Notes: the characters aren't mine, and the story is. This story was inspired by both a chat with a friend and a read-through of Hyrule Historia. The Fallen Hero branch of the Ocarina timeline split has always been my favorite of the Zelda verses, with LttP, the Oracle games, and Link's Awakening being among my favorites, but it never really dawned on me before just what it meant for the Hero of Time to suffer so much until now. Seeing that in his "good" ending in the Child timeline, he had so much emotional baggage, it stands to reason that in the Fallen Hero timeline, he would have just as much, if not more, and that the LttP Link might be tuned into that. The fic pretty much wrote itself after that. Spoilers for all the games mentioned above.

It was when he first attempted to slip through the Hyrule Castle courtyard that Link first began to feel that sensation of déjà vu. As incredible as it seemed, trying to slip past the castle guards felt like something he had done before.

But that was impossible. Link knew he had never been to the castle before. Oh, he had wanted to, of course, but ever since Agahnim had been appointed Chief Adviser to the king, Link's uncle had forbidden him to go anywhere near the castle—not that there was much to see. Merchants had been forbidden to sell their wares near the castle as they had done for so long, and with them gone, the crowds soon left.

No one went to the castle—certainly not Link. And had it not been for the voice of the princess pleading for help, Link would have followed his uncle's orders not to leave the house.

The thought of his uncle, now lying dead in the dungeon, was enough to pull Link's mind away from the odd feeling of déjà vu. This had become personal now, but before he could avenge his uncle, Link had to free the princess.

But it was when he saw her for the first time that the feeling returned. Despite knowing that he had not met Princess Zelda until this very moment, he couldn't help but think that, somehow, they had met before.

There was no time to ask if she felt the same sensation; they had to escape. Link's sense of purpose was renewed as they made their way through the castle sewers, keeping the rats and snake ropes at bay long enough to guide Zelda to the safety of the Sanctuary.

It was there that he promised her that he would stop Agahnim and prevent the destruction of Hyrule.

And as he left the safety of the Sanctuary, heading for Kakariko Village, Link became aware of a frantic voice in the back of his mind.

You mustn't fail. You cannot fail. No matter what happens, this time, you cannot fail on your quest.

Puzzled and confused, Link shoved the voice from his thoughts. He had never attempted this before… had he?

The feeling of déjà vu returned with a vengeance once Link set foot inside Kakariko Village. It wasn't just the feeling that he had been here before, but the feeling that things weren't there anymore that should have been—a graveyard… a windmill… a temple… Why Link expected them to be there, he wasn't sure. Nor was he sure why they weren't there now.

Even though Link found out that Sahasrahla was no longer here, and even though some of the village citizens were ready to turn him over to the brainwashed guards, Link didn't feel as though the journey here was a waste.

But it was as he was leaving the village that it happened—a stray rock he had been kicking had struck a Cucco. The vengeful bird was soon joined by many others, and it was as Link began to fight them off that a woman noticed him, shrieking for the guards as she fled to her house.

Between the flock of angry Cuccos and the trident-wielding guard, Link soon found himself being chased to a small ledge, overlooking an old well that had, clearly, gone dry a long time ago. The guard struck him with an armored hand, sending him tumbling into the well. Satisfied, the guard soon left, certain that Link would no longer be a nuisance while stuck down there.

It was a while before Link stopped seeing stars. Gathering the lantern he had taken at the beginning of his quest, the youth saw that there were two passageways in the dried-up well. One was a newer tunnel, leading upward—to freedom, he hoped. But there was a smaller passageway, as well—one that seemed to go deeper into the ground. He doubted he could have fit through that tiny passageway—besides that, it seemed to have collapsed in on itself. But as Link stared down what remained of the tiny tunnel, a vision—brief, but lucid—rose to his consciousness—a creature that was a large, shapeless being was slithering towards a boy in a green tunic as dozens of hands rose from the ground, trapping him.

Link shuddered, trying to shake the though from his mind. The boy in his vision had looked like a slightly younger version of himself—again, something that he knew to be impossible.

The other, open tunnel did, thankfully, lead to the way out. With the guards and the Cuccos gone, Link chose the moment to make his escape and find Sahasrahla.

It was when Sahasrahla told him of the Master Sword that Link began to wonder about the vision he received of the boy in the village well. Unable to resist, he inquired as to whether or not anyone had wielded the Master Sword before.

