Link’s amnesiac mind functioned on a basis of objectives. An identity could come to him, or perhaps not, but a wanderer was a wanderer and he did not have time to form himself around such an idea. Certainly, despite what he presumed some kind of inherent kindness attributed to human birth, his existence was a set of primal functions. No more or less than anyone else’s in this era, of course, where society was comprised in no small part of tangible rubble and ruin.
Dreams gave him unidentifiable flashes of memory, inconsequential at first glance, though still similarly so after a long stare. A mind comprised of second-fractions of pictures could give him no insight into what world he had left behind in his slumber. The world could change quite a lot in a century, he presumed, but he didn’t have the memories necessary for a sense of nostalgia.
Link clung to the diluted essence of the memories that came to him in those dreams, because it was the only simple reassurance that there was something before this. No trees to stand under or oceans to gaze upon as a trigger, just sleep that, each time, he quietly hoped would not claim him for too long again. It was not a fear if he did not speak it into being, only a mild thing, only a reason to keep going until his body would refuse to let him run any longer.
If the heart beating in him believed in the significance of a sunset over distant peaks, he would presume it to be true: there was a reason for it to be so. He must believe in a force like his heart, because he was certain that long ago, he must have known his heart itself to be there before anyone had told him that it was, too. There were things that his heart recalled and desired that his mind had long since forgotten, though they were made cold and still in unison a hundred years ago.
Link counted backwards, hoping to lull himself into sleep as a reward for the long journey prior, and as preparation for the next one that lay ahead. He saw a glimpse of coal blue, set to the sound of a taut bowstring released with no arrow to send, and woke up the next morning as if a split second of memory was a fair bonus for eight hours of quiet sleep. He had learned after only hours past his first waking that the Yiga Clan- more of a cult, from his perspective- wanted his head in the absence of Zelda’s, so he thought it best to avoid talking to anyone along the paths that he crossed. A bit solitary, more than he liked, which was certainly not an impression he wanted to leave of himself. However, every second felt imperative. He had no time to waste on unnecessary battles when the world faced such peril, though he did have the sense to seek out the locations in the photos that Zelda had left for him. They were often a weary display of what time, with a dose of ancient evil, could do. The earth reclaimed her stone and wood, as she deserved to, when no one remained to care for it. So, Link would stand to recall upon the space the picture had shown him, and the sun would set behind, Hylia’s gaze hard on his back.
The reception he received was dependent on the legacy that had been kept of him, which he found ungracious; he would prefer to recall his own impressions as easily as the Zora seemed to. Still, if he carried a cross upon his back, it was one that he had hand-crafted. The blame was easy to take if he found it cast so readily upon him, and he did. He did not linger in Zora’s Domain any longer than he must, as each scornful stare pointed his way felt sharper than the last. Though he found them to subside upon his return, after the restoration of Vah Ruta, he could not shake the feeling that the appreciation was conditional. He knew that Mipha had cared for him, as he did for her, and that she had never found it in her heart to despise him. Even so, if she had not had a hundred years to reminisce, would she have welcomed him so kindly? If he thought of her for long enough, he could feel the ghost of her hands from years ago, cold and soothing against his wounds, hot from bloodrush.
Unconditional love did not forget, but was known to forgive. Link could not discern between forgiveness and the sense of a debt repaid, regardless of the words he received that pointed towards the former. He was grateful for a change of tone, but quick to politely take his leave.
Approaching the mountains left him with a chill, the sort that sought to settle into the marrow of his bones and remind him of the fragile body he lived in. As he sat in front a fire, staving off the cold, he looked at his bare hands in the glow it cast. Something told him that they had once been more calloused, as he saw now in his moment of respite that his weapons had rubbed them quite raw. The fingers of his right hand bit into the palm of his left, nails digging into the blistering skin. It was difficult not to pick them away, but he managed, sitting back against the wilted tree he had built his fire beside to let his exhaustion take over. The stars were difficult to see behind a thick cover of clouds, but he counted the ones he could find. He counted, so he slept.
