Author's note: Dear gods, has it been seven years? (Checks completion date on Parallel Hearts...yep, seven years. Eep.) I began this tale before A Link Between Worlds, before Hyrule Warriors, before Hyrule Historia, before even Skyward Sword, but it was the Era of the Sky that transformed and inspired what Parallel Destiny became. Dedicated to the geniuses at Nintendo, and as ever, to Morgan, my editor and the Zelda of my heart, but especially to all of you. For those who waited, I hope this was worth it.

Standard explanation: #This notation# is for telepathic communication.

Parallel Destiny is my definitive statement on the Legend of Zelda universe, the ultimate expression of my love for Hyrule and all its wonders. I might write other fanfics which include Link, Zelda, and other players in the legend, but this is the culmination of the Parallel Legends series. I hope to turn my writing into a career, and need to focus on that – anyone interested in my original works can PM me – but this story refused to remain untold. One last quest, one more romance, one final Legend. Enjoy.

~ o ~ o ~ o ~

Parallel Destiny: A Parallel Legend of Zelda


Is it mere nostalgia for a Time long past?

A longing for something lost that keeps the Light shining?

...or is the memory something more? Something inspiring? Something that is not only of the past, but of the future?

In the end, what is a legend?

The boy slept fitfully.

Ganon rose from Kotake's Dark Fire. More titanic and monstrous than ever, he looked like the creature Link had fought so many years ago, save for three differences. His skin was blue instead of green, he was half again the size of the one from the other time stream, and he wielded a trident that radiated unending power. Stomach dropping away, Link recognized it from both the past and the future. "Hardly, boy. You face not a king of evil, but evil's GOD!" He laughed, raising his trident to the sky. Lightning blasted the ground around him. "Free! After over a thousand years of scheming and waiting, free at last!"

In a hammock crudely stitched together from scraps, he tossed and turned. Above him, the wind howled like a wolf in mourning.

Link was somehow first to the ladder and vaulted up two steps at a time. Zelda appeared by Farore's Wind a moment later. As they watched, a small dark point on the mountain's caldera howled and roared, then grew into a more recognizable shape. A titanic boar-man rose there. His blue-green skin, mane of red hair, and massive twin blades of gold were horrifically familiar. He laughed at the heavens. "There is no Mandrag," he cried in triumph. "I am GANON!" The Hero of Light knew somehow that the figure they watched had been Dragmire, not "their" Ganondorf, but the thought brought no comfort. "Let the realms of gods tremble and the lands of the earth bend knee, or all shall be riven in fire and darkness!" Again, he laughed.

A bolt of lightning nearly woke the child, but the grip of nightmares held him fast. Sweat matted sandy blond hair to his forehead. He moaned.

"I never imagined a boy like you could give me so much trouble," the true Ganon rumbled with amusement, towering over the Hero of Hyrule, hefting his massive trident as if it were weightless. "That you triumphed over Vaati and your insipid Shadow is no surprise, but it's unbelievable that you defeated my alter ego Agahnim – twice!" He regarded Link with a raised eyebrow and a gaze that almost hinted at respect. "But I will never give you the Triforce. I will destroy you once and for all, and make my wish to conquer the Realms a reality at last!" With a final roar, the King of Evil spun his Trident of Power and charged...

"Hey! Hey, Link!" A tiny ball of powder-blue light bounced up and down on the lad's chest. With a sigh, he rubbed his head and sat up, finally awake. "Are you all right?"

"Yeah, Proxi, just another nightmare," Link il'Kiri muttered, rubbing his eyes with his forearm. He groped around for his cap for a few seconds before finding it on the branch where he'd left it. Once it was in place, he leapt from his makeshift hammock to the bough just below it, then ran from branch to branch above the forest floor. His only other garb the tattered forest tunic Mido had given him years ago and the sturdy leather boots that gripped every strip of bark, Link could easily have been mistaken for a Kokiri – had there been any left.

Proxi gasped in surprise, then darted after him. "Link, are you crazy? I hate it when you do this!" All around them, tiny globes of every color imaginable bobbed in reaction to his wild dash. Link knew the thick woodlands around them well, though, from every gap that let sunlight in to which canopies held which fairy families.

The Hylian's ears bobbed when he stopped and perched at the edge of the woods. The forest opened up very suddenly to a broad, rolling field of grass, punctuated only by neatly spaced trees and Light Charms that hovered ten feet off the ground. The Charms were spaced fifty yards apart, but in the dawn light their magic was banked. Even then, each radiated faintly in a different color, but at night their gentle glow bathed Kokiri Park as far as the eye could see.

The sole exception was the dark spot Link was perched above. Three hundred yards or so wide, it was an empty semi-circle that bordered the last home of the fairies, Faron Forest. There was no sign of trouble, no sound of gears clanking against gears. Link pursed his lips, mildly surprised. "I could've sworn..."

"It was just a bad dream, Link," Proxi said, tugging on the end of his hat with gentle worry. "Come on, let's go home."

Link grunted, careful not to shake his head. Don't want to send Proxi flying, he thought evenly. "Just a moment, Proxi, please?" His best friend sighed pointedly, but let go of his hat and landed on his shoulder with a grumpy exhalation. For several seconds, the child waited, silently, patiently. Slowly, men streamed toward the clearing, mostly Beorcs in sturdy work clothing. A handful of them wore striking red outfits, while the few Gorons with them were clad only in tough leather overalls and their traditional tattoos.

With the swirl of green light and burst of air that heralded Farore's Wind, the machine reappeared. Proxi gasped, hovering protectively in front of Link's chest. The young Hylian merely grimaced and pulled out his slingshot. The rust-red monstrosity made its obscene roar, poisonous smoke billowing from its four strange tails. Its arms pivoted slowly forward, the strange rotating blades it had in place of hands spinning with a terrible buzzing sound.

Permitting himself a small huff of distaste, Link took aim. Carefully, he targeted the shoulder joint of the nearest arm. With a gentle movement of his fingers, he let the Deku Nut fly. It grew to full size the moment it left his weapon, then struck with a flash of light. The targeted arm swung into its counterpart, and both ground to a halt with an air-wrenching sound of metal warring with metal.

Human sounds rose as the machine's faded. Link guessed the Power Charm that drove it had some basic safety features bespelled into it. Imprecations mingled with murmurings of fear at their employer's expected displeasure. The largest of those present, a Goron with a permanent scowl literally etched in his face thanks to some unfortunate natural markings, glared up at the trees. Proxi immediately darted behind the Hylian. The Goron's eyes flickered past Link a few times, but his search went in vain, and the diminutive Hylian grinned. "Din burn that kid!" the logger rumbled. Link frowned. Gorons aren't supposed to be like that. It wasn't just his attitude, though. He looked so...Hylian. The swirling marks on his chest and belly were right, but the boy remembered Gorons who were literal stone, pot-bellied but with the strength of the red earth itself.

