Keys of Time
"I hope the Princess and Impa will be okay," Navi said quietly next to Link.
"Me too." The boy slowly got to his feet, grunting in pain. The blast had battered him thoroughly. It was only thanks to his shield, which now lay at his feet, a sizable crack through its center, that he was still alive. Despite the damage, it was evident that the man at the bazaar had done his work well. The shield was still intact thanks to the iron frame that he had fixed on it. Moving slowly to reduce the pain, he picked up the shield and the sword.
The rain poured over them yet they remained staring into the distance where Ganondorf's shadow had disappeared. Then the fairy piped up, "I wonder what purpose that evil man had for the princess?"
Link looked up as it struck him. "He's not going to find it. Zelda threw it into the moat when they were escaping, remember?"
His fairy gasped. "You're right! That's what Ganondorf must have been after! And she must mean for you to take it."
They turned to the moat. They strained to see into the dark water but they couldn't see past the rippling red light that came from the torches on either side of the gateway.
"How deep is it?" Navi asked.
"I doubt it's any deeper than where we swam in Zora's Domain," her Kokiri assured her. "I've still got my Zora scales." He held them up for Navi to see and then, ignoring the pain, shouldered off his equipment, which clanked and rattled as it hit the ground. After taking a deep breath, he jumped in.
His feet struck bottom sooner than he expected. The impact sent a jarring pain up his legs that cause him to curl into a ball. When the shock subsided, he stroked downward until he lay flat against the bottom. There he probed the silt, stretching his arms in circles until his left hand bumped into something… something small and smooth. He paused for a moment to let it sink back down before he slowly walked his fingers toward it and then curled them over it until it was in his grasp.
Success hammering in his chest, he pushed off toward the surface. He broke it with a gasp and then swam to shore. His fairy bobbed at the bank in excitement. "You got it!"
Link clambered onto the bank, ignoring the cold, slimy mud coating his tunic. He plopped onto the grass and held up the object so that it caught the torchlight. Navi drifted closer for a closer inspection.
It was an ocarina, similar to the one Saria had given him except this one was made of pearl. It shone with a luster that could only be magic. Link blew into the mouthpiece, forcing the water out the holes that lined the instrument's body.
Navi ran her hand across it. "This must be the treasure of the Royal Family she told you about. The one that's supposed to open the Door of Time… that was so important to keep out of Ganondorf's hands."
"The Ocarina of Time," Link agreed. He wiped its surface clean of the water. As he did, he heard a small voice calling inside his head.
"Link, can you hear me?"
He looked up in surprise. "Huh?"
Navi reacted in alarm. "What's wrong, Link?"
He shook his head. "I thought I heard a voice."
"Link! It's me, Zelda!"
"Zelda?" Link looked down at the ocarina.
Navi said, "What's going on, Link?"
He shook his head and put his finger to his lips. Zelda's voice was speaking, "Link, I'm so glad you found this ocarina. I hoped that I would give this to you in person, but Ganondorf left us no choice. At least it was you who found it, and with it you can reach the Triforce before he does! But if you're going to open the Door of Time, you will need this melody. Please listen carefully."
A song played in his mind. Somber music that spoke of timelessness, of stoic calm amidst chaos, of promise within the grips of despair. It spoke of hope. When it ended, he pulled the ocarina to his lips and closed his eyes.
The song played again in his head and this time he could see a vision of Princess Zelda as she played the notes on an ocarina. He watched her fingers as the song played. He imitated her movements silently. When she finished, he played it himself, and he felt the strength of its magic spreading slowly through him. Soon he finished, and Zelda lowered her ocarina and fixed her solemn gaze on him.
"Remember, Link, this is the melody that will open the way to the Triforce. And when you find it, use it to stop Ganondorf! This is my decree as the Princess of Hyrule!"
"I will," he promised.
The vision faded. When he opened his eyes, he found Navi gazing at him with the same solemn expression that the princess had.
"We need to get to the Temple of Time," he told her. "We need to protect the Triforce."
His companion nodded. "For Zelda, for Hyrule… and for the Great Deku Tree… we must keep Ganondorf from the Triforce."
