The Intruder in the Forest!
Zelda's Failed Plan!
"Link, get up!
"Can Hyrule's destiny really depend on such a lazy boy?"
"Hey…" Link finally responded into his pillow, still not ready to leave his warm bed. "I already saved Hyrule once, remember? And I saved Termina. I'm done with saving worlds. Don't you think that earns me the right to sleep in once in a while, Saria?"
Link's best friend giggled. "Nope!" She replied cheekily. "I've told you a thousand times: if you're gonna live here, you're gonna have to get up when the rest of us do. And we get up early. So, up! Anela says that the Deku Sprout wants to see us!"
"Urgh…" Link groaned. "Fine, fine… but you're gonna have to go outside, okay?"
Saria bounded over to stand next to his bed. "And why is that, Link?"
"Because I'm not wearing anything under this blanket. Unless you'd like to see me naked?" Link quipped, rolling over and looking at her with wide, innocent eyes.
Saria turned bright red. She said "No, that's fine… I'll just be outside then." She ran out the door, skipping the ladder outside in favor of leaping down.
Link laughed at Saria as he jumped out of bed, fully dressed with pants and night shirt. He pulled on his familiar green tunic, shorts, and brown boots, and grabbed his sword, shield, and bag. (Magic bag, of course, enchanted by Saria with infinite carrying capacity; how else would he carry forty bombs, two kinds of seeds, a slingshot, a boomerang, a hookshot, a bow, arrows, etcetera and so on?) He quickly checked himself to make sure he had everything. "Sword and shield, equipment, rupees… Oh! How could I forget that?"
He turned to the raised table in the center of his house, which held only one item, Link's most valuable possession: his ocarina. Not the Ocarina of Time, but the simple brown ocarina given to him by Saria before he left the forest for the first time. He picked it up, admiring the craftsmanship. Maybe it wasn't a powerful magical artifact like the Ocarina of Time had been, but Saria had poured her heart into this gift, and that made it priceless. After he returned from Termina, Link had been more than happy to return the royal family's sacred instrument for safekeeping; as long as he had this gift, he would be happy. He played a quick, bright tune on it, the Minuet of Forest. Without Time's magic, it no longer served its purpose of transporting him to the Sacred Forest Meadow, but it was still a nice song in its own right.
As he played, he heard another Ocarina join him, harmonizing and strengthening the melody. Still playing, he walked outside to find Saria playing with him. They smiled at each other around the notes, and together they finished the song. Saria put her hands on her hips, saying with mock irritation "You know, Link, most people don't need to play music as part of getting dressed." But the smile on her face gave her true feelings away.
Link slid down the ladder, and walked with Saria towards the Deku Sprout. "Yeah, but most people haven't had music crammed down their throat by half the people they've met."
Saria shoved him. "Oh, and what is that supposed to mean?"
"Oh, sorry, Saria. For what it's worth, your song is the best one I've ever…" (Saria began to smile) "… had crammed down my throat." (And promptly stopped.)
"See if I play anything with you anytime soon, then!" Saria huffed as she marched off. As she went, she heard him play the first three few bars of her signature song. He purposefully drew out the notes, trying to tempt her with the music. She was holding out well, until he added in some little variations that sprang to life in her head. She could hear what he was doing, mixing in the Minuet of Forest to combine her two favorite songs and get her to break in and join him.
She sighed heavily, then pulled out her ocarina and joined in the song. She moved towards him and they sat down back to back with their eyes closed, playing as one. The melody was so enchanting, they got lost in the playing, forgetting everything around them, all their lives. To Saria and Link, it was simply them and the music. Sometime later, they both felt that it was good to conclude the song, and they brought it to a wonderful finish.
They opened their eyes and discovered that all the Kokiri had gathered around, entranced by the tune.
"Wow," the girl Fado said in amazement. "How do you do that?" The rest of the small crowd murmured and nodded in agreement.
Link and Saria looked at each other, and smiled. Link let Saria talk; unless he was talking to her or a few other key people in his life, he didn't like to speak if he could avoid it.
"We just play what comes to us," Saria said. "That's all there is to it." As for the improvisation working so smoothly together, Saria secretly thought that the minor mental link she shared with Link through her song was mostly accountable for their synergy. But the rest of the Kokiri didn't need to know that, and they probably wouldn't understand anyway.
Link nodded in agreement with her.
"Well, it's amazing," Lari, one of the Know-It-All Brothers, remarked. "I wish I could play half as well as either of you."
"Thank you," Saria replied, "but we really need to be going. The Deku Sprout has summoned me and Link."
