Out of the West
Link opened his eyes at the same moment his father slapped him across the face.
"Ow! What was that for?!" Link exclaimed.
His father hugged him close. "Oh, son, I thought you were dead!"
"Did you?" Link asked, bewildered; he felt fine. "Did I stop breathing?"
"No, but you passed out and I couldn't wake you."
Link smiled. "That hardly means I'm dead."
"But… I thought you might be dying."
He sat back, looking at Link seriously. "I don't want you to mess with this magic stuff anymore."
"It's alright; I know what I need to know."
Mars helped Link to his feet and roughly beat the dust off his clothes. "I hope it was worth it," he grumbled.
Link looked at the old man sitting in the chair. "I think it's time Master Gardamon's body was laid to rest. Do you have a shovel?"
"Aye," Mars said with reluctance, eyeing the mummified body with distrust—as if he expected it to work dark magic on his son again.
"May I borrow it?"
Mars hiked back to his hut to get the shovel while Link looked through all of Gardamon's maps. He found one that was a complete map of the world—as far any of them knew it. There was even, on the left side, the thin outline of the western land where they now stood.
Link folded the map carefully and put it in the pouch on his belt, then he skimmed through the books, looking to see if there was any information of use in them.
His father returned a little while later with a wooden spade. They chose a spot at the bottom of the hill where the ground was soft and sandy, but was too far above the waterline to flood. Link and Mars took turns digging and soon they had a respectable-looking grave.
Link carried Gardamon's body down to the site; it was strangely light, as if the old man had been nothing but bones and magic, and the magic was now gone.
He placed the body in the ground and stood up, bowing his head in respect.
"Thank you for all the help you have given me—for thinking of me even when your own death neared," Link said. "I hope I may someday be so selfless."
He shoveled the sandy soil over the body and soon there was nothing left but a smooth mound of dirt slightly darker than the ground around it.
Link and Mars began the walk back to his hut.
"You seem better," Mars said, looking at his son. "I was afraid you might have had a relapse when you collapsed."
"No, I feel fine," Link said, a little surprised. He hadn't noticed, but now that his father mentioned it, he was definitely feeling better than he had when he had first gone into the cabin. He felt as if his body and spirit both had been restored.
"Princess Zelda is alive," he told his father. "Master Gardamon confirmed it."
"That's good. I know that's a weight off your mind."
"You have no idea," Link said fervently. It was more like a crushing weight was off his entire body.
"What else did he say?" Mars asked, his curiosity finally getting the better of him.
Link sighed and stopped. His father stopped, too, looking at him in confusion.
"I have to go back. Zelda will soon wash ashore somewhere on Erenrue's western coast. Master Gardamon will send me word when it's time to go, but I think it will be in just a day or two."
"How are you going to get back? Mars asked, looking even more perplexed.
"Apparently Princess Zelda and I are able to teleport to one another."
Mars's eyebrows shot up in surprise. "And you can leave here just like that?"
"Yes… at least that's how it was explained to me. When I want to change into my eagle-form, it's as simple as just wanting to do it, so I suspect it will be similar to that."
Mars smiled. "That's wonderful. …I mean, that you can go home."
Link looked at him sadly. "But I can't take you with me," he whispered. "The magic—or whatever it is—won't work on you because you're not Hylian."
Mars's face fell a little, but he quickly recovered. "That's alright," he said dismissively.
"No, it's not." Link hugged his father. "If I could take you with me, I would."
Mars patted him on the back. "I know you would, son."
"I don't want to leave you—not after just finding you."
Mars pushed him back, holding him by the shoulders, and smiled fondly as he looked at him. "Link, I never thought I would see you again. Even if we are only together for a few days, it is more than I could ever have hoped for. I cannot thank the gods enough for the blessing of seeing my son—my firstborn—grown into honorable manhood. It is more than I ever dared hoped for these long years."
Link felt tears well up in his eyes. "If there is a way to bring you home, I will find it," he vowed.
"I believe that you can do anything."
They spent the remainder of the evening alternating between long periods of silence—each man lost in his own thoughts—and discussions about the next phase of Link's mission.
"If we can get the army of Erenrue behind us," Link said, as they ate dinner, "then Nagadii should be relatively easy to overthrow. Princess Zelda can take her throne and I can get the Master Sword and take care of any demons."
"You should take part of that army with you," Mars pointed out. "Don't try to defeat those demons on your own."
"Only the Master Sword can kill them."
"Yes, but people watching your back never hurts. And if they stun them so you can finish them off, all the better."
Link nodded, taking his father's advice into consideration.
