Zelda slowly regained her senses. Her eyes were still shut, but she was awake now, although she felt far too comfortable to move. However, as she tried to go back to sleep, she became more aware of her surroundings. The ground began to feel cold beneath her, and a sharp wind passed over her from the north. As she eventually opened her eyes, for a split second she saw nothing but darkness, before she turned to her side in panic and found Link sleeping next to her. His arm was draped around her, but as comfortable as it felt, Zelda knew that she would no longer be able to sleep unless she was in a bed.
Zelda whispered his name as she gently nudged him. He was slowly breathing in and out, but he showed no signs of waking. He was lying on his front, with his arm still outstretched around where Zelda had been sleeping. Zelda was now fully awake, and she even noticed the cloak she had worn in the desert a few metres away; it must have been blown off during the night. Zelda yawned and nudged Link a second time, before continuing to push him back and forth gently until he eventually awoke.
As he opened his eyes, Zelda smiled at the bemused look on his face when for a second, he wondered where they were, much like she had herself. When he recalled the events that had passed a few hours ago, a look of realisation dawned on him and he smiled back at Zelda, before yawning and saying quietly,
"Do you want to go home?"
Zelda nodded silently, enjoying the peace of the night, and stood up slowly. Her legs were still half-asleep, and Link offered her support, but she politely refused it. However, she didn't pull away when his hand met hers as they walked back to his house hand in hand. As they arrived at the door, Link fumbled in his pockets for a key, whilst Zelda took one last look at the surroundings at night before preparing to go back to sleep inside. Squinting slightly, she looked towards Hyrule Castle, and saw a flickering light in the distance, which was burning brightly considering how far away it was.
Beginning to feel drowsy again, Zelda dismissed the light as an early sun and nudged Link, who was feeling just as drowsy. As he unlocked the door, he felt Zelda's nudge and looked back to her, only to see her pointing at the light on the horizon as she muttered,
"How long do you think we were asleep?"
Link raised an eyebrow in his sleepy, confused state and replied, "Only a few hours. That can't be the sun, surely."
Zelda thought Link was merely talking out of surprise, until Link squinted hard at the light and repeated, "That can't be the sun…"
To Zelda's surprise, Link suddenly sprung into action and ran inside. She barely had time to step to the door before Link came barging out again, holding a small white box that he passed to her quickly, stuttering something about it being a first aid kit. Link was almost about to start running towards the light source, before Zelda managed to ask, "What's going on?"
"That's not the sun," Link managed to get out slowly, "That looks like Lon Lon Ranch."
Zelda felt all sources of drowsiness leave her, but she still barely had time to react as Link was already running towards the fire. Zelda pulled her cloak back on as quickly as she could and followed Link. After a minute or so, their fears were confirmed as Lon Lon Ranch came into sight, and it was indeed ablaze. Link paused to take in the damage for a few seconds, giving Zelda just enough time to catch up. As he turned to her, his face had an extremely fearful expression, and he would have surely rushed straight in were it not for Zelda's exclamation.
"Link, look! Malon's alright!"
Link turned back to Lon Lon Ranch just in time to see Malon running out, safe and sound. She looked worried, but seemed to calm down slightly when Link ran up to her and said a few sentences before rushing up to the ranch. Zelda was too far away to hear, but ran up to Malon immediately. Before Zelda could speak, Malon answered,
"Talon's getting the animals out of the barn and Link's gone to help him."
Zelda and Malon stood in awkward silence for a few seconds before Zelda asked,
"What do you think started the fire?"
It seemed clear to Zelda that Malon appreciated any conversation right now, and she observed the farm girl thinking to herself before she meekly replied, "I might have left a torch on in the barn and one of the cows might have kicked it over…"
"Don't worry about it. Link's here; everything will be fine."
Malon raised a quizzical eyebrow at Zelda, but gave a bittersweet smile for her attempt to lighten the mood. However, conversation ran dry soon after that, and the minutes dragged on and on with no sign of Link or Talon. As the fire raged on, eventually Malon could no longer take the waiting.
"I'm going back to look for Talon!"
Zelda got to her feet and tried to stop Malon, but the fiery redhead proved too much and stormed past.
"Malon, think! You can't just go back!"