"Aww…" the Kokiri groaned as one. They slowly moved off. As they did, Link spotted Mido, the one Kokiri who hadn't been in the group, watching them. As soon Link made eye contact, Mido broke it with a "Hmph" and walked back into his own home. Link shook his head in wonder; ever since he had returned, Mido had become even colder towards him. When Link had first arrived after his adventures, Mido had even tried to blame him for the first Deku Tree's demise, but Saria had quickly silenced that rumor, and with her support, Mido couldn't turn the rest of the Kokiri against him. So now he simply kept up a silent vendetta against Link, refusing to speak to him and tripping him up whenever he could.
Link didn't bear any ill will towards Mido; in fact, he would have been very happy if the bossy Kokiri would just drop the hostilities and be friendly for once. But it didn't look like it was going to happen anytime soon. As a near-immortal race, the Kokiri tended to hold grudges better measured in decades or centuries than years.
"Come on, Link!" Saria yelled, standing at the entrance of the path to the Deku Sprout; in his silent daze, he hadn't noticed her get up and walk away. Link shook his head, clearing it of his train of thought, and ran to walk with her.
Together, they walked to the Sprout's domain. "What do you think he wants, Link?" Saria asked.
"I dunno," he replied. "I hope nothing bad. I've had my fill of bad news for one lifetime." Indeed, Link did seem to find problems everywhere he went. The curse of a hero, he supposed. Avoiding those problems for once was much of the reason he had returned to the forest. He hoped that he could at least live out the rest of his childhood in peace.
They rounded one last corner, and the enormous expanse of the Deku Sprout's Meadow came into view. Taking up most of the space was the dead trunk of the old Deku Tree, but in front, the comparatively tiny Great Deku Sprout now fulfilled his predecessor's purpose of protecting the forest and the Kokiri.
"Hi, Link! Hi, Saria!" The tree said as they walked into sight. "Thank you both for coming. There's something I need to talk to you two about."
"What is it, Deku Sprout?" Saria asked.
"Listen closely." The sprout dropped his normally cheerful demeanor as he spoke. "There is some great magical force at work in the forest. It is strong enough to walk straight through both my protective barriers and the changing spells of the forest without any harm, and I am becoming quite a bit worried about it."
Link's blood froze as he spoke. "It couldn't be Ganondorf… could it? Zelda said, at the end, that he might someday return, but she thought that day to be far in the future. Could it really be this soon?" Saria's wide eyes showed her fright at the prospect.
As a Sage, she had retained the memories of the Dark Era, those seven lost years when Ganondorf had ruled over Hyrule. Only Link, the Seven Sages, and presumably Ganondorf had those memories, as they were in the Sacred Realm and thus beyond time's grasp when the King of Evil had been locked away and removed from history. She knew what his return would mean, for all of Hyrule. And this time, there would be no Hero capable of wielding the Master Sword against him. It was a dark prospect indeed.
"I think not." The sprout paused. "You see, I do not think it is evil, exactly. It certainly does not seem to be the same as Ganondorf, who simply smashed through the barriers and placed his own dark curse on the Deku Tree in their place. This force… it moves through the spells, but it does not disturb them. It is strange, yes, but nothing more. However..." Again, he hesitated, seeming almost unsure of what he was saying. "It seems to have been searching for the village. I have sensed it several times, moving here and there, stopping sometimes at the Forest Temple, but last night it moved to the very edge of the village, and has kept very close ever since. Such a force as this is not to be taken lightly, evil or not. And so I would like the two of you to investigate. Link, Hero of Time…" Link winced a bit at the title he carried, one he had never wanted. "Saria, Sage of the Forest…" Saria stood a little taller at his words. "You two are the only people in the village with any sort of power to rival this, and even that is something I cannot be certain of. Such things are not precise."
"And if it is evil, what should we do if it is beyond our abilities?" Link asked.
"Run," the forest guardian responded. "Run back to the village, and I will focus all my power on stopping it. It may be enough. I dare not try now, in case I am too weak, and the effort drives it to attack. If it is friendly, it may be a powerful ally. If it is neutral, we must keep it that way.
"Go, now, children… aid me in protecting this forest!" The sprout fell silent, and Link and Saria took that as their cue to leave. They walked back towards the village.
"Ugh…" Link said. "I never get a break."
"Oh, cheer up, Link. At least you're not alone this time," Saria replied, nudging him with her elbow.
"I wasn't alone before, either." Link thought of Navi, wondering again where she could have gone. Saria noticed this, and felt regret for pushing his thoughts in that direction.
"Come on," Saria said, breaking him out of those thoughts. "Let me go get my staff and find Anela, and we can start searching the forest. There's no point in worrying until we know what's out there," she reasoned.
