Where There Is Happiness
The revelry of the carnival was distance echo, with the occasional shout, trumpet blast, or chorus of tambourines drifting in with the calming breeze.
Link was asleep the moment his head hit the pillow.
With the inn in a stoic silence, the patient shadow moved quickly, leaping with ease from a pile of wooden crates and onto the inn's upper balcony. It crouched low, the rustle of its cloak as natural as the flap of a falcon. Breathing easy, the creature grasped the knob of the door and slipped into the dark corridor. The grooves of the uneven, wooden floor shone in the faint moonlight, but everything was rendered colorless.
The moonlight was enough.
Without pause, the creature floated down the length of the corridor and down the staircase, avoiding the floorboard that was known to creak. When it reached the lower level, it stopped, and for a moment observed the closed door beside the dark kitchen. The other two would be there, it reasoned. Then, as if on second thought, it stepped towards the closed door and observed the doorknob.
As if reassured, the figure turned its attention towards the sound of the crack-crackle of the dying embers in the kitchen. It drifted forward.
He was there, asleep, in the corner. Even after all these years, it was unmistakably him.
The creature smiled slowly and reached within the folds of its cloak.
Link would later remember waking up that night with his blood running cold, hearing the ferocious clash of metal on metal.
He sat up quick as an arrow, and found that scene before him evoked a shock of dismay. And for a terrible, fleeting second – a second that he would remember for a long time afterwards – he felt an emotion that he hadn't felt since he grasped his first sword in the Kokiri forest so many years ago: helplessness.
Kafei was there in the room, daring, dangerous, eyes flashing in anger and with a large kitchen knife in his hand. He was leaping, dodging, lunging as he tried to disarm a cloaked stranger, drawing it away from the kitchen, and away from Link.
"Kafei!" Link cried out, voice not working properly. Reflexes kicking in, he sprinted with desperate agility to the old, wooden hutch where he kept his sword, flung it open and ran after the intruder. At the sound of his frantic steps, the stranger wasted no time. With a crippling blow it disarmed Kafei, knocking him backwards. Then, with the calm aura of a panther, it swung its sword around and met Link's lunge from behind.
The voice that followed, sent tendrils of shock through Link's blood.
"I suggest you do the wise thing and put that sword away, Hero"
No need. Link's sword fell to the ground.
Then he stood there, paralyzed.
"Kafei! What on earth, oh goddesses! Link!" Anju was now in the hallway, kneeling at her husband's side, watching Link and the stranger with an aghast expression.
Forcing some movement into his legs, Link took a hesitant step back. Pretty soon though, he realized that was all he could truly manage.
He tried his voice next. "How…you're here?" It sounded tinny and ridiculous. It seemed that he couldn't form coherent sentences either. Fortunately, the stranger seemed to understand his meaning, and lowered its sword, returning it within the folds of its cloak.
They stood, observing each other for some time.
The stranger was the first to speak.
"Somehow, I thought we were friends, hero. Or if not friends, at least accomplices. But here we are, years later, and though we would never greet with an embrace, perhaps we should shake hands. Will you shake hands with me, Link?"
Link dropped his gaze to the floor, shaking his head fervently in a last attempt to gather his wits.
He looked up and breathed in disbelief.
The stranger reached up and undid the clasp at its neck, the cloak soon falling away from its face and revealing steely, bright eyes and a keen gaze. Neat, silver hair tied back the same way it always was. Indeed, it was Impa, and after a moment Link realized that her hand, indeed, was extended towards him.
He shook her hand hesitantly. Her grip was still as strong as he remembered.
He withdrew his hand. "Why are you here?"
Link thought, though he highly doubted it afterwards, that the steeliness in her eyes dimmed a trifle at his question. Impa glanced over her shoulder at Kafei and Anju. She nodded briefly at them both.
"First I must apologize for the disaster I have caused." She glanced back at Link, probably in sympathy, but he couldn't tell; he could never tell from her expression. "I have been traveling for many weeks trying to find you. Tonight, when I finally spotted you on the rooftop of this inn I knew I had a chance to speak with you. However, I found that my usual diligence was not sufficient enough as I was sneaking into the kitchen, for no sooner had I begun to give you your message than I realize I had awoken your friend." She folded her arms. "He obviously thought I was about to cause you harm." Her eyes darted to Kafei, who was now struggling to sit up. "You are lucky, Link, to inspire such loyalty from your friends."
The shiekah woman regarded the young man in front of her. He was looking at the floor again, hands clenching and unclenching in nervousness. His voice; quiet, uncertain, perhaps even terrified, shook as he asked the question that he had been dying to ask for years.
"Impa, how is she?"
The reply was curt, abrupt, and meaningless. "She's fine, Link."
After a moment, Link asked another question, his voice rising with a bubbling eagerness. "Did she send you to find me, then?"
Unexpectedly, Impa hesitated. She took in the sight of Hyrule's salvation in the boy standing before her. For the most part he was different now, older, but different from the time he had been older before. Yes, different, but a bit the same too, she decided, recognizing the familiar sparkle in his eyes as he awaited news of his princess.
Which is why she hesitated.
"No, Link," she began slowly. "I am afraid she did not send me. I came here on my own."
Kafei, who had never seen his young charge look so melancholy, watched the scene in fascination. Anju was startled into such a state that she moved to stand by Link's side.
"Good heavens, what is all this about?"
Link shrugged off the hand that Anju put on his shoulder. "Nothing." He forced a friendly laugh, but the sound came out strange. "Impa is a old friend of mine. Impa, this is Anju, and that man over there is Kafei. They took me in and gave me a job here," he said, gesturing about the room. "I owe my life to them. They're my family."
