Five years later…

"Let me go!" The small boy twisted out of Mido's grip, taking off into the forest.

"I said you're not allowed!" Mido shouted after him. "Get back here!"

The boy, smaller even than Mido, had managed to scramble up the vines on the far side of the Kokiri village. Saria had gone in upon hearing that another Skullkid was causing mischief on the edges. She had left Link with Mido, and neither one was keen on the idea.

Mido ran through the forest, calling Link's name. The boy had the blessing of the Deku Tree, and was therefore protected against the spells that created Skullkids and Stalfos. But lately there had been more and more monsters from other parts of Hyrule taking residence in the Lost Woods.

"Gotcha!" Mido grabbed Link by the collar. He threw the small boy, kicking and screaming, over his shoulder and marched back to the village.

"No! Put me down! Put me doooown!" Link wriggled and twisted, but could not break free.

"How many times must I tell you?" Mido snapped at him. "You can't leave the village. You can't leave until you get a fairy. Those are the rules!"

"Your rules are stupid!"

Mido sighed. There was no such rule; he'd made it up to keep Link from wandering off. Of course, all the other Kokiri had fairies, so there was no need to test it. "Look, if I've told you once, I've told you a hundred times. You're not a real Kokiri until you get a fairy. Your fairy is a part of you. You're only half a person without one!"

Finally reaching the village, Mido huffed and puffed as he carried Link up the stairs to his house. He plunked the boy down on the bed and folded his arms. "Now stay there," he commanded, and stomped out of the house. Link sulked on the bed.

Some hours later, Saria returned and approached Mido with a frown. "Why are you so cruel to Link?"

He scowled back at her. "What are you talking about? I saved him from getting eaten alive out there. He can't go wandering around by himself."

"That's not what I mean." Saria put her hands on her hips. "Why do you tell him these things, that he's only half a person because he doesn't have a fairy? You know he'll never get one."

Mido turned up his nose at her. "The Great Deku Tree told us to protect him, but not tell him that he's Hylian. Sooner or later he's going to wonder why he's growing up and we're not. He's going to ask why he's different. So I decided that if we can't tell him he's Hylian, I'd say it's because he doesn't have a fairy."

Saria blinked. She had not expected him to put so much thought into it. "I don't know, Mido…do you really think that the outside world will be just as dangerous years from now?"

He snorted. "When have you ever seen so many monsters inside the forest? If they're in here, there must be thousands more outside!"

Hugging herself, and staring down at the ground, Saria said, "I understand…but still, there's no need for you to be so mean to him. Can't you treat him with a little more kindness?"

"Saria…" She looked up to see Mido with a pained expression. "He's going to have to leave, someday. You're getting too attached to him. It's just going to make it harder for you later on…"

Link didn't stay at home for long. He sneaked back out again, avoiding the other Kokiri so that none of them could snitch on him to Mido again. He did not intend to go far. He made a few twists in and turns in the woods, then followed the sound of a flute to one of the openings.

The Skullkid there laughed at him. "You got caught again."

Link panted, out of breath. "Yeah, I know. Is he still here?"

Pointing with his flute, the Skullkid said, "Yeah, he's sleeping. Right over there."

Link crept over to the young man, who seemed enormous to Link. He had pointed ears like the Kokiri, but his size alone marked him as an outsider. The part of his face that Link could see was smeared with blood, the rest of it obscured with a huge metal hat that covered most of his head. The man was clad all in metal, and at first Link thought he had come across some other kind of Goron. But he wasn't, he just dressed in bright shiny metal. Link could see the characteristic swelling of a sprained ankle on the left foot, which had been divested of its steel covering.

Link bent over him and shook his shoulder, softly at first, then harder. Finally he managed to elicit a groan from the man, who rolled over and took off the metal hat. His eyes fluttered open, and he stared at link with a wondering curiosity. Link jumped back as the man sat up, wincing.

"You need to leave, quickly," Link urged.

"Leave?" The man made a harsh laugh, tinged with fear. "I'm not leaving, boy. What are you, one of the forest imps? I'll not go back, child. I'll be hanged if I do. All deserters are."

Link didn't understand most of this, and had a sneaking suspicion that the man didn't understand the danger he was in. "You have to leave. If you don't, you'll turn into a Stalfos."

"Food, do you have any food? I haven't eaten a bite in days…"

Link dug into his pockets. Surely the man couldn't be accused of stealing from the forest if Link gave him something. All he had was a few nuts, but the man accepted them gratefully.

He flinched under Link's questioning look. "You mustn't think I'm a coward," he said. "If it was anything but the Shekiah, I'd be glad to fight. But the Shekiah…they're death incarnate. You fight against those, and you don't go home." He swallowed the remainder of the nuts. "Me, I've got a wife and kid at home. I figured, sure, there's always a risk in the army, but Shekiah? No. Can't be done."

He yawned and massaged his twisted ankle, talking more to himself than to Link. "I'll sneak back home, get my wife and kid, and get out of Hyrule altogether. She's got family up north; maybe they'll take us in. No fighting going on up there."

Spreading out onto the soft moss, he nodded toward Link. "Much obliged for your kindness, boy," he said, and rolled over to sleep.

