The Secret and the Sorcerer
One evening, a family of traders rode into our village. There were two children, a girl who must have been about nine, and a boy who was perhaps thirteen, my age. I knew from a glance that they came from the city: their clothes, though faintly stained with smoke, were much more elaborately made than the simple tunic of any villager. From that I could see that they were fairly well off, enough to keep up with the yearly citizen cost for two children, as well as buying food and paying rent.
I watched from a distance as the man and woman set up a table, and the children unpacked the items for sale. As the boy was laying the wares out on the faded blue cloth, I began thinking about what things I wanted, and things I could buy as a gift for my guardian, a woman who called herself Masi. I had never known my mother, but I couldn't remember a time when Masi hadn't sheltered and protected and cared for me.
I only had a few rupees, and I was certain I would never be able to buy anything that these merchants had to sell. Even so, I walked towards the table, the cool grass tickling my bare feet. There was a wide selection of pretty and well-made jewelry. All of it was much less expensive than I would have thought, and I had enough rupees to buy something for both myself and Masi. I picked out a lovely bracelet made of pounded copper leaves, and a plain, polished silver one for Masi. I only had two rupees left after I bought them both, but I went happily home, carrying Masi's bracelet and wearing my own.
"Oh, Zelda," sighed Masi when I handed her the gleaming silver bracelet. "You're too kind for this old maid. I couldn't ask for a better girl, dear." She smiled wearily at me, but there was a worried look in her eyes, a shadow behind her smile.
"You're the one who's too kind," I replied, laughing slightly. Yet there was something in me that wanted to be afraid.
"Supper won't be ready for an hour," said Masi. "And after supper, I have something to tell you." Her smile faded, and a sadness came over her face. "Something very important," she said softly, more to herself than to me. She brightened again, then, and told me, "Go on outside, dear it's such a nice evening that you oughtn't to spend it cooped up in the house." She gave me a gentle shove towards the door and I left. The last rays of the sun were not enough to rid me of the chill I felt, the chill that was not from cold, but from fear. Something felt wrong about this.
The boy who had come with the traders ran past me, not watching where he was going. As he passed, he hit me and knocked me over.
"Oh, I'm sorry!" he said, genuinely apologetic. He offered his hand to me. "I didn't mean to make you fall."
I drew back slightly. "It's alright," said the boy, laughing. "I don't bite." Hesitantly, I took his hand, and he helped me to my feet. "What's your name?" he asked.
"Zelda," I said cautiously.
A look of surprise came over the boy's face. "Huh? You're named after the queen?"
"The first Queen of Hyrule," I confirmed. He shook off his look of surprise and said, "I'm Link. Nice to meet you!"
I nodded, and asked, "Do you and your family travel all over?"
"Yes," he said, sounded irritated. "That's my aunt and uncle, and my sister."
"Oh," I said. "Where are your mother and father?"
"They're dead," he said, without a trace of sorrow in his voice. "They were killed in the Storming."
"I'm sorry," I said. "You must not have known them well."
"'Course not," he said. "I wasn't even two years old when the Storming happened. You can't've been old enough to remember, either."
"No, I don't suppose I was," I said. "I never knew my family, either. They were probably killed in the Storming as well. Though," I added, "I do sometimes remember things, if I try hard enough. I don't know what was going on. Just that it was very dark, and I was being carried. Whoever was carrying me was running very fast."
"Strange," he said. "I've never heard of anything like that." He looked thoughtful for a moment, then grinned cheekily and waved before running off to join his family.
I watched him go, then turned back to the house. Instead of going inside, I went around to the side of the house. The tangled ivy on the wall led up to the roof. I reached up and wrapped my hands around the vines, stepping up and finding a foothold. Quickly I scrambled up, and pulled myself onto the roof. The wooden tiles were still warm from the daylight, and I sat there, my back against the rough stone of the chimney, looking out at the forest.
I could smell the smoke of the fire and the steam from the stew Masi was cooking. I closed my eyes and focused on listening and smelling and feeling. The trees rustled softly, and a cool breeze touched my face, carrying the scent of rain, foretelling a storm. The birds were quieting, tucking their heads beneath their wings. The brook which cut through the village chuckled softly to itself. The fire below me crackled merrily, and the timbers of the house creaked softly. An owl hooted in the distance. I smiled as I heard Masi's voice call out, "Zelda! Supper's ready!" I opened my eyes then, and climbed down. The house was warm and inviting. There was fresh bread on the table, and bowls for the stew, and a small cucoo, roasted to perfection.
Supper was delicious. On most days, I would have gone outside again after we ate. Tonight, I sat in the rough-cut wooden chair and watched as Masi cleaned up. She wouldn't meet my gaze. I waited, knowing that she would put it off as long as she could. At last, she had nothing else to keep her from telling me what it was she had to say. She looked around the house, running her fingers through her dark, but graying, hair, as though she wanted to see something else she could do, another means of escape. Then she sat down across from me, still not meeting my eyes.
"Zelda," she began, then stopped. She looked at me for a moment, then looked down again. "I have something important to tell you."
"Yes, Masi," I said, watching her.
"As you know," Masi said, "I am not your mother." She looked at her hands. at the table anywhere but me. "Your mother was killed twelve years ago in the Storming."
I had been right.
"The Storming," said Masi, her voice emotionless. "It began as a siege. Castle Town was surrounded. Anyone who tried to step outside the walls was killed. Everyone knew what the army wanted. The king and queen, and their infant daughter." Her eyes flicked up to mine, then back to her hands. "I worked at the castle," she said, her voice barely more than a whisper. "I tried to convince the royal family to run, to flee, to hide. There were secret passages. But the queen was proud. She refused to back down. The king was not, perhaps, so proud, but he was stubborn and fiercely loyal to his people. I could not sway them."
