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The Hand That Holds Courage

By PseudoTwili

Fantasy / Adventure

Beginnings in the Kokiri Forest

"I am the Deku Tree. I am guardian of this vast, deep realm of trees known as the Kokiri Forest. My beloved children who live here with me are also called Kokiri. The young ones do not mature beyond the age of ten or eleven and each child is attended by his or her own guardian fairy. This boy, however, does not have a fairy… but I can sense it; he is a child of destiny."

"His name… is Link."

The Great Deku Tree was quite a powerful being; he always knew everything that happened within his domain and exactly when it happened. He was not without eyes, nose, mouth, and even a mustache that changed position when he talked or blinked or otherwise moved his rough bark face. He stood at least at least eight times greater in size than the largest trees in the forest and his roots extended to the borders of the woods and at least a mile underground. He possessed hundreds of millions of miles of roots of a hundred thousand different sizes, from as thick and tall as a hundred Kokiri to tinier than a single hair. He never moved from the clearing in which he'd been situated for far too many hundreds of years for even him to count (he was actually a bit sensitive about his age and didn't wish to know the exact number, anyway). His deep, bark-lined voice could boom out and cause the staunchest forest creature to cower and blanch in fear, or it could a gentle as the rustle of leaves when a breeze dances through them. He did not often have the need to interfere in the everyday lives of the Kokiri, but when he did his decisions were quick, just, and wiser than anyone could comprehend at the time.

The Kokiri Village was the mostly contented, bustling place where the forest children dwelt, worked, played and sometimes fought. It was situated just to the west of the Great Deku Tree's glade; all one had to do to have an audience with the Deku Tree was traverse a several-yard-long tunnel of trees, the sides of which were so thickly grown that not even a bird could slip between them, and enter the guardian's meadow. The entire forest seemed to be alive with magic and even the air tingled with it. Magic-fed fireflies danced in the air whether it was night or day; they darted out of reach if anyone came close, which typically prevented the Kokiri from capturing them. Often ringing through the air were the shouts of children trying to catch the elusive creatures.

"I want to fill my home with fireflies!"

"I almost caught that one! I was so close!"

"I'll catch one and give it to you, Saria. What do you want to do with it?"

"All I want to do is look at it. They must be so beautiful… Then I'll let it go right away because I couldn't keep it shut up!"

"Fado, go find fireflies of your own! This area is mine!"

"I caught one! …No, I didn't. Hee hee! Fooled you!"

"You're so fast, Morie. I bet you could get one!"

"Why do the fireflies glow like that?"

"Look! Link caught one! Ahh! He's going to eat it!"

Dotting the entirety of the village were great trees that seemed like babies when compared to the guardian spirit of the forest; it was inside these that the children lived. As many as three Kokiri were housed in separate rooms and at different levels of a single tree. Each dwelling had a generous balcony directly outside the doorway. Strung between these various homes were quite a number of rickety, rather crude bridges and from them dangled nearly as many ladders as there were children. Every Kokiri moved into his own house when he reached an age that the Deku Tree deemed as responsible enough to live alone, which was always a proud moment for that child who had graduated.

The trees were covered with an abundance of moss, lichen, and fungus; the outside of the homes were decorated with something personal for each youngster. Some used forest paint, made from clear sap and colored with various plant materials that were so strong they could permanently stain clothing. Other children fastened a keepsake or some such thing above or around the doors of their homes. It could be anything from a 'sword' which looked more like a stick, to a finely crafted bow and even an assortment of perfectly matched, clear-white pebbles. Some of the girls liked to take long vines, braid them and adorn their doorways with fresh, verdant rope.

Green-haired Saria, who was the most popular girl in the forest, if only because she was modest, quiet, and kind to everyone, and who was Link's best friend and protector, had something very special firmly set on pegs above her doorway. When she moved into her second-level house, she pondered long and diligently about what she should use as decoration for the exterior. At last she determined the perfect thing and the other girls queried her as to her decision.

"What are you going to put over your door, Saria?"

"It's going to be something pretty, right?"

"Would you like some of the vines we've picked?"