Link decided there was nothing more for him to do here. The man would leave soon, hopefully before the spell would take effect. The other Kokiri thought nothing of outsiders becoming monsters, feeling it was justice served for taking the fruits of the forest without permission. But it always disturbed Link. Outsiders or not, they didn't deserve such a horrible fate.

"Blasted pantry's empty again!" Ingo screeched in his high, reedy voice. He turned with contempt toward Talon, who lay asleep on the floor with the cuccos, the smell of ale hanging in the air.

The master bedroom door opened, and he turned to see Malon standing there. "Stay here!" Ingo ordered. "I'm going to go into the town to buy food. Don't you dare leave the ranch, or I'll give you a whipping you won't soon forget!" Lowing his voice, he muttered just loud enough for her to hear, "Stupid idiot never drank so much before the kid came…" He exited and slammed the door.

Malon retrieved a pillow from the bedroom and put it under her father's head. Ingo would never hit her; her father would throw him out if he did. Yet he still threatened her on a regular basis. It did not have much effect.

She sat and watched Talon's chest rise and fall, waiting until she knew Ingo would be out of sight of the ranch. Then she got up and, making sure the door was locked and the key around her neck, walked quickly toward the ranch's borders. She trotted around the high wall, until she came to a low fence. Climbing on the fence, she sat and waited, her red hair shining in the sunlight. If she was lucky, the Lady would come. Malon did not know where the Lady came from; she had appeared one day when she was three, sitting just outside the ranch and crying because Ingo had scolded her for taking extra sugar at breakfast.

"She's a fairy," Malon had informed her father later, face beaming. "She has hair like mine. She wears pretty pink and purple clothes. She has a horse."

"Sounds like one of those filthy Gerudo!" Ingo had sneered at her. "Don't wander off, girl. They'll catch you and throw you in their cooking pot, eat you for dinner!"

"Ingo!" Talon scolded as Malon gasped with wide eyes. He turned to his daughter, patting her hand. "Gerudo are like any other people, Malon. Some are good and some are bad. You shouldn't talk to people you don't know. If you see a Gerudo or anyone else, tell me first, and then you can talk to them if I say it's okay."

"Pft." Ingo took a long drink. "You're the only person who ever had a Gerudo give them something…they steal from everybody else."

But Malon didn't care what either Ingo or her father said. She felt convinced that the woman had been sent by the Goddesses just for her.

As she sat on the fence, she heard the familiar gait of a horse. Excitement bubbling inside her, she squirmed on the fence until the rider came into view; a young woman, riding bareback in the Gerudo style. Malon smiled and waved, then ran to her as the Lady dismounted.

The Lady scooped her up into strong arms, hugged her, stroked her hair. Malon squirmed further into her chest, enjoying the attention. For a while they sat on the plain like that, Malon basking in the warmth and breathing in the earthy smell of the woman's perfume.

The Lady spoke, producing a hairbrush, and Malon sat obediently with her back to her. The Lady never spoke any words she could understand, yet somehow she understood when Malon spoke. Fairies, she reasoned, could speak all languages.

Malon sat quietly as the Lady brushed out the tangles in her hair, humming a tune as she worked. Always the same one. Malon had learned it by now, and she too began to hum along. The Lady laughed in surprise and gave Malon a little squeeze. Malon felt as if she would burst from happiness.

Once finished, the Lady stood and gestured to her horse. Malon nodded, and with great enthusiasm scrambled onto the horse's back, with the Lady's help. She threw her arms around the horse's neck and enjoyed the slight jumping trot of the horse as the Lady led it in a large circle. Talon would not let Malon ride their own horses, he was afraid she would get hurt. But nothing bad ever happened when she rode the Lady's horse.

Once finished, the Lady helped her down and gave her a little kiss on the forehead. Malon felt a little strange giving a fairy a kiss, so instead she touched the bright jewel in the middle of the woman's forehead. If she was lucky she might get another kiss or hug. Then the Lady would mount her horse, wave good-bye, and ride back the way she came.

Some day, when her father decided she was old enough to ride a horse, she would go out along Hyrule Field and find out where the Lady lived.

She made her way quickly back to the ranch, unlocked the door, locked it behind her, and ran up to the bedroom. In just a few minutes she heard Ingo come into the downstairs room.

She nearly jumped out of her skin as she heard a knock on the door. She opened it and saw Ingo standing there with a plate of bread and cheese. "Here, girl. Eat something before you get so thin you disappear."

"Thank you, sir." Talon had taught her to be polite even when Ingo wasn't.

Ingo sighed, looking back at the man on the floor. "Your father wasn't always like this. But after he met that woman, everything went downhill."

"What woman?" Malon asked, curious.

"Never you mind. You'll figure it out eventually," he said with a snort. Then he walked back down the stairs, to get the horses ready for the night.

It would not be until three years later that another Gerudo came to the ranch, asking to speak with Talon. Malon was outside with the horses, but she could hear her father sobbing. She ran into the house. "Papa, what's wrong?"

He didn't answer. But on the table, Malon saw a golden chain. Attached to it was the jewel that the Lady always wore. Malon never saw the Lady after that.

As for Talon, he began sleeping even more.