"Fine," Link agreed.
They walked to Saria's house and she went in, leaving Link outside.
Inside, she picked up her Forest Staff. It was a powerful relic she had found deep in the Forest Temple, a staff of twisted wood which spiraled smoothly up and then wrapped around a small green gem at the tip. She felt some powerful magic in it, but she couldn't use it very well yet. It was something she was trying to get better at, though she hoped that she would never need it for anything other than tending to the forest.
What do you need that for? A small voice entered her mind, the voice of her fairy, Anela. She flew across the room and alighted on Saria's hair.
"The Deku sprout wants me and Link to investigate something around the forest. I may need magic," Saria replied.
But you don't have complete control yet! You might do anything with it!
Saria scoffed. "Well, I need something to protect myself! Don't worry, I'll only use what I know I can control."
Saria could feel Anela's distaste, but the fairy said nothing more. Saria was turning to leave when she heard Link cry "Saria!" This was no cry of boredom; his voice carried a grave urgency. She ran out to see what was happening.
Link had his sword and shield out, facing the forest entrance. Saria looked, but she saw nothing but the swaying trees. "What is it, Link?"
He pointed his sword towards the woods. "I saw something in the trees. I don't know what it was, though. It moved too quickly to be seen properly."
"Then let's go!" Saria said. "The village is counting on us!" Link nodded, and they ran together towards the disturbance.
As they ran into the woods, Link and Saria saw several flashes of blue between the trees ahead. The sightings led the pair further and further away from the village, into the Lost Woods. They followed for a while in a great circle, until finally they burst through the trees into the Sacred Forest Meadow, below the Forest Temple. On the stump where Saria normally loved to sit and play, there was a strange figure. It was humanoid in shape, but other than that, not much could be said about it. It wore a dark blue cloak that completely covered all of its features, so that there was nothing else to see of it. It was humming nonchalantly to itself, humming a song Link knew: the Bolero of Fire. But how could it know that? That tune was known only to Link, Zelda, and Saria, to whom Link had taught all of the songs he knew.
Saria stood at Link's side, her staff held at the ready. "Link?" She whispered to him.
"I don't want to strike first and risk angering it," he softly replied. "Wait until it makes a move."
Suddenly, it spoke. It had a deep, male voice, but a simple human voice all the same, not as dark or mysterious as the rest of it seemed, and with none of the almost tangible malevolence that Ganondorf's words carried. "Ah…" he said. "So that's how it is." He raised an arm, and a single finger extruded from under the cloak. "Then I will 'make a move'." A brilliant light came into being at the tip, and shot at Link. Link brought up his shield to block, and the magical bolt slammed into it. The force knocked Link back a few feet, but he quickly regained his ground.
Link pulled out his bow and started firing arrows at the figure as fast as he could. But the mysterious man simply disappeared before they reached him, reappearing a few feet away. Saria tried her own magic, using her staff to fire a small ball of green forest energy at the man: her most basic attack. He brushed it aside, and it hit the ground and dissipated. Seeing that a ranged attack wouldn't work, Link pulled out his sword again and charged. The man pulled out a strange, slightly curved black blade from underneath his cloak and held it at his defense. Link struck at him, but the figure parried with ease and made his own strike. He easily knocked Link's weapon aside, but when he tried to step forward to take advantage of the opening, he stumbled. Saria had made the grass grow up silently and wrap around his legs; he was now bound to the ground.
"Hmm…" he remarked casually. "Resourceful. Good, good." There was a flash of red light under the cloak, and he was free again. "But ultimately too weak to be more than a nuisance." But for all the figure said, the momentary distraction had given Link time to recover, and so he tried another attack. But as he did, a translucent blue wall appeared between them, and Link's gilded sword bounced right off of it, jarring his arm as though he had struck stone. An instant later the wall was gone, and the man's blade sliced through the space between them, leaving a light cut on Link's right arm.
"Link!" Saria cried, running forward.
"Stay back, Sage," the figure said gravely. She ignored him and kept running. The man sighed. "So be it." He raised an arm to point at her, and his eyes glowed through the black mist under the hood. Saria suddenly stopped, her body frozen. She could only move her mouth and eyes. Anela flew frantically around her, trying to protect her from the magic, but nothing worked.
Link watched Saria's sapphire eyes shift about in fear. "Saria!" Link looked at the man, molten anger spilling out of his own eyes. "Let her go! Now!"
"It is better this way, Link. I would rather not have done that, but I have not harmed her in any way, and she is now removed from the battle. Now fight me!"
"Fight this." Link knelt, building up his mana in his core. He released it as a wall of flames, furiously yelling "Din's Fire!"
