Chapter 13: A Toast To Love

She was running, running so fast that her heart ached, but her brain just kept screaming at her… it was finally happening. Only minutes before, the fairy announced the good news… the potion would be made… tonight. Saria finally raced into the market place, a small area bustling with people. She bent over and let the crisp night air fill her lungs.

It was dusk, and the sun was slowly setting behind the brick buildings. As she looked around at her surroundings she noticed the curious looks that people were giving her. She noticed a few whisper, a few giggle, and most all of them pointed curiously at the glowing figure that floated besides her. She figured that she was the only Kokiri these people have ever seen, but she was not concerned with this at all.

"Saria… I'm sure all the stores will close as soon as the sun sets, you better find something to wear soon," her fairy exclaimed to her, flittering from side to side in search of a clothing store. Saria too was in a state of frantic behavior, she couldn't find a place with dresses anywhere.

"Here… HERE!" her fairy exclaimed, tapping excitedly on a shop window. Saria quickly ran over, and she lost her breath at the sight she beheld. Inside the store was the most beautiful, elegant dress she had ever seen. It was a long dress made of shimmering emerald material, the color perfectly matching her eyes. She longed to touch it as she laid her eyes upon the golden trim that lined the sleeves.

"Fae… you amaze me, this dress… is perfect," Saria said. Her fairy gave an excited jingle and retreated to the comfort of Saria's pocket. She took another glance at the dress, and to her dismay, she found its price. A whopping thousand rupees. Saria's smile quickly disappeared, for she only carried a mere four-hundred in her sack. As she took another look around the market, she noticed the people beginning to return to their homes, but she also noticed something else.

A shooting gallery… and it was still open! She quickly ran over and pushed the door open. The large man at the counter gave her a curious expression before opening his mouth, and yawning.

"Little girl… this is a shooting gallery, go home, I'm sure it's almost your bedtime," he said with a smirk on his face. This didn't faze Saria one bit. She walked up to the counter pulled out her fairy slingshot, and threw down fifty rupees on the counter.

"I want to play," she said. The man became wide eyed, but soon his face softened as he flipped a switch and the lines began to move. Saria picked up her slingshot and aimed carefully at the back wall.

The game was on.

"So what are your plans for tonight my fair lady?" Link asked, looking down at the beautiful girl that walked besides him. She smiled, her blue eyes glistening in the setting sun.

"Well my prince," she giggled, "I think it will be a surprise." From within a pouch by her side, Zelda pulled out an enchanted gem, one that Link was quite familiar with, for it was none other than Farore's Wind. This mystical gem Link had used many times to warp from place to place, but relinquished it back into the princess' possession once his quest was over.

"You've set up a warp point already then I'm guessing?" Link grinned as Zelda took his hand in her's. She gave a quick smile and wink before a glowing green light enveloped the two and they disappeared from Hyrule field.

As the green mist started to disappear, Link instantly recognized the setting. They were at the beach front of Lake Hyrule, a blanket laid neatly on the ground, covered in exotic foods, and lit with red candles. Zelda release Link's hand, and seated herself gently on the ground, her leg's wrapped underneath her.

"I had the guard's set it up," she laughed. "Have a seat." Link could hardly say anything. She thought of this all on her own? He thought. She is amazing, and beautiful, and smart… maybe… maybe she's the one… He found himself staring at the beautiful princess as she popped a strawberry in her mouth.

"Hungry?" she asked playfully. Link broke his gaze, and started in on the feast that lay in front of him. This was going to be a good night, he could tell.

"I'm serious this time… LAST GAME!" the shop keeper growled. Saria had played five games that night, already persuading the man to stay open extra late with her innocent smile. She quickly knocked out another round of rupees, and buried her winnings in her bag. The man looked quite sad as he dropped another bunch of rupees on the table. He had quite underestimated the determined little girl.

"Now out with you, you little thief," the man said playfully, motioning her towards the door. She smirked and threw her bag over her shoulder, heavy with over eight-hundred rupees in winnings.

"I won these rupees fair and square. Ah, I guess those private slingshot lessons from Link paid off after all."

"Link… you mean... Link as in the HERO OF TIME! HE gave you lessons?" the man asked in amazement.

"You bet," she said, and exited the shop. As she stepped back into the market place, it was quite different from the place she saw an hour ago. There was not a soul on the streets now, and the lights by the drawbridge were the only things filling the shadows.

"Oh no… the dress shop!" Saria exclaimed, rushing over to the door. She gave it a light knock. No one answered. She pounded a little harder. Still no one came to let her in. She walked over to the window, peering in on the glimmering green dress. She was so close, and yet so far. She could feel the tears start to gather on her eyelashes as she realized… she wasn't going to get to Link in time.

"This can't be happening. I've come so far, tried so hard, and now everything is ruined," Saria wimpered, slumping down and leaning against the locked door. She cried. Link was to make his decision tomorrow morning. Tonight was her last chance to show Link the new her, to win his heart, to make him love her. But she no longer had that chance. Without any hope left, she pulled out her ocarina, hoping to comfort herself. As she played, the soft melody echoed in the dark allies.

"Bark… bark… BARK!" The noise was getting louder and louder, until suddenly from within the shadows a small dog jumped out, and landed on Saria's lap. He licked her face playfully as if urging her to continue playing.

"Well hello little guy. You sure seem happy… I wish I could be like you," she frowned. She brought the ocarina to her lips again and played a sad haunting melody, but was soon interrupted once again.

