He had been in the process of killing him, and he was defenceless now. Maybe he should finish him off before he took the Triforce.

"Both of us!" The girl said when he started turning back towards the boy. "We BOTH live, or I'll never give it to you!"

"I could just take it." Ganon said. But he focused his attention back on her.

Zelda was working hard to keep her eyes on Ganon's. She could see Link behind the monster, slowly getting up.

"It's hidden." She said. "You will never find it."

"Then hand it over!" Ganon roared.

He took a step towards her, fangs bared. If he had to scare the Princess into giving him the Triforce, well, he had no problem with that.

"It's HIDDEN." Zelda repeated. "I don't have it here. I will tell you where it is if you promise that Link and I can live until we die of old age. AND..." She added as an afterthought because it seemed like she would think of asking that if she actually believed she was negotiating, "...we live free of you. You will not imprison us or otherwise bother us in any way."

"Why would I bother with you two once I have ultimate power?" Ganon growled. "I swear whatever you want! Where is it?"

Zelda was running out of things to demand, and she was afraid if she sent Ganon looking somewhere for the Triforce, he'd only chase them and kill them in their sleep once he found out the Triforce wasn't where she had said it was. Link was up and looked like he could move again, if barely. He only needed a few more seconds to shoot an arrow at Ganon.

"You cannot murder everyone else, either." Zelda said. "I know you. You'd find it hilarious to let us live in an empty Hyrule. None of that."

Ganon started rolling his eyes at her, but suddenly turned sharply around, roaring in rage. The boy had just taken a step, he had heard the sound of his foot on the stone floor. The boy was up, and probably full of blue potion again. The Princess had stalled on revealing where the Triforce was, just so the Hero could defend himself if Ganon did not keep his word and decided to kill the both of them as soon as he found out where the powerful artefact was. That had been the plan, of course, and to see if foiled like that was infuriating.

Well, it would be more fun to kill the boy and force the information out of the girl anyway.

The President was fully aware that his plan was crude: meet the Hero if he somehow defeated Ganon, talk to him to get him on his side and if that didn't work, hope that seeing the museum burn would finish convincing the boy that the President was an ally.

As crude as it was, he couldn't afford the time to perfect it: there was no telling when the battle would be over. In fact, he'd only know when that happened if Ganon won, because the pig would surely take him over again. So, he needed to get to Death Mountain fast, and just in case the boy took a different route off the mountain than the main one, it would be best to make it as close to the top as possible. Even by horseback, the President needed to hurry.

He made it to the stables and mounted his horse, which was always kept ready during the day, as Ganon had ordered. He noticed then that he was still in his pyjamas, but decided there was no point wasting time getting dressed.

A servant opened the stable doors for him and he rode off towards the mountain, alone, in night clothes, and happy with the thought that he must look very distressed and heroic.

Link froze in mid-step when Ganon turned around. The monster looked angry all the time, but now, he looked absolutely furious. Link's heart was beating in his ears so hard that he couldn't make out most of what Zelda and the pig had been talking about, but he thought the Triforce had been mentioned and he guessed that Zelda had talked about it to distract Ganon and buy him some time. By the looks of it, Ganon had just figured this out and was not happy to have been tricked.

Link reached for his bow and arrows, but changed his mind at the last second. He was hurt and shaking, and there was no way he was going to hit Ganon shooting an arrow, no matter how close the beast was. He didn't think he could even properly load the arrow in the bow right now, his hands were too unsteady. There was no time to think of an actual strategy, Ganon was charging another black lighting attack and there was no telling when he'd launch it at him. Link dropped the bow but kept the arrow and also kept his sword.

The thought crossed his mind that this wasn't a good idea, but he didn't have time to think of anything else, and anything was a better idea than to stand there doing nothing. He ran and jumped at Ganon, whose eyes widened in surprise. In his shock, he launched the dark lightning attack before he had it charged as much as he would have liked.

Link would not have guessed the attack was not fully charged, unless you pointed out to him that it was meant to kill him. The force of the attack lifted him off the ground and when it finally dissipated, he crumbled on the floor, unable to move or to think of why it seemed like he should try to. It was difficult to think through the pain, which was only very slowly diminishing.

Zelda tried her best to get Ganon's attention back. She pleaded with him, even claimed that only Link could get the Triforce out of its hiding place, but Ganon completely ignored her.

His attention was back on the Hero, and he was not going to allow himself to be distracted again. He'd get the girl to divulge the location of the Triforce later. For now, he had her tuned out completely. The Hero was much more interesting at the moment. His black lightning attack may not have killed him, but it had stunned him and he was helpless again. It was time to finish him, and seeing him sprawled on the floor like that, his body already half broken, tempted Ganon to finish him by hands and enjoy the feeling of the breath dying in the boy's throat.

Ganon was not one to resist temptation. He bent down and grabbed the Hero by the neck. It was a lot like holding a rag doll: the boy was light - workers were all just skin and bone - and still limp from the attack. Ganon shook him a bit, to encourage him to open his eyes.

Link groaned. He did not want to open his eyes. He couldn't quite remember whether fighting Ganon had been a dream or not, and he was much too afraid to find out it had been real if he opened his eyes. Something was definitely holding him by the throat; that was not a good sign. The something shook him again.

"Open your eyes, boy. Look death in the face." Ganon said.

Link recognized the voice and whimpered. It really hadn't been a dream. Ganon had him and was about to kill him. He hadn't even been able to hit him with a single light arrow... Link's eyes flew opened. He was holding an arrow in his right hand when the black lightning hit him. He couldn't tell if it was still in his fist or not, his hand was too numb. He could tell from the weight that his left hand was still holding the Master Sword, but that wouldn't do any good unless he had managed to hold on to the arrow.

