An endless expanse of shifting water, spreading as far as the eye could see. Desolate, lifeless, whipped into a fury by a pitiless wind. Everything, everyone, living and dead, buried beneath the suffocating cold of that blue-black ocean. Even the flowing, fierce energy of a storm would have been welcome, rather than the infinite nothing.
He was stranded on a small raft, of the crudest design with a tiny sail, which rose and fell with the swells in a nauseating pitch and yaw. The tiny craft rose up and he was thrust toward the immeasurable sea of stars, tiny pits of light in the blackness even more forbidding than the ocean. He clung to the mast, fearful of being thrown into either great beyond.
The raft spun and shuddered like a leaf in a roiling river, and sky and sea began to mix together. He fixed his gaze on the moon, the one solid thing in his liquefied reality. As he was knocked about it became harder to focus, and the moon also began to shift and tremble slightly, as if it was its reflection in water and not the real moon at all. It seemed to grow bigger and bigger in his shattered frame of vision, darker and darker.
Suddenly he could feel a great pressure, of some colossal object shoving the air before it as it hurtled along at a terrific speed. He jerked his head up and with an all-encompassing horror he watched as the moon itself expanded like a balloon, inevitably stamping out his existence, and the sea swallowed up his terrified scream.
He sat up with a jolt, and the first sense that reached him was the feeling of solidity and stillness. Pitch black, he groped around in the dark searching for something to hold onto.
A pinpoint of light appeared to his left, and he jerked his head toward it. At first he did not recognize the person standing there, and a strange flash of faces passed before his eyes before he matched the right one.
"Ilia?" He suddenly realized he was gasping for breath, and could feel a trickle of cold sweat down his back.
"Are you all right?" she asked, her anxious face traced with strange shadows in the guttering candlelight. "I heard you shouting in your sleep."
Link wiped the sweat from his forehead. "Just another nightmare. Two mixed together, this time. The ocean one and the moon one."
Ilia sat on the bedside. "It must be all the strange things that have happened to us in the past few weeks."
He looked around the tatty Kakahiro Village inn, and shook his head. "I've had them since I was a little kid. They've become more vivid, now, though."
"You should try to get back to sleep. I'll get you something to drink…" She got up and turned to walk to the kitchen, but turned back around when she saw him get out of the bed. "What are you doing?"
He pulled his jerkin over his head. "Going out. Can't sleep."
"If you don't get enough sleep, you'll just keep having strange dreams."
"I can't breathe in here. I need some fresh air. Don't worry about me, I'll be back for breakfast."
Link ignored Ilia's protests, and once fully dressed, walked out the front door. In the predawn hours the air was cool and clear, with a light breeze. He breathed in deeply, as if quenching a fiery thirst, and untied Epona from the post.
He rode in the nearby fields for four hours, past the sunrise, not really looking for anything in particular, just focusing on the hard jolts in the saddle and the wind in his face. He climbed a few trees, swung his sword in the rushes. Once, he let a goblin's arrow strike his right arm, just to make sure he could feel it there.
As the sun began to rise in the sky, he felt he'd better turn back. Sheathing his sword, he spurred Epona back toward the village, wondering why he still felt like he was sleepwalking.
"Hey, I'm talking to you." Link's head jerked up from his porridge to see Malo scowling at him across the table. "Are you gonna stop by the shop or what?"
Link frowned and turned back to his breakfast. "I'm not going to waste arrows just so I can keep buying them from you."
"It's not just a moneymaking venture," Malo told him enthusiastically. "I'm gonna buy out that shop in the castle town. They're a bunch of snooty snobs. I'm going to put in a shop that people can actually use without going broke. If you have any spare change, give it to the old Goron at the front of the shop. He's collecting for me."
Ilia, who hadn't spoken during this entire time, decided to make a suggestion. "You should see the fortune-teller in the castle town. I bet she could interpret your dreams, tell you what they mean."
Link frowned. "They're just dreams. They don't mean anything."
"What have you got to lose, besides more sleep?" Malo threw in.
Sighing, Link said, "Fine. I have to go out there today anyway. But nothing's going to come of it."
"Why are you so grumpy?" Ilia demanded. "We're just trying to help you."
Feeling guilty, Link swallowed his irritation. "I'm not sure. I don't want to feel this way. I'm sorry if I'm upsetting you, but…something doesn't feel right."
"You mean like monsters taking over the world? Yeah, that doesn't feel right to me either," Malo quipped.
