The Dark Coast
Link wasn't just lifted into the golden space—as happened when he first made a connection with a Hylian—he was thrust into it. It twisted and warped into a tunnel and he hurtled headlong through it. The experience was so disorienting, and the wind in his face so strong, he had to close his eyes.
And then, the next thing he knew, he was perfectly still and standing on his feet. He slowly opened his eyes and looked on a foreign landscape. He was standing on a beach made entirely of dark rocks—tumbled smooth by the ocean.
Ahead of him was a narrow plain—longer than the eye could see—hemmed in between a dense forest to the south, and a rugged line of bare, stone-gray mountains to the north. The mountain range looked like a mouth full of sharp teeth pointing to the sky; there was still snow on the highest peaks. The forest, to his right, was dark and looked to be a thick, impenetrable tangle.
The plain itself was covered in a silvery-gray grass that looked as if it had been bleached of all color. There was nothing to be seen on the plain—no trees or features of any kind.
Overhead, the sky was dull and gray. It didn't really look like rain, but neither was there any promise of sun.
Overall, it was a gloomy, desolate place devoid of life and color.
Link's eyes took in everything in a matter of seconds. What he didn't see was Zelda.
He wheeled around and found himself facing the iron-gray ocean. It was littered with bits of floating wreckage—wooden boards and canvas sails and ropes—and…
Link dropped the bag of supplies his father had given him and dashed into the water, slogging his way towards the figure which floated nearby.
Zelda lay on her back—Link's green hat still tied tightly across her chest. Her hair was splayed out on the water in a tangle of silvery-blonde. In her right hand she clutched her bow. She had her quiver of arrows strapped across her chest and her left hand was jealously clutching them.
Her face was as white as the snowy mountaintops.
"Princess, can you hear me?" Link said, as he moved towards her, waist-deep in water.
She didn't respond.
He half-pushed and half-carried her towards the beach until the water was shallow enough that he was able to pick her up and carry her ashore.
"Your Highness, can you hear me? Can you speak?"
She didn't respond to his words. He could see her blue lips moving slightly as if she were speaking in a whisper, but he knew that was because she was still hallucinating; she didn't even know he was there.
He glanced up and down the shoreline and—miracle of miracles!—he saw what appeared to be a cabin some distance to the north.
He crossed the beach to the sturdier footing of the plain and began trotting towards the cabin. He could tell from his own half-soaked clothes that the water had been frigid, and Zelda lay like a lump of ice in his arms. She was dangerously cold.
Link was practically stumbling by the time he reached the dilapidated old cabin; his feet were numb in his wet boots and he was breathing so heavily he couldn't have spoken if he wanted to.
The door was hanging loose in the doorway, tilting forlornly on worn out hinges—attesting to the lack of an occupant.
Link kicked the door open and pushed his way inside.
The place looked as if it had been abandoned for some time. There was a bed in one corner with the remnants of some dusty, moth-eaten covers. There was a crude wooden table and two benches—one of which was broken—an empty fireplace, a small stack of firewood, and a wooden bucket. Besides one window, which was shuttered because it had no glass, and a compacted dirt floor, that was the entirety of the cabin.
Link tried to decide where to put the Princess. His first thought was to put her on the bed, but then he thought better of it. She was still dripping wet and there was no need to get the covers wet, too; he needed them dry and useful.
He finally put her on the floor next to the fireplace and set about building a fire with what kindling there was available. Not for the first time he thanked the gods for the firemaking kit in his pouch.
The fire soon caught up and he added wood to it as quickly as he dared—lest he snuff out the flame. But the driftwood had been drying out for a long time and it quickly caught up, putting out a hot fire with a blue-green flame.
Link got up and shut the door—the day was rapidly waning and the temperature outside was beginning to drop—and he peeled off his soggy boots. Then he knelt down in the floor beside Zelda.
"Your Highness, can you hear me?"
Still no response.
Link tried to pull the bow from her hand, but she had clamped down on it so long ago, and had become so cold, her fingers were locked around it and refused to loosen.
"Princess, if you can hear me, I need you to let go of your bow. It's alright; nothing's going to happen to it."
He tugged on it, but nothing happened. Even if she had been conscious, she might have had difficulty—after such a long time—relaxing her fingers enough to let go.
He tried prying her fingers off of it, but quickly became concerned that he was going to break her fingers before he got the bow loose.
He pressed her icy-cold hand tightly between his, trying to warm it up, hoping her muscles might unlock.
"Princess Zelda, if you can hear me, give me a sign. Try to move your fingers."
Link alternated between blowing hot breath on her fingers and rubbing and pressing her hand between his. "I really need you to let go of this for me," he pleaded.
She never acknowledged his words, but he finally got her hand warm enough that—with great difficulty and no small amount of fear—he was able to pry her fingers open enough to slip the bow from her hand.
"Good girl," he said, as if she could hear him. "Now, can I have your quiver?"