"What else am I supposed to do? You know how stubborn Talon can get, he's probably trying to save every single cucco."
Zelda tried to respond, but a loud crash informed then that one of the barn buildings had collapsed, and Malon screamed, "Dad!" and ran back to the ranch. Zelda ran after her a few steps, then paused while she panicked and wondered what to do. Should she put herself at risk to find Link, or stay outside and wait? Luckily, as she was making her choice, a figure ran out of the ranch towards her. Her heart leapt and she began to scream, "Link!" but just before she could get his name out, she saw the figure closely enough to recognise it as Talon.
Talon kept running until he reached Zelda, where he stopped and put his hands on his knees, panting loudly. Zelda wanted to inquire about his current state, and began to ask,
"Talon? Are you alright?"
But was interrupted halfway through as Talon jumped in amazement and blurted out, "Zelda?"
Now was not the time for introductions, and Zelda knew it, so she kept her explanation short.
"I've been staying with Link recently, speaking of whom, is he alright?"
Talon started to respond, but another loud crash informed the pair that another large section of the barn had collapsed. Over the noise of the crackling flames, Talon noticed the absence of his daughter and panicked.
Smoke was beginning to flow in every direction from the flames, and Zelda coughed slightly before replying.
"She went back to-"
Zelda was interrupted as the main ranch building containing the bedrooms exploded into a small fireball. Zelda screamed but Talon managed to pull her down to the ground in time to avoid debris. On the ground, Zelda regained her senses and pulled her cloak over Talon and herself in an attempt to protect them from any small rubble. After a few seconds of chaos, Talon nervously stood up, followed by Zelda. As they surveyed the scene around them, they noticed splintered chunks of wood, torn apart by the power of the explosion, and the odd lump of rock that used to be a building. As they looked upwards at where the ranch had rested on the hill, they saw it was no more.
Zelda and Talon shouted wildly, hoping for any sort of response from their close ones, but to no avail. After listening closely for a minute and hearing nothing but silence, Zelda and Talon were beginning to lose hope, until Zelda turned away for a second and heard a small cough.
Turning back, her face lit up with joy as she saw a small figure coming down the hill, carrying another. As they came into sight, Zelda felt an overwhelming sense of relief to see Link, in a charred black tunic, carrying Malon over his shoulders. Talon rushed to help, and arrived just in time to safely lower Malon onto the ground.
Link stumbled towards Zelda before collapsing onto the ground completely and rolling over onto his back, taking in deep breaths and pausing to splutter ever few second. Zelda knelt down at his side, but couldn't find any words to say to express the relief and the pride she felt in him, so she contented herself to hold his hand and stroke it softly.
Link stopped coughing after a few seconds, but continued to breathe heavily. Talon had successfully revived Malon, so the pair also made their way over to Link to thank him, although Malon could only crawl to him in her condition. Link's breaths finally slowed down, but Zelda had spotted that in the explosion, a large splintered chunk of wood had pierced Link's side. Thinking of the pain it must have been putting Link in, Zelda grabbed the chunk of wood and pulled it out swiftly; an action she instantly regretted.
Link sat up slightly and let out an agonised yell before collapsing back on the ground with a pained expression on his face, while Zelda covered her mouth in shock when she saw how large the cut had been, and how much blood Link was losing. Malon and Talon also noticed, and whilst Talon gasped loudly, Malon let out a small scream and desperately asked,
"Link! Link, are you alright?"
Zelda was desperately trying to stop the wound by any means possible, including pushing her cloak over it in an attempt to stop the blood, but nothing was working. She was beginning to fear for his life, before he weakly lifted his arm to her's and muttered,
"Zelda… the first aid kit…"
Zelda frantically looked for the first aid kit Link had given her, and found it quickly. Opening it, she saw a few sprays and bandages, but nothing that could treat a wound this big.
"Zelda… when you were Princess… did you ever sew?"
Zelda was taken aback by Link's question, and its irrelevant nature, but responded nonetheless.
"… Under the bandages…"
Zelda looked back down at the first aid kit and pulled out the bandages, only to see a few needles and a large amount of thread. Realising what Link meant, she slowly looked from the needle to the wound in his side and back again, before silently and slowly shaking her head.
"No… no… Link, I can't possibly do that!"