"Careful, boss," one of the Beorcs whispered, eyes darting back and forth while he twisted his hands together. "I'm not so sure She's on our side." Link's memory flickered to a picture of the Maiden of Fire from The Legend of Zelda and the Four Swords Adventure, a Goron heroine with crimson hair. They're not supposed to have hair. Link shook his head. Where did that come from?

"Cork it, junior," the Goron replied curtly. "If we don't get some Deku wood soon, we're the ones who'll get cut down to size." He gazed at the vile device almost mournfully. "That was my third chopper, too. I was so sure this one could handle the brat..."

#Link, no,# Proxi sent telepathically. The boy suppressed the urge he'd been forming; Link had been about to stand and tell the Goron off. Instead, he watched them mutter in frustration and warp out as they'd arrived. Farore's Wind left nothing but a gentle breeze where the loggers had been.

#How do you do that?# Link replied, as amazed as ever. Only Mido ever knew me so... the Hylian choked up a bit at the memory of his mentor, then shook it off and focused his resolve once more. #Well, we've got to do something. Sooner or later that Goron's going to come up with a machine I can't stop with a branch or a Deku Nut.#

Proxi darted to his side, bobbing in place. #Please trust me, Link. I...just have this feeling. Someone's going to help us. I know it.# The Hylian sighed and nodded.

The King of Hyrule, rescued from Death itself by the limitless power of the Triforce, smiled down at the Hero. His court stood at respectful attention, while his only child sat by his side, beaming joyfully. Link, the destined Hero and Knight-Champion of Hyrule, bowed before His Majesty, one knee on the ground along with his gaze. Behind the Hero, three nearly-identical counterparts in red, blue, and purple watched with enormous grins. "And what reward," the monarch asked with a pleased certainty, "would the Hero ask for himself?"

"My only desire," Link replied, his voice catching only for a second, "is something neither the Triforce nor the Crown can grant me." He had managed to speak evenly and clearly, but his eyes were still locked onto the floor.

"Link," Zelda whispered, and his gaze was drawn, inexorably, to hers. Those eyes, he thought reverently. A strange deja vu struck him from lifetimes past, but the thought was dim and distant. All that was real was Zelda, barely ten feet away, and yet completely unreachable without...

"In Hyrule," His Majesty replied gently, "none may bar the path of true hearts, whether peasant or king." With that, Zelda stood, strode to the Hero, and knelt before him. She took his hands in hers and guided him back to his feet. Unable to hold in the feelings any more, he wrapped her in his arms and kissed her. The roaring cheer echoed around him. His dream of knighthood had finally come true. The Triforce itself had blessed the land. Nothing mattered but Zelda. Ganon and Vaati are gone at last. This moment... their lips parted. all the happily-ever-after I'll ever need. Zelda hugged him gently, welcoming him home.

Link il'Kiri shook his head and came back to himself. "I...yes. Of course I trust you, Proxi." He nodded. "Let's go."

~ o ~ o ~ o ~

Part I: Ocarina

Chapter One: The Last Kokiri

"So, who's up for heartcakes?" Orielle asked, holding up one of the sweets in question. The ladies on the blanket chuckled and sighed in equal measure. Karane snatched the small cake from Orielle's grasp and popped it into her mouth, grinning insouciantly even as she chewed. "Hey, snatching cakes is my job!" the young Zora mock-objected.

"An average picnic lunch with the Princess of Hyrule," Kagerin quipped, leaning casually against a nearby tree. He would have looked no different from any local teen were it not for the blades on his hips. Though dressed all in deep purple, the swords – and his deep red eyes – were the only visible signs of his Sheikah heritage.

Midona shook her head, smiling as she did. "Leave off, Rin-Rin, we're having fun." Kagerin straightened, permitting himself a slight scowl, as the three younger ladies laughed.

Princess Zelda watched her friends with a contented heart that seemed to come too rarely of late. Karane and Orielle were the closest in age and camaraderie alike, though as different as night and day. The Zora princess was as much scholar as Sage, and the small pile of books between Orielle and the princess revealed their primary mutual interest. Orielle's hair-like tendrils quivered with delight whenever she found a new tome. She has to be pulling my leg, Zelda thought, not for the first time, remembering the Zora princess' claim that her people once had fish-like protrusions in place of hair. Fin tails and hammerhead eyes, indeed, the princess mused. Lady Karane, on the other hand, was a thousand pounds of energy in a hundred-pound package, ready to dance with boys or blades at a moment's notice. She was Hylian-born and spoke often of knighthood, but Zelda had long lost track of how many times she'd heard someone say that Karane should have been born Gerudo. The redhead was still attacking her heartcake with zeal.

Midona's eyes were a bright red that revealed her Sheikah origins. Zelda remembered wondering why her mother had assigned her a second bodyguard when she had Impa. Even at seven, she thought, I should have realized that Midona was not simply a guardian. Though the Sheikah noblewoman had taught Zelda a few more direct lessons – mostly the more subtle Sheikah arts, much to her mother's chagrin – their friendship had been practically a second education for the young princess. I just wish I could figure out how we actually became friends. I mean, she's sixteen. Karane and I are twelve, and Orielle's thirteen. Zelda couldn't understand it. Every other lady Midona's age Zelda knew of could barely tolerate girls who were too young to be "interested" in boys.

The two nearby adults watched with a mix of alert wariness and carefully contained amusement. Impa, her lifelong companion, sat about six feet away, cross-legged and serene. Zelda knew from experience that the lithe blonde could incapacitate almost anything instantly, and that her casual demeanor was as much an illusion as the flowing sky-blue dress that hid her Sheikah garb. Tyto, her counterpart from the Phoenix Knights, was a tall Goron whose calm seemed Sheikah-like as well. He, however, wore the armor that had been the Order's traditional garb since before known history, and carried the sword and shield that only knights were permitted to bear. His pleasant smile could have seemed mocking on another's face, but on Tyto it merely looked indulgent.

At last, Karane swallowed her heartcake. "So, what do the rest of you think about this 'last Kokiri' everyone's talking about?"

