The blood moon over the field stains the sky as Link’s arrow finds its final mark—the very core of Ganon’s being. The beast crashes to the ground with a roar, and Zelda allows herself a moment of relief as she comes to land in front of it. At last, Link has struck Ganon down.
But it is not over yet. The time has come for Zelda to finally seal the monster away and end her kingdom’s suffering. She reaches out once more for her power, to banish Ganon as she should have 100 years ago. The light grows within her, brilliant and blinding—
Then it sputters and dies. Drained. Zelda’s heart freezes, sending ice through her veins. No, this can't happen. This is their last chance. If she can’t defeat Ganon this time...
She squeezes her eyes shut as she flings out a hand and calls for her power again, thoughts of love and protection flooding her mind. Still, the light does not return. Just as she reopens her eyes, something slams into her side, sending her flying across the plain.
Meeting the ground again makes her world go dark for a moment. Her body flips over, again and again, until it finally comes to a stop and she can gasp for breath. Her arm and face are marked with flowing gashes, and her dress is singed and torn all down her ruined side. The wounds burn worse than fire.
A whinny rings through the air, and she lifts her aching head to see Link heading towards her from across the field, bow and arrow still drawn and aimed at the enemy. But what more can he do? Even striking Ganon’s core did not keep it down for long, and its body is impenetrable anyway without Zelda's guiding light. It is up to Zelda to finish this.
She will not get another chance.
There must be some small part of her power left, even after all these years spent fighting. Maybe it will be easier to reach it if she is closer to Link, as she was when it first responded to her cries. She tries to get up, but her torn body is screaming. Maybe she is, too.
A yelp of pain snaps her attention back to Link. She watches in horror as the Hero of Hyrule is tossed through the air like a plaything. When he stops tumbling through the grass, he is only a short distance away.
“Link!” Zelda tries even more desperately to drag herself to him. Her entire body trembles with the effort.
Link lies still under the blood-red sky. Zelda’s wounded arm buckles, and she collapses back into the stained grass beneath her.
Ganon slowly rises to its feet and limps across the field towards Link. It lowers its head and thrusts it forward, and a horn pierces the boy straight through. Link’s choked cry of agony lasts only a moment before he is swallowed by the malice.
Zelda screams for Link again, but all that comes out is a wailing sob. Despair is squeezing her heart and clogging her throat and pouring out of her eyes. She's failed Link, again. She's failed the whole kingdom again. Her father would be ashamed.
Rooted to the spot by the knowledge that all hope is now lost, she stops struggling. She can do nothing but watch as Ganon turns to face her. She does not think of herself as it bears down on her, only of all the people she has doomed with this second bout of uselessness.
Zelda can barely see Ganon through her own tears. Even so, she closes her eyes as Ganon throws its head back and roars.
Her eyes snap back open almost immediately as she gasps and clutches her hands over her panging heart. Through the echoes of the roaring in her ears, she can hear her ragged breathing and pounding heartbeat. The fact that both of them continue on is unexpected, almost startling.
When she rolls to one side to curl in on herself, she realises that she’s covered with something soft, some of it caught in her fists. She’s laying on something soft, too. Things soft and warm...she’s in a bed. Anguish and terror still course through her with every breath, but she comes to the realisation that none of what had just happened was real. One hand leaves her chest to ball itself up in her pillow.
“A dream,” she mutters, rubbing the fabrics between her fingers and trying to slow her breathing. “I-it was just...just another nightm-mare…” She blinks hard a few times and sits up to look around. It’s still dark out, but she can make out the bed and the drawer next to it. This is the room that Link had had made for her when she moved in. She’s in bed, in Link’s house, in Hateno village.
He’s alive. He is safe. He’s sleeping upstairs.
Although she knows this for a fact, her nightmare is still fresh in her mind. Her ears are still ringing from the force of Ganon’s roars. She flinches as the image of Link's painful final moments flashes behind her eyes. Maybe she could go check on him, just to reassure herself… No. She mustn't disturb him over some dream.
It hadn't felt like a dream, though. It had felt every bit as real as what had happened a century ago. Just like before, her power did not come to her aid when she needed it most. Just like before, she could do nothing for Link as he met his demise before her very eyes. Just like before, she was faced with the knowledge that everyone would suffer because she could not fulfill her duty.