Ganon started to squeeze his throat, thankfully slowly. Link swiftly raised his right arm and stabbed at Ganon's right eye. Even shaking and half conscious, he still had some of his usual speed and precision: The light arrow plunged into the relatively soft spot. Ganon hollered and released his grip on Link's throat, grabbing at his eye with both hands. The arrow burnt his hands so much he could not actually grab it and the more he tried to bat it out, the deeper it got. His howl of rage morphed into screams of pain.

Link held the Master sword above his head with both hands and drove it in Ganon's abdomen. He hoped he didn't have to get the heart, didn't remember it ever being an issue.

Ganon's screams turned into a roar when the pain became too much to endure and his rage took over again: the demon's equivalent of human adrenaline.

"You cannot win, boy!" He screamed. "You're a worm! You can't have hurt me! You can't!"

Link ignored him, concentrating on keeping the Light Arrow alive. He had to give up on the shield surrounding Zelda, but he was reasonably certain that Ganon was too busy to even notice, much less attack her. Even with all his soul concentrated on the arrow, however, the magic was quickly running out, and even with the Master Sword deep inside of him, Ganon wasn't dying particularly quickly.

Ganon tried shoving Link away, but Link let go of the sword just long enough to avoid the swipe and drove it deeper into the monster's body when he got hold of it again. Ganon screamed in frustration. He had no idea that the light arrow would lose its magic in a manner of seconds, and he had no idea that Link didn't have any more potion to restore his body and his magical power. As far as Ganon knew, faith had somehow taken a turn and he was defeated.

He could not believe this was happening. He had lost, the boy had won! He couldn't allow it, he could not allow the boy to walk away victorious!

"I will take you with me, Hero!" He screamed.

Using the last of his energy, Ganon charged up a black lightning attack in a mere instant. Charging this particular spell this fast was an enormous strain, and Ganon only ever attempted it when desperate. In this case, he knew the strain would be too much, but he also knew the spell would kill the boy and condemn him to haunt the Tower forever.

Link saw Ganon build up the spell, but he had no time to do anything about it. The dark energy built up almost instantly, and Ganon cast the spell. It hurt more than it ever had, but thankfully, only for a second. The cool darkness that was so familiar because he had experienced it several times a night for most of his life fell over him.

Zelda saw the shield Link had placed around her blink out of existence and guessed that Link's magical energy was running out. A quick look at the light arrow Link had managed to stick into Ganon's eye confirmed her guess was right: the arrow's light was rapidly fading.

Ganon took a swipe at Link, who barely avoided it and let go of the Master Sword. Zelda gasped in fright that he wouldn't get it back, but Link grabbed hold of it again and if not for the fact the arrow's light was almost out, Zelda would have hardly been worried at all. Ganon was screaming, but there was nothing he could do to escape the arrow and the sword. It was all a matter of what would last longer: Link's spiritual energy or Ganon's body.

She was shaking and holding herself at the same time, her eyes wide with fear. She couldn't believe she had ever wanted this battle to take place: she wanted nothing more, now, than to forget about the whole thing and run away from Hyrule with Link. She was terrified that he would die and that it would be her fault. The thought that Ganon would kill her next barely crossed her mind.

Her eyes widened and she screamed. Ganon was charging a dark magic attack, the one that looked a bit like dark lightning. The gathered energy grew very quickly and within a second, Ganon was holding a ball of energy twice as big as any he had produced yet. The ball seemed to dissipate, but really only changed into its lightning form and hit Link.

Link did not scream, he didn't have time. The dark energy lifted him off the ground and threw him away from Ganon, leaving the Master Sword in the demon's belly. Link was unrecognizable by the time he landed: his skin was peeling and entirely black, and a chunk was missing from his chest, where most of the lightning had actually hit. Most of his hair had burnt off, and his eyes seemed to have exploded: there was nothing but blood where they should have been.

Zelda turned her eyes away in horror and they fell on Ganon. Casting the spell seemed to have taken the last of the demon's strength: he had fallen face first on the floor, and the Master Sword was poking out of his back. Darkness was actually pouring out of the wound and from under the beast: a sort of smooth black smoke that absorbed all the light. Ganon's body started to disintegrate and within a second or so, the Master Sword was falling through a pile of dust.

Zelda was still screaming, and could hardly believe how little she cared that Ganon was gone. Her worst fear, ever since she had found Link, was that she would get him killed. She had tried her best to keep him as safe as possible, but in the end, it hadn't been enough: he was dead, and it was mostly because she had gotten herself captured by Ganon and Link had come to rescue her without taking the time to learn how to use his bow.

She slowly turned back towards him, forcing herself to look at him because she felt she deserved it.

A pink little speck of light was whirling around what was left of the Hero of Time. Zelda's eyes widened. It turned and turned over Link's corpse, so long that Zelda did not dare believe it was what it looked like. She focused her gaze on it, refusing to look directly at the corpse: she was too afraid to see no sign of improvement and to lose what hope she had that the small glow was indeed a fairy and that this fairy would bring Link back to life.

The glow eventually dived right into the body, and Zelda, who was following it very carefully, was tricked into looking at Link's body again.

It wasn't black anymore, and it had hair again, as well as eyes - which were blinking - and an intact chest. Link's clothes were the only testament to what he had looked like a few minutes before: there wasn't much of them left, and what was there was burnt and torn. There were no blood stains, thanks to fairy's action, but that was the best thing you could say about them.

"Link...?" She called out. Her voice sounded small, distant.

"I forgot about that second fairy." Link said, sitting up. "They often go for him, so the old Link gave me two, just in case. But the first one did heal you, so I still had the other one."