"Hah. 'Everyone?' In Saria City, maybe," Orielle replied, gesturing at the towers visible past the gently rolling hills. "Last I heard, the jabber in the capitol was all about that Beorc agitator, Knox." She grinned defiantly at Karane's folded arms and glare. "Okay, so the rumors of a living Kokiri are interesting." The Zora's grin faded, replaced with an expression of focus and concentration. "The chances they're true are pretty much non-existent, though. The Kokiri phase of fairy development was bypassed millennia ago. The last of their kind became a Great Fairy about the time Hyrule absorbed Tantari, about...eighteen centuries ago."

"Know-it-all," Karane chuckled, glancing at Faron Forest, then back at Orielle.

The Zora grinned back. "Touche." She nudged Zelda. "Are you going to check out the forest, Zel? You wanted to see it again anyway, right? Catch sight of a fairy, maybe?"

Zelda pursed her lips, then squeezed them to one side impishly. All at once, she nodded and stood. "Great idea, Orielle." The princess hiked up her skirt and jogged to Impa's side, then grabbed the Sheikah's hand and tugged.

Impa exhaled and stood. "Why do I let you drag me into these things, again?"

"Because I'm cute?" the princess asked, turning her biggest, most adorable eyes on the bodyguard. Tyto and Kagerin sighed in unison. When Impa's shoulder's sagged, Zelda knew she'd won. Her grin broadening, she pulled Impa to the nearby path as fast as she could run, her Sheikah protector loping along at an easy pace.

"We'll wait here," Karane said dryly as princess and bodyguard rounded the first bend. Zelda waved to her just before losing sight of her friends.

"Come on, Impa!" Princess Zelda blurted, insistently leading her bodyguard and tutor further into the park. "We're almost there!"

Impa shrugged indulgently and permitted her diminutive charge to tug her towards the legendary woods. "Honestly, my girl, the forest is not going anywhere."

Zelda pulled Impa along a little less insistently, but even though this was her third visit to Kokiri Park, she was more excited than ever. The funny thing is, I don't even know why. The young princess loved the park, especially the fabled woodlands that bordered it. The exquisite Fairy Fountain, said to have been carved by one of her legendary namesakes, radiated with ancient magic. The park itself was almost a wilderness, alive and vibrant, safe primarily thanks to the rangers who guarded it. Yet Faron Forest was what drew her here, for the rainbow-like variety of fairies that lived within. Sunrise was a particularly magical time here, the clear, clean light giving everything an almost divine radiance.

A distant humming sound caught Zelda's attention. It was strange, metallic and discordant, unlike anything she'd ever heard before. The princess frowned slightly. Her protector froze, her ear flicking like a wolf's. Just as she was about to ask Impa about the sound, a second noise joined the first, a whining buzz that tore distantly at the air. "Impa? Does that sound feel...wrong, to you?"

Impa grimaced, nodding wordlessly. Her hand tightened on Zelda's, and the princess knew the Sheikah wouldn't allow the girl to tow her any further. "I am sorry, child, but we must leave. I will report this to the rangers."

"Hm." Zelda nodded absently, entirely agreeing with her nanny. I'd like to know what's making that sound, though –

A battle cry, a flash of light, and an explosive bang stopped the princess in her mental tracks. "Gods!" she whispered. Her first thought was that the fairies were doing...something, but her intuition was certain of another presence. "Impa–"

"Ganon," Impa spat. Zelda gasped. She'd never heard Impa swear so viciously before. The Sheikah gestured and her dress vanished, revealing the garb of her people. Her cloak covered her mouth and right arm, the golden rays at its edge making it look like a wing. The rest was blue with gold trim, the Sheikah eye on her abdomen, flared boots leaving her toes exposed. Impa turned and locked eyes with the princess. They had never seemed so utterly crimson to the girl before. "You stay with me and do nothing other than defend yourself unless I say otherwise," Impa said gruffly. "Is that understood, young lady?"

"Yes ma'am!" Zelda replied, nodding vigorously. She'd been sure that she'd have to find a way past Impa, were that even possible. As always, Impa's a step ahead of me, Zelda thought with faint amusement. Then they were racing across the park so swiftly that the child had no energy to spare, even for thought.

Seconds later, they crested a small hill to find a terrible rust-red machine thrashing about. It had human-like arms, but they ended not in hands, but in blades that spun too fast for the eye to track. Zelda's mana-sight immediately picked up the malfunctioning Power Charm at its heart. Pipes had been placed in the machine's rear to exhale the faintly toxic clouds that the errant Charm exuded. There were several Beorcs around the machine, led by a Goron, much to Zelda's surprise. Impa sank into Zelda's shadow with her Sheikah Art.

They were all rushing around trying to catch a little green blur. A boy? Zelda wondered, realizing she was right an instant later. He was no taller than she, but he moved with speed to rival Impa's. A tiny, winged, pale blue ball followed him unerringly. With a fairy! He's a Kokiri! Maybe the last–

"They're attacking him?" Zelda whispered indignantly. And indeed they were, swinging sticks, fists and the occasional wand at the boy. None of them came close. The fairy child returned the favor with a slingshot, his Deku Seeds pelting his foes in foreheads, stomachs and lower areas. His weapons were merely irritants, but the adults seemed to be trying to do the fairy boy – perhaps the last of his kind – serious harm. "HEY! STOP THAT!" she roared. The entire tableau froze. Impa reappeared from the princess' shadow, pressing fingertips to forehead in a clear sign of frustration.

The instant the boy stopped moving, Princess Zelda was struck with an unshakeable sense of deja vu. Tousled blond hair peeked out from a conical hat that trailed from his head like a tail. A weathered, discolored green tunic hung loosely around his body, sleeves long since torn away. The leather boots were the only things he possessed that seemed in good repair. Most striking were his piercing, brilliant blue eyes. Even at their distance, she could feel them as much as see them.

The boy had spotted her as well. He yelped in wordless alarm, leaping away in a passable backflip to land in the lower branches of the forest's edge. As if to emphasize his intent, he fired a few more seeds from his sling and punctuated the attack with a Deku Nut.

The Goron snarled in frustration. "Stop that boy! I'll deal with the woman and her child," he ordered, heading toward Zelda. Meanwhile, the machine started up again, albeit with unhealthy sounds of grinding and clanking. Zelda folded her arms and stared sternly at the oncoming Goron. The child of Din reached her, then gaped in a most satisfying manner. "Your...Your Highness?!"

"That is correct," she replied, attempting to replicate her mother's stern-but-fair court tone. "I am Princess Zelda Nohan Davnesi, heir to the throne of Hyrule. This," she added, gesturing behind her, "is Impa Karikan. Perhaps you've heard of her," Zelda added dryly.

