A note from the Hime no Argh herself-

Yes, I'm posting again! It's incredible! Sorry it's taken me so long. I think I've finally gotten over my writer's block though where this story is concerned. I just hope my readers haven't forgotten TTU exists!

Yes, this novel is winding down. Yes, the ending is just a few chapters away. I'm kind of depressed about it, honestly, because I've spent so much time on this story and soon it's going to be finished. *sob* Well, I've got my other Zelda fic to think about, so it's not so bad (hey, take a look at that if you haven't already! It's called A Tale of Seven Years).

Anyway, please read and review. I don't own Zelda.

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The Triforce United

* * *

Prelude to Battle

It was a grim, depressed little group that made its way back to Kakariko when the sun rose after that fateful night. Link, Zelda, and Naziri used to trip home to fill in Mara and Deran of everything they knew from their dream and what Farore had told them, and the two Sheikah were very distressed. But for the "three united" it was worse. If what the Owl Scroll said was true, they were going to die the very next day.

Back in Kakariko, Link and Mara volunteered to inform the villagers and the Sheikah of what was going on, feeling their people had a right to know that their world might very well end tomorrow. Zelda, not wanting to hear it all again, took Naziri and holed them both up in the town's windmill. There they sat together and listened to nothing but the humming and clacking of the mill.

Naziri did not protest their seclusion. In truth, it was a relief to have the noisy mill to concentrate on, rather than her own morose thoughts. Yet they were there for only an hour or so before Link showed up, frowning at the sight of them.

"Are you two just going to stay in here until tomorrow?" he demanded.

Zelda glared at him. "Yes, actually, I was thinking of doing just that. At least in here I can retreat into my shell without certain people trying to drag me out of it. Even queens need shells, sometimes."

Link glared right back, but his eyes looked weary. "Fine, do what you want. I need to talk to Naziri, anyway."

Naziri got to her feet and followed Link out of the windmill. Unlike the headstrong Zelda, it simply was not in her nature to argue, unless it was for something important.

Link turned to face her just outside the windmill. There was no need to worry about Zelda eavesdropping; even if she wanted to, the noise of the windmill would drown out almost any other sound.

"I think I know what you're going to say," Naziri commented before Link could open his mouth.

He hesitated. "What's that?"

"You're going to tell me that I don't need to come with you and Zelda to the Sacred Realm tomorrow. You two are going because you have a duty to your homeland, but I have no connection here, so I don't need to concern myself." Naziri shook her head. "You're wrong, though, Link. I have every connection here. I've made a home for myself in Hyrule, and I have no wish to see it destroyed. And it's not just Hyrule that's in danger, but the whole world. I have to worry about my Gerudo sisters, and about the sages and the Sheikah's home back in Pinnasi. Besides, I'm united with you and Zelda under the Triforce. If what this Owl Scroll says is true, I sort of have to fight."

Naziri was glad that Link listened without interrupting; it made what she had to say so much easier. Now that she had finished, Link sighed and smiled painfully. "It's funny. I knew you were going to say all that, too. I just thought I'd try, I guess."

"I appreciate that," Naziri said, and meant it, because she knew Link had tried only because he cared about her, and didn't want to see her hurt. Or dead.

"This is bad," Link whispered, giving voice to Naziri's thoughts. "Tomorrow one or two or all of us is going to die, according to that damn scroll."

Naziri tried a smile. "At least Maeve will be killed as well," she offered. "'Both sides will fall,' it said."

"That's one of the reasons I admire you, Naziri," Link said ruefully. "Even in a situation like this, you still manage to be optimistic."

"Oh, I don't know if it's optimism," Naziri said solemnly. "My mother spent the first half of my life letting me know how insane I am. She was probably right."

Link smiled at that; the expression quickly faded, leaving him looking terribly weary. "Listen, there's some things I have to take care of before we go to the Sacred Realm tomorrow. There's Navi, and I should go to the Lon Lon Ranch to tell Malon what's happening. So I guess that I should take this opportunity to...to say..."

"See you later?" Naziri suggested.

Link's eyes were shadowed, but the smile he offered was genuine. "Exactly the phrase I was looking for." He looked around, as if checking to make sure no one was watching, then put a hand under her chin and tilted her face upward. "I'm doing this now because I might never get another chance to, so don't be offended."

He kissed her and Naziri stood shock-still, thunderstruck.

When he pulled away she pressed her fingers to her lips, speechless in one of those rare moments of her life. "That was for good luck," Link murmered, pale spots of color appearing on his cheeks.

Naziri quite abruptly threw her arms around him. "I like the way you wish good luck," she confided.

Link's only response was to wrap his arms around her and kiss her again, desperately. After a few moments he pulled away gently, and kissed her forehead. Then he strode away, leaving her with far more to think about than what tomorrow might bring.

* * *

At Link's request, Navi accompanied him and Epona as they galloped across Hyrule Field, heading toward Lon Lon Ranch. Link thought he had better use this opportunity to tell Navi something she did not want to hear.

"You're not coming with us," Link said flatly when his fairy demanded to know what he wanted to talk to her about.

"What?!" Navi squealed, outraged. "What do you mean, I'm not coming with you?!"

"I mean you're not coming. The scroll says we're going to die, Navi. You're not dying with us."

Navi landed on Epona's mane, her wings buzzing angrily. "I've been with you in every important battle you've ever fought," she snapped. "I guided you through the temples. I told you where to go when Sheik was no help. I helped you defeat Ganon-"

"I know, Navi, I know," Link replied, his voice softer. "It's not that I don't appreciate all the help that you've given me. I don't know where I'd be if it weren't for you. But..." Link had to stop and swallow the lump in his throat. Navi said nothing. "I just don't want to see you dead, all right? Besides, someone has to stay here and take care of Malon, and the Kakariko villagers, and Saria and the sages...and Epona. Someone has to stay and be with Epona."

Link's mare flicked an ear back and forth uneasily, and Navi hesitated. "But- if you're going to die, then I should die with you. You're my charge, remember?"

"I know," Link said grimly. "And I don't care. It's enough knowing that Naziri and Zelda might both die tomorrow, and I can't do anything about it. I want to at least know that you're going to be safe."

"Stupid kid," Navi growled, sounding choked up. "I lived a hundred years before the Deku Tree named you as my charge, you know that? All these years we've been together- fighting enemies, helping people...seeing you go from a ten-year-old to a seventeen-year-old overnight, as it seemed to us." She gave a watery chuckle. "I can't believe how much we've done together since we met, including this new adventure. So much in such a short period of time." She cleared her throat. "The point is, in a century of my life, the few short years I've spent with you are the most fun I ever had."

Link didn't trust himself to answer right away. "I know what you mean," he managed at last. "I'm going to miss you. Take care of everyone for me, all right, Navi?"

"All right, Link." Nothing more was said, but Navi fluttered to perch on his shoulder, something she rarely did, as they rode on to Lon Lon Ranch.

* * *

To be continued.