A Break in the Forest
If that huge, spiky club doesn't kill him, the ear-piercing, guttural roar just might.
As the giant weapon crashes near Link, crushing the grass beneath their feet and felling several trees that surround them, the hero goes into the motions yet again. He sidesteps the Moblin with catlike speed, crouching in a battle stance behind the bulky brown behemoth.
He reaches back with his left hand and grabs the brilliant blue handle of his blade. It'll all be over in less than ten seconds.
In those few moments, the young man snaps his wrist and slices away at the evil creature with the Master Sword.
One, two, three, four, five, six, seven.
And then in a flash of sickly purple flames, the Moblin vanishes after letting out a final painful cry. Link sighs and brushes his sweaty brow, only to see his brown glove and fingers splotched with dark green goop. He takes one look at the Sword of Evil's Bane and flicks it to the side, dotting the foliage with the piggish demon's blood.
The young warrior sighs again and continues trudging across the grassy hall of the Sacred Forest Meadow. It was always like this, and it made no sense why. He had dispatched these Moblins—Ganondorf's hulking guard monsters—so many times before, and yet they kept coming back to the same spots. Maybe it was the dark wizard's magic resurrecting them, maybe there were just too many Moblins to count somewhere…
Or maybe Link just didn't care. The monsters either always came back or never left. And it would be that way until the end.
He makes it to the lone stone staircase. Link steps up each stair, taking his time and pointing his blue eyes to the sky, where little beads of odd forest light always danced around at every hour of the day. He allows a smile to upturn his lips, but quickly suppresses it again as he makes the familiar journey. As he climbs the steps, he hears the jingling—bottles against arrow tips, hookshot against his bag of rupees under his wrinkled and blood-splattered tunic—and the clanging of the legendary sword against his wrought-iron shield, emblazoned with the image of the treasure he was seeking, one that could bring balance back to the world.
Link shook his head. No time for that now. He always had the golden power and the welfare of Princess Zelda and the people of Hyrule front and center in his mind at all times. But there will be time for those pressing thoughts later.
He's finally there.
Link pays no attention to the hollow marble entrance to the Forest Temple perched high above his head, or even the large platform that he could instantly warp to with his ocarina. He has no need to teleport and whisk through the sky when he puts his heavy business on hold. No, he looks at something so commonplace in any wooded area that everyone else wouldn't care—the stump.
The stump…that plain, old wooden stump of what used to be a very tall tree. Link takes off his cap and drops it to the ground as he approaches the thing, taking off his gloves as well. He remembers when his chest barely reached the top of the wooden edifice. Now, he towers over it and most everyone in the village of Kokiri.
My home, but a place I never belonged, at least not exclusively.
He drops to one knee and traces the aged rings of the stump with his forefinger, brushing a few messy strands of his blonde hair away from his eyes with the other. There he went again, trying to distract himself with other thoughts of belonging and worldliness and exploration. He chuckles at the thought and looks up to the entrance of the temple. The whole thing is strewn with moss, and he wishes that the greenery was all that was there. He knows that even though he went into that old mansion and slayed every vile beast he could find—impaling Skulltulas with arrows, decimating Stalfos with his sword, and even felling the evil king's ghostly doppelganger—they are all back, save for the phantom.
Link remembers going back in a couple of weeks ago after clearing out the Fire Temple. The monsters had left the village, but as he entered the Sacred Forest Meadow, he heard the rumbling footsteps of the Moblins again. In disbelief, he plowed through them and made his way into the temple, only to meet the howls and the saliva-ridden jowls of the Wolfos again. As he ventured through the forest shrine, he kept encountering the sights and sounds of chattering Deku Babas, skittering skull spiders, and the zombified claws of the Wallmasters.
Link shudders a little as he recollects this. He hates the latter two the most of all. Spiders are unnerving enough, but the Skulltulas' scratchy sounds and fiery eyes make his blood run cold every time he sees one, every time one tries to tear him apart with its hairy arms. And the Wallmasters… It's what he doesn't see that haunts his dreams. They're just gnarled hands with deadly claws, but what would the rest of them look like? And the howl of the wind when they drop to shed his blood.
Link shakes his head and takes in a couple of deep breaths. Those things scare him, but he knows courage isn't an absence of fear; it's how you push past what frightens you, and he'll push until he defeats Ganondorf and attains the one thing he's sure he can see—the Triforce. It's the one thing in the entire the world that Link can obtain and make all of the pain and suffering caused by the Gerudo King's dark wishes.
He keeps running his finger over the stump. The Triforce…the one thing that he can obtain. That he can see. Link closes his eyes and opens them again. Nothing. The one thing, the one person he wants to see, is no longer there.
