Flight to Forever
Link and Zelda found that not only had their wounds and bruises been healed, but their clothes had been repaired, too; it was as if their struggle up the mountain and fight with the storm demon had never taken place.
They also found, lying beside them, all the things that they had abandoned or lost along the way: the haversack containing their food, both of their cloaks, and the whip.
"I'm starving," Link said, grabbing the haversack.
Link fished out some jerky and the last of the hard tack. He and Zelda split it, then began gnawing on it.
"Look'a wha' I got," Link said through a mouthful of food. He held up some sort of glove that appeared to have claws coming out of the knuckles.
"Where did you get it?" Zelda asked.
"What is it?"
He swallowed his bite. "Some sort of grappling hook. I think she called it a 'clawshot.' It's one of the ancients' mechanical inventions."
"How does it work?"
"I'm not entirely sure." He slipped the glove onto his left hand, then pointed it at a rock and pressed his thumb against his closed fist, triggering the mechanism.
The claws—attached to a chain—shot out from the back of his hand and struck the rock. They didn't find any purchase on the hard stone, though, so they ended up whirring back to Link. The impact of them coming back into the glove rocked him back a little.
"Man, this is powerful," he said.
He took aim at the top of a taller rock and fired again. This time the claws caught on the top edge and he went zooming across the crater with a shout.
"Link!" Zelda said, leaping to her feet.
He had to put his feet out to stop himself from being slammed into the rock, but other than that, he was fine, dangling safely from the end of the clawshot's chain.
"This is really something else," Link called out to Zelda. "It's unbelievably powerful—especially for something so small. I think it could pull both of us easily."
"I'd prefer not to find out," Zelda called back.
"Are you sure? This is just the thing to have when we fall off a cliff."
He relaxed his fingers and the chain slowly let out. He clenched his fist and his descent was stopped. When he pressed his thumb in again, the chain slowly took him up.
"See, you wouldn't need to climb up me again; it would reel us both up. Or, if there was a safe spot below us, I can let it out."
He let the chain out again until he was safely on his feet. Another movement of his fingers disengaged the claws and they retracted back to the glove.
"I guess it could be useful," Zelda allowed, still not sold on the idea of zooming around at the end of a chain.
Link laughed, but took off the glove and put it in his belt pouch. "You didn't like the whip, either, and look how useful that's been."
"Just because something is useful doesn't mean it's likeable," she said petulantly.
"But even if you don't like the clawshot, you can admit that it's useful."
"That hasn't been proven yet."
He laughed. "You are so unbelievably stubborn."
"And you're not?"
"Nope, not a bit," he said with a devilish grin.
They finished off the last of their food. "So, where to next? Zelda asked, wiping her hands clean on her pants.
"Back to the Lost Woods."
"There's a demon there?" she asked with surprise. "Why didn't we see it before?"
"Probably because the Lost Woods are huge and we were only in a small portion. Either that or it came in after we left."
They found that the path leading to the mountaintop been restored, but something about it made Zelda's heart sink. "We have to walk down?" she asked, a whine in her voice. She felt good, thanks to the fairy's healing waters, but she really didn't want that feeling to be thrown away so soon—and hiking down was sure to be as painful on their feet, legs, and knees as hiking up had been.
Link looked out over the edge of the mountain. The stone walls around the crater were all gone, so they had a 360-degree panorama of the surrounding snowy peaks and the fading sunset.
"I have a better idea," Link said. "I can fly down, then teleport you. That will be a lot faster and much less effort."
Zelda looked over the side of the mountain. In the dim, orangey light, she could just make out the narrow plain and the forest of Hyrule beyond. To the east and the west, the land faded off into a haze.
Although the air was close to freezing on top of the mountain, a warm breeze was blowing up from the valley below.
Zelda wished she could launch herself off the side of the mountain and fly freely through the crisp, clear air, too. Being a horse had proven helpful, but there was even more freedom in being a bird.
"Would you take me with you?" Zelda asked.
Link looked surprised—and confused. "You mean… fly you down?"