The memories of the past set her heart racing again. She thought she had accepted them after all these years, but they seem to keep coming back to haunt her. A sob forces its way out of her throat. She covers her mouth with her hands to stifle the noise, but it doesn't work well enough. She needs to be quieter. Link is right above her, and he's a light sleeper. Pulling her knees up, she grabs her pillow and shoves it in her lap. She wraps her arms around her legs, ducks her head into the pillow, and holds herself as her nightmare and her memories morph into one horrific testament to her failure.
Eventually, the sobs muffled in her pillow die down to hiccups and whimpers. When those finally stop, she lifts her head to take in her surroundings again. Soft, dim light filters through the curtains of the small window at the head of her bed now. She sits up and turns to look outside. The sun has just started to rise; its rays have not quite reached the small garden at the back of the house yet.
Zelda turns to look back at her room again as she dries her eyes. Her room, in Link's house, in Hateno Village. She can make out a little more of it now. Her desk and cabinet. The many books on her bookshelf. The folds in the curtains that separate the room from the rest of the main floor.
Deep breaths, in and out, in and out. As her head clears and her heart slows, the enticing smell of food finds it way to her nose, and she can hear sizzling. Who could be awake and cooking at this hour? Maybe some travelers passing by? She might as well go and see. It’s not as if she could get back to sleep anyway. Besides, the fresh air will do her good.
The floor creaks beneath her bare feet as she stands and walks over to her curtains. She slowly opens them to see Link, spoon in hand, standing over the fireplace that had been installed after Zelda had scolded him for not having a way to cook inside. The smell and sound is coming from the pot hung inside it. Whatever Link is making, it smells delicious. But how long has he been up and about already?
The floor creaks again as Zelda takes a step toward Link, and he turns his head at the sound. She catches the pang of empathy in his face at the sight of her heated cheeks and puffy eyes before he turns back to the food and mumbles a soft, “Good morning.”
Zelda stands just outside the threshold of her room, unsure of what to do. Link is clearly busy, but her question itches at her mind, so she musters up the courage to ask. “It’s a very early morning. When...when did you get up?”
Link glances up at her again. “A couple hours ago. I went for a walk, but I got hungry and didn’t have food with me, so I headed back. I got back a few minutes ago.”
Zelda blinks. Why is he acting so nonchalant about getting up long before the sun? Zelda had done so many times before, a lifetime ago, but only when she had to. The thought of those begrudging early mornings gives rise to more intense curiosity. “A couple of hours ago? The sun is only just beginning to rise!” She flinches at how sharply the words come out. They weren’t meant to sound so judgmental.
Link shrugs and turns to stir the pot. It feels less like he’s focused on the food, and more like he’s focused on avoiding meeting her gaze. His voice is even quieter this time, “I...woke up and couldn’t get back to sleep.”
The confusion disappears, but she wishes it hadn’t. She wishes that he was simply one of those people that she would never understand, who could thrive on even just a few hours of sleep and who liked to have as full a day as they could by getting up early.
But she understands him all too well. She glances back at her room as her heart twists.
“Oh. I see.” Link is different enough from how he used to be that sometimes it’s easy to forget that he has all of his memories again. And all of the nightmares that undoubtedly come from the worst ones. “I’m sorry.”
Silence falls between them, broken only by the shuffling of Zelda’s feet as she scrambles to think of something else to say. She’s surprised when Link beats her to it. “I, um. I didn’t think you’d be up yet, but there’s still plenty here if you want some.”
The corner of Zelda’s mouth lifts in a small bit. “I suppose it’s a good thing I woke up when I did, then. It would probably taste just fine cold, but surely it tastes even better warm, as intended.”
Link only hums in response, but Zelda sees some of the tension melt out of his shoulders, feels it fade out of the room. She looks around, reminding herself again of where—and when—she is. Link’s house, in Hateno Village, in a Hyrule that is finally safe.
The light shining through the windows grows steadily stronger. It’s a beautiful day dawning.
“Link? Are you going out walking again, after we’ve eaten?”
If she hadn’t returned her gaze to him, she would have missed his nod. “Why?” he asks.
“Do you...would it be alright if I came with you?”