Castle Town is well acquainted with Princess Zelda.

It would be difficult to not be, what with the town being—as the name would suggest—just outside the grounds of Hyrule Castle. It contains a variety of shops, a shooting gallery, and the humble homes of its citizens, all with a few Gossip Stones scattered about. It is a bizarre mix of cultural significance, historical propriety, and utter lunacy.

Truly. The Happy Mask Shop is mere feet from the Southern Gate of the Castle.

Lunacy.

Still, the people are kind and resilient and just wary enough to be safe. They adore the Royal Family and dote on the young Princess like she is the collective daughter of every adult Hylian in the country. She is well loved, well respected, and—to her attendant Impa's annoyance—well recognized.

So when she does descend from the Castle to traipse her way around the town, it is not without Impa at her back, a cowl over her head, and a knife in her boot.

Presently, however, Princess Zelda is running through Castle Town's market lacking all of these things.

She ducks under a man hauling in planks of wood, weaves around a pair of women haggling with a merchant, skirts the well in the center of town, and hikes up the long skirts of her dress as she sprints towards the Southern Gate of the Castle, grinning despite herself.

She knows Impa will scold her senseless for this little escapade—though part of her is still secretly thrilled that she managed to sneak past her Sheikah guardian at all—but even the promise of a lengthy lecture cannot ruin her mood.

She's done it. Farore, Nayru, and Din, she's done it!

The guard at the Southern Gate looks appalled at the Princess' sudden appearance—alone, unattended, and dressed in near full Royal regalia to boot—and hastens to stammer out some kind of greeting, but Zelda cuts him off, and brightly requests that he opens the gate.

He does so, though not without some fumbling and more than a few confused glances back at the Princess, who simply waits for her order to be carried out.

She laces her fingers behind her, rocking back on her heels, head tipped up towards the sky.

Hyrule is safe.

Just wait until she tells Impa.

The old gate creaks and moans as it is slowly hauled upwards, and Zelda hurries to duck under it, ignoring the guard's shouts as she takes off towards the Castle, passing by more guards who patrol the grounds

They all exchange looks as she races by them—as though to confirm with each other that yes, the Princess of the entire country, the heir to the throne of Hyrule, did indeed just run past them all—and one at least makes a valiant attempt to give chase, rushing after the Princess as she crosses the Castle grounds, calling for her to stop.

She declines, obviously, and in a rash moment of pure adrenaline and glee, ignores the bridge to her left and instead takes a running leap across the skinny river that ribbons its way around the Castle.

The guard pursuing her stops dead at the sight, and simply stands and watches—lips quirked in amusement—as the Princess lands a bit clumsily on the other side, her boots slapping sharply against the stonework, before she's off again, this time racing around to the side door that will grant her entrance into the Castle.

Leaning on his spear, the guard just offers the young Princess a salute and returns to his post.

One hand skating across the familiar stones, Zelda slips along the Southern wall to a door used by the staff. Rapping loudly on it, she catches her breath, heartbeat thrumming loud and bright in her chest, as the door is pulled back by a very confused maid.

A state of confusion that only grows when she realizes who is knocking.

"Why, your Grace!" she gasps, seeming torn between keeping the door open and the instinctual need to drop into a curtsey. "I—begging your pardon, Miss, but what are you—?"

"I am perfectly well, thank you for asking," Zelda replies politely, managing a wide smile as she attempts to right her headdress where it had been knocked askew in her rush to the Castle. "Though I would like to speak with Impa, if that could be arranged?"

The maid just stares down at her. The hem of her gown—her Royal gown, the maid notes with horror—is splashed with mud, and her boots are caked with dirt. And, despite the Princess' best efforts, most of her hair has escaped the updo beneath her headdress, and blonde tresses hang down, sticking to the sweat on her face and neck.

Zelda smiles brightly.

The maid cannot recall a time she's seen her Highness is such high spirits.

"Certainly, your Grace," she says, stepping aside and graciously allowing her entrance. "I will have her sent to your quarters right away. Would you like something to eat?"

"No, thank you," Zelda answers, stepping across the threshold. She decides to accept defeat with her headdress' appearance as she just pulls the whole thing off her head, running a thin hand through the sweat-stiff locks.

She considers declining the maid's offer to summon Impa as well—there is no way in all of Hyrule that her warden is unaware of her return to the Castle—but decides against it, instead flashing another smile and turning to hustle up and out of the room the side door empties out into, making a hard right down the corridor, leaving the maid to stare after her and wonder just what had gotten into the Princess?

