Ocarina of Time - Book 1: Quest for the Spiritual Stones

The Great Fairy

Link decided that he would leave, having lost the spirit for celebration; however, Navi insisted that he at least tell Darunia first. When he did though, the Goron chief exclaimed in surprise, "You're leaving already?"

He nodded. "Yeah. I have one last Spiritual Stone to find before… Ganondorf… does." The man's yellow eyes flashed in his memory and he gave a small shudder.

Darunia nodded. "I understand. But you're sure you want to leave now? It's getting dark and the mountains are treacherous at night."

Link gestured at his fairy. "I've got Navi. She'll light the way."

"Actually," said Navi, "he has a point. It would be much safer to wait until morning. Do you remember the path as we made our way up the mountain?"

Now that she mentioned it, he did remember how scary it had been, with the path being narrow in many spots, strewn with boulders in others, and crumbling everywhere else.

"And besides that," Navi added, "you really exerted yourself in that battle with King Dodongo. A long rest would be ideal before continuing your journey.

Link protested, "But I don't feel that tired."

"Even so," said his fairy, her voice stern, "it would be best to wait until morning, after you've had a good night's rest."

"She's right, little brother," said Darunia. "It's dangerous to go out at night, especially if you're tired. Besides, this is a celebration in your honor!" He clapped Link on the shoulder, making the boy stagger. "You must allow us the honor of having you be here! We'd be offended if you just left! At least, do us one favor before you go." The chief pointed a thick finger at him. "Play us that song from the forest. Let's have one last dance craze!"

Link was not in the mood for it, but he agreed to do it for Darunia. He was shaking a few moments later when he found himself standing on the second level, overlooking a crowd staring at him and waiting for him to play. He had to dig for his courage again to begin the song that Saria taught him, but after a few notes, the music worked its magic on him and he was soon lost in its rhythm while the Gorons below twisted, hopped, and roared in exultation.

The celebration lasted long into the night. The next thing Link knew, he was pushing himself up from the same soft rug he had slept on the night before. Darunia was waiting for him, sitting with his rocky back against the wall. When he saw the boy blinking the sleep from his eyes, he grinned at him and said, "Quite a party last night, eh?"

"Some party," Link agreed as he stretched his arms. Then he twisted to work out the stiffness in his back.

The Goron chief chuckled. Then he grunted as he got to his feet. "Your fairy companion is right here," he said, waving at the table where Link's hat lay crumpled. "We borrowed your hat for her to use. Hope you didn't mind."

"Not at all."

Darunia's mouth twitched upward. Then he said, "When you're ready, we'll be waiting outside Goron City to see you off." He left the room.

After another stretch, Link pushed himself off of the floor and gathered his things, including his cap where, as Darunia had said, Navi was sleeping. She was surprisingly difficult to wake up, Link discovered, even with a gentle tap on her head. She twitched and mumbled sleepily as Link tapped her again until she finally cracked her eyes open. They were a little unfocused and it took her a few moments before she seemed to recognize Link.

"Morning already?" she finally said and then yawned.

Link nodded. "Darunia and the rest of the Gorons are waiting outside Goron City to see us off."

"I see," she said slowly after a pause. Then she stretched and said, "Oh my, I've never felt this exhausted before. That celebration…" She pushed herself upright.

Link reached for her. "I can carry you until you're ready to wake up."

"I'm all right, thank you." She gave a shuddering roll of her body to wake herself up then leaped into the air. "Let's go."

As they stepped out of Darunia's room, they received a startling surprise - a shout from what seemed like every Goron in the city gathered together at the bottom level. There was a path down the center of the gathering, which Link and Navi slowly traveled while the rock people cheered and threw up their fists. Behind them, the Gorons flowed into the pathway and followed the two of them. This mass procession made their way up the levels of the city until they found the large opening leading outside filled with bright light. The Gorons had gathered out here too, and they cheered at the sight of Link and his fairy companion. Darunia stood waiting at the end of the path, with his arms folded over his chest and a broad smile on his face.

When Link walked up to him, he broke his arms apart and then clapped Link on the shoulder. "You'll be on your way then?"

The Kokiri boy winced from the force of the blow but managed to stay upright. "Yep. Got one last Stone to find."

Darunia chuckled. Then he said, "Say… you wouldn't happen to have heard of a 'Great Fairy,' would you?"

Link gave him a strange look. "A Great Fairy?"

"Yep. Like your companion there," he nodded to Navi, "only bigger. A lot bigger."

Link turned to his fairy for an explanation, but she looked just as mystified as he was.

"I thought they were just fairy tales," she responded, "…at least, that's what the Great Deku Tree called them."

Link and Darunia snorted with laughter. Navi spun to them, and her charge repeated with glee, "Fairy tales - Great Fairies, ha!"

She had never made the connection before now. But as she thought about it, she remembered the Great Deku Tree's strange behavior when she had brought up this topic. He had become unusually silly, chuckling almost uncontrollably. But pressing him for answers, all he would say was, "Fairy tales, my dear. Figments of fantasies," and he'd go off chuckling again.

Darunia said, "I always thought they were mere rumors myself. But just last night, a strange owl came to me and said he had a message to deliver. He said that a Great Fairy had heard about what you did and wanted to meet you."

Link perked up. "A strange owl? Did he say anything else, like where I'm supposed to go to find the Great Fairy?"

