New Fan Works
Old Fan Works
"A Future Past", Chapter 1
A Future Past
He slowly faded into consciousness, although he had no idea why he’d been asleep in the first place. He had that strange disconnected feeling–-not like sleep–-more like suddenly skipping some chunk of time. It was the oddest feeling. His mind was hazy and he couldn’t quite remember what he was doing when he went unconscious. As his senses slowly came back, he was able to make some sense of his surroundings. It was definitely nighttime, and it was cold–far too cold for late spring. His vision cleared and he realized that he was outside in the middle of the night, leaning against the wall of a building in some alley. It looked like every other alley he’d ever seen, so he had no idea which town he was actually in.
Link finally stood up to find some sign of where he was. It was far colder than he’d originally thought, and there was even a light dusting of snow on the ground—definitely not spring weather. When he instinctively folded his arms over his chest to conserve warmth, he realized that his clothes were in rather shabby condition. His tunic and pants were torn and full of holes, and his favorite hat was missing. He took stock of his situation: he’d woken up and he didn’t remember going to sleep or passing out; it was snowing, which didn’t usually happen in late spring; and his clothes were torn up as if he had gotten into a fight. Something was definitely amiss.
Link walked out of the alley and down one of the town’s side streets, looking for something familiar. He was relieved when he saw the familiar square of Hyrule Castle Town. It was virtually deserted; even the usual stray dogs were missing, probably huddled in a warm corner somewhere. It didn’t take much thinking to decide that going to the castle was the wisest choice. Perhaps someone there could explain what was going on.
He walked down the path to the castle, thankful that the snow was less than an inch deep. Unconsciously he rubbed his hands over his arms to keep warm; he wasn’t shivering yet, but he knew he would be soon. At least it’s not windy, he thought. He saw the two guards at the gate, who were chatting leisurely, suddenly stand at attention when they saw him approach. One of the guards pointed to Link and they both laughed; he knew it was his expense, but he couldn’t hear them.
They stopped laughing when he arrived, and gave him stern looks. “Sorry, we don’t take in vagrants,” said one guard.
“Yeah, you should find a nice box to sleep in,” said the other guard. They both laughed at Link, but he definitely didn’t find it amusing.
“I’m not a bum,” he said through clenched teeth. “I have free access to the castle any time. Let me in.”
The first guard fought back a chuckle; this bum’s delusions were far greater than most he encountered. “Get lost kid. I don’t know what world you’re from, but we don’t let crazy teenagers wearing tattered rags into the castle.”
“I’m not some crazy teenager,” Link insisted, his patience growing thin. “My title is Sir Link of the Kokiri, and I’m personal friends with Zelda. I’m her boyfriend.”
Both guards laughed raucously. “Sure, you’re a knight,” said the second guard sarcastically. “A Kokiri, huh? You look a little big to be one of them. Where’s your stupid fairy friend? Did she flutter too close to the fireplace?”
“You know what? Go find Zelda and ask her yourself.”
“I don’t think so,” said the first guard. “And it’s ‘Her Royal Highness, Princess Zelda ’ to you. Show some respect.”
“Try showing me some respect,” Link shot back angrily. “I’m sure I’ve done more in the last six years than both of you combined. I got the Star of Nayru at twelve. Did you two just get hired or something? That would explain your ignorance.”
“You’re walking on thin ice, kid,” warned the first guard.
“For your information, I’ve had this post for seven years,” said the second guard. “And I’ve been in the royal guard for fifteen. He’s been at this post for five years, in the guard for ten.”
Link sighed in frustration. “I really don’t care how long you’ve been here. The point is that it’s freezing cold out here, and I have no idea what is going on. I woke up in the alley just a few minutes ago. Some kind of foul play is involved. And Zelda would be extremely upset if she found out you two boneheads were out here harassing me.”
“We’re supposed to believe that some random kid, who we’ve never seen before, is some kind of knight?” said the second guard incredulously. “Think of it from our perspective. We don’t know you; you have no means of identifying yourself, and you show up out of nowhere demanding entrance. What would you do?”
“Listen, I see your point,” Link admitted. “All you have to do is ask Zelda, her father, Impa, or any of the other guards that know me.” Link couldn’t understand why these men had never heard of him. He knew most of the castle guards by name, and the ones he didn’t know personally still knew who he was. He’d earned quite a reputation in the castle—a good reputation—and he assumed that the guards all knew who he was. The king had given him a pass to show to anyone who didn’t know him. He really wished he had that pass right now.
“I’m not going to bother anyone important to indulge your little fantasy,” said the second guard. “So shoo.”
“It’s not a damn fantasy, and I’m not a bum!” Link growled.
“Sure, you look really well off to me,” said the first guard. “If you want someone to take you seriously, come back in the morning and sign the register to request an audience with the princess. Your request will be approved or denied within a week, and you can schedule an audience in a couple months.”
