Link had two plans. Plan A was to get Princess Zelda all the way to the beach. Even if the soldiers somehow managed to see them in the dark and the fog, there were ninety-six stairs separating them from the beach—giving Link and Zelda time enough to get away.
Failing that, Plan B was just to get her to the ground behind the house. There was a small orchard there and the trees didn't provide much cover, but beyond them were woods; they could hide there and, later, walk down the cliff's slope and circle back around to the house via the beach.
But Zelda had a good grip on his feet, so Link decided to chance the beach landing. He flew over the edge of the cliff and glided down to the beach without incident. It seemed their escape had gone unnoticed.
"Now what?" Zelda asked anxiously, once he had put her safely on the sand and transformed back into his human shape.
"I don't know," he replied, "but I don't want to be found—or even spotted. If they see us, then they'll know that my family was helping us and they may punish them."
"But, Link, all the fishermen knew you were staying with your family," Zelda said. "How long will it be before they're questioned? And will they lie for you? For that matter, do they know they need to?"
"Good point," he replied with a frown.
He glanced out to sea, but it was so dark and the fog was so thick, he couldn't see either of the fishing ships.
"Mother said they had loaded all the supplies on the ship…" he said slowly, thinking aloud.
"Yes, but don't they still need to do something to it?"
"They were going to re-rig it so that I could operate it by myself, but I think the two of us can manage it as-is."
"I don't know anything about sailing," she admitted. "I only watched one day."
"I can tell you what to do."
They were silent for a moment while Link continued to consider their situation.
"I think we better leave," he declared at last. "The tide is going out and we have the fog as cover. If the soldiers leave a watch here, we might not have another opportunity to get away unseen. And the longer we stay, the higher our chance of getting caught and implicating my entire family with us."
"You're right," Zelda agreed. "I don't want anything to happen to them—not after everything they did for me."
"Then we'll put to sea."
Zelda got into the row boat and Link tried to push it into the water. But it was heavy for one person to handle alone and was rather far away from the retreating waterline.
Zelda saw him struggling, so she dropped their bag of clothes in the bottom of the boat and got out to help him push. "If I'm going to help you sail, I might as well start now," she said, putting both hands on the bow of the boat and pushing with all her might. The boat slowly started to move across the sand.
Together, they managed to get the boat into the shallows. Link helped Zelda back into the boat, then he pushed it—easier to do once it was afloat—as far out as he could. Before he knew it, he was chest-deep in water; the bottom dropped off rather sharply, which is why the ships were able to anchor so close to shore.
Link grabbed onto the side of the boat and heaved himself up, but the boat rolled towards him in the process, leaving him half in the water, half in the boat, and unable to move either direction.
Zelda helped him out again—grabbing him by the back of the pants and pulling. With no small amount of effort on both their parts, Link finally rolled into the bottom of the boat, tangled up with Zelda, and dripping water everywhere.
He couldn't help but laugh, and he had to cover his mouth with his hand to keep from being too loud.
"What did Greens say yesterday about me being a fish when he finally got me onto the ship?" Zelda whispered. "At least he didn't have to pull me out of the water."
"I would never live this down if he and the others were here to see me," Link said as he managed to get up and take a seat at the oars.
"I hope this isn't an omen about our voyage," she said as Link helped her onto the bench opposite him.
"We are coming off as rather incompetent," he agreed. "But I never promised I was a good sailor—only an adequate one."
He began to row, trying to steer them to where he thought the ship was.
"Remind me why we thought this was a good idea again," Zelda said.
"Because," he said, his voice strained as it took everything he could do to row the heavy boat alone, "Master Ryu—or his ghost or whatever—said that we have to try to find Gardamon, who is the only person who might know how to close up the rift in the castle. Demons are escaping from the rift and the larger it grows, the larger the demons that will escape from it. When demons attack humans, they turn them into demons, too. So if we don't find a way to close it up, the world will soon be full of nothing but demons and a few Hylians like us—and we'll be marked for death."
"When you put it that way," Zelda replied, "it does make this expedition look less ridiculous."
They quickly lost sight of the shore… and everything else. Link soon became disoriented, unsure whether he was still rowing in the direction of the ship.
"This is not good," he muttered, looking around.