"No, I just can't! No, no… No!!!" Zelda was getting hysterical.
Zelda looked back at the needles and whimpered incoherently, but Link used the last of his energy to grasp her hand with his.
"Zelda, please… I need your help. Please… I need you…"
Seeing Link in such desperate need of help and feeling his hand losing warmth, Zelda's breathing slowed down as she picked up a needle. However, as she turned back towards Link and took a closer look at the wound, she shivered and felt doubtful.
"Link, I really don't think I can do this!"
"You can Zelda, you're the only one who can help me right now…"
Zelda looked to Malon and Talon, who were both looking at her with hope in their eyes, and she looked back at Link, took a deep breath, and slowly put her hand on the injury. Link winced in pain and Zelda recoiled, but Link assured her, "Don't worry, its normal."
Zelda gripped the needle shakily, and tried to steady her hand as she neared the edge of the wound. Gulping, she tried again, and successfully pushed the needle through, dragging a small amount of thread behind it. She cast her gaze back to Link to make sure he was ok, but his eyes were closed and he was gritting his teeth to stop the pain. Zelda's nerves worsened, but she looked back at his injury and continued to sew.
As Zelda's work neared its halfway point, the importance of her help made her feel more and more nervous, and at one point she looked away from the wound completely and burst into tears. Breathing more heavily than Link at this point, she was on the verge of going into hysterics and felt as if she could no longer cope with the incredible stress. Feeling more fearful than ever, she looked towards the ground and muttered, "I can't, I can't, I can't…"
Zelda felt Link's hand on her shoulder, and it felt reassuring. Taking a few deep breaths, she wasn't able to hold back the tears, but she was able to concentrate, and Link was able to keep his hand on her shoulder for the next few minutes, while she tried to save him. Talon was feeling awkward, and stood up, said something about fetching water to help, and then ran towards Link's cottage.
Malon had been watching silently, but since Zelda was no longer in her cloak, she picked it up and tried to wipe away some of the blood that had been spilled by Link on the ground. The sheer volume of it both astounded and terrified her. Despite all this, Zelda continued to work through the tears, and eventually, she leaned back from her work and observed the wound. The stitching was clumsy, and it hadn't completely stopped the bleeding, but it was enough to stop Link from coming to serious harm. Even so, the tears wouldn't stop and her breathing wasn't slowing.
Link was now exhausted from the blood loss, but still had enough energy left in him to turn his head to Zelda and smile.
"You did great, Zelda," he muttered quietly, "I'm so proud of you right now…"
Zelda's sobs slowed, but didn't stop altogether, although she smiled slightly after hearing Link's voice. However, they were interrupted by the return of Talon, who had brought a large bucket of water and a glass, which he quickly poured some of the water into before handing it to Link, who gulped it down gratefully. Zelda felt relieved, until Malon asked a question she hadn't even thought about.
"Without the ranch, where will I live?"
Link was now half-sitting up and looked towards Talon to see if he had any idea before gulping down some more water to replace the blood he'd lost.
"Well, I can always stay with those friends in Kakariko, but I'm not sure if they'd let you stay, it's a small place…"
Link looked towards Zelda, then looked back to Malon and spoke quietly, "You could always join me and Zelda, provided Zelda agrees."
Malon was amazed. "You, you mean it? Really?"
"Sure, there's enough room for three. I can't have you homeless, can I?"
Malon wanted to hug Link, but in is current condition, that wouldn't have been wise, so she turned to Zelda.
"Is this ok with you? I wouldn't want to intrude."
Zelda was flabbergasted. On the one hand, she didn't want Malon to be homeless, but she loved living with Link, and only Link. Then again, after Link's offer, she could hardly say no.
"That's fine. You can stay."
"Oh, thank you! Thank you both!"
As Zelda wasn't injured, Malon pulled her into a hug, but didn't notice that Zelda wasn't hugging her back. Zelda was too busy thinking of what effects Malon would have on Link and Zelda living together. Gradually, she hugged Malon back, but her mind was elsewhere, wondering what the times ahead would be like with Malon living with them. Maybe it wouldn't be so bad? Zelda's hug grew tighter as she relaxed and reassured herself that things would be alright. After all, how bad could it be?
She had no idea...