They crossed the bridge into the gatehouse. They were frozen in surprise when they discovered the broken body of a guard slumped against the wall. Link moved closer and then his gut twisted when he recognized the guard's face.
"Aben!" he cried, dropping to his knees and turning him onto his back. The man's face had been scorched but the look of terror was still visible.
"He was the one who rescued me from those stalchilds," Link said, his voice rising with emotion. Tears burned his eyes and he ducked his head when his throat squeezed.
Navi bowed her head in respect. She said softly, "He was a courageous man and a kind friend. We will not let his death be in vain."
Link's fists tightened on themselves. He looked out the gate and said with gritted teeth, "He will pay." He stood up and turned toward the market square. He could see some sort of commotion there, fires burning, shadows leaping threateningly, and the sound of screaming that chilled him to the bone.
"What's happening?" Navi cried.
They hurried to the square. They gasped when they saw the people running and screaming while huge, lumbering monsters with thrusting tusks and carrying spears chased them, grabbed them, and tossed them carelessly aside like it was a sport. A moblin took a little girl by the arm, who was screaming and crying, and tossed her to another moblin, who inspected her briefly with a grunt and then tossed her screaming back. Another moblin threatened an old man with a spear, backing him slowly to a burning building.
"That monster!" Navi hissed, clenching her fists. "How could he do this to innocent people? It's not enough to him to seize the Triforce to take over the world, but he kills people to do it!"
Rage flared up inside Link. The warm feeling in his chest where the Great Fairies' magic resided turned into a burning sensation that seared through his veins. His temples began to pound and his vision flashed red. He wanted to kill. He wanted to take his sword and slash through every monster that ever existed. Make them pay. Make them regret ever showing themselves in this world just to satisfy their own sadistic pleasures.
His sword came out with a merciless song of vengeance. He charged forward with a yell and plunged his blade into the back of the nearest moblin, severing his spine and causing him to howl in pain. He yanked the blade out and spun for the next moblin, slashing through his stomach. He targeted another moblin, who was holding a torch under a man's head that he held in his hand, and charged forward when a spear swung in front of him. He slammed into it, crashing onto his back, which sent a flare of pain through his body and knocked the breath out of him.
He drew in a ragged gasp as he stared up at the night sky lit by raging fires and dark smoke. The world slowed and the sounds faded. In his vision, a moblin leaned in over him. He drew up a spear over the boy, a cold look of mercilessness in his eyes. He drew back the spear.
Suddenly, Link was yanked away. The spear struck flagstone. With a grunt of alarm, the beast twisted his head to find where the boy had gone. He didn't see him being dragged across the square to the east toward the alleys. No one did. He had vanished.
At last, with the screams of the people, the roars of the moblins, and the bellowing of the flames in the square all faded, Link felt himself dropped to the ground. He looked up dazedly to see who it was that had rescued him.
"Can't allow you to die yet, boy," said a cheery voice and the Happy Mask Salesman materialized over him with a pull of a mask.
"You…" Link said weakly.
The grinning man pulled out a bottle full of purple liquid, which Link recognized as Fairy's Tears, and pulled out the stopper. "Here, drink this. Fates depend on you." He trickled it into the boy's mouth. After a few swallows, Link felt energy flow back into him and he sat up.
"Better? Peppier? Good. Too much at stake to let you sulk now," said the salesman as he placed the bottle back in his pack full of masks.
Link got to his feet and then looked up at the strange man. He asked, "Why did you save me?"
"Still a bit groggy, are you?" the Happy Mask Salesman giggled as he whipped on a mask of an insect with multifaceted, multicolored eyes. Then he whipped it off again and said, "Then I'll tell you again: too much is at stake. More than you realize. And you do owe me for that Snorkeling Mask." He held out his hand in the familiar gesture.
Link didn't comply. "Wait, what do you mean there's more at stake? More than the Triforce? More than keeping Ganondorf from conquering the world?"
The strange salesman giggled, "Oh, the tale is exciting and I'd love to indulge you, but the time is not right. Not here, not now. First you have a Triforce to protect and a world conquest to stop. More importantly, we must conclude our business… until further notice, of course." He held out his hand again.
Still Link didn't comply. He glared suspiciously at the man. "There's definitely more to you than you let on. Who are you? Why are you here? What do you want?"