The youngest Kokiri (at that time) replied most politely, "No, thank you. That sounds like a nice decoration, but I have a different idea. I'm going to see the Great Deku Tree."

There were some puzzled expressions and curious whispers as she trotted off to their guardian's meadow. She stood before him, not daring to raise her eyes to his great face.

"What dost thou desire, young one?"

Saria clasped her hands, first in front of her and then behind her back. Her fairy landed upon her shoulder and whispered in her ear, "Go ahead and ask him. He won't bite you, sweetie."

Shyly, the girl raised her eyes and murmured, "Could I… Could I have one of your small branches, Great Deku Tree?"

"Why dost thou want one of my branches, my child?"

She lowered her eyes once more and clasped her hands over her chest. In a voice so faint that her fairy had difficulty distinguishing the words, she said, "I want it so I can think of you even when I can't see you."

A very strange thing took place as soon as those words passed the Kokiri's lips. A rumble came from behind the closed mouth of the guardian spirit and a single, sacred tear of gigantic proportions fell upon the ground before him. Alarm suddenly filled Saria. Had she done something to offend him?

She drew closer and inquired tremulously, "What's wrong Great Deku Tree? Did I say something bad?"

"Dear child, thou hast shown a love for me greater than any other. Thou wilt always find favor with me." He let loose one of his best, greenest branches and presented it to her almost as if she were older than he. "Take it, my daughter. It will live as long as I do."

"Oh, thank you!" Saria breathed.

In an exhilarated daze she returned home, the branch clutched to her chest with skinny, trembling hands. She would always keep the words of the guardian spirit of the forest locked in her heart, only to be thought of and mulled over in private. The branch, which would forever serve a reminder of the Deku Tree's love, was always in its precise spot above the portal to Saria's dwelling.

In the village, the forest floor was by no means neat and orderly. Perhaps the biggest factor in this delightful disarray was the stream that meandered in whatever direction it pleased, which happened to be straight through the heart of the village. It was quite the fickle tributary, for in some places it would laugh and gurgle against the ankles of young feet, while in others it would lie deeply and stealthily for an unsuspecting wader who would receive a good dunking. Over the years, the Kokiri developed an awareness for the tricks of their stream and created simple, rough wood pathways over the swirling green depths. A great many fish made their homes in that body of water, which provided the ever-hungry children with another source of nourishment.

Aside from the abundant quantities of scrub grass, moss, ferns, and patches of flowers that grew everywhere, there were stumps that had been made smooth by countless years of meeting with the seats of every child in the forest and from being used in King-of-the-Mountain-type play, as vantage points for intrepid explorers or brave warriors, and just about every other game imaginable. Toys and even tools were too often left out and sometimes were ruined because of the owner's carelessness; the guardian fairies had to often remind the children to take better care of their possessions.

Any stones just lying about were quickly removed, so as not to be a hazard for flying feet, but also because of the scattering of large rings of soot-blackened rocks, encircled by anywhere from fourteen to thirty log seats; these were common eating places for the Kokiri. They often threw every consumable thing they had nearby into a clay cooking pot and let it simmer until they were too hungry to wait any longer. The ever-differentiating hodgepodge of ingredients nearly always made an edible stew, though there were a few instances in which the goulash was initially accepted but then forcibly rejected. It was experience that taught the children not to combine anything halfway decent with old fish heads, rotten quail eggs, green-eyed potatoes, molding squash, and everything that was much too unripe to digest properly.

Every container and utensil, save the earthenware cookery, that the Kokiri owned was made of wood. Their bowls and plates, for instance, were extremely durable; a wooden dish could be thrown in anger, accidentally dropped from nearly any distance, or stepped upon, and still be just as serviceable for the next meal. The rather flat spoons and two-pronged forks were continually being lost and almost as often found again, sometimes in the most peculiar of places. Barrels and tubs were what the children used to store their harvests; some of these could be found in their dwellings, but most of them were tucked away in the immense root cellar that the children shared.