"Legend says that the last to wield the Master Sword was a young man, just before the Imprisoning War," Sahasrahla recalled. "He intended to defend Hyrule against a thief king who sought the Golden Power." The wise man paused. "Despite his efforts, he was struck down, and the blade was enshrined in the Lost Woods—near his childhood home of the Kokiri Forest. It is said that the Kokiri fled Hyrule soon after, as did the Gorons of the mountain, who had mourned him as their fallen brother."

Link listened intently. Could it be that he was retracing the steps of the unfortunate one who had held the Master Sword before him? If so, why, then, was he recalling bits and pieces of his life?

And why… why had this other person looked uncannily like him?

It was a long road to get to the Master Sword—getting the three Pendants of Virtue had been no easy task. And as he traveled through the desert and the mountain, Link once again found himself afflicted with déjà vu, remembering those who were no longer there—the lady thieves of the desert, and the strange, rotund creatures of the mountain, who must have been the Gorons that Sahasrahla had spoken of.

And at the back of his mind, that voice persisted.

You mustn't fail. You cannot fail.

Somehow, Link was being burdened by the failures of this identical stranger from years and years past. And has he paused at the fortune teller's tent just outside the Lost Woods, Link decided that it was time to address this.

The fortune teller seemed to know that Link was heading to the Lost Woods. But it was as the fortune teller began to warn him of the dangers in the forest that Link saw someone else in the crystal ball—the boy from the well, but now looking much older, desperately trying to counter magic-energy spheres that were being hurled towards him by a large, cackling man floating in midair.

The young man countered most of them, but as the large man sent more spheres at him, it became more and more difficult to counter them. At last, one stray sphere hit the young man's left wrist, causing him to drop the Master Sword. It was as he bent over to retrieve it that the evil man hurled one more energy sphere into his back. A flash of light, a cry of agony, and it was over.

He had been struck down from behind while unarmed and unable to defend himself. Only through those means had the thief king been able to defeat him. And yet, the fallen hero seemed to have carried the burdens of this failure, despite how unfairly it had been thrust upon him.

And now, Link was carrying his burden, seeking to fulfill what the fallen hero had been unable to do—defeat the evil that threatened Hyrule. As for why they were mentally connected, perhaps it had something to do with their similar appearance—perhaps Link was the fallen hero, reborn.

With renewed purpose, Link traversed the Lost Woods, finding, at last, the Master Sword in its pedestal. He drew the blade from the stone; the weapon almost felt like an old friend as he held it up, swinging the sword a few times as Sahasrahla praised him for his success in obtaining it. Despite himself, a smile crossed Link's face; assuming he was the reborn fallen hero, he would succeed this time.

Zelda's telepathic shriek brought all of his trains of thought to a screeching halt. The next few hours were a blur—comforting the Sanctuary priest in his last moments, storming Hyrule Castle once more, and there, coming face-to-face with Agahnim himself, just in time to be too late to see Zelda vanish before his eyes.

He had failed. After all the insisting that voice had done, Link had still failed.

As the wizard withdrew to a back room, Link followed. Now, he had another to avenge—and he had to make sure that Agahnim did not succeed in whatever plans he had next; he had to strike his evil down.

Link had not expected, however, that Agahnim would be using similar magic-energy spheres, like those had seen the thief king use in his vision. Glancing at the Master Sword in his left hand for a moment, he knew what to do, volleying each sphere back at Agahnim. Victory was near; Link could sense it. But he also knew that, like the thief king in the vision, Agahnim might resort to some underhanded tactic.

And Link had been right; the wizard drew them both to the Dark World. Luckily, the young hero had obtained the Moon Pearl in the Tower of Hera. There was only one thing to do now—if this was the world where Zelda and the other Sages' descendants were being held, then it would be up to him to rescue them.

He still had a chance to save Hyrule.

Link dutifully traversed the Dark World, rescuing each of the captives. It was the second Sage descendant who had told him more about the thief king who had claimed the Triforce, including his name—Ganondorf, now Ganon, King of Darkness.

Ganondorf. The name itself struck up the feelings of déjà vu again—the power-hungry coward who had slain the previous hero in such an underhanded manner… He was here, in the Dark World. In the back of his mind, Link knew that he would have to contend with him as well as Agahnim. Somehow, Link would have to be able to do what the previous hero had been unable to accomplish. And it would take more than just the Master Sword to complete that seemingly impossible task.