I hadn't know that Masi had worked in the castle. To me she had always been Masi the village woman. I could barely believe that she had lived in the castle. Yet the one thing about Masi I was absolutely sure of, even though my knowledge of her had been turned upside down, was that she was honest.
"Then, the siege broke," whispered Masi. "The leader of that army must have grown impatient. They stormed the city. The castle's defenses didn't stand a chance. They entered the castle--" Masi's voice broke. She closed her eyes, and I saw a single tear run down her cheek, turned golden in the firelight. She opened her eyes again, staring at a knot in the wood of the table.
"The soldiers killed the king and queen," Masi said quietly. "I fled, taking you with me. I had a home in this village, where I went when I had a holiday. That was where I went. I barely escaped with my life." She looked up at me. "My name is not Masi," she told me. "It is Impa. I was forced to change my name, so as not to be found."
"Impa," I murmured. The name sounded foreign, not Hylian. Now that I thought of it, Masi—Impa--didn't even look Hylian, not quite. She was taller than the other women, standing head and shoulders over most of them. She was stronger, and her skin was darker. I tried to remember the lessons she had given me. How I wished that I had payed attention! Finally it came to me. In a whisper, I said, "Sheikah?"
Impa nodded. My eyes grew wide as the truth sank in.
"My kind are gone," she said. "All but me. They were killed in the Storming."
"Oh," I said quietly. My voice sounded very small. Then, trying hard to be brave, I asked, "Masi...Impa. Tell me..."
She just watched me, waiting.
"Who am I?" I asked, barely able to hear myself.
Impa looked very sad. "You are alone. You are a single voice promising freedom to Hyrule, a single light of hope in a sea of darkness. Your light is a beacon, calling out to all of this kingdom, and yet you are a candle flame, so precious as the last light..."
She picked up the "candle hat," as I had always called it, and snuffed one of the candles on the table. "Yet so easy to put out," she finished. "You are Hyrule's only hope." I stared at her. How could I be the last person who could save Hyrule? It didn't make any sense.
"I've told you too much," whispered Impa. "Remember it, but only when you must."
"I don't understand," I said. "How can I do anything? Why am I the one who can save the kingdom? How did I get chosen to help? What is my--"
"Go to bed," said Impa sharply.
"But I want to know how--" I began.
"Go to bed, Zelda," said Impa, her voice tense.
"But Masi...Impa...I just want to understand--" I insisted.
"Zelda, I've told you twice. Go to bed. Now."
There was something in her voice that I couldn't argue with. Every part of my being was rebelling. I had never been sent to bed so sharply. But as much as I wanted to get answers, I couldn't stop myself from climbing the rickety wooden ladder into the loft and curling up under the covers.
When I awoke, I wasn't sure what had woken me. I was shaking, and I felt like something terrible was about to happen. It had nothing to do with my dream, that had been nice—I had been sitting and drinking tea in a lovely garden of flowers. This was different. The air felt strangely charged, as though a thunderstorm was about to break. But I could only smell the pine wood of the house, not the sharp scent of rain that had been on the breeze.
Then I heard voices. A low mutter in some harsh, guttural language I didn't understand. I shuddered. Who was there?
There was a crunching sound, like metal breaking. A cold wind rushed into the house and bit into me. I turned my head, ever so slightly, and saw a figure standing in the doorway. I could only see their silhouette, but even that gave me chills. I tried to make my breathing deep and even as the figure walked slowly and heavily across to the loft.
There was a sound, and the figure's head jerked down. I heard Impa's calm, level voice. "What are you doing in my house?"
"There is something here that I want," was the cold reply.
"You have no business being in my house without my permission," said Impa coldly. "Get out."
The stranger's voice changed slightly, and I could hear that he was smirking. "Do you know who you are talking to, my dear woman?"
I couldn't hear what Impa said next, but whatever it was made the figure step back.
"Get out of my house, sorcerer," said Impa clearly.
"No," said the sorcerer. "I will not." There was a rush, as if of a gust of wind, and Impa cried out. I heard a thump. My breath caught and I was revealed. I saw the sorcerer's head come up, and the next thing I knew I was being lifted out of bed in a grip like iron claws. I screamed piercingly and kicked out, catching the sorcerer with my foot. He cried out and dropped me, and I ran. The cool night air slapped my face, and I ran as fast as I could for the forest. Several pairs of huge, powerful hands grabbed me and pulled me back. I screamed, a scream that was muffled quickly by another hand.
There was the sound of footsteps. I saw a gleam of silver, bright in the moonlight. A sword? Then, a voice said, "Let her go!" I closed my eyes and hoped and hoped, unable to watch. There was the clash of steel on steel, and a shout of pain. Then the sorcerer's voice.
"She is to be kept alive and unhurt," came that cool voice. "I have assumed responsibility for
her, and if she is harmed, I will personally track down the one who did it or allowed it to happen, and I will kill them in the most painful way possible. Am—I—understood?"
There was a general mutter of what must have been agreement, because the sorcerer turned away. "Take them both," he said, "but the girl is more important than the boy."
I was lifted into the air, and thrown roughly into a wagon of sorts. I heard a thump and felt the wagon shake as someone else was thrown besides me. Then there was a lurch as the cart started moving off into the night. After a while, I fell into a fitful sleep, if a dreamless one.