“It’s freezing cold out here!” Link said angrily, fed up with the guards’ apathetic attitudes. “All my money is gone, my home is miles away, and I don’t even have a coat. Do you want me to freeze in a gutter somewhere? If one of you could actually do something sensible and go inside and ask somebody, you would see that this is nothing but a misunderstanding. Let me in, or I’ll break in.”
Two more guards came to see what the commotion was and were standing ready to repel any kind of attack Link could muster. The first guard stood firm and scowled. “Turn around and leave right now, or you’ll be arrested. Just walk away. I don’t want to have to hurt you.”
Link considered his options. He could walk away and try to find shelter, but he doubted that anyone would take him in, considering how he looked. Pretending to walk away then sneaking into the castle wouldn’t work; the full moon and fresh coat of snow would make escaping detection nearly impossible. Fighting them would be out of the question. He couldn’t bring himself to harm them for doing what they thought was right. His only choice was to agitate them into arresting him. They would handle him roughly, but wouldn’t really injure him unless he posed a threat. And he knew that the guards only considered him a minor nuisance, not a threat.
“Fine, go ahead and arrest me you incompetent boars,” he shouted loud enough for half the town to hear. “You’ll be sorry when Zelda finds out what you did.” The two guards at the gate had had enough and moved forward to grab him. Link moved to the side to dodge them. One of the guards grabbed his left arm, but he twisted his body and caused the man to trip and fall. This angered the guards enough to make them shove him roughly to the ground. Link fell face first, just barely avoiding smashing his nose. One guard put his foot on Link’s back, while the other sat on his legs and secured his wrists tightly with some rope. Link purposely squirmed and struggled as they hauled him to his feet and shoved him through the now open gate.
“Quiet down or we’ll make you quiet,” the guard threatened vaguely.
Link only took this as encouragement to agitate them further. He struggled more forcefully and let his legs go limp so they had to hold him upright and drag him. As they got closer to the castle, Link shouted even louder. “Go ahead, throw me in the dungeon you pigs. I feel sorry for you because that’s where you’ll end up when the king finds out what you did to me. You’ll end up shoveling the crap from the princess’s horse!”
“Will you shut up!” one guard yelled, smacking Link on the side of the head with the back of his hand. The blow nearly sent him tumbling to the ground, but he regained his balance. Link felt a sharp pain and a warm liquid flowing down his cheek. The decorative engravings on the guard’s gauntlet had cut Link just above the temple, and it was now bleeding freely.
Link definitely didn’t expect the guards to be this rough, and that angered him for real. “You prick!” Link shouted. “What the hell was that for? You’re really going to get in trouble now. Zelda will be furious; she’ll skin you alive.”
“Shut your mouth, or I’ll hit you again,” the guard warned. “And next time you won’t wake up for a while.”
Link gave him a poisonous glare. Even though he was now bleeding and even angrier, he still had to stick to his plan. The guards were dragging him to on of the castle’s side entrances, the one that led to the holding cells. When they entered, Link took his last chance to get someone’s attention before they threw him in a cold cell for the night. “Hey! Leave me alone! The princess is going to go crazy when she sees this, and Impa will strip you of your rank.”
A couple servants and government officials noticed the commotion, but didn’t pay it any mind. It wasn’t uncommon for a guard to drag in a raucous troublemaker. Link was quite sure that Impa was awake at this hour and inside her office, which was at the opposite end of the hallway from the jail entrance. He only hoped she had her door open and could hear him. “Hey Impa! Come see what these poor excuses for guards did! I want my lawyer!”
One guard put his hand over Link’s mouth to shut him up. Link contemplated biting the man’s hand in retaliation for his head, but decided not to. To Link’s relief, he saw Impa storm down the hallway to see what all the noise was about. “What in the name of the goddesses is going on here?” she demanded to know.
“This ragamuffin was causing trouble outside the gate,” explained the guard that struck him. “We warned that we would arrest him, but he kept on making a fool of himself. So were taking him in to sleep off whatever liquor he’s on.”
Impa was about to let them drag him off into the jail cell, until she took a closer look at the troublemaker. “Wait just a minute,” she ordered, and the men did their best to stand at attention while restraining Link. Impa stared at him for a minute, not sure if he was real or she was just seeing things. She couldn’t believe her eyes; this couldn’t possibly be the real Link. “Link?” she asked quietly, afraid that he just looked like the young man she remembered.
“Thank the goddesses,” Link said, sighing in relief and relaxing a little. “These boneheads wouldn’t even let me talk to you. I had to make a huge fuss just to get your attention.”
“What happened to your head?”
“This guy got a little carried away,” Link replied, motioning to the guard that struck him. “It’s just a scratch, really.”
“Release him immediately,” she ordered.
The guards looked dumbfounded. “But ma’am, he was...”
“Don’t question me! Release him!” The guards let go of Link and cut the rope that was binding his wrists. He rubbed his wrists, trying to get the feeling back. He wiped at the cut on his head, but only succeeded in smearing the blood further. “Why did you injure him?” she demanded.