"You know him then?" Darunia raised an eyebrow and gave him a crooked smile. "He just said that she lives at the very top of Death Mountain. Oh, but he did mention that she likes to test all who visit her, so be prepared!"

"At the very top…" He looked up the long slope with a feeling of dread. "You sure the owl said that?"

"Yep, I'm pretty sure," said Darunia cheerfully. "Hey, chin up, kid! You're Link the Dodongo Buster! A little mountain climb should be nothing to you!" He turned to his fellow Gorons, "Right, brothers?"

They roared their affirmation. Link glanced at them all and then looked up the mountain again, this time his mouth set in a determined frown.

"You're right. I am Link the Dodongo Buster. And I'm going to climb that mountain," he jabbed his finger up the mountainside, "and meet that Great Fairy." The Gorons cheered in response.

"Well, if we are going to do that then now is as good a time as any," his fairy said.

Link had heard the impatience in her voice, and he rubbed the back of his neck shamefacedly. "Right." He started forward. Then as though he had just remembered something, he turned around and waved to all the Gorons standing outside the entrance to Goron City. "Thanks for everything, guys. It was really great meeting all of you."

"Hey, we can't do enough to thank you for everything you've done," Darunia said, waving his hand dismissively. "But someday when your quest is over, come back and we'll dance again. Remember, you're always welcome here."

"Thanks, Darunia. That… really means a lot to me."

He shrugged and then waved. "Better get going. I wouldn't keep that Great Fairy waiting, whoever she is."

"Yeah, okay then." He started up the mountain again. Then he turned back and said, "Oh, and those gifts - "

"Link!" Navi barked. "No more stalling! We'll see them again on the way back down but right now we really must be going!"

Link turned crimson and, without further delay, obediently hurried up the mountainside

...

The two adventurers had started off during a cool and breezy morning, but it wasn't very long before the air became stifling. The climb was becoming more rugged too after traveling a well-worn path for a surprising distance up the mountain. Navi assumed that the Gorons had explored here, possibly for prospective mines for more food.

"So the Great Fairy's probably not around here," Link concluded, "or else they probably would've found her."

"Well, they did mention that she was at the very top, according to a strange owl," Navi reminded him.

He groaned.

Higher they climbed, and the sun climbed with them, bearing down on them more and more oppressively as though it intended to keep the two from reaching the top of the mountain. The mountain itself was becoming rockier until Link was forced onto his hands to keep himself from sliding back down.

Sudden movement to his left and Navi's cry of, "Watch out!" at the same time caused him to lose his concentration and he began to slide back down. It was a blessing in disguise for where he had just been something dropped: a spider-like creature with bumpy, rust-colored skin that looked as though it had rocks growing from it. It had four long, segmented legs at the corners of its round, low-slung body, each of them tipped with two black claws that dug into the ground, and three beady eyes glittered as it focused on him.

"It's a red tektite!" Navi informed him. "These creatures like to ambush their prey, using their powerful legs to pounce on them. Because of the way their legs are structured, they move around by hopping."

Even as she finished, two more tektites crashed to the ground. Navi gasped, "Three of them? That can't be right! Tektites are solitary creatures… territorial! You would need to take one hundred paces to find the next!"

After regaining his footing, Link pulled out his slingshot and readied it. Seeing the closest one tensing to hop toward him, he turned to it, and when it leaped into the air, he shot it in the center eye. It squealed as it came back down, kicking up a spray as its claws dug into the rock. Link reached over his shoulder and then, in one motion, drew his sword and lopped the leg off the tektite.

It leaped toward him, tackling him head-on. He tumbled onto his back and began sliding backwards on his shield until he was stopped by the tektite, which had dug its claws painfully into his leg.

"Link!"

Gritting his teeth, Link kicked viciously, trying to shake the tektite off. The two other tektites hopped closer. He tried to swing his sword at the tektite latched on to his leg, but with the shield strapped to his back, he couldn't bend forward far enough to reach. When the other two hopped closer, he dropped his sword, allowing it to slide down the mountain. He pulled out a pellet from the little sack, which he had put around his neck, fitted it into his sling, and then fired at the eye of the tektite holding him.

It screeched and twitched, bumping into the tektite that had hopped next to it, and Link twisted at the same time. All of this together was enough to get the boy free and he skidded down the slope. He flopped onto his stomach as he slid and scrabbled for purchase with his hands, swatting his sword, which had caught itself in a scraggly bush. He dug the hilt into the ground to stop his descent and to his relief this seemed to work. He raised himself quickly but unsteadily, his eyes darting to locate the two tektites hopping towards him. He spotted the third tektite hopping erratically behind them. With its missing leg, it seemed to have difficulty directing its leaps.

The two tektites landed in front of him. He slashed his sword across their eyes. They screeched horribly and leaped backwards out of reach. The tektite on the right landed on the third tektite just after it had landed, and it leaped away in confusion, crashing into a rock and then landing in a heap of legs.

The tektite with the missing leg leaped into the air above Link. He thrust his sword up lunging to the right at the same time. The tektite landed right on top of his sword with a screech, ripping it from his grasp while he crashed backwards onto a rock - his shield fortunately taking the brunt of the blow. The tektite landed spread-eagled on the path and skidded downward.

"Your sword, Link!" Navi cried, pointing at the sliding monster.

