Link was sitting in front of the fire in Master Ryu's room. It was dark, but for the yellow-orange glow of the flames. Master Ryu was sitting in a chair beside him.
"Link, everything I ever feared has come to pass."
"It begins then?"
"Yes, I'm afraid so."
"We must figure out how to raise an army that can defeat Nagadii and whatever soldiers he has. We must put Princess Zelda on the throne," Link said firmly.
"Oh, things are far, far worse than that," Ryu said sadly. "If it was as simple as that, I would send you to Erenrue; the Princess's family there could muster an army to support her easily."
"What's the problem, then?"
"Unbeknownst to me, Nagadii has been dabbling in dark magic—apparently for some time."
"What is that? I mean, what makes magic dark?"
"Magic done for positive or neutral benefit is light magic. However, anything done for negative or destructive purposes is dark. The gods provide us with the ability to use light magic, but dark magic comes from demonic forces.
"The problem with dark magic is that you can't trust your source of power. Demons will lie and manipulate people into doing their bidding. Someone like Nagadii may think he is in control, but, in reality, the source of his power is the one who is really in control; Nagadii is just a puppet. When the time comes, his demon-master will cut his strings and step out on the stage himself."
"What is going to happen?"
"I don't know for certain, but I have a hunch."
"When Nagadii lost control of his magic, he opened a rift between the world of the living and the dark side of the Other World."
"Wait," Link interrupted. "What do you mean 'the dark side of the Other World'?"
"The Other World is divided into light and dark. Those whom the gods judge to be cruel and undeserving are sent to the dark side. Those who were good in life go to the light side."
"What is the difference?"
"The dark side is literally that—a place where it is perpetually dark. It is filled with thieves and murderers and more evil men than you can imagine. And the gods banished demons to the dark side, too, so they roam free. It is like a constant state of warfare as people battle one another and demons attack the vulnerable."
"But… they can't die, can they?" Link asked, feeling confused. "I mean, if a dead person is attacked, he can't die again, right?"
"No, but the soul can still feel pain. And that is what the people and demons of the dark side like to do: cause others pain."
"As I was saying," Ryu continued, "Nagadii opened a portal between the living world and the dark side. It was growing wider rapidly, but he has managed to contain it, for the most part. Still, every day it gets a little bigger, and every day demons escape. And the larger it grows, the larger the demons which will come from it."
"How can we stop it?"
"Only a very strong light magic could counteract dark magic like that."
"Where do we get it? Or where can we find someone who can wield it?"
Ryu sighed wearily. "That's just it: I don't know."
Link slumped in his chair, feeling discouraged. "Is there anyone who would know?"
"I have been racking my brain to come up with an answer, but the only person I can think of is a Hylian scholar by the name of Gardamon. He was a legend when I was just a boy. It was said that he learned everything there was to know in the world, so one day he set out on the Endless Ocean to determine if it was really endless. But he was never heard from again.
"It's possible—even probable—that he's been dead for years; he was an old man when I was young. But he was a Hylian, and we live longer than humans. So, if he did manage to find a distant shore, there's a minute possibility that he is still alive there."
Link looked at him in stunned silence for a long moment. "Do you mean… you want me to try to cross the Endless Ocean to find a man who is, most likely, dead?" he asked in disbelief.
"It is the only hope we have at this point; I can think of no other person who would have the knowledge you need of how to close up the rift.
"And, I must warn you, Link, demons cannot be killed by normal means. You may stun them for a time, but they will revive; only light magic can banish them back to the Other World.
"And there's worse: when they attack humans, they turn them into demons, too. Hylians are immune to it, but they can still hurt you—even kill you."
Link sat in silence for a while, digesting what Master Ryu had said. "So…" he said slowly, "demons are coming out of the rift, plus, when they attack people, they turn those people into demons, too."
"So, eventually, this world will be full of nothing but demons and a handful of Hylians like me and Zelda."
"Until they manage to kill you."
Link was silent again.
