Return to Castle Town
Link awoke when sunlight shone on his face. He was about to roll over and ignore it when he suddenly remembered they were supposed to leave in the afternoon.
He sat up and looked around. The sunlight filtering through the trees appeared to be coming in at a low angle.
He stood up, looking west, trying to see the actual sun so he could gauge the time.
"You're not too late," a voice said behind him.
He wheeled around and saw the fairy—back in her full form—hovering over the water.
"But it is time for you to go," she added.
He started to turn around to wake Zelda, but her voice stopped him. "Link…."
"Yes?" he asked, looking back at her.
"You… you mustn't think…." She looked down, as if suddenly shy… or embarrassed. Link couldn't tell which.
"I… I did what I did to save you," she finally said.
He was confused at first, then it dawned on him what she was talking about. "My 'dream?'" he asked.
"You need not stay awake at night, worried that I will invade your dreams again."
He actually laughed. "I've been worried about going to sleep a lot lately, but you are not one of the reasons why I worry."
"I'm glad to know that. I wanted to tell you that… that I did what I thought I had to do to get you to wake up, but… I couldn't say anything…." She looked pointedly at Zelda's still-sleeping form.
"I would never come between the two of you," she continued. "Even if I didn't fear the wrath of the gods, it is very obvious that you love her… and that she loves you. And I would never try to ruin that."
Link felt better knowing where things stood between him and the fairy. That would make things easier if he had to come back to her sometime in the future.
But then she smiled. "Of course, if things don't go the way you want, then… well, you know where I am."
And with that, she faded back into a mist.
Link didn't exactly know what to think about the fairy offering herself as a backup plan. He couldn't imagine himself trying to make a life with anyone other than Zelda—and he had actually decided to spend the rest of his life as a monk at the Westeastern Monastery if things didn't work out with her—but he supposed he should be flattered that a fairy was so interested in him. Although why she felt that way was still something of a mystery to him.
He woke Zelda and they quickly packed up. As they stepped on top of the basin's rim, Link looked back, but the fairy was still just a mist, nearly invisible in the afternoon light.
He shook his head, still unsure how to feel about her.
When they were back on the road, Zelda transformed and, since it wasn't easy to fly with all the trees hanging low over the road, Link remained in his human form and hopped onto her back.
They rode hard until the light began to fade, then Link called a halt and dismounted.
What is it? Zelda asked.
"We're getting near the village. We need to get off the road and go around."
Zelda transformed. "How do you know we're close to it?" she asked, looking around but obviously seeing nothing different from before. "Have you been here before?"
She looked at him questioningly. But he could only shrug. "I just feel that we're getting near to people," he explained. "I start to feel nervous."Link took the lead, getting off the road and angling to the southeast. The trees became smaller and the underbrush thicker as they went. Link suspected that most of the old-growth trees had been logged by the people of the village at some point in time—another indication that there was a settlement nearby.
The going was slow. Link used his sword to cut back some of the thorns and tangling brush and he used his free hand to push larger limbs out of the way.
It grew very dark as night descended and the trees blocked the light of the moon and stars; they had only the blue light of the Master Sword to aid them and they moved even slower than before.
"How do you know where we're going?" Zelda asked at one point.
"I don't really," Link admitted. "I just head in what feels like the right direction."
"So… we could be walking in circles and never know it?"
"It's possible… but I've never done that before. I guess I have a good internal compass, because I rarely get turned around.
"Besides," he added, "if we were going in circles, we'd be seeing places where I've hacked the underbrush. But we're not, so we're at least going in a direction—even if it's not necessarily the right one."
He proved to be correct a short time later when they found themselves standing at the edge of the forest. Before them was the wide open plain and in the distance, the lights of Castle Town. Link wasn't sure if it was his imagination or not, but there seemed to be a lot fewer lights than usual—even though it wasn't terribly late into the evening.
As they looked across the plain to the home they had not seen since they fled it more than six months before, a cold wind began to gust, causing a shiver to run down Link's spine.
