A/N: Here is the final chapter. I hope I did the story justice. And that Libby is still out there to read it.
"Sage of Light?" I demanded. "Are you one of the other six?"
He nodded gravely. "I think you know a couple of the others." He gestured behind him, and I could see four other people, all standing on small platforms like myself.
"Hi, Nabooru!" A Zora girl who looked to be in her teen years waved at me. "How have you been?"
"Ruto?" I pushed past Rauru, who didn't seem to mind, as if he expected this reaction. Ruto was not someone I would have chosen as a Wise Sage, but there she was. As I got closer, I noticed another woman, the white-haired Shekiah from Zelda's bedroom.
"Are you Impa?" I asked, not really knowing enough Shekiah to tell one from another. She nodded gravely, not changing her expression. A wave of fear swept through me. "What happened to Zelda? Did Ganondorf…"
"Zelda is alive, and relatively safe at the moment," she said, and left it at that. Ruto poked my arm, irritated that I had shifted my attention away from her.
I had so many questions, I couldn't think which one to ask first. "How can I understand you? I haven't spoken Hylian since…that day…" I looked around, bemused. "Where are we?"
"We are in the Sacred Realm," Rauru informed me. "The place where the Triforce stood before Ganondorf attempted to steal it, and broke it apart. The place where the Hero of Time slept until he aged enough to battle our common foe." He gestured to a Goron and a little girl who wore clothing similar to Link's. "This is Darunia, and Saria. They are the Fire and Forest sages, respectively. The Goddesses chose them – all of us – when we attempted to assist the Hero on his path."
"Hero? 'Attempted?'" I bit my lip, remembering my brief encounter with Link and the two hags. "Does that mean I'm…that we're…dead?"
"Yes and no," came Rauru's serene reply. "Each of us lost their mortal body to either Ganondorf or one of his servants. But the Goddesses have chosen us to restore the balance of the Triforce, by assisting the Hero of Time further in his quest."
I realized he must be talking about Link, but the choice of title confused me. "Hero of Time? Why's he called that?"
"He slept here for seven years, waiting for the right time to confront the Bearer of Power." Well, that would explain why I hadn't seen him until just now. "He carries the Ocarina of Time and the Master Sword, which allow him to travel back and forth through time to complete his quest." Rauru nodded toward me. "Do you remember meeting him for the first time, in the Spirit Temple? He had already accomplished much of his quest, and knew who you were. He went back in time to recover those gauntlets you wanted, remember? But when Ganondorf attacked Hyrule Castle, technically afterward, his quest had just started."
This didn't make much sense to me. But one thing did stick in my mind; that kid with the tired eyes, staring down at me disappearing into the sand, had already seen dangers beyond my comprehension. No wonder his soul seemed so old for a little boy.
"Okay," I said slowly, trying to get a grip on myself. "So we help Link beat Ganondorf. I'm all for that. What do I do?" I gleefully pounded my right fist into the palm of my left hand. "How about we obliterate those two hags for him?"
"That won't be necessary. Link is battling them as we speak, and I can sense that he has the upper hand."
Damn. This kid really is a hero.
"You will give him this." Rauru handed me a thick medallion that carried the same symbol of the Spirit Temple. "Within this sigil is the power the Sage of Spirit carries. Lend him your power and he will be ready to battle Ganondorf. In addition, we six will assist him in any small way we can. If Link succeeds in subduing him, the Seventh Sage will give us the signal to seal Ganondorf away in the Dark Realm forever."
"Seventh Sage?" I thought there were supposed to be six. "And what's all this about sealing Ganondorf away? Wouldn't it make more sense to kill him?" Somehow I doubted the King of Thieves would have any trouble with a jailbreak, even one in some ill-defined alternate dimension.
"The Triforce of Power grants immortality to its Bearer," Rauru explained. "Unless Ganondorf is separated from his piece, he cannot be killed."
Fantastic. I groaned.
Rauru ignored me, cocking his head to listen to something I couldn't hear. "The Hero of Time has purified the Spirit Temple," he stated. "He is coming now. Nabooru, lend him your power."
Before I could say anything, the other Sages disappeared. The floor beneath me glowed brightly, and a huge crystal rose up out of it. Within that crystal Link stood, and he smiled in accomplishment as it disappeared, a patchwork of small cuts and burns showing he extend of his battle with Kotake and Koume. Just like that, he had destroyed the living nightmares that had made my life hell.