“He was resisting arrest,” replied the guard that hit Link.
Impa glowered. “You do not strike a prisoner unless he injures you first, or he puts your life in mortal danger. Both of you return to your posts. Tomorrow morning you will report to the stables. Your job for the next two months will be cleaning up after the horses. Furthermore, you will treat this man with respect due to a knight and a personal friend of the royal family.” The guards nodded that they understood. “Dismissed!”
After the guards left, Impa returned to a more relaxed pose and looked back to Link. He stood there, wondering if she was going to say something, or if he should talk first. As he was about to open his mouth, Impa smiled and embraced him tightly. Link felt extremely awkward that she was hugging him, something she never done before, but he decided to go along with it. “Um, Impa...are you drunk?”
She released him and gave him a weird look. “I’m not drunk. I just can’t believe what I’m seeing.”
“What’s going on?” Link asked, confused. “I thought I knew all the guards here, but I’ve never seen those guys before.”
“We’ll talk in a minute. Come with me to the doctor’s office so she can patch you up.” Link shrugged his shoulders and followed, figuring that she’d explain her odd behavior eventually. They entered the doctor’s office and Link sat on the examination table, sighing at Impa’s overreaction to his minor wound.
The doctor heard them enter and called from the other room, “I’ll be right there.” The doctor, a middle-aged woman with short, gray-streaked hair, walked into the main office and gasped at what she saw. There was a gash on the side of Link’s head above the temple, and it was still oozing blood. The blood had slid down the side of his head all the way to his shoulder, soaking into his hair and smearing everything. “Oh, you poor thing,” the doctor cooed, grabbing a couple towels and some soap, water, and a blanket. “You’re shivering, you must be freezing.” She put the blanket around his shoulders and he sighed with relief. “Don’t tell me you were outside wearing those clothes.” He nodded. “You young men always think you’re invincible. Just wait until you catch your death of colds. Now, I’ll get your little cut fixed right up.” She quickly and efficiently wiped the blood from his head, and dipped a towel in warm soapy water to clean the actual wound. “How did this happen?”
“A guard got a little too rough trying to arrest me.”
The doctor gave a strange look, wondering if this young man was a dangerous criminal. “Don’t worry, he’s not a criminal. They just mistook him for someone else,” Impa assured her.
“Oh, I see,” the doctor said, nodding. “Some of those men are animals.” Link winced when she scrubbed the wound. “Sorry baby, this’ll only be a second.” Link felt silly that this woman was babying him, but he dealt with it. “This shouldn’t need a bandage; it’s not that bad of a cut. Just be careful and don’t irritate it, or it’ll come open again.”
“Thank you,” Link said.
“Is there anything else you need?” the doctor asked. Link shook his head. “Okay, take care.”
Impa escorted Link out of the doctor’s office and into her own private office. She motioned for him to sit at the chair in front of her desk, and she took her own seat behind the desk. Her position of authority was obvious, and Link probably would’ve felt intimidated if he didn’t know her personally. She leaned forward and stared him straight in the eyes. “So tell me, is it really you?”
Link looked bewildered. “Yeah, last time I checked,” he joked. He chuckled, and then went silent when he saw that she wasn’t amused. “Of course it’s me, who else would I be?” This was beginning to feel like an interrogation, and he had no idea why she would do that.
“What is your name?”
Link decided to play along with whatever game she was up to. “My name is Link.”
“Is that your real name, or are you just pretending to be him?”
“Of course that’s my real name. You know me, Zelda knows me, her father knows me. I don’t understand what’s wrong. Has someone been impersonating me or something?”
“Link, how old are you?”
“I’m sixteen. You know that.”
“Tell me what happened to you just now,” she asked, curious as to how and why Link ended up here.
“I was trying to get into the castle and those guards started hassling me. I told them who I was and they claimed they never heard of me. I thought I knew most of the guards here, or at least they knew who I was. They said they’d been working that post for years, but I’ve never seen them before.”
“No, what happened before you came to the guards?” Impa clarified. “Where have you been?”
“That’s the weird part. I just woke up. I was in an alley in the town. I have no idea how I got there. And I don’t know why it’s snowing outside, it’s almost summer.”
“What’s the last thing you remember before you woke up in the town?”
Link thought hard, trying to remember the last moment before he lost consciousness. His memory was hazy and indistinct, like there was a huge blank in his head. The feeling was very disorienting and it made him nervous. “I don’t know....” His brow furrowed in concentration. “Let me think.... It was late morning, and I was coming to the castle to visit Zelda. She wanted to have lunch together. When I was walking through the town, I saw a vendor selling fresh flowers. I thought they looked really nice, so I bought some. I know it’s a little unoriginal to get a girl flowers, but Zelda always liked them.” He scanned his memory for something else, but came up blank. “That’s it. I paid the lady, and she told me to have a nice day.”
“That’s it?” Impa asked.