Link groaned in frustration and then leaped onto the path, crouching low to the ground while he skidded down the mountain on his boots. He caught up to the tektite's body as it slid into a dip, tackling into it due to momentum. After he managed to bring the both of them to a stop, he heaved the body upside-down. His sword slid from the cut where it had impaled the creature and clattered to the ground. He snatched it up, wiped it clean on the tektite, and then sheathed it. He turned his gaze back up the mountain. Then he gave a cry of surprise before dodging to the side as the final tektite tumbled down the mountain in a medley of grunts and screeches.

His fairy darted next to him. She commented, "That was most unusual. Tektites are usually very territorial. You would need to travel one hundred paces at the very least before you would find the next one. Is your leg okay, Link?"

"I'm fine," he replied, not bothering to give it a look though it did appear to be messy - a dark stain on his leg from blood and dirt. He started up the mountain again, using his sword as a walking stick. His leg did sting quite a bit where the tektite had dug its claws in, but he did his best to hide the fact. He muttered quite grumpily, "I hope we find that Great Fairy soon, though."

Assuming that there is one, Navi thought. She kept it to herself. Her charge did not need any discouragement at this moment.

About one hundred paces up the mountainside they encountered another ambush by more tektites, as Navi had said. Fortunately, Link dispatched these monsters with more ease by blinding them with his slingshot and then slashing them when they got close. He even had the audacity to grumble about how inconvenient they were as he and his fairy continued up the mountain.

They crested the slope. The path dipped down and then climbed again, getting steeper until it was almost vertical up to a peak. At the peak, Link noticed a ring of gray clouds hovering above it. He pointed. "Do you think that's where the Great Fairy is?"

His fairy studied the clouds for a few moments and then replied, "It does look… significant." She did her best to hide the doubt in her voice.

"I sure hope she is," said Link. He moved onto the path, following it downward and then climbing upward.

The ground rumbled beneath his feet, knocking him off balance. He crouched for stability and then looked up to see pieces of flint bouncing and slipping on the ground.

"What's going on?" He pulled out his sword in case it was some monster shaking the mountainside. He really hoped it wasn't.

No, it was something worse. Navi pointed at the peak, which was glowing red, painting the inside of the ring of clouds with fire. "The volcano is erupting! We need to get clear!"

There was a violent explosion that threw Link to his knees. Above him, glowing red chunks scattered into the air and then came raining down. Navi screamed as the tuff began clattering against the ground and pattering against her Kokiri's shield, which drove him to tuck his entire body underneath. She dodged underneath the shield with him and cried, "We've got to get out of here!"

Link fumbled with the buckle that held his shield across his back. At last, he had it free and he lifted it carefully above his head. The pyroclastic material continued to rain down with a thunderous pattering while the peak above him exploded in regular intervals… too regular.

"I think she's up there!" Link yelled. "The Great Fairy! Remember how Darunia said she liked to test her visitors? I think this is a test!"

"She could very easily kill you!" Navi exclaimed in fear and rage. "And to what end? We have a Spiritual Stone to find, which is doubtlessly dangerous enough! And yet she invites you to find her only to test you?"

"Maybe she has something for me!" Link said as he moved forward. "Maybe she knows where the last Spiritual Stone is!"

As the climb got steeper, it became more and more dangerous for the boy and his fairy. He struggled to keep the metal shield over his head while keeping from slipping on the rubble formed by all the tuff, some of which was still hot. For the final stretch, he pulled out his sword and used it to pull himself forward up the steep incline.

At last, he crested the incline. Without warning, the volcano's mouth, which stretched above him, turned dark. The shower of hot rock quickly died down, the roaring patter becoming a pitiful clicking of bouncing pebbles. He peeked out from under his shield and then hesitantly brought it down. When the volcano didn't explode to shower more hot nuggets on top of him, he let out a laugh of relief and cried, "We made it!"

"Hoo! Yes, well done, Link!" crowed a familiar voice. Link looked up to see the owl fly onto the lip of the volcano and perch there. He cocked his head and continued in a very pleased voice, "Very well, indeed. Not many have braved the climb to Death Mountain's summit. You are truly an extraordinary child."

"Extraordinary?" said Navi dubiously. "Extraordinarily foolish, perhaps! He climbed a wrathful volcano to chase some fairy tale! He could have been killed!"

"Fairy tale, my dear?" The bird's eyes widened in surprise. "You refer to the Great Fairy who lives on this mountaintop?"

"So there is a Great Fairy!" Link exclaimed in delight. "Why did she want me to come all the way up here?"

"She was curious about you, of course," said the owl obviously. "She saw your deeds and wishes to know more about you. It really is quite a privilege to receive an invitation from a Great Fairy. She doesn't show herself very often."

"Okay, great!" Link beamed. He looked around the ledge and then asked, "So where is she?"

"She is here," said the owl evasively as he ruffled his feathers. "She will not permit me to tell you how to find her for she insists on testing the wisdom of all who seek her. However, I can tell you this: she is fond of lullabies."

"So I just play a lullaby then?" Link pulled out his ocarina.

The owl ruffled his feathers and closed his eyes, taking on an innocent expression. Link took that to mean yes, so he played the lullaby that Impa had taught him. When the melody finished, he looked up expectantly. But nothing happened.

"Did you say she likes lullabies?" Link asked the owl.

He said nothing. He only craned his neck to the left.

"Should I try again?" Link lifted the ocarina.

Still the owl said nothing but continued to stretch his neck to the side.