"What?" Zelda asked worriedly.
"I don't know where the ships are. If we passed them, then we're heading out onto the ocean. And we don't want to be there in an open boat with no food or water."
Link let them drift a little—afraid to row because he might be taking them farther from the shore. They both looked around, but could see nothing.
"What do we do now?" Zelda asked.
"The morning sun should burn off the fog," he replied. "Maybe then we can see the ship or figure out where we are and we can still get underway while there's enough fog to hide us. Even if there isn't, though, the soldiers aren't likely to be able to catch up with us. The only ship they can use is mother's larger one, and it's probably slower than the small one. And if they're all soldiers and no sailors, then we'll be in great shape, because they probably won't even be able to raise the anchor."
"And if they're sailors?" Zelda asked.
"Then we're going to have a problem, because an experienced crew could overtake us, even in a slower boat."
They were quiet a few minutes, aimlessly drifting, then Link heard something that perked him up. "Listen," he whispered.
Zelda frowned. "What is that?"
"It's the sound of water lapping against a boat," he said. He turned the rowboat towards the sound and began to row.
"Are you sure?" Zelda asked, more cautious. "How can you tell?"
"Because it's not the first time I've heard that sound," he replied.
A few moments later, a large dark mass appeared out of nowhere and a second later they were roughly jarred as their little boat ran directly into the side of a much larger ship.
"Ow!" Zelda said, more from alarm than pain.
"We're here," Link whispered with a chuckle.
He unshipped the larboard oar and put it in the boat. Then he used his hand and the other oar to slowly guide them alongside the ship until he found a rope ladder.
He boated the other oar and tied the rowboat off to a ring in the side of the ship.
"You first, Your Highness," he said, standing up in the boat and hanging onto the side of the rope ladder to keep his balance.
Zelda carefully stood in the rocking boat and lurched her way to the rope ladder. Link held her firmly by the arm while she got on the ladder. She had some difficulty climbing up because of her nightgown, but after a few minutes, she reached the safety of the deck.
Link tossed their bag of clothes up onto the deck, then nimbly climbed the ladder. He quickly walked the ship, looking it over.
"We're on the right one," he said with relief.
There was a lantern hanging next a door under the quarter deck. He got it lit using some tinder that was tucked inside and the firemaking kit that was still in his belt pouch.
He opened the door, revealing stairs—if they could be called that; they were really a cross between stairs and a ladder—and he hurried down into the hold.
"Link, what are you doing?" Zelda called after him.
"Shh," he replied. "Sounds travel strangely through fog; sometimes things that are far away can be heard easily. We don't want any soldiers on the beach to know we're out here."
Zelda remained mute until he came back up the stairs a few minutes later. He slid a cover over the lantern, hiding its light, before hanging it next to the door once again.
"I was checking our supplies," he told to her quietly. "I wanted to make sure everything had been loaded. We have plenty of food and, more importantly, plenty of water."
"Do we have everything we need?"
"I think so."
He went down the rope ladder and tied the row boat more firmly to the side of the ship. It should have been raised, but he didn't have the ability to do that on his own. He wasn't sure if it would make sailing the ship harder or slow them down, but he didn't want to just cut it lose; with the tide going out, it would just end up lost at sea. And if he must deprive his mother of it, he felt he should at least get as much use out of it as possible. A small boat might be useful. They weren't called "lifeboats" for nothing.
The securing was done in a just a few minutes, and he climbed back on board. "Help me with the anchor," he told Zelda.
She followed him to the winch and together they slowly drew up the anchor. They were slow because it took the strength of both of them to turn the winch, but it was an advantage because the anchor chain hardly made any sound as it was taken up.
As soon as the anchor was lifted off the bottom, Link heard the sound of the waves against the hull change in quality; the boat was already moving out with the tide.
"Now what?" Zelda whispered once the anchor was raised.
"Now we have to turn her around, so we're heading west, then I need to drop sail."
They went up to the quarter deck, at the other end of the ship, and Link took one side of the ship's wheel.
"Get the other side," he told Zelda, pointing to it. She positioned herself opposite him and together they began to turn the wheel hard to starboard. When it was laid over as far as it would go, Link told Zelda to hold it there and he went down to the waist of the ship and climbed the rigging up to the yard.