Distant cries of amusement exploded from the carnival. A deep rumbling of drums started and pan flutes could be heard carrying a cheerful and lively tune.
"It's a pleasure to finally meet one of Link's friends." Kafei said, stepping forward. "And as a visitor to Clock Town, you should not be missing the Carnival."
Impa shook her head. "I'm afraid I cannot stay long. I must leave as soon as possible. Before dawn, if I can." She watched as Link's countenance was possessed with a sudden determination.
"You can't leave yet! There are so many places to see here. The swamp, the ranch, the bay…h-have you seen the coast, Impa?"
The tall shiekah woman observed Link carefully as she shook her head. "No, I haven't."
"You must go! I'll saddle Epona." Link stepped into his boots and darted out of the kitchen.
"Link!" Cried Anju. "It's past midnight! There are thieves, and monsters out there! You can't possible ride at this hour!"
But Link had already gone to fetch his horse.
"It's the carnival, Anju." Kafei murmured. "All the thieves and monsters you can possibly think of are in Clock Town having a good time." He put a comforting arm around her, and glanced at Impa. "Great Bay is very beautiful this time of year."
Impa nodded in understanding. "He'll be back with the sunrise," she promised. She pulled her cloak around her shoulders and followed the Hero of Time out the door.
"That's the way to the swamp. You can take a boat tour and see the waterfalls."
"There's the canyon. Kafei and I found a thief's hideout there once."
"Those are the mountains where another Goron tribe lives. It's beautiful during the winter."
"And over there…do you feel how the air is different? It's warmer. That's the way to the Great Bay."
Epona galloped to the right, towards the face of the warm breeze. The air truly was warmer, with a reminiscent smell of seaweed, sand, and sun. Link beamed inwardly. Even with only the light of the moon, he felt the magnitude of the sea swaying heavily against the coast. White, oscillating waves of foam exploded on the rocks and against Epona's hooves. Link pulled on the reigns and brought her to a halt.
"Look Impa! It's much bigger than Lake Hylia, but a bit warmer to go swimming in. That's the Marine Research Lab, Zora Hall down that way, and an actual Pirate fortress to the North. The beach stretches for miles this way, but we have to be careful about Leevers…" He trailed off, beaming proudly. "I think the sun's about to come up. The sky's getting brighter – don't you think?" He glanced over his shoulder at the old shiekah, but instead of staring out at the ocean like he expected she would be, she was silently observing him.
Abruptly, she pushed herself off the horse and landed gracefully in the sand. Her piercing eyes never left his face.
They remained motionless for a moment. The sky, indeed, was beginning to turn a softer shade of grey.
"She's getting married, Link." Impa said quietly. "The King has been ill. She has finally found a suitable husband and it is time for her to be crowned."
It was then that Impa looked out to sea, where the dark blue waves mimicked the wind.
"Whether you believe it or not," she continued softly, "you are still her closest friend Link. I believe her only wish is to have your blessing."
Impa returned her gaze to the boy atop his steed, but it was him, this time, who was staring out at sea.
"You have been absent for so long that she was worried. No, she did not send me to look for you. She was afraid of what news I might bring. But she misses you greatly – she misses your stories." Impa crossed her arms. "I sought you out because I knew you were still alive. Finding you, would be my gift to her."
Link was motionless. His gaze still traced the distant patterns of the waves.
Impa reached within her cloak and withdrew a single piece of parchment. She held it out for him. "She will not expect you to come, Link, but does she have your blessing?"
Link said nothing. He took the parchment from Impa's hand, and saw that it was an invitation. The letters were hand-written in gold.
"I can't. I can't leave Termina, Impa." He said quietly, handing the invitation back to her. "Anju and Kafei need me to keep things running here. They're my…they need me. I owe them for so many things."
Impa nodded. "Of course." She stepped back, and took one more look at the ocean. The sun was rising now, scarlet and glowing, like a lost jewel.
"I will tell her how beautiful the ocean is."
With a flash, she was gone.
And like she promised, Link returned to the inn while the sun was still rising.
"Wow! Is that from the ocean?"
"Nope. The professor at Lake Hylia."
"Will you ever go to the ocean, Link?"
"You should hold it up to the light."
"Look, each scale is a rainbow!"
"Its eyes are really yellow."
"We should probably name it."
"Okay. Like what?"
"Um, well. There's Jasmine, Isabelle and … Alicia. Those are my favorite names."
"But, aren't those all girls' names?"
"But how do we know it's a girl?"
"Because of her scales, silly. They're all the colors of the rainbow. Everybody knows that girls are more colorful than boys."
"But…don't male birds have more colorful feathers than female birds?"
"Yup. That's what Saria told me."
"Well…are male fishes more colorful than female fishes, like birds? Or are female fishes more colorful than male fishes like…people?"
"We should ask. Impa would know."
Impa watched as Zelda stood from her crouched position and padded towards her. The Kokiri boy, disheveled hair hidden under a ridiculously floppy hat, followed suit.
The three of them were standing in the courtyard of Hyrule castle. When Impa recalled that scene years later, she would remember the springtime blooms and the fact that Princess Zelda, against her advice, had not worn a shawl to cover her shoulders, and ended up with a cold two days later.
"Are male fishes more colorful than female fishes, like birds? Or are female fishes more colorful than male fishes, like people?"
"That is a strange question, princess."
"Well, Link says this could be a male fish. But I think it must be a female fish because of her pretty scales. And we need to find out if it's a male fish or a female fish before we can name it."
The princess held the jar up for Impa to see.
There were only two more visits from the Hero of Time after that one. Then he left.
As Impa turned her back on Termina, she realized she couldn't remember, for the life of her, what Zelda did with that colorful little fish.