He remembers it like it was yesterday. Saria came bounding up to his house, telling him the Great Deku Tree wished to see him. When she saw that Navi the fairy had chosen Link as her partner, the girl's eyes lit up as bright as the fairy. She was so happy for him, happy that he was no longer an outsider to the other Kokiri. He was never an outsider to her; Saria had practically raised Link ever since he mysteriously showed up in the forest.
And that was the key word: mystery. This whole journey was nothing but a big mystery—from the Deku Tree's bizarre death to meeting the young princess to saving several locales, climes, and races from plague and tyranny at Ganondorf's hands, all while travelling back and forth through time.
There you go again. Stop fighting it.
Link gasps a little and rubs his eyes, eyes heavy with world-weariness and bloodshed. He needs not peruse over the particulars of his journey now. All of those little mental diversions are pushed out of the way by her vision—the swath of light green hair, the cheerful smile, the final words.
He will not let those words come into his mind. They mean nothing. Absolutely nothing.
He reaches under his tunic to retrieve a leather strap. The brown ribbon is dotted with a rainbow of light emitting from six medallions—one for every temple he cleansed and spirit he liberated. He has all of them. All he has to do was find Zelda, defeat Ganondorf, and the whole thing will be over! The world will be free! He will be free! Free to find Saria…
Link looks at the verdant medallion on the strap, his mouth agape. He looks at it and at the stump again, looking at the one hundred rings that mark its age.
She was so young…
Not really, despite what the Deku Tree's sprout said. Though they remained in childlike bodies, Kokiri folk are actually wise and mature beings despite their appearance and usual carefree attitudes. In reality, Saria had been on this Earth for just twenty years—she was only a years older than Link. And Kokiri lived for hundreds of years! There was so much time left.
Had. Why "had?" She isn't…
Link grits his teeth and strikes the ground with his fist, shouting. She cares so much for him, and he for her. Grateful maidens and princesses…they can keep them. He knows there's only one girl, one woman for him.
He remembers the last time they met before he crossed timelines. Right here. She taught him her song, the one that lets him talk to her whenever he wants. There was no noise or even a sense of impending danger despite what Zelda had told him. Time seemed to stop when Link and Saria were together whenever they played, danced, sung, or even walked through the woods. And that time was no different, except for one thing.
He remembers their happiest parting.
"Thank you for teaching me your song. I promise I'll talk to you soon!"
Saria giggled and hopped off the stump, her sapphire eyes meeting his. She smiled wide and embraced the young boy. "I know you will. Just don't forget about me while you're out and about for Princess Zelda!"
Young Link raised an eyebrow at Saria, and with a squeeze, the lively little girl craned her head and kissed him on the cheek. She immediately hopped back, her cheeks turning crimson.
Link laughed lightly and got Saria back into a hug, returning the favor and kissing her cheek.
And he didn't…but the last time he reached out to her, Saria was in utter fright, having gone to the Forest Temple and being captured by the demons that infested it. The newly adult Link did his best to make it through the shrine as fast as he could, only to see her in the Sacred Realm, where she warned him she couldn't see him anymore since she was awakened as a Sage.
Even with his new mature mind, Link silently cried out in protest even as he accepted her medallion and was warped back to the Sacred Forest Meadow.
"Saria will always be…your friend."
Link yells out loud this time, fracturing the calm silence around him. But the trees still dance in the light breeze and the little dots of light keep floating in the afternoon sun. Life still goes on.
In this moment, the warrior's eyes grow heavy, laden with everything he's holding back.
She can't be gone. She can't be! She isn't!
The way Saria spoke to him that final time…it was off…like she was holding back. Was it the reservation of a Sage? Was it the last words of someone who had lost her life in service to peace and was ready to accept eternal rest? The hesitance in her last words clearly indicated she only partially accepted some kind of fate.
He doesn't know everything, unfortunately, but he does know what she was holding back: Love she desperately wanted to share with him, but for some cosmic reason, can't.
Link sniffs, breathing deep and steadying himself for another moment. No matter how many times he reaches out to Saria through the Ocarina of Time now, the message is always the same and allows him no time to reply: Save Hyrule. And he will do that. The Hero of Time will gladly do anything to ensure a peaceful and righteous future. No amount of time traveling or flute playing to just see the one he loves most won't save the countless friends he cares for now.
He will defeat the King of Evil. He will restore peace to the land. Only then can he search for her, just for a chance—one single, solitary chance—to even tell her how he feels.
"I love you, Saria," Link whispers, his voice cracking. He doesn't allow himself many comforts or even much sleep in the interest of finishing his mission with due haste. But he must take this time now. His heart and soul won't allow him to progress until he does so.
Link takes another deep breath, clutches the Forest Medallion, and lays his head on the wooden stump, allowing himself a break—to break for a few moments—and sets the tears and the pain free.