"Now do you see why it's so important for you to seek out Master Gardamon? I know it's a wild goose chase, but it's the only hope we have. Even if you can't find him maybe… maybe you can find someone with whom he shared his knowledge, or maybe he left behind texts—something. You must find some way to defeat the demons and close up the rift before the world of the living becomes a world of the damned. That is surely what the master demon backing Nagadii wants—he wants your world, and he will use Nagadii as a pawn to conquer it."
"You're right," Link said wearily, "this is worse than simply defeating Nagadii."
"Link, you are not only fighting for Princess Zelda and the future of Hyrule; you are fighting for the existence of every person on the earth."
"No pressure," Link said with a wry smile.
Link stood up to leave, but Ryu put his hand out to stop him. "Link, I want to tell you something."
"Not more good news, I hope; I think I've had as much as I can handle for one night."
Ryu smiled a little. "No. I just… I just wanted to tell you how proud I am of you."
Link was surprised, then he felt very moved. Master Ryu had never told him that before. Any time Link accomplished something, he would merely say, "Good, now I have something else for you to do." Link had been moving from one challenge to another all his life; there was no looking back at what he had accomplished—only looking forward to what was left to do.
"You have already endured more than most men do in a lifetime," Ryu continued, "and I know you have many more burdens to shoulder. But I have every confidence that you will meet them head-on, as you always do. Somehow, you will find a way to defeat this evil. I believe in you."
Link felt tears well up in his eyes. "Thank you," he said in a choked voice.
Maybe it was the tears causing it, but the room began to grow hazy and indistinct. "Tell Princess Zelda that I am proud of her, as well. I know she will be a wonderful queen."
"I'll tell her," Link promised.
Everything began to fade away into nothing, but Link heard Master Ryu's voice one last time. "You really shouldn't share a bed with her, you know," he gently chided.
Link opened his eyes—wet with tears—and found sunlight streaming through the window onto his face. Birds were chirping nearby.
He was a little startled, momentarily forgetting where he was, then he saw Zelda's blonde head on the pillow beside him and he realized he had been dreaming.
Or had he? If anyone could have found a way to communicate from the Other World, surely Master Ryu could have.
Knowing he would never get back to sleep, he crawled out of bed—careful not to wake Zelda. He went down the ladder, only to find the house quiet and empty, save for his sister sitting by a window in the common room, sewing on his new tunic.
"Good morning," she said quietly. "How did you sleep?"
"Soundly," he said pulling over a chair so he could sit next to her. He could see the ocean out the window; it was calm and the day was sunny and bright. It made him think about his dream and the command that he cross the Endless Ocean.
"Is the Princess still asleep?" Meghan asked.
"Yes," he said, sitting down.
"Mother and Alons left for town early this morning. She said to let the two of you sleep for as long as you wanted; you probably needed it."
"How's your arm?"
"About the same as it was before Mother stitched it up."
"Is that good or bad?"
"It's livable," he replied. "It should heal faster, though, now that I won't be tearing it open constantly."
"Is it always like that when you're a soldier? I mean, are you always getting hurt?"
"Most of the time, no, but to be a soldier means that you will one day face being hurt—even killed."
"Why did you want to do it?"
"It wasn't a choice; it was written in the stars before I was born."
"Doesn't that make you feel like you're trapped? I mean, I wouldn't like to think that someone had already determined for me how I was going to live my life."
"I suppose some people might feel that way," Link allowed, "but I don't."
"Why not?" she asked, looking at him curiously.
He shrugged. "I don't know. It just feels right, somehow. I was made for this time—for this purpose. I'm good at what I do. I think I would be very unhappy and unfulfilled if I tried to run from my destiny and take up a quieter occupation, like fishing."
Meghan glanced up at the loft. "What's it like to be around a Princess all the time?"
"I find it to be rather enjoyable," he said with a smile, "but then, she is part of my destiny, too."
"In what way?"
He hesitated. Master Ryu had told him quite plainly what part he and Zelda were to play in each other's lives, but no one else knew—apparently not even Zelda.
"Someday, I might be worthy of her," he told his sister evasively.
But she didn't relent. "What do you mean 'worthy of her'—like, marrying her?" she asked with wide eyes. "Like being the king?"