"Richard… darling, where are you?" the voice asked. A pleasantly plump lady appeared from the same alley the dog had come. She looked left, then right, and soon her eyes rested upon Saria, and she screamed in joy.

"Oh RICHARD! Little girl, you found my puppy. Thank you soooooooo much, how can I ever repay you?" the woman asked. Saria looked at the lady and shook her head.

"You can't… I'm glad I could help you though." The woman looked sadly at Saria, but didn't say another word, just patted Saria's head and turned around. But instead of walking back down the alley, the woman pulled out a key, and stuck it right into the keyhole of the locked door. Saria jumped up.

"YOU own this shop?" She asked with a little bit too much enthusiasm, making the pudgy lady jump back a little. The lady nodded, wide eyed staring at the frantic girl.

"The dress! The dress in the window!" These were the only words Saria could manage to say.

"THE DRESS! You want to the dress? That dress cost a lot to make, and I'm NOT just going to give it to a little girl for finding my dog… gosh girl… you have high hopes," the lady said shaking her head in disbelief.

"No no, I want to buy it. Here I have the rupees all here. Take them," Saria said, pouring the rupees out onto the ground. The lady scrambled to gather the gems in her arms.

"Take it! Take it! It's all yours, although… I doubt it will fit you," she said, amazed at the fortune she held in her hands… which was much more than a thousand rupees. Saria ran into the shop and gently pulled the dress from the hangers, rubbing it gently on her cheek. It was so soft.

"I'm sure it will be perfect."

small flat stone skipped smoothly on the Lake's surface before disappearing into the night waters.

"Everything is so perfect. The dinner, the lake… you," Link said. Zelda blushed at the statement. She pulled a loose strand of hair behind her ear with her free hand, because her other was nestled gently in Link's. The two sat on a small dock, their feet submerged in the water. As Link looked up to the sky, a brilliant image of thousands of stars filled his gaze, the moon hanging perfectly over the two.

"It's nice… being here together you know. It's like fate brought us here," Zelda said, laying her head gently on Link's shoulder.

"You have Saria to thank for it, she set this entire thing up," Link replied.

"Saria? The little kokiri girl?" Zelda asked, withdrawing her head from his shoulder, taken a back a bit by this comment.

"Yes, Saria," Link laughed. "Don't think so low of her. After all, she too is a sage, just like you. I've known her my entire life, she's my best friend."

"Mmmmm," Zelda hummed. Suddenly from the corners of the sky, a star flew across the canvas of navy blue. Zelda's eyes widened in joy.

"A shooting star… now that sure is something," Link whispered.

"It sure is…" Zelda said gently. "You know Link… why didn't any of this happen before? We've known each other for over seven years now, but never once did were look at what she had in a romantic way." Link had never realized this.

"I don't know. I guess I just never had a chance to be a real person… I was always the hero," Link laughed, even though now that he thought about it, it was quite depressing. He had never had a normal life.

"True… well… we're here now. Let us live in for the moment, and what a perfect moment it is," Zelda smiled. Link pulled up a finger, and withdrew his hand from Zelda's, motioning for her to wait a second. He reached around, and pulled his bow from behind him and aimed it at the sky. He pulled back a glowing white arrow and let it fly up, high into the night sky. It burst into thousands of glittering pieces, like a firework.

"Now… it's perfect," Link whispered gently placing his hand on Zelda's cheek. He leaned in, his lips gently brushing Zelda's. Zelda melted into Link as the next kiss he placed on her lips grew a little longer than the first. Even as the lights from the arrow died away, Zelda still saw their radiance behind closed eyes, as Link placed a third and final kiss on her lips. The two parted in sweet silence, and returned their eyes to the night sky.

Link smiled as her looked down at Zelda, but as he turned away from her, his smile disappeared. This night had seemed perfect… almost flawless… and yet… something was missing.

"I'm here! I'm sorry... sorry I'm late... the dress… closed…" Saria was gasping for breath as she burst into the fairy's cave. The patiently waiting fairy smiled at her gently.

"It's fine… this potion could wait a life time. I'm sure though, after all you've been through… you don't want to wait another second," the fairy said. "I'm curious though. Even as a fairy, I don't know everything. Is it not true that the Kokiris are unable to leave the forest, and if they do, they eventually die? But you… you have been on the outside of the forest many times now, and you still seem just fine."

"I… never really though of it. I guess when I became a sage, the consequences of the Kokiri curse no longer affected me. But who really knows… they are still so many mysteries hidden in the history of Hyrule." Saria said.

"Yes… you are wise child. Enough of my talking though. Here," the fairy said, revealing a glowing bottle. It lowered itself down gently into Saria's hands, it was still warm. "Now… before you drink that, put on your dress. I don't want you standing around stark naked in this cold night air once you transform." Saria laughed a little, and quickly slipped out of her traditional Kokiri clothing. The dress hung limply on her small frame, she was like a little girl playing dress up. It was still beautiful though.

"Now… this potion will transform you, but not forever. You will stay in your grown form only until the sun rises in the morning. To make it permanent, you must receive a kiss, a true exclamation of love from the one you seek to please. If you do not do this, you will return to your original form, and the potion will never work again. Do you understand?" the fairy asked. Saria nodded. She slowly brought the potion to her lips. The rim was sweet. It was finally happening… and she wasn't going to turn back now. She made a last mental toast before drinking down the glowing liquid.

To Love.

As the last drop disappeared from the bottle, the ground began to gently shake beneath her. Her surroundings became hazy, and it seemed as though glittering green leaves were surrounding her in a whirlwind of color, and then… it all went black.