He looked up and noticed that there were no stars visible at all. A moment later, the clouds were lit up in purple by a flash of hidden lightning. They were rolling and churning and moving fast.
"Well, it looks like the fairy is cooking up a storm for us," he said, before a distant peel of thunder interrupted him.
"We have to find the source of the water first, don't we?" Zelda asked.
"Yes." He pointed back to the west. "We should find it somewhere between here and the road."
They ducked back into the cover of the woods and proceeded due west, looking for the source of Castle Town's water. Fifteen minutes into their search, Link came to an abrupt halt.
"Listen," he whispered.
Both he and Zelda perked their ears. And even over the noise of the wind—which was now blowing so hard, it was causing the trees to creak and their limbs to bang together—they could just hear the tinkling sound of water.
"We're close," Link said. But with their progress slowed by the underbrush, it took them nearly ten more minutes to find the stream.
"There it is," Link said, holding the Master Sword high. At their feet, they could see where the deep but narrow stream flowed quickly under a heap of earth domed over it and disappeared.
"And this is our source of water in the city," Zelda said, sounding amazed.
Link looked around, but saw nothing. They were probably fifty yards from the edge of the tree line. "They certainly did a good job of hiding it," he said. "You would never know that this goes directly into the city. And apparently no one in the city realizes it's flowing under their feet, either; they think there are only individual wells."
"I would still like to have all of those waterways inspected," Zelda said. "What if they're in need of repair? If a tunnel collapsed, it would not only cut off water to the entire city, but it would cause a lot of destruction to whatever is built on top of it."
"I agree, but we have a long list of other things to do first," he pointed out.
"Like how to stop up this water."
"Exactly," he said, already having a look around. Within seconds, he saw what he was looking for.
"Hold this," he said, passing the Master Sword to Zelda.
He put on the telekinesis glove and aimed it at a huge rock on the other side of the stream. The rock began to tremble and there was a tearing, scraping sound as it slowly pulled loose from the moss and dirt and tree roots that held it in place. It moved through the air towards Link, then, when it was directly over the stream, he turned his hand palm-down and lowered it. The stone mirrored his movements and dropped into the stream just in front of the opening.
The water immediately overflowed its banks, rushing over Link and Zelda's boots.
"Do you think that's good enough?" Zelda asked, as water began to drip onto their heads as well. Tonight, they were going to get very, very wet.
"I think so."
"We probably can't come back if it's not," she warned.
He took the sword from her and leaned down to try and see how much water was getting around the rock and into the hole. Before, the water had disappeared beneath the earth with little sound, but now he could hear it rushing and echoing—indicating that the tunnel wasn't full.
"It will do," he said, standing up again.
They moved to the edge of the forest and Link shrugged off the pack basket that contained their gear and food. "We won't need this," he said.
"Ever again," Zelda added.
"Indeed. We either take this city tonight or we die in it. But either way, we won't be leaving."
He turned to look at her. Even in the shelter of the trees, it was raining hard, and the water was running down her face. He was reminded of a similar time, in Shi-Ha, when they had both been soaked to the skin. There was something about her, wet with rain, that made her even more beautiful. There was a rawness to her that wasn't normally visible. It was like when she was angry—there was defiance there, and determination. It was as if the rain washed away the soft parts of her and left the hardened core.
And Link like that. He certainly didn't mind a gentler, more compassionate Zelda, but what he really found attractive about her was that strength. And that was probably why he like to provoke her a little, just to see her angry; she looked all the more beautiful to him for it.
"Let us agree right now, right here," he said in a quiet voice, "that no matter what happens, one of us will take out Nagadii."
"Don't start that," she said, sounding irritated. "I don't want to hear you making plans to die."
"I'm certainly not planning on dying—and I hope I don't. I was thinking more along the lines if we get separated or one of us gets captured—or if we can't rescue our family, or they get captured or even killed. No matter what happens, we have to press on to Nagadii. Because I don't know what he's trying to bring through that rift, but anything that can't be named is powerfully evil—and quite possibly more than we can handle. So we don't want it coming through."
