Beneath the Surface
The group took camp just outside of the entrance to the Lost Woods the next day – even on horseback, Hyrule was a huge country and it took a while to cross. Though Malon took this into consideration, she was still worried – counting the kidnapping as "day one", it was now the close of "day five". How much longer would it take before they were able to find her beloved?
There was a small, natural rock "hallway" that led to a large, hollow tree-trunk that the fairy had identified as the entrance to the Lost Woods and Kokiri Forest, and it was here that the group had made a small camp. Due to the lateness of the hour and the likelihood that Saria (who, according to Zelda, was the Forest Sage) and the other Kokiri children were in bed, it was decided that they, too, would sleep.
Malon found herself more than exhausted. The past few days had been very exhausting, and her fatigue was beginning to take its toll. Little by little, she felt her strength draining from all of the emotional distress she had been under – the previous night was the first she had not cried herself to sleep, though it had taken a very long time for slumber to take her in.
Dinner had consisted of exactly what they had eaten for every meal over the past two days – bread, cheese, jerky, and water, as those foods were the easiest to transport. Tonight, it was eaten quietly – all conversation topics had quickly dwindled down to nothing, as they had already explored many possible answers to the few clues they held. It would not be until they found little Saria that they would have another topic to discuss.
Navi had told Malon about Saria, and by all means she sounded like a good "kid". She had been Link's best friend while he had lived amongst the Kokiri and stuck by his side even when a snot-nosed brat by the name of Mido had teased him for not having a fairy until Navi had shown up. She was also well-respected and liked by the rest of the children, enjoyed playing the ocarina, and did nothing but support Link during the few parts of his journey that their paths crossed.
Still, how would she take to her best friend growing up and getting married?
"Well, well, well, if it isn't the fair Princess Zelda, Lady Impa and Ms. Malon!"
All three women (and Navi) jumped at the sound of the strange voice. After spending several moments searching for the source, Malon saw a VERY large owl perched on a nearby tree, looking down at them with great interest. "You must be Mr. Kaepora Gaebora!" Malon exclaimed.
Zelda smiled. "I was wondering when you were going to show up."
"Well, pardon me, but it takes a while to find a small band of travelers crossing Hyrule Field, so I decided I would wait for you in this area," he replied calmly. He then directed his attention to Malon. "Ah, and you are the soon to be Mrs. Hero of Time. How do you do?"
"As well as can be expected of this situation," she replied.
Kaepora Gaebora, being an owl, was unable to show too much emotion. "Well, I suppose that was a stupid question – I can see you're very worried about Link, but do not fear – even as a child he was a tough boy and I'm sure that wherever he is he's doing well enough to survive," he said. He then turned back to Zelda. "Well? What orders do you have for me, Your Highness?"
"Please, call me Zelda," she insisted. She closed her eyes in thought, then nodded her head. "Please speak with the Great Fairie atop Death Mountain – I would like her to be informed of the situation. Tell her that she should expect us to arrive within the next two weeks – it would be beneficial if Malon was granted the magical spells, arrows, and abilities Link had during his quest."
Images of Link wearing a sorcerer's robe and hat entered Malon's head. In her head, wizard Link was carrying a wand, pointing it, and shooting colored sparks out from its end. The thought was almost comical, but somewhat confusing. "Magic? Is Link a sorcerer?"
"Yes, magic, and no, Link isn't exactly a sorcerer," said Zelda. "Link was granted an increase in defensive power, sword magic, three kinds of magical arrows, and three magical spells that stem from the power of the goddesses themselves. Din's Fire, Farore's Wind, and Nayru's Love. Initially Link had to visit several of the fairies, but the leader of the fairies may be kind enough to lend you all of them for this journey – more than likely Link still possess this magic – save for the arrows – but has had no need to use it.
"But you can't use magic indefinitely," said Impa. "If he's trying to fight back using Din's Fire, he'll eventually run out of power and won't be able to use any more until he finds a way to replenish that power. Hence, time is of the essence, but Link isn't an idiot – he won't use it stupidly and I'm sure he'll be saving his magic for a likely escape chance."
The idea that Link could use magic instantly
made Malon feel a little better – at least he wasn't defenseless!