He was talking absently, looking around for Ganon. He couldn't see him anywhere. His arrow was broken in two and the pieces were lying on a pile of dust. The Master Sword was on the floor, not far from that pile. On the other side of the sword was another pile of dust.

Link frowned at the dust, arrow pieces and sword thoughtfully. The dust kind of looked like it had been pushed away from the Sword. Link thought it might mean something, but his head still felt foggy and it was difficult to think. His body felt perfectly fine, including the physical part of his head, but his thoughts were strangely unfocused, and although he knew it was important to find out where Ganon was, and how much was left of him, he couldn't seem to bring himself to actually care.

"I hope he's gone." He said. He didn't really mean it, he wasn't really hoping for anything at the moment, but he knew that he should have been hoping just that, so he said it.

Zelda joined Link by the oddly-shaped pile of dust. His voice sounded very dispassionate, as though he didn't care that he was alive and Ganon defeated. Zelda assumed it was the shock and the fatigue.

"Ganon turned to dust right after hitting you with that magical attack." She said. "That's all that's left." She pointed at the dust.

Link bent down and picked up the Master Sword. He waved it over the pile of dust, and wherever the blade went, the dust was pushed away, repelled by the Sword of Evil Bane.

"Heh. Even the dust is evil." He said. "So, he's gone?"

"Yes." Zelda said. She didn't feel the time was right to bring up the fact Ganon would surely come back eventually, as always.

Link was starting to feel a bit cheated. He should have been very happy right now, why wasn't he? He felt a bit glad that it was over, but he had planned to be jumping up and down if he won his fight against Ganon. He had expected Zelda to be a bit happier, too.

"I should be happy." He said. "WE should be happy. How come we're not?" He asked. The question wasn't really addressed to her, but she answered it anyway.

"You are just tired." Zelda said. "I'm sure it'll get better soon."

Link suddenly remembered what the Hero of Time had told him about using magic.

"My soul is tired!" He exclaimed. "But what about you? You didn't use magic."

"He'll never be gone for good. I thought I could accept it, but after all this..." Zelda trailed off. Link merely looked puzzled. She was suddenly very thankful he was so emotionless at the moment.

"But... I beat him. There's only this dust left." Link said, pointing at the dust with his sword. He sounded a bit miffed, confirming that he was indeed slowly coming back to normal.

"It's not the first time the Hero and everyone else have thought Ganon was completely destroyed. He always somehow manages to come back anyway." Zelda said.

Link frowned.

"But he's gone for now, right?" He asked.


Link smiled and patted her on her back.

"So cheer up already!" He said. "We won!"

Zelda smiled back and nodded firmly.

"You did it. Imagine everyone's shock!" She kidded.

Link snickered politely at the bad joke. He was starting to feel good, and he wanted Zelda to feel good too.

"Come on." He said. "Let's get out of here."

Link stopped before coming out of the narrow staircase. Behind him, Zelda stopped as well.

"We're almost out, but walk softly." He whispered. "I don't want any Stalfos to hear us."

Zelda nodded. She had no desire to run into any monster either.

She followed him as quietly as she could, wondering how long it would take for his emotions to come back fully. He was not as dispassionate as when he had first come back to life, up in Ganon's chamber, but although he had quickly started to come back to normal, he didn't seem to be making any progress at all anymore.

They came out of the room and the Tower without encountering any Stalfos or any other monster. It was morning out, and the air was pleasantly warm and dry. Zelda finally realized where she was.

"We were in the Tower of Hera!" She exclaimed. "And last time, you almost…" She trailed off. Link had rushed back here to save her, even though the Tower had almost killed him the last time he had been inside it. "You really do have the Hero's courage." She said admiringly.

Link stopped walking and sighed heavily. He spread his arms and turned his face up towards the sun, taking in the light.

"Don't know about that." He said. "I was really scared the monsters I killed on the way up were going to be back somehow and attack us."

"You were scared?" Zelda asked. "Are you kidding me? You looked like you were not feeling anything at all!"

Link put his arms down and turned to her, grinning.

"I was okay at first, but about halfway down, I was ready to scream. I should have used Farore's wind when I got here: if you use it somewhere, you can come back later by using it again. Then again, I can't use magic right now, so it doesn't matter that I didn't think of it. Anyway," he said, finally coming back on the subject of his pretend lack of fear, "I didn't want you to laugh at me."

"Why would I make fun of you?" Zelda asked.

"Well…" He stammered, "Because it's silly to be scared of those monsters after I already killed them and after I beat Ganon. Heeyyyy..." He said, grinning anew.

Zelda cocked her head.

"I beat him! He's gone!" Link said, beaming, as though he had only just realized it.

"For now."

Link waved the objection off.

"Bah! My future selves can deal with him." He said. "Right now..."

He looked up at the Tower defiantly, then screamed in glee and started jumping up and down, shouting taunts at the Tower. Zelda smiled, but the idea that they would have to face Ganon again in a future life was dampening her mood: she was happy, but not so much so that she felt like celebrating.

The descent down the mountain path was uneventful. They chatted about this and that, avoiding the subject of the actual battle. They decided not to go into the Goron City: since they were not in a hurry anymore, there was no point subjecting themselves to the dark cavern. The subject eventually came up of how they would have to find someone to hire them. Link took out the money he had taken from the moblins and looked at it while walking, wondering how long it could sustain them, or if there was even enough for him to buy a new set of clothes.

Zelda trotted next to him.

"Where did you get a wallet?" She asked. She peered into it and her eyes widened.

Link didn't notice her expression. He told her about the Moblins, and sighed.

"I think they're fake. Real Rupees are green and blue, right? Those here are all red, orange, purple, yellow, silver, white and gold. No wait." Link said, digging further into the wallet. "There are a few greens and blues, right at the bottom."