More than just a few pranks were implemented in that dark, earthy space. It was not uncommon for one of the youngsters to enter the cellar to fetch a morsel of food for immediate consumption or the stewpot and dash out again, trembling and pale of face. Any of the small creatures of the forest could be used for the practical jokes, from frogs and snakes to worms and economy-sized beetles. Despite living in the woods, those small surprises still managed to spook the children, especially the girls, when encountered in a near absence of light.

"It was a snake! It slithered over my foot… Ugh!"

"Are you sure you didn't catch your foot on a root, Ile?"

"How horrible! One time Dobo put beetles in the cellar and they got in my hair! I washed it really well right away!"

To the north of the village was the dark, infrequently-traveled part of the forest dubbed as the Lost Woods, which stretched for miles upon miles. None of the children knew the full extent of that northern section, but had they gone exploring they would have discovered that the somber trees and creepy atmosphere were forced into termination by sheer cliffs of ragged gray rock. Going east from the settlement of children brought one quickly to the glade of the Great Deku Tree; to the west was a maze of more forest that eventually thinned into the plains, and on the sunny southern slopes with clearings containing very few trees, the Kokiri applied their skills at gardening.

Some of the children could only get their vegetables to grow through what seemed to be pure luck, while others had the veritable green thumb. Saria was one of the latter; she cared for all her plants like they were children. She watered them with such gentleness that they could have been made from glass, plucked the weeds before they had a chance to unfurl their first true leaves, and was always gathering various, mostly dead materials from the surrounding area with which she fertilized her plants. Her vegetables were looked upon as being the best, the hugest and the most delectable. Her biggest problem was to keep a tiny Link, who excelled at playing in the soil but not at gardening, from uprooting her plants.

When he was hardly more than a baby Saria would place him in a spot which was conducive to being torn up by childish hands, but he would always gravitate toward her and wherever she was cultivating her vegetables. It was a common occurrence for her to turn around and find him in the midst of removing her spinach, or clawing out an area in which she'd just planted seeds.

"Link, no! Don't pull that out!"

He always had the look of a whipped puppy when she scolded him. She could never be perturbed with him for long, especially when he said, "I'm sowry."

The few small trees that grew, sedately and sparsely, between gardening lots served as most welcome shade after working in the heat of the sun. Bordering the vegetables were fruit trees of as many varieties, colors and shapes to satisfy even the unpredictable children. Another source of deliciousness was the berries that grew wild and with vines creeping up and over every surface within the forest. There was nothing Link enjoyed better than to stuff his face full of thimbleberries, blueberries, or blackberries and other edible berries, though he had a couple of narrow escapes when Saria found him in the nick of time and kept him from eating the tiny, poisonous fruits.

In order to keep the forest animals from getting to their carefully planted vegetables, the Kokiri had long ago erected a fence around the whole garden, and the guardian fairies cast a special spell that worked wonders at keeping unwanted creatures from that area. Sometimes a rabbit or a deer would get through, which someone nearly always noticed before much munching of the precious produce could commence. Even the friendly goats that provided both wool and milk for the children were carefully trained to steer clear of the garden.

From the time when Link was little he loved to hear Saria relate to him everything she knew about the Kokiri Forest, the neighboring Lost Woods, the Deku Tree, and the Kokiri themselves. He was a most inquisitive boy and always had to ask, "Why?" Saria was the sweetest girl imaginable. Even after she'd shouted at Link because he'd been swinging his stick and upset her water pitcher for the eleventh time, scared the fish from the stream, or tromped all over her newly sprouted carrot seedlings, she could not refuse those baby-blue eyes and adorable face when he pleaded for a story.

"The Great Deku Tree is our father," she would tell Link when he was old enough to understand most of what she told him. "He knows everything that happens here. He has roots all over the place! Those roots are really big at first and they get smaller as they reach out to the different parts of the woods. Imagine a humongous net of roots that is spread through the entire forest. He has contact with all the trees and flowers, bushes, and even the grass. That's why our gardens do so well; it is because the Great Deku Tree touches them and gives them courage and strength to grow as big as they can."