"Swear it," he pressed.
"Swear that I will leave you behind?"
"If need be."
"Then you also have to swear to leave me behind."
He frowned, but knew she was right. Of course, everything hinged on her surviving and becoming queen, but that would never happen if they couldn't wrest the throne back from Nagadii. This was their time to gamble. The bet was all or nothing.
"I swear it," he said, his voice coming out in a whisper that was barely audible over the storm.
"Then I swear it as well. Nagadii first, ourselves and the others second."
He nodded. Then, feeling a sudden chill, as if they had just made a death-pact, he put his arm around her and pulled her close.
She was warm and solid against him—a stark contrast to the cold rain that was dripping through his hair and running down the back of his neck. She was real and, for a moment, she was his. But they weren't just leaving behind their supplies; they also had to leave behind what they had become to each other. From here on out, he could be nothing but Zelda's knight and she could be nothing but his queen. They didn't just come second in the grand scheme of things—they came last.
He thrust the Master Sword into the soft ground and even though he let go of it, it continued to glow for him.
He put both of his hands on Zelda's face, holding her still for a moment while he burned the image of her into his mind. But instead of looking wild and fierce, as she had before, the raindrops running down her face made it look as if she was crying. There was a sadness in her gray eyes, too, that said she knew what he was feeling—that she, too, knew what they must leave behind. But, hopefully, it was just temporary.
"I want you to know, whatever happens—or doesn't happen—whatever sacrifices you or I or both of us must make for Hyrule and the people—I will always love you," he said firmly. "My love for you is a part of my being—it is in my blood and in my soul—and nothing will ever change that. Nothing."
"Don't talk like that," she whispered.
"I want to say it now, while I have the opportunity," he replied. "I don't want to play out some old tragedy where things would turn out well if only those involved knew the truth—if only they spoke openly to one another. I may lose you to your crown, but I don't want to lose you to a misunderstanding."
"You will not lose me."
He felt a lump catch in his throat; he had to swallow a couple of times before he could speak. "I hope not. But don't make promises you might not be able to keep."
"I keep my promises," she said defiantly.
"But you will not be your own person when you're queen," he pointed out. "What Zelda promises me may not be possible for the Queen of Hyrule to fulfill."
She started to open her mouth to protest, but he cut her off. "We don't have time to argue over hypotheticals right now. Just… just know that I love you and will always love you. Tomorrow or a hundred years from now, you can count on it."
Then, before she could say anything else, he pulled her into him and kissed her as if it was the last kiss either of them would ever share.
And, if something happened—if her people rebelled at the thought of their queen with a commoner, or if he died fighting Nagadii—it might very well be the last they would ever have. And, if that was the case, Link certainly wanted something they both would remember for the rest of their lives.
When he finally pulled away, he found himself overwhelmed by such strong emotion, he felt a little light-headed. Given Zelda's rather dazed express, she felt the same way.
He really wanted to kiss her again—to hold her and never let go—to live frozen in that moment in time when the future was a huge unknown, but they still were safe and had each other. But, instead of lingering, he picked up his sword again.
"Are you ready?" he asked.
She nodded a little.
"Then, let's do this."
She transformed into a horse and he sheathed his sword, plunging them into total darkness.
"Can you see anything?" he asked, tentatively reaching out for her.
A little. I can see the trees, at least.
"Good, because I can't see my hand in front of my face." But, despite that, he was still able to hop onto Zelda's back and settle himself in place.
"Ready whenever you are," he said, entwining his fingers in her mane by feel.
She started out at a walk, dodging around the trees, but once she was free of the confines of the forest, she switched to a full-out gallop.
Link leaned over her neck, closing his eyes against the rain pelting his face. The ground underneath was so soft, the normal sound of her drumming hoofbeats was muffled to the point they couldn't be heard over the rain.
So in silence and darkness, they came back to Castle Town.