"Link, those other ones are just higher denominations. They're worth more."

"They are? How much? Is there enough to buy some clothes? Nobody is going to hire me like this."

He looked down at his tattered clothes pointedly. There was so little left of them that it was a bit embarrassing, even if he wasn't downright indecent.

Zelda laughed. Link could have bought a new outfit for as little as ten Rupees.

"Let me look and count." She said, curious to see just how much was there before she answered.

Link handed her the wallet. Zelda crouched and counted, depositing the rupees on the ground as she counted them. The wallet contained a lot more than its size should have allowed. Zelda was counting for a while; Link was playing with the Master Sword while he waited.

"1 million, 642 thousand, 543." Zelda finally announced. "Link, you're rich."

Link dropped the sword and hurriedly picked it up. He sheathed it and turned to Zelda, trying to look cool.

"I don't even know what a million is." He said. "I can only count to a hundred. A thousand is 10 hundreds, right? Are you serious? I'm rich?"

Zelda nodded, smiling.

"The wallet has to be magical to be able to hold that much and stay so light, too. And I bet Ganon can't be bothered to give all his cronies their pay in person, so it probably fills up by itself over time, as well. The moblins must have been in the Tower for a really long time. Oh, and one thousand is indeed 10 times as much as a hundred, and a million is a thousand thousands."

Link tried to picture the amount, but he couldn't. He gave up and decided to just think of it as "a lot". "If it fills up by itself, I'm never going to run out?" He asked, suddenly thinking that if that was the case, "a lot" didn't really cover it.

"With Ganon gone, I have no idea. But I don't think you'll run out even if it doesn't."

Link smiled. That would make things a lot easier.

"That's good." He said. "That means it's okay if we don't find jobs right away. Hey, maybe we can open a dorm and give the workers supervisor dinners all the time!"

"Hopefully, they won't need you to do that soon." A voice answered, from ahead of them.

Link recognized it and unsheathed the Master Sword right away, frowning and trembling at the same time.

"I'm armed now, Mister President." He said, his voice shaking just a bit. "And I know what you REALLY wanted to do last time, instead of just spitting on me!"

"Link, wait!" Zelda said, putting a hand on his sword arm.

Link glanced at her quickly, not taking his attention off the President, who was mounted on a horse just ahead of them. The horse was shining with sweat, and the President was in night clothes. To Link, this looked as though the President had rushed out of bed to come and finish what Ganon could not do. Link didn't know how the President had known about Ganon's defeat and did not care. He didn't know what Zelda wanted, either, but she could not have picked a worst moment to want to tell him something, except maybe in the middle of his fight with Ganon.

"What?" He asked her. "Stay behind me!"

"Ganon has possessed every elected President since he was thrown off the throne 900 years ago!" Zelda said. "The President at the shop... it wasn't this man, it was Ganon!"

Link's eyes widened, but he still kept the Master Sword pointed at the President.

The President had been about to say something, but decided to let Zelda explain. Link was more likely to believe her than him. He stayed as still as he could, not wanting to scare the Hero into attacking him.

"What makes you think that?" Link asked Zelda without taking his eyes off the President.

"Ganon told me." She said. "He was playing with me. The deal was that we would just chat unless I got angry with him. Everything he told me was to make me angry, of course."

"You're sure he wasn't lying about that?" Link asked.

Zelda took a second to think about it. It explained all the President's behaviour so well, and the outcomers always being killed within a few days, and although she hadn't noticed it at the time, she now remembered Ganon mentioning being at the shop on the day of the President's visit, before he told her about the possessions.

"I'm sure." She said.

Link sheathed his sword and visibly relaxed. The President smiled and dismounted.

"I forgot to think of what to say if I met you two." The President said. "Well!" He laughed. "Good thing there is nobody to hear me ramble."

"What were you saying about not needing to feed workers more than he'd be supposed to?" Zelda asked.

"Hold on!" The President said. "Let me start at the beginning."

He kneeled in front of them, causing them both to turn beet red.

"Thank you for saving Hyrule and on a more personal note, for saving me." The President said.

He got up again and continued with hardly a discernable pose.

"Both of you will be honoured in a big celebration the day after tomorrow: it will take that long to notify everyone. After that, we'll see about closing the shops and getting everyone doing things that are actually useful." The President said. He sounded to Zelda as if he was thinking of all this on the spot, which matched his claim that he had not prepared anything to say to them. "Link," he continued, "you will become a higher class citizen for as long as there is still such a thing. I'm sorry there aren't any nobles anymore, I could have made you a knight and Zelda some kind of honorary princess or something like that. Actually, maybe I'll introduce nobility again when I get rid of the current lower and higher class. Until the party, could you both stay at the palace? I'd rather not have people attack you because they still think you are murderers. Besides, we can find something a bit more appropriate for the guests of honour to wear at the celebration." He finished with a wink.

Link was getting dizzy with the possibilities. He had known defeating Ganon would mean fewer murders at night, hopefully no more at all, but he had had no idea it may actually have any other effect. Even a second ago, when Zelda had told him Ganon had actually still been ruling, he had not really realized the implications, other than the President not being an enemy after all. And now, the President was talking about honouring them, and making him a noble, and not having lower class and higher class anymore, and closing the shops... it seemed too good to be true. Zelda broke the charm, interrupting the President as soon as he paused for breath.

"That all sounds lovely, sir, but don't you think the most important is to prepare for Ganon's return?"

Link sighed and rolled his eyes. The President looked surprised and puzzled.

"Ganon always comes back." Zelda explained for the President's benefit. "But he has found a way to make sure the Hero doesn't. That's why it took so long between this time and the last. We need to make sure he never wins again."