Link had seen this for himself. When Saria and the others turned up the soil to plants their seeds, tiny roots would move out of the way, as if by magic, and then move back into position as the dirt was returned. The plants would always start poking their tiny, barely green leaves from the rich soil within a day or two; it was such rapid germination that no one could boast of such a thing anywhere else, though the Kokiri had no knowledge of how blessed they were.

When Link was old enough to wonder about where he came from and where all the children of the forest originated, Saria told him another story. He first broached the subject by inquiring, "Saria, did I come from a seed?"

She was spreading some dead leaves with bits of moss in them around her cabbages and cauliflower and the question caught her unawares. She sat back on her heels and said, almost dumbly, "What?"

He repeated his question. Saria decided to take a break and explain the subject to him. She brushed off her hands, stood, and, taking Link by the hand, led him to the nearest shade tree, whereupon she expounded upon the matter.

"A Kokiri is born when the spirits of the forest are most active and the magic in the forest is so thick in the air that a new little soul is born. It only happens once in twenty or thirty years and it's always in the holy part of the forest, in that glade across the gorge behind the Great Deku Tree. A fairy, chosen by fate, is right there when that tiny bit of baby with a brand new soul comes to life. The infant isn't fully developed yet, so the Great Deku Tree causes a very particular type of flower to grow right up and around the new child and its huge, moist petals cover the baby, one by one. The special flower has stored in its stems and roots a lot of air and sap-milk, produced by the lady trees of the forest, both of which are pumped to the infant to nourish it. The guardian fairy oversees this and makes sure the nothing goes wrong. Once the baby has grown so big that its head is starting to open the flower, the Great Deku Tree takes it out, breathes the life that runs through his veins into it, clothes it in the green of the forest and leaves it in the care of its guardian fairy. The other, older Kokiri help out with the child until he can fend for himself."

Link would usually ask exuberantly, "Did you see me come through my flower?"

"No, sweetie," Saria told him. "We don't normally get to see that. When I first saw you, you were cuddled up against the Great Deku Tree, sleeping. He had already put you in the green clothes that we all wear."

"But I didn't have a fairy."

"Well, no, but that's because you're special. The Great Deku Tree said so, and that we have to take the best care of you."

"Will I ever have a fairy of my own?" he would always inquire, sadly.

"I'm sure you will," was always Saria's reply, but she never told him of her concern regarding that subject.

Never had a Kokiri been without a fairy and for Link not to have been bestowed with one upon his birth was a strange thing indeed. For that very reason he was frequently made sport of and jeered at by the others. Much of the time Mido was the one who led the teasing, or at the very least he was the instigator in tormenting Link.

Mido was the self-appointed leader of the forest-dwelling children. He was one of the elder Kokiri, having existed in the woods for a great many years, though Saria was even older than he. It was partly for this reason that the other young villagers had a great deal of respect for him, but it was also because he was something of a bully. He was also a natural-born leader, to the degree that caused those to whom he gave orders to mutter things behind his back about how bossy he was. He made sure that each of his peers took a stint at tending their community garden and he simply did not tolerate slackers. He had a bit of a crush on Saria and the fact that she mothered and spoiled Link and gave him treats that she should have saved for a hardworking boy like Mido made the latter quite jealous.

Saria was kind to everyone, which naturally included Mido. It was his habit to accompany her on a stroll on warm evenings. Knowing her affinity for plants and the like, during their excursion he would point out some pretty little thing that he'd noticed in the forest—rainbow mushrooms growing upon a tree, the first buttercups in the meadow, or a nest with perfect eggs so closely watched by the mama bird—which nearly all the time Saria had already observed but was too polite to embarrass him by telling him so. He took pleasure in presenting her with a flower at some point before they returned from their walk; Saria would smile, thank him sweetly and tuck the blossom into her hair. What annoyed Mido to no end was that Link would repeatedly get a hold of the blossom. Why did she let the little brat play with the flower that he so specially gave her? He would grit his teeth and form plans to be especially nasty to Link the next time they crossed paths.