Link played the lullaby again. As he did, Navi watched the owl. She noticed how he continued to stretch his neck to the side - to the point that the feathers on his neck separated to show pink skin. She suddenly had a suspicion and turned to the left. It only appeared to be a wall of rock but on a hunch she drifted toward it and placed her ear against it.

Link finished his lullaby and again he waited for the Great Fairy to appear. When she didn't, he said with a touch of impatience, "Maybe I'll try Saria's song. Maybe she likes to dance."

"Hold it, Link," Navi stopped him, her ear still pressed against the rock. "I think I hear something behind this wall!" She knocked on it experimentally.

Link immediately tucked his ocarina back in his pack. "Wait, what do you hear?" He hurried over and pressed his ear against the wall too, almost crushing Navi in his eagerness. After listening for a while, he turned to his fairy in wonder. "It sounds like water in there." He looked up at the owl. "Is the Great Fairy in here?"

The owl twisted his head upward, turning his gaze up in innocence. "I cannot say. But one with your perspicacity should be able to find out fairly easily."

Link twisted his face in confusion. "Perspi…"

"It means brains," Navi explained.

"Oh. Well, Navi's the smart one," said Link, gesturing to her. "I didn't even know what that word meant."

"Don't sell yourself short, Link," his fairy told him. "At times you can be a bit brash, but you've shown remarkable keenness many times where I've failed to see the answer."

"Sure," said Link, not wholly convinced. After a moment's pause, he said, "So if the Great Fairy is behind here, how do we get in? Blow it up?"

"Not your usual means of announcing your presence, but then again, the Great Fairy isn't your usual hostess," said the owl, chuckling. "In fact, I would think she'd be rather amused at such an inventive solution."

Link eyes lit up. "Well, in that case!" He pulled out a bomb. "Stand back, Navi!" He placed the bomb next to the wall, plucked the stem and then he and Navi retreated to a safe distance. Even the owl hopped along the lip of the volcano away from the bomb.

The bomb exploded, sending out a spray of rock chips that pattered against Link's shield. He also heard, interestingly enough, a patter of water drops, and he smelled the moisture too. When the dust cleared, he approached the opening created by the bomb. From here, he heard what sounded like loud burbling from a giant stream.

"Hello?" he called through the opening. "Anyone in here?"

"Well go on, boy, go on!" cried the owl, hopping on his perch and flapping his wings in excitement. "She's expecting you. Don't keep her waiting!"

Link felt a bit nervous. He wasn't sure what to expect from the Great Fairy. Would she like him? He hoped he would make a good impression. He turned to his own fairy, who was waiting for him. She had a serious, thoughtful look on her face - no apprehension that he could see - just curiosity. His nervousness abated and he said more confidently, "Come on, Navi. Let's go see the Great Fairy."

"Lead the way."

They stepped inside. At first they couldn't see much, other than Navi's soft blue light against the rock. But as they walked further inside, they saw a warm glow ahead that undulated strangely as though it was reflected off of water. Their final steps revealed that the warm glow actually came from the water! This strange water flowed down the walls and across the floor into hidden vents that took it further down the mountain. With as much water that was flowing, the noise should have been deafening within this enclosed cave, yet it was no louder than a burbling stream. Most intriguing of all was the small pool built from white blocks and containing the same mystical water. Undoubtedly, someone had been here and probably was still. Ripples radiated from the center of the pool in a gentle rhythm.

The atmosphere of this place was very soothing and comforting. Link felt all his fears and worries melt away. It was as though he had found himself in a very comfortable bed in a dreamless sleep - no harsh noises to disturb him. Everything here was meant only to help him relax.

"I beg pardon… Great Fairy?" Navi called loudly, her voice echoing in the chamber. "You summoned us?"

There was no answer. But the word "summoned" reminded Link that the owl had told him the Great Fairy liked lullabies, so he pulled out his ocarina and played the song. The notes were soft and soothing, blending in with the other sounds as it moved slowly but surely. He began to be lulled to a peaceful sleep.

He was startled awake when high-pitched laughter burst all around him. It sounded somewhat burbly as though it was the water itself laughing. Then from the center of the pool, an enormous figure burst out in a spray of winking water.

She was the most striking woman that Link had ever seen. For one thing, she was ten times the size of an ordinary human. For another, she had rippling hair that was a vivid pink color and tied into three tails that fell behind her and curled underneath her legs. And finally, she was covered from head to toe in gems and jewelry that glittered all sorts of colors - though it was mostly fiery red - including a gold bracelet on her arm with a glowing insignia that Link recognized as the Goron's ruby.

"Welcome, Link! I am the Great Fairy of Power!" She spread her long arms out, threw her head back, and laughed again.

The young Kokiri felt a thrill run through him. Everything about this great fairy was vibrant. She radiated such power, and her voice was so loud and clear that it seemed to threaten to shake the earth but at the same time fill the air with music. And it filled him with such confidence that he felt that he could do anything!

When she had finished laughing, she turned her pink eyes on him and her mouth turned up into a radiant smile. She spoke again, her voice rushing at Link like a great wave of fire, "I've been most eager to meet you since you defeated the dodongo king. Not many warriors can claim such a feat. I fear my tektites and volcano were little challenge in comparison; nevertheless, I am pleased you accepted my invitation."

"Wait," Navi spoke up, "so you sent those tektites and caused that volcano to erupt? Weren't you concerned that Link might not survive?"