"Our operation is entirely legal," the Goron replied. It was the fastest she'd ever heard one of his people speak. "I have the paperwork here." He gestured, summoning his license from fairy space. Zelda held out her hand, and the Goron only hesitated for an instant before handing it over.

A quick glance seemed to prove the Goron's words true. It looks legitimate, all right – except Faron Forest is off-limits to all humans, regardless of tribe. It is the strict domain of the fairy folk and those they welcome. The license was apparently ratified by the Hyrulean Parliament's Subcommittee on Enchanted Affairs, but there was no sign that they had received consent from the woodlands' natives. That means either someone in Parliament has been very naughty, or this is...a forgery. Zelda nearly smiled when she looked more closely at the seal, detecting the familiar weave of conjuration. Glancing back up, she noted that the Goron's belief in the license was sincere. Gorons were not noted for their deceptive abilities, and the princess' empathy read his concern clearly. His only worry was that she might exercise royal prerogative to override what he thought was a legal license. "I am sorry, master Goron," she said simply, passing her hand over the Hylian Phoenix Seal, "but you have been deceived. This is a forgery." On cue, the false seal reversed colors to red-on-gold.

The Goron nearly fell over from the jolt, head shooting forward while his back arched. With her magic, the threads of spellcraft became clear even to the naked eye. "What – this – I swear, Your Highness, I would never have agreed to this if I had known!" he gasped, horrified.

Zelda nodded gravely. "I believe you, sir. Now we must...oh dear." The machine had nearly reached the forest, but the glow from beneath the trees hinted that it was not the princess who was too late, but the loggers.

~ o ~ o ~ o ~

Link bared his teeth. #Proxi,# he sent, forcing his mental tone to be neutrally polite. It infuriated him to be hiding in the shadows like this, but the Goron had stopped. The girl seemed to have him in hand. That's a big help. Still, the rest is up to us.

#We're ready, Link,# Proxi replied, her own mind as focused as a hungry archer's aim.

The boy nodded, straightened, and strode out towards the machine again. "Last chance," he shouted, only partly to ensure he was heard above the monster's racket. "Leave now."

As expected, the men laughed harshly. "Hey, you wanna stand there, pointy-ears, no skin off our noses," one shouted back.

"Plenty off yours, but that's just a bonus!" another laughed bitingly.

Proxi joined Link over his left shoulder. The loggers didn't react until her sister joined her, hovering above the boy's right shoulder, and their laughter weakened. When another three fairies appeared around him, the jeers died away. A dozen slowly emerging from the forest reduced the Beorcs to worried mutters. The next fifty silenced them entirely. The hundred after that sparked sounds of frightened anger. When even Link lost count, the mass of Light and magic left the crew scrambling away to pleas for mercy and impotent shouts of frustration.

He simply, wordlessly pointed at the vile device. As one, the fairies of Faron Forest descended on it. Magic long forgotten among the human tribes of Hyrule sparked and flared all across the monstrosity. It imploded, a few bolts and levers flying out of the ruins as if for emphasis. When the horrible screeching clamor had finally subsided, Link lowered his arm. As if by a single thought, the fairies flew in unison back to the forest, vanishing in its myriad shadows, leaving only Proxi at Link's side. The boy turned to leave, then paused when he saw a handful of the invaders sneaking towards them. He glanced coolly over his shoulder. Wisely, the small group froze. "Understand this. They do not serve me. I serve them. What you might have seen as my interference, was actually their patience. After four of those things, their patience thins." The only sound of response was a single Beorc swallowing nervously. "Leave. Don't come back." With that, he strode back toward the only home he'd ever known.

A handful of crystal-clear notes from a flute paralyzed him. He had never heard the music before, but he knew it as he knew his own magic, his own heartbeat. What is that song?

~ o ~ o ~ o ~

Princess Zelda played the notes she'd known before she spoke her first words. She played them more determinedly than ever before. I play Zelda's Lullaby to awaken a friend. Irony and destiny walk hand in hand. The boy stared for a long moment, then started walking toward her. With his verdant tunic – far too big for his underfed frame – and the unmistakable hat, the lad approaching her was the very image of the Hero as a child. She felt a little like a different legend, though, the fabled Green Piper entrancing the fairy folk. Ten feet away. Gods, those eyes are so blue –

A rock flew towards her. Zelda stumbled back, but managed to evade the stone. It landed at her feet – then glowed and shot straight up! Impa's Shadow magic immediately surrounded her, protecting the princess, but the stone flew between her hands, knocking the flute into the air. "No! My Ocarina!" she blurted. The boy gasped in time with her.

When the Shadow receded, she was in Impa's arms, and one of the crimson-clad Beorc loggers was holding her treasured flute aloft in triumph. Two of his friends in red joined him, and the trio ran off, the others gaping at them. Zelda cast Nayru's Eye, and the logger who'd stolen her ocarina glowed faintly with psychic's power. Mind over matter. She frowned and tried to pull the flute back, but it slipped from her grasp. Even I can't touch it with magic... her head bowed in defeat. In spite of herself, she sniffled.

A sound of spraying dirt and rushing feet brought Zelda's head back up with a snap. The boy was chasing them. For an instant, she started to smile with joy. Then she realized a child no bigger than herself was chasing three grown men, one of whom was a psychic. "No! Wait, it's too dangerous!" she cried.

The boy laughed. Zelda's worry turned to outrage. This isn't funny! She looked up at her Sheikah protector. "Impa–"

"No," her nanny replied, understanding but implacable. The tall woman's grip tightened almost imperceptibly. "You are my duty. The boy will have to manage on his own."

Zelda watched the quartet vanish over a rolling hillside. Be careful, my Hero...

~ o ~ o ~ o ~

To Link il'Kiri, everything had finally become clear. Weeks of unease and distant guilt melted away. No frustrated loggers who don't understand. No worrying about men trying to keep their jobs. Just three thieves who need a good thumping. The smile on his face felt genuine for the first time since...

Since Mido died.

Had it really been three years – three quiet, endless years – since the only parent he'd ever known vanished in motes of Light, a dozen arrows shot by Ganon cultists quivering in his chest? Only survival had mattered since then. I was lost. Adrift. Empty. Without Proxi, he had no idea what he would have done. Died, maybe. Who knows if I could have managed on my own? I was just nine.

He moved faster. Well, I'm twelve now. Almost grown up, really. He ignored Proxi's giggle. I can manage a lot more than surviving.