Zelda admits, her behavior is odd. She is usually quiet and reserved, even within the Castle walls—perhaps especially then. She prefers to wordlessly observe things: people, her surroundings, old tomes late in the night by the flickering of candlelight. She watches and perceives, blue eyes wide and serious as she takes in everything around her with silent scrutiny.

But now, her eyes are crinkled with a smile she has not been able to shake since she handed over the Ocarina of Time to Link back in the Temple.

It all made sense now. Her visions, her dreams, her obsession with Hyrule's mythic Hero—always a young Hylian man in green—it all made sense.

Zelda's grin grows wider, craftier.

Oh, the look on Impa's face when she tells her—

The Princess suddenly gasps, drawing up short as a figure—tall and lean and sculpted with muscle—seems to detach itself from the shadows cast by the flickering torches that line the corridor, looming ominously above Zelda and blocking her path.

Zelda tips her head back, smiling up at the imposing phantasmal being.

"Hello, Impa," she greets cheerfully.

Impa stares down at her, red eyes glowing in the darkness of the hall.

"And where," her guardian asks, a low and dangerous drop to her tone, "have you been?"

Zelda doubts very seriously that Impa is unaware of where she's been, meaning this a rhetorical question.

She bites her lip. Not the best way to start things, per se.

"Please don't be angry," Zelda rushes out, pressing her back against the opposite wall as Impa just gazes down at her from the other side of the hall, still half shrouded in shadow. "Please, Impa, just listen to me. I want to show you something!"

Impa arches a silver brow.

"I always listen to you, your Highness," she remarks somewhat frostily. "I am your confidant in all things." A pause. Impa folds her arms across her chest. "Although that is a role that usually requires my presence at your side."

She tilts her head and gives the Princess another pointed look. Zelda frowns back, lips pushing out in a pout.

"Will you please let me explain?" she demands rather than asks.

Impa just sighs, moving away from her side of the hallway to kneel before the Princess. Now level with her retainer, Zelda finds it tougher to maintain her angry countenance. The ruby-red gaze of the Sheikah woman is completely arresting—difficult to meet and even harder to break away from.

And—in Zelda's somewhat thorough experience—almost impossible to lie under.

Impa's brown hand appears—palm upturned in a silent request.

For a brief moment, Zelda just stares stubbornly at her, chin lifted in childish defiance, before she finally caves under Impa's watchful stare. She sets her headdress—somewhat crumpled due to the Princess' anxious twisting—in Impa's waiting hand, and Impa wastes no time in smoothing it across her knee as she reaches up to fix her ward's hair with a few deft twists and tucks of her fingers, pinning it all back up before setting the Royal headdress back on Zelda's head.

"Now," Impa murmurs, blood-colored eyes sweeping over her face, making sure nothing is out of place. Apparently satisfied, she meets Zelda's gaze, lifting an eyebrow questioningly. "What is it you would like to show me, Highness?"

Zelda's eyes flip wide—she had been sure Impa was going to scold her into the next century—and grabs Impa's hand, letting out a little squeal of excitement as her guardian rises back to her full height and allows herself to be led back out of the Castle.

The Princess babbles to her excitedly the whole way back through the grounds, so wrapped up in her own storytelling that she completely misses the brief flashes of concern that darken Impa's face as she listens to Zelda's tale.

"…So I told him to come to the Temple of Time once he gathered all the Spiritual Stones," Zelda goes on as they wait for the very confused Southern Gate guard to open the gate once more. "And when I met him there, I gave him the Ocarina of Time, because the inscription on the Door says—"

"Ye who owns three Spiritual Stones, stand with the Ocarina of Time, and play the Song of Time," Impa supplies, voice coming out in a rush, eyes narrowing down at the Princess. "You gave him the Ocarina?"

Zelda goes still, glancing back at Impa, just realizing her guardian's displeasure.

"I—yes," Zelda answers, frowning slightly. "He is the Hero of Time, Impa. It belongs to him."

Impa can only stare down at the girl, trying to reclaim her mask of indifference, but Zelda—eleven years old or not—is an old hand at reading the minute shifts of disapproval in the Sheikah's face.

Mostly because Zelda is usually the cause of them.

"Just let me show you," Zelda insists, reaching out to grasp Impa's hand and pull her along once more, offering a small smile. "Please, Impa. You know me. I would never do something overly foolish, and you can hardly accuse me of being rash, correct?"