"He slayed King Dodongo and lived to tell the tale! A warrior like that would laugh at all else!" And so demonstrating, she burst out a laugh that swept through Link, threatening to blow him back. She turned back to the boy and continued, "I understand why the Gorons made you their sworn brother. You show much strength!" She formed a fist. Then she continued in a softer voice, "Surprising to see it from one of the Deku Tree's children."

"You knew the Great Deku Tree?" Navi asked in surprise.

"My sister spoke of him often, as well as of his children and their little playmates. She has also told me of his passing, and I am sorry for you." She lowered her head in respect. "He was a wonderful person, bearing such wisdom and power. If he had one fault, it was that he was overprotective."

Navi bristled. "What do you mean by that?"

The Great Fairy answered sagely, "To shield his children from the outside world, he deprived them of their chance to grow and become strong. A sapling cannot grow strong if it is never whipped by the wind."

"A sapling will not grow at all if the wind tears out its roots!" Navi rebutted.

The Great Fairy studied her with a wry smile. "Such a sharp wit for a mere fairy. But you must always remember, as wise as you are, there is still more you do not know, and you will never know all."

"You know nothing of the Great Deku Tree!" Navi burst out in anger. "You knew nothing of his kindness and wisdom! You knew nothing of the love he had for all who lived in this world! He would never have allowed harm to befall even a single blade of grass!"

"And so was his folly," said the Great Fairy decisively. "Tell me now, will that single blade of grass still know the protection of his love now that he is gone? What do you suppose will happen to his children whom he so lovingly protected during his life? Will they know how to defend themselves when the monsters he kept at bay discover that he is no longer alive?"

Navi fell silent. Link listened to the exchange mutely and felt torn by what he was hearing. He wasn't sure he liked the Great Fairy all that much anymore.

The Great Fairy continued, "Had he raised them as the Gorons are raised, you would not need be concerned for their safety now. Had he allowed them to struggle, to face the dangers of the world, to challenge each other to rise to the top, then he would have given his children the strength to survive - the strength of my Gorons."

"Your Gorons?" Navi rose into the air indignantly. "You call them your children? Where were you when they were nearly dead from starvation? No amount of strength could have overcome that!"

"There are many forms of strength, just as there are many forms of wisdom. The strength of their spirit was tested and was proved to be truly extraordinary!"

"Extraordinary? They nearly died!"

"Yet they did not. They endured and were saved by it."

Navi turned dangerously red. "That is the biggest load of nonsense I have ever heard in my life! They were only saved because we happened to have come along and aided them."

The Great Fairy shook her head and sighed with an air of a mother dealing with a temperamental child, "I had hoped you would understand, but I see now you are fixed in your thoughts, and that can be very dangerous. One with wisdom knows himself to be foolish, and only the fool thinks himself to be wise in all things. I will not explain myself to a fool."

Navi was now spitting mad. "You call me a fool? Why you… you… self-righteous, pretentious…"

The Great Fairy waved her hand and a gust of wind plucked the outraged fairy and tossed her back through the opening.

"Navi!" Link moved to chase after her but was stopped in his tracks when the opening suddenly closed with a crunching of rock.

"She is all right," said the Great Fairy. "I only sent her to wait outside. I fear I cannot tolerate insolence. And besides, it is you I really wish to see."

"What do you want with me?" Link asked, his voice coming out a little shakily.

She tossed her head up as she laughed. "You intrigue me, boy! You are a warrior the likes of which I have only seen twice before. A youth who faced the impossible though he could have chosen not to. You might say I've grown fond of you." She winked.

Link swallowed a lump in his throat. "I think I'd better go now. I still have one more Spiritual Stone to find… got to stop Ganondorf before he… takes over the world…"

"Then allow me to grant you a gift to ease the burden of your destiny." She drew herself up until she was truly imposing - looming over Link like a great shadow. His first instinct was to make himself smaller.

"Take this, Link! A little of my power is yours to command!" She kissed her hand and then blew on it. Link blinked as glittering specks of what appeared to be gold dust fanned from her palm and surrounded him. His breath caught in his chest. He felt a rush inside him that was warm and golden - a rush that wiped away every ache and pain that he had accumulated over his journey, some of which he hadn't even been aware of. His body glowed as the gold dust spun around him, stitching up all the tears and wiping away all the dirt and soot that had stained his clothes, repairing the cracks in his shield, and clearing all traces of bruises, cuts and scabs. He looked up at the Great Fairy in wonder.

She smiled down at him. Then she spoke softly, "Draw your sword."

Link was too awestruck to disobey. He pulled out his sword and was surprised to feel the hilt of his sword starting to grow hot.

"The power - the warm, rushing feeling - can you feel it?"

The Kokiri nodded.

She narrowed her eyes and turned up a corner of her mouth in a knowing smile. "Now, control that power - channel it into your sword - direct as much of that power into your weapon as you can."

So that's what he did. He focused on the warm energy swirling inside him and forced it into his sword. He was surprised when it started to glow.

The Great Fairy's eyes darted to the glowing blade and she nodded in approval. Then she commanded, "Now, swing your sword and release that energy!"

Link could feel that power in his sword, rushing and churning to get out. It felt like he was holding a bomb. What if he hurt somebody with it? What if he hurt himself?

The Great Fairy boomed impatiently, "Release it now, Link! The energy! Swing your sword!"

