Before he knew it, Link was tumbling. It was a confused jumble of bumps and bruises on his back, his knee, his elbow, his hip - he wasn't sure which way was up and which way was sideways and didn't know which direction he needed to face so that he could find the air to breathe!
Eventually, he realized that he was clinging to the ground, trying not to fall off as it was spinning. Then gradually the spinning slowed to a stop and he realized he was staring into a pink-hued sky… the sky.
We were in there that long? He thought in amazement. When he and Navi had entered the Great Deku Tree, the sun had been high in the sky. Now it was sinking, giving the trees a reddish hue. He rolled to his knees and shook the dirt out of his hair. He sneezed when some of the dirt tickled his nose.
"Are you all right?" his fairy asked, emerging from the folds of his tunic at his shoulder. She looked a little green.
Link shook his head free of the haze and then replied, "I'm all right. How about you?"
"I'm relieved that it's over. You killed Queen Gohma." She motioned toward the husk behind Link, which had tipped sideways and had one leg in the air, dangling. "You saved the Great Deku Tree and for that I'm grateful, and I'm sure the Great Deku Tree is too."
"So I am," rumbled the Great Deku Tree, bringing Link and Navi's attention toward him. He was smiling though he still looked weak. He spoke, his voice wavering, "Well done, Link… Verily thy courage is most exemplary."
"I was kind of scared, actually," Link confessed. "The Deku Babas and the Skulltulas and especially Queen Gohma."
"Yet thou faced them nevertheless," the Great Deku Tree said. "For that very reason, thou art courageous. Though on the inside thou shook with fear, on the outside thou stood thy ground. That… is true courage, Link. Well done."
Link's face grew red but he beamed proudly.
The Great Deku Tree shared in his smile. Then his face fell into a serious frown. "But now I must ask thee to listen once more to my words."
"I'm listening," Link assured him.
The Great Deku Tree nodded. Then he drew in a rickety gasp. "Very well…" he drew in another breath that sounded thin and pained, "it is vital that thou understand the nature of thy destiny - thou must understand the enemy that thou wilt face." He drew in another shuddering breath. "It is a man of vile repute who hails from the desert far to the west. A thief practiced in the art of dark sorcery. It is he who infected me with that parasite which you have deftly defeated."
Navi shook her head. "But why? Why would he do such a heartless thing?"
"It is all part of his ambition to claim a powerful and most ancient relic, which has long been hidden within a world known as the Sacred Realm."
"The Sacred Realm?" Navi interrupted. The Great Deku Tree hadn't talked much on this topic before in their discussions.
"Yes… a paradise blessed by the divine influence of that relic… that gift of the goddesses, which we call the Triforce…" The Great Deku Tree sighed again and closed his eyes in weariness. Navi, who had expected him to be getting better, was getting worried.
Link spoke up, "What's the Triforce?"
The Great Deku Tree opened his eyes. Then he narrated, his voice stronger:
"This world in which we live was once nothing but pure fire, without life or law. It was then that three goddesses of great power descended upon the chaos…
"Din, the goddess of power…
"Nayru, the goddess of wisdom…
"Farore, the goddess of courage…"
The Great Deku Tree paused as he drew in another rattling breath. Then he continued, "It was Din who forged the hills and the valleys of Hyrule...
"Nayru who gave it law to govern the chaos...
"And Farore who nutured the life that would cultivate the richness of the new world…
"And when they had completed their task, they returned to the heavesn from whence they came… leaving one final gift… the remnants of their own power in the form of three golden triangles which remains even now as Hyrule's source of prosperity… And the spot where these triangles came to rest is the land which is known as the Sacred Realm… a land of providence where all who dwelled within it knew only happiness…"
His eyes slowly closed. His breath entered his body ragged and came out with a sigh.
Navi approached him with a troubled look on her face. "Great Deku Tree?"
His eyes opened. They rolled to Link and focused on him. "It is imperative that evil never lay their hands on that divine relic. The man - that dark sorcerer - must never be allowed to enter the Sacred Realm." His voice was firm but anxious. "For should that limitless power fall into his hands, then all hope is lost…" He took in a shuddering gasp. "That is the task set to thee, Link. Stop that man. Protect the Triforce. This is my final request."
"Your final request?" Link echoed in disbelief. "You don't mean that you're…"
"I do," said the Great Deku Tree grimly and then winced in pain. "My time in this world is nearing its end."
"But we rid the curse from you!" Navi protested. "Shouldn't you be getting better now? Shouldn't your strength return to you?"
The Great Deku Tree sighed wearily. "Thou wast successful in purging the parasite from me, that is true, yet it was a doomed venture from the start."
"No!" Navi yelled as Link's heart stopped and he felt his stomach squeezing in on itself. The Great Deku Tree was going to die?
"Yes," the Great Deku Tree answered as though reading Link's thoughts. "But do not mourn for me. My purpose has been fulfilled. The fate of Hyrule is in thy hands now."
"No!" Navi yelled again. "You can't just die! We need you! How are we going to survive without you? Who's going to protect us with you gone? What hope will we have?"
"Link," said the Great Deku Tree with a tone of finality, "is Hyrule's final hope."