Mido had two pals who were almost constantly in his company. Their names were Dobo and Mazu and whatever their friend did, they followed suit. If Mido wanted to aid Saria in pulling rocks and weeds from a new garden plot or to pick fruit what would require climbing high into a tree, those two boys were inducted into service, not because they wanted to help but because they didn't dare to cross Mido. If he wanted to go fishing, to go to the edge of the Lost Woods to snare some quail for dinner, or lie around and tease little Link whenever he came by, Mazu and Dobo were only too pleased to join. If there was one thing Saria would not permit it was picking on Link; she was as protective of that young boy as a mother bear is of her cubs.

Link would react to the antagonism in varied ways; sometimes he would yell insults right back at his tormentors and stomp away. If the name-calling and degradation caught him in an unstable mood he would, as likely as not, strike out at whoever was closest, usually Mido, which normally ended up with him sporting any or all of the following: a black eye or two, bloody nose, split lip, and bruises, especially on his knuckles. Other times he would pretend that he didn't hear the cruel words, but Saria knew that they hurt him deeply.

On more than one occasion she discovered him in some hidey-hole, sobbing and crying his little heart out. In an instant she was by his side and pulled him into a tender embrace. Link bawled into her shoulder and all she could do was hold him. Only when his sobs had subsided did Link notice extra drops falling upon his arm; he gazed up at his best friend and saw that her eyes were also wet with tears.

"Wh-wh-why do you cry?" he blubbered.

Saria sniffled. "It's because I'm sad. I can't stand to see you hurt."

"I'm n-not useless, am I, S-Saria?"

She released him from her trembling grasp and gently lifted the chin that still dripped with tears. "Listen to me, Link. You are the most special boy there ever was! You mustn't listen to those… those jerks!" She hugged him again and muttered under her breath, "Oh, they are going to pay for this!"

Saria wiped away his tears and then her own with her green, herb-scented handkerchief. Her ire was reaching a boiling point; the more she thought about the cruelty of Mido and the others who teased Link, the angrier she grew. She marched directly to the offender and insisted, nay ordered, an apology, which the aforementioned other party sullenly gave.

Saria was always more tolerant and even kinder to Link after an episode like that, as if she was trying to make up for the spitefulness of others by spoiling him. She gave him three extremely generous handfuls of thimbleberries, instead of the usual one, for dessert and didn't object when he left most of the kale on his plate. She let him play with her doll, which was very special because her fairy, Estelle, had made it and given it to Saria on her birthday. She also told him almost any tale he wished to hear.

Link's favorite narrative was the one that he learned to call the 'spooky story', but for some reason Saria would never use that one right before he went to bed. She always began in a very hushed voice, so quiet that Link felt it was ominous. "The Lost Woods were once a regular part of our village, but one day something bad happened."

"What?" little Link asked, his eyes as round as apples and the goose flesh creeping up his arms.

"One of the Kokiri rebelled against the Great Deku Tree!"

Link gasped. Who could be disobedient or disrespectful toward their kind, ever-just guardian?!

"Yes, but someone did. It was a boy named Geon. For many years he lived happily with the other children but then something happened to him. Some say that Geon ventured out of the forest and met an evil spirit, which infected him with its wicked ideas. Another rumor is that he found a portal to another world and there found a source of power that corrupted him and made him greedy. His heart was clouded and filled with pride; he would no longer listen to the Great Deku Tree. He thought he was wise enough to rule the Kokiri in place of our father; he even gave himself the title 'Emperor of the Forest." He convinced some of the others that they should follow him in his insurrection against the Great Deku Tree and he built up a little band. They camped in the deeper part of the forest, what we now know as the Lost Woods. The rogue Kokiri sometimes came to the village and attacked their former friends. It was a sad time; some of the forest was burned, many of the children on both sides were hurt in the fire or in the hostilities. The guardian fairies pleaded most urgently with those who had joined Geon, but the evil had already corrupted them, too and they would not listen. Finally, by order of the Great Deku Tree, all the guardian fairies of the disobedient Kokiri left their charges, and then…" Saria paused for dramatic effect.