"I know he always comes back!" The President said lightly. "We'll prepare, don't worry! Just enjoy your victory for now!"

"Yeah, he's not going to come back right away." Link said, addressing her. "Come on, can't we be happy he's gone? Just for a bit?"

Zelda knew she had lost the battle for now, and wasn't sure she minded all that much. A party sounded very nice. She smiled.

"I hope you're planning on food for that party." She said.

Link nodded vigorously. The President laughed and promised a feast for everyone.

The celebrations started with a three hours long memorial service to all of Ganon's victims, from the 5 year old Hero Ganon had defeated and the Princess he had killed on the same night, all the way to the last people Ganon had killed outside the Lost Woods to lure Link out. Records had never been kept by the Government on who had died, so there was no actual list of victims, but several general eulogies were made to cover everyone from workers to past Presidents.

With all due respect paid to Ganon's victims, the survivors were free to enjoy the rest of the party, and even Zelda could not help but to have fun. She was wearing her hair up, for the first time she could recall, and now that the word was spreading that the Hylians had not abandoned Hyrule after all, and had actually been the victims of a genocide, she was getting a lot of compliments on her ears. She suspected some of it was just people sucking up, but she didn't mind. She was just enjoying the attention.

There were some awkward moments when seeing people she knew. Ejar, in particular, couldn't seem to decide between flirting with her and avoiding her. Those moments were relatively few and far between, however, and were not enough to tarnish the day.

Link was obviously enjoying himself. Zelda could only imagine how nice it was for him to be showered with honours, compliments and praises instead of insults and mockeries. Zelda thought he was also enjoying how magnificent he looked. The President had had a replica of the traditional Hero's outfit made in time for the party, and Link still had the Master Sword as well as the bow and quiver (with a couple of light arrows). He looked like he had been plucked right out of a history book. The fact that his wide smile showed off his freakishly perfect teeth just added that final touch of surrealism that completed the look.

He spent most of the party with his two friends, telling them in great details everything that had been going on. In great details because Kariko was constantly probing him for more information, and how had he felt at such and such time, and what was this and that like, and what was the Hero of Time like? Each time she asked about the Hero of Time (which turned out to be quite often), Link pretended to think she was talking about himself and to be insulted when he figured out she wasn't. Link's other friend was hardly saying anything at all, but was all ears and very clearly having a good time as well.

Zelda eventually joined them, following Kariko's invitation. Link acquired a bit of an odd expression when he saw her sit down next to Kariko, and didn't say much for a while. Kariko carried on the conversation, even though she was barely getting grunts in answer to her questions. Link's eyes seemed to be trying to avoid his friend, but they kept being drawn back.

Link was disgusted with himself. Not returning the items he had borrowed was a disappointment, although he had been under the impression his past selves were giving them, now loaning them. Not going back to thank at the very least the Hero of Time and the old Link was very frustrating, but he was sure they wouldn't want him to risk his life just to do that.

Travelling to his past lives had been so easy, he had become accustomed to it. But the last time he had tried, he had become a ghost, looking over his own body, and he had been terrified he wouldn't be able to go back inside himself. He couldn't understand why this had happened, and the only rational explanation he could think of was that Ganon had something to do with it. He had travelled to a past life from inside the Tower before, so it couldn't be the building. Therefore, it had to be Ganon. And whatever the pig had done, there was no way to know whether it had been reversed when Link had destroyed him.

He didn't think it would be a good idea to take the chance and try to travel again. Except...

His eyes darted to Kariko. The blue potion the old Link had given him had cured every single thing that was wrong with him, even things that were supposed to go wrong as people got older. Link was sure that if it could heal gradual damage accumulated over his whole life, it could heal old injuries as well. He was sure that it could heal Kariko.

And Kariko was only one person. There were a lot of people around with injuries the potion could heal, and there weren't many people who wouldn't benefit from it at all. Link desperately wanted to get more of the blue liquid, along with instructions on how to brew it, but if he tried, he may very well end up as a ghost again, and what if he couldn't get back into his body this time?

On the other hand, it was possible that he would be able to visit his past lives again now that Ganon was gone, and if he wasn't, there was no particular reason to believe getting back to his body would be any harder than last time.

Link clenched his teeth, his decision made. He may have been afraid, but he needed to at least try. Too many people could benefit from it, including one of his best friends. He concentrated on his older past self.

Although Link did not know it, what had prevented him from travelling to the past before was the spell Ganon had cast to confine his soul to the Tower of Hera. Now that Link was out of said Tower, the spell had no hold on him. He found himself in front of his past self, who was busy cleaning up now that all his guests, even the royal ones and the ghostly ones, had left.

Kariko and Dekussay barely had time to gasp before Link blinked and sat up again, holding a small bottle full of blue potion and a piece of paper with something written on it. He gave the bottle to Kariko and the paper to Zelda.

"That's the stuff that fixed my teeth" He told Kariko, pointing at his mouth. "My past self says it should heal you, too. So what do you say? You want your other eye back?"

Zelda looked at the paper. It was a list of ingredients and measures, in a language somewhere in between old Hylian like on the sword's altar and modern day Hyrulian. She guessed one of his past selves had given Link the recipe for the blue potion.

Kariko was staring at the bottle, blinking slowly and remarkably quiet, at least for a few seconds.

"You really think it's going to bring my eye back?" She asked. She continued with a sigh before Link could answer. "It's no good anyway. My eyelid is sealed shut."

"Your eyelid is going to be fine once your face is healed, silly." Link said. He thought it should have been obvious.

"My face? It's going to heal my face, too? Not just my eye? You didn't say tell me that! You just asked me if I wanted my eye back! You never said anything about my face! Are you sure?"

"It heals EVERYTHING." Link said. "Drink it already!"