Once again, Link felt a heavy burden drop on his shoulders. A burden that at a younger age he had been eager to bear. But now that it was actually happening, it seemed terrifying.
And at once, fear rolled through him. He had thought breaking the curse on the Great Deku Tree would have been enough. But he hadn't broken the curse. He had failed! It had been for nothing! And now he was expected to save Hyrule! How could the Great Deku Tree have such faith in him? How could the Great Deku Tree believe that he could save the world when he couldn't save the Great Deku Tree?
Snapped out of his thoughts, Link looked up. "Yes?"
"Seek the Princess of Destiny who resides at Hyrule Castle. She will guide thee in thy task."
Link's heart pounded. Was he really going to do this? He asked the Great Deku Tree uncertainly, "And then what?" He was surprised when the Great Deku Tree actually smiled as he replied, "When the time comes, thou wilt know… it is up to thee now…"
Navi suddenly burst out, "But he is a mere child! How can you possibly leave this impossible task to someone so inexperienced? So young! So… so…"
Link saw the tears welling in her eyes. Pain gripped his chest as he watched Navi struggle to keep herself under control. Her words stung him, but he knew she was right… she was right.
"Navi…" the Great Deku Tree's voice was gentle but firm, "thou hast seen his courage… thou must lay faith in Link… thou must never doubt him for even one moment. He will need thy strength and wisdom. Do not withhold them from him." He then turned his attention to Link. "I have a gift for thee. It is a precious stone - a special key which that man was so desperate to obtain that he cursed me."
His boughs creaked as they leaned toward Link. Link saw a pink bud on the end of a branch, which dangled within inches of his nose. It was such a delicate and pretty little thing. He was in awe just imagining that the mighty Great Deku Tree could grow something so beautiful and tiny. Even Navi turned to it, sniffing and hiccupping.
Then, to his and Navi's amazement, the pale pink petals opened one at a time. Link saw something green flash within the folds and, when they all opened, he saw that it was a green stone. An emerald.
He reached hesitantly for it. His fingers paused before it, not quite daring to touch it. Then he remembered that the Great Deku Tree was giving it to him, so he gripped it with two fingers and plucked it from the blossom.
The bough withdrew, leaving Link with the precious gem. He breathed in awe as he studied it.
It was a smooth round stone. Gold ran around its edges before spiraling into the gem. As Link stared into it, he discovered that he could see what looked like a flower shimmering inside-a faint light at its core.
"It is the Kokiri Emerald," the Great Deku Tree informed him. "This precious stone was the forest's keepsake. I now give it to thee."
"Thank you," Link said, cradling it in his hands as though holding a baby.
The Great Deku Tree smiled. Then he suddenly drew in a sharp rattling breath as though struck by pain.
Navi darted forward with her arms outstretched, "Great Deku Tree?"
The Great Deku Tree took a few labored breaths before he gulped and answered, "Navi the fairy…" his breathing became more ragged, "Go with Link… help him fulfill his destiny…" he gasped again, "I entreat ye!"
His breaths came out in sharp gasps now. It sounded very painful for him. Navi's tears began flowing again. "Great Deku Tree!"
"Navi…" he gasped one last time, "good… bye…"
He let out a long sigh, his eyes falling slowly shut. As he did, his bark creaked and darkened. It was as though he was breathing out his soul. His green leaves turned brown and crackled with brittleness, some of them breaking off and tumbling to the ground. This sent out a swarm of fairies who shrieked and giggled, thinking the Great Deku Tree was showing them a new trick. They then darted back into his leaves and shot back out. Several times they did this, trying to provoke the Great Deku Tree when he didn't respond. After a while, they flew to his motionless face to see what the matter was. Link and Navi watched in silence as the fairies attempted to wake the Deku tree. It took them a while, but eventually the fairies discovered what had happened and flew away shrieking.
"He's dead!" they cried. "The Great Deku Tree is dead!"
They streaked off in every direction to spread the news until it was only Link and Navi who were there, staring at the Great Deku Tree with sorrow. Navi's face was streaked with tears, which she wiped away repeatedly. Link merely stood there, his body numb with shock.
The Great Deku Tree is dead, he thought, his mind reeling. He stood so long as our protector and now he's gone… I didn't save him… I was too late… If only I had been faster, I could have saved him. If I hadn't wasted time bragging to my friends about my fairy… If I hadn't wasted time messing around, gathering my Rupees, the shield, the sword… if only I had found Queen Gohma in time…
So many "what if's" swam around in his head. His heart was so heavy with guilt. It was his fault the Great Deku Tree was dead. His fault… Navi had told him to hurry-she had told him that the Great Deku Tree's message was urgent… Why hadn't he just listened to her and hurried to him? Why?
Eventually, Navi broke the silence. "Let's go to Hyrule Castle, Link…"
Link didn't dare to look at Navi. Her tone had been flat… expressionless… like a part of her had died. And it scared Link. He probably would have liked it better if she had yelled at him.
He nodded without a word. He turned and started to walk off, but when he sensed his fairy wasn't with him, he turned.