They were both sitting on stools inside Saria's house and Link's slightly smaller stool was drawn so close to hers that he was bumping into her shins. His feet were drawn up onto the seat, his knees pulled up to his chin, and his hands gripping his legs so tightly that she could see bones through the flesh. She knew without looking that he had goosebumps all over his arms and neck and likely down his back.

"What?" he whispered.

"The Great Deku Tree cursed that area of the woods where the wicked Kokiri were. The curse changed that part of the forest forever." Saria uttered these words in low, forbidding sort of voice that made Link hold his breath for what was coming next. "Whenever a creature with wrong thoughts enters those woods, the curse will slowly make whoever or whatever it is forget who it was. The curse of the Lost Woods will confuse a person trying to find a way out and instills a sense of fear in those who enter with evil desires in mind. Those wicked Kokiri who defied the Great Deku Tree forgot who they were and they hid themselves away in the deepest corners of the forest. The curse changed their appearance; the fear and evil thoughts ate away at their skin until there was nothing left of their flesh. The Great Deku Tree saw their plight and was merciful; he gave them wooden bodies so that they would not die a slow and agonizing death."

Link shivered and looked traumatized, but he loved the story all the same. "Are they still in there?"

"Yes, they are. We know them as skull kids. If you're a good boy, someday I might take you to the entrance of the Lost Woods and we may meet one of them. They are shy at first, because of the fear that is the effect of the curse, but they love fun and can be very mischievous. They are fond of pranks and will try to keep any children who enter to remain with them and become one of them. The Lost Woods can be a dangerous place because evil sometimes finds its way there and there and can't escape because the Great Deku Tree won't let it into the rest of the forest where we live. That is why you must never wander in there by yourself, Link."

"You go in there, Saria," Link said, ever the observant child.

"I do, sometimes," she replied. "But my fairy is always with me and her aura keeps the evil spirits from getting too close. The Great Deku Tree warns us about going in there, but though he does not strictly forbid it we have to take extreme caution so that we don't get tainted by evil like Geon was."

Whenever Link heard that story he was sure he never wanted to go into the Lost Woods, but one day when he was six years old, Saria offered to take him a short distance into that forbidden place and he was quite eager to make the little trip. That was the first time that he laid eyes on a skull kid. Before entering the darker part of the forest, he flourished the stick that served as his sword and told Saria that he would protect her if anything attacked them, but a few minutes later he was clutching at her tunic while she played a jaunty tune on her ocarina. He had been quite keen on the idea of venturing into those woods, but upon actually physically doing so he trembled, with a delightful spark of fear running up his spine till it reached the base of his skull.

Then he saw a wooden face with almost soulless reddish eyes, a mouth that seemed to show too many teeth, even when the owner was not smiling, and nostrils that were nothing more than holes, all crowned by a ragged, orange-red hat. It looked as though the cursed child had worn green garb, as the Kokiri did, but the remnants in which he was attired were mostly covered up by a newer, looser tunic, made from a fabric rather like burlap, which was the same color as his hat. He sported a belt generated from dried vines that were tied into circles; the same round shapes lined the crown of the kid's hat. Link especially noticed the shoes that the skull kid wore—they were orange, too, and they curled up at the toes—he wished he had funny shoes like that instead of the practical boots that Saria made him wear. The wooden child's hands were covered with fingerless gloves that looked like they'd been stitched together using various forest materials, and in one he held a thin reed pipe that he lifted to his mouth and mimicked the song that Saria had just played.

"Hey!" Link exclaimed. "He copied you!"

Saria smiled. "Yes. Remember I told you they like to play? They love those flutes of theirs, too. Every skull kid has a flute that he's made for himself. Just don't make him mad at you or he'll use it as a weapon!"

Now it was the skull kid's turn to rattle off some notes, to which Saria listened closely and then repeated. Link clapped when she was finished, for even he could tell that she had blown every note carefully and perfectly. The game went on for a good fifteen minutes, with neither the Kokiri girl nor the skull kid missing a beat. Meanwhile, Link had overcome his apprehensions, came from behind Saria's back and gave the strange wooden child quite the scrutiny. He became tired of that after a few minutes, though and he began to look around for something else. He glimpsed something shining in the shadows several yards away and left Saria's side to investigate.

