Voices floated up from below. They were happy, and that was good. They were innocent, and that was even better. They wouldn't know for a second what had happened over the last seven years. Already they were in the process of forgetting.
They wouldn't, though. These three who made up the only ones who would ever know where Ganondorf had come from and what he had done. Just two blond kids and a blue-skinned fairy.
Somehow they were special.
"Link! You did it!" Navi landed on his ear and sat down on it, kicking his earring.
"Yeah," Link said, looking at Zelda. She was staring down at what passed for a floor in the Sacred Realm; Hyrule Castle could be seen through wisps of cloud. Her eyebrows were drawn together, and he couldn't tell what she was thinking.
"Call me Zelda," she said absently, still looking down at the world beneath the Realm.
"We just saved the world, didn't we?"
She nodded. "That we did."
"Then why aren't you happy?"
She stopped and looked up at him, her eyes widening for a moment. She blinked and looked shamefaced. "Are you happy?" she asked.
The question threw him. "I . . . I don't know. I guess so." He lifted his left hand, holding out his finger for Navi to crawl onto. She straddled his finger like it was a horse and beamed at him. He smiled back -- despite the fact that she was loud and annoying, she had been there for him for as long as he could remember, and he appreciated that. "I am," he said, turning back to her.
"Good. Then so am I."
He raised his eyebrows. He didn't exactly know the Princess well, but he had an undeniable respect for her, especially after learning Sheik's real identity. "But . . . ?"
"I'm just very sorry about all of this. You shouldn't have had to . . . well, to go through it."
"It's not like it was your fault Ganondorf decided to try and rule the world. And it definitely wasn't your fault for asking for help."
"I suppose." Still, she gave him a strange look; he didn't know her well enough to read it. "I just wish you hadn't lost those seven years, is all."
"What's seven years, really? Now that Ganondorf's gone, I'll have plenty more. Princess -- Zelda -- please don't worry about it." Suddenly Zelda's eyes brightened with a spark of . . . something. Link wasn't quite sure what. "What is it?"
"Give me your ocarina."
He pulled it out of his pocket, looking from her to it and feeling like there was something very wrong. Technically it was hers, but she'd given it to him. It was his now, and he'd grown attached to it. Besides, he needed something to tell him that it wasn't all a dream. A horrifying, fascinating, wild dream.
She held out her hand, her expression one of polite expectancy. Presently he handed it to her with a sigh.
"Thank you," she said, sparing him a quick smile before raising it to her lips.
"What are you going to do with it?" Link asked.
"I'm going to send us back in time, so that you can regain the years that you have lost, thanks to me."
He shrugged, uncomfortable that she -- the Princess, for crying out loud -- was taking the blame for this. "You're the royalty. If duty calls, then I have to obey."
"No. This was unfair," she said, lowering the ocarina again. She shook her head and laughed. "My father always went on and on about how unfair the Royal Family had been for years, and how if there was ever a chance that he could make things right, he would leap at it." She gave him a sideways glance. "My father is a bit senile, but he's still a good man, and I want to be like him. So you see I must do this."
"I guess so. . . ."
"Don't worry, you won't remember a thing about the last seven years. It will be like it was all a dream."
Link started to nod, then his brain caught up to his muscles, and he reached forward and grabbed her wrist. "What was that?"
She looked at him, surprised. "What was what?" she asked mildly.
He stared at her, searching for some sign of guile, something less than innocence in her face. However, all he saw was puzzlement. "You really don't know why I don't want my memories taken?"
She shook her head. "All that pain, those battles. Why would you ever want to remember that?"
"I learned a lot from those battles. Things that I don't ever want to forget. Things that will probably help me kick Mido's butt when we go back in time. And if Ganondorf comes back, I don't want to be left in the dark."
"He won't come back. To the minds of Hyrule, it will be like he never existed."
"Don't let me be one of those minds, Princess. Zelda. I want to remember."
Zelda had the ocarina clutched in a white-knuckled grip. "Are you sure?"
"I'm positive." For the first time in his life, he really was.
She smiled again, a real smile this time. "You're very brave, aren't you?"
"Well, I try," he said.
"I think . . . when we get back. . . . I would very much like to be your friend." She looked at him over the blue curve of the ocarina. "Would you like that?"
There was really only one answer to give. "Of course, Pr -- Zelda."
The smile widened. "Good," Zelda said, looking at both him and Navi with a sudden affection. Raising the ocarina yet again to her lips, she began to play, and everything around them ran together into a whirlwind of color and sound.
Link's feet hit solid ground a few minutes -- or hours, or seconds, or even months -- later. Immediately his legs buckled and he collapsed forward onto his hands and knees, breathing heavily. He kept his eyes squeezed shut to block out the rest of the room; it felt far too bright, and seemed to be spinning. Finally when his body felt less like a boat in a storm, he looked up.
He was in the Temple of Time, and it was completely empty. He climbed to his feet, swaying. "Navi?" he said, squinting around the sunlight-flooded chamber. "Navi, are you there?"
"Of course! Did you think I would leave you?" She swooped down from the ceiling, where she'd been peering out of one of the large windows. "Link, it's the same Hyrule, honest to Goddess!" She leaned forward, nearly perching on Link's nose. "She really did it. Look at yourself!"
He did. His lanky seventeen-year-old's body had been replaced with his short, slightly-stocky ten-year-old one. "Huh." He held up one hand, looking at how much shorter and rounder they were. The Master Sword, which was lying on the floor nearby, was now almost as tall as he was. "Why here? Why aren't we in the Kokiri Forest?"
Navi's thin blue shoulders were hard to see through the glow surrounding her body, but he thought he saw her shrug. "Maybe she wanted you to put the sword back until you're big enough to use it."
"Maybe." Link picked up the sword, grunting at the effort, and put it back into its stone. He swiped at his forehead with one arm. "Now what, then? Do we go home?"
"Yeah," Navi said, flitting through the air in front of him. "But I think you have a promise to fulfill."
He cocked his head to the side. "What promise?"
"Don't you have a friend to make?"
"Oh. Right!" His eyes widened, all the seventeen-year-old awkwardness at making friends with a princess gone. "How do I find her?"
Navi rolled her eyes, zooming over to the door of the temple. "In the castle, maybe?" She sighed. "I'll get you there."
He nodded, trotting after her to the castle. "Navi?" he asked, hurrying to keep up.
She glanced over one shoulder and quirked one eyebrow. "Yeah?"
"Will I . . . we . . . everyone . . . be okay? Will we all be okay now?"
She smiled at him, her expression surprisingly tender, and said, "Link, I think everything will be fine."
All right, I'm rewriting this because the first version . . . well, sucks. Why am I rewriting this instead of going all the way back to Genesis and redoing that one?
Honestly? Because I'm afraid. I'm terrified of how bad that one is. I'll deal with it when I'm older, wiser, and stronger.
Anyway, with a little luck this prologue should be slightly better than the original. Hopefully.