Chapter Four: Seven Years Later…
Several years passed swiftly after that moment of my childhood and it was the only time I was ever on good terms with the Princess; after her little admission of my worthiness, she pushed me harder than Impa did some days, making it almost easy to follow Impa's tutelage on creating a separate place for myself within "our" mind.
That was what Impa had been trying to teach me all those years ago; a way to separate myself from distraction and noise during battle, so that a misstep would not cause me to become injured, thus endangering the Princess' life. For, despite the fact that the Hero of Time was suppose to be our "savior" and bring about a thousand years of peace, I was not going to sit idly by and let the innocent people of Hyrule suffer until he decided to arrive.
While on these little raids, I found myself drawn toward my village every so often, but I never went to check in on my friend. I knew if I took one look at Terra's face, despite what feelings or grudge she might hold toward me, my "destiny" as a mentor to the Hero of Time would fade into nothing. Impa, however, held no such pains and constantly ventured into the villages for supplies and even killed a monster terrorizing Kakoriko Village once, the only time I ever entered a village willingly.
Oftentimes, Impa would comment on how a certain "village girl" was doing, which I usually grunted at and stored the news deep in my heart, hoping that she knew how much I missed her, how I still miss her...
I usually kept my own attacks around the countryside to a bare minimum because I did not want to make the mistake of having people believe that I was the Hero of Time. It wasn't that I wouldn't have been honored to be thought of as a legendary Hero; it was that I didn't want to steal the title to one who rightfully deserved it.
So, my attacks were random-and some times ill organized, but I made sure my raids and full-out battles had a lasting, permanent effect on "our" legion of enemies.
I had become so adapt at the power of my mental control, as well as my physical, that "we" could have my form, but the Princess would be in control, or she would have her form, but I would know what was being said and even influence it. Despite the fact that I believed the Princess was a spoiled brat, and still believe it, she did have a certain control over some of the Goddess' magic and switching between our forms defeated more of our foes than one of us fighting on our own.
The Princess had originally balked at me controlling "her" body, which was ironic, considering how easily she had taken over mine. Needless to say, learning control in her form had taken a considerable amount of time to master.
It was a shame that I neglected that part of my training after everything, believing the cries of 'peace everlasting' that had been shouted through the streets by joyful, delusional Hyrulians…
But I keep getting ahead of myself, jumping to the end of the story before I even began to explain the start. It was a habit that I had since childhood; I guess I'll never have the chance to grow out of it.
As I was saying, I had successfully mastered creating a kind of "space" in my mind, void of any of the Princess' chatter and annoying bickering. I was in the midst of a particularly difficult training session with Impa when Zelda somehow managed to break through my mental stronghold…
I was brought painfully back to the present by the feel of teeth grazing my foot as some beast tried to tear the protective layer of my clothing off to get to the tender flesh underneath, surprising me with the fact that I could feel anything past the throbbing pain in my side.
"Hey!" I cried out blearily; not an impressive sound, I know, but I was hoping to startle whatever creature that had decided to use me as its next meal. I had been guide and friend to the Hero of Time; I knew I was dying anyway, but Din be damned if I was going to end up as some unnamed beast's dinner!
The beast gave up chewing on my foot with a growl to stare at me with these piercing blue eyes and to show me what sort of animal had decided I would make a good snack…
It was a wolf; a sleek, silver wolf that was dripping wet from swimming in Hyrule Lake and it stared at me with an all too familiar look that had my eyes watering in nostalgic remembrance as I stretched out one bloody hand to make sure what was in front of me wasn't some kind of wishful ghost.
"Link?" I'm not sure what possessed me to say his name, but the wolf had the same deep gaze as the Hero of Time and it struck at my heart to see that familiar gaze, even on an animal.
For a few seconds, it seemed as if the wolf understood me; it looked at me for a few minutes more, head tilted slightly to the left, as if that would give him a better perspective of the strange human that greeted him like a long lost friend instead of jumping up and running away, screaming his head off in fear.