Because she was preoccupied, the girl did not notice that her young charge had drifted away, but fortunately Estelle promptly perceived the absence of the boy and immediately gave a warning. "Saria! Link is gone!"

The game with the skull kid ended right there, as the girl hit a wrong note and then immediately jerked the ocarina from her lips. Her musical opponent grinned, said, "I won! You needs more practice!" and then skittered silently back into the dense trees.

"Link!" Saria cried, hysteria rising. Anguished thoughts ran through her mind. I should never have let him out of my sight! I was stupid, stupid, stupid! What if one of those evil forest monsters takes him away? He's so little! He wouldn't have a chance! It's all my fault! I should never have let him come here with me! Images of finding the boy, lying dead on the ground with the life torn from him and blood soaking his clothes, filled her distraught brain as she searched frantically for Link.

"Saria! Wait!" her guardian fairy flew into her face and hovered right in front of the worried blue eyes that were ever-so-rapidly filling with tears.

She was forced to stop and stare at the diminutive features of her fairy. "W-What? We have to find Link, Estelle!"

"Wait just a minute, dear one. What will it profit us if we get separated from each other while we search for the boy? We must stay together and keep calm. I will light the way."

Saria nodded. How grateful she was for the friend who was always by her side! As if by magic, Estelle's glowing aura became brighter and then they continued on through the trees. The forest girl carefully scanned each shadow and behind every rock and bush, all the while continually calling Link's name and trying not to think too much.

While the goddess of time only marked down some few minutes for the span during which Saria and her fairy sought Link, to the distraught girl each second seemed to be multiplied tenfold. When at last Estelle's sensitive ears caught a sound in their tiny recesses, she urged Saria in the right direction. Much to her relief upon hearing it too, the voice that reached her ears was neither crying nor screaming, but was actually laughing, which only intensified as she hurried forward. Then she came around a huge, knotted tree and saw the object of her frenzied search; Link was rolling upon the matted, leaf strewn floor of the forest with a creature that looked to be half cat and half raccoon. The animal seemed to sense the arrival of someone new and unknown and immediately bolted. Link glanced up to discover what had caused the disruption of his fun and upon realizing who it was he assumed quite a disagreeable expression.

Saria rushed toward him and pulled him into an unreciprocated embrace. "Oh, Link! I was so worried when you wandered off! I told you never to go about the Lost Woods without me!"

"Why'd you scare it?" the child asked through lips that were in a full pout.

"That was a remlit, Link. They're usually docile during the day but at night they turn evil. Most of the other creatures in the woods fear it, even though it may be a half or a third of its own size."

"It wasn't hurting me! It liked me. Why'd you wreck my fun? You're mean!"

Saria's patience had worn thin and her perfectly justifiable anger was showing through the relief she'd felt previously. She set her mouth and spoke authoritatively. "Link, you stop that right this instant! You do not talk to me like that! We are going back home right now!"

She grabbed him firmly by the hand and strode resolutely from the Lost Woods. Link balked and dragged his heels in the floor of the forest, but he followed Saria all the same. He did not dare actually disobey her but, being a child, he wasn't about to go willingly. He didn't understand why she was so upset, either. He hadn't done anything wrong, had he? All he did was walk a little distance from her while she was playing her ocarina and he stopped when he happened upon the fluffy, big-eared animal. It evinced how it liked him by licking whatever skin it could reach at the time. It didn't bite him or act the slightest bit antagonistic. So why was Saria towing him back to the village like a naughty little child who had just spoiled her best garden plot?

Upon their return to the Kokiri tree-dwellings she told him sternly, "Go into my house, Link. Play with your toys or something but don't get into trouble and don't leave until I come for you."

Link obeyed sulkily and Saria went to see the Great Deku Tree to tell him of what happened and to ask advice.

"What should I do, Great Deku Tree?" she implored, almost pitifully, when she had told her tale. "I'm not really mad anymore but I can't let him off just like that! He doesn't understand how dangerous the Lost Woods can be! I should never have taken him there!"

