Author's Notes: Wow, this thing sure turned out to be popular! As you can probably guess, this story contains massive spoilers for TP; it also contains spoilers for a number of the other games, because this is my attempt to tie the entire LoZ canon together. How well I've succeeded is anyone's guess. I sincerely hope that you like it!
Til the Sun Grows Cold and the Stars Grow Old
Chapter One: An Edict in Destiny
The earliest stories, the ones told by the aged grandmothers as they creep closer to the hearth and beckon their young descendants to draw near and listen, would have us believe that it was the goddess Din who had the idea to forge the land. Din and her sisters, Nayru and Farore, were indistinguishable from one another. All were tall and slender, with flowing silver hair and skin the color of starlight. (What color is starlight? one child was bound to interrupt and ask, and promptly be shushed by the others who wished the story to continue.) Only their vestments set them apart; Din was perpetually gowned in red, Nayru in blue, and Farore in green. On a morning near the dawn of time, Din spoke to her sisters of her wish to breathe life into a new world.
With her scarlet gown blazing in the light of a newborn sun, the goddess of power spread her arms and brought forth the land, and filled the crevices with seas. Then Farore softly pursed her lips and blew, and the wind that swept over the plains brought with it fields of grass, and tall trees, and soon the waters were filled with fish and the woods with animals. And they called it Hyrule.
"It is all very well and beautiful, sisters," said Nayru, "but what am I to do here? These creatures are innocent. They have no need of wisdom to govern their decisions; they know no evil."
At the behest of her sisters, Nayru poured her wisdom onto the newly-formed earth, giving the spirit of law to the land. Then Farore brought forth another living creature, which she called a human. "They will live and thrive and rule this land," said she, "and your wisdom will provide them with the right path. But they come imbued with courage too, and the knowledge of power, and we cannot ever know whether they will be good or evil. They have free will. But they are not without merit; for each of them has at their core a bright jewel called a soul, which -- so long as it remain untainted -- will help them on their way."
The goddesses, who you must understand are found everywhere and nowhere all at once, could not remain the whole of their time in Hyrule, much as they delighted in watching the cultivation of the world. They joined their hands together, and from their conjoined powers emerged the great Triforce. Three golden triangles, at once connected and yet separate, pulsed with the individual powers of the divine sisters. They housed this sacred emblem in the Golden Land, the Sacred Realm, and left it to govern in their stead.
This was the great folly of the goddesses, for the Triforce knew nothing of good or evil. It could not judge men's hearts; it could only grant their wishes, if they found the way to reach it. The Sacred Realm was sealed; but it was not a flawless seal, for even the goddesses are not without imperfection, and if the seal could not be breached at all, then the Triforce was useless as a tool with which to govern.
Nayru, in her wisdom, proposed the formation of keys to the Golden Land, keys so diversely scattered that there was little hope of anyone uniting them. First, three stones were forged by the goddesses, and concealed in different parts of the realm. Next, each of the sisters selected one of the human souls, and adhered to its core a hint of her own essence. Nayru picked the daughter of the King of Hyrule; Farore selected a boy who lived in the forests; and Din chose one of the Gerudo tribesmen who had taken up residence in the deserts. Only one of these would have the ability to breach the seal to the Sacred Realm, and only when they had in their possession the Sacred Stones. To identify these souls of destiny, the mortal body which housed each one bore on one hand a mark shaped like the Triforce.
It has to be admitted here that Nayru and Farore, who are basically gentle in spirit, do not always have complete confidence in their beloved sister Din. Power is too uncertain; few, if any, have been driven to extremes by a lust for wisdom or courage, but power can do strange things to a person. So between the two of them, they fashioned an extra pair of keys. One was a piece of music known as the "Song of Time," the knowledge of which was imparted only to Nayru's chosen disciple. The other was a master sword, the blade of evil's bane, which could only be wielded by Farore's chosen. Satisfied that they could not possibly have done any better, the goddesses departed once more.
"Link...Link, can you hear me?"
"I hear you..."
"Listen...there is no time. And yet there is much time."
"No riddles, Princess, not now."
"The ocarina you found, my instrument...it is the ocarina of time. You have the Sacred Stones; now you must play the ocarina and open the secret portal. I will teach you the song."