He looked even more confused. "I thought you were afraid of heights?"
"I think it's more like I'm scared of being any place where I might fall. But this isn't falling; it's flying."
"Well… if that's what you want…" he said slowly, unbuckling his sword belt.
Zelda took his belt and buckled it across the opposite shoulder from her quiver. "Ready," she said, standing with her toes on the edge of the cliff. Looking directly down gave her a bit of vertigo, so she looked out to the plain below. That was so far below them, it didn't look real, so maybe that was why the idea of flying down didn't bother her.
Link transformed and flew up to her shoulders.
"Are you sure you haven't gained weight?" Zelda teased, feeling his weight on her shoulders.
Yes, I'm sure. …Maybe you're just getting weaker, he jabbed back.
"Not likely. I feel like I could wrestle a wolf and win."
Let's hope we don't have to test your theory, he said.
Link clutched the leather straps of the scabbard and quiver tightly in his claws. Ready? he asked her.
Zelda closed her eyes and pitched forward into the nothingness. But as always, Link's spreading wings caught the air and, instead of falling, Zelda found herself gliding through the air.
She dared to open her eyes and found herself breathless by the feeling of floating high over the beautiful landscape, the warm wind rushing across her face. She looked to the west and saw the sky awash in lines of pink and green and purple, fading into blue.
Link turned to the east and her view changed to that of the full moon rising in a purple-blue sky over the distant, hazy mountains of eastern Erenrue. There was just a sliver of golden-white color peeping over the horizon, but even as they flew down, the moon rose, showing more and more of its face. It looked huge, as if it had suddenly swollen to several times its normal size.
The world looked pristine and serene—as if there was nothing at all wrong with it. There were no dark clouds of evil—no war—no blood and death—no enslavement and imprisonment. There was only the world as it should be: a beautiful place given to them by the gods for their enjoyment and well-being.
And she and Link were alone in it—free from worry—free from risk—free to do whatever they wanted and be whoever they wanted to be.
All too soon—in Zelda's opinion—they sank close enough that she could see the grass—soft and silvery-white in the light of the moon—waving in the warm breeze. Then her feet were skimming over the tops of the stalks.
The next moment, Link beat his wings, slowing down. Zelda put her feet down and touched the ground as lightly as if she had been walking across it the entire time.
Link fluttered down beside her, then transformed. "How was that?"
"Wonderful," she said breathlessly. Then she put her arms around his neck and kissed him.
He stiffened with surprise, but quickly relaxed and put his arms around her waist. "Mm… if I had known you liked flying this much, I'd have offered to do it sooner," he murmured.
She chuckled, then continued to kiss him, pressing tight against him. She didn't know why, but she felt happy—as if a weight had been lifted off of her. She felt like celebrating—even if there wasn't anything to celebrate.
Most of all, though, she felt in love. She had been in love with Link for some time, but for some reason she felt positively giddy with love now—as if their relationship was brand new.
"You're going to push me down," Link warned, just a moment before he lost his balance and fell backwards.
Zelda tried to catch him but, instead, tripped and fell too, landing on top of him.
"Oof!" Link exhaled, as he hit the ground. But he still had presence of mind to catch Zelda so she didn't land too hard on him.
"My, aren't we exuberant tonight?" he said with a teasing smile.
"Just a little," she said with a grin, before pressing closer and kissing him again—growing rather passionate.
When she came up for air a minute later, Link gently pushed her head down against his chest, then wrapped his arms around her, signaling that she needed to cool down
She sighed—half unhappy that she had to stop, half content just to be held.
She heard his chuckle rumble low in his chest. "All this from a woman who promised to hate me forever."
"What?! When did I ever say that?" she demanded.
"On the mountain not an hour ago. You said you would beat me—and that I wouldn't like it."
"Oh, that," Zelda said dismissively. "That doesn't mean I hate you. It just means that I'll give you a beating when you need one. And I still reserve the right to do it when I think it's necessary," she warned.