Still, Link pressed on, rewarded at Turtle Rock with reuniting with Zelda once more. All was not yet lost.

And, this time, Agahnim had nowhere to run. Link fought his way up the tower atop the Dark World's Death Mountain, facing the wizard once more. Equipped with experience and greater strength than before, Link was merciless as he used the Master Sword—having been increased in power twice as the Golden Sword—to reflect the magic-energy spheres back at him.

He dodged lightning strikes when he had to while continuing to volley the spheres back, one after another. Even when Agahnim attempted to summon clones of himself, Link was ready, having expected him to try an underhanded tactic just as Ganondorf had done to the previous hero.

Holding the sword in one hand and a bug-catching net in the other, Link countered the multiple magic-energy spheres, aiming them at the only Agahnim that had a shadow.

When Agahnim fell, Link's relief was short-lived as Ganon, in his bat form, freed himself from the wizard's form. There was one more battle to fight, and Link would do so, for the hero who had fallen before him.

Ganon seemed to have abandoned the tactics he had used in the vision Link had seen; his spells were now of a painful, magic fire, and he carried a trident with him. As the battle raged on and that it became clear that they were evenly matched, Ganon plunged the room into darkness, trying to attack Link so that he couldn't defend himself, just like he had done to the previous hero.

The fire rod provided Link with the light he needed. Offering a prayer to the Goddesses, he let fly with a relentless barrage of silver arrows. And then, with a roar that shook the room, Ganon vanished in a shower of sparks.

Link sunk to his knees, catching his breath as the full realization of what had just happened sunk in. He had beaten Ganon—a Ganon who had been in possession of the entire Triforce. Hyrule was safe.

Link momentarily forgot about the fallen hero as he dashed to the next room and, after beholding the sight of the Triforce, gently touched it and made his wish. He wished for Hyrule to be healed—for all who had perished in his quest to live again. It was after seeing Zelda reunite with her father—and after Link had returned home with his uncle—that he realized that he had omitted the fallen hero from his wish.

Over the next several days, Zelda sensed his distress, and he opened up to her about his regrets. Trying to assure him that his intentions had been noble, Zelda reminded him that the time of the previous hero had been centuries ago; to bring him back now would be a most confusing experience for him, as no one from his age would be here.

Despite her words, Link was not satisfied, but when the Triforce, which was now being housed in Hyrule Castle, began to speak of a new quest for Link, he readily accepted.

Perhaps, in this quest, he would find the answers to bringing peace to the fallen hero at last.

Between the troubles caused by Onox in Holodrum and Veran in Labrynna, Link soon found himself too busy once again to pursue the answers to his questions. Throughout his journey through the two lands, he saw things and people that, once again, evoked the déjà vu sensation.

The windmill he had expected to see at Kakariko Village was in Holodrum instead—or, at least, a similar one—with the man looking after it playing a tune that Link had never heard before, yet sounded familiar. He met two populations of Gorons, one in Holodrum and one in Labrynna, after the tribe in Hyrule split in half after leaving, and as the hero before him, he became an honorary brother to both. And it was when he met the Happy Mask Salesman that he thought he knew the man; Link pushed this aside as he left after trading the Tokay's meat for a mask. The salesman was playing an odd, calming tune on a small piano as he left—a tune that made Link smile and ease his worries just by hearing it.

But the good feeling soon passed; nothing could have prepared him for the bombshell that Veran was ready to drop on him when they clashed at the top of Ambi's Tower, four hundred years in the past.

"Did you know how quiet it was here in Labrynna, until recently?" she purred. "It was only within the last ten years of this date that things began to happen. The Gorons settled in only then—though they've turned Rolling Ridge into their own paradise. Not bad for a tribe of creatures with rocks for brains!"

Link froze, realizing the implications of her statement.

"Ah, you understand," she taunted. "Yes, that's right—the Imprisoning War is happening right now in Hyrule, even as we speak. The fallen Hero of Time's grave is still rather fresh! You know, as I look at you standing there, I must say that the resemblance is uncanny. Oh, yes; I couldn't resist going just a bit further back in time before I set things up with Ambi here—I wanted to see Ganondorf's victory for myself. Almost a waste, really—I had expected the Hero of Time to put up a better fight." She chuckled as Link's scowl deepened. "Oh, have I struck a nerve? I must give you credit for defeating Ganon—and then Onox, too. But you know what? With the Flames of Destruction and Sorrow lit, there's only one more step before Ganon returns. Oh, don't look at me like that, Link—you didn't think this whole endeavor was solely for my own amusement? Well, maybe it was, slightly… But there were other plans—surely you realized that once you saw Twinrova about? No?"