She was hovering in place still, sniffing, wiping her tears, giving the Great Deku Tree one long last look. Then she whispered, "Goodbye… Great Deku Tree…"
And with that, she turned and drifted to Link. Then together they left the glen as the last rays of the sun slowly faded into darkness.
They walked the path back to the Kokiri village in silence. Neither one of them were aware that the woods were getting dark, nor did they care. The death of the Great Deku Tree weighed heavily on both of them. Occasionally, a fairy streaked past them, sobbing, but other than the fairies, they were alone.
As they neared the village glen, they both noticed a shadowy form guarding it. When they got closer, a fairy lit up and drifted to the figure's face, revealing that it was Mido, who was glaring at them with his hands set on his hips.
"Hey Link!" Mido said loudly, making him react in surprise. "What did you do?!"
"We've been getting rumors," said his fairy. Her sour expression never changed. "The young fairies having been crying about it. So tell us… is it true?"
"Yeah, is it?" Mido narrowed his eyes and leaned closer to Link. Link looked away without giving a reply.
"You know…" Mido persisted and his voice dropped lower, "the Great Deku Tree… did he… die?"
There was a stifled sob from Navi, who hid her face to prevent them from seeing her tears. Link nodded dumbly, not knowing what else to say.
Mido's countenance fell at the news. His arms, previously folded in defiance, came apart and fell to his sides. His back, stiff with arrogance, now stooped. And his grim mouth, once so leery, now came open, with his bottom lip beginning to quiver.
He shook his head. "No… No… you can't mean that… he could never… he's never…" He turned away. Then he wheeled around, his face furiously red, and bellowed, "How could you?! It's all your fault!"
Tears stung Link's eyes. He shook his head and protested, "No! But I didn't mean to! I tried to save him! I really did!"
"He was the one who watched over us!" Mido yelled at him. "He was our protector! And then you go and let him die! Now who's going to protect us? Who's going to keep us safe from all the Wolfos and Skulltulas and Stalfos, huh? You?"
Link shook his head helplessly. "I don't know! I don't know! I tried saving the Great Deku Tree… I tried… please, believe me!"
Navi watched this exchange mutely. Somewhere inside her, a voice told her to defend her Kokiri… to silence the bully and tell him and the others of Link's courage and quick thinking… of how he faced Queen Gohma and defeated her… but she could not will herself to do it, for a larger part of her agreed with Mido. Deep inside, she knew Link had done all that he could, but the rest of her wanted to blame him for the death of the Great Deku Tree. She wanted Link to hear the words and feel the pain… the pain that she was feeling…
"I knew you were bad news right from the start! You weren't really one of us! And you never will be! You should never have been here!" Mido crossed his arms again and pursed his mouth so tight it shook.
"You should leave!" he concluded. "You should leave and never come back! You don't belong here! You never belonged here! Go!" His arm shot out and pointed to the edge of the woods. Link followed the arm in shock.
Navi was also shocked by this. Link banished? Cast out to fend for himself in a cruel, merciless world? She gazed down at the boy and saw his face, his eyes red and puffy, tears streaming down his cheeks, an expression of heartbreak… and her anger was washed away in a tide of pity.
He doesn't deserve this… forced to be on his own… alone and without friends. For all his faults, he deserves to be treated better than this. She flew down to his ear and said to him, "Come on, Link. Don't listen to him. Let's just go."
Link turned to her, his face rising a little with hope, but she refused to look at him. So he hung his head and followed her across the village. As he passed by, the other children turned their heads toward him with a mixture of fear and sympathy on their faces. Link looked to each one and wondered what they thought of him.
"I didn't kill him," he told a group of young Kokiri. "You know I didn't, right?"
They only backed away from him, huddling together and trembling as though he was a monster that was ready to gobble them down.
"I tried to save him, but it wasn't me who killed him," Link tried to convince some girls. But they shook their heads and walked off.
"Nikko!" he turned to his friend, who backed off in fear. "Please, Nikko. You believe me, right? You know I didn't kill the Great Deku Tree, right?"
Nikko averted his eyes, refusing to look at Link.
Link was desperate to find someone who believed him. Anyone. He wheeled around, looking for someone who looked like they might believe him. Then, realizing someone was missing, he cried, "Where's Saria?"
Nikko shook his head. "What do you…"
"Where's Saria?" Link repeated. "I have to find her! She'll believe me! Saria!"
He ran around the village, calling Saria's name. No one seemed to know where she had gone, or, if they did, they wouldn't tell him. He was becoming more and more frustrated until he was ready to cry. "Why won't they believe me?"
"Never mind them," Navi told him. "Just follow me. You need some rest. We both need some rest."
She led him to the base of the ladder that led up to his treehouse. Link looked up in surprise and then began climbing it, trying hard to ignore the feeling of everyone's eyes on his back.
"We'll wait until morning to go to Hyrule Castle," Navi said. "It's getting too dark now. In the meantime, I suggest we get some sleep. It's been a tiring day for you."
Link stumbled into his little room. Navi brightened herself to lead him to his bed.