Kariko uncorked the bottle and downed the blue liquid.

The effect was immediate. Link grinned and Zelda gasped. She remembered trying to picture what Kariko would look like if not for her scars and only coming up with an image of a spectacularly ugly girl. Now that Kariko was blinking at them, a huge smile on her now normal face, Zelda was happy to see she had not just been lacking imagination. Kariko was not exactly spectacularly ugly, but she was definitely not a pretty girl, even healed and even with a smile just as unnaturally devoid of cavities and missing teeth - if not as perfect, her teeth were all there, but were crooked - as Link's.

Kariko didn't need to see herself to know the potion had worked. Her friends' reaction, and Zelda's, would have made it obvious even if she hadn't been able to tell she was now seeing out of two eyes again and even if she hadn't been feeling so wonderful.

She threw herself in Link's arms and covered him in kisses. He resisted and tried to pull away, so she tackled him to the ground and started tickling him instead. He laughed, but not nearly as much as she did.

Link did his rounds the following morning, or rather, when he got up the following day, which was really closer to noon than to morning proper. The party had gone on quite late, and the guest of honour did not have the option of leaving early. Not that Link would have wanted to: he had never had a better day or evening.

He had been looking forward to today as well. He had been very relieved to find he could time travel again, and not just because the alternative was to find himself floating above his body: it didn't feel right not to return everything he could and it felt just plain wrong not to thank the people who had helped him. He was still wearing the Hero outfit the President had had made for him, feeling it was only fitting to the occasion.

He started with Sahasrahla, concentrating on arriving right after he had left, knowing he could only see Sahasrahla while his past self was with the old hermit.

His past self groaned impatiently when he appeared and interrupted his meeting with Sahasrahla again, but his eyes widened when he saw the Master Sword on his back and Link was able to thank Sahasrahla and even have a short chat while his past self gawked jealously at the Sword. Link turned to him, thanked him too, and left.

He then went back to the first Hero of Time, aiming once again for a moment after his last departure, just to make sure the Hero wouldn't have forgotten him. He got teased about his fancy clothes, which only looked vaguely like the Hero's, he teased back about the Hero's gleaming white pants, and he got roped into going to see all the Great Fairies again to thank them.

After that was done, the first Hero of Time confessed he just loved to see other people get freaked out by the Great Fairies. Link returned the bow, quiver and the remaining light arrows, thanked him profusely and just to make him blush, mentioned how even in the future, some girls got all hot and bothered about him. His past self turned bright red and Link left.

He also went back to the flooded Hyrule, as well as to the other heroes he had met. He kept the old Link for last and stayed there the longest: he wanted to make sure the old Link knew that without his help, Ganon would have won twice in a row. By the time Link left, he was pretty sure he had reached his goal.

All in all, it was a great... well, it felt like a long day, although in real time, it was done in less than a minute. Thanking his past selves had been a lot more pleasant than begging for help, and it felt better than he would have thought when they congratulated him. The one downside was that two of his past selves who had already defeated Ganon (the Hero of Time and the old Link) had told him he needed to return the Master Sword to its resting place. The old Link had explained that the blade needed to rest in its sacred place for its power and purity to be restored following the fight with Ganon.

Link knew they were right, as much as he didn't like the idea of parting with the Sword of Evil Bane. He remembered not wanting it in the first place, he remembered being afraid of handling anything sharp, but the memories didn't quite seem to belong to him. He felt like a different person now. He was still afraid of everything he had been terrified of before, but being afraid didn't seem to be a big deal anymore.

He was afraid of the dark, yet he had crossed Goron City in complete darkness. He was afraid of monsters, and he had fought and destroyed more of them than he cared to count. He was afraid of keeses, and he had killed hundreds of them with one move. He was terrified of Ganon, and he had fought and destroyed him. No, being afraid was not that big of a problem. Link could deal with it.

The problem was, he had dealt with it a lot better with the Master Sword than without. The magical blade helped him remember how he had fought before, and nothing was quite as scary when you remembered killing it a bunch of times. Putting the Master Sword back on its altar meant these memories would go away, and Link did not want to go back to the state of helpless panic he had so often been in before he had the Sword of Evil Bane. He liked how he was now a lot better.

He set off for the Lost Woods as soon as he was back into his own body, the leaf given by the Great Deku Tree in his pocket. The fragile looking leaf had not been damaged at all by his battle against Ganon, even though the clothes it had been tucked into had been burnt and shred beyond recognition. Link decided he would go see the Great Deku Tree first, to thank him for his help and let him know, just in case the tree didn't already, that Ganon was defeated. He had given the old Link his nice sheath back, so he was carrying the Master Sword in his hand, as if ready to use it. There was nothing to use it on anymore, and yet the feel of the handle in his hand still made Link feel safer.

"So, well... thank you again." Link said, repeating himself for the tenth time.

The Great Deku Tree frowned at Link. Link cleared his throat, looked away and shuffled his feet, trying to find something else to say.

"I told you I got a recipe for blue potion, right? It heals everything, even…"

"You have told me this three times already, Hero." The Tree interrupted him. "You need to get going."

Link opened his mouth to say something, but the tree looked at him so sternly that Link closed it right back. He nodded miserably, turned and left the small glade, heading for the Master Sword's altar.

Link stared at the altar for a long time. He stared at the text, picking out letters he recognized and trying to guess what they meant. He admired the veins in the marble, and how even the moss that grew on the stone looked majestic. He stared at his first sword, which he had left leaning against the altar when he had picked up the Master Sword. He stared down the tree corridor leading to the altar, taking a good long look at each of the nearer trees. At one point, a squirrel stopped close to him to bury a nut, and Link stared at the small animal until it was done.