Veran's chuckle broke into a cackle, which was cut short by a furious Link shooting a Mystery Seed at her. Scowling, she went on the offensive as Link dodged and counterattacked.

"You fight well," she complimented him. "Pity that the fallen Hero of Time didn't have your skills. You might have been able to teach him how to survive in combat."

A triumphant smirk crossed her face as she saw Link cast a quick glance at the Harp of Ages.

"You're actually considering using the harp to go further back in time!? So, you really do wish to lend aid to the Hero of Time? Try it then, go on!" she challenged.

Link knew better than to believe her; he knew she wouldn't be telling him this for his advantage. He persisted with his attack, much to her dismay, pushing her to her most powerful form—a giant spider. Undaunted, Link continued to strike until she, like Ganon and Onox before her, fell.

Victory was short-lived as Link found out that Twinrova had captured Zelda, with the intent to sacrifice her to bring back Ganon. Ignoring the sensation that Twinrova was also someone that the fallen Hero of Time had faced before, he interrupted their ceremony and challenged them.

Realizing that they were no match for Link, they opted to sacrifice themselves on the spot—reviving Ganon before the young hero's eyes.

Again. He would have to face the Evil King again.

This time, however, Ganon was a mess—a feral beast that was just hurling attack after attack, without any thought behind the actions he was taking.

There would be no underhanded strategies this time, Link realized. This time, it would be just surviving a barrage of attacks.

With the roc's feather, Link was as light on his feet as he could be, jumping and dodging Ganon's attacks while countering with the sword he had acquired in the course of his travels. And, once again, the Evil King fell to him.

At last, there was time to celebrate. After returning to the proper time, Link and Zelda found themselves congratulated by both Din and Nayru.

"Twinrova's plan to resurrect Ganon has failed," Zelda said. "We can go home now, Link."

But Link still had more questions that needed answering, and Zelda accepted this. Wishing him well, she and Impa returned to Hyrule while Link stayed in Labrynna for a while longer.

He visited the Happy Mask Shop again to once again listen to the calming tune that the salesman played. The salesman seemed to know of the Harp of Ages and the ability to travel through time and space, but he said nothing about it. The only thing Link got from him was that this tune he played was perfect for the one who "had met with a terrible fate."

Puzzled, Link wandered aimlessly through Lynna City, bumping into Nayru, who greeted him warmly.

"Something is still troubling you," she observed.

Though Link did not wish to burden her, she persisted, and, eventually, the young hero told her of the secret that he was carrying—and how Veran knew about it.

"Yes, it's true," Nayru admitted. "Veran did use me to watch the Hero of Time's demise firsthand. As for why you seem to be sensing his thoughts and memories… It must be that the two of you are connected. …I see it in your eyes—you do wish to consider what Veran told you about going back in time to help him."

Link nodded.

"Veran wanted you to create a paradox," Nayru said, gently. "Time and space would have unraveled had you saved the life of one who has been long dead. She would have used the chaos to get more power—especially since Ganondorf would have been defeated earlier. Though your intentions are noble, Link, I am afraid this cannot be done. But if it will ease your heart, I should let you know that time has an interesting way of creating alternate paths. These other paths run parallel to our own—and they say that there are an infinite number of these parallel paths, thus leading to infinite possibilities. Somewhere, there is a world where the Hero of Time succeeded in his quest. I believe that the mask salesman may have seen this world for himself, but I urge you not to ask him about it. He works very hard at keeping his secrets."

That left Link with one last question—why the salesman would have taught him that soothing song. He had one idea—one that would require him to return to Hyrule, and would, at last, bring his personal quest to its end.

Link departed Labrynna for Hyrule a few days later after gathering the necessary provisions he would need, but he had not expected to run into a storm that would end up wrecking his boat.

And here he was, trapped on Koholint Island, gathering instruments so that he could make it back to Hyrule. Through the course of this new quest, it was eventually becoming clear that the island was not what it seemed to be—that it was a world of dreams.