"No…I mean me personally."
"You've changed a lot in a short period of time," Ilia said wistfully. "But not in a bad way!" she added hastily when he turned toward her.
He shrugged. "Well, I'll see the fortune-teller, if it makes you feel better."
Link could not remember seeing more beads and shawls on a single person. He wondered if the old fortune-teller was a quarter of the size she looked to be, wrapped in innumerable layers.
"What can I do for you today, my dear?" She asked kindly but eagerly. "Curious about your luck in love? What the stars hold in your future?"
Feeling stupid, Link told her, "A friend of mine told me you can interpret dreams."
She smiled broadly. "Indeed I can, my dear, for dreams are like a window into the deepest reaches of the unconscious. Please, have a seat. Er, do you have 20 rupees?"
He sat down on a soft embroidered chair – its stuffing peeking out in places – and handed her the money. "Now," she said as she settled into her own great armchair, "What messages from the darkness have been troubling you?"
"I've had a number of dreams that make no sense, ever since I was very young," he told her, not sure where he should begin. "In one of my dreams, all of Hyrule has sunk to the bottom of the ocean. In another, the moon itself crashes into the earth. Most of them involve looking for someone, or fighting someone." He didn't mention that the person he was looking for was usually Princess Zelda. She would surely laugh and say that it was a young man's heroic fantasy. He also didn't mention that the person he was fighting often looked like a pig. He was sure even the fortune-teller wouldn't be able to interpret being defeated by bacon.
She stroked her chin, thinking it over. "Searching, fighting, that doesn't sound out of place for a young adventurer like yourself. The ocean and moon…once again, you likely feel it is your duty to protect this country from ill fortune, yes? But why those particular perils…?"
Link nodded eagerly, somewhat more hopeful upon seeing she'd noticed what he'd been pondering over for the past several weeks.
She fumbled through a pile of books to her right, and pulled out a thin battered leather volume adorned with stars and half-moons. "What is the date and time of your birth?"
He told her, and she spent several minutes flipping back and forth through the pages. "Hmmm…hmm…no eclipses, solar or lunar, on that date or in the near future…nothing to indicate any unusual movement of the tides…" She shut the book and looked up at him. "My dear boy, I believe you've stumped me. But don't worry, I love a challenge…" She took out parchment and quill, and sat like a doctor questioning symptoms of some exotic illness. "Now, can you tell me if you can remember any triggers of these dreams, anything that happened before they became more frequent?"
He thought for several minutes, then shook his head. "It's been more of a slow increase…there's no one trigger."
"Hmmm…it may be very subtle…do you remember seeing anything out of place? Anything that seems familiar, but shouldn't?"
The princess herself, Link thought, remembering how strange it was that her face had seemed familiar even though he'd never seen it before. He'd chalked it up to the descriptions he got from people back home. But there was something else, which sounded less silly.
"The royal crest."
She looked skeptical. "The royal crest is everywhere, dear, even in old ruins in the far reaches in the country, and on summonses that are sent to the village leaders."
"I never paid attention to summonses when I lived in my home village," he protested. "That didn't interest me. I was just a ranch-hand, I never left the village, never wanted to…" his voice trailed off as he realized how long ago that seemed, how the world had opened wide to him in such a short period of time.
"Hmmmmm…" her voice became deeper and more contemplative. "And here I'd assumed that you'd been an explorer from a young age, toddling out to the woods. Do you have a genealogy?" He shook his head. "Ah well…I'd thought you might have some relation to the royal family, but even the lesser nobility keep records…and even if you were related, that wouldn't explain the strange dreams…"
She looked him in the eyes. "I'm sorry, my dear, but I don't think there's anything I can do for you…for now. However…from now on I want you to take note of anything that seems to tickle your memory, spark your senses, let me know."
"Did that old bag really upset you that much?" Midna demanded. "You've been digging in the fields and chewing on demon-bats for three hours now."
Link scowled at her through his wolf's eyes. The fortune-teller had left him with a bubbling frustration and a need to shred things, and he figured this was the best way to vent it.
Midna stretched out on his back and gave a moan of impatience. "You know, we have things we need to do. Are we going to warp to the Sacred Grove or not?"
Link indicated that he wanted to speak. Once back in human form, he said, "I don't see the point. We were just there, weren't we?" He tapped the sword he had acquired on his back for emphasis.
Shrugging, Midna said, "It's the only lead we have…we might as well see if there's anything we missed."