With a roar, that's what he did. He swung it in a wide arc. The chamber lit up with red fire that shot from the tip of his sword, extending the arc of his swing. He cried out in fear when the fire struck the Great Fairy's gem-encrusted legs, but it didn't seem to harm them at all, and she only threw her head back and let out a peal of laughter. "Wonderful, Link! Wonderful! As you can see, this is a powerful attack that you may find useful, especially if you are surrounded by enemies. It may take a while to focus your power so take great care in how you use it, but if you give it time and practice, I am certain you will master this power and summon it with ease."

Link nodded mutely as he studied his sword in awe. At last, he sheathed it and said, "Thank you, Great Fairy."

She smiled. "I expect you to do great things, boy. Only a true warrior can wield this magic. You should seek out my three sisters living throughout all of Hyrule. They can all teach you new skills and magic to help you grow strong!"

"All right, I will," Link assured her.

"One last thing." The Great Fairy shifted herself into a reclining pose. "Should you suffer the fatigues of your journey, return to me and I will revitalize you."

"Okay."

The Great Fairy waved her hand and with a crunch of shifting rock behind him the wall opened again for Link to pass through. Then she let out a peal of laughter and fell backwards, disappearing into the pool.

"Hoo hoot!" the owl greeted him when he stepped out. "I see the Great Fairy has granted you a little of her strength. She must think you are a great warrior."

"Really?" Link puffed himself up a little.

"But you've a long way to go before you become a true hero of Hyrule," the owl added, twisting his head as he scrutinized Link, "so onward with your quest!"

"So what did she want from you?" Navi asked. She looked a little sulky.

"She gave me a new power," Link answered, unable to keep the excitement from his voice. Navi gave him a sour look, so he changed the subject, "I guess we can look for the last Spiritual Stone now." He looked up at the sky, which was deepening in color and producing stars. Then he looked down the steep path on the mountainside.

The owl ruffled his feathers and said, "Climbing this mountain at night can be dangerous. It may be best if I give you a lift back to Kakariko."

The Kokiri turned to him in surprise.

The owl chuckled, "Come then, Link! Just take hold of my talons and don't let go!" He leaped off the volcano into a dive. Just before hitting the ground, he spread his wings, which sent him gliding toward Link. Though he was caught off guard, he managed to grab a hold of the owl's claws as he passed.

Then they were soaring down the mountain. Link gasped at the speed at which they dropped. His heart thumped frantically as the ground rushed up to meet them. He closed his eyes and waited for impact.

They veered upward with the owl flapping his large wings. Link opened his eyes and when he saw that they were sailing high above the mountain, he whooped. They flew quickly down the mountain until Link recognized moving figures outside the entrance to Goron City. He caught the attention of several of the Gorons, who pointed up at him and let out cheers of their own. Link laughed and let go with one arm to wave down at them.

Navi was immediately in his face. "Don't do anything stupid now! Be careful, keep a hold of the owl's talons and don't fall!"

"Heed her advice," the owl agreed. "It would not do for you to drop onto the side of the mountain after all that you have done and are yet to do."

So Link reattached his grip. He gaped at the scene below, amazed at how high up they were and how big the mountain he had climbed looked from up here.

Suddenly, the owl veered to the left and yelled to Link above the sound of his flapping wings and rushing wind, "There's Kakariko Village. Hold on, Link!" Then he pulled into a steep dive. The wind rushed so fast that Link felt his cap being tugged off. He quickly let go with one arm and snatched it just as it was about to fly away. Then, still clutching his cap, he grabbed the owl's talons again. He looked down with watery eyes at the village rushing up to meet them.

The owl slowed down as he approached the house closest to the mountain. He released Link on top of the roof. As he flew away, he called, "Farewell, Link! Until we meet again!"

The boy waved to him, who was already being swallowed up by the night. When he vanished completely, Link turned to his fairy companion and exclaimed, "That was amazing! Boy, I wish I could tell Saria!"

Navi mused, "I wonder if she knows anything about the last Spiritual Stone."

Link shook his head. "I doubt it."

His fairy shrugged. "It can't hurt to try."

He gave his fairy a look. Then he said guiltily, "It's not as if I don't want to see Saria again, but I don't want to keep going back and forth over Hyrule Field…"

"But you don't have to," Navi pointed out. "Didn't Saria teach you a song that will allow you to talk to her?"

Link gave her a bewildered look. Then he exclaimed, "But I played that song a hundred times and Saria never answered then! She was probably just teasing. She always does that." Many times he had asked her a question and gotten a strange answer in return - and she always had a knowing smirk. Not even the most serious question was safe from her whimsy.

"Saria," he had asked her once, "do you think I could be a hero one day?"

"A hero?" That familiar smirk had appeared on her face. "But Link, you already are a hero."

"I am?" He had tried to remember any monsters he had slain or lives he had saved. "But I don't have a sword! I've never saved anyone's life! And no one is my friend - except you."

Saria had laughed then - a lovingly chiding laugh. "Heroes don't need swords, Link. They don't need to slay monsters or rescue damsels in distress. All they need is courage to stand up for what's right - to sacrifice their all for their friends - to be there for them always, when they need them and when they don't. And that's what you have, Link. Courage. That's what makes you a hero."

He certainly hadn't felt like one then. She had to have been teasing him… right? Like when she had told him there was a floormaster under his bed and he could scare it away by acting like a monkey. She had been laughing so hard before she finally told him she had made it all up.

Navi spoke, "She had seemed sincere to me. Perhaps it requires you to focus on her as you play it."