Impa holds her tongue as she follows Zelda through the Southern Gate and back into Castle Town.

Sometimes—more recently, it seems—she worries that the Princess forgets she is only ten and a year. Zelda will come to her with dreams and visions she has had in the night—horrific prophecies of Hyrule's demise, foresights of the Castle in flames.

Each time Impa has listened patiently. Zelda is of the Royal line—from Hylia's own blood. Being the descendant of a goddess does not come without some oddities, and Zelda's apparent prophetic powers are not something Impa dismisses as easily as the rest of the Castle's occupants.

She is a Sheikah. Her people survive on secrets—crown themselves with mystery and weave riddles like reed baskets. They are Shadow Folk. It is their very nature.

Impa is not opposed to prophecy—she is opposed to the fate of Hyrule being dropped in the lap of a girl only half-grown.

The pair moves on in silence, with Zelda stealing looks at Impa every so often, refusing to be disheartened by her guardian's flat, emotionless countenance.

"Just wait and see," she mutters to herself, walking forward with a firmer purpose towards the Temple on the outskirts of Castle Town. "Just wait and see."

There is not much to see, as it happens. But plenty to hear.

They reach the Temple—a simple, humble structure that sits beside a quiet pond and is watched over by a nearby group of Sheikah Stones. Impa gives one of them a hard look as she sweeps past, her piercing red gaze matching the burning eye carved into the stone.

Danger, the Stone whispers in her mind—the gossip of the statues being the birthright of any Sheikah—That which was Sacred is no longer.

The voice is high and keening—a harsh whisper that makes Impa's jaw tic with anxiety as she approaches the Temple doors behind Zelda, still keeping the Stones in her peripheral vision.

Apparently spurned on by the first Stone, the others join in, and Impa's head is soon filled with a mess of creaking, rasping voices, all chorusing Danger! Danger!

"Enough," Impa whips out, voice low and fast, eyes sharp and red like a wartime spear.

The voices cease, but the Stones stare at her from the edge of the pond—the mark of her people eerie in the receding light.

"Impa?" Zelda asks, glancing back, eyes bright with concern.

"Nothing," Impa murmurs, though her mind still rings with the warning cries of her people's Stones. She shoulders the door to the Temple open roughly, blocking Zelda from following as she sweeps the chamber for any signs of life.

The Temple is empty. Utterly so.

It is kept in pristine condition—by who and for what reason Impa does not particularly concern herself with. All she cares about is retrieving an incredibly powerful item from an incredibly unpowerful boy.

"Link?" Zelda calls, easing her way in after her guardian, her voice small in the vastness of the Temple's chamber.

It is lit only from the light that filters in from high, stained-glass windows, and that light is fading fast. Impa steps inside fully, allowing Zelda to follow, and watches out of the corner of her eye as the Princess whispers into her hand, calling upon the power of Din to produce a small flame that burns brightly at her fingertips, illuminating her face with a flickering glow.

Zelda holds it aloft, trying to cast light further into the dim temple.

"Link?" she calls again, stepping further. "Link?"

"He's gone," Impa announces lowly, eyes tracing over the outline of the chamber once more, feeling a sudden seize to her stomach at the fact. "The Temple is empty."

Zelda just gives her a frosty look over her shoulder—apparently very dissatisfied with her caretaker's observation—and pushes on.

"Link is probably in the room with the Master Sword," she explains irritably as Impa ghosts after her through the chamber. "He's playing a trick on us."

"Princess…" Impa begins, cutting a quick glance at Zelda, who marches on with a defiant tilt to her chin.

"Link!" she calls out again, more loudly this time. "Link, come out! I know you're in here!"

Silence answers her summons. Impa swallows hard.

"Highness, perhaps we…" she trails off as Zelda suddenly takes off running, her small flame vanishing with the sudden rush of air as she darts up to the altar that lies below the platform of the Door, flanked by two sets of stairs.

"See?" she insists, gesturing a bit wildly to the altar. "The Stones!"

Sure enough, Impa can see their magical shine from where she stands across the room—Emerald, Ruby, and Sapphire. Each Stone gives off an aura reminiscent of their resting place—the Goron's Ruby, for example, radiates a steady heat that warms Impa's cheeks as she steps up beside Zelda.

The light from the Spiritual Stones reflects in Zelda's eyes as she pours over them, like they contain all the answers she is seeking. The Stones just float lazily above their designated notches in the altar, and Impa takes the moment to express silent surprise that the boy actually managed to collect them.