Link could almost feel the eyes of the Great Deku Tree glaring at him and could almost hear the wise tree urging him on. He saw again the unusually serious look on the Hero of Time's face as he told him that the sword wasn't a keepsake. He saw the stern expression of his older past self telling him returning the sheath was not important: returning the sword was.

He imagined how the old Link would look if he could see him now, stalling because he plain didn't feel like giving up his toy. It was that image that convinced his legs to carry him to the back of the altar. He climbed the steps and looked down at the slit in the marble, into which he needed to slide the blade. He remembered pulling and pulling until he fell backward off the altar when he had tried to take the sword without having first collected the Medallions. He remembered the blade coming to him easily once he did have the three pendants.

It was then that he realized that he was not giving up the sword at all. It would be there if he needed it again, in this life or the next. All he'd need would be the three pendants, and after fighting with Ganon, that didn't seem much of a challenge anymore. He told himself he had been silly for hesitating, but as illogical as it was, he still didn't like what he had to do. He knew he would never feel the same without the sword in his hand, and he wouldn't know how bad it would be until the sword was back into its altar and it was too late to take it back.

He raised the sword, holding it with both hands, and with his usual precision, slid it neatly into the small opening. It didn't feel as bad as he had feared. He felt a bit nervous, a bit naked, but it wasn't that bad. He had felt much worse when he had been about to enter Ganon's chamber, and that had been WITH the Master Sword.

He tried pulling it out again, just to test that the sword was sealed. It did not budge. Satisfied, Link jumped down from the altar and walked down the forest corridor, heading back to the palace to start helping with the preparations for the next time the Master Sword would be needed.

The End

Chapter Text

A while after I originally posted this story on, I noticed that my previously intact section separators (strings of dashes) had been deleted. So, I spent an hour correcting the formatting on every chapter of Hero because the new version of fanfiction dot net erased my dashes, leaving all my sections mashed together. In addition to the waste of time, I wasn't happy that everyone who was reading in the previous few days read a story with weird scene changes that don't quite make sense and probably left thinking I need to learn about separators. On top of that, I really don't like how those separators look. They create too much of a separation for my liking, making the story look disjointed, and on top of that, the text showing up right above or below the line looks too tight (extra empty lines are automatically eliminated by fanfiction dot net).

Anyway, this is my consolation. I put it together thinking that updating the chapters would cause the story to show up as newly updated and I figured that if anyone was watching, I should give them something new if the story was going to look freshly updated.

It turns out the date of the last update on my story was not affected by my changes, but I decided to post this anyway, because the idea of not posting it after putting it together was just too disappointing.

This first bit is from my personal notes and didn't really play much of a part in the story. Any detail found in there is in no way cannon: it's just what I decided to go with for my story.


Most Zelda games never ever show anything else than a summer climate – other than in the mountains - so I'm assuming it's summer-like at least most of the year.

There are 405 days per year. There are 9 months in the year, each of which lasts 45 days. The months have kept their Hylian names of old. They are named after the Goddesses (of course) including an Hylian word used to denote a period of time: tova. The first month of each set of three also includes the Hylian word for first, ani. The second of each set includes the word for second, duni. The third of each set includes the word for third, teni. If this fanfic was written in Hylian, the triforce would be called something in Hylian, not a word that conveniently makes sense in English.

The nine months are: AniDintova, DuniDintova, TeniDintova, AniNayrutova, DuniNayrutova, TeniNayrutova, AniFaroretova, DuniFaroretova, and TeniFaroretova.

There are three holidays a year, on the first day of each "Ani" month.

Days are divided into 30 hours. The days are actually about the same length as ours, just divided differently.

Appropriately enough, Link finds himself on the first day of the Farore months: the first of AniFaroretova. This is 12 days after we first meet him, the 35th day of TeniNayrutova.

This second bit is a deleted scene, in draft form. It was replaced in the final version by Link simply telling Zelda about it. I cut it because it was too long for the purpose it served. The past Link featured is not from any game in particular.

Link heard a scream of terror and opened his eyes. In front of him stood a boy about his age, a big wallet in his hand and looking surprised, presumably at Link's apparition. Link heard the scream again, from behind him, and he turned around to see a middle-aged man behind a counter, backing away with one arm extended in front of him as if to ward whatever it was that was frightening him so much away. Link turned around again, but his past self was the only other person in the shop. Link then realised that it was him the shopkeeper was afraid of and politely backed away with his hands held out in a gesture of peace and his face fixed in a friendly smile.

He passed through his past self, who shuddered violently and jumped out of the way before turning towards him with his sword out. Link recognized the Master sword right away, and felt a pang of jealousy: here he was begging for food because he couldn't go anywhere near anyone to buy any and had no money to buy it with anyway, and his past self was casually buying whatever he wanted, carrying a huge wallet, and he had the Master Sword already.

"Please, boy..." The shopkeeper begged. "Please make it go away..."

"I'm not going to hurt you!" Link protested. "I just want him..." he pointed at his past self, "to give me some food!"

"That's all you want?" His past self asked, resheathing his sword. "Food? But why? Ghosts don't eat, do they?"

"I'm not actually a ghost." Link explained. "I'm actually your future self. I'm on a quest, and the President is against me and accused me of murdering a bunch of people so I can't buy food by myself because I'm wanted everywhere."

"My future self?" The boy said. "You think you're my future self and that you travelled back into the past?"

Link nodded. He was tempted to say that he didn't just "think" all that, that it was a fact, but he didn't think it would help convince his past self at all.

"And you want food because you cannot get any in your time. Well, if that's all it takes for you to be able to move on... how much do you need?"

"Just a meal for two, and maybe some dried stuff we can have later." Link said.