His earnest face blurred slightly as I struggled to compose myself, suddenly feeling foolish. "Link…I really messed up, didn't I?" He patted my shoulder a little awkwardly, not really sure what to say. "I tried to fight him, but with those two…it just wasn't enough." I held out the sigil to him. "Here, take this. Rauru says it'll help."
Link accepted it with many thanks, and began to fade. "Link…" I said softly, as his semi-transparent eyes looked back up at me. "If had known what kind of man you would become, I would have kept my promise…"
I felt so ashamed. To think that I had treated him like some silly little kid, trying to bribe the Hero of Time in his mission to save all of us.
We could watch Link's progress from our posts, together in that strange place. Ruto babbled to me all throughout Link's trip back to the Temple of Time, but I just watched him. I feared for him, facing the monster that Ganondorf had become. I didn't know the half of it.
At the temple, he met up with another Shekiah. "That's the guy that saved me from the ice," Ruto said, pointing.
To my great surprise, the Shekiah changed form – into Zelda!
Impa hissed between clenched teeth. "That was stupid," she muttered tensely. "There was no need for you to tell him who you are…"
Suddenly I felt as if I had been punched in the stomach. I could see the others react to the sudden pain. I heard an all-too-familiar laugh as Ganondorf mocked Zelda for revealing her true form, heard both her and Link's yells as a crystal barrier formed around her and she disappeared.
"You've got to be kidding," I muttered in disgust. I thought she was smarter than that!
"All is not lost," Rauru's voice boomed across the room. "Link can still accomplish his goal. Come! We must help him enter Ganon's castle."
Suddenly the walls around us disappeared and I found myself standing just outside the ridiculous floating monstrosity, Link staring at it apprehensively. At least, I think I was standing; I couldn't see any part of me, as if I were really a ghost.
I felt a strange pull, and heard Rauru say, "Link! We Sages will assist you. Cross the bridge into the castle!"
I had to laugh when I saw the bridge appear. I felt an elbow in the ribs (probably from Impa) and heard Ruto giggling next to me. But who could blame me? Even though it made sense that the bridge would carry the colors of the Sages' medallions, it was still pretty hilarious to see a bright rainbow appear out of nowhere. Especially in a place like this.
"I'm sure Ganondorf will love this addition to his décor," I muttered. Ruto laughed.
A lot of things happened that I didn't fully understand. Link spent what felt like hours in the bottom rooms of the castle, trying to undo all the safeguards Ganondorf put in place. Some kind of magic generator stood at the end of each room. Rauru instructed one of us to stand there once Link made it to the end of each one. Our presence would interfere with the magic barriers, and once all of us stood in place, Link could get into the upper tower.
But once he entered the upper tower, the room was closed to us. "I think," Rauru said slowly, "that Ganondorf wanted to make sure the Hero did not have any assistance in his final fight."
All the others looked serene, as if they expected Link to walk back out the door as if he'd merely gone in to get a drink. Didn't they realize how dangerous Ganondorf had become? Link had dispatched Twinrova pretty easily, that was for sure. But Ganondorf had surpassed them seven years ago…and had become crazy enough to try anything.
I shuffled there for an indescribable amount of time, unable to tell what was going on from all the yelling behind the door, not to mention the occasional explosion.
Suddenly I felt a strange liberating sensation, as if invisible chains binding me had suddenly ripped away. Suddenly we could see inside the chamber. Link stood there, bleeding and battered, but still alive. Both he and Zelda stared at a crumpled mass on the floor.
The others cheered, but I still felt uneasy. Whatever Ganondorf had done in here, I couldn't believe he had used it all up. Something else was about to happen…
Then, like the rest of the barriers Ganondorf had created with sorcery, the castle itself began to fall apart, Link and Zelda racing through the corridors in an attempt to get out. As the castle crumpled, I felt a twinge of pity, knowing that what was left of Ganondorf was likely getting crushed under a ton of rock. What a way to go. If I had known what would happen, if I could show him what would happen, would he have changed his mind? How much of this was him, and how much of it was the influence of Twinrova and the Triforce?
And yet, even as Link and Zelda breathed sighs of relief as the dust settled, I could sense that something was not quite right…
Suddenly the earth trembled, and a ragged figure burst out of the rubble. There was no mistaking the glowing red eyes and the glowing three-triangle seal on one hand.
From the dark figure, a creature emerged, an enormous nightmare vision of demons in old tales, a sharp-tusked pig-like creature with two great forked swords. It knocked Link's sword from his hand and chased him across the ruins.
The others freaked, but I just sighed, wondering where this was all going to end. Rauru said that the Triforce of Power made Ganondorf immortal. So what the hell were we supposed to do?