“Yeah,” he replied. “The next thing I knew, I’m freezing in an alley in the middle of the night.”
“You don’t remember anyone attacking you? Or anything at all unusual, no matter how small?”
“No I don’t remember!” Link shouted, growing sick of this bizarre treatment. “What did I do wrong? If you’re going to charge me with a crime, then do it. I think I would’ve been better off in the dungeon.”
Impa got up and went to Link’s side, putting her hand on his shoulder to calm him down. “Relax, Link. You didn’t do anything wrong, and you’re not being charged with a crime.”
“So why are you interrogating me?” he demanded irritably. “And why won’t you explain what’s going on? Don’t you think I’m a little confused too? I seem to have passed out for no explainable reason, I woke up in an alley and it’s snowing outside, and nobody seems to know who I am!”
“I’ll explain exactly what the problem is: you’d gone missing, and we had no idea what happened to you. You never showed up that day to have lunch with Zelda.”
“So is that why it’s snowing outside? Was I out cold through the whole summer and fall?”
Impa shook her head solemnly. “No. Actually, it’s been considerably longer than that. You’ve been missing for about ten and a half years.”
Link’s eyes grew wide, and he gave a look of disbelief. “This is a joke, right? Everybody’s playing some huge joke on me.”
“I wish it was a joke, but it’s not. I wouldn’t joke about something like this.” Link sat there silently, contemplating this strange new development. How could he possibly have vanished for ten years? He certainly didn’t feel ten years older.
“This can’t be real,” said Link. “I must be dreaming.”
“No dream,” Impa stated flatly. “How do you think I feel? You were missing, and we launched an all-out manhunt to find you. No one ever found any sign of you, except for your hat. We had no leads, no witnesses who saw anything happen to you. You were just gone.”
Her explanation was interrupted when the king wandered into her office. “Impa, what’s this I heard about some kid...” He saw Link from behind, but didn’t see his face so he didn’t realize who he was. “Is this the kid?”
“Yeah, that would be me,” Link sighed. “The world has gone crazy on me.”
The king stopped dead in his tracks when he heard Link’s familiar voice. “Link? Is that you?”
He walked forward and stood next to the chair to get a better look at Link. “Dear goddesses, it is you.” In another surprise move, the king leaned over and gave him a quick hug. “I can’t believe it, you’re really alive. Do you have any idea how much we’ve missed you?”
“Notice anything weird about him?” Impa asked. The king looked Link over and shrugged his shoulders. “He’s been gone for ten years, yet he hasn’t seemed to age at all. Tell me, does he look twenty-six to you?”
“I certainly don’t feel twenty-six,” Link commented. “I honestly don’t remember anything. I didn’t know I was missing.”
Impa told the king everything she’d learned so far, how Link seemed to appear out of nowhere with no memory of how he’d gotten there or where he’d been. “So basically, one mystery has been solved, and another has taken its place,” the king said.
“Are you going to interrogate me some more, or can I try to put my life back together?” Link asked with obvious annoyance in his voice.
“We don’t mean to make you uncomfortable,” Impa said in a soothing voice. “But you have to understand it from our perspective. You’ve been missing without a trace, and suddenly you show up without aging. That’s a little suspicious.”
“How do you think I feel?” Link countered. “I’m missing a huge chunk of my life. The entire world has changed around me. I know you think I could be some impostor, and I don’t blame you. What do you want me to do to convince you? Obviously I can tell you things that only the real me would know.”
“Give us an example,” said the king.
“Where should I start?” Link racked his brain trying to think of something private that not only he would know, but Impa or the king would know as well. “Okay, Impa. On your fifteenth birthday you got drunk in some Sheikah tradition and woke up on the roof of your house.”
The king gave her an odd look and started laughing. Impa’s cheeks reddened slightly, and that only made him laugh louder. “You actually did that? No way, I don’t believe it.”
Impa put her head on her desk and sighed. She had no idea telling that little story would come back to bite her. She always had the aura of a wise, no-nonsense soldier, especially to those who respected her. “Yes, it’s true,” Impa admitted. “I did do that.”
“Well, that’s one example,” the king said, fighting back a chuckle. “That’s almost enough to convince me.”
Link thought hard again, but couldn’t come up with anything off the top of his head. “I don’t know. I never expected a situation like this.” He went silent for a minute, the impact of his whole situation finally hitting him. “What about Zelda? If anyone would know, it would be her.”
“I still feel uncomfortable about that,” said the king. “I don’t know if you should see her until we know more about you.”
“But Zelda would know!” Link insisted. “How could you not trust me with her? I’ve saved her life several times, I’ve always protected her and I love her more than anything. She has to be heartbroken over this, right? I don’t know what I’d do if she disappeared. She should at least know that I’m here for her now.” Then a very disturbing thought ran through his head, and he looked extremely worried. “Wait...are you holding me back because she doesn’t want to see me? Please don’t tell me that she’s found some other man, and is married with kids. My whole world has gone to shit, and I don’t want the one woman I love to have forgotten about me.”