"I tried to save him," he explained desperately. "I know I was messing around, but I didn't know he would die! I didn't know! I never wanted him to die…"
"That's enough, Link," Navi said firmly. "That's enough talk about the Great Deku Tree. Now please get some rest." She settled herself on a shelf where Link kept his treasures of dusty stones and shriveled flowers. It wasn't as comfortable as the leaves of the Great Deku Tree. To think she would never feel the warmth of the Great Deku Tree ever again - to hear his deep, soothing voice - to feel his great heartbeat as it lulled her to sleep…
She shook herself. She didn't want to think about the Great Deku Tree. She didn't think she'd be able to control herself if she did.
Link fell onto his bed and wiped his eyes on his pillow. He looked up at Navi, who was now staring at the ceiling, her face a stiff mask.
"I know you liked the Great Deku Tree," Link said, his voice thick with emotion. "And I know you probably hate me right now. But I'm really, really sorry. I don't want you to hate me. Please! I really, really wish with all of my heart that I saved the Great Deku Tree! Please, Navi, you've got to believe me!"
"ENOUGH, LINK!" Navi exploded, shooting into the air and flashing angrily.
Link shrank back and then buried his head into his pillow where he tried to muffle his sobs. Navi heard them though, and the sounds pierced her heart with guilt.
"I'm sorry, Link," she said in a quieter voice. "Yes, I did like the Great Deku Tree. More than that, I loved him. He was my mentor. He was the only one I could turn to when I felt down. He was the only one who really listened to me. And he was always there when I needed him…" She looked down at Link, who had quieted down and was looking at her as though he understood.
"But he's not there anymore. I won't be able to turn to him anymore. And, without him, I feel so… alone. Alone and angry. I was angry when I yelled at you… I was angry that the Great Deku Tree is gone…"
"You're mad at me?" Link asked.
Navi studied him a minute before she sighed and answered, "No, I'm not mad at you. I know you tried your best. You showed incredible courage down there. And you also showed compassion to those Deku Scrubs, even when I showed anger… I shouldn't have said those things about you being too young and inexperienced… I'm sorry."
Link sniffed and lowered his head. He played with his thumbs.
Navi sighed and shook her head. "The Great Deku Tree has said you are Hyrule's final hope. And he's never been wrong before. I just need to learn to trust you…"
Link looked up tentatively. "So… does this mean you'll… stay with me?"
She didn't answer immediately but stared at the boy's tear-stained face for the longest time. Finally, she nodded, "The Great Deku Tree has assigned you as my Kokiri. It was the last request he made of me, so I will act as your guide throughout your quest. I will not leave your side."
Link slowly nodded as his gaze fell to the floor. Then he said in a quiet voice filled with much gratitude, "Thank you, Navi."
There was a long silence in which Navi stared down at her Kokiri as she realized just what that promise meant to Link. For so long he had been an outcast because he had no fairy. But it was more than a fairy he wanted. It was a companion… a faithful friend whom he could depend on. Someone who would always be by his side through the thick and the thin.
Without warning, the words of the Deku Tree sounded in her head: Destiny has a purpose for thee, Navi. Thou art special. Link will need thy strength and wisdom. Help him to carry out my will…
She vowed, I will do whatever I can to fulfill my purpose. I will do whatever I can to help Link on his quest. And the first step was to get some rest.
"Good night, Link," Navi said, settling down on the shelf again.
"Good night, Navi," Link replied, settling back into his bed with a smile working on his tear-stained face.
They awoke early the next morning. The sun was barely rising over the trees as they made their way to the edge of the village glen that led into the forest. Link had his adventure pouch at his hip, stuffed with the slingshot and Deku seeds, Deku sticks and, most importantly, the gift from the late Deku Tree, the Kokiri Emerald. Both his shield and sword were strapped to his back.
There were a few early risers out and they watched him warily as he passed by. As he approached the boundary of the village, Zane - a daring Kokiri who held the record for being the closest to the boundary - called to him in an astounded voice, "Hey, where are you going? No one ever leaves the forest or else they turn into Stalfos! "
"Let him leave," a grim voice replied and someone stepped into view with his arms crossed.
Link gave Mido a second's glance then turned to the boundary again. With a resigned sigh, he walked forward, looking straight ahead, making no eye contact with anyone. Mido watched him leave without a single sign of remorse. Several of the Kokiri gathered around him.
"Is he really leaving?" one whispered, her voice trembling in shock.
"Yes," Mido answered. "And he's not coming back."
Link and Navi traveled in silence. The forest was quiet save for the chirping of a few birds. As Link listened to the sounds of his feet treading on the soft ground, he wondered what was going to happen to him once he reached Hyrule Castle.
And how do I find it? He wondered. I've never left the village before. No one has. What if I get lost? Will I turn into a Stalchild?
He was surprised to learn he wasn't nervous about getting lost. The death of the Great Deku Tree seemed to have left him empty and without feelings.
I could probably just wander through the forest forever. I'd probably never get out of the forest at all… just walking through the trees like a ghost… without somewhere to go…
"This way, Link," Navi prompted him quietly.
But no, I wouldn't get lost. I've got Navi. She'll lead me to Hyrule Castle. She'll make sure I get there.
A warm feeling grew inside him and Link felt himself smile.
I'm glad I got a fairy.