"That's it," I muttered, lurching into a sitting position. I was desperate keep the animal there, desperate to keep any reminder of Link near me, "No need to be afraid, no need to run off…"
Unfortunately, the wolf didn't listen to me and ran at my sudden movement, jumping into the lake and leaving me once more alone, yet more feeling more abandoned than ever from the shock of seeing a pair of familiar cerulean eyes.
It might seem odd to anyone listening to my ramblings that I was so entranced by a pair of blue orbs, but Link was not a very vocal person, and I couldn't recall a single time he spoke or even shouted in anger or fear.
And yet… and yet…
He was able to express so much with his gaze and body expression, telling his moods with a simple furrow of the brow, a twitch of the shoulder. Link had this uncanny ability to talk without a single word leaving his lips, or his hands making a single sign. He didn't need to speak to tell you how he felt, he communicated just fine with his body and movements.
Something I learned when Link finally returned to Hyrule from his long slumber in the Sacred Realm, to fulfill the prophecy, end Ganondorf's reign of terror and save us all…
He has awakened.
The sudden, unexpected utterance from the Princess almost made me falter mid-swing and I had to do some fancy footwork before I managed to disarm Impa, which had not become any easier despite learning to master my blade.
"Who has awakened, Zelda?" I asked, holding up a hand to Impa when she went to question why I had stopped training. When she realized I was "talking" to the Princess, she nodded and stood as still as a statue, eyes alert for any danger.
I could feel the Princess' irritation at being addressed so informally, but she decided not to comment on it as she answered my question. The Hero of Time, Sheik. We must be there to greet him!
"Lord Sheik?" Impa questioned, probably alerted to my mounting alarm by the way my eyes grew, "What is wrong, my Lord? Is there a problem with the Princess?"
"The Hero…" I stammered, caught off-guard by the revelation that, after seven years of waiting, our one hope had finally awakened and I was suppose to be the one that guided him to fulfill a destiny that thousand of lives depended on. "The Hero of Time has awakened… The time we have been waiting for has come…"
"Then you must go to him, Lord Sheik" Impa stated simply, walking over to the small tent that served as our temporary home and beginning to pack a small saddlebag with her belongings, few that they were. It was obvious by the way she walked that Impa thought this was a simple thing to be troubled over.
"Yeah, yeah… I must go…" It was after I repeated that a few times that her words finally registered in my frazzled brain, "Wait a minute, what do you mean 'you must go to him', Impa? What about you?? Where are you going to be???"
"Lord Sheik," Impa continued, voice calm despite the fact that my carefully constructed world was now falling apart around my ears, "You are destined to be mentor to the Hero of Time. The prophecy does not add your own mentor must also be present. It is time for you to continue your quest… on your own."
She ended her little speech with her hand on my head, a sad smile lurking at the corners of her lips, but my mind barely registered any of this. It was busy fighting off a rising fear that I might somehow disappoint the Hero of Time and the fact that the Princess was screeching in my ear that we needed to hurry, hurry before we missed meeting the Chosen One, wasn't helping matters.
It said something about my frayed mental state that I was able to hear her at all and not almost immediately block her out as I used to, much to Zelda's annoyance.
"Impa," I whispered, hurt that the woman I loved as a surrogate mother was leaving me, hurt that the one peaceful constant I had for the entire time that Ganondorf was in power was now going to leave me as well. "What do I do?"
"Be the man that you have been training to become, use that training to guide the Hero in his destiny and help us all…" Surprising both Zelda and myself, she wrapped "us" in a tight bear hug that startled me with the emotion behind it, whispering in my ear words meant for me alone.
"Be the man I would be proud to call my son."
Then she was gone, as if she had disappeared into the very wind like a puff of campfire smoke. A trick she had taught me as well, a long time ago, but I was too stunned at what she had just told me to realize the familiar exit at the moment.
Impa thought of me as a son? Looking back now, I could see that she had grown to love me as anyone could at the time; but right then, with my destiny rearing its ugly head in my face, the fact that Impa held any kind of affection for me besides obligation because of the Princess utterly and completely floored me.