Link was on the verge of tears, and the king put a comforting hand on his shoulder. “Calm down, son. She hasn’t forgotten about you. It’s quite the opposite. She’s missed you terribly. I’ve never seen her so depressed, ever. I know she would never leave you for anyone or anything. She’s been stricken with you since they day you met. That kind of love never goes away. She still talks about you all time; she always wonders what you would do in a certain situation, or how you would feel about something. She misses you so much that she sleeps with your hat.”
“How has she been?” Link asked sadly.
“She has her ups and downs,” the king replied. “But they’re mostly down. She’s coped in different ways. For at least a year, she personally led expeditions to find you. After we stopped the official searches, she still occasionally would go out on her own investigations. Then she stopped looking, but never gave up hope that you would come back.
“She tried at lot of things to take her mind off you. She liked to go on benders when she was younger; she’d stay drunk for days at a time. When I cut off her access to liquor, she would sneak out of the castle and buy it from people. It took some time, but we finally helped her break that habit. Now she cycles between endless work and studying, and total apathy. She doesn’t have that same spark she used to have. She doesn’t seem to really care about anything, especially herself. She skips meals all the time, would never get a good night’s sleep... It’s horrible. She either loses her temper at the drop of a hat, or lets people walk all over her. Right now she’s depressed and doesn’t care.”
Link listened to the story with a heavy heart, imagining all the pain she’d gone through because of him. Then Link had a horrible thought. “She didn’t try to...to hurt herself did she? Because...she promised me she wouldn’t. She promised me.”
“Oh, Link, no. She never tried to kill herself,” the king assured him. “She mentioned that promise she made to you every time she felt like she couldn’t take it anymore.”
“How is she now?” Link asked.
“She’s in one of her depressed cycles,” replied Impa. “She hasn’t gotten out of bed all day.”
“I want to see her,” Link demanded. “I want her to know that I’m here.” Impa and the king both looked at each other, silently debating if they should let Link see Zelda. Their gut feelings said to trust him, but they didn’t want to take any unnecessary risks. “Please,” Link begged. “Just let me see her. You can watch me.”
The king finally decided to grant Link’s wish. “All right Link, I’ll let you see her. I’ll go get Zelda, and Impa will get you some clean clothes.” Link thanked him, and he left to fetch Zelda.
“I think you are who you say you are,” Impa said. “I don’t think an impostor could ever accurately pretend to be you. And Zelda will be the final proof. She would know.”
“Thanks for your confidence,” Link said sincerely.
“I’ll go get you some clothes.”
The king walked slowly to Zelda’s room, all the while thinking of how he should break the news to her. He didn’t want to overexcite her, but he didn’t want to make it seem unimportant either. When he reached Zelda’s door he opened it and stepped inside, looking around to see if she was up and about. As he suspected, Zelda was in bed, evident by the lump underneath the blankets. The lump moved and Zelda stuck her head out. “It’s customary to knock before entering someone’s private room,” Zelda muttered. “Have you come to force food down my throat again? I promise I’ll eat something in the morning.”
“No, this isn’t about food,” her father replied, used to her attitude. “Actually, this isn’t even about you.”
Zelda groaned. “What, is it a funeral for some older-than-dirt politician that I never even heard of, but have to pretend I knew? Or is some stupid prince asking for my hand in marriage again?”
He groaned at her typical response, but wasn’t angry at her. “Zelda, this is good news for a change.” She moaned unenthusiastically. “Sit up and look at me, this is no time for games.”
“Fine,” she shot back, throwing the covers away from her and sitting up to face him with an annoyed expression. “What is it?”
“Link is here. We found him.”
Zelda’s eyes went wide and a tiny glimmer of hope flashed across her face, but quickly disappeared. “This is a joke, isn’t it? That’s not funny at all.”
“Do you think I would joke about something like that?” her father said irritably. “I’m serious, he’s downstairs right now. He just showed up. I don’t know where’s he’s been and how he got here, but neither does he. But I have little doubt that it’s really him.”
Zelda shook her head. “No, this can’t be real. I’ve had this dream before. I’m going to see Link, and when I try to touch him, he’ll disappear. It happens every time.” He leaned over and pinched Zelda’s arm. She yelped. “What was that for?”
“You’re not dreaming.” Zelda shot out of bed and ran for the door, but her balance was off and she nearly fell over. Luckily, her father caught her before she could fall. “Goddesses, I’m so pathetic!”
He helped her up and took her arm to support her. “It’s all right, Sweetie. I’ll help you.” Zelda leaned on him heavily for support. Her head was swimming and she felt weak and tired. She hadn’t had a decent meal in weeks, and it took a heavy toll on her strength. “Everything is going to get better.”
