Saria's Secret Spot
"Here we are." The Skull Kid danced to a stop. Link skidded into him with an "oof." Then he stood back and looked past the imp.
They stood before a wooden bridge held up by ropes that stretched over a great chasm to an opening in a large hedge-bound platform. Beyond the hedges was a set of stone stairs that led up to what appeared to be ruins overgrown with plants. It was an awe-inspiring sight. But what awed Link and Navi the most was what the Sacred Forest Meadow was sitting on.
"It's a tree! The Sacred Forest Meadow is on a giant tree!" the fairy gasped in wonder.
The tree stretched down into the mists of the chasm where it vanished from sight. It was easily the largest tree Link had ever seen - even bigger than the Great Deku Tree. Its trunk was massive, a bundle of thick fibers as big as Link was round all twisted together. The Great Forest Meadow - the hedges and the ruins beyond - sat on its crown.
Link shook his head in disbelief. His voice came out a whisper, "Wow."
The Skull Kid bounced on his feet and giggled. "See? You helped me and I helped you! That means we're friends now because friends help each other! Right?"
"I… guess so," said Link hesitantly.
"We are friends…" the Skull Kid stopped bouncing and frowned worriedly at Link, "…right?"
The young Kokiri hesitated. He glanced back at his fairy. She fluttered next to his ear and whispered, "What's wrong? Don't you want to be friends with him?"
Link shrugged. "I don't know. I've only just met him."
"You didn't seem so reluctant to accept me as your companion when we first met," she berated him. "Why is it so different now?"
Link didn't have an answer for her. He hung his head in shame. Navi looked up to the Skull Kid only to find he wasn't there.
Link looked up. Then he asked, "Where'd he go?"
Then they heard snarling and from the trees burst a pack of Wolfos, running at Link at full speed.
Navi gave a scream of fright. Link turned and ran onto the bridge. In his haste, his foot caught in a gap in the wooden slats and he fell. He grabbed the rope to catch himself but his clumsy movements caused the bridge to rock, throwing him off balance. He heard the Wolfos growling close behind him so he twisted onto his back, throwing his arm to the other rope as he did. At the same time, he reached over his shoulder for his sword, scrabbling for a grip on the hilt before he was able to pull it out and swing it forward to keep the Wolfos at bay.
They were ugly beasts - long, emaciated bodies covered in matted gray fur; black lips curled back to bare chipped, dagger-like, yellow teeth; bloodshot eyes swimming in yellow fluid; and thin, pale ears with blue veins visible underneath the skin. Most of them were gathered in front of the bridge, growling at him, but two of them had ventured onto the bridge. Because the bridge swayed beneath their weight, they were moving cautiously, digging black claws in the wood to keep their footing.
"Get up, Link," said Navi. Though she sounded tense, Link was surprised that she wasn't nearly as frightened as he thought she should be. But then she explained, "We have the advantage here. Just hold up your sword and stand your ground. They should soon realize they can't attack you and leave for easier prey."
So Link pulled himself upright and thrust his sword forward. The Wolfos growled and scrambled backwards to stay out of reach of his blade. Link pressed forward again, making threatening jabs at them, forcing them backwards until he had driven them off the bridge.
"Don't turn your back on them yet," Navi warned him in a hushed voice. "Wait until they've gone."
So Link stayed on the bridge, thrusting the Kokiri Sword at the pack of Wolfos in an attempt to drive them off. They leaped out of reach, growling angrily in response. When they didn't leave immediately, Link worried that they would be there all night, but eventually they turned and disappeared into the trees, one Wolfo at a time, until the last one gave a snort of what must have been disgust before slinking back into the shadows.
It was twilight now - a pearly blue light that was not light and yet not quite dark that suffused the woods. He watched the trees silently in case the Wolfos came back before he finally turned slowly to face the Sacred Forest Meadow. He started across the bridge, his footfalls echoing strangely in the void beneath him. He figured the mist must be muffling the sound.
"That's strange," he heard Navi say musingly. He looked up.
His fairy continued, "Saria has stopped playing her song."
Link realized she was right. It had grown silent after the Wolfos had ambushed him, and it made him anxious. Did Saria leave for the Kokiri Forest? Did he reach her too late?
He cupped his hands around his mouth and shouted into the air, "Saria! Saria are you there? It's me, Link!"
Then he was still as he waited for a reply. As the seconds passed, he slowly lowered his arms, his spirits sinking with them.
Then he heard her song. The lively tune resounded stronger than ever from across the bridge. His heart leaping with joy, Link sprinted across the bridge.
"Careful, Link!" Navi warned him earnestly, "or you may rock yourself off the bridge!"
He gave her warning no heed. He soon found himself safely across and he stumbled into the hedge-bound enclosure and immediately was faced with a choice of two paths that traveled to the left and right.