But now they wanted her to use magic, too? Malon whimpered – this
was getting more and more confusing and difficult by the minute.
Granted, she never expected it to be easy, but magic?
"Unless you have any other errands to run, I'll be off to Death Mountain," said Kaepora. The three woman shook their heads, and after wishing him luck, the owl took off into the night sky. Malon watched the great bird until he disappeared over the horizon, her eyes feeling heavy as he faded away in the black. . .
"Zelda, don't people who enter the Lost Woods never come out?" asked Malon, who was now staring curiously into the black tree trunk. Today, the small party would enter the woods, sans their horses – they would be left tied to a tree next to a small pond nearby so they could drink, and an open bag of feed was left for each horse. So they would be okay.
But Malon recalled the many stories she had heard surrounding the Lost Woods as they stood at its gate, and even if it meant saving Link, she wasn't sure if she wanted to enter within. "I've heard they become horrible skeleton creatures who terrorize those who will become the NEXT horrible skeleton creatures."
"Oh, that's not true," said Zelda. "There's also a silly legend about Kokiri dying upon leaving the forest, but it's also false. It's mostly a matter of keeping the Kokiri protected from the outside by keeping outsiders out and keeping the children within the safe boundaries of the forest. If that were true then Link would have not been able to live in the forest when he was younger!"
Navi seemed to ponder this. "But when Link and I were in the woods we saw someone in there and then we never saw him again. Didn't HE become a Stalfos?" she asked. Zelda shook her head. "All right, Ms. Princess, then what do YOU propose happened to him?"
got lost," she said. "The woods are big and every room does look
identical, but if one picks a direction and stays with it they will
eventually find an exit. In the Sacred Forest Meadow there is a
fountain of very helpful fairies, as well as passageways to both
Goron City and Lake Hylia. In fact, I have been told some of the
Gorons have been mapping the Lost Woods and navigating it well-enough
to rescue anyone who has become, well, lost."
"I suppose that makes some sense," said Malon.
"At least we'll be able to get Saria out without her spontaneously exploding or something," Navi thought aloud. Malon's eyes widened in alarm at the idea of a poor child exploding, but somehow, this seemed like the kind of banter that escaped Navi's lips on a regular occasion. "What?"
"How about we spend less time talking about Saria exploding and more time finding Link?" Impa said through gritted teeth. In response, Navi stuck her tongue out at Impa, but the Sheikah didn't notice (or, if she did, was choosing to ignore the fairy). Malon guessed this was a good thing for Navi's sake.
"Well, if you will all stop arguing, we must continue," said Zelda, who stepped boldly through the tree trunk. Impa watched as the princess entered, and then followed suit as Navi and Malon watched. Wringing her gloved hands, Malon closed her eyes and stepped through as well.
The walk through the tree trunk was long, as Malon had fully expected. It had been quite dark in the trunk, which meant that it was a long way to the other side, where the Kokiri Forest lay in wait. There, she, Princess Zelda, and Impa would collect Saria and. . . well, look for the next Sage, she supposed.
But, oddly, she didn't hear anything but her own footsteps, which resounded quite loudly within the confines of the tree trunk. Shouldn't she hear Zelda and Impa's footsteps as well? "Navi?" she asked. The blue fairy flew in front of her face, confirming she was still there. "Where are Zelda and Impa?"
". . . I don't know!" she said. "Maybe Zelda was wrong about the magic!"
Malon's eyes widened in alarm. "Then. . . what do you we do?! Are they gone?"
"Looks that way, but I'm not leaving you for a minute!" said Navi. "Just keep walking – the tunnel must end somewhere and I'm sure we'll find an answer there." Malon nodded, Navi took a seat on her shoulder, and the two began to run towards the end of the tunnel.
The tunnel abruptly spit them out at the edge of what looked like a hedge maze about ten minutes later. Navi groaned in frustration. "Why did it lead us HERE!? We should be in the middle of the Kokiri Forest, not here! ANYWHERE but here! Oh, YOU STUPID FOREST!" Brushing past Malon, the fairy flew to the hedge wall behind then and began to punch and kick. "We have WAY more IMPORTANT things to do than let some STUPID forest play STUPID games with us! UGH!!!"
"Navi, where are we?" Malon asked.