"Don't you know that anticipation of punishment is usually worse than the punishment itself?"
She laughed. "I hadn't thought about it that way, but it's true."
"So that's part of my punishment, too—waiting and wondering when I'm going to get mine?"
He began to slowly stroke her hair. "I am so sorry I struck you," he said, his voice dropping lower and becoming more serious. "I hope you know I would never, ever hurt you in any way, unless it was to save your life."
"I must admit," she replied, "I couldn't believe you slapped me, because I didn't think you were that type."
"I'm not—not at all. And, to be honest, thinking about it even now makes me feel a little sick. I wish I could have come up with some other way to get you to wake up and fight, but we were running out of time, rapidly and I was struggling to keep myself together.
"All I could think about was that I couldn't let you lay down and die. To go to sleep in the cold is to freeze to death. So… I tried to wake you up—tried to light a fire in you that would make fight to live."
He smiled a little at her. "You are, after all, a force of nature when you're angry. You're stronger than I am."
She laughed. "Do you think so?"
"I know so. Remember in Erenrue when we were practicing before the battle, and I made you mad? You whipped me all over the courtyard."
She laughed again. "Yes, I did."
"That's why I needed to make you angry. When you're angry, you fight."
"What if I hadn't gotten angry, though? What if I had just felt hurt and gave up instead?"
"You did feel hurt; that's why you got angry."
"What are you talking about?"
"In Erenrue, I embarrassed you and hurt your pride by criticizing your weak display of fighting skills. Your grandfather did the same thing when he told you to bow before him and beg—he wounded your pride.
"And when I agreed with your grandfather that we should advertise you as being available to marry in order to drum up support from Erenrue's nobles, that wounded your pride—because you were being treated like a child who has no say in her life—and I think it hurt your feelings when it appeared I would step aside and not fight for you.
"And what did you do? You reacted with anger every time."
"You make me sound so temperamental," Zelda said with a frown, even as she knew that everything he said was true.
"I don't think you're temperamental—because that implies that you're constantly angry or quick to fly off the handle or overreact—but if you think you don't have a temper, you're fooling yourself."
She sighed. "I asked Zeyde about my mother, and he told me that she was very sweet and loving. I imagine she was a lot like him—quiet and gentle. …I wish I was more like her. And him," she added.
Link gave her a squeeze. "I like you exactly the way you are."
"Even if I have a temper?"
"Especially because you have a temper."
He grinned. "I like my women with a little zing in them."
She laughed aloud. "I thought you said you had never had a girlfriend before?"
"Yes, but that doesn't mean I don't know what I like."
"And why would someone who doesn't have a temper—and who works really hard to be unemotional—want someone who has a temper?"
"You just answered your own question. I like seeing the fire in you that I can't express. I grew up having to hide who I am—having to be careful about everything I said and did. You're so free in comparison—so very alive. You give me permission to be free, too.
"Besides," he continued, "I spent years studying and training and preparing for this quest. We've been living rough in the wilds for months. We've been around the world once and are on our second trip. We've fought multiple battles—including an all-out war—and have more to fight yet.
"Frankly, I think after all this, a quiet, homebody-type of girl would bore me."
"Princesses are the most boring, homebody girls there are, you know," Zelda argued. "Growing up, I never got to go anywhere or do anything. I could only play the harp, listen to the advisors, and lie to diplomats."
Link laughed. "Sweetheart, you have never been boring. You may have been forced by your circumstances to act boring, but that doesn't mean that, deep down, you are a boring person. If you were naturally boring, you wouldn't have adapted to—and even thrived in—all the dangerous and difficult situations that we've had to live through. You have always been a free-spirit; you just needed to be set free."
"What will it take to set you free, too?"
"When all of this is over, then I'll worry about me," he said, rather dismissively.
But Zelda knew he was lying—to himself more than to her. She knew that when everything was said and done, and she was queen of a restored Hyrule, he would go right on doing everything he possibly could for her with no thought at all for himself.
Well, if he wouldn't think about himself, she would just have to do it for him.