After a few minutes of me sitting there in shocked silence, Zelda began her mantra of urgency once again, reminding me that I had other problems to deal with before I could dwell on the fact that my mentor just told me I was as good as her son.
Making my way over to where we had lived the past couple of weeks, I put away everything I needed in an old saddlebag and loaded it all up on the horse we had "retrieved" from Lon Lon Ranch about three years ago. I had gone to ask Impa to help me tie a rope here and there before I realized that, once again, I was alone.
Not completely alone… Zelda was quick to inform me, almost royally, as I finally mounted my horse and made my way to Hyrule Castle and the Temple of Time.
Somehow, the statement didn't provide that much comfort.
It had taken a few hours to finally make it to Hyrule Field and to see the remnants of Hyrule Castle in the distance. A sudden thought stuck me and I decided to break the silence that had reined through the entire ride.
"Zelda, what if we're too late to meet the Hero?" It also seemed strange to me that Link already had a magnanimous title before he had done anything. Did he feel the same weight of responsibility that I did? Was the Hero of Time also worried that he might somehow mess up and dash everyone's hopes?
It's Princess Zelda. Her reprimand didn't have as much heat as usual and I could tell that she was just as distracted and nervous as I was. Don't worry; he is speaking to Rauru, the Sage of Light. He will explain to the Hero what has happened during his slumber.
I shook my head, wondering at how that conversation would go: Hello, Link. You are the legendary Hero of Time; you've been asleep for seven years since we thought a little kid would have no chance of saving Hyrule. Now Ganondorf is supreme ruler of Hyrule, everyone is living in a constant state of despair and we want you to fix things, good luck and try not to die!
Zelda picked up on the not-so-hopeful tone of my thoughts. The Sage of Light is far more tactful than that, Sheik, he will explain to the Hero of Time his duty and his destiny in a way that will make him understand the honor of his role.
"Why don't you call Link by his name, Zelda?" I asked, not wanting to get into a debate on how 'tactful' I believed Sages to be (or at least, one in particular).
It's Princess Zelda, Sheik, and The Hero of Time is a great champion, deserving to be treated as such by everyone, Zelda sniffed, before once more falling silent despite my attempts to get her to talk more about Link.
It wasn't until later that I learned that she had been the one that had sent Link on his quest in the first place, due to a mistaken assumption that she and Link could protect the Triforce far better than an entire army. A mistake that Zelda still holds guilt for…
Yet, at the time, I simply believed she only knew Link's name by her dreams and accepted the silence as a blessing; I had a while yet to think of what to say to the Hero of Time when I met him, not to mention wonder what this great warrior even looked like.
Considering the fact that he was suppose to be able to defeat Ganondorf single-handedly, and I happened to know that Ganondprf had magic as well as strength, the Link of my imaginings was a bulky, giant of a warrior that had somehow had years of swordsmanship and training magically implanted into his mind as he slept. It seemed the only logical way he had any chance of beating the Evil Gerudo King and bringing peace to the land.
I was about to find out if the man lived up to the expectation; for my horse's hooves hit the end of the damaged moat that lead to all that was left of Hyrule Marketplace and, beyond that, the Temple of Time.
Swallowing down the memories, some of them bittersweet, that the sight of the ruins brought me, I made my way through the Marketplace square. It had become habit to sneak by the cursed Hyrulians, whose scream could quite literally freeze you in place, without giving them a second glance; yet, for some reason, I found myself staring at the ReDeads as I made my silent way around them.
It struck me as supremely cruel that in his lust for power and dominion, Ganondorf saw fit to strike down the very people who would worship him, whether out of fear or blind loyalty. It was just another show of how the man became a monster, how the thirst for power corrupted the need for it.
Pulling my gaze away, I snuck past the Gossiping Stones-an odd name for a stone with a single, mythical eye in the middle of it-and slowly, hesitantly, walked up the steps to the Temple of Time.
Here goes everything… Swallowing hard one last time, I pushed past the fear that was threatening to swallow me, pulled the door open and went to meet the Hero of Time…