She led them through the maze of trees, guided by instinct. Eventually, they came to a ravine. A wooden bridge traversed over it. Link followed his fairy onto it, listening to the echoing thuds of his feet on the wood.
"Oh, you're leaving," said a voice.
Link spun around and then he gasped when he saw who it was.
"Saria!" he ran back to her. "I couldn't find you yesterday. I thought I was going to leave without saying goodbye!"
Saria bowed her head, refusing to look Link in the eye. She said in a quiet voice, "I… I hoped this day would never come… when you would leave the forest…"
Link's mouth dropped open in shock. "You knew? But how?"
"Because… well, you're not like the rest of us, Link. You were always… different."
Link felt a twinge in his chest. He had always tried to fit in with the other Kokiri despite the fact that he had no fairy. He had always tried his best, but it was never good enough for them and they always treated him differently. Saria had been the only one who had treated him like a part of the village. She was the only one who had really shown him kindness. Never before had she given even a hint that he didn't belong. So why would she tell him this now?
Saria seemed to be reading his mind for she looked up, shook her head and said, "But that doesn't matter. Whatever destiny had planned for you… it can't change the fact that we're friends… right?"
Link didn't know quite what to say. He was surprised that Saria would say that he was different but he was relieved that it didn't seem to have changed things between them. He managed a mute nod.
Saria's smiled. Then it fell and she looked down again.
"This is for you," she said, pulling out a small instrument. It was teardrop in shape with a row of holes along its side and a projecting knob - the mouthpiece. It was made from red wood.
Link took it in surprise. He studied its beautifully carved surface with awe.
"I made it for you," she said, looking at him anxiously. "I was going to teach you how to play it but... but I guess destiny got in the way… and…" She looked away, blinking back tears. Then she turned to him again. "Just hang on to it… to remember me by… and when you… I mean, if you come back…" She looked away again, an expression of pain on her face.
Link swallowed a lump in his throat and answered in a tight voice, "I will. I'll think of you even when I'm not playing this. And maybe… I will come back." He looked over his shoulder toward the village with a look of regret.
Saria looked in the same direction and then shook her head. "Don't mind them. They're lost and scared without the Great Deku Tree to protect them… us…"
Link studied Saria's face closely. "I didn't mean to let him die… I tried to save him but I was too late… You believe me… right?"
For a while, Saria didn't answer him. Finally she bowed her head and replied, "I do believe you, Link."
A sense of relief flowed slowly through him. "Thank you, Saria."
"You will come back, Link," she said, turning to him. It was meant as a question.
Link saw in her emerald eyes that she wanted his assurance. He gave it without hesitation. "I will."
Saria clasped his hands in hers. "Please be safe, Link."
She nodded. Then she turned to Navi who was watching at a respectful distance. "Keep him safe, Navi."
Navi nodded solemnly. "I will do my best."
"You're leaving too?" said Anai, looking at Navi.
Navi nodded. "I must stay by Link's side wherever he goes. That was the wish of the Great Deku Tree."
Anai swallowed visibly and then said, "Well then just… just make sure he's… he gets back home safe… for Saria's sake."
Link looked up at his fairy, who gave Anai a curious look before she nodded. He then turned back to Saria and tried to swallow another lump that had formed in his throat but this one refused to go down. "Well, Saria…" he swallowed the lump again, "…goodbye."
He turned and hurried across the bridge with Navi flying behind him. Saria watched him until he was swallowed up by the woods.
And still she didn't move. Her fairy, who was hovering hesitantly above her head, moved forward a little bit before something stopped her. She tried to move again but still that same something stopped her. Finally, she called tentatively to her Kokiri, "Saria?"
Saria's head moved slightly but she didn't turn around. She finally said, "You shouldn't have told me, Anai."
Anai stammered, "But I… I thought… we could do something… I didn't…"
She fell silent. She didn't know what she had been thinking honestly. She had panicked. She had reacted on instinct. She hadn't meant for things to turn out the way they had. How she wished she could go back in time and do things differently…
It had started shortly after Link had gone to talk to the Great Deku Tree. Saria had promised she would wait for Link to return and was leaning comfortably against his tree, whittling something while she waited. Anai watched Link and his new fairy hurrying toward the Great Deku Tree's glen, her curiosity tussling inside her stomach. At last, she turned to Saria and said, "I'm going to follow them and see what the Great Deku Tree says."
"You shouldn't do that, Anai," said Saria warningly though there was a gleam in her eye.
Anai crossed her arms over her chest and smirked at her Kokiri. "Are you going to stop me?"
Saria laughed. Then she said, "At the very least, promise that you'll let Link tell me first."
Her fairy huffed in exasperation. "Fine. I won't tell you anything until after he's told you."
"I don't want you ruining his fun like you're always trying to do."
"Me? Ruin his fun? Why would I ever do anything like that?" said Anai innocently. Then, before Saria could say anything more, she flew off to follow Link and his new fairy.
It wasn't long before she returned to Saria with disappointing news. "Mido's blocking Link from the Great Deku Tree."
Saria's smile slipped and she shook her head. "That Mido! He's always giving Link a hard time."
Anai continued, "He won't let him pass until he gets a sword and a shield, so now Link's looking for them."