#Well, don't go overboard,# Proxi replied, sounding a bit worried to the young Hylian. #That's three adults, thieves no less, and one of them's a psychic.#

#This might take two moments, then,# Link replied with a mental laugh. Proxi's explosive sigh echoed in his mind, but they were silent and invisible to the three big, clumsy men ahead of them. After a few minutes the trio slowed to a stop, laughing in triumph while they gulped for breath. Huh. Tired already? Sad.

"Whoo-hoo!" the psychic whooped, tossing the oval, sapphire flute to one of his companions. The second man bobbled it for a moment before catching it. "Talk about the jackpot!"

The man who held the flute looked at his companion and scowled. "Are you nuts? The whole Deku wood thing's a bust. Witchy-poo's gonna use our hides for tent-patches!" He threw the flute back at the psychic. "What's she gonna do with that, play the blues?" Link slowly shinnied up the nearest tree.

The psychic shook his head with mock-sadness, then grinned maliciously. "This, my attention-challenged friend, is ranked second on the Cult's artifact list, and it might as well be first unless the Hero shows up with a misshapen blade on a kitschy hilt." Link gritted his teeth without knowing why. The thief waved the flute in the air for emphasis. " the Ocarina of Time."

The third man gaped in shock. All three were silent for a moment. Link froze just as he reached a passable branch. "You're putting me on," the third crook muttered, staring at the odd flute. The boy relaxed in relief and crawled onward.

"I have the Sight, my friend," the psychic replied confidently. "That's why I was the one really in charge of our little logging expedition. That's why I'm tine-ranked in the Cult. And that is why I know they won't give a Scrub's back-hole about the wood. Old Dinrova's going to bust her broom over this." He tossed the ocarina up jauntily.

Link shot down, grabbing the flute in mid-air, then landed with a roll several feet away. He bounced to his feet and put his empty hand on his hip. All three men whirled to stare at him. The boy grinned, holding up the flute for emphasis. "So. Who's Dinrova?" he asked nonchalantly.

Proxi growled in frustration. #Run, you dope!# she demanded. Link laughed and complied, dashing towards the city. #Are you trying to scare me to death?#

#Come on, Proxi, it'll be fun!# Link replied. With explosive suddenness, Kokiri Park gave way to the streets of Saria City. Glowing blue-green lines channeled the Power Charm network that drove most of Hyrule, while the sounds of bustling Hyruleans filled the air. Directly in front of him was the thruway that curved around the city. Charm-wagons and airsleds raced blithely past. Skywood loftwings soared lazily overhead. #Brace yourself,# he added in the hope of mollifying his companion, then dove into the street.

Proxi's squawk told him she wasn't about to be mollified, but by then Link was too far along to worry about that. He dove out of an incoming wagon's path, rolled under an airsled as it shot overhead, vaulted to his feet right on the column of solid Light dividing the road, then leaped to the other side the moment a gap presented itself.

He laughed at the sight of the three cultists standing on the other side of the road, cursing furiously. The psychic glared, then slammed his fist to the ground. The enchanted column rippled, then conduit and Light burst into the air in a fair imitation of an explosion. People screamed, wagons and airsleds alike swerving desperately. Link's good humor vanished. Goddess! he thought wildly. It was one thing for them to chase him, but if they were going to endanger bystanders... Time to get serious about this. He ran down sidewalks, passing towers that stretched as much as ten stories into the air, while passers by stared in amazement. The trio gave chase once more, shoving annoyed pedestrians aside as they tried desperately to avoid falling behind any farther. Link quickly tucked the ocarina into fairy space, then looked for an opportunity to distract his pursuers.

Link whooped in triumph, golden hair flashing in the sunlight. The green-clad child slid under an airsled hovering a mere foot off the ground, then rolled to his feet without slowing for an instant. The crimson-clad men howled in protest as they ran headlong into the sled, grunts of frustration followed by booming protests of outrage from the muscular Goron pilot. The boy's assailants blanched, making a wide arc around the sky chariot in a desperate attempt to avoid losing their prey entirely.

Meanwhile, if a fairy could have kittens, Proxi was ready to unleash a litterful. #Stop messing around! We've got to lose them!#

Again, the boy laughed, seeming fearless as he pulled one lower eyelid down with a finger and stuck out his tongue at the furious trio. He rounded yet another corner, then spun behind a parked loftwing and flattened himself against its side, tucking his legs up against the seat. The three men turned and gaped at the sight of an apparently empty back alley. One of them looked under the loftwing to no avail. They looked around desperately, then split up, and the lad's eyes sparkled as he fought the urge to laugh yet again. So easy.

He quickly turned serious. That was fun, but there's a nice girl back in the park, waiting for her flute. Checking the fairy space tucked in his belt pouch, he reassured himself that the sapphire instrument remained safe. He darted past the beautiful pearlescent towers, peering cautiously at each turn, until he reached the safety of the park. There, he relaxed and ran.

Soon, he caught sight of the young lady whose music had overwhelmed him mere minutes before. Link slowed, taking a good look at her for the first time. She was wearing a rose-pink tabard-y thing, embroidered with the Triforce and the Hylian phoenix just below the belt, over a pale blue dress. #It's called a pinafore,# Proxi explained about the tabard bit, and Link nodded absently. Her red-gold hair was mostly covered by a white veil held in place by a golden circlet, also marked with the Triforce. Her eyes were a deeper blue than his, eyes that seemed to go on forever. Those...eyes...

A whirlwind burst out of his own shadow, gripping the back of his collar before he could think, let alone move. He reached back to pull the assailant off, but Link's hand had hardly passed his belt before he was a foot off the ground. Link immediately changed tactics, summoning his blade to slice off his belt. I'll be out of this oversized tunic before he can say –

"Impa!" the girl cried, preventing the boy from using his knife and his assailant from doing anything more. Link craned his head back, amazed at the name he'd heard, and saw close-cropped golden hair, a single thin braid framing a long, handsome face. It was her eyes that stood out, much as the girl's had, bright red as the legends described. A Sheikah...

The titaness chuckled and gently put him down. Link took the opportunity to look her over, but only saw a tall, thin figure in blue and gold, who looked as if she could wrestle a Gerudo with one hand and a Goron with the other. "Sorry, pup," Impa said, expertly smoothing out the boy's tunic with the same hand that had gripped it so implacably. "Did you get it?"

The boy grinned and pulled the strange, potato-shaped flute from fairy space. The girl let out a delighted cry. "My Ocarina!" she gasped. Her voice was musical in itself, and something in Link stirred, lightening at the sound. "Oh, thank you!" Impa nodded to herself, though the lad couldn't imagine why, as he handed the ocarina back to the girl. Strange. I could almost hear her capitalize the word. She cleared her throat and straightened, excited girl giving way to dignified young lady. All at once, the dirt on his knees and nose and the patches on his tunic felt out of place in front of this noble child. "Please, forgive my manners. I am Zelda Nohan Davnesi. What is your name?"