The Happy Mask Salesman brought his hand to his forehead and sighed. "Must we do this again?" He reached backwards into his pack and then pulled out a bottle with something in it. A moment later, the Kokiri realized his fairy was inside!
"You took her again?!"
"It didn't have to be this way, you know. I simply want my money for the mask you sold."
For a long while, Link shot daggers at the Happy Mask Salesman, but he didn't seem to notice. His cheery grin remained on his face and his hand remained outstretched. Shaking with anger, Link unlaced the wallet from his belt and then threw it into the grinning man's face. The man reacted with lightning reflexes, catching the pouch before it hit him, which only made the boy angrier.
"Take it all," said Link, his tone bitter. "Just give me my fairy and leave us alone."
The Happy Mask Salesman studied the wallet for a moment and then turned to Link with a curious expression. "You're angry," he said as though he had never encountered this emotion before. He draped his finger over his chin thoughtfully. "A useful emotion… if handled carefully." On that note, he passed the bottle to Link, who immediately ripped out the cork and gently tipped Navi out. He felt her trembling in his hand. "Are you all right?" he asked her.
"That moblin…" her voice shook. "He had that spear right over your head… the next thing I knew, it was dark…"
"You haven't much time to waste, boy," cut in the salesman, who was counting the Rupees in the wallet Link had given him. "Time's a ticking and the crucial moment of destiny draws quickly."
"Yes, he's right." Navi pushed herself to her feet and then lifted into the air. "We must reach the Triforce. We need to make certain that it is protected."
"Before you do," said the Happy Mask Salesman, "I have one last mask to give to you." Seeing the expression on the boy's face, he explained, "Not one to sell. I give it to you as a gift - a bonus for all the hard work you put in for me, shall we say?" He giggled.
He reached into his vest and pulled out the final mask. Link had received some unusual masks before so it was a surprise to him to find this one looked quite plain… at least at first. The mask was white with holes for eyes and a mouth. Then he discovered the two eyeholes were set within a single large eye outlined in red. The mouth was also outlined in red and was connected to the eye by an outline of what Link thought at first was a nose. Then he realized it looked more like a tear. And even as he noticed this, he realized he had seen this somewhere before.
The Happy Mask Salesman giggled, "The Mask of Truth. An heirloom of the Shadow Folk, which they used to glean information from their enemies. Knowledge is power, after all."
The Shadow Folk? As in, the Sheikah? It was their mask? "What are you doing with it?" Link demanded.
The salesman continued as though he hadn't heard him, "Should you find yourself curious about the thoughts of the people around you, merely place this over your face and look to the subject. I should caution you though," he canted his head and then a startlingly devilish grin appeared on his face, "take care not to lose this mask. Were it to fall into the wrong hands, it could be disastrous."
Considering that, Link took the mask and quickly tucked it into his pack. He intended to return it to Impa. If it really was passed down by the Sheikah then it most likely belonged to her.
The Happy Mask Salesman grinned at him. "Excellent! I feel confident the mask is in good hands. Now then…" He walked past Link toward the town. Then he stopped and turned to him, "You'll find the temple where the Triforce resides in that direction." He pointed behind Link. "You'd best hurry. Destinies are at hand. But which of them will triumph?"
Leaving the boy and his fairy with this odd question, he turned and walked back into town where the pulsing red lights of the raging fires and the echoing howls of pain and fear still rent the air. The boy started to go after him.
Navi called him back. "What are you doing, Link?"
"The people out there are getting hurt," he told her. "I've got to do something about it. I can't just…"
"Link, stop. You can't just start attacking. You were almost killed that way. Calm down. Think. The Triforce is this way. With it, we can stop what Ganondorf has done. We… we can reverse it, Link." Her breath hitched in her throat as she realized what she had said.
"We can undo everything he's done, Link," she began again, her voice breathless with excitement. "We can stop him from destroying Hyrule Castle Town; we can prevent him from ever reaching Hyrule Castle Town! We can prevent him from killing Aben! Link! We can bring back the Great Deku Tree!"