Navi calmed down enough to stop beating the hedge wall, then turned to face Malon. "We're at the beginning of what is known as the Sacred Forest Meadow. It's within this meadow that we'll find the Forest Temple, but getting from here to the Kokiri Forest isn't easy. In fact, I'm not even sure WHY we were separated from Zelda and Impa to begin with. That tree trunk should have led us to a bridge and when we crossed it we should have been in the Kokiri Forest!"
Malon looked around, trying to figure out why such a thing happened. "This forest IS enchanted, isn't it?" she asked. "Even if I won't become a Stalfos, there's still magic here. Maybe the forest wanted us to come here?" She turned to Navi, who seemed to be thinking this over.
During the silence, they could faintly hear the sound of an ocarina in the distance. The little fairy's mood seemed to lighten, which Malon hoped was a good thing. "You're right! The forest definitely wants us here!" said Navi. She spun around in the air. "That sounds like Saria!"
Malon brightened at this idea. Now they were one step closer to finding Link! "So then she's on the other side of the hedge maze, right?" she asked. Navi nodded, and Malon started for the maze before the fairy flew in front of her, shaking her head. "No? Why not?"
"Let me go ahead and check for monsters first, okay?" asked Navi. "There's a fairy fountain nearby, so I'll go unnoticed. A Hylian would create a problem, especially since a lot of the things in the forest don't like grownups. Skull Kids who played with Link when he was a child tried to kill him when he came here after he got bigger – just because you don't magically turn into an evil skeleton warrior doesn't mean the forest isn't a dangerous place."
Malon's eyes widened. "Kill him? But why? Didn't they recognize him?"
"You didn't recognize Link right away after he grew up in the other timeline," said Navi. "And most of the Kokiri didn't, either – only Saria realized who Link was, but then she had to stay in the Chamber of the Sages and now she doesn't remember any of it. Furthermore, Saria might not like you right away – she's a really sweet kid and all, but grown-ups just don't exist in the Lost Woods."
"All right, fair enough – you lead the way," said Malon.
"My pleasure," said the fairy, who darted into the maze. She paused, looked both ways to check for monsters that might try to hurt the still un-trained Malon, and signaled for her companion to follow. Nodding, the ranch girl quickly followed the fairy into the maze.
The hedge maze was a sight to see. The walls extended several feet over Malon's head and not a single leaf was unkempt. The ground beneath her, instead of being a dirt path, was a tick carpet of green grass that grew wild, but was also very tidy in appearance.Do the Kokiri tend to this maze? Certainly it doesn't grow like this naturally. . . or does it?
forest IS magic. . .
It didn't take Malon very long to figure out that Navi knew the maze very well, for she led her up and down the twisting and turning path, only stopping long enough to make sure she was still behind her before taking off again. . . and checking for monsters. Though used to running and generally exasperating work, Malon was having trouble keeping up with the active little fairy. How much longer will it be before we're at the end of this maze?
Malon was happy to have her desire soon granted, but was puzzled to find a stone staircase leading to a long, stone hallway that ended with yet another staircase. Through the strange, unnatural formation, the sound of the ocarina music was much louder and Malon knew they had nearly found little Saria. None the less, why were there stairs here?
"Navi? Why are there-"
"This is where the Forest Temple is. The stairs and a few other stone structures were created when the temple was created by the first Six Sages many centuries ago. Over time they've gotten a little run down, as you'll see when we get to the meadow up ahead. There's a similar set of ruins by Lake Hylia that probably marked some sort of underground tunnel to get to the Water Temple a long time ago. You'd have to ask Rauru about it, though."
"I just might," said Malon. She then began to ascend the staircase, her mind active with fears and thoughts. Even the structures leading to it are magnificent. . . what is it like inside? "So then. . . the Forest Temple is up here. . . are we going inside of it yet, or are we going to wait for Ms. Zelda and Impa?"
"I see no reason to wait for them – Link and I handled the Forest Temple by ourselves, and besides – Saria is nearby. She's the Sage of this Temple, so wandering around with her will be a good thing!" said Navi. She smiled, nodding to Malon once before she prepared to turn around and fly up the stairs.