The boy's eyes bulged. The princess?! Suddenly, Impa's presence made sense. Zelda...and Impa. Goddess. That really is the Ocarina of Time. For a moment, his jaw moved, but no sound passed his lips. Finally, he was able to form a single word. "Link," he said hoarsely. And Link. Me. Eep.

"Link," she replied with a smile. "A well-omened name." Her smile faded as she took the lad in with quick, penetrating eyes. "If I see clearly however, it seems that my Hero has not eaten well of late. Would you allow us to at least provide you with a good meal as a reward for your brave service?"

Link's lips twitched briefly. He'd heard stories of Zelda's superhuman insight, and she was right – he hadn't eaten all that well since...the boy shoved the thought aside. I can manage on my own, and I didn't help – Zelda! Hylia have mercy! – because she's a princess or to get a reward. He started to shake his head, but Impa cleared her throat and leaned over. "Zelda would be heartbroken if you refused her hospitality," she whispered, and he could feel the warrior holding back her grin. "It would be a grave affront to her honor, and the honor of her House. I'm sure you didn't know that, but now that you do, you wouldn't insult her so, correct?"

The Hylian boy sighed. Trapped. I hate that feeling. Still, the hope in the girl's eyes revealed the truth in Impa's words, whatever other motives she might have had. Link nodded. Zelda lit up like a star, and the boy's reluctance melted in her radiance. "I know just the place," she insisted, taking his hand with surprising strength and towing him across the park. Impa padded behind, a guardian wolf for a child goddess. Goddess. What have we gotten ourselves into?

#Whaddaya mean 'we,' fairy boy?# Proxi grumped, but remained loyally above one shoulder. #Besides, I don't see how a free meal is a problem. Fairies can last for weeks on a single Deku Seed, but you need something a little more substantial.#

Link nodded absently as he trailed after the princess. A dark thought trickled through his mind. It's a good thing this Zelda has a Sheikah Impa. He glanced back at the silent warrior, mind flickering out. Impa caught his mental probing as quickly as a fairy would have, her psychic might forging a bond. #My lady, I got a good enough look at one of those men that I saw a mark on his collar. The Fire Medallion, inverted.#

Impa nodded, saying nothing even in his mind. They mentioned a cult. Could the Cult of Ganon have returned? For a moment, Link thought of Mido's killers and wondered if the cycle had begun anew. Then he scoffed, almost laughing. The King of Evil hasn't shown his ugly face in over three thousand years. The Hero Eternal slew the beast in that duel for the Triforce ages ago. Then they reached Zelda's friends, a blanket and basket, the smell of fresh heartcakes found him, and all other worries vanished.

~ o ~ o ~ o ~

"Look at him eat," Zelda said, chuckling at the lad doing battle with his food at the long dinner table. And winning. The enchantments on Link's tunic had been restored, and he had proper leggings to go with it. He looked like an undersized copy of the legendary Hero of Time, complete with blue fairy. "You'd think he'd never met a decent meal before."

Impa clicked her tongue in mild disapproval, leaning against the door jamb. "Even in Hyrule, there are a few who go without. I fear their numbers grow alongside the Beorc troubles."

The princess' head drooped slightly, her ears almost wilting. "Mother is doing all she can," Zelda whispered.

"That she is," the Sheikah said more kindly. "Hylians have never prospered so, and most Beorcs are blind to magic. Many politicians among both races inflame their people."

"Cia," Zelda grumbled, eyes narrowing. "She wouldn't want to be Queen so badly if she had to actually do the job for a – a week. A day." She glanced over her shoulder for a moment. Behind them, the cooks prepared meals for the rest of the castle staff. Just running Saria City's royal keep would probably be too much for that – that bigot.

The young Hylian was surprised to hear one of Impa's rare chuckles. "Perhaps not." Zelda's protector folded her arms and watched Link dig into a cucco leg. The wreckage of several dishes sprawled across the table, their foodstuffs ruthlessly torn apart. "It has been my experience that Cia cares far more for the pursuit than the pursued. She is never satisfied, even by triumph."

"Hmph. It's not the chase Cia loves. She wants more," Zelda insisted, indulging in a moment of irritability. "Greed drives her, not challenge." She waved dismissively. "I refuse to worry about that obscene Hylian supremacist today." The girl couldn't help but smile again. Link polished off the cucco leg, dropped it into his plate, then leaned back in his chair and sighed contentedly. "His name is Link. Link il'Kiri, and no middle name. When I needed his help, he did not hesitate. He is nearly without fear. Can he not be the Hero?"

"He remembers no middle name," Impa replied cautiously. "Given the circumstances, that hardly means he does not have one." Zelda paused, but the Sheikah could muster no other retort.

"If that's the best you can do..." the princess turned her grin on her bodyguard. Impa looked back at the child impassively. "Impa, he was raised in the forest. He has a fairy companion. Love of Nayru, he's wearing a Kokiri tunic. Not even a replica – a tunic given him by the last of the Kokiri line. This must mean something."

"Yes, but what?" Impa whispered. "The Hero of Destiny slew Ganon and Vaati three thousand years ago. He saved the Shrine Sages, claimed the Triforce and set all things to right. It is the one 'Legend of Zelda' that is recorded in history books rather than retold through myth and legend." She tapped her arm with one finger. "Surely the Hero and Princess have reincarnated many times since then, but the two times they were identified, they had relatively happy, stable lives."

"Yes, yes, sisters in one, and husband and wife among minor noble houses in the other," Zelda replied, one hand waving dismissively. "They've enjoyed Hyrule's hard-won peace. Why would that not be true again?"

"My child, your wisdom can be staggering, but when you do not wish to see a thing, your blindness is as complete as your vision is in all else," Impa insisted. Zelda blushed, teeth biting daintily at her lower lip. "Those two lives you mentioned did not fit the pattern of legend. Zelda was one of several children, not even royal blood the first time. Link's parents lived and raised him." Link burped, then covered his mouth and looked around in alarm. Proxi laughed with a bell-like sound. "This child is already a trained warrior, gifted in magic, and has lost his parents. Twice. By the age of twelve." Impa stared at her princess, and Zelda felt as if her soul lay bare before the Sheikah heroine. "I know I do not have to tell you what lengths your parents have gone to in trying to give you siblings."