He dreamt of a low hum in the distance, with only sky in every direction. Falling, perhaps, but fearlessly, and he awoke wondering if he knew someone would catch him.
Link was a steady traveler, keeping the same pace and praying he could make it another mile. Then the next, and another, until he stood at the opening of a rock wall, a trodden path reaching beyond, and saw the Rito Village. He was not entirely aimless, though he would admit, even to himself, that he had not expected to reach it so easily. He quickened his pace down the path, but realized his mistake upon nearing the stable. He wouldn’t be able to reach the village with his muscles and mind so tired, and he did not find it unreasonable to think that the guards may not appreciate him sleeping it off on one of the bridges. Still, he was not yet prepared to sleep again, and sat by the fire outside the stable instead. A few hours passed by, which he did not recall and could place only by the movement of the sun. It was sufficient to go just a little further, so he did, reminding himself that he must not rush again. He was steady.
The village was distantly familiar, and felt far warmer than Zora’s Domain had, despite the persistent cool of the mountain air. He asked the questions he needed answers to, and often got the answers to questions he had not asked. Regardless, he got enough, and his task was made as clear as he required it to be. It came again with the bonus of another memory obtained: a recollection of a series of needless taunts to motivate him to perform a rescue.
There was a difference between courage and recklessness, but he forgot it in the sky. The drop ceased to intimidate him, the beams seeking him were easily ignored, and the thrill was a wonderful thing to ride while it lasted. Still, adrenaline was short lived, and he felt it dissipate as he stepped upon Vah Medoh.
A tomb was a bit of a drag, after all.
Of course, Revali greeted him, remarking on his indulgence. Link was almost grateful for the mocking tone he held- spite alone could motivate him through the machine.
He could not understand why his chest was hollow, as if it would thunder like a drum if struck. Still, though, it was familiar enough of a feeling. He realized he had felt it upon Vah Ruta, as well, but the push to restore someone as beloved to him as Mipha, as much as he could, had made it near-imperceptible until the end.
Link was prepared to be rejected at the heart terminal, though a mental disconnect left him less prepared to fight Windblight Ganon. He succeeded, however, for all of his stumbling and confusion the entire battle. Medoh had been restored.
Revali appeared before him, and Link was steady.
From the first word he spoke, however, Link became less so, feeling less faint and more suckerpunched. His legacy was ghosts, was it not? When the Calamity was sealed away again, these souls would be free to move on, no more alive than they had been for a hundred years. Were their bones upon these machines, still?
Link took in a deep breath. He opened his mouth like he may speak, but it all happened before he could. His face screwed up, a fatal blow delivered to his chest, sternum feeling like crumpled aluminum.
He started to cry, so he was unsteady. Link’s knees were the second to buckle, throwing him to rest on the solid rock beneath. He had not cried since he awoke, and it burned. The air was too cold and thin, so he wheezed, and choked, and sputtered, undignified to say the least.
Link did not expect Revali to attempt to comfort him, and he didn’t, initially. He could feel his judgement growing severe, yet Link still found himself crying. No amount of internal reason settled him, and he could picture himself in another few minutes curled up beside the heart of Vah Medoh, crying until he passed out.
“Alright, that’s quite enough, don’t you think?” Revali prompted. His distaste could be sensed from a mile away when Link merely sobbed again. A growing impatience surfaced; he had a whole speech and Link was just going to cry, was he?
“Come on, get up. I do not intend to have spent the last hundred years remembering you for you to show up like this,” Revali said, tone a stern command that belonged more to petulant toddlers than to Link.
Still, Link wiped his sleeve across his face and stood to face him. The wind stung his wet skin, salty tears practically frozen to his face as it whipped by. He was still crying, albeit a quiet weep. He blinked, sending a new set of tears streaming down his cheeks.
“One would think that you were the one soul-strapped to a machine for a century, with the way you’re acting,” Revali quipped.
Link searched his face for something, and wondered if it was sorrow that he saw in his expression.
“It must be quite the pleasure to see me again after this long, right? From what I know, you might not know me at all by now. It would be nice to be able to see me again for the first time again, I suppose.”