Saria's smile reappeared with a hint of mischief in it. "Link will show Mido. He's smart. He'll make him eat his words," she finished on a note of satisfaction.
Not too long afterwards, Anai reported that Link had bought a shield from Rudy. When Saria smiled at the news, Anai added, "But a sword's harder to find, even if Link is smart."
Saria said nothing but continued to smile and whittle. Scowling in irritation, Anai turned back to spy on Link and his fairy again.
Her next report was one of surprise. "Link just went into the forbidden woods!"
Saria hesitated for the tiniest moment before she continued whittling calmly. Anai stared at her in astonishment. "You're not worried at all?"
"Link's brave and smart. And his fairy seems pretty smart too. She'll make sure he doesn't get lost."
The impetuous fairy shook her head in disbelief. "But why would they need to go into the forbidden woods? They're doing some pretty strange things."
"Maybe they're getting around Mido," Saria replied. She then looked up and gave her fairy a teasing smile, "Aren't you going to follow them to find out?"
"And get lost in there where I'll be snatched up by Deku Baba and Skulltulas?" Anai shook her head. "No thank you. They're already gone, anyways."
Saria giggled. "But I thought you fairies had 'special instincts' that keep you from getting lost."
Anai didn't reply but instead gave an indignant huff and flew off to where Link and his fairy had vanished into the woods. Here is where she would wait for them to return, for she didn't doubt that they would.
And they did eventually return though it took much longer than she had expected. She had worried that they really had found a different way to the Great Deku Tree and had been getting antsier and antsier over time until she had almost decided out of boredom to return to Saria. But when she spotted something in Link's left hand, she knew immediately that the wait had been worth it. And it was with excitement, not boredom, that she returned to Saria.
"He did it! He actually went and did it! He got himself a sword!"
Saria looked up from her whittling. "Ooh, I'd love to see the look on Mido's face." She immediately turned to Link's tree and climbed the ladder to his house.
Anai stared at her. "Where are you going?"
"Getting a good view." Saria wedged her hands and wormed her feet in the rough bark as she climbed up Link's house. She was soon on top of his roof and she smiled eagerly as she peered over to where Link was approaching Mido. She was soon laughing delightedly when Mido's flabbergasted voice carried across the village.
"That'll teach him!" she giggled. "That'll teach him to be so mean to Link."
"At least now it looks like Link's going to get to talk to the Great Deku Tree," her fairy said, her eyes gleaming with mischief.
"Anai," Sarai said warningly.
"I know. Don't tell. Let Link do it." And before Saria could stop her, Anai zipped off to spy on him.
She slowed down when she got close, making sure she didn't get herself discovered as it seemed Mido had not yet finished with Link and was throwing insults at him. Anai could see it hurt Link but she had to admit that he was tough for it didn't take him very long to get his cheer back, especially with the help of his new fairy. They were soon moving toward the Great Deku Tree's glen and Anai followed them, flying high to avoid being spotted. When they at last reached the glen, Anai hid in the leaves of a tree that was closest to the Great Deku Tree and she waited with a smirk on her face, feeling immensely pleased with herself.
She listened as the Great Deku Tree talked with Link. She felt her satisfaction slipping when she heard the wheeziness in the great tree's voice. Then it turned into horror that grew with each word he spoke. And finally, when he opened his mouth to allow Link inside him, she panicked.
She leaped into the air. I've got to tell someone about this! The Great Deku Tree can't just die! And to rely on Link to help him? He can't do it on his own! He needs help! I've got to find help! I've got to find… Saria! Saria will know what to do! And so she turned and immediately shot back toward the village.
She was like an arrow with light trailing it. Never had she flown so fast nor had she ever been so focused. She startled Kokiri and fairies in passing but did not stop to apologize. Her focus was on one goal and that was to reach Saria, who was sitting on Link's roof where Anai had left her, whittling again.
"Saria!" Anai burst out.
"I already told you, Anai," said Saria with a rare bite of impatience, "Don't tell me anything until Link has had a chance…"
"But Saria, the Great Deku Tree is really sick! He's going to die soon!"
Saria froze. Her eyes widened. Then she said to her fairy in a warning tone, "Anai, you'd better not be joking."
"But I'm not! The Great Deku Tree really is sick!" And she related everything she had overheard. She finished, "So, you see, he's been cursed! And he's making Link break the curse for him!"
"He's what?" Saria's mouth opened in fright. "But he's… No." She suddenly jumped to her feet and took a running leap off of Link's roof. The jump was slightly higher than she was used to jumping, but she tucked into a roll upon hitting the ground with practiced ease. She was immediately running at full speed toward the Great Deku Tree's glen. Anai streaked behind her like a white comet.
The Kokiri were immediately alerted and they watched curiously as Saria and her fairy passed them by. She passed Mido, who called after her, wondering where she was going so fast. He got no reply and she was soon gone before he could call again. With an irritable "humph!" he stalked to his house to sulk.
As Saria ran, the wind whistled in her ears and stung her eyes until they watered. It drew her green hair back like the wings of a bird preparing to take flight. Trees whipped past her.