Zelda glanced from Impa to the child of the forest. She took a long, calming breath. "The truth can only help," she said, more timidly than she'd intended. "If the troubles have returned at last, being prepared for them is surely better than being caught with our – mana down," she amended quickly. "I do not believe that they have, but surely it cannot hurt to give our new friend a home...can it?"

For several moments, the only sound was Link picking at the remains of the smorgasbord, a drink here, a munch there. Can it? Zelda worried wildly. Finally, Impa placed a hand on Zelda's shoulder. "No. I suppose not," the Sheikah said, nodding in the boy's direction. "Of course, there's the matter of convincing him."

The princess' smile died aborning. She turned and watched the boy...Link...relax in a chair several sizes too big for him. "He can decide what is best for himself," she replied, her voice almost a whisper again. Steeling herself, the girl entered the dining room to join the Hero.

~ o ~ o ~ o ~

Link sighed contentedly. I haven't had a meal like that since...ever, really. He leaned forward and looked down the table at the wreckage he'd wrought. His eyes grew to nearly match a few emptied saucers. Oooh. Not even close.

#I'm beginning to see things Zelda's way here,# Proxi added, radiating sedate satisfaction. #This is a nice set-up. And feeling you with a full stomach isn't hurting matters any.# She flew lazily to his hat, then slipped into his hair and dropped herself on his scalp. #Gods, this feels good.#

#Mmm,# Link sent neutrally, looking around. Tapestries of exquisite beauty hung on the walls, each of them adorned with a different tale of Hyrule. About a third of them portrayed the Hero, though they spanned every one of the legendary incarnations. They ranged from one of him donning the Minish Cap to the triptych that displayed the Hero of Destiny rescuing Zelda from Vaati, defeating Agahnim and destroying Ganon. Once and for all. That's how the Light Charms show the tale, at least.

Link frowned, absently nudging the well-cleaned bone of a cucco leg with one finger. #Proxi? I never really thought about it much, you think...# He felt Proxi's mind turn knife-sharp in an instant, worry pulsing from her. #Well, I'm a Link. I was raised in the forest by Mido. The Mido. I mean, Hylia, look how I'm dressed.# He smiled ironically and looked up at the image of the child-Link pulling the Master Sword free with both hands, about to become the Hero of Time. #I don't really feel like a hero, but...#

#You're thinking about it too much,# Proxi replied. He could feel her effort to remain calm in the face of her worry, but her presence was soothing all the same. #I think you're more than brave enough to have been the Hero, but so what if you were? Link Smith-son slew the Wind Mage and the King of Evil long ago.# She glanced at the triptych, then back at Link, laughing gently. #Though I suppose you might rescue Zelda from Tingle.#

Link laughed in spite of himself. "Oh, Proxi, that's not nice!"

"It can't be that bad," Zelda said, smiling as she approached, "if you laugh so well at it."

The boy spluttered wildly, laughter vanishing in his surprise. He leaped to his feet and bowed slightly. "Your Highness." His stomach objected at the sudden motion, and he held his abdomen and moaned. "Ohhh. I think I overdid it a little."

Immediately, Zelda was at Link's side, her fingers gently probing his midsection. "You'll be fine. You did overeat just a bit – which is understandable – but it's not bad." She glanced down, then back to his eyes, her smile returning. "Just rest for a while. Let your body digest that meal or three you had." Link let the princess direct him back to the chair.

With a sigh, he sank back into the thin cushion. "Thank you, Your Highness. For the food, and – and everything." He closed his eyes, imagining what it would be like to eat like that every day. Heh. I'd probably look like Darunia in a year. Maybe roll like him, too. He shook his head. The forest needs me, and I've been enough of a bother already. "I hope you don't mind if I spend the night, but I can leave in the morning for sure."

Zelda chewed her lip for a moment. #You know,# Proxi sent casually, #fairies have been taking care of themselves for a long time.#

Not letting the scowl in his mind reach his lips, Link turned his thoughts to a retort, but Zelda spoke before he'd worked out a reply. "First, please call me Zelda," she said, and Link felt his heart race a touch faster. "Second, I won't have you thinking you're a bother. Besides, this Ocarina," she continued, summoning the beautiful sapphire flute from fairyspace, "is one of the greatest treasures of Hyrule, even if most grown-ups won't believe it." She straightened, her expression becoming deeply serious. "We are greatly in your debt, and would reward you beyond a simple meal."

"Simple? That..." Link began. His mind locked up when he guessed at what Zelda was implying. "Wait, what..." He swallowed. Okay, Link, slow down. Think. If Zelda is right, this is the Ocarina of Time. The Ocarina of Time. Link tried to imagine what that had to do with Zelda's reward. Proxi's wisecrack sunk in. The boy's jaw dropped. "You mean...stay here?"

"Oh, no," Zelda replied, and the Hylian blinked in confusion for a moment before she added, "you'd come with us, to Castle City, of course."

Link's mind ground entirely to a halt. He spent several seconds with his mouth hanging open. Ultimately, it fell to Proxi to push on his chin until his jaw clicked shut. That helped his brain restart. "Castle City? The capitol?" he blurted, more for something to say than anything else.

"Where else," Impa said from behind him, and the boy jumped six inches into the air, "would you expect the Crown Princess to live?" Link whirled as the voice registered, baring his teeth, but then he caught her gentle smile and couldn't quite let out his retort. "You would hardly be without purpose, lad, if you worry on that account. I have no student, and you are strong in body and mind." She squatted to look him in the eye. "Your reflexes are excellent, your aim is true, and your instincts are ideal. Most importantly, the fairies trust you, and that is a rare and precious thing."

"Yeah, on that subject," Proxi said dryly, prompting Zelda to gasp in amazement and even Impa to blink, "Link and I are a package deal. Just making it clear, all right?"

The boy shrugged. "Proxi decided I was 'her Kokiri' a while back," he explained sheepishly, "even though we both knew I was a Hylian. We're not really bonded that way, at least not the way Mido described it, but we do share a mind link, and some fairy magic."

Zelda nodded, curtsying a bit. "We'd be honored, fair Proxi."

"Um...right. Your Highness." Proxi dimmed enough that Link could briefly discern a feminine outline, but her fairy "blush" ended quickly, her glow returning to full strength. "So, when do we leave? Everything Link owns is in fairyspace anyway." Impa nodded and stood.

Link gaped at his friend, blinking. "Now just a minute! There's still the forest!"

"Link, I already told you fairies can take care of ourselves," Proxi retorted hotly. He sensed her crossing her arms. Uh-oh, Link thought, sighing inwardly. "Besides," she continued more softly, "you're getting so big, it's hard to find enough food for you any more. With the Skull Kids coming back, most of the animals have been scared off."

