Link found her in Blatchery Plains, amidst the overgrown remains of Guardians, in that place where he had once died.
She was dressed in her usual travel clothes ― the familiar blue tunic, and that sensible belt. She stood out against the green of the field, and the cascade of her golden hair caught the sunlight in a way that still managed to make his heart skip a beat.
Her white horse was grazing placidly some strides away. Link dismounted from Epona and urged her to join her equine companion in doing the same.
When he finally came closer, he saw she was studying a Silent Princess, its pale blue petals now a familiar sight.
"I never did find out what happened to the bulb you gave me," she said, softly, when she heard his approach.
Link smiled. "It blossomed."
She turned to look at him over her shoulder, and she was smiling too. "Did it?"
Link shrugged. "If we go back to the Castle, I'm sure you'll find your tower overgrown with the things. The more your books rot, the more soil they'll have."
"Books," she snorted, and her hand instinctively went to the Sheikah Slate hanging at her hip. "Why bother retrieving books when I have an entire compendium in my hands?"
Link didn't reply, taking a serene breath of fresh air. "That's what I told the Hylian council, but they want to reclaim the Castle someday anyhow."
"How did your meeting go?" She asked, falling back on her heels, then sitting in the tall grass.
"Well enough," Link said, grinning. He watched the way she responded intuitively, a smile of her own pulling at her lips. "Although they all bemoaned the fact that you weren't there."
"Summer solstice," she said, pointing to the sun at its zenith. "It has a fascinating effect on plant life."
"I know," he said, appeasingly. "I know." He came to sit at her side, enjoying the way the world seemed perfectly calm around them. "But did you really have to study it here?"
The ground was painfully familiar under him. He was sure that if he squinted, the grass would part and show his long-gone bloodstains.
Zelda was looking about them with a pensive expression on her face, one that he had grown to recognize as the look of her quiet resolve. "I know your fellow councillors want to rebuild Castletown, and with it… the Castle itself. It is inevitable."
"It's a sign of Hyrule's prestige," Link said, reasonably.
"Of course it is," Zelda said, softly. "I cannot deny it. Hyrule Castle was once renowned for its elegance… its spires… its battlements. But rebuilding it means you will have to visit it, once in a while."
"I will," Link agreed, quietly.
"And I go where you go," she said, still with that quiet resolve of hers. "So I thought I should begin preparing myself."
Distantly, mildly, as though the observation came from the same place of calm as she did, he wondered how this woman could continue to surprise him.
Because she did. Sometimes, in the least expected ways, she could become as childish and playful as she'd been before their troubles, and sometimes, she could assume the look of a long-aged deity, all wisdom, grace and poise. Most astounding of all, though, she remained Zelda, his Zelda, even as the transformations occurred within her, even as she changed from day to day and hour to hour, in turn his closest friend, his most devoted lover, his excitable companion, his meticulous researcher.
It seemed sometimes that Link had finished discovering everything about her, only for some new, unplumbed depth to delight him anew.
"Preparing yourself?" He echoed.
She nodded. "If I am to go to the Castle, then I must face what fears remain. I must accept the horrors we suffered. The painful memories." She curled a single petal of the Silent Princess between her thumb and her forefinger. "This place is… practice."
"You don't have to go," Link reassured her, gently. "No one would blame you."
Her fingers left the petal, and the flower seemed to gently sway back into its growing position. She turned to him and smiled. "I go where you go," she repeated, with that gentle firmness that always seemed to find its way directly into his heart, bypassing all logic.
Their fingers found each other, curling together familiarly, and Link felt the way their matching rings were warm to the touch. It made his heart swell.
"It helps that you're here," she said, after a long, contemplative silence. "Alive."
He managed a smile, though the memory of their last time together here made him a little queasy. "Thanks to you."
"And I, thanks to you," she whispered.
They fell silent once more, the breeze around them making the grasses sway, a rush of a whisper, loud yet quiet. The shadows were short. Overhead, the sun was warm; it glowed almost through Link's very skin, warming him to the core.
"The monument is almost finished," he finally said, drawing her out of her thoughts.
"Is it?" She gently asked, and Link saw the way the light in her eyes dimmed a little with distant, numb sorrow.
"I noticed the sculptor rendered a little bit of Sidon in the Zora part of the statue. And the Hylian… the Hylian reminds me of Groose." At Zelda's inquisitive look, Link shook his head and forced a smile. "Not the face, mind you. No carver would remember him now. But something in the stature, the form."
"I understand," she said, softly. Her eyes swept over the field around them, peaceful and vast. "I miss them too."
Link wanted to respond, but his throat was tight, his eyes itched, and he took a moment to think of nothing.
"We carry them with us," she said, when he didn't reply. "We always will."
Link nodded. The field was empty, save for the two of them. No doubt on the distant east road, travelers were growing numerous, the path between Hateno and Kakariko growing busy. And despite the fact that Castletown was not yet officially being rebuilt, many were already staking claims, building houses of fortune, in the hopes of one day seeing the city alive once more.
And in Lurelin, where sea trade was growing at last, there were more houses and strangers from distant lands than ever. Much like in Tarrey Town, whose tranquil growth promised a thriving future for Akkala.