Her left hand couldn't encircle the entire quiver, so her fingers had not had the opportunity to lock around it. He was able to unbuckle the strap and get it off her without any problem.
His hat took some work. The knot had swollen and it did not want to come undone. Link hated to cut the hat off—especially since it had proven its worth—but he needed it off of her so he could get her out of her wet clothes.
He made one final attempt at getting the knot undone—going so far as to attack it with his teeth—and, at last, it began to give. Another minute of working on it and it finally fell apart.
He tossed the hat aside. "Princess, can you hear me?" he asked once again, not expecting—and not getting—a response.
"Your Highness, please forgive me," he continued, "but I have to get you out of these wet clothes."
He closed his eyes for a moment—his mind conjuring an image of Master Ryu giving him a severe dressing-down for what he was about to do—then he screwed up his courage and quickly stripped Zelda out of her clothes.
He carried her to the bed and put her in it. He wrinkled his nose at the poor condition of the mattress and covers—neither was very clean—but it seemed better than nothing, and he carefully covered her up, tucking the covers in tightly around her body and feet. He gathered up her long, wet hair and draped it over the headboard so that it wasn't touching her.
He busted up the already-broken bench and added it to the fire. Heat began to radiate through the cabin and Link felt pleasantly warm. But instead of taking a break to enjoy it, he pulled his wet boots on again and went outside. The light was rapidly fading behind the overcast sky, and he hurried to pick up as much driftwood and wreckage as his arms would hold.
He sorted the wood into stuff that was dry enough to burn now and stuff that was still too wet. He propped the wet wood up against the wall nearby, where the heat could dry it.
He was almost done when he remembered the bag of supplies. He checked on Zelda, but she was still comatose.
He knew he needed the waterskin that was in the bag, so he decided to chance leaving her for a few minutes.
There was hardly enough light left to see by when he went sprinting down the coast, back to where he first arrived. He grabbed the bag and jogged back to the cabin, panting with exertion. His toes were tingling painfully—protesting at being inside the wet boots again.
He took off his boots once he was inside and added some more wood to the fire—making it as big as he could given the small size of the fireplace. It was comfortably warm in the cabin.
Zelda was making little indistinct noises, and Link hurried to her side.
"Princess, can you hear me?"
She continued to mutter. Link feared she was still hallucinating.
He fetched the waterskin from the bag of supplies. He sat down on the bed beside her and gently lifted her up and put the nozzle of the bag to her lips—just as his father had done for him.
"Drink," Link said, trying to pour a trickle of water into her mouth. And just as had happened with him, more water went out than in.
But he didn't lose hope. He repositioned the bag so that the nozzle was more firmly between her lips, and he carefully poured a little more.
"Drink this, Your Highness. You need it."
He knew he was getting some water in her when she started to cough and sputter. But after only a little bit more, she started to gag.
He got up and fetched the old bucket. He returned with it just in time; Zelda rolled over and retched water—much more than he had given her. It was as his father had feared; she had swallowed a lot of seawater and it would make her even sicker if she didn't get rid of it.
Link let her settle down a little before he tried to give her more water. She tried weakly to turn away from him, but he wouldn't let her refuse. He got another swallow or two of water down her before she was retching into the bucket again.
They went a third round—Zelda trying to fight him a little more; Link steadfastly refusing to be turned away—but she only had a few dry heaves in response. It appeared that her stomach was empty.
Link made her comfortable again—taking care to tuck the blankets tightly around her—then he stepped outside to empty the bucket. The wind was blowing fiercely off the mountain—a biting cold that felt more like winter than spring. He thanked the gods that the hut was there; he would have hated to try to keep Zelda warm with no more than a fire on the unprotected plain.
He went back inside and added more fuel to the fire. The cabin was warm enough, but cold drafts still came through cracks in the walls, giving a temporary chill.
Link suddenly had an idea. He pulled on his wet boots once again and went outside. In the darkness, he gathered up a fistful of grass and cut it with his knife. Then he went around the cabin—paying particular attention to the end where Zelda's bed was located—and every place where he saw light coming through a gap, he he stuffed grass into it using the tip of his blade.
He worked for the better part of an hour, until he was too cold and numb to do anymore, then he went back inside.
Although the fire was burning lower, the cabin was warmer than when he had left it, and even though he could hear the wind rattling against the board walls, he felt almost no draft.
Satisfied with his handiwork, he checked on Zelda and found her resting quietly. There was some color in her cheeks again and when he touched her face and hands and feet, he found them all to be relatively warm.
It looked like the worst had passed.
He ate some of the grilled fish and bland, nameless root vegetables that his father had packed for them, then he dragged the bench over to the wall, next to the bed.
He induced Zelda to drink a little water and, thankfully, other than coughing and choking a little on it, she had no adverse reaction to it.
Exhausted—more emotionally and mentally than physically—he sat down on the bench, put his head back against the wall, and dozed off.