That night, Link slept better than he had since he had left the castle. Zelda was alive and it was only a matter of time before he would be reunited with her. They would go to Erenrue and her family would help them reclaim her throne. Taking out the demons was almost an afterthought.
In his mind, his quest was more than half over, and the hardest part was already behind him.
He took Garamond's advice to heart and spent the following day sleeping late and eating everything that he could find. His appetite had apparently returned along with his good spirits.
"Didn't you have any food on your voyage over?" Mars asked, as Link finish off a huge fish all on his own.
"Yes, we had plenty to eat. Mother gave us enough food for months."
Mars chuckled. "Was the Princess not a very good cook?"
"I cooked everything, thank you," Link replied with mock indignation, even as he reached for a thin piece of flat bread that his father made from the grains of sea grass cooked on a hot rock. "I'm a very good cook," he added, tearing off a bite of bread.
"Does she not know how to cook?"
"No. But what princess does?" He shrugged, finishing off his bread. "It doesn't matter. She has me and I cook quite well."
Mars looked at him as if seeing a side of him that he hadn't seen before. "You take your responsibility to her very seriously, don't you?"
"Absolutely. It is my duty to serve."
Mars leaned back, as if needing to size up all of him. Then he nodded. "I think your ancestors would be very proud. I'm very proud," he hurried to add, "but I think they would be proud as well."
"Do you mean the Knights?"
"I want to be one someday," Link confessed.
"There haven't been any Knights of Hyrule since the Imprisoning War wiped them all out."
"But we are their descendants. Uncle Alfon showed me the book."
"Yes, but there's more to being a knight than simple descent."
"I know. That's why I want to earn it."
"I suppose it would be silly to ask if you want to take over the family business," Mars said with a smile. "Is there anything else you want out of life?"
Link hesitated to say. He looked down at his empty plate and shuffled his feet under the table. "Yes…" he mumbled.
But Link shook his head. "I won't say. It's not mine to take; it is someone else's to give."
"I see," Mars said, sounding as if he did know what Link was hinting at.
That afternoon, they rolled up their pants and went down to the beach to go fishing. Mars was teaching Link how to spear fish.
Link stood in the shallows, the gentle waves lapping against his shins. He could see the fish clearly, but somehow they always seemed to dart away when he jabbed his spear down. He tried moving faster, but all he did was narrowly miss skewering his own toes.
"How do you do this?" he asked in frustration, missing for what had to be the tenth time. He wasn't used to being a slow learner.
Mars chuckled as he struck, then pulled up another fish wriggling on the end of his sharpened wooden spear. There were already a half-dozen flopping forlornly on the beach.
"The water is deceptive," Mars explained. "The fish is not quite where it appears to be. But once you learn how to compensate for the illusion, it's no trick."
"Maybe I should show you how I fish," Link said.
Mars looked interested. "Sure."
Link sloshed back to the shore and transformed into an eagle. Even though he had told his father about his ability, the older man was still flabbergasted when he saw it.
Link took a few running hops and launched himself into the air. The air current was indeed strong from the east, but he managed to get a little ways out to sea. There was a large school of fish under him and one would occasionally jump out of the water.
He watched for fish that were accelerating and rising towards the surface. He swooped down to where he thought they were going to breech and opened his claws. He still wasn't perfect at it, but within a few tries, he had caught a fish.
He flew back to the beach and dropped the fish in his father's pile. Then he returned to his human form.
"Impressive," Mars said. "I have to say I can't best you that way."
Link laughed. "I'm still not very good at it, but apparently I'm better at it than I am at spear-fishing."
A moment later Gardamon interrupted him.
Link was so surprised that he forgot and responded aloud. "Yes, sir?"
"I didn't say anything," Mars said, looking at him in confusion.
Link held up his finger, asking his father for a moment of silence. Yes, sir? Link replied telepathically.
Zelda is nearly to shore. But her condition has greatly deteriorated; she is barely clinging to life.
Link turned and began to run for his father's house where his sword and shield were.
I'm afraid there is a complication in this that I had not foreseen, Gardamon said, sounding apologetic.
Princess Zelda must be a party to the teleportation. She must want you to come to her as much as you want to go to her. But she's delirious at the moment; I don't think she will be able to participate. Is there anyone else in Hyrule that you connected with?
No one but Master Ryu.
I don't know what to do about this, Gardamon said nervously.
You were the one who told me that the gods want us to succeed. We must trust that this plan will work.
I pray it will be so, he replied fervently.
Link burst into the hut and quickly took a seat on the side of the bed and started to pull on his boots.