Although a thought occurs to her. It is a thought that has nagged her since she first met the boy in the Castle gardens, and learned of his and Zelda's quest to retrieve all three Stones. It is a thought that darkens her mind each time she crosses gazes with the damnable Desert King.

What if they are being used?

What if someone—Ganondorf, certainly, but truly anyone—is watching these two and waiting. Biding their time, letting Link and Zelda do all the work, and as soon as the Spiritual Stones are placed and the Ocarina played before the Door—what is to stop someone from just slipping in—?

Impa sets her jaw unhappily as she looks down at the Stones.

What is stopping them? A boy from the Forest with a small knife he brandishes like the Master Sword itself and a girl so wrapped up in prophecy and legend, Impa sometimes worries if the lines of her reality are blurred—

"Link!"

Impa is jarred from her thoughts by a sudden sharp knock, and looks up wildly to see Zelda has climbed the stairs to reach the Door, and is pounding her fist against it.

"Link, open up! It's me! Zelda! I told you I would be right back so open the door and let me in!"

Impa leaps onto the platform in one smooth action, catching Zelda's hand as she prepares to knock again, and quickly dropping back down, backing away from the Door and the altar, holding the Princess tightly against her.

"Stop that," Impa whispers, ignoring her charge's struggles to free herself from Impa's steely grip. "Do not touch the Door."

"But Link is in there—"

"I do not care. The Door is closed, and we cannot open it."

Silence. Impa holds Zelda until she stops fighting her guardian's hold, and only then does Impa finally release her.

"I don't understand," Zelda whispers, walking slowly back towards the altar while Impa hangs back. "I just saw him, Impa. I taught him the Song of Time moments before I came to find you."

She looks over her shoulder, and Impa's stomach twists at the stark look of betrayal in her Princess' eyes.

"Do you…do you think…did he just—?"

Zelda screams.

Impa is at her side in an instant—moving so fast her form flickers between phantom and physical as she seems to simply materialize beside her ward, on her kneels, holding the girl's shoulders as she desperately searches her for some kind of wound.

"Princess?" Impa demands, voice low, stressed, eyes finding nothing. "Zelda, what is it, what happened?"

Zelda's small frame shakes with another sob, and she shifts to cradle her right arm closer to her chest, trying to tuck her hand away. Impa's eyes zero in on the action, and she gently coaxes the limb out and into the light, holding her charge's trembling hand in both of hers.

The chamber is silent save for Zelda's tearful sniffles as Impa inspects her hand, turning it over to expose the back of it, when her eyes catch on a sudden sight—

There, against the pale skin of the Princess' hand, a small triangle pulses with golden light. It sits slightly off-center, the tip of it lining up with the knuckle of her ring finger. Zelda stares at it, eyes wide and fearful, and when the glow from the mark finally fades, the triangle vanishes with it, leaving no trace behind.

"The Triforce," Impa breathes, eyes going wide with realization.

The Triforce. The Triforce of Wisdom, if Impa's quick snatches of knowledge regarding the all-powerful item are to be trusted. Zelda has been chosen to bear the Triforce of Wisdom, which means the Triforce itself has been shattered, which means someone else tried to forcibly claim the Triforce for themselves, which means the Sacred Realm has been breached, which means—

Impa's tumbling thoughts come to an immediate halt.

The Door of Time.

Ganondorf.

"We need to go," Impa whispers, voice tight with stress. She snaps her gaze up to see Zelda staring at her hand, eyes like Nayru's own blue—too-bright and calculating. She is not listening. "Your Highness, we need to—"

A flash of light fills the chamber, and Zelda gasps as her line of sight is suddenly reduced to the tense back of her guardian, with Impa moving quickly to place herself between the Princess and the man that steps from the glow.

He is somewhat short—though who is not in the presence of Impa's imposing form—and draped in heavy orange robes. The cuffs of the robes' long sleeves are tied off in red ribbon, hiding his hands from sight. A rich red collar with intricate designs turns into an overlay that runs down his chest to his feet, and his squat face is ringed by a bushy white beard that runs the length of his entire jaw.

And there, secured in the center of his attire, a golden detail of the Triforce is affixed to his chest, glittering in the receding light.

"Rauru," Impa murmurs, though she does not relax, and Zelda drops her gaze to see the Sheikah's dark fingers curled around the hilt of a knife she has pulled out of nowhere.

"Impa," the man replies, voice a low and starkly displeased sort of harrumph. "I did not expect to find you at the source of this catastrophe."