"Okay." The boy said. He turned to the shop keeper, who seemed to be trying to mold himself into the wall, positioned himself between Link and the counter, and asked the shopkeeper for two meals and a month worth of rations.

Link's eyes widened.

"We don't need that much!" He exclaimed.

"My wallet is full." His past self said, shrugging. "I was trying to figure out what to use some rupees on, it might as well be that."

The shopkeeper, keen to make the sale despite of his fear and made a bit braver by the fact his client was blocking the ghost from vue, busied himself behind the counter and presented the boy with two covered trays laden with food and four bags.

"It's 30 rupees for each meal and 50 rupees for each bag of travelling food. So that's 260 rupees. Plus the meal you wanted for yourself, I almost forgot..." He got another tray from the same place he had gotten the first two. "290 rupees please. Do you have that much?"

(That would have been corrected to have five weeks in a month if it hadn't been cut)

Link's past self dug into his wallet and took out the requested amount. Link noted that the wallet still looked mostly full afterward.

The boy handed the food to the ghostly appearance, who wrapped his arms around it - and slightly through it - thanked him and disappeared with the food.

"Well, that was easy." Link said to the shopkeeper. "Are you alright? He wasn't dangerous, couldn't you tell?"

The shopkeeper nodded feebly.

"Do you need anything else?" He asked, eager to help the young man get rid of some rupees and to forget the whole ghost business.

Still reading? I'm flattered!:)

This last bit is an early draft of a scene from a possible sequel to Hero. It features the Link from A Link to the Past, with an ending that is slightly different from what the game offered. The sequel would not center on that Link (it would still feature the same Link as "Hero" did), but other Links would appear again and I just happened to have this scene already drafted.

Please note that this is a draft: I'm not 100 happy with it and it will almost certainly be changed at least a little before its final version. Also, this is about as far as I got with the draft of the sequel at this point, so if it ever gets finished, it won't be for months yet.

Link clutched the Triforce to his chest, eyes closed tightly.

He didn't know what to wish for. Ganon had done so much harm, and Link didn't know how to fix any of it. Some of it couldn't be fixed at all: his uncle was dead, the King was dead, the maidens' souls were all free, but they were dead, even the Princess… what was there left to wish for? Ganon had already taken everything. Even the mystical Golden Realm was gone: Ganon had even taken Hyrule's dream and turned it into a nightmare.

Link wanted many things, but they were all so selfish he couldn't bring himself to wish for them. He wanted his uncle back, he wanted the maidens back. He wanted all the guards Aghanihm had made him kill to be alive and themselves again, and to forgive him. Above all, he wanted the Princess back. He wanted her to look at him like that again, like she had when he had saved her, as if he was the sun itself. He wanted to be able to call her just Zelda, like his future self did with his. He'd happily settle for her just to be alive again, even if she never again so much as stood in his presence.

But if he were to wish for any of that, what about everything else? He couldn't pick one wrong to right, he wanted it all. What he really wanted was for ALL the harm Ganon had done to be undone. He wanted everything back just like it was before Ganon had gotten his paws on the Triforce.

The Triforce started shining, so brightly as to hurt Link's eyes, even through his closed eyelids. It shone brighter and brighter, and Link fought back the urge to let go of it to cover his eyes with his hands. He turned his head sideway as far back as it could go instead – not that it helped: the glow of the Triforce was filling the whole room.

Then, as suddenly as it had started, the glow was gone. Link opened his eyes warily. The Triforce was still in his arms, but it was back to normal. Link looked around, and gasped.

Through the door to the room where they had fought, Ganon was scrambling up, whole and seemingly unhurt. Link's eyes went from the Demon to the Triforce and widened.

The Triforce had granted his wish. Everything was back, just like before Ganon had claimed the Goddesses' artifact.

Including Ganon.

Link's eyes went back to the pig, and met the beast's. He stuffed the Triforce into his tunic and took out his bow and arrow, expecting Ganon to charge at him. The Demon did no such thing, however. He hissed and before Link had even had a chance to shoot a single arrow at him, he vanished with a puff of smoke.

Link's breathing quickened. Just like that, Ganon had escaped and it was anyone's guess where he'd resurface and what he'd do. And whatever happened then, Link felt, would be his fault. He clenched his teeth, re-sheathed his sword and took out the mirror that had the power to bring him back to the Real World. The first thing to do was to let the King know Ganon was loose. After that, assuming he didn't get thrown in the dungeon, he'd happily do whatever they wanted to fix things.

As Link looked in the mirror, the room around him faded, replaced by the castle's inner court and the sound of deafening cheers.

Link had never felt LESS deserving of cheers. He looked around frantically, looking for the Princess. She was next to her father, beaming at him. Link's heart skipped and for one glorious second, he was happier than he would ever have thought possible.

Than, reality came crashing back.

"Your majesties," He said, addressing both of them. "He's back. Ganon. And he ran off… I messed up, I really messed up. I'm so sorry… I didn't realize, I was just thinking, and the Triforce did it…"

He collapsed to his knees, shaking. The cheering had not stopped yet because most people hadn't heard him over it, and it was making him feel worse. Here was everyone, so happy that all was well…

"Young man, are you saying Ganon is still alive?" The King asked.

Link nodded without raising his eyes. He felt a hand on his shoulder and the next moment, Princess Zelda's face was inches away from his own, looking serious but thankfully not angry.

"Is he in the Dark World?" She asked.

Link nodded again.

"Light World. I think. I didn't look outside, but..."

"What about the Triforce?" She interrupted him.

"I got it." Link said, pulling it out of his tunic. "But Ganon ran away, he could be…"

Link didn't finish his sentence, suddenly losing his train of thoughts: the Princess was smiling at him.

End of Extract