Saria's favorite place in the whole world was the small clearing at the far end of the Sacred Forest Meadow, for it was a place few Kokiri ventured to and it made for a lovely place to sit and think. It was a place to be alone, she reasoned, for it was so peaceful and quiet there that much else would seem to be a disturbance to the silent tranquility that this place held. Perhaps, she reasoned, a close friend or two would be all right, but certainly no more than that.
But mostly, she needed to be alone.
This was a need she had nearly every day since Link had left the Lost Woods.
It seemed strange at first, she realized, because she felt like she had already lost him for many years the day he left for good, but she couldn't explain why. She couldn't explain the look in Link's eyes that none of the other Kokiri had ever had before, or even why Navi was no longer at his side. Mido had, of course, jumped on the opportunity until Saria stopped him with a stern hand.
But Link remained
nearly emotionless during the whole exchange – he just stared
blankly at the Kokiri Forest, his eyes gently looking over every last
tree house and child within the woods. Once Mido had left, Saria saw
Link in that state and immediately began to mother hen him, asking
him where Navi was and why she'd left him – this
must've have been what upset him,
How cruel of Navi to stay with Link for a few months only to leave
him by himself after he got attached to her?
It was what happened next that nearly shattered her soul.
With a sudden movement, Link grabbed Saria in a tight embrace, taking the girl by surprise. She gently returned the embrace, unsure of what was going on or why he had suddenly done such a thing. Was he that upset over the loss of his fairy, or was it something else entirely?
Link told her he was leaving the forest. . . but this time, he would never return. He gave her the ocarina she had given him the day he'd left and smiled, saying that he would never forget her and he was glad he'd been able to be her friend. And then he left the woods.
And, true to his word, Link had not been seen for seven long years.
Only Lola, her fairy, sympathized with Saria over Link's disappearance. Though the Kokiri used to look up to her and view her as something special, they had given her distance since she had begun moping. She was no longer the Kokiri she once was. She was emotionally unstable at the loss of her best friend, and no one but tiny little Lola seemed to care.
Even playing her favorite song didn't cheer her up any more. Though this distraught state didn't hinder her musical talents, it was plain to see that, somewhere deep inside, her spirit was slowly dying as tears flowed down her cheeks and onto the ocarina. They were tears that had stemmed from the strange, inexplicable exit of Link, who had always promised to return to her after he and Navi began to venture outside of the woods. But now that he had promised her he would never return. . .
Saria looked up suddenly to see that Lola was irate. . . but not with her. There, floating in the middle of the Sacred Forest Meadow, were two lights – one of them was unquestionably little Lola, but the other was a blue fairy that Saria almost didn't recognize. And when she did recognize it. . .
"NAVI!!!" she cried out. Immediately, Saria was on her feet and staring at the fairy anxiously. Navi. . . that's Link's Navi. . . the one who left him. . . the one who made him leave ME!!! Why did she return after all these years?! Has she come to find Link again, or. . .?
"There you are!" was Navi's greeting. The fairy tried to fly to the Kokiri, but Lola blocked her way. After several attempts to go around, above, and below the over-protective Lola, the blue fairy started to talk back. "What??? I need to talk with Saria! I know you're her guardian but it's really important I talk to her! So outta my way! PLEASE Lola? PLEASE!? PRETTY PLEASE!?"
"After all you've done, you had the NERVE to come back here!?" Lola snapped.
"What? What do you mean 'after all I've done'? I didn't do anything to her!" Navi protested. She growled. "Lola, please, move – I need to have a word with Saria right away! I don't have a lot of time to be playing games like this so just let me get by!"
"Lola, let her speak," Saria said quietly. Lola froze in midair, allowing Navi to dart past her and flutter before the Kokiri's face. Saria studied the fairy carefully, evaluating the being before her, as if trying to confirm it was Navi and not some sort of cruel dream. "So. . . it is you. . ."
"Yes," said Navi, now much more calm. Lola flew to Saria's shoulder and shot warning glares to the other fairy. "I know you're probably wondering why I've come back after all these years. I'm not really sure what's going on myself, but I know you'll want to hear this." Saria nodded, gently urging the fairy to continue. "The Deku Tree used to tell you legends of the Triforce and the Hero of Time, right?"