It was in the Dream Shrine that Link once again felt a connection to the Hero of Time—when he found the ocarina in the treasure chest. An ocarina had played a role in the previous hero's life, surely.

And after Link had collected the rest of the Sirens' Instruments on the island and was preparing to go to the egg on Mt. Tamaranch, he paused to return to the Dream Shrine once more.

"I know you're here," he silently transmitted. "This is my dream within a Dream World. Nayru said that we're connected. You should be here."

A ghostly image now materialized in front of Link, looking strikingly similar to him.

"It's you," Link transmitted.

The Hero of Time nodded.

"I apologize for the troubles brought about by my failures," the Hero of Time transmitted back. "You went through many hardships as a result."

"Do not blame yourself; Ganondorf had to resort to underhanded means just to defeat you. It is because of the vision I saw that I knew to expect similar underhanded means in my battle against him. This victory is yours, as well as mine."

"The victory is yours alone," the Hero of Time insisted. "You did what I could not do—defeat the Evil King. Twice. Three lands have been freed from evil because of you. Once you leave this island of dreams, I pray you find happiness upon your return to Hyrule."

"What will become of you?" Link asked.

"The burdens of my failure are mine to bear; I do not wish for you to bear them any longer," the fallen hero responded. "Take pride in your victories and continue to aid Princess Zelda in all she does."

"Will you find peace yourself?" Link asked. "Will you forgive your failures?"

The Hero of Time gave him a long stare.

"Do you know of any way to bring me peace, Hero of Hyrule?"

"Can I give you a second chance?" Link asked. "I can play the Frog's Song of Soul at your grave—restore you to life. I regret that I did not think to wish you back when I touched the Triforce."

"It is not what I would have wanted," the Hero of Time admitted. "This age belongs to you; Hyrule needs no other hero. I will take heart in your victories, and, perhaps, someday, find peace."

Link would have spoken with him some more, but he awoke in the Dream Shrine. The presence in the back of his mind had been gone; whatever connection he had shared with the fallen hero must have been severed by the spirit, who had been true to his word about not wanting Link to bear his burdens any longer.

Link could not believe that he would have to stand by without helping the Hero of Time find peace. There had to be a way… somehow. And as his thoughts once again returned to the soothing melody of the mask salesman, he grew more confident that he knew what the answer was.

The Nightmares of Koholint Island were determined to make Link's attempt at waking the Wind Fish difficult. As with his previous challenges, however, he managed to persevere and wind, completing yet another quest; the Nightmares fell and the Wind Fish woke, and after floundering in the sea for a little while, a boat came to his rescue—sent by Zelda who had, allegedly, received word from a seagull that Link was convinced had been the girl he had met in the Dream World, Marin.

Returning to a Hyrule at peace had been worth all of his struggles; even so, Link still was determined to find a way to bring peace to one soul that did not yet have it. Zelda was determined to help him, as well; they spent days going over volumes of books, trying to find out where the Hero of Time's grave was. It was she who suggested looking near where the Master Sword had been enshrined; together, they pushed back further into the Lost Woods, arriving at the ruined part of the woods that had once been Kokiri Forest.

Link sensed the familiar presence as he passed numerous dead trees that had once served as houses for the forest folk.

"There?" Zelda asked, gently, as Link paused in front of an unmarked spot.

Link nodded, drawing out the old ocarina he had found on his initial quest—the one that had summoned the duck of Kakariko Village. Though he remembered the Frog's Song of Soul, he would respect the Hero of Time's wishes not to be revived. Instead, he recalled the soothing melody that the mask salesman had played for him in Labrynna, and, raising the ocarina to his lips, played the same tune.

As a rosy light bathed the area around them; the transparent figure from the Dream Shrine now appeared in front of Link.

"Thank you," the Hero of Time transmitted.

For the first time, Link saw the weary spirit smile as he faded from sight. The light vanished, and, at Link's feet was a mask of the hero's face, with that same serene look still upon it.

Gently, Zelda lifted the mask in her hands.

"You helped him rest his soul," she said, softly. "He will have forgiven his failures now. And you ensured that his death was not in vain, Link. You have much to be proud about. Come; let's return to the castle. We will enshrine this mask there."

His own soul feeling lighter as well, Link followed the princess back to Hyrule Castle. She was right; after saving three lands and a giant whale, there was much to be proud about.

But Link would always hold a special place in his heart for the victory in his personal quest.