When Link didn’t offer him a reply, he continued, “Though you are just as unpleasant to look at as I remember. You should find it a pity that I had nothing better to think about this whole time than… you.”
Link knew Revali valued many things: his skill, his honor, his village, to name a few, and he would not count himself among the ones important enough to think about for such a long time. His face burned as the wind picked up enough to cut through even his warm clothing. He supposed that the Rito who made it did not expect a Hylian to reach such heights.
“Me?” Link asked after a pause, his voice hoarse from underuse and tears.
Revali seemed taken aback for a moment, and Link could not recall if he had ever heard him speak before. He figured out quickly that shock was a look that was ill-fitting on him, and composed himself. “Unfortunately so,” he confirmed, “I found it… disturbing to see you worm your way into my head without need.”
Link nodded, as if he could understand.
“I know you don’t remember everything, though I don’t know how much is in between ‘nothing’ and ‘everything’, in your case.”
Again, Link nodded, though this time he understood.
“How pitiful,” Revali began, but did not finish immediately. He broke the silence again, before Link could, to say, “I spent all of this time up here, only able to remember, foolishly thinking you would somehow do the same.”
Link furrowed his brow, a confused expression managing to take over his sorrow. It shouldn’t matter to Revali if he remembered him, not for any other reason than to stroke his ego. “Why would you want me to?”
“Mm,” Revali hummed, “Justice, or something equally as pointless. Perhaps I would have preferred to know you fought so…” A pause, feathered fingers moved in a perfect circle, before he spoke again, “Valiantly in my honor. I would not consider it selfish, but it seems as if you do.”
Link could feel that he must have been making some kind of expression that had left his muscles tight, but he couldn’t place it. “Maybe,” he affirmed.
“I asked you to avenge me, do you feel that you have?” Revali asked. It was rhetorical, Link assumed, because he continued to say, “I don’t.”
The statement visibly blindsided Link, a half-step of a recoil making it obvious.
“Do you understand how I have felt upon this Divine Beast? The isolation has made me weary. I think of flying, beyond this place and out of sight of the Calamity, if such a place exists. My wings ache to soar, and no one has even been here to wonder with me if I may fly again in a life past this,” Revali spoke slowly, ensuring that Link could not miss a word he said.
“There is nothing left that you may do for me. This world may be saved, by the edge of your blade, no less, but I cannot be.” Revali moved closer, though only as much as Link had recoiled from him.
“You are the only one who lives on, besides the princess, who knows me as anything other than a legacy of Rito honor. That is how I wished to be remembered, yes, but I did not aim to die so soon.” He heaved a sigh, and murmured, “I so desperately want to fly, Link.”
Link was speechless, feeling as if the expanse of his vocabulary vanished, as he only said, “Oh.” He shuddered, though not from the cool.
A beat passed, then another, and Revali spoke on the third. “I’m sorry,” he said, almost sounding as if he was apologizing to end a conversation early. Maybe this was over. Then, he repeated, far more sincere, “...I’m sorry.”
Again, Link searched him, and surfaced empty-handed. He did not ask what he was sorry for. A moment’s vulnerability could be spoiled in an instant, and Link was not sure that he wanted an answer. There were things that he had not known before being placed in the shrine to slumber, and he feared what may surface if he aimed to find them out now.
So, he gave him a sad smile, and said, “I am, too.”
Revali wanted to speak again, and Link could see it in the way his posture shifted. However, he hesitated to, and only said, “Silence really must be a virtue you value, right?” He laughed, but the sound was bittersweet. “Looks like I have just enough time left to learn it.”
Link could see no humor in the situation, but scoffed regardless. He wanted to know more, much more. He knew, though, that now was not the time, and the time would not come. If something else was meant to be said, it would be left to fade with Revali, soon enough.
So, he accepted the gift that he was given, and did not take so much to heart the taunting and egomania he heard. Link found himself removed from the machine right after, to stand upon solid, unmoving ground.
And there, he was steady.