"Of course," said Saria, nodding slowly. "And I was also told about the Spiritual Stones and the six Temples scattered across Hyrule. I know they're real, but they're so big. . . monumental. . . but why did you come here asking me about all this? I don't understand, Navi."
"You're one of the Sages."
Saria's eyes widened in surprise and she nearly fell backwards. "I'm WHAT!?" she asked. Lola looked equally surprised, hovering over her charge with worry. "Navi, that's not even funny – I'm just a little Kokiri girl, I'm not some powerful Sage! You shouldn't even joke about that!"
"Each of the Sages are representative from each of the races in Hyrule, so one of them HAS to be a Kokiri," said Navi. She sighed. "Perhaps that wasn't the best place to start, but as I said, there isn't a lot of time. Please, sit down and listen, okay?" Saria and Lola nodded, though her guardian was now eying Navi with a heightened level of suspicion.
"Talk, deserter," said Lola.
Navi scoffed at the comment, but continued on. "As you know, the Hero of Time has the ability to travel back and fourth through time itself – that's why you don't remember any part of being a Sage – it happened in an alternate timeline in which an evil man named Ganondorf controlled all of Hyrule," she said. She cleared her throat. "Seven years ago, the Deku Tree sent me to Link's tree house to exterminate the death curse inside of his trunk. That was because the Deku Tree knew something about Link he didn't tell me or Link. You see. . . Link is the Hero of Time."
"But that's impossible!" Lola snapped. "The Hero is supposed to be-"
"-a Hylian, I know!" said Navi. Now beyond flustered with the other fairy, Link's former guardian began to yell. "Link IS a Hylian! His parents were killed when he was just a baby and the Deku Tree raised him in the forest to protect him until it was time for him to awaken to his destiny, and that's exactly what he did! That's why he didn't have a fairy all those years! That's why I had to leave him! And that's why Link left the forest – because he was going to grow up and he couldn't stay anymore!"
Saria felt a trembling ache inside of her stomach as tears began to pour down her face. Navi and Lola stopped suddenly, watching her cry her eyes out. "But. . . but Link's going to get old now!" she cried. "Getting old is bad! It's not natural! Link can't grow up – he just CAN'T!"
"Saria. . ." said Lola. "Please, don't cry. . ."
Saria didn't pay attention to her fairy. She didn't want all of those awful things to happen to her best friend. That wasn't true! Navi was lying! Link was a Kokiri! He was never going to grow up! He wasn't the Hero of Time, either, and she wasn't a Sage! So why was Navi coming back after all this time just to make her cry?!
In her crying fit, Saria didn't notice someone else enter the meadow, and before she knew what was happening, someone had pulled her close into a protective embrace. She briefly stopped her crying and opened her eyes – she was staring at a cream-colored tunic worn by someone far bigger than any Kokiri she had ever seen. Whoever they were had much larger arms as well.
"It's all right, Saria. . . you don't have to cry. . ."
The voice was deeper, but still somehow sweet and comforting in a way Saria had never experienced before. The arms felt warm and inviting, and Saria hugged the larger person back, burying her face into the stranger's slender shoulder. She didn't care who it was – for all she cared it was this Ganondorf person Navi had talked about. But this person was so kind and gentle and comforting. . .
"Saria. . . I'd like you to meet Malon," Navi said as calmly as possible. The larger person and Saria pulled away, and for the first time Saria saw a face. The face was that of a girl, clearly an aged one, but not so much that her face was wrinkled and grizzly. On the contrary, it was still very smooth and youthful looking, and Saria guessed this person hadn't aged much beyond the point she had.
"Hello," said Saria, who was still sniffling.
Malon smiled as she wiped a fear tears from Saria's cheeks. "Hello, Saria," she said. "Please calm down. . . I know all of this must be upsetting to you. . . I've cried quite a bit myself since I was involved. . . but we have to be strong, all right? Can you do that?"
Slowly thinking it over, Saria nodded.
"Malon is a Hylian just like Link," said Navi. "Furthermore, she knows Link very well – Link's spent the past seven years living with Malon and her father, a man named Talon, in a place called Lon-Lon Ranch." She floated down to Malon's shoulder, landing in the soft red braid that cascaded over one shoulder.
"Why did you bring a Hylian into the Lost Woods? Won't she die?" asked Lola.