Link waited patiently for Impa to return with some decent clothing, and in the meantime he sat next to the small wood stove for warmth. He didn’t realize until now how much the cold had cut through him. The heat felt great, and he lost himself in the moment. The clearing of Impa’s throat snapped him out of his reverie. “Here’s some clean clothes for you. They belong to Zelda’s father, so they should fit you okay. But you might need to tighten the belt a bit, he’s gotten a little wider since his younger days.” Link chuckled and she handed the clothing to him. It was a simple white sweater and a pair of black pants. “I’ll give you some privacy to change. Just yell when you’re done.” Impa left the office and closed the door behind her. Link removed his torn and dirty clothes and was happy to put on something warm and soft. He was surprised at how comfortable these simple garments were; he supposed it was one of the perks of being the King of Hyrule.
“You can come back now,” Link yelled at the door.
Impa returned and looked him over with a critical eye. She seemed to be satisfied and nodded. “Not bad on you,” she said. “Although the extra room around the stomach area gives it away that they aren’t yours.”
“Thanks, I appreciate everything.”
“You’re welcome, Link.”
Both of them waited in silence for Zelda and her father to return. Link felt a little apprehensive about seeing Zelda because he had no idea how she would react. He tried to imagine how he would feel if Zelda had disappeared for a decade, then suddenly returned. He did know that she would be extremely emotional, whatever those emotions would be. He seriously hoped that she didn’t cry; he hated it when she cried. Link would never admit it, seeing Zelda upset made him want to cry too. But he had to stay strong for her, to help her feel better.
“Do you think things will get better?” Link asked, searching for some reassurance.
“Yes. It will be hard at first, but it will get better.”
“I still can’t believe what’s going on. I missed ten years of my life, but more importantly, I lost ten years of my friends’ lives.” He remembered the seven years he’d skipped on his first adventure. He’d been lucky though, he’d gotten those years back and was allowed to live them the way nature intended. But he didn’t know what to make of this situation. There was no wise sage to explain things to him. The world passed him by, and there was no one who could tell him why. “I want to know who did this to me. I need to fix this.”
“There might not be a way to fix it,” said Impa.
“There’s a way to fix everything,” Link insisted. “I just have to find out how.”
“What if nobody is responsible for this?”
Link looked at her as if she’d lost her mind. “A person doesn’t mysteriously disappear and come back ten years later. Someone did this to me on purpose. Every fiber of my being tells me so.”
“You seem to have a better instinct on supernatural things,” Impa admitted. “The Sheikah people are known for their special connection to magic and the world beyond death, but this is something else. Your powers are something else entirely. I’ve never met anyone quite like you. I suppose if anyone can figure it out, it’d be you. I’ll do anything in my power to help, and I’m sure Harikana would agree when I say that all of Hyrule’s resources are at your disposal.”
“Thanks, I really appreciate it.”
The door to the office opened and Zelda wobbled in, almost hanging off her father. The second she laid eyes on him, she froze. She stared into Link’s eyes, silently analyzing him. Impa and her father watched the pair with curiosity. It was as if they were silently communicating with each other on a level no one else could understand. In a way, it was true; but the communication was on a more spiritual and emotional level than actual words or ideas. Link could feel the emotions flow from her; every feeling from total sadness and despair to joy.
Zelda’s eyes glistened with unshed tears, and she gave a small smile. “It really is you,” she whispered. She let go of her dad’s arm and took a shaky step forward. But Link anticipated her trouble and caught her as she fell. She wrapped her arms around him and kissed him full on the mouth. Link was surprised that she would do that in front of her father, but he ignored that thought and kissed her back. They continued their passionate kiss until the finally had to break apart just to take a breath. “Oh yes, it’s definitely him.”
Zelda’s legs were shaky, so Link picked her up, gently set her on a couch, and sat next to her. Zelda didn’t seem to like this arrangement, so she scooted into his lap and put her arms around him again. Link knew exactly what was about to happen; Zelda’s eyes watered, she put her head on his shoulder, and started crying. All he could do was comfort her and rub her back as she sobbed. He felt his eyes water, but he fought back his own tears. “Link, I missed you so much,” she stammered out between sobs.
Link kissed her on the head and stroked her hair. “Ni keto janeka,” Link whispered into her ear. I love you. It was a Kokiri phrase that Link had always said to her. At first, she didn’t know what it meant, until she asked Saria. After that, Link had taught her the language so she wouldn’t feel like any outsider in the Kokiri Forest. It had been the first language Link had spoken, so saying that phrase to Zelda in Kokiri was far more intimate for him.
“Ne kito ya janeka,” Zelda whispered back. I love you too. Zelda cried for several minutes more, but finally calmed down. She lifted her head off his shoulder and sniffled a couple times. Link handed her a handkerchief that Impa had given him, and Zelda used it to wipe the tears off her face. Although she no longer had her arms wrapped around Link, she still kept a tight hold on his hand, fearful that he would vanish if she let go.
“I’ll make everything better, I promise,” Link said.