But here, in this field, surrounded by the immobile remnants of his long-gone enemies, in the high noon of midsummer heat, Link felt a finger of freshness tickle his nape, and with it a comfort that was growing familiar.
Sometimes, it felt like the dead were with him ― that the memories he carried in his heart would rise up out of him any moment to speak to him. What would they say if they were here now?
You look so glum, he could almost hear Groose comment.
Across from Groose's ghost he could almost see his mother, Marin, nodding exasperatedly.
He used to be such a loud boy, too, she said, as Cremia and Romani agreed, emphatically.
I remember, and in Mipha's golden eyes lay a warmth of fondness, a shared history, a shared childhood.
Well, it's only right he should become more stern, Daruk gruffly commented. Like his father.
There's stern, Urbosa lazily said, from where she leaned against a mossy guardian, and there's sullen.
Revali snorted, crossing his arms, but Link saw the light in his eyes, the respect, the understanding.
I hope you've found peace, he told them, his heart tight in his chest.
Their ghosts turned to him, invisible but to his mind's eye, and contemplated him. But they had no answers, because they were dead, and because he dared not put more words in their mouths.
He pulled his gaze away from his imagined companions. They faded at once, replaced with the sight of his beautiful wife. Zelda was peering at him as though she could see his ghosts in the sunlight too. Her green eyes were achingly familiar by now.
"It's alright," she said, simply. It comforted him. Within his chest, the shiver of longing faded. "I only need a few moments more."
His hand came up to caress her cheek. Like all of her, it was warm in the palm of his hand, and she turned into his touch instinctively. "You have a lifetime," he promised.
When she smiled, her eyes seemed to light up softly. Once again Link felt serenity imbue him from head to toe. There was no doubt remaining in her voice now, only peace.
"It will be more than enough," she said.
And Link believed her.
Breath of the Wild was a trip for me.
Not just a wild ride, though it was, but also a trip down memory lane. That was, in many ways, exactly what it wanted to be, I think.
This story was an attempt to capture the way Breath of the Wild made me feel. It summarizes the many emotions I felt playing the game ― pure joy, for one, because The Legend of Zelda remains one of my favourite things in the world, a thing to which I've devoted countless hours and energy over the years, as my profile surely attests...
But Breath of the Wild also caused me a lot of unexpected grief. Grief, I think, is the game's underlying theme. The more I thought about it, the more it seemed that the entire world of Breath of the Wild existed to kick me in the gut, from the plot ― subtle, implied, horrific ― to the level design. Because nothing hurt my soul quite like stumbling upon the Ranch Ruins. Or worse, seeing the level of disrepair the Temple of Time had fallen into.
For context, I grew up on Ocarina of Time. It was my first video game ― ever. But replaying Ocarina of Time today no longer gives me that sense of scale. The low-resolution textures no longer fill my imagination with details. I'm a grown-up now. That childhood wonder is gone.
And I had come to accept that. I was okay with it. Or so I thought.
But seeing Hyrule, my Hyrule, in such a state of decay… Hearing the dying notes of the Song of Time… Whether deliberately or accidentally, the team at Nintendo turned my very childhood into a ruin. It struck close to home. It made me realize nothing will ever recapture Hyrule in its glory days. Not my Hyrule, the Hyrule I discovered twenty years ago. That Hyrule is gone, living only in my memory, like so many other childhood wonders.
So, yes, this is a story of grief, because Breath of the Wild is a story of grief. But it is also a story of love ― love in all its forms, naïve and hopeful as much as trampled and damaged by time, necessity and obligations, because adulthood ruins everything.
Breath of the Wild made me think about growing up, about the passage of time, about how precious everything and everyone can be. It made me appreciate how wonderful and blessed I was to get to play Ocarina of Time with such innocence, how lucky I am to have grown alongside this community and met some of its most amazing members. How fortunate I am that you have stuck this one out and read all the way here, to the end.
I really hope some of those emotions come through in my writing. But if not, that's okay. Writing it was cathartic and taught me a lot. I'll be carrying that forward to my next stories.
I don't know how old you are as you're reading this. Maybe Breath of the Wild was your first Legend of Zelda game. Maybe you played Twilight Princess first, or Wind Waker, or maybe you're one of those old school folks who played the original The Legend of Zelda, and you're like… forty or something (knocking on death's door, you old fart). Whichever you are, I hope you know you're welcome, and I sincerely hope I've entertained you.
At any rate, dear Reader, if you've made it all the way here, thank you. I'd love to hear your thoughts. I'd love to know what worked for you, what made you laugh, or think, or feel. And if time has brought you here many years from now, you're still welcome. I would still love to know what you think, from the removed wisdom of the future. If you're really, really strapped for time, I'll settle for a score out of ten. Seriously. I just want to see your name somewhere in here, like a guest book. When the days get rough, I like to go back over your comments and remember how amazing you people are, and how smart I was to fall in love with this fandom instead of any other. You guys rock.
Once again, thank you so much for reading me. I will absolutely still be around, and I will gladly see you there.
Take care and be good, my dears.