Link's head lifted in inspiration. He turned to her, his mouth open in wonder. Of course! That's what he had to do! He had to reach the Triforce and use it to stop Ganondorf! No, he would use it to destroy Ganondorf entirely! Make it as though he had never been born! That's what his destiny was - to use the Triforce to save Hyrule.
He broke into a run. Navi zipped along behind him and together they raced through the alleyway to where the Happy Mask Salesman claimed the Temple of the Triforce was.
The houses fell away. The street turned into a stone path intermitted by a series of steps. And waiting at the end of the path, sitting high atop a hill, was a building of white stone. It rose high into the night sky, shining like the moon, and it seemed to be calling to Link, beckoning him gently.
Link's pace slowed, his heart hammering in his chest and his breaths coming out hard. The urgency that had gripped him was gradually easing from him. The shrieks of terrified people and the roar of the fire were fading behind him. The closer he got to the temple, the more serene he felt - all his worries, all his fears and doubts just seemed to fall away from him like the leaves of a tree.
He stood in front of the entrance, a pavilion of tall flute columns leading to a tall narrow door. Above it was the relief cut of the Triforce.
He stood before the Temple of Time.
"Come on, Link," his fairy urged him though her voice had become calm. "The Triforce is inside… I can feel it."
When they stepped inside, the horrific sounds from the market square ceased entirely. It was as though they had entered a haven where no evil influence was able to penetrate. A sense of calm descended on him like a physical presence. It was impossible to feel angry or scared now. There was only peace here.
The inside was as enormous as the outside had appeared. White moonlight descended through the long, narrow windows set high in the temple walls, illuminating the white stone and making it all appear to glow. A long, red carpet formed a path, interrupted by a large dais almost directly in front of the temple entrance, on which was the Triforce symbol. Link paused only briefly to glance at it before continuing up the path laid out by the red carpet.
It led him to an altar where stairs curved behind it on either side and up to a pair of enormous stone doors. A symbol of the sun with expanding rays radiating from it was carved in the center, half of it on each door.
While Link stood with an open mouth at the doors, Navi was studying the altar. She noticed three indentations on its surface, all of them different but familiar shapes.
"This must be where we set the Stones," she murmured to herself. She glanced up and noticed something else.
He looked down and saw his fairy pointing at the altar.
"Look. Here's an inscription; it reads, Ye who bears the three Stones of Spirit, stand with the Ocarina and play the Song of Time."
Link reached down and traced the shapes in the altar with his finger. Then he unclipped the pack from his belt and dug in it until he pulled out the three Spiritual Stones. He set the pack down. Then he took the Stones and carefully set each of them in their individual imprints. Each fit inside with a sung "chink" and then began to glow. The Kokiri Emerald seemed to be twinkling with millions of tiny stars inside its gem; the Goron Ruby seemed to flicker with a dazzling fire dancing inside; and the Zora Sapphire seemed to ripple with the waves of light-scattering water.
The boy stood back. He pulled out the ocarina the princess had given to him before escaping and put it to his lips. He closed his eyes as he recollected the notes that Zelda had put in his head. Slowly and reverently he played the notes - low and somber that nevertheless seemed to be reassuring him that all would be well in the end.
He played the final notes. They echoed in the cavernous hall of the temple. But even as he lowered the Ocarina of Time, the notes continued to play. The somber music had begun again, resounding from the walls. Link waited for the notes to fade away but they didn't seem to be doing that. In fact, the notes were getting louder. And they were changing. The high flute-like notes dropped in tone, changing into deep, powerful voices as though great invisible deities were chanting. With each repeat of the song, their voices grew louder until the chamber echoed with a thousand more voices. Link could feel the song lifting his spirit and he listened with his head upraised.
Then Navi flitted to his ear and tugged it vigorously. She pointed down. "Look!"
The Stones were glowing brighter. The Kokiri Emerald gradually vanished beneath its deep green light as the Goron Ruby vanished beneath its fiery red light and the Zora Sapphire beneath its deep blue. Then he gasped as each Stone lifted from their rests and rose into the air.
The chanting increased in volume and in tone. It was now as though they were making a summons. As Link watched, the Stones paused in the air and hovered in place. Then they all flashed in a mixture of colors that blended to a white that almost blinded the two of them. The boy's fairy ducked behind his cap while he shielded his eyes as the Stones flashed again.
