Chapter 8:

Fearless

The Princess awoke to find herself lying in a small glen, surrounded by ancient trees that covered the sky and ferns that stretched over the bare earth, thick enough that no one could see the ground unless they dug for it. She slowly sat up, her head still spinning due to the after affects of her light headedness. Her vision was unfocused, so she tried rubbing her eyes with her hands, but her eyes remained hazy and stiff. She shut her eyes tightly, and reopened them to look more closely at her surroundings.

She obviously could tell that she was in a vast forest. She decided that she was currently in the Lost Woods, but her mind didn't seem like it was convinced that it was. The trees were too tall, and she had never seen ferns and plants like this before in her life. Or she had not gone deep enough into the forest to find them… Either way, nothing seemed familiar. As Shiek, she hid in the Lost Woods for long periods of time to avoid the Evil King's gaze, but she had not dared venture too far from Hyrule's boarders. This seemed far beyond the kingdom… completely unfamiliar.

Then another startling observation sent her senses on edge.

She was alone.

A sinking feeling fell to the pit of her stomach, and Zelda instinctively pulled her arms and legs closer together, only to reveal another strange realization.

She was completely bare naked.

Zelda squealed loudly and shot up, staring down at her now bare body, not sure of whether to be embarrassed or deeply concerned at her present condition. She looked around hastily to see if anyone really was around, secretly watching her, but her attempts to find anyone were in vain. She felt slightly relieved, but worried that there really was no one there.

The Princess stood there confused.

A minute ago, she was in the Spirit Temple, and now she was in the middle of nowhere.

But, what had she been doing in the Spirit Temple?

As Zelda reconciled her thoughts, she remembered Link's limp form being carried by Darunia… Impa and Nabooru conversing… and Link finally being able to speak when he was close to his soul piece.

But what had happened after that?

The Sage became puzzled at the simple question. As much as she tried, her mind would not relinquish what exactly happened after she started to walk toward the Hero.

Perplexed, Zelda mindlessly looked around once more. Nothing had changed really. Eventually she decided that her surroundings were quite beautiful. Looking around one more time to make sure that no one was there, she carefully took one step forward in a random direction. She wasn't sure if it was the smartest thing to do… but her instinct was telling her to move.

She slowly walked through a random pair of trees, and soon she left the glen behind, letting herself go into the darker parts of the forest.

Nothing seemed too out of place. This didn't seem to be like any of her prophetic dreams she had before. Nothing reached out to suddenly grab her; there weren't any pits to fall in; no strange symbols; no hellish images… everything seemed practically real. Her feet could feel the soft ferns below the soles of her feet, her fingers felt the roughness of the tree's trunks, and she could smell the fresh scent of various flowers blooming all around her.

Everything was amazingly wonderful and inspiring, but she soon noticed an eerie presence in the back of her mind. Though this forest was full of plant life, it lacked something else.

Zelda suddenly stopped in her tracks.

She put a hand up to her pointed ear.

No sound came. At all.

Absolute quiet.

For some reason this seemed to bother Zelda more than her nakedness.

She listened again, just to be sure, but there was indeed no sound at all coming from the forest. No birds, no insects, no scuttling of woodland creatures…

Was she the only one here?

Worried now, Zelda turned around in circles, wondering whether or not she should go back to the glen that she came from. It wasn't too far away. But then again, there were countless other places to go in these woods. It was probably best if she didn't back track. She decided to press forward to see if she could find anything at all, or at least a reason of why this forest had become silent.

Her feet soon carried he to yet another glade, albeit the sun's light did not reach much of the ground here. The vegetation was thick and hard to move through, but eventually it evened out and it was easy to walk through once more.

The glen itself wasn't very large. The trees surrounding it were like walls, and their leaves acted like a roof above her head, sheltering her from any elements that nature might have thrown at her. The ground was covered in a soft moss. No ferns were present in the glen, and Zelda could see that this place was being cared for by something, or someone; Places where undesired plants had been pulled were evident by various holes in the moss covering. In the center of this pristine place was a stump of an ancient tree. It had apparently been cut down a while ago, seeing as the trees surrounding it had now overtaken what space this stump used to occupy.