Link was startled. It hadn't ever occurred to him that if Zelda was queen and married him, he would, by default, become king. He only thought of her and of the way things were at that moment—her as only the heir of Hyrule. He didn't think about what would happen when she was elevated to queen. He didn't think about the responsibility and title that would come with being the queen's chosen.
"I… don't know," he replied. "Not king, I don't think."
"But that's what you would be if you married her, right?"
Link shook his head; he preferred not to even think about that. He wanted only to be a Knight of Hyrule and to live in peace with Zelda; he had no ambition beyond that—and certainly none to the throne itself.
"I have no desire to be king. And it doesn't matter anyways, because we have a long, hard road ahead of us if we're to even put the Princess back in her rightful place. What happens beyond that is too far into the future for me to worry about at this point."
His sister looked at him appraisingly. "It must be hard to have so much responsibility. I mean, you're responsible for a princess and the kingdom. You can't afford to fail."
"You know, Meghan, your pep talks really leave something to be desired. Now, if you'll excuse me, I think I will go throw myself off the cliff in despair."
He started to stand up, but she grabbed him by the arm, laughing. "You're being silly."
He chuckled, then sat back down. "Did you say that Mother and Alons went to town?"
"Yes." Meghan returned to her sewing. "We have a horse now, you know."
"No, I didn't know that."
She nodded. "But Mother's afraid of it. Alons and I learned to ride it, though, so if she needs to go to town, she rides with one of us."
Link chuckled again.
A few minutes later, Meghan clipped the thread she was working with and stuck her needle in a pincushion on the table next to her. "There, I'm done," she declared, holding up the green tunic.
Link stood up and took it from her. "It's beautiful," he said, holding it up to look at it in the light. It was simply cut—as all of their tunics were—but it the green fabric was heavily embroidered around the neckline, sleeves, and hem with red and yellow cording laid out in intricate, interwoven knots.
"Do you see it?" Meghan asked, looking up at him expectantly.
"Yes, they're very pretty."
"No, look closer."
Confused, Link looked at the knots again. At first, he saw only decorative embroidered knots, but slowly it dawned on him that the knots were not all the same. In fact, every knot was different.
"They're sailing knots," he said in awe. The entire tunic was a sampler of the most common knots using on sailing ships.
Meghan laughed, clapping her hands gleefully. "I knew you would get it! Alons said you wouldn't, because you don't know how to sail, but Mother and I said you would know."
"I know how to sail," Link said defensively. "Maybe not well—probably not even as well as Alons—but I can handle a boat."
He was suddenly struck by the enormity of his next task. Abler seamen than him had gone out on the ocean and had never returned—including his own father, who was reckoned one of the best. How was he supposed to cross the ocean with his rudimentary knowledge?
He put it out of his mind for the moment—he was tired of worrying—and he bent down to kiss his sister on top of the head. "Thank you," he said. "I love it."
"Mother did most of it," she admitted, "but I did the shroud knot," she said, pointing to the knot in the center of the hem on the back of the tunic, where the all the ends of the cording met. "She can't make one," she said, with a touch of smugness.
"It's wonderful," Link praised.
"Are you hungry?" she asked, getting up.
"I could eat," he said, pulling the tunic on over his head.
"If you'll build up the fire, I'll cook something for you."
Link put on his belt—it still felt wrong to wear it without a sword and scabbard—and then put on his boots and went out to get some firewood.
When he stepped outside, he was greeted by a bright, warm sun and a fresh spring wind blowing off the ocean. He took a minute to stop and inhale the smell of the salty sea.
Although he had spent very little time there growing up, it still felt like home. His Uncle Alfon had always said that when the salt water was in a man's blood, it never came out; he would always be at home on the sea. And, truly, Link did feel like he was at home.
Link went to the woodpile and split some kindling, then carried an armload of wood back into the house.
The trapdoor to the cellar was open and Meghan was just coming up the stairs when Link came in.
She laughed at him. "That's enough wood for an entire day."
"No need to go out twice."
He built up the fire while she began cutting up salted fish. A moment later, Link heard something, and he looked up to the loft. Princess Zelda was at the top of the ladder, looking down with a little trepidation.