Despite the extensive precautions which had been taken, the near-impossible came to pass, and Nayru was particularly aggrieved by her lack of foresight. The gift of power had corrupted the core of the soul which bore it. Ganondorf, they called him. He coveted the greener pastures of Hyrule beyond the desert, and even more he coveted the Triforce. If he could lay his hands upon it, it would grant his wish...for everything.
How, it may well be wondered, did Ganondorf come to understand what needed to be done? He was a great wizard in his own right, even without the essence of Din; somewhere along his life's path he had found just enough clues to recognize what had to be done. He had haunted the young princess with dreams, warning her of his impending destruction, and she in turn had summoned their third counterpart. With the Song of Time and the Sacred Stones, the foolish boy had opened the door at the Temple of Time -- and Ganondorf had followed behind him.
All did not go entirely according to his plan. True, the devastation he wished to bring to Hyrule had been granted. But Ganondorf's heart was out of balance; he valued power far above wisdom or courage, and without a balanced appreciation for the three virtues, he risked corrupting the Triforce itself. In an act of pure self-preservation, the mystic triangle had shattered into its three sections. The Triforce of Power yielded itself to Ganondorf; the other two portions came into the possession of the innocents who housed the corresponding essences. This had saved the Triforce, but just as importantly, it was the only reason that Hyrule itself was not obliterated.
"Waken, young Link..."
"Where...where am I?"
"This is the Temple of Time."
Seven years passed, in which Farore's champion Link was kept in an enchanted slumber. He awoke, fully grown, able to wield the blade of evil's bane and fight off the would-be destroyer Ganondorf. Through the assistance of Nayru's princess and six other sages, Link was able to drive his nemesis into exile in the Sacred Realm, which had become tainted and known as the Dark World. The princess, who had hidden herself among the Sheikah people, was restored to her rightful person and position.
Something else had come to pass, which the goddesses did not intend but were not inclined to deny. The nature of their soul-cores and the strength of the ordeal they had endured left Link and Zelda with a powerful bond, as had been evidenced by their telepathic communications. This, combined with the more human desires of their mortal forms, could have only one possible result; they loved one another, with a purity and endurance few others could match, and determined to pledge themselves to each other.
The goddesses looked upon them favorably, but could not ignore the fact that so long as he lived, Ganondorf posed some threat to Hyrule and all living things. The Triforce of Power, which dwelled with him in the Dark World, had granted him a measure of immortality; he could be destroyed, but would not die of old age. He would simply bide his time until Link and Zelda had passed into the next world, then find a way to escape from his bonds.
"I'm afraid it cannot be so."
"But Rauru, why? Surely there is no shame in it?"
"None, Your Highness. It is a match which even the goddesses themselves ordain as right. But he still lives, in some form. The world will always be in some form of danger from him until he has been destroyed for good and all."
"And for this reason we must be separated?"
"Farore and Nayru have decreed it so; I am but their messenger. Now, listen to me, both of you. You will die and be born again, many times over. The mark of the Triforce will always identify you. When your spirits are returned to new lives in this world, it will signify that dark times lie ahead. He must be stopped at all costs."
So it was decided that Link would be returned to the youth he had lost, and kept apart from his beloved princess for the remainder of that lifetime. They would meet again, fight Ganondorf again. One day, the sage Rauru promised them, his defeat would be ultimate. The Triforce of Power would leave him and house its essence in another body, and he would threaten Hyrule no more. When that happened...when the world was truly saved...the faithfulness of their hearts would be rewarded.
Thus it was taught to me by my mother, and her mother before her, and handed down through many generations. His name is always Link, but he has other names. He is the Hero of Time, the Hero of Ages, the Hero of Winds. There are many stories of the green-garbed youth who would emerge from obscurity to fight a strange and formidable enemy. Always he is victorious. Always he swears his devotion to the princess -- and there is always a princess, and her name is always Zelda, and I never can remember why. And always he returns to the shadows of history without further incident.
I knew she didn't make it all up herself, though when I remembered my mother I remembered her as a spinner of stories. Some of what she said is true. There are scrolls in the great library in Castle Town which tell us of the Hero of Time and his exploits. They say that deep in the woods are the ruins of the Temple of Time, and that somewhere in their midst, the blade of evil's bane -- the Master Sword -- sleeps again until the hero returns. I knew that I was named in honor of a real hero, who really existed and who might even one day return. But I always believed she made up that part about the mark of the Triforce on his hand. I was sure she just didn't want the other children to tease me about my funny birthmark.