"Skull Kids?" Zelda asked, head tilting to one side. "What are those?"

As one, Link and Proxi turned and stared in amazement. "You don't know what a Skull Kid is?" Link asked quietly. "I thought they were a big deal in the Ocarina legends."

"Not in the ones I know," Zelda replied, shrugging casually.

Link looked at Proxi, who bobbed in the air in a "shrug" of her own. "I...I'll have to go and say good bye," he said slowly, looking down.

"Oh! Oh, Link you can visit all the time I'm sure," Zelda said quickly. To the Hylian boy, she sounded happy and a little upset all at once. That makes no sense.

Impa sighed. "You will be able to visit," she added, "but you'll have duties as well, pup. Schooling, training, adjusting to a world you can yet scarcely imagine."

Again, Link was stunned. "'s Books? Training? I..." He trailed off, words failing him. I've dreamed for so long...wanted my whole life...and it's all just appearing in front of me like magic. He fought off an urge to pinch himself.

"It's not that bad, really," Zelda explained quickly. "School can really be fun sometimes, and you're very smart, I'm sure you'll learn to read in no time!"

"Mido taught me to read when I was just a kid," he said quietly, still half in shock. Zelda mouthed an "oh" and gently bit her lip again. "I..."

Images of his life flickered through his memory. Mido teaching him the slingshot...Proxi touching his forehead, flowing fairy magic into his mind...eating the first rabbit he'd caught himself...reading The Legend of Zelda and the Twilight Princess to enough fairy children that they lit the pages for him well into the in swordplay with fairies mighty and humble alike...the Great Mido, dying from a dozen cursed arrows, reaching up and calling the nearby city's name with inexplicable joy...

At last, he nodded. He could almost feel an emptiness within being filled. "All right." He turned and bowed to Impa. "I'd be honored, Lady Sheikah." Then he turned and bowed to the princess. "I would still ask for the night to say farewell to my friends, but I am at your service, Your Highness." He straightened, prepared to find a room. One more statement struck him before he could, and he felt nearly compelled to speak it. "No matter when, no matter where…for the sake of Hyrule, and you, Princess Zelda…I shall fight." Again, he bowed, and turned to leave to hide the blush. Well. That was a bit – much.

#I thought you did fine,# Proxi replied proudly.

#Thanks,# Link sent gratefully, then left the room as quickly as decency allowed, to find a room to collapse in. His insides still felt tight and full, and aside from his embarrassment, the young Hylian dearly wanted some place to lie down, rest, and think.

~ o ~ o ~ o ~

Zelda wondered distantly if her face was glowing. "Well. That worked."

Impa leaned over and patted the princess on the shoulder, favoring her with a gentle grin. "Indeed it did." The gifted Sheikah sighed and straightened. "I suppose I should take him in for the time being. Full-time parents will be a necessity, but I should be able to provide for him in the short term."

"If you could handle my diapers," the princess chuckled, "I think you can deal with He of the Bottomless Stomach."

To Zelda's amazement, Impa laughed outright. "In other words, any teenage boy ever? I believe I will ask for a food stipend while he is my guest. Until then," she added, becoming serious again, "you, young lady, have had enough adventure for one day, I think."

The young princess squelched an impulse to object. I am the only heir to the Sacred Throne, she reminded herself firmly. Impa is quite right. There is no law that says I must enjoy it, but... Zelda curtsied. "As you say, Lady Impa."

"Hmph." Impa crossed her arms. "I'm never sure whether to be more worried when you're willful or when you're agreeable."

Zelda smiled to make her teeth gleam. "Why Impa, I know you wouldn't discourage me from being a good girl." She clasped her hands at her waist and looked back at her protector innocently. It took seven seconds for Impa's left eye to twitch. A new record, Zelda thought, feeling only a little wicked.

"...Agreeable. Definitely," Impa decided. "Off with you."

"Yes, ma'am," Zelda said. She curtsied, walking calmly until she was out of the room, then raced through the halls with a feeling like she could fly if ran fast enough. Why did my ignorance of 'Skull Kids' change his mind? she wondered, though it was hard to give the thought too much attention just then. I'll ask later, she decided, darting towards her quarters.

She was not at all surprised to find her ladies in waiting living up to their name. Tyto and Kagerin were playing chess, but Karane, Orielle and Midona looked up like three cats that heard a can opening. They all stared at her like that for a moment, ears quivering. Zelda took a breath to explain what happened, but Karane interrupted with an emphatic, "Well?!"

Zelda grinned. "He's coming back to Castle City with us."

Orielle and Karane shared a high five. Tyto muttered something softly to himself and handed Kagerin a green rupee. "He's the Hero, isn't he?" Orielle asked, still grinning as she played with her hair.

As quick as it had appeared, Zelda's smile vanished. She folded her hands at her waist. All five attendants sighed. "We don't know that," she insisted, refusing to grit her teeth as Karane rolled her eyes. "We don't. At the moment, he's a brave young man who retrieved my Ocarina from a trio of thieves. He's also an orphan in need of food, shelter and tutoring. The solution seems obvious."

"Just remember, Zel," Midona said, her laconic drawl more pronounced than usual, "when you pick up a stray, it owns you."

Orielle huffed at about the same time. "You have to be kidding, Zelda. The tunic, the hat, the moves, the fairy, and we just happen to run into him when you of all people need help? This isn't a mystery for the Sages!"

"It's best that we not jump to conclusions," Zelda insisted. Slowly, her smile returned. "I'm not stupid, Orielle. It's obvious that he's quite likely the Hero." The Zora scholar exhaled forcefully, not quite sounding relieved. "I'm fairly certain that Impa would sense a trap were there one, even if I didn't. The fairy folk certainly vouch for him." She walked to the trio of young noblewomen and sat with them. "Nevertheless, he must find his own destiny, Hero or no. Gods willing, there will be no great crisis for him to face." For an instant, Zelda felt the Shadow shroud her heart. To face...alone? No. Never again.

The others sobered as quickly as she. Orielle scowled. "Ganondorf and Vaati are both long dead. The Hero Eternal ended them at the dawn of history." Zelda carefully said nothing. We all learn this in primary school, heart-sister. Who are you trying to convince?

"There are other threats," Midona said quietly.

Zelda shook her head. "I doubt the Hero has returned to quell racial tension between Hylian and Beorc, Midona." Three ladies took in a breath as one. The crown princess quickly held up a hand. "We'll have plenty of time to get to know Link on the flight back to the capitol. Let's leave him be for now."