"Son, what's wrong?" his father asked breathlessly, trotting in behind him.
"Gardamon just contacted me. I have to go."
"Yes." Link's hands flew as he laced up his boots. "Princess Zelda is apparently in very poor health."
"Can you take things with you? Food and water?"
"I don't want to raid your supplies; you don't have much to spare."
"I don't bother keeping extra because I don't need it; that doesn't mean I can't resupply easily enough."
"I think I'll be able to take stuff with me. Master Gardamon didn't say I couldn't. And gods know I need my sword, at the very least."
Mars hurriedly packed an old canvas sack—made from a torn bit of sail—with food and a skin of water and he gave Link hurried instructions for helping someone who was nearly drowned.
"Put your ear to her chest and listen; if she has a watery sound in her lungs, you will need to pump it out."
He made Link lie on the bed and he demonstrated how to use the hands to force water out of the lungs.
"If there's none in her lungs," Mars said, letting Link get up, "she may have a belly full of salt water. Too much saltwater will dehydrate a person worse than no water at all, and it can act as a poison. Worse, when people get in that condition, they feel ill and usually don't want pure water because it makes them feel worse. Make her drink it anyways—even if it makes her sick. That will get all the saltwater out.
"The water is warmer here than at home, too—especially if she's far north of Kakariko. She will be very cold. You need to warm her up and keep her warm until she's well again."
Link nodded as he strapped on his sword and shield. "Anything else?"
Mars paused, clearly searching his brain for more information. "Make sure she eats. She probably won't want to at first, but it's been days since she had something. Start with something easy, like broth. When her stomach can handle it, try something a little more substantial, like a little fish and bread." He lifted the bag in his hand and patted it. "I put some in here for you."
Mars looked at him with a mixture of sadness and fondness. "I can't think of anything else."
Link gave his father a tight hug, which Mars returned. "I love you," Link said.
"I love you, too, son." After a moment, Mars pulled away. "Tell Meghan and Alons that I love them and there's not a day that doesn't go by that I don't think about you all."
Link wiped tears from his face and nodded. "I'll tell them," he said, his voice choked with emotion.
"And tell Tatiana… tell her that I love her, too," Mars said, his own voice choking up.
Link nodded, then hugged his father again.
Zelda was outside a fence. It wasn't very tall, nor very secure; she could pass through it if she wanted to. But, for the moment, she was content to hide behind a stone fence post and listen to the people on the other side.
Master Ryu and all the Hylian Sages of yore were sitting in a circle under a tree debating deep philosophical concepts—some of which were even beyond Zelda's ability to understand. Her father was pacing around the outside edge of the circle, occasionally interjecting a question or a nonsensical statement that he rattled off proudly.
It made Zelda laugh; her father clearly wanted to be part of the intellectual conversation, but it was way above his head. The more the scholars talked, the more agitated he became—like a spoiled child who was getting no attention from the adults. It was terribly comical.
And then Link was standing beside her, leaning down to look at her.
"Princess, can you hear me?"
For some reason his voice sounded louder and clearer—more real—than the voices on the other side of the fence.
"Of course I can hear you; I'm not deaf." She smiled to show she was teasing, not angry.
"I want to be with you, but you must want me to be there."
Zelda pulled back, horrified. She knew where she was; she was on the Other Side. The idea that she was dead didn't terrify her, but the idea that Link wanted to join her did.
"I don't want you to be here," she said.
"Your Highness, you must. You must want me to come to you."
"But I don't want you to come here. I don't want you to die."
"I won't die."
"But that's where I am, Link: I'm on the Other Side."
"No, you're not. You've washed ashore in Erenrue. You are very sick and need my help. But I can't save you if you don't call me to you."
"I'm not alive anymore." She pointed through the fence. "Look, there's my father and Master Ryu and all the great Sages. I know they're dead."
"Princess, you aren't seeing those people. You're hallucinating because you're cold and sick and half-drowned. You will die if I don't save you, but you have to help me. Call me to you."
"No, I don't want you to die."
Link grabbed her rather forcefully by the shoulders, giving her a little shake. His blue eyes were inches from her face and they were angrier than she had ever seen them.
"Princess, listen to me: I. Will. Not. Die. Now, call me to you. Want me to be with you."
"But, I don't—"
"Godsdamnit, I want to be with you!" he shouted at her. "Now do it! Want me to be with you!"
She was afraid not to do it. And even if she didn't like the idea of Link dying, there was no denying, deep down, that she did want him with her for all of eternity.
With all her heart, she wished for him to be with her.