“Don’t make a promise like that,” Zelda admonished. “You don’t know what will happen in the future. All I want is for you to stay with me.”
“I’ll always be with you.” He gave her a reassuring smile. “I won’t let anything change that. I’ll get to the bottom of this, and I’ll do anything I can to fix it.”
“What if it can’t be fixed?” Zelda asked, the pessimism obvious in her tone. “We didn’t know what happened to you for ten years. Then you show up out of the blue, and you don’t even know what happened. How could you fix it if you don’t even know what happened?”
Link sighed in frustration. Zelda obviously had little or no hope left, and it would take a long time to help her get her confidence back. Link knew that the odds against him were great, but he’d won against odds greater than this. Even if he could never figure out what caused this problem, he would still stay with Zelda and never leave her for anything. “Maybe I won’t be able to fix it. But that won’t change how I feel.”
Zelda seemed satisfied with his response, but felt a little guilty for criticizing him when he was only trying to make her feel better. “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have doubted you like that.”
“I can understand how bad it’s been for you. I would’ve searched the whole world until I found you or died trying.”
“I tried that,” said Zelda. “But they stopped me. They wouldn’t let me spend the rest of my life looking for you. I had no choice. It was supposedly for the good of Hyrule.”
“Yes, that’s true,” Link said. “The people need you. You’ll be queen one day, and you have to be there for them.”
“I don’t dread it now that you’re here.”
Link smiled and hugged her tightly, gently rubbing her back. When they moved apart, Link had a small frown on his face. “You’re too skinny,” he said. “I could feel your ribs.” Link now noticed Zelda’s physical condition; he’d been too caught up in comforting her to notice. She definitely looked older, like a woman of twenty-six. But she didn’t look healthy. Her skin looked pale and pallid. She’d always had a very light complexion, but now she was sickly-looking. He could see that her arms were thin and bony, and he was pretty sure that her ribcage was visible as well.
Zelda lowered her head, ashamed that Link had to see her like this. “I know, I look horrible. If you think I’m hideous, go ahead and say so.”
“What? No, I don’t think you’re hideous at all,” Link assured her. “Don’t ever think about yourself like that. You’ll always be beautiful to me. All I meant to say was that you need to eat more. I know you haven’t been taking care of yourself.”
“I told the cook to prepare some food for us,” Impa said. “It should be done by now.”
“I’m not that hungry,” Zelda said.
“Well, I’m starving,” said Link. He looked over at Zelda. “You’re eating too. You have to eat something or you’ll never get your strength back.”
“All right. I’ll have something.”
“Okay, let’s go then,” Link said. He took a secure hold on Zelda’s arm and led her towards a small, private dining room. The king silently thanked the goddesses for this turn of events. Zelda’s constant self-neglect made him more and more worried every day. But all it took was Link’s gentle encouragement to set Zelda on the path back to normal. Link was a strong person, and Zelda’s father had no doubt that he would use that strength to mend Zelda’s body and soul.
A man wearing a long, brown cloak wandered through the castle village, using extra caution not to be seen. It was common to see outsiders in the village, whether they were foreign dignitaries, guests of residents, or people shopping; so the man wasn’t too concerned about ordinary citizens seeing him. The ones he worried about were the few that might recognize him.
The man, in his early forties, looked with amazement at the town around him. The town looked so much different now than he remembered. He hadn’t been here in years, and the last time he saw it, there was nothing but total destruction. He smiled at the simple beauty of the village, something he so sorely missed. But he couldn’t waste his time reminiscing; he had a mission to accomplish.
He had seen the young man, Link, stumble through the cold winter night, disoriented and confused. The man couldn’t help but chuckle quietly when he’d seen Link deal with the castle guards. He wished that he could confront Link directly right now, but that would have proved fruitless. If he’d confronted Link now, there was little chance he’d believe what he had to say. So all he could do was wait until Link discovered what had happened to him. Then he could perform his mission.
The mission was the only thing that mattered to the middle-aged man. It was his last-ditch effort to preserve the life he had once had, along with the lives of his friends and family. Luckily, he knew Link well. He knew his personality, mannerisms, and even his thoughts. The man also knew exactly what Link was going to do in the next couple of days. There was always a chance of some random variation from what he expected, but the overall outcome would be the same. For now, all he could do was wait.
After he was sure that Link had gotten to the castle safely, he quietly wandered back through the side streets of the town. He couldn’t risk renting a room and being recognized, so he had to rough it. Luckily for him, there was an abandoned building at the far edge of town. The previous owners had moved out, and the new owners wouldn’t move in for a couple weeks. As he approached the door, the man scanned his surroundings to make sure no one had seen him. Then he took an old, rusted skeleton key from his pocket and unlocked the door. The house was cold and dark, but he couldn’t risk lighting a lamp; that would attract too much attention. There was a fireplace on the far side of the room, which was far enough away from the door that it wouldn’t attract much attention. He’d already drawn the drapes and fastened blankets over the windows to block out any light that a fire might produce. He opened his tinderbox and made quick work of starting a fire. There were plenty of logs next to the fireplace, and the new owners wouldn’t miss them. Once he’d gotten the fire going nicely, the man wrapped a couple blankets around himself and lay down to sleep. He’d have a lot of work to do tomorrow if he was going to succeed in his mission.