Catastrophe. Zelda shrinks further behind Impa, still clutching her hand to her chest, though the burning sensation has ceased.

Rauru shuffles forward, grumbling to himself as he climbs the stairs to reach the platform that sits before the Door, rubbing his beard.

"Sweet, merciful Din," he curses lowly, turning around to glare at Zelda, who reaches out to grab a handful of Impa's shirt, deeply unsettled by his beady stare. "Child, what have you done to us?"

"I—" Zelda opens her mouth to speak—to defend herself. To proclaim how she has saved Hyrule.

Her tongue gets caught in her teeth. She cannot find the words.

"Who are you?" she bursts out instead. "This is a holy place!"

Rauru gives her a hard glare before turning to inspect the Door before him, muttering under his breath.

"I am Rauru, as your guardian has so keenly observed," he answers, dark eyes sweeping over the simple relief carved into the stone surface of the Door. "I am the Sage of Light. And I am well aware of the hallowedness of this Temple, as it is my Temple."

Zelda swallows hard at his dismissive tone.

"So, this is your doing then?" He turns again, looking down at Zelda from the raised platform of the Door like some great judge. He lifts a white eyebrow. "You thought it your duty to meddle with Time? To meddle with the Sacred Realm?"

"Rauru." Impa speaks now, her tone a warning. He pays her no mind.

"Well?" Rauru demands. "Speak, child!"

Zelda bristles at the disrespect, eyes narrowing with a sudden rush of anger.

"Link gathered the Spiritual Stones," she argues, jabbing a finger at the glittering, shimmering Stones that float gently above the altar. "He did so on his own—without any help. He is the Hero of Time, and it is his destiny—"

"What do you know of destiny?" Zelda snaps her mouth shut as Rauru's booming voice eclipses hers. "You may be the Princess of our land, and you may share the bloodline of Hylia herself, but you are a child still. You acted with the rationale of a child, and now all of Hyrule will pay for your impetuosity."

Zelda pushes past Impa, eyes alight with anger, hands clenched into fists.

"Well then perhaps you should wonder why the Goddesses sent dreams of Hyrule's destruction to a child!" She spits the word like a curse, and Impa—having a long history with Her Grace's fiery temper—shifts her weight and watches to see how the Sage of Light will respond.

"Bah," Rauru dismisses her argument with a roll of his eyes. "Prophecy is a consequence of your bloodline, girl. Not some divine gift bestowed upon you. You were foolish enough to act without telling anyone of your plans—even more foolish to bring that boy into it—"

"That boy is the Hero of Time!" Zelda contends hotly.

"That boy is eleven years-old!" Rauru rages back at her, voice growing louder as if she had not spoken. "He is too young to be the Hero of Time! In Farore's Name, child, the Master Sword is taller than he is! Did you truly think he could defeat Ganondorf?"

"Rauru, please," Impa murmurs, laying a hand on Zelda's back.

"Please what?" Rauru demands, turning his glare upon the Sheikah. "Ganondorf has already breached the Sacred Realm—has already tried to seize the Triforce." He looks accusingly at Zelda, who grits her teeth, trying to not wilt under his gaze. "You have lead the evil to our very doorstep!"

Impa's hand tenses where it rests against Zelda. Danger, the Sheikah Stones had warned her. That which is Sacred is no longer.

Ganondorf. The Sacred Realm. The Triforce.

Impa feels ill.

"Link is the Hero!" Zelda insists, feeling hot tears prick at her eyes. "My dreams are not wrong. I am not wrong!"

Her defiant assertion rings out through the chamber, and Rauru's face softens ever so slightly.

"Perhaps you are not wrong, child," he murmurs, voice much softer than before. "But being right is not always what matters. The correct course of action will not always secure you victory." His gaze lands upon the hand she still holds to her chest. "It is a lesson you must learn quickly, Bearer of Wisdom."

Zelda looks down at her hand, and the Triforce symbol there lights up again, shimmering into existence on her skin.

She stares at it for a moment—face drawn and pensive and sad—before she turns sharply on her heel, royal gown swishing over the stone floor of the Temple as she climbs the stairs again.

Impa eyes her at the edge of her vision as she draws closer to Rauru, who just gazes at the Spiritual Stones with an expression not so different from Zelda's.

"What does this mean?" she asks lowly, watching as Zelda stands before, but dutifully keeps her hands at her side.

Rauru lets out a deep sigh as he considers it.