This empty space seemed welcoming to the Princess, but once again she regarded her bareness, and retreated slightly, unsure if anyone was truly around.

"What should I do?" she thought, her arms now covering up what they could, "Should I try to clothe myself?"

She already knew that was impossible. She had nothing to make clothes out of… even if she decided to go as far as leaves, she didn't have anything to have them stay on her body.

As her frustration escalated, her ears finally picked up a sound. A snap echoed off in the distance, sending her head reeling in the direction it came from. It appeared to have come from in front of the Princess, and she immediately squatted down to hide herself in the ferns surrounding the glade.

Soon she heard more snapping of branches and foliage, and her fear began to make her heart accelerate.

"I suggest you hold still."

"What should I do?!"

"Just stay calm! Don't do anything irrational. Don't make any sudden movements."

The sounds became louder and louder, and Zelda knew she would see the beast any second.

And then, a massive hoofed foot, colored the darkest of black entered the glade, followed by a body that would have towered over the princess if she were next to it. It's head was shaped like a boar's, it's tusks huge beyond any creature Zelda had ever seen. It's eyes were tiny in comparison to it's head, and between a set of ears, red hair flew like fire behind it. It grunted and drooled strange fluids from it's mouth, revealing a set of sharp teeth to go along with the tusks.

There was no mistaking it.

"Ganon…," Zelda thought, her resolve draining from her, much like the color that was left in her face.

He was different than before somehow. His body did not seem… firm. His body looked fluid, and unstable. Zelda noted that black smoke would rise off of him and disappear into nothing a few inches away.

But even if his body was not physical, the young sage could see that he could still affect what was around him. His other foot stepped into the glade, and he began to slowly walk around it. The foot prints in which he left behind where nothing but ash and waste. The once thriving moss all but shriveled up beneath his touch.

"Oh Goddesses… does he know I'm here?" Zelda suddenly thought, sweat beginning to run down her brow at her new found anxiety.

The beast continued his short walk around the small glen, destroying helpless ferns and flowers in the process, and even taking out a massive branch, which let in a little bit of light from the sun.

"I suggest you run now."

As silently as she could, Zelda turned around and began to sneak away, her eyes nearing the point of tears due to her encounter.

"He should be back in the Sacred Realm! What is he doing back here?"

"This isn't the 'here' you remember."

"What in all of HELL do you mean by that?"

"This is not a dream, but rather a memory."

Zelda mentally paused as she picked up her pace, away from the terrible sight. Whether he was making his way toward her she didn't know, but she decided not to look behind her.

"This… this is a memory?"

"It's not your memory."

"Then who's-"

Before Zelda even had a chance to finish her mental conversation, a young man, as bare naked as her, rushed out from a set of bushes from the side of her, and grabbed her by the waist, carrying her with him as he ran.

Zelda was so shocked by the sudden maneuver, that she did not have the time to make a protest. He ran so swiftly and silently through the woods that he would have dragged Zelda on the ground if the princess had not decided to keep her legs up to run. From her vantage point, she couldn't see the young man's face, buts he could tell that he was Hylian by his long pointed ears, and he had golden blonde hair, much like Link's. In fact, if she looked a little closer…

A resounding roar ripped through the trees, sending a wave of fear through Zelda's body, making her suddenly trip and fall out of the stranger's grasp. Before she hit the ground however, a firm hand caught her wrist and quickly pulled her back up, making her once again move at full speed. The princess admitted to herself that it was a little easier to move, now that she didn't have a man's arm around her waist. (The Princess blushed at the fact that she was still naked and a man had touched her, but she decided not to dwell on such thoughts when they were apparently running away from the beast that looked like Ganon.)

She still had not seen the man's face, due to the fact that he seemed intent on finding a destination. It appeared that he was not eager to look behind him, much how Zelda decided against the same idea.

Another roar, much closer this time, ringed in Zelda's ears, and at this, the man ripped to the right; away from the source of the roar.

"He's on to us…," the youth said gently, as if trying not to scare her.

His voice sounded much like Link's… smooth and deep, but it held more of a mature tone that Zelda couldn't place. But as her curiosity rose, her sense of safety was plummeting to the pit of her gut as the un earthly roar of Ganon tore through the forest.