"Oh, all right, I'll try," said Link and pulled out the ocarina that Saria had given to him. He studied its carefully polished surface, noting with new appreciation the work that went into it… and for him. Saria might have liked to tease him a lot but there was no doubting that she was a good friend… and maybe she really wasn't teasing him…

He tried not to get his hopes up as he brought the ocarina to his mouth. After taking a few deep breaths through his nose, he played the lively song that Saria had composed for him while at the same time willing the notes to find her and bring her to him. The music echoed around the dark, quiet village and seemed to grow louder of its own accord - as though it really was seeking out Saria. As he continued to play, he began to hear a song being played back - Saria's song though softer and penetrating as though it was an arrow rushing up to him. He stopped playing and listened intently. The echo faded into the hills.

"Saria?" he called tentatively. Navi held her breath. "Are you there?"

"Link…" answered a familiar voice in his head.

The boy was so astonished, he reeled backwards, slamming onto the roof. He began to slide down, but he caught himself and shuffled back up.

"Saria?" he repeated, still astonished. "Is that really you?"

"This is Saria. Can you hear me?"

Link almost didn't reply because he was so astounded. When he finally did, he laughed, "It worked! I don't believe it! Your song worked!"

"Did you want to talk to me?"

He was so excited. He exclaimed, "Oh yes, I do want to talk to you! I have so much to tell you!" And he told her his story about climbing Death Mountain, meeting Darunia, her song making him dance ("He loves your song, Saria! He was dancing like crazy when I played it for him!"), going into Dodongo's Cavern and beating King Dodongo ("He was huge! Like a mountain, Saria! He could have swallowed me whole if I let him!"), climbing to the top of Death Mountain, and finally meeting the Great Fairy there. Navi hovered impatiently by his side, trying to intercede and remind him why he had actually called Saria. It was only after he finished his story that she had the chance.

"Ask her if she knows anything about the last Spiritual Stone."

"Oh?" Saria said in his head. "You're collecting Spiritual Stones?"

"Yeah," Link answered. He dug in his pack and pulled out the two stones he had collected so far, the Kokiri's Emerald and the Goron's Ruby. "I've got two of them already and Princess Zelda told me I needed to collect three."

"Three of them? And you have the Kokiri's Emerald and the Goron's Ruby already, so that means you just need the Spiritual Stone of Water?"

"I guess."

Saria answered, "Well I think it's in Zora's Domain. I'm sure the king there has it… at least, that's what the Great Deku Tree told me once."

"Do you know where that is?"

"I'm afraid that I don't."

"That's okay," Link said cheerfully. "I'm glad that I finally got to hear your voice again. I've really missed you during my quest."

"I miss you too, Link," said Saria sadly. "Please hurry home."

"Don't worry," Link told her. "Once I'm done with this quest, I'll come right back. But you know something? I've always imagined myself being a hero and going on quests. It was what I'd always wanted to do…" A lump formed in his throat and his voice came out thick with emotion, "But now… I just want to go home."

"I'll be waiting here when you do," Saria told him. He heard her force a laugh and say, "Just hurry and get those Spiritual Stones, you slowpoke!" Her voice was broken by a sob. Link was too choked up to reply.

Finally, she spoke, "Link?"

He swallowed hard. "Yes?"

There was a pregnant pause. "Be safe…"

That last message from Saria echoed in his mind before he felt the connection sever. He blinked up at the stars and the half-moon shining its milky light on the village. Navi settled on his shoulder and touched his cheek. "Are you okay, Link?"

He continued to gaze at the stars. He sniffed and wiped his nose before he replied, "I'm all right."

She hopped off his shoulder and hovered in front of his face. He looked up and saw her giving him a half-hearted smile.

"Only one Spiritual Stone left," she encouraged him gently. "Then it will be over. Once you collect them all and turn them over to the princess, she'll be sure to guard the Sacred Realm and Ganondorf will never seize power. Then you can return to Kokiri Forest and be with Saria again."

Link nodded.

"Not too much longer, Link."

He smiled. "Thanks, Navi. I'm glad the Great Deku Tree gave you to me. I don't know where I'd be without you."

"Most likely dead with your reckless behavior," she replied, though she was smiling.

Link got to his feet. He started to move down the roof's slope until he was startled by a cry of "Hiya!" With a cry of surprise, Link fell backwards and started to slide down. By rolling onto his stomach and digging the palms of his hands into the rough shingles was he able to stop himself from sailing off. Once he was safe, he turned back around and peered down at the one who had called up to him.

"Is that you, Link?" cried a little boy, whom Link recognized from the graveyard. "Hey, did I scare ya?"

"Just surprised me, that's all," he answered a little crossly.

"Hey, you should tell my mom that I scared you! Then she'll let me go on Dampé's Gravedigging Tour! See, she keeps saying it's too scary for me, but if you tell her how scary I am then she'll let me go, huh?"

"I doubt it," Navi muttered to Link from the corner of her mouth.

If he wanted to be scary, he should see the Happy Mask Salesman, Link thought. Then he remembered the spooky mask in his pack. Should he offer it to the boy? Would he even have any Rupees to trade for it?

"Will you do it, Link, huh?" the boy called up to him. "Tell my mom how scary I am? Huh, Link?"

Link responded, "Hold on one minute. I'm coming down." He leaped off the roof and hit the ground in a roll, almost crashing into the boy before the boy hopped backward from him. He squealed in delight, clapping his hands. "Oh boy! That was awesome! Come on, do it again!"