"Not according to Princess Zelda," said Navi. "Princess Zelda is a hidden seventh Sage, and she knows quite a bit about the world of Hyrule. The legends about Kokiri leaving and others entering the Lost Woods are false – you can all come and go as you please if you'd like."
"How is that possible?" asked Saria.
"The Deku Tree wanted to protect you – Hyrule is a very dangerous place for little Kokiri children, so it was easier to keep you in the Kokiri forest, where it was safe. There are many monsters out there and he didn't want you to be hurt or worse by any of them," said Navi. "But that won't be a problem – we'll protect you."
"Are you suggesting we LEAVE the Kokiri Forest?" asked Lola.
"I'm not suggesting it – I'm TELLING you that," said Navi.
"Well the answer is 'no'," said Lola.
Navi started to tremble with anger. "That's NOT an option!"
"If I may cut in!" Malon interrupted. This silenced the two fairies, and Malon continued. "The reason we are asking for your help, Saria, is because you ARE the Forest Sage, and we are located under the entrance to the Forest Temple. Link IS the Hero of Time, but something from his journey has come back and it managed to kidnap him. Trouble is, we don't know what it is that took him."
Saria froze. "Kidnapped?"
"An evil twin of Link's we call 'Dark Link' attacked Lon-Lon Ranch several days ago along with two other evil twins – an evil twin of the Fire Sage and an evil twin of the Light Sage. They threatened to kill Malon if Link didn't surrender himself, but Link didn't leave her without a clue – he sent her to find Princess Zelda, through whom she and the Shadow Sage located me," said Navi.
"And where were you?" asked Lola.
"The Sacred Realm," said Navi.
Lola grumbled something inaudible under her breath.
"I still don't understand
exactly what's going on," said Saria, "but if Link's really
in trouble. . . I'll do whatever I can to help him. He's my best
friend and I really, really miss him. Even if he is going to grow up.
I mean, is he still the same person on the inside, or do you change
when you get older?"
Malon stood up, then assisted Saria with the same. "Link is more than a head taller than I am," she said. Saria gasped in amazement. "But Link and I knew each other when we were your size, and he's still just as sweet as ever. Yes, he's grown up, but, well, he's still very much a child at heart. I guess after spending so many years with the Kokiri it's something he'll never quite grow out of, but that's one of the things I love about him."
Saria sighed. "What do we need to do now?" she asked.
"One of two things – figure out where Zelda and Impa went. . ." said Navi. Then, she looked up to the inaccessible entrance to the Forest Temple. "Or we figure out how to get in the Forest Temple without the Hookshot or Longshot, which is going to be a challenge."
"That's easy," said Lola, flying up to the ledge.
"I meant Saria and Malon," said Navi dryly. "If we had either shot, Malon could pick up Saria and get herself up there, but, well, we don't have it right now and I'm not sure where that particular weapon is." She turned to Malon and frowned. "The Hookshot was one of the only weapons Link and I didn't find inside of a Temple or another area with a big monster. We found it in the Kakariko Graveyard after racing the spirit of the old grave keeper there."
Malon froze. "Ghost?"
"Yup. But Dampé was a nice ghost. . . I think. He shot fireballs at Link but he was nice the rest of the time and invited him back. . ." Navi said, seeming a bit confused. "But that's not important, I think. Unless. . . no, if it's in there we're screwed because we'll have no other way to get inside!"
"Unless what?" asked Saria.
"Unless it's in the Shadow Temple," Navi said. She whimpered in frustration. "But we don't have anything to get us INSIDE the Shadow Temple – even Impa couldn't get in there right now and she's the Shadow Sage! So where is that DAMNED Hookshot!?"
"Maybe we need to race the ghost," said Saria.
"I don't wanna get my wings singed again. . ." Navi whined.
"Could we ask Zelda where it is?" asked Malon.
". . . now there's an idea I can work with. . . ask the princess. . ."
Saria blinked. "So. . . where's the princess?"
"That. . . is a good question."
I don't know why I named Saria's fairy "Lola". But it is surely better than "Saria's Fairy".
Long time no update, I know. This story isn't usually one of my main focuses. But with my big OP project winding down, that may or may not change. It depends on how things play out.