Then she arrived in the Great Deku Tree's glen. Immediately she could see that her fairy had told her the truth. The Great Deku Tree sounded very sick - each breath he took rattled him. His eyes were squeezed tight as though he was in pain. Dead leaves were piled around his base and the leaves he still had moved stiffly in the breeze.
It was worse than she feared. And dread suddenly clenched around her heart, which beat frantically as though trying to escape its grasp.
"Great Deku Tree!"
His eyes opened a crack. Then they slowly widened until they were able to focus on Saria. His mouth twitched. As he spoke, there was a note of surprise in his weak and raspy voice, "Saria. What art thou doing here?"
Saria wasted no time. "Where's Link? Is he all right?"
"I have asked him to remove the curse from me. He is within me now doing just that."
"Is he all right?" Saria repeated, almost demanded.
The Great Deku Tree let out a shaky sigh of pain before answering, "The trial will be dangerous. There is a chance that he will die. But I am not concerned, for I have faith in his courage. And with the wisdom of Navi, I have no doubt he will triumph."
"Is that all he'll be doing?" Saria asked him. "If he succeeds and you get better…"
"I am afraid," interrupted the Deku tree, "that it is too late for me. The curse has sapped me of every ounce of power I contain. My time is very near."
Anai gasped in horror. Saria's lip trembled until she bit it. At last, she asked the Great Deku Tree in a faint voice, "Then… how much longer do I have with Link?"
He closed his eyes. His voice was heavy as he spoke slowly, "I am sorry, Saria… the time has come for Link… and for thee…"
Tears stung in Saria's eyes. A sob escaped from her, which she tried to stifle by biting her fist. She shook her head vehemently and cried out, "I'm not ready, Great Deku Tree! I can't do it! It's too soon!" Her body was soon heaving from the force of her sobs.
"Remember thy promise, Saria," said the Great Deku Tree, managing to sound stern in his weakness. "The promise thou made all those years ago when Link first came to us. The promise that when destiny calls for him, thou wouldst allow him to answer it. Destiny calls now, Saria. Remember thy promise."
"But why now?" Saria vigorously wiped the stream of tears from her eyes. "Can't it wait? Can't destiny wait a little longer?"
"It calls him now, Saria," he repeated, his voice softer. "And you know as well as I do that destiny is commanded by none. Destiny has a purpose for all, each in its own time. And Link's time is now."
Saria's voice came out weakly between sobs. "That's not fair."
"Remember thy promise, Saria," the Great Deku Tree repeated one last time, his voice fading, "remember… thy… promise…" He closed his eyes once more.
Saria's sobs renewed with fervor. Her fairy hovered uncertainly above her, trying to think of how she could comfort her Kokiri but without a single idea. Soon after, Saria turned and fled the glade. Anai hesitated for a moment. She wasn't sure if she should go after Saria. It was her fault Saria was upset, after all. She shouldn't have eavesdropped on Link and the Great Deku Tree. Or at least she shouldn't have told Saria.
She hovered there, wrestling with her emotions. Did she dare go back to the house? If she knew Saria, she would have gone to her "usual" spot. She always went there when she wanted to be alone.
Anai started back toward the village. As she drifted, she thought about what she would say to her Kokiri to convince her that she hadn't meant to upset her - that she had only been trying to help. After all, didn't they all want the Great Deku Tree to live? Didn't they all want to help him in any way they could? And Anai had simply turned to the one person she thought would know how to help. Saria must know that.
Anai avoided eye contact with everyone she passed. To her relief, no one stopped her and she soon arrived at the house. She hesitated at the doorway, peering inside for any sign of Saria. But it seemed her theory was correct - Saria had gone to her usual spot.
The fairy breathed a sigh of relief. She'd face Saria later rather than sooner. Maybe by then Saria will have calmed down. Maybe by then Link will have saved the Great Deku Tree and be back in the village and things will be back to normal…
The hours passed gradually for Anai. Slowly the forest light deepened into a golden hue and then into a reddish hue. From the doorway, she watched the path entrance to the Great Deku Tree for signs of Link's return and then turned to the forest behind her for signs of Saria's return, but saw nothing from either. For the thousandth time she wondered if she should look for Saria or see if Link had returned but wound up doing neither. There was always the nagging feeling that told her that if she waited for just a little bit longer…
Then movement toward the Great Deku Tree's glen grabbed her attention. A swarm of fairies had just burst from the trees and they were making strange sounds. As Anai watched, the fairies scattered, pausing at groups of Kokiri and their fairies and making the same strange sounds. Anai strained her ears until eventually she realized the strange sounds were sobs. Which meant…
One of the fairies flew closer to another group of Kokiri and this time Anai could hear the terrible news she had to deliver, "The Great Deku Tree is dead!"
The Kokiri and their fairies gasped in horror. One of them stammered, "H-h-how do you know?"
The fairy answered in between sobs, "B-because when we tried to play with him, he-he wouldn't move! And his bark is all black and shriveled, and his leaves are all brown and brittle, and he doesn't breathe anymore!"
The Kokiri murmured anxiously to each other at this news. Anai zipped closer to the group, calling out, "What about Link? Is he all right?"
The group turned in surprise to see the newcomer. The fairy sniffed and said confusedly, "Link?"