He was rather glad he didn't have his boots on. He found it much easier to move along the single precarious rope while barefoot; he was able to use his toes to help him cling to the rope while he leaned over the yard and untied the ropes which held up the mainsail.
It wasn't pretty and it certainly wasn't fast, but Link managed to drop the heavy sail by himself.
It immediately began to flap in the breeze. Link had to climb down and secure the ends so that it would actually catch the wind and allow them to be propelled forward. The sail fought him a little, and with no small amount of effort, he managed to get it tied into place.
He could feel the ship beginning to really turn, so he grabbed the lantern and went back to the quarterdeck to check on their progress. He uncovered the lantern and looked at the compass that was mounted on a post next to the wheel.
"Hold this," Link said, handing Zelda the lantern and taking over the wheel. He slowly began to turn the wheel the other direction—checking their direction against the compass. The wheel was more or less back to center when the compass said they were heading due west.
"Alright, time for a quick lesson in sailing a ship," Link told Zelda, taking the lantern from her and setting it on a post near the wheel. As they were moving away from the shore, he was no longer concerned with someone seeing the light. Or hearing them.
"This rope" he said, pointing to the rope encircling the drum which connected the two wheels, "is what controls the rudder. When the rudder moves one way, the ship moves in the opposite way… kind of like rowing a boat with only one oar; the boat will turn away from the oar. And that's important to remember: if you want the ship to go to the right, you have to turn the wheel in the opposite direction—to the left."
He patted a handle at the top of the wheel; it was taller than the other handles and was decoratively shaped, while the other handles were plain.
"This is the king spoke," Link explained. "When it's at the top of the wheel, your rudder is straight and you're moving in a straight line. It's shaped like this so you can feel it in the dark. If you want to go right, it needs to move left; if you want to go left, then it needs to move to the right. Clear?"
Link pointed to the compass. "We're sailing west, so you want to make sure that the needle points that direction all the time. Right now the wind is more or less blowing due west and it's behind us, so we're going in a straight line. But if it shifts, it can push us off course, and the current can cause us to drift, too, so we have to turn the wheel to compensate and keep us heading west.
"Yes, I think so. It seems pretty simple."
"Well it is… if you're not having to handle the sails," he said with a smile.
Reasonably confident that Zelda could keep them heading west, he went aloft again and dropped the topsail, then he went to the foremast and dropped its single sail. That was all the sail the small fishing ship had.
By the time he was done, there was a dull, dim light surrounding them as the rising sun tried valiantly to burn off the heavy fog.
Link went back to the quarterdeck. "How are you doing?" he asked Zelda, checking the compass. They were almost dead-on west.
"Fine," she replied. "But I'm not doing anything but making sure everything stays straight. If we had to turn, then I might run into problems."
"It won't take you long to get the hang of it," he assured her. He found a wooden crate that had been left on board and he pulled it near the wheel and sat down with a sigh.
"Tired?" Zelda asked.
"Yes. Handling sails is hard to do alone."
"What were they going to do to make it easier?" she asked.
"I'm not entirely sure, but I think there's a way to rig the sails with pulleys and weights so that one person can raise and lower them without having to go aloft."
"That does sound better. I'm not sure if I could go up as high as you."
"It's not as high as your tower," he pointed out, "and you've climbed that many times.
"Yes, but it's always up and down. And there's a lot of ivy. I saw you having to slide sideways on a rope; I think that would be too much."
"I guess I'm lucky; I've never had a fear of heights."
He rested for a few minutes, then when he felt he had his wind again, he stood up. "Let me take the wheel," he told Zelda. "Why don't you go below and rest?"
"You're the one who's tired," she said, not relinquishing her position.
"Yes, but I need to stay up until we're clear of the fog and I'm sure we're completely out of danger. So you might as well get some rest. When you get up," he added, seeing her prepare to argue with him again, "we can trade off."
She finally nodded her acceptance.
"There's a cabin directly under us." He handed her the lantern. "You may need this; it's probably still dark in there. But be sure to blow it out when you get in bed; unnecessary flames become preventable fires—that's what my father used to say."
Zelda nodded and, taking the lantern from him, she shuffled off to bed.