"Gah! Another maze!" Link cursed, throwing down his cap in frustration.
"A safeguard against trespassers," Navi corrected, who was twisting her head as though listening to voices. "But it's all right. We're expected."
Link looked up at her in surprise. "Huh?"
"The spirits will guide us safely through this maze. Just follow me." Navi turned and began drifting down the corridor. Link hastily snatched his cap from the ground, jammed it on his head and hurried after his companion.
The young Kokiri soon discovered just how complex the maze was. Besides the usual twists and turns, there were crawlspaces, hidden tunnels going beneath the ground - which turned out to be more like a natural mat of woven vines stretched over the crown of the giant tree beneath - walls that looked solid but were nothing more than amassed leaves, and finally vines that snaked over portions of the hedge walls. He tried his best to memorize the path, but it was more than his mind could contemplate. By the time they reached the stairs leading up to the courtyard before the ruins, Link was just glad they had made it out.
The music was louder and clearer than ever as they made their way up the stairs, which started very wide but then narrowed with each step until it was wide enough only for one person at the top. Stepping past it, he quickly cast his gaze around for Saria.
The song ended on a high note like it was a cry of excitement, and then a voice called out, "He's here! He finally found us!" Then there was a burst of cheering and then streaks of color swarmed all around him. Link was startled by this unexpected reception but, looking closer, he discovered they were fairies, who all looked positively excited to see him as though he was a friend who they hadn't seen for a long, long time.
Suddenly, he felt someone slam into him and grip him in a tight hug. Then he heard Saria's voice muffled in his shoulder, "You're finally here, Link! You don't know how much I wanted you to find this place!" She pushed Link back so she could look at him, her face beaming. "But the spirits… they said only special ones could be guided here. They wouldn't let me show you, so I had to wait for you to find it yourself! And you finally did! Oh, Link! You don't know how happy I am to see you!" She pulled him into another tight hug.
"I'm happy to see you too," said Link with a slight wheeze.
"I think you're choking him," said Anai, hovering behind her Kokiri, a small smirk on her face.
Saria let him go. She waved excitedly at the courtyard and the ruins beyond it. "I'm so excited that you finally found my secret spot here! Our secret place now." She grinned.
Link rubbed the back of his head. "I hope I'll be able to find it again. It was very confusing in those Lost Woods!"
"You'd better," Saria told him in a tone that sounded remarkably like Navi's, "because otherwise… well, because someday you will need to come back… you'll be needed here…" Her voice had suddenly become soft.
Link stared at her, wondering what could have subdued her normally upbeat spirit. "What do you mean?"
For a while, Saria didn't answer. She stared at the ground, her eyes filled with sadness. Then she shook her head and forced a grin. "Hey, how about I teach you a special song?" She lifted her instrument.
Link pulled out his own ocarina. "Of course, Saria."
She beamed. "Okay, just do what I do. Don't worry, you'll get the hang of it. Are you ready?"
He brought his ocarina to his lips and gave a confident nod. She nodded back and then put her ocarina to her lips and started off the song. Her fingers flew over the holes as the notes danced. She began rocking from side to side with the beat. Link began rocking with her as he waited while the song progressed. When there was a pause in the song, he joined in, matching her notes and tempo perfectly.
The Sacred Forest Meadow echoed with their harmonious song. The lively beat seemed to make the trees and grass dance. All the fairies that had greeted Link upon his arrival suddenly filled the air and began bobbing to the music. Navi, on the other hand, sat on the branch of a lone tree that grew close to the ruins and watched her Kokiri play.
She wanted to give Link space to be with his friend. And besides, dancing was simply not something she did. Still, the music was so upbeat and lively that she couldn't help but let her foot bob in rhythm. And she found it difficult to hold back a smile when she saw how much Link and Saria were enjoying their duet.
Link and Saria bobbed back and forth in time with the rhythm. Then Link began hopping from foot to foot. Saria's playing faltered for a moment as she held back a laugh but managed to pick up the beat again. But when Link began twirling all around the meadow, she was unable to play anymore and she laughed at his antics until she was crying. It wasn't long before she brought herself under control and then, playing on her ocarina again, she joined him in his crazy dance.
The twilight faded and night soon fell on the two of them until they were dancing by fairy-light. Link soon ran out of breath and his song ended suddenly. He fell to the ground laughing weakly. Saria fell beside him and laughed too.
"Hey, the music stopped!" a fairy cried in protest.
Another fairy darted close to Link and Saria. "Please don't stop! We want to keep dancing!"
Link waved them away, still breathing hard. Saria shook her head and giggled. "I'm sorry, but we're both too tired to keep going."
"Will we do this again, tomorrow?"
