He began to gather a sense of his surroundings. A girl who looked like Zelda, but wasn't, waited next to his bed. Daylight fell in through an open door.
The girl spoke as he stirred "What a relief! I thought you'd never wake up!"
A single room seemed to make up the entire dwelling. A large man looked on from beside a table. Through the windows, Link saw high grasses. Beyond the grasses, he saw a village.
He wondered if the girl's resemblance to the royal heir was anything more than a meaningless coincidence. He thought to ask, but he stuttered to a stop as he realized that if there were any explanations to be had they were likely to be very ugly. The exile of an illegitimate child, or the alienation of some disgraced branch of the royal family.
It would have been a mistake to bring it up. A good-hearted mistake, which his former self would have readily made under the assumption of good faith and heroic impetus.
Instead, Link asked where he was.
"You're on Koholint island! Please, relax, you must be exhausted."
No such place had been mentioned by the charts. How far had the waves tossed him?
He asked if they were anywhere near Labrynna.
"In a way. Is that where you came from?"
"In what way? I came from Labrynna, yes."
"The ocean stretches on forever here. There have been visitors from Labrynna, sometimes they'll try to leave again, but no one knows if they ever make it back, if they did, they never return as they promised."
Link thought. A few pieces slid into place. The name "Koholint" was completely unfamiliar. It was clear that what the girl said was true. An island within floating distance of a major intercontinental trade route could not go undiscovered, so it must have been discovered, at some point, but the discovery must have been pent here. If this pattern of disappearances could be discerned by Hyrule's cartographers, Koholint would have been known to the outside world as one of the many dark sinks, marked with a serpent.
The girl's eyes shimmered as she stared at him. He turned away. Who had provided the bastard half of her seed? Could it have been the father of that rancher girl Malon? The resemblance was there. How convenient this place might have seemed to an infidelitous king or queen with an embarrassment to hide. A place where secrets can be put to dwell, and never leave, no matter how strongly their charmed blood may urge them back towards the throne.
Habit took Link's hand to his hip for comfort, but of course it was not there. "Did you see a sword, on the shore?"
The man answered, "I might have!" he drew up a familiar shield. "This wasn't the only thing I saw washed up. I didn't stay long, though. The monsters are out of their minds right now." He asked, as he handed over the shield, "Your name's Link, right?"
He must have read the engraving on the back. "Yes. And you, sir?"
"Tarin. Marin is my daughter."
Link silently noted the absence of any familial resemblance, which further contributed to the exiled bastard theory. "Thank you for everything you've done. I need to get the rest before it washes away or gets covered in sand."
"Right. Well, the beach is over that way." He pointed.
As Link began to move towards the door, the girl stood as if to follow. Link spoke quickly. "You want to leave Koholint, don't you?"
She sat down again. "W.. Why would you think that? It's insanity, leaving. Nobody ever hears from leavers again. Either they come back or they probably die."
It had been an intuition. Link concentrated, trying to articulate it. There was a pattern of fascination. She had made sure she would be the one who spoke to him first when he awoke, perched ridiculously next to an unconscious boy for.. probably about an hour? She'd clearly collected a lot of information about lands she aught never expect to see. As Link had ruminated after being told about about the difficulty of escaping the island, she had looked at him as if witnessing something profoundly important to her, and he realized a selection effect would have ensured that the visitor's inclination to flight would be a rare thing on an island populated entirely by those who'd stayed. The intuition had been sublimed. He began to answer, "Well... "
But he stopped, realizing she had not wanted him to answer.
"Hm. Nothing. I'm mistaken, I apologise. Just projecting my own perversion on others, I suppose?" Yes, see her freeze, glaring. It was true. She wanted to leave but she repressed it, and she'd probably told no one. "Hm. Well, if it turns out you're right about the futility of leaving, I will do my best to understand it and accept that. I thank you for all you've done. I think I could go more quickly alone for now. If I do have any crazy thoughts of building a raft and setting out, I'll come to you first. You know, so that you can set me straight."
The village was small. Many of the villagers stared as he walked. It was to be expected. They appeared curious, but he could not stop and speak with them.
Away from the town, over a field. He could hear the ocean. He clambered over rocks. As he neared the coast, he saw a glinting in the surf. Somehow he recognized its blessed steel even through the water and the froth. It called to him, the pull of their entwined fates, winding them back together. He started to run to it. He would be whole, soon.
As he approached, a cry pierced the day behind him. Hearing the beating of enormous wings, he leaped forward, wrested his sword from the surf, and turned it towards the source of the noise.
A great owl stood on the sand, far too close. It intoned: "Ahhhh, so it was YOUR sword." It laughed. "And YOU are the reason the monsters have been so violent lately. You want to LEAVE this island, don't you?"
Link fought himself, and put the sword away. "I just want to go home. Why should anyone spite me for that?"
"The only way for anyone to leave Koholint Isle is to wake the wind-fish who slumbers on the range. Many would oppose you, if you decided to embark to do this."
Even if the owl was his enemy, it was a good idea to hand it the option of pretending otherwise. The more gullible it thought he was, the more risks it would take. The more likely it would be revealed. The more unprepared it would be for preemptive betrayal.
"I sense that you're not among them."
"Indeed, I will help you, if you truly wish to leave."