"Look!" Navi yelled above the chanting voices. "Look at the sun!"
For a moment, Link was confused. Then he realized she was talking about the carving on the great stone doors, which was beginning to glow. It increased in brightness until it was like the sun outside and Link had to close his eyes against it. The chanting continued, approaching the climax of the song.
Then Link and Navi, who still had their eyes closed, heard a scraping sound of heavy stone against stone. A light that was whiter than snow hit Link, even with his eyes shut. He could feel its warmth like the sun on a chilly morning. The chanting had now reached its peak and was thundering the final note. The stone doors continued to pull apart, widening the shaft of light that spilled from the opening onto the awed pair who stood before the altar.
At last the voices faded away as did the piercingly bright light. The Stones sank back down into their hollows with little musical tinks. At this sound, Link and Navi dared to open their eyes. Seeing the door open before them, they climbed the steps behind the altar and then peered through.
Inside was a large and round chamber. A shaft of golden light - too lustrous to be natural - descended in its very center. And beneath the light was a set of steps leading up to a podium. On the podium was a small stone block set with a tiny insignia of the Triforce. And in the block…
"Link!" Navi cried in astonishment. She darted ahead of Link, looking mesmerized. "This is…" She slowed as though hesitant to move forward anymore but unable to resist. Link approached with the same hesitation. She reached the block first and began drifting around the object set in it.
"This is the blade of legend that the Great Deku Tree spoke of…" she finally breathed. Link stopped in front of it and looked down at it in awe. His fairy looked up at him with shining eyes.
"The Master Sword."
Link remembered when he had first needed a sword and Navi had suggested they look for the legendary blade. He had thought she meant the Kokiri Sword that he and the others had always told stories about. But then she had told him there was a greater sword than the one he had heard of. And now he stood in front of it.
"Wow," he breathed. It was a beautiful sword. Though it was set into the block, it was almost as tall as he was! The blade was like a mirror, showing him how dirty his face was. The hilt was fashioned from a strange purple metal, its guard in the shape of outspread wings.
He stepped forward cautiously, reaching out tentatively to touch it. He glanced at Navi, silently asking her permission. She seemed as unsure as he did though, biting her lip and making no gesture to forbid him or otherwise. So he turned his gaze back to the sword. He wrapped his fingers around the hilt. A familiar warmth coursed through him the instant that he did. He hesitated, thinking of drawing away, but when he received no pain, he wrapped the other hand around. The power coursed faster through him.
Link took deep breaths to steady his nerves. He reassured himself, saying, "I am taking this sword to use against Ganondorf so that he will never get the Triforce and rule the world."
"You are the hero chosen by destiny," Navi agreed. "So the Great Deku Tree had said, and also Princess Zelda. The Master Sword is yours."
The boy nodded. He took a deep breath and tensed his body. Then with a grunt and a cry, he pulled the sword free from its pedestal.
Instantly, as though a curtain had been ripped away, the golden light that surrounded the podium rippled and turned icy blue. Link whirled around in alarm, finding himself surrounded by the light, which rippled like fire!
"I wasn't supposed to take it!" he cried. He attempted to swing the sword back into its pedestal, but it was too long for his short body to handle and too heavy for him to lift, though he still tried to fit it back on top of the pedestal.
"Don't panic, Link!" Navi assured him though she noted with alarm the light closing in around them. "It's all right! The sword is yours! You are the hero chosen by destiny!"
"But then what's going on?! Navi!"
The light completely enveloped Link, rippling fiercely like blue fire. He felt himself being raised from the ground by the light. It was taking him away!
"Navi!" He twisted frantically, trying to spot his companion in the dancing blue light. "Navi, where are you? Help me! Navi!"
The blue light eventually faded. It had spread throughout the entire chamber, but as it retreated back to the pedestal where Link had pulled out the Master Sword, it revealed what appeared to be another world.
Beyond the Door of Time lay an expanse of grass with a color so rich it appeared to be made of emeralds. The sky above shared the richness in color as a sapphire blue. A few snowy clouds drifted lazily overhead by a gentle breeze. And the sun was a bright white ball in the sky.