"Maybe," said Saria with a grin. Then she glanced at Link. "But then again, maybe not."
The fairies dispersed with disappointed murmurs until the only ones left were Link, Saria, Anai, and Navi. Navi had decided to join the group now that the merriment was over.
"That was great!" Saria exclaimed with a giggle, throwing her head back to look up at the night sky. "You played it perfectly!"
"I practiced it earlier," Link explained. "…with a Skull Kid!"
"You saw a Skull Kid?" Saria turned to him, her eyes wide.
"Yeah. I thought they were just myths, though."
"They're real," said Saria, turned back to look at the stars again. "In fact, that's how I found this place. While me and Anai were exploring the Lost Woods, we ran into one of them. He was hungry, so I gave him my apple. Then he showed us this place, only… he couldn't go in. He was too afraid - said it was haunted. But then I heard the voices and they said that I was welcome, so I went in. Anai was a little scared at first." She smirked up at her fairy.
Anai protested, "I wasn't scared! I was just being cautious. Thought it might have been a good idea to use what Navi taught me." She glanced at Navi, who raised her eyebrow doubtfully.
Saria snickered and then continued, "I decided to make this my secret spot where I could be alone when I wanted to be. I could practice my ocarina playing in here without being interrupted. It was my little secret.
"But when you came along, I was so excited to share this place with you. But that's when the spirits told me I couldn't show you. You had to find it on your own." She bowed her head in forlorn. "I really wanted to show you, but the spirits… they made me…"
"It's okay, Saria," said Link quickly. He couldn't stand to see her unhappy. "I know you wanted to."
"I played the ocarina here every day, hoping you would find me here eventually," said Saria. She turned to him, tears in her eyes as she smiled. "I've been perfecting it for a long time, waiting for you. I composed it for you, Link."
A lump formed in his throat. A lump of emotion at how much she cared for him. He whispered, "It's beautiful, Saria."
She smiled. "Thank you." Then her eyes became bright and she clutched her hands together as she said, "Please, don't forget this song! You may find it useful in your quest! Promise me you won't forget! …Do you promise?"
Link gazed into her eyes and saw the fervency in them. How could he refuse? She had composed it for him, after all.
He nodded. "I promise, Saria, I won't forget. I don't think I could if I tried."
Saria closed her eyes and nodded. "Good." Then she said quietly, "If you play this song, you should be able to talk to me. That's why you should remember this song, and… remember me…"
Link assured her, "Don't worry. I won't ever forget you. And I'll remember your song. I'll play it every day."
Saria nodded. "Thanks, Link."
She led him and Navi back to the village, showing them the path that she used. Link tried very hard to memorize it. He wanted to be able to find Saria again if he came back. He hoped that he would be able to come back.
Once they reached the village, Link became the one to show Saria home, which she accepted with a smile. They said goodnight to each other and then she disappeared into her tree trunk. With a strange premonition that this would be the last time he would see her for a long time, Link reluctantly turned and wandered back to his own home. He climbed up the ladder to his house and was about to disappear inside when a voice spoke above him, "Hoo hoo, Link! Up here!"
He nearly fell from his treehouse. But he recovered quickly, turned up to the enormous bird perched on his roof, and said, "Hello, Mr. Owl."
"Did Saria teach you a new song?" the owl asked, stretching his head forward and studying Link closely with his glittering eyes.
"Yes, she did," Link nodded. "But I'm too tired to play it right now if you wanted to hear it."
Before his fairy could berate him for being so rude, the owl responded with an enthusiastic flap of his wings, "Oh, certainly, I'm sure it's a delight to listen to. But aside from that, that melody seems to have some mysterious power."
"Certainly!" The owl snapped his head back into his body. "But this isn't the only melody with strange power. You may come across other tunes with most unusual effects." He cocked his head thoughtfully. "And you may also find that playing a song will be the key to moving forward."
"Songs?" Navi repeated in a bewildered tone.
"Oh yes." The owl nodded. "So should you ever find yourself in a bind, my advice is to play a song - one that you know."
"One that I know?" Link twisted his face in confusion. "But I've only learned a few so far. What if those songs don't work?"
"Then likely you haven't learned the proper song yet," the owl answered brightly. "Which means you should memorize all the melodies you learn. Even if you think it serves no purpose! It could come in handy later! It may surprise you!"
He flapped his wings and swooped off into the night. Link and Navi watched him disappear. Then Link muttered, "What a strange bird." He yawned.
"He's certainly taken an unusual interest in you," Navi agreed. "But I don't think he means any harm. And he's given useful advice on more than one occasion. I believe we can trust him."
"Whatever you say," Link said with a yawn. Navi took notice.
"Time for us to be in bed," she said in a motherly tone. "We need an early start tomorrow." She prodded him into his treehouse to rest.