"Worry not, little daughter," the guardian of the forest said in a deep, soothing tone that only age can bring. "Bring Link to me and I will talk to him. I will help him to understand."

The little boy had never been in such trouble that the Deku Tree had found it necessary to speak to him about it; during the short trip through the elaborate tunnel of trees that led to the forest guardian's grotto, Link's tummy was twisting itself into pretzels and his legs felt like wilted lettuce. Even though he had been quite annoyed with Saria just a short while earlier, he found himself wishing with all his fickle little heart that she would remain with him and protect him from the lecture and punishment that, deep in the recesses of his soul, Link knew he deserved. She did leave him, though, and there he was, standing alone in front of the gigantic Great Deku Tree, of whom he had never been more intimidated in his entire short life.

"Please seat thyself, little one," rumbled the ancient voice.

Link never forgot that conversation with the Great Deku Tree. He expected a stern lecture about how naughty he had been toward Saria, but instead his father figure used quiet words laced with the love that the guardian had for all his childish charges. The Deku Tree told Link that he was a brave boy and how he would someday have need for great courage; he explained that Link was a child of destiny and though events might seem to spiral out of his control, he was the only one who could decide the path that his life was to take.

The boy's blank expression told the Deku Tree all. "Thou mayest not comprehend all that I say now, but I say that thou shalt understand with time."

Link nodded. His disagreeable mood had disappeared and he even swung his legs back and forth a little as he sat upon one of the Deku Tree's branches. Listening to his guardian's words had made him quite ashamed of the manner in which he had acted toward Saria and he determined to apologize to her later. If only he had a fairy, too, for then surely he would be allowed into the Lost Woods with her or even by himself.

The deep voice broke into his musings again. "Dost thou have a question for me, Link? Thou hast the appearance of one deep in thought."

"How did you know what I was thinking?"

"It is my goddess-given task to observe everything that goes on in this forest, but I cannot see into thy mind. Tell me, child."

Link fiddled with his thumbs and then blurted out, "Will I ever have a fairy, Great Deku Tree?"

"Thou dost want a fairy so much?"

The boy's gaze was fixed upon his lap; the Deku Tree used one of his millions of twigs to lift the boy's chin. Link's eyes were filled with discontent and sorrow and the eyes of the guardian of the forest were brimming with something too. His great eyes were mere recesses in his lined face, were of a darker and smoother, almost velvety appearance than the rest of his ancient bark. If eyes are the window to a soul, this was certainly the case; those belonging to the Great Deku Tree had magic constantly running through the brown wood veins in an ever-changing rhythm and pace. Those same eyes were fixed upon Link in an expression so full of love for the young innocent, the kind of love that only a being who has lived for many, many years can fully comprehend.

"Am I selfish for wanting a fairy of my own?" whispered the trembling voice.

"Nay, thou art not selfish for thy desire. I cannot tell thee of all the future holds, but this I know: thou wilt have a fairy."

A grin split Link's face and he bounced up and down on the branch serving as his seat. "I will? I will? Oh, thank you, Great Deku Tree!"

"Thou hast grown into a fine boy, Link. I have decided that thou art ready to dwell in a home of thine own."

That time the boy was so excited that he actually slipped off his perch, which was elevated to the height of his guardian's face and thereby a good dozen feet from the ground. There was a rapid movement from the Great Deku Tree and Link landed softly upon a great many leafy branches, instead of the receiving the hard jolt that he had expected. He let the breath rush from his mouth; he'd been too afraid and it had all happened too fast for him to let it go.

The first words out of his mouth were: "I get my own house? Like Saria and Mido and all the others have?"

"Yes, dear child."

Link scrambled up from the ground where the Deku Tree had placed him. "Can I go tell Saria? Can I, please?"

"Thou mayest do so, young one. Go, enjoy thyself." As Link sprinted away, the forest guardian murmured, "Yes… Enjoy thyself while thou canst, Link. Thy path will be difficult but I know that thy courage will sustain thee."

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