Standard Disclaimer: I have no connection to Nintendo or the Legend of Zelda franchise, and I have no intention of making money off of their work.
Nothing Lasts Forever officially began on the 7th of August, 2005, though I perhaps wrote the first chapter on the 6th. The real story, though, began when I first beat Ocarina of Time, the first time I ever cried because of a video game. People often say that you don't get as attached to video game characters because unlike in films or books, the character is merely an extension of your own personality. In some cases, I couldn't agree more. Where I usually start arguing is when they dare suggest that it has anything to do with the character's speech (or lack thereof), that decides whether a character is real.
NLF started as just a scene - a single point that I needed to express. It might be general consensus that Navi is a pest, but that in no way means that Link, the character, wouldn't have loved her. I heard one too many laughs as players watched Navi fly away through the high window, and not near as much sympathy as it seemed to me that Link deserved. One thing led to another, and soon I had a full story of loopholes and arguments that I needed to write out.
It's been two years and two days since the last words were written; the final chapter went up on June 3rd, 2006. And after a month of slow boring revisions (because editing is dull thankless work), the revised edition is going up, no thanks at all to Lamia (who said that she'd beta, but "left the printout in her locker" or "didn't dare look through it at work" or "didn't feel like it.") And yes, you deserved that, Lamia.
Before I begin, I have one last thing that I need to say: Thank You. To everyone who's read NLF, to everyone who's reviewed it, and added it to their favorites list or author alert: thank you. To everyone, but especially to Chaos Wielder, Lady Turmoil, and RWG. (They're all the same person, so the rest of you know.) Not only did you teach me how to write a good review, I don't know if NLF would have made it to the end without you. Kudos is about all that I can give, but as a token of my appreciation, this one's for you, Chaos.
Nothing Lasts Forever
Part the First
"Nothing lasts forever." That was the first thought that ran through my mind as the world spun back into place. The cold stone of the Temple of Time replaced the warm sunlight and peaceful clouds, and the monks' low chanting replaced the sweet lull of the ocarina I had come to think of as mine. For a few, brief seconds, I relished in the distant sound of dogs baying in the empty streets. It was over. My duty was done, and I could finally return to my old life, the life before nightmares and curses and madmen. I would be able to live those seven years, for real, not pass them by unconscious in a world beyond sight. Feeling happy and strong and alive, I basked in the soft golden light of the Temple.
When Navi started drifting towards the high window, a stab of fear shot through me. Why would she leave? The Deku Tree told her to be my guard, after all. I could barely see her through the golden light when the realization hit. It was over. I didn't need to be protected anymore. And having a fairy might have been a normal part of life for any other Kokiri, but I never really was one of them, even before I knew the truth. Understanding didn't make it hurt any less, I noted. So much had changed, in so little time. Before, I didn't have a fairy, but I still had Saria and my other friends behind me. Shunned as I was, I could still call myself Kokiri, then. And afterwards, when I finally had what I had dreamed of all my life - a fairy, and with her proof that I belonged in the forest - I was told I would have to leave, perhaps never to return.
Could I go back that the place? Without Navi, and the buffer that she provided me from Mido's torments? The Deku Tree, dead now, certainly wasn't going to assign a new fairy to me. I wasn't one of them, anyways. I knew that. The longer I stayed, the more obvious it would have become; I wasn't sure I could bear that. I couldn't let time take everything from me, not like that. Better to part ways while I still could still walk away proud.
I thought of Zelda's last words, as she said goodbye in the clouds. "Go home, Link. Home... where you are supposed to be... the way you are supposed to be." How ever much I wished otherwise, the Forest couldn't be my home, not any more. Looking up at the window that Navi had vanished through, squinting my eyes against the bright light, I made a wish. I wished with all my heart to find a place, somewhere, with friends and peace and happiness: a place that I could call home, someday. The light seemed to grow even brighter, and blinking back tears, I turned my eyes away.
My sigh echoed through the empty room. There wasn't anyone who would have known to greet me at my return, or would have if they had known, but the surrounding quiet still seemed bitter. There wasn't even anyone who knew I had been gone, though if Zelda suspected, I wouldn't have been surprised. No one here would be drinking to freedom from Ganondorf's reign; if I wanted to celebrate the occasion I would do so alone. There would be a celebration there, I knew, and I wondered if they would even realize that the hero wasn't at the party. Probably not. Why would they bother worrying about loose ends when there was merry-making to be done? I could just see it. There would be a huge bonfire, with the Gerudo and the Gorons dancing closest to the flames. Hylians and Kokiri would hang farther back, grinning, but not so happy as to loose all reserve. Perhaps some of the more adventurous Kokiri would dance among the Gorons, just for the fun of it. The twins, definitely. Perhaps even a few Zora would attend, though not many leave their waters for long.
Suddenly, I wanted to go as far away as I could. I didn't want these memories that I shouldn't have. I wanted to be normal: just another Kokiri. I ran out of the Temple, stumbling as I sprinted towards the drawbridge. I made sure not to run too close to the night-prowling dogs. I didn't want even a mutt near me right then, even dogs had too many memories attached to them. Richard, and through him Talon and Malon and Epona... I wondered what would become of Epona, if Ingo didn't raise her for Ganondorf and I didn't need to rescue her. I wondered if she'd be happy.
I pondered where I could go as I crossed the bridge. Everywhere, it seemed, was tied to memories, of the future if not of the present. I wasn't sure which would hurt more, but I didn't want to deal with either set. I didn't want to forever be tormented by the thought of Epona standing ready for a run, or the carpenter's son, or the beggar underneath the stairs. An old conversation with Saria came to mind, and I knew I had found my answer. Once, she had told me that the forest was linked to many places, hidden paths that existed not in this realm, but another. Perhaps, I thought, I could use the woods to find a way into a different land, some place completely unlinked to Hyrule.
As I came to the hill's crest, and looked down at the two rows of trees lining the forest path, I heard a familiar noise. At first, I couldn't place it, and the irrational part of me, still sore from her departure, thought it was Navi coming back. When I turned and saw Epona's slight form daintily walking up the hill towards me, I instantly forgot my disappointment. Epona, after all, hadn't ever left like Navi had. I gently stroked her coat, so soft compared to her coarser adult hair. Absently, I started humming Malon's song, and Epona nuzzled against me, nearly knocking me over with her weight. As I tried to say goodbye, she gently butted my hand with her head, urging me to continue stroking her. After the third failed attempt, I gave up, and started walking towards Kokiri Forest with her by my side.
When I approached the pathway into the Forest, I expected her to neigh in fright and turn around. Epona, however, seemed to have no such plans. She stopped in front of me, turning so as to let me up on her back. I obeyed, confused, and as soon as I was seated, she walked into the Forest, hesitating only slightly as she passed the threshold. Without my direction, she took me up the gentle slope to the Lost Woods, and I decided to let her go where she willed. I soon lost track of the turns as she led me farther and farther into the woods: farther than I had ever gone. We traveled slowly, leisurely. After all, it would have been pointless to hurry. At dusk of the first day, suddenly everything changed. The grass, the trees, even the air was different. Taking a deep breath, I knew that I could make a home in this new land, and be truly content.