"It means Ganondorf tried to seize the Triforce," he explains. "And in an attempt to save itself from his evil intentions, the Triforce fractured itself—breaking up into three parts—Wisdom, Power, Courage—and hiding away in three people each individual piece deemed worthy." He gestures to Zelda. "The child has been blessed by the Wisdom Goddess in this way."

"Who are the others?" Impa asks, crossing her arms. "Where have the other two piece gone?"

Rauru shrugs. "I do not know exactly," he answers. "I am not—contrary to what some like to think—all-knowing. But, knowing what I do know, I would guess the Triforce of Power has settled in the hands of the Gerudo King."

"Ganondorf." Impa speaks the name contemptuously, teeth bright and bared against her dark skin. "What could Din be thinking? Giving a monster like him so much command?"

Rauru just offers a grim smile. "Din hunts power. She is uncaring of morality. Ganondorf seeks to claim the Triforce as his own—to obliterate Hyrule and crown himself king of its rubble. Din cannot resist such ambition."

"What of Farore?" Impa presses. "What of Courage?"

Rauru sighs again, turning his gaze back to the Door, where Zelda still stands silently.

"If the Princess is right," he murmurs. "It rests with the boy."

They continue conferring in low tones—Zelda hears snatches of their talk. Words like Sages and Temples and Medallions keep coming up.

"The Forest first, surely," Rauru murmurs.

"But Zora's Domain is closest to the Desert. They would be the first to fall," Impa counters.

Zelda tunes them out, letting her gaze skirt the great stone Door before her.

It is a nice door, she muses, feeling somewhat numb. Heavy and sturdy. And enchanted, which is always helpful.

She lifts one hand—pale and shaking, the Triforce symbol still winking in the low light—to skim her fingertips over the relief. From what she can make out, it appears to be a sun peaking out from behind clouds, its rays stretching out to the edges of the Door.

And of course there are triangles. Because there are always triangles. Because this is Hyrule and Goddesses help them if they forget to inlay triangles on everything.

Zelda idly wonders if that thought is considered blasphemous.

Probably.

She wonders how Link must have thought, standing before this great Door, an Ocarina humming with power in his grasp, and the tune of an ancient and powerful song in his mind. She bites her lip, shame burning in her cheeks and at the tips of her ears.

How horrible that she has only just thought of him now. She should have been taking his feelings into consideration since the beginning—since that meeting in the garden.

"I am so, so sorry," she whispers softly, and hears Impa pause in her conversation with Rauru as her sharp ears pick up her ward's soft speech. "Truly, I am."

She wonders if Link is happy in the Sacred Realm. Safe, certainly. But Hyrule Castle is safe, and Zelda always sees it more as a prison than anything. She recalls the fairy he had with him, and hopes she, at least, can keep him company.

"Will he be all right?" Zelda asks, raising her voice to address Rauru, though her eyes never leave the Door. "In the Sacred Realm—will Link be…comfortable?"

"He is in a deep, enchanted sleep, child," Rauru rumbles back. "He is at peace. He has no idea what is happening."

"Sleeping…" Zelda repeats, brow furrowing in thought.

Rauru nods. "Until he is ready to draw the Master Sword and accept his destiny as the Hero of Time."

Zelda turns to look at him over her shoulder. "When will he be ready?" she asks quietly, though she is sure she already knows the answer.

The Sage of Light can only shrug.

"That is for the Goddesses—in their divine and everlasting wisdom—to decide."

Zelda lets her gaze drift back to the Door, lightly running her fingers across the stone.

For the Goddesses to decide.

That could be weeks, months…

…years, even.

Zelda's gaze sharpens.

The Desert is encroaching—Ganondorf growing bolder as the Gerudo push at their borders. The Zora have been in her father's court for days now, stern and regal voices ringing out in the throne room as they petition for aid against their neighbor's unwanted advancement. Nervous Hylians have been chattering to each other in Castle Town, uncertainty making their tongues loose and their hearts anxious.

Murmurs of a second Civil War. Whispers of a great darkness.

Zelda places her hand flat against the Door, jaw set.

"As long as it takes, then," she says, voice soft but lines with steel. "I await your return, Hero of Time."

She watches as her hand—previously lit with the Triforce of Wisdom—goes dull, fading from sight.

Zelda watches with a drawn expression, refusing to take it as an omen.

"Very well then," she murmurs, stepping away from the wall to descend the stairs back towards Rauru and Impa.

She gives them the steadiest look she can, folding her hands regally at her waist.

"Let us begin."