Zelda threw Link's sword back to him, and he began hacking at the Ganon-creature over and over, trying to find a weak spot. He dodged out of the way as the enormous swords continually just missed slicing him in two. The pig-creature yelled in pain when Link hit his tail, so he focused all his attention on that, sometimes rolling between Ganon's legs to get at it.
Finally, with a shriek that split stone, the monster collapsed, breathing hard. "Sages!" Zelda cried. "Lend me your power so that we can seal him away in the Dark Realm forever!"
I felt the pulling sensation again. The creature struggled to rise, and to my horror, lifted its head and looked straight at me. Or through me, I'm not sure. But he knew I was there.
Nabooru, the voice pleaded, flushed with pain and fear. Help me. Don't let them do this to me. I couldn't control it…I'm still here…
"Nabooru!" Rauru shouted. "You're not concentrating! Hurry, we don't have time! We have to open the portal before the Hero strikes the final blow!"
Link stood with sword raised, ready to drive the blade into the creature's brain. Nabooru, please…it took over…I wanted to end our peoples' suffering, and Koume and Kotake said they had the answer…
I trembled, unwilling to fulfill either request. "I can't," I said softly, not sure if I was addressing Rauru or Ganondorf.
"Nabooru! We only have one chance at this!"
I wanted to shut my eyes, but being a spirit doesn't work that way. "I'm sorry," I whispered, and pushed what remained of my power in with the other Sages.
Ganondorf cried out in pain and rage, cursing all assembled, his words ringing in my ears as we sent him into the great beyond.
One year after the time split…
I still didn't understand the time travel thing, but I told myself it didn't matter. What mattered was that Hyrule was now back to normal, with all of the other Sages in their proper places, including myself.
With one minor change, of course. I was left to take care of my people alone.
When I asked people if they remembered what happened to Ganondorf, they said that Koume and Kotake had taken him to another country, far from Hyrule. I don't know if the two hags actually said this before they fled, or if the Ocarina of Time had somehow implanted this memory in their heads. In the end, I decided it didn't matter.
Relations with the Hylian King still were not good. But his daughter had somehow managed to influence him now, and he listened to her. I guess she had learned a thing or two in those seven lost years.
All of us involved – meaning the Triforce Bearers and Sages – remembered what happened, while everyone else remained clueless. It was a very isolating feeling, and every once in a while I would send letters to Ruto. I didn't care for her much, she wasn't someone I would have made friends with on my own, but you can't go through something like that with another person and not form some kind of bond.
One day in autumn, one of the guards came to me with a puzzled expression on her face. "You're not going to believe this, but there's some Hylian kid down in the mesa who says he knows you and wants to talk to you. I told him to run along, but he insisted." She showed me a series of scrapes along her bandaged hand.
Mystified, I followed her to the mesa, where Link stood grinning. "Hey there," I said, to the consternation of the guards. "Is there a reason you're roughing up my sentries?"
"Sorry." He handed me a small scroll. "Zelda asked me to deliver this. Political stuff, I guess."
"Thanks." I took it and watched him absently scratch his elbow, still looking for all the world like a little kid rather than a Hero of any kind. "So what are you doing now that there aren't any more evil kings to fight?"
He shrugged. "This and that…a little travel, hanging around the castle…you never know when something might come up."
I motioned for him to sit with me on a flat rock. "Can I ask you something?"
I looked at the ground, not exactly sure how to word this. "Well, I guess it's more of a statement than a question. I know you did what you had to do, but…I wish things had turned out differently." I turned to see his puzzled expression. "I don't think he was born evil…I don't think he was completely evil until the very end. After all, he had Koume and Kotake for parents…that'll mess up anybody…"
He swung his feet like a little kid, but looked up at me with a grave expression. "Do you miss him?"
I sighed. "I regret…that things didn't turn out differently. I think they could have…if so many things hadn't gone wrong." I looked at him. "Are you angry at him…for making you grow up so fast?"
Link thought for a moment, staring up at the clouds above. "Not really. I never felt like I belonged in the Kokiri forest. I knew something strange would happen with me, so why not this?" He patted his little hand on my shoulder. "I made lots of friends, also, that I wouldn't know any other way. They're your friends too. Me and Zelda and the Sages."
I ruffled his hair. I couldn't help it. There's nothing that compares to giving a great hero a noogie. "Thanks, kid," I told him, and meant it. He hopped off the rock and waved as he jogged down the path, returning to the castle.