The only reliable way to spot a liar was to ask for a story, and watch for confabulations. "Why? Owls are often thought of as hunters, but I hear they've been known to scavenge, when the opportunity arises."
"I am no vulture, lad. If you decide to wake the wind fish, you will succeed. You will not die, but if you did, I would ensure you were given a proper burial, I will not take your eyes, your lips, or your fingers from you, not a single one."
That had been very... specific. So it didn't just look like an owl. It had the sensitivities of one as well. "What makes you so sure I'll succeed?"
"You stand out, here, lad. None on Koholint is so ready to draw the sword but for you. It is foreseen that the dreamer will awaken, and if it is not you who will wake it, then hooo?"
"Another time. Find me in the forest, to the North, and we shall begin our work." And at that, the owl took to the sky and glided silently away inland.
It had refused to answer the question.
Link did not trust the owl.
As he began to wander along the coastline in search of more of his possessions, Link's sword sang to him. He had learned to invoke in his mind a discordant song that negated its effects on his mood. The sword of evil's bane wanted to strike down every monster, even the inconsequential ones, and the ones that could be used.
He returned to the village, unsure of whether to return to Marin and her guardian or go straight after the owl. He lingered. The open door of the nearest building yawned. Link saw books. A library.
It turned out that most of the books were about peacetime combat arts. Presumably the monsters had never quite been docile even before he'd supposedly disturbed them with his presence on the island. He found an atlas. And it helped him to decide where he would go next. Houses on the map were flagged with the titles of their owners. Only two struck Link as good company. One "Mr Write", and an unnamed Witch, both of whom lived next to the woods, away from the village.
The atlas described those woods as "Mysterious Forest".
This was the strongest clue so far that Link would be very lonely if he were stuck here, for there were clearly no natural philosophers on the island. A thing is only mysterious as long as no one ever turns an articulate mind to learning its rules. Clearly no one in the village had, nor did they ever expect to. If things were especially bad, here, they might even think that this mysteriousness were an inalienable quality of the forest, inherent, objective and invariable, a function of the forest alone rather than a function of their own understanding. Was it possible for an isolated society to decline, culturally, until it had lost the word for "subjectivity"?
Link decided to just think of it as "the forest".
The walk was not far. The forest seemed to be composed mostly of labrynnian pine. It was extremely dense, there were no stumps or rotting sawdust, no signs of harvestation.
As Link's eyes adjusted to the dense shade, he heard the owl approaching through the dark before he could see it. He resisted the urge to cover his eyes and neck. Owls did not have to make noise as they moved through the air. That had been a courtesy, freely given. If it meant to kill him, it wouldn't have been so generous.
It hooted. "Did you notice the Tail Cave in Toronbo?"
Link didn't know where Toronbo was, but either way, he had not.
"You'll need to get in there. You'll find the key to unseal it, somewhere in this forest."
And at that, it fell silent, as if it had said all that needed to be said. If it had been a human saying these things, Link would have immediately asked how the key had gotten to the forest, how the owl could possibly know it was there while having nothing to tell him about where _specifically_ in the forest it might be, and finally, why an owl, being capable of flight, having very keen eyes and being entirely capable of carrying a thing such as a key, would not help him to look for it or, just, simply do the search for him and drop off the key on Tarin's doorstep once it had found it.
However, it had occurred to Link, in that moment, that owls were not typically social creatures.
The owl's keen awareness apparently only applied to dim fields of mice and grass. It could not see, as a human could, the finer details of movements over fields of agendas and lies.
It could not see what Link saw. Nor did it necessarily understand that he would see it. It said these things in earnest, hoping he would really just go ahead and do as he was asked without questioning the owl's motivations.
Link did not have to open his mouth and ask any of the questions the owl's behavior raised, of course. Answers were easily within reach. The key had presumably gotten here by way of its talons. The owl knew the key was here because it had put it here. It would not help him to look for it because it had engineered this entire scenario to force Link to waste a lot of time here. There weren't really any other plausible explanations as to how this could have come together.
And as to why... there was a clue in the name of this place. Say there were natural philosophers on this island. Maybe the forest only remained mysterious because those people methodical enough to render it unmysterious avoided it, and the owl intended whatever they were avoiding to kill him here, so that the owl may then take his eyes, lips and fingers in a place conveniently accessible from its roost, where no one would see. Or maybe there were other reasons it might want him dead. Maybe this was its contradiction, maybe it did not want him to leave the island, and maybe Link had caught its lie no more than 20 minutes after meeting it.
Presumably, if Link survived for a certain amount of time, the key would be dropped in front of him, in a manner the owl thought inconspicuous but which would probably be comically transparent instead, and Link would be sent to somewhere even more dangerous, which in turn had no clear connection to the task of entreating the wind fish, perhaps it was just somewhere the owl had picked out as a good place troublesome travelers to die.
It seemed unlikely to Link that the owl would admit to deception if confronted, unable to see how transparent it was, too blithe to feel its shame. Regardless of what it might have to say to defend its actions, it was especially plain that the owl didn't really have any interest in helping him.
So Link said nothing.
He wouldn't waste a moment looking for a key.
He would pass through the forest, and seek out someone better than a devious, homicidal owl to guide him.
Thusly was the hero lost.