The little boy's enthusiasm was really wearing Link out. He said quickly, "Actually, I have a surprise for you."

The boy's eyes widened. "A surprise?"

"Yep," Link said, digging into his pack. He pulled out the Spooky Mask, goosebumps popping up on his skin at the leathery texture. He presented it to the boy, who jumped and gave a cry of fright. Then he rushed forward, his eyes almost popping out of their sockets. "Whoa! That's a freaky mask! With that, I could be scary just like Dampé! Hey, will you give it to me, huh? Please?" He hunched down as though trying to contain his excitement.

"It's thirty Rupees," Link said.

"Thirty Rupees?" said the boy, confirming Link's fears. But then to his surprise the boy hopped up and down, crying, "I've got thirty Rupees! Wait here while I go get it, okay? Wait right here!" Then he took off.

Navi spoke rather dubiously, "Does he really have thirty Rupees?"

It turned out that he did. After a few minutes, he returned with his hands cupped around a handful of Rupees, which he dumped into Link's hand. "One red Rupee, one blue Rupee, and five green Rupees. That's thirty Rupees, right?"

"Right," Link confirmed after a moment's hesitation. Rather stunned, he passed the mask to the boy, who clutched it tightly and hopped excitedly up and down.

"With this mask, I'll be just like Dampe!" he cried in delight. He put the mask on his face and then roared at Link, holding his hands up like claws. Then he scurried away, saying, "Wait 'til Mom sees this! She'll be so scared! Then she'll have to let me go to the Heart-Pounding Gravedigging Tour!"

The two of them watched him disappear bemusedly. Navi commented, "He actually bought that mask for the full thirty Rupees… and he didn't mind at all!"

"Yeah. But I bet the Happy Mask Salesman is going to pop up any time now to get those Rupees," said Link apprehensively. He glanced around the dark village in case the strange salesman was hiding in the shadows. But when he didn't jump out, his fairy told him, "It doesn't seem he's ready to appear yet. Let us find somewhere to rest before we seek that final Spiritual Stone."

Whether intentionally or by accident, it turned out the owl had dropped them on top of Mena's house. She seemed pleased to see them when she opened the door and she was happy to allow them to lodge with her. "Oh, of course you can, dear," she said with a kind smile. "Back from your adventure, I suppose?" She showed them her bedroom again, but this time Link insisted he take the couch instead. Navi was surprised but pleased. Mena insisted stubbornly that as her guest he was entitled to the bedroom but Link determinedly dropped his shields, pack, sword, and other equipment next to the couch and then collapsed on top of it himself. He ignored her protests and was soon asleep, not about to budge for the bedroom. The woman sighed, shook her head, and smiled.

"Thank you for your hospitality," Navi told her as she settled into the boy's cap. "We'll only be here until the morning if you don't mind."

Mena shrugged. "Who am I to argue with a boy and his fairy on their quest?" She bid Navi good night and retreated to her bedroom.

Navi settled herself comfortably and whispered, "Soon, Link. Our quest will be over soon."

"So the boy exterminated the dodongos, including the king, and now he has the Spiritual Stone?"

Balthagar bowed. "It was a grand ceremony that could be heard up and down the mountain, my lord. It was hardly necessary for me to spy."

Ganondorf turned his gaze out of the castle where he could see the Market Town below and rubbed his chin thoughtfully. "Clearly there is more to this boy than meets the eye. To have slain such a vicious species…" He turned to Balthagar and demanded, "You say he was offered a chance to take the Spiritual Stone without facing the dodongos, and yet he chose to face them first?"

"Yes, my lord. He did not need to enter Dodongo's Cavern to take the Gorons' Spiritual Stone."

The dark thief turned back to the window and brooded. "Then why did he choose to face the danger, I wonder… Could it be…" He rubbed his chin. Then he straightened and barked without turning around, "Balthagar."

His servant cringed. "Yes, my lord?"

"I want you to keep a close watch on this boy. See what makes him so special. What gives him such strength and the confidence to face his enemies? I don't want to be surprised if he is able to challenge me."

Balthagar bowed low. "As you wish."

Ganondorf muttered in a low voice as though speaking to himself, "I've suffered too long to be thwarted now. I've worked too hard and too long to let some forest urchin deny me what's mine. So much planning and effort went into this, and so far it's running unbelievably smoothly. Why, even the king was far more foolish than I expected." He spun to Balthagar with a grin. "He has actually decreed, as a gesture of faith to me and my - ahem - 'comrades,' that his soldiers lay down their arms - to lock all their weapons away in the armory."

A chuckle escaped Balthagar, which he quickly stifled and remarked instead, "He leaves his people vulnerable. It will be a simple matter to eliminate every single one of them."

"Indeed." Ganondorf nodded. "But I shall take it one step further. If the king discovers that his soldiers disobey his decree, he will lock them away, making my takeover that much more effortless." He chuckled maliciously.

Balthagar bowed his head to hide the grin forcing itself on his face. "It is almost as if it is the will of the goddesses that you conquer this world."

"Yes," Ganondorf agreed. Then he looked up sharply. "Or it is a trap." He thrust his finger at his servant. "Watch that boy! Find out what you can about him. Let there be no surprises from him! And in the meantime, I will seek out possible flaws in this plan and patch them."

His servant bowed. "As you wish, my lord."

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