He walked over and held up his arms. "Jump," he told her.
"Are you serious?"
"I wouldn't tell you to do it if I wasn't."
She shook her head. "I don't think so."
"Do you not trust me to catch you?"
"More like I don't trust myself to jump correctly." She turned around and began slowly climbing the ladder. It was clear she was having difficulty not stepping on the hem of the nightgown.
"Besides," she said, "this is not nearly as bad as climbing out my tower window. …Although, it is much harder to do in a gown."
"Now you know why I don't sleep up there," Meghan said.
When Zelda was almost down, Link reached up and took her by the waist, then set her lightly on her feet.
"You're going to hurt your arm," she fussed.
"It's fine," he said, brushing it off.
"Your Highness," Meghan said, looking at her shyly, "I laid out a dress for you on my bed."
"I think I'm going to go out," Link said, feeling a bit cabin-feverish on such a beautiful day. "Have a look around."
"Alright," Meghan replied.
"Call me when it's ready."
Link went out again and stood on the edge of the cliff, looking out to sea. As much as he just wanted to enjoy being at home for a while, his mind kept coming back to the thought that he needed to sail across the Endless Ocean.
What was he going to do with Zelda? He didn't want to risk her life unnecessarily, and yet the idea of leaving her behind frightened him. He couldn't defend her if he was hundreds of miles away at sea. And he knew someone would come looking for them there; it was only a matter of time. If he couldn't leave her behind, that only left taking her… on a quest that was probably hopeless and doomed to start from the beginning.
Feeling a knot of fear in his stomach, he decided to take a walk to try and clear his mind. There would be precious little rest to be had in the upcoming weeks; he wanted to get as much as he could while he had the chance.
He walked down the stairs to the beach and had a look around. The salt evaporation project had been expanded over the years; there were now rows upon rows of tiled basins filled with salt water which was slowly turning into salt.
All three boats—plus the rowboat—were gone. Apparently Tatiana had quite a crew of fishermen working for her now if they could put three boats to sea at once.
Link was squatting beside a tidal pool—watching the little creatures floating and scurrying within it—when a distant voice floated down on the wind.
Link looked up and saw Alons at the top of the stairs, waving at him. Apparently he and Tatiana had returned from Kakariko.
Link climbed the stairs and found his brother at the top, along with two horses staked out and clipping at the tender spring grass that grew thinly in the sand soil. He assumed that the pale horse—a non-descript color halfway between the gold of a palomino and a dapple gray, but not as pretty as either—belonged to the family. It looked like an old plow horse which had seen better days and was only fit for the occasional ride to town. The large, dark brown horse beside it, however, was younger and fitter and decked out in red leather tack with a decorative crupper and breastband studded with brass pieces. That horse certainly didn't belong to his mother.
"Who… came back… with you?" Link asked, breathless from his climb up the stairs.
"Uncle Alfon." Alons grabbed Link's hand and tugged. "Come on; he's so excited to see you."
Link let his brother pull him into the house. The little common room seemed bursting with people—but most of that was because of Uncle Alfon. He was short—shorter than Link, who was none too tall—and wider than he was high. He had wild, bushy hair which refused to be tamed, and a thick black beard that was almost as unruly. And when he spoke, it was with a deep, powerful voice that could rattle windows when he was angry. Every room seemed too small to contain such a person as Uncle Alfon.
"There's my nephew!" he said in his booming voice, before grabbing Link and crushing him into a bear hug. Link made a little squeak of surprise and pain as the breath was driven from him. Alfon had arms like iron bands.
"Alfon, be careful," Tatiana fussed. "Link has a bad arm."
Alfon released him. "What's this? A bad arm? Surely not!" He clapped Link jovially on the right arm—right where the stitches were.
The next thing Link knew, he was on his knees, doubled over—a shooting, searing pain running up and down his arm and causing white lights to pop and flash before his eyes. It hurt worse than when he had first been wounded.
There were raised voices—Tatiana was yelling at Alfon, who was immediately contrite and apologizing profusely. Then someone gently touched Link on the back, speaking close to his ear. "Link, are you alright?"
