SEQ CHAPTER \h \r 1A note from the Hime no Argh herself–

Wow...I almost thought this day would never come, but here I am, back in the Zelda section! ^^ What an honor it is to be able to make another contribution to this fandom (and hopefully a good one). Previous contributions include The Triforce United, which was discontinued, and A Tale of Seven Years, which was completed a few months ago, as well as numerous poems and a short story. Over the past few months I was busy in the Final Fantasy X section, working on a serial novel there, before coming up with the idea for this fic and beginning to write it. If you've read anything of mine before, or if you saw this story and just decided to take a look, or whatever the case may be, welcome, and thank you for taking an interest!

I'm not going to say any more about the plot than what's already in the summary, because hopefully you'll read along and discover that on your own. ^^ I will, however, tell you that this story takes place after Ocarina of Time, and though it may initially appear to have a somewhat Wind Waker-esque premise, it has nothing to do with that game or any others besides OoT. Now for some general stuff...

Genre: Adventure/romance.

Rating: PG-13 for mild violence and language and some adult situations.

Disclaimer: Legend of Zelda and all related characters and concepts belong to Shigeru Miyamoto and Nintendo, with whom I am in no way affiliated. In all other respects this fanfiction is solely my property and may not be used in any way without my express permission.

Any feedback regarding the story would of course be greatly appreciated. And now, without further ado, I present to you...

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The Destined

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Chapter 1

The Task

The canopy of trees overhead in the Lost Woods provided some measure of shelter from the rain, though Demon's hooves sunk into the soft, muddy ground, making the going slow for the even-tempered horse and his somewhat impatient rider. Link sighed as he guided the gelding through tricky patches, his hands steady and practiced on the reins. He didn't quite know why he was so antsy to get to Kakariko, only that he was, and the fastest way was through the forest. Except, of course, for Hyrule Field–but he'd have to be out of his mind to go that way.

Though waterlogged, gelding and rider looked well for a pair of wanderers. Demon's black mane and tail and chestnut brown coat were well-brushed and shining, his saddle and tack made of good leather. Link, a tall, broad-shouldered young man of seventeen, dressed in a green tunic and skirt with white hose, his feet encased in sturdy, well-worn boots and leather gauntlets protecting his hands and wrists. His golden hair was tied back in a short ponytail and covered beneath a green cap, leaving enough hair free to fall over his sky-blue eyes.

People often mistook Link for a knight from a distant, honorable land. But he had been born and raised in Hyrule, where there were no knights, only an army of twisted, evil men and ugly creatures who served under Ganondorf, the tyrannical king of Hyrule. There was no work here for a knight, but plenty for a warrior-for-hire willing to take any job.

Unexplained urges notwithstanding, going to Kakariko wasn't so bad. The town sprawled at the foot of Death Mountain was so large it was nearly a city, with people from all corners of Hyrule inhabiting it, as well as foreigners from overseas. There was always work to be found in Kakariko, and he was in need of a job–or rather, some Rupees.

In the meantime, however, it was obvious that Link and Demon were not going to be out of the forest anytime soon. Link sighed again and drew up the reins, bringing Demon to a halt. The rain was supposed to stop sometime around midnight, and hopefully by morning the ground wouldn't be so wet.

An oiled canvas spread on the ground would keep him dry for the night. Link removed Demon's tack and saddle and rubbed him down, then left the gelding to graze on his own. He lay on his back and watched what few stars could be seen through the trees and the clouds, waiting for sleep to come. It didn't come easily. The antsy feeling was gnawing at him again, more so now that he had stopped moving toward Kakariko.

"Why am I in such a rush to get there, anyway?" Link wondered aloud. Demon, chewing a clump of grass nearby, gave a soft whicker. The gelding was not nearly as fierce or mean as his name suggested, though he had proved himself to have a tough streak a few months back, when Link was ambushed by a group of wild Moblins. Link had bought him just a month before that off a trader near Lake Hylia. It was just the two of them on the road, but with Demon's companionship Link was never lonely.

"My senses are telling me that there's something waiting in Kakariko," Link told his horse, who flicked an ear back and forth as he listened. "Maybe it'll be a good job for once, eh?"

Link never quite understood what it was that kept him constantly on the road. Men with talent like his, men who could use a sword and a bow and a number of other weapons, take care of a horse, build with wood and craft with metal and forge, those were the sort of men who had it easy in the world. He could have a steady job at any number of the small villages scattered throughout Hyrule, maybe even a home, but instead he was a warrior-for-hire, taking any job available, never staying in one place.