"A Kokiri boy. Did you see him? Was he all right?"
The fairy shook her head perplexedly. "I… I don't remember. I… I think… I think I saw a boy there…"
"Was he all right?"
Before the fairy could respond, there was a sudden cry, "Look! Someone's coming!" and everyone turned to the entrance to the Great Deku Tree's glen.
Anai's breath hitched. Someone was there all right. In this light, it was hard to see more than the person's shadow, but she had no doubt it was Link. His fairy hovered above him.
Then someone marched up to him. Given the figure's aggressive stance, Anai had to conclude that it was Mido, who was once again going to give Link a hard time. She could almost hear Saria's disapproving voice, "That is the last thing Link needs after what he's been through!" which then alerted her to the question, Where was Saria?
She looked anxiously towards the woods behind Saria's house, but there was still no sign of her. What if Link left the village before Saria got back? Anai remembered what the Great Deku Tree had said about Link being called away by destiny. She had remembered too that the Great Deku Tree had said he would die, but she hadn't really believed it… not until now. Was that how Saria was now? Refusing to believe that Link would no longer be with her? What if he left before she got to say goodbye?
She looked to the woods again and wondered if she should go find Saria to let her know that Link was safe. But just when she started to move, Mido's voice rang through the village, "How could you do a thing like that?! It's all your fault!"
The Kokiri beside her gasped. They had never heard Mido so angry before. One of them murmured, "Is that Link he's talking to?" and another answered, "Yeah, I can see him from here." Then another spoke, "What is Mido talking about? What did Link do?" and he was answered by another, "You don't think he's talking about the Great Deku Tree dying, do you?" to which the reply was, "He must be. I mean, he was in there when the Great Deku Tree died."
Anai listened to the conversation with a sinking heart. Link had never had many friends to begin with, but now everyone was getting suspicious of him. She worried that it might get so bad that it would force Link to leave soon. And Saria still hadn't come back yet. Anai couldn't leave now. She had to somehow ease everyone's suspicions or delay Link from leaving the village.
But she didn't move. She merely stared at Link's form as he moved from group to group while the Kokiri murmured beside her. Then Link started calling Saria's name. She turned to the woods, half-wondering if Link had seen her returning, but there was still no sign of her. And as Link called her name with more and more urgency, Anai felt more and more anxious for Saria's return, yet she made no move because the truth of it was she really didn't know what to do. She had already messed up with Saria. What if she went to find her and they came back only to find that Link was already gone? Anai wasn't sure she could stand to see Saria's disappointment. Not again. So she waited and hoped.
It wasn't very long before Link gave up his search for Saria. By this time, it had gotten dark. It only made sense that he and his fairy would wait for the morning before leaving, and Anai soon saw she was right. The two of them climbed the ladder and disappeared into his treehouse. Anai watched his doorway but they didn't come back out.
For several hours Anai sat cross-legged on Saria's roof, watching Link's treehouse. She was too anxious to sleep, waiting for Saria to return. Then, at last, she sensed movement behind her and she immediately turned.
"Anai, is that you?" Saria whispered hoarsely as she emerged from the trees.
"Saria!" Anai flew to her Kokiri, too relieved to be nervous about approaching Saria. "I've been waiting all day! I worried you weren't ever going to come back!"
Saria shook her head apologetically. "I'm sorry. I was at the usual spot working on Link's present." She held it up so that it caught Anai's light.
It was an ocarina whittled from red wood. Even from the limited light she provided, Anai could see the care Saria put into carving it.
"I wanted to finish it before Link has to…" Saria swallowed and continued, "I got so focused, I lost track of time. When I saw how late it was, I ran as fast as I could."
"You know the woods are dangerous at night." said Anai. It was a half-hearted attempt to sound responsible. She knew that Saria was capable of taking care of herself.
Saria shrugged it off. She asked Anai, "Am I too late? Link, did he…?"
Anai pointed. "He's in his house. He seems to be doing okay but everyone thinks he killed the Great Deku Tree. He was asking for you but couldn't find you."
Saria turned to Link's house with a sorrowful expression on her face. "Oh, I'm sorry, Link. I didn't mean to leave you alone… not when you needed me most."
Anai's insides twisted at the words, for she had done the exact same thing with Saria.
Oh, Saria. How I wish I could go back in time and do things differently…
"I always knew he would leave the forest someday," said Saria, gazing at where Link had vanished. She sounded as though she was talking to herself, so Anai said nothing. "And I thought I would be ready…" She gave a small laugh but it was without mirth. "I guess it just shows how naïve I am. Naïve and selfish."
"You're not…" Anai began but then hesitated. Saria unexpectedly turned to face her, so she finished, "You're not selfish. You… you just care about him. You worry for him. It'd be hard… for anybody to say goodbye to their best friend…"
Saria bowed her head to hide the tears in her eyes. "I tried my hardest to teach him everything he needs to know. I hope it's enough…" She hesitated.
"It will be," said Anai reassuringly. "And when he's finished with his journey, he'll come back. And then we'll all play the games we used to play just like before. You'll see."
"He'll come back…" Saria repeated softly. She raised her head toward the edge of the forest. This time, there was a hint of a smile on her face.