But upon a hilltop shone a golden light with such luster that the colors of its surroundings paled in comparison - a light radiating from the item of power that Link had suffered so much to protect. That item which Ganondorf sought so tirelessly for in his grand scheme to rule the world… the Triforce.
Three golden triangles arranged together to create a larger triangle, the Triforce hovered above the hill, spreading its golden light across the land, suffusing it with its immense power. It rotated slowly like a beacon as though to ensure everything received its power equally. It emitted a musical hum - a constant crystalline note - the sound of the power it contained.
From the doorway, a shadow moved, drawn by the power, the light, the musical hum. A foot emerged to step onto the verdant land, pressing heavily onto the blades of grass so long untouched by humans. His boot twisted the grass, snapping them remorselessly, as the other foot stepped forward. The golden light traveled up his body as he emerged, lighting upon his dark face and striking his yellow eyes, which flared triumphantly in response. A cruel smile spread.
"Flawless execution!" said Ganondorf. "There is a breathtaking beauty in witnessing your plan coming to fruition. He didn't just bring me the keys, he opened the door for me!"
He laughed. "Foolish princess! To think that Ocarina could have been lost forever, but instead she entrusts it to the boy, bringing together all the keys of time." He glanced back at the Stones glowing softly in their cradles.
"And now here I stand at the threshold of the Sacred Realm," he continued. "It is almost as if Destiny bid it to happen." He snorted in derision, casting his yellow eyes across the field and to the skies. He paused on the rotating Triforce and his smile grew wider.
"Yes," his voice came out in a hiss, "that boy turned out to be a great boon to me - even more so than that fool, Balthagar!" He let out a harsh burst of laughter. It was like a discordant note in a soothing melody. It did not belong in the Sacred Realm. The air grew heavy and the sun's warm beams became glaring rays.
But Ganondorf paid it no mind. Focusing on the Triforce, he started forward. As he passed, the grass shriveled and the soil on which it grew dried and cracked. The sky behind him changed from deep blue to blood red and the snowy clouds darkened, twisted, and smeared itself across the sky like old paint. These changes followed behind Ganondorf. It was like a poisonous cloak he wore that draped over everything as it trailed behind him, transforming it from good and pure to something corrupted and evil.
He stopped in front of the Triforce. The spread of corruption, however, did not. As he gazed on the sacred relic, the invisible cloak spread around him, withering the grass, cracking the soil, bleeding the sky, and darkening the clouds. The breeze became angry gusts that howled like tormented souls. But Ganondorf was not concerned. No, he was elated by victory. At last, he had reached that sacred relic that marked the spot where the goddesses Din, Farore, and Nayru departed. After years of research and planning, he finally had power within reach. He finally had the Triforce.
"And it's all thanks to you, kid," he growled, a smile of malice spread across his face. He stretched his arm forward slowly.
Then he hesitated. Even he was awestruck by the beauty and power that radiated from it. He could feel the warmth from it - it almost felt… alive. Like a… like a person… of great strength but also gentleness. A… a mother, perhaps…
He shook his head. What foolish thoughts! He couldn't stop now! What was he waiting for? He thrust his arm forward again and touched the golden triangle just as it rotated in full view.
It flared to life, a wave of gold washing over the blighted land. The Gerudo King's dark face became a mask in the light that swept over him. He felt a rush of tremendous power through his body like a tidal wave that took his breath away. He roared with ecstasy as he absorbed the full power of the Triforce. He glanced over and he laughed as the back of his hand, the one he had touched the Triforce with, began glowing. A shape was appearing - three golden triangles - the Triforce. He reached with his other hand to finger the glowing image.
Suddenly, his wicked smile that bared all his teeth shrank and became an expression of horror. His eyes widened, exposing the yellow irises in a show of surprise.
"What is this? What is happening?! No! This can't happen! It should have worked! It should have worked! NO!"
He snatched at the air but it was too late. He watched as two golden beams of light shot through the bloody sky.
Ganondorf fell to his knees, crushing the brittle, brown grass. He clenched his fists, the right of which bore the Triforce symbol though it was no longer glowing. He raised his head and let out a furious yell that shook the realm he had corrupted. "NOOOOOOOOOOOO…"
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