"We must hurry… otherwise he might catch us."

He seemed just as disheveled as the young sage felt. She realized that his running was very sporadic and unpredictable, like he didn't know what to do.

As if he was just as afraid as she was.

After what seemed like forever, the young man skidded to stop near a very large tree. Upon further inspection, Zelda noticed that there was a hole near the bottom, large enough for two to fit comfortably; the perfect hiding place. Still unable to see his face, Zelda was motioned by the man inside, and quickly did as she was told. She slid into the dark hole, mud and dirt clinging to her skin as she did so. Her feet landed on moist earth, filled with small roots and decomposing material. With normal circumstances, she normally would have been disgusted by this, but a hiding place was needed, and if this was to keep her safe, Zelda was not about to argue.

The Sage heard her mysterious partner slide down as well, his feet landing softly on the wet earth, and he gently guided her to the side into the darkness. He sat down against the edge of the hollow, and pulled Zelda down with him, her back now resting on his torso, and her head resting on his chest. The man's legs encircled Zelda's body, as if protecting her from anything that might come down the entrance. The princess then felt his hot breath against her neck, heaving with exhaustion. Considering the distance he crossed in that short of a time, Zelda was certain he must be tired.

"Keep close," he muttered in between breaths, his chin now resting on the nape of her neck.

Zelda's own breathe quickened, but not out of fatigue or fear. The fact she was naked… and that he was naked… and due to their close proximity of each other…

Needless to say the situation was very awkward.

"Who's memory is this?" Zelda questioned, remembering the mental conversation that she had abruptly ended.

"I'm surprised you cannot answer that on your own."

"What do you mean?"

"Just look at who is holding you."

"How can I see who's holding me… it's pitch black in here…"

"There's enough light just DO IT."

Zelda's gaze now turned to the one who was resting his head on her shoulder and her eyes widened.

Indeed the hollow wad dark and little could be seen… but there was enough light to see the young man's face. His eyes were bright blue… the color of time, and his hair hung down in a shaggy fashion that framed a boyish face coming with age.

It was Link.

There was no denying it. It was Link… sitting right there… with her in his arms.

Running away from Ganon.

She was glad that it was Link holding her, but she became befuddled with questions.

When did Link have this memory? Unless this was something that Zelda had amnesia over, she was sure that this had never happened between Link and herself. The only time they ever encountered Ganon was after Link had rescued her from Ganondorf's clutches at the top of his evil tower.

"What kind of memory is this?"

"An old one. A very, very old one. One that even Link himself doesn't remember."

Zelda could still hear Ganon's roars over them, and she could feel Link's gut clench at the horrifying sound. He held onto her tighter than before. The princess then felt something wet fall down her body, and she looked toward Link with concern.

He was crying.

He was more than just crying… he was shuddering with fear.

She had never known Link to be like this in any circumstance. Link had always been the brave one, while she was the one cowering.

"Everything will be fine…," he half heartedly said behind his tears, making Zelda on the verge of crying herself.

"We'll be okay."

"You have no idea what's going on do you?"

"Do you?"

No reply came.

"Please answer me."

Still no reply.

Before Zelda could ask again, the images around her started to fade. The hollow vanished, the roars stopped, and the scared Link disappeared into oblivion. All that was left was her and the darkness.

She was once again, alone.

Once again, she was afraid.

"Link?" She called out. But only echoes of her call came back to her.

The princess fell to her knees out of desperation, and began to cry silently, unable to think of a way out of this mess.

"Have you ever had something you were afraid of losing? Would you be willing to run away from honor for it?"

"Would you put pride aside to help one in need? Would you put it away to let reality sink in? To know that you're not invincible?"

"Would you lie to yourself… saying that you are fine when you know full well that everything around you is falling apart?"

"Fear is nothing to be afraid of. Fear is instinct. Fear is what makes us put what is important first."

"In a sense… fear makes us fearless."

The cryptic message rung in Zelda's mind, making her eyes close and relax.

Fear makes us fearless.

It was a strange irony that could have made the Sage's head hurt, but at the moment it made sense. And anything that made sense right now brought comfort to her soul.

"What happens now?"

"You wake up."