After much prodding and encouragement, Link had finally convinced Zelda to eat something. She only ate a couple slices of bread and a bowl of soup, but at least it was a start. Now it was time to go to bed. Link was tired, and Zelda had almost fallen asleep several times during the meal. “I’m glad you managed to eat something,” Link said.
“I tried my best,” Zelda replied.
“You need to go to bed,” Link told Zelda as he helped her out of the chair.
“That’s a good idea,” said her father. He hugged her and kissed her on the forehead. “Do you want me to help you upstairs?”
Zelda shrugged her shoulders. “Link will do it. But you can if you want to.”
“That’s okay,” her father said. “I’ll let him take care of you.” He looked over at Link. “I trust you. Be good to her.”
“I’ll protect her with my life,” Link said firmly. Link took Zelda’s arm and led her out of the dining room.
Imps stopped him for a moment before he left. “Your usual guestroom is ready.”
“Thanks,” Link said as he led Zelda away. Neither spoke as they went upstairs to Zelda’s room. Link was too busy trying to keep Zelda from falling, and she was too focused on staying awake. She sighed with relief when they reached her room. Link pulled back the covers for her and helped her into bed. She collapsed with an exhausted sigh. Link gave her a bewildered look and scratched his head.
“What’s wrong?” she asked.
Link looked at the bed then back at her, unsure if he was just seeing things. “Um...Is that my pillow? And my blanket?”
Zelda looked at the blanket and pillow in question, suddenly feeling silly. “Yeah, they’re yours.”
“I don’t know if I should ask why or not.”
“They reminded me of you,” she said sheepishly. “Solo didn’t want to live alone, so she moved in with Malon to live and work at the ranch. So I asked her if it was okay if I borrowed your blankets and stuff. I know it sounds weird...but I wanted something.”
Link’s eyes widened and he looked frantic. “Oh my goddesses! I forgot about Solo! Is she doing okay? I can’t believe I forgot about her. I’m such a horrible brother...”
Zelda interrupted his self-deprecating rant, “Wait, calm down. You’re not a terrible brother. It’s my fault you didn’t think of her. We’ll both go see her tomorrow. It’s too cold, and you’re too tired to go there now.”
Link nodded. “You’re right. And I need to see Saria too. It’s okay that you took my blankets. I can understand that.” He leaned over and kissed her. “Good night. I hope you can sleep tonight. I’ll be in my room if you need me.” Link went to walk away.
“Wait.” Link stopped and turned around. “Don’t leave. Please.” She scooted over and patted the spot next to her. “Sleep with me, I don’t want to be alone.”
Link’s eyes went wide. “Zelda, I don’t think I’m quite ready for...”
“Get your mind out of the gutter.” Link’s face reddened when he realized that wasn’t what Zelda meant. Luckily the room was dark and she couldn’t see his embarrassment. “I didn’t mean it like that.”
“Sorry,” Link apologized. “I didn’t mean to think that about you.”
“It’s all right. Men can’t help it. But all I wanted was for you to sleep next to me, that’s all. It’s cold out, and I’m sick of being alone.”
“But I don’t want to make your father mad.”
Zelda sighed. “Don’t worry about him. You’ve earned his trust. And I’m a grown woman, if I want to sleep with you, I will. Even if it is what you were thinking.” She sensed his unease and quickly clarified. “But it’s not. Just sleep, that’s it. Please?”
“All right, I’d like that.” Link hesitated for a moment and Zelda wondered what he was worried about now.
“What’s wrong?” she asked.
He plucked at his sweater. “These clothes aren’t going to be comfortable to sleep in. And I don’t think I should take them off. That might be a little awkward...too tempting.”
“Yeah, I see your point. Go check the guestroom; they might have laid out some sleeping clothes for you. It’s cold out, and it would be common courtesy.”
Link nodded and left for his usual guestroom. As Zelda said, on the bed lay a pair of purple silk pajamas. He quickly removed his borrow clothes, threw them on the bed, and put on the pajamas. He was amazed at the feeling of the silk against his bare skin. It felt so light, but warm as well. He would definitely have to get some of these. His normal clothes felt like burlap compared to what he was wearing now. Link left the guest bedroom and went back to Zelda’s room, where she was patiently waiting. Link slid into bed next to her and pulled up the blankets. Zelda immediately sidled up to him and put her head on his shoulder.
“I’m so glad you’re back,” she murmured quietly. “I’m always so cold at night, and you’re so warm. I love you.”
“I love you too Zelda,” Link replied, kissing her gently. “Always.” Link put his arm around her and they both drifted into a contented sleep.