My entire life I feel like I've been searching for something, Link thought, chewing on a piece of grass, but I never know what it is.

His eyes fluttered closed.

"Do you believe in destiny?"

The voice, high-pitched, clear, and pure, sent Link bolting upright on the canvas, looking around for the source of it.

"Do you know for what you search?"

It was a young voice, Link realized, and it was female. It sounded like a little girl, yet it seemed to come from all directions at once, from every shadow in the tree-filled forest. The very sound of it sent chills up his spine.

"Will you know your fate, when you find it?"

"Who are you?" Link demanded, leaping to his feet, his hand going to the hilt of the sword on his back. "Show yourself!"

The sound of footsteps behind him made Link whip around, drawing his sword in one swift motion. He looked at the person before him and froze.

She was indeed a child, a young girl of perhaps ten or so, adorned in green, live plant tendrils entwined around her wrists, ankles, and neck. Her closely-cropped hair was green, her eyes a bright blue, and her smile enchanting.

"Are you going to kill me, Link?" she asked calmly, that mysterious smile never wavering from her lips.

Link glanced at Demon. The horse eyed the girl thoughtfully as he chewed on a clump of grass, then he lowered his head to graze once again. Link relaxed slightly, sliding his sword back into its sheath.

"Who are you?" he asked again. "How do you know my name?"

"I am Saria," replied the girl. "I am the spirit of the forest. I have lived here for over a century, and you, Link, are the man for whom I have been waiting."

For one wild moment Link wondered if this girl was the something he was searching for, but Saria shook her head as if she'd read his mind.

"I am not your fate, Link. I am merely a guide along your path. You have a great destiny waiting for you, if you are courageous enough to seek it."

Link shook his head. "Sorry, miss, but I think you have the wrong man. I don't believe in destiny."

Saria smiled. "Then you think it merely coincidence that you left a good job with the Gerudo in the desert to come all the way to Kakariko, for reasons you cannot discern? You think there is nothing waiting for you there?"

"There's lots of work in Kakariko," Link said defensively.

"There is indeed, and you have your work cut out for you, my friend." Saria regarded him quietly for a moment, then went on, "What if I told you I was a messenger from the goddesses?"

Link gaped at her for a moment, wondering if she was serious. Then he slowly shook his head. "I don't believe in the goddesses, either."

"Why not?" Saria inquired.

"Farore, Din, and Nayru," Link said dubiously. "The three Golden Goddesses. The ones who created Hyrule, and who were revered once when the land was prosperous, a long time ago. Now they aren't."

He shrugged. "People suffer and die under Ganondorf's rule. If the goddesses exist, why don't they do something to stop it?"

"They can only do so much," Saria explained. "The realms of mortals and divine beings are separate. They are governed by different laws. But they are also linked–the realm of the divine ones changes according to the realm of mortals. The goddesses see, and the goddesses know. They have not yet acted because they cannot. They, like you, are waiting."

Link scowled. "Don't tell me. I've been chosen by the goddesses to single-handedly save Hyrule. Is that it?"

Saria merely shrugged. "I cannot predict your fate, Link. I can merely lead you to it."

Link smiled crookedly. "All right. Lead me."

Saria smiled. "In Kakariko there is a woman you must find. Her name is Zelda Harkinian."

Link frowned. Why did he think he'd heard that name before?

"When you find her, you must stay with her," Saria continued. "She is important–very important–to Hyrule's future. She is a strong woman, but there are evils from which she cannot protect herself. That is your task–to protect her."

"You want me to babysit some lady I've never met before without even knowing why?" Link demanded. "Why should I?"

Saria shrugged. "Decide for yourself. Soon, Link, your path will be presented to you. It is your decision whether or not to take it."

"I don't think I want to take any mysterious paths right now," Link said bluntly. "I'm happy enough where I am." He turned away.

"Are you? Or will you forever search?"

Link jerked and looked back quickly, but the mysterious girl had disappeared.

"Weird," Link muttered, rubbing the back of his neck. Chills were still running up and down his spine. "That girl really did a number on me," he told Demon, who ignored him in favor of some tasty grass.

Still, Link thought as he lay down on the oiled canvas, suddenly exhausted, I guess it wouldn't hurt to have a look around Kakariko. I'm already nearly there...

He drifted off, and fell into a deep, dreamless sleep.

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To be continued.