"I… don't know," he gasped.
"What can I do for you?"
"Help me up."
The gentle hand slid around his waist and helped lift him to his feet. It was only after blinking a few times to clear his vision, that he was able to see Princess Zelda.
She was wearing a lightweight linen underdress which fell to her ankles. Over it was a tunic—cut the same as a man's tunic, only longer and wider—that fell to her knees. It was a light gray, which exactly matched the color of her eyes. It was embroidered with flowers in pale lavender and blue, with silver thread highlighting the edges.
Zelda's silvery-blonde hair had been plaited across the back of her head in numerous strands, like the weave of a basket, and the ends were likewise plaited and draped over her right shoulder.
"You look beautiful," he whispered, forgetting his pain entirely.
She smiled. "Thank you. Your sister braided my hair."
There was a moment of silence, then someone cleared his throat. It was only then that Link realized they were being watched by a room full of people—some looking on curiously, some with surprise.
"Link, my boy, I am so sorry," Alfon said apologetically. "I had no idea you were seriously wounded."
"Well, it's not serious," Link said, as Zelda helped him to the table. "At least, it wasn't until you came along," he said with a smile.
Alfon sat down on the other side of the table—taking up most of the bench. Zelda joined Link, and Meghan hurried to serve them fried fish cakes, still too hot to eat. Tatiana and Alons hung around the table, anxious and clearly impatient to hear what was going to be said next.
"Your mother told me your news," Alfon said, dropping to a conspiratorial whisper—which was no quieter than a normal person's conversational voice. "What can I do to help you?"
Link took a minute to gather his thoughts. "First off, do you have any weapons or can you get any?" Link asked. "Princess Zelda needs arrows and I need something—a sword is preferable, but I'll take whatever you can get. I just want to have a way to defend ourselves."
Alfon nodded. "I have just the thing for you. And I can get arrows, no problem."
"Good." Link cut off a bite of fish cake and blew on it to cool it, before taking a bite. It was still too hot.
"Oh, here, Link," Meghan said, hurrying to put a gravy boat in front of him. "I almost forgot the sauce. That will cool it down."
Link poured a heaping quantity of creamy dill sauce over his fish cakes, then handed it to Zelda. He tried another bite.
"Perfect," he said. His sister smiled.
"Once you have weapons, then what will you do?" Alfon asked, steering the conversation back to the matter at hand.
Link hesitated to tell them about his dream, but then decided he wanted everyone's opinion. "Last night, I dreamed that Master Ryu spoke to me."
Zelda gave a little gasp and turned to look at him. He related everything that Ryu had told him in the dream.
A darkness seemed to have descended on the little cottage by the time Link was through with his story. Everyone seemed struck by the enormity of the problem.
"And… do you believe this to be true?" Alfon said.
"I do," Link admitted. "It explains what we saw with our own eyes at the castle."
"But… it could still be just a dream," Tatiana said anxiously.
"Maybe… but I don't think so," Link replied. "It… it didn't seem like a normal dream. It seemed… too real."
Zelda looked at him. "Do you think Master Ryu can talk to you from the Other World the way we speak to each other?"
Link was surprised. "I didn't think about that, but it's possible."
"What do you mean?" Tatiana asked, looking between them.
"Hylians can speak to one another telepathically," Zelda explained.
"At least, once they've touched," Link amended, holding up his hand. "Master Ryu and I could speak and the Princess and I can speak."
"Cool," Alons said with wide eyes.
"So you think Master Ryu can speak to you from beyond the grave because of that?" Alfon asked.
"Then why doesn't he do it now and confirm that you weren't dreaming?" Tatiana asked.
There was a pause as everyone in the room held their breath in anticipation, but nothing happened.
"I don't know," Link said after a minute. "I suppose if it was easy to do, we would have heard of people doing it before. It does take a certain amount of concentration; maybe my mind is too busy to hear him when I'm awake.
"Regardless," he continued, "I feel that this is my next task. But I don't know how to accomplish it."
if you're determined to try to sail across the ocean, you've come to
the right place," Alfon said. "We can give you everything you need to
make the attempt."