The man did his disappearing act, and only reappeared when the fire had passed. "A spell from the goddesses… impressive at such a young age. But you have barely tapped into their power if that is all you can do with it. Not to mention you were terribly predictable. Are you even trying to win?"
"Shut up!" Link yelled. He charged his spin attack and let it go, sending out another wave of power towards the man. He didn't even bother moving for this one, opting to simply wave the magic away from him like an unpleasant odor. Link was out of magic power and running out of ideas. He stood for a few moments, facing the figure.
"Who are you?" Link demanded, trying to get the figure talking so he could think. "Why are you here? And how do you know about the Sages? That knowledge was lost to all of those in this world!"
"All excellent questions," he responded. "But now is not the time for answers. So I will simply say this: I am the Agent. And right now, I am your enemy. So attack, Hero of Time. Show me your legendary power!"
Link charged at the figure, and their swords met again and again, neither one striking through. But as Link hacked and slashed at him, he noticed that his opponent was no longer attacking. He was only blocking and dodging, observing Link's attacks in silence. Then he put the blade down completely, only leaning and jumping away from each of Link's strikes.
"What's the matter?" Link taunted. "Afraid to fight back?"
At that instant, the figure struck with blinding speed, but not with his sword; instead, he flashed forward with his free left hand, grabbing Link's left hand and twisting it so that the golden blade slipped from his grasp. Link tried to push him off with the Deku Shield, but he refused to move, and Link couldn't get enough free room for a proper strike. Then he heard a strange sound, one that Link would have recognized immediately outside of battle, but had almost never heard in one: laughter.
The man was laughing at him!
"Gah ha ha ha! You're hilarious, Hero!" Link struggled once more, but couldn't break free of the figure's iron grip, nor could Link push him off. "If you must know, I'm observing you so that I can better understand how you fight. But if you wish to be defeated, then so be it!" And with that, the man lifted Link by the wrist and tossed the boy away from him. He landed on his back next to Saria, but struggled quickly to his feet. He glanced at Saria's terrified eyes for a moment, before his attention was captured again as his gilded sword landed and stuck in the ground before him. Link walked to the blade, then looked up to see the man waiting patiently for Link to continue. Link pulled the sword out of the ground with a fury before falling into a defensive stance. The opponents began to circle one another.
Link looked around the man as they circled, each searching for an advantage. Seeing the trees around them, Link had an idea. He pulled out his hookshot, holding it in one hand with his sword in the other. He shot at a tree just past the man. As the chain passed him, the figure turned towards it for a moment; the perfect opening. Link let himself be pulled along, and as he passed the figure, Link sliced at him with his blade. The man almost dodged, but he wasn't quite fast enough to escape completely: he now had a gash on his arm to match Link's.
"Ah!" He cried out, holding the wound. "Very resourceful! I always expected your agility to be your strongest point, and you have not disappointed me. I applaud your effort, Hero!" Again, his hands shone as he worked magic. He released the wound, and the cloak was no longer even torn; he had healed. "But, again, not quite enough. Now… you were attacking me?"
Link gave a roar of frustration. Nothing's working! He thought. He wished he had Navi again. She was always able to detect an enemy's weaknesses. Link thought carefully. He couldn't attack directly; even if he struck, this foe could heal. Magical attacks were worthless, and Link was out of mana anyway. He thought back to the Deku Sprout's words; should he run? But Saria was still here, he couldn't leave her! Link thought frantically. Maybe if I stun him first? Link pulled out a deku nut and threw it. But rather than being stunned in the flash that followed, the figure vanished again, as Sheik and Impa were so fond of doing. Link looked around.
"Link, behind you!" Saria's voice cried out. But before he could turn, the black blade was at his throat.
Link stood very still, and tried to come up with a way out. But there was nothing; he was as good as dead. Anything he could try would take far too long. If only he had set up a warp point… Saria whimpered softly behind him, and he heard the quick, light breathing of the figure. He didn't even sound tired.
"Hmm…" the man said thoughtfully. "For your first battle against such a foe, you did well to injure me at all. However… you still lost, and quickly at that, even with me going fairly easy on you. In any case, were I a true enemy, you would be dead now. But," the man added, removing his sword from Link's neck and pulling it back under his cloak, "I am not." He turned towards the Forest Sage. "Using the grass to bind me was a very good idea, Saria. For a short moment, I was actually completely vulnerable. However, it would have been better to tell him beforehand about your stratagem, so that Link could take full advantage of that moment. And you, Link, that move with the hookshot was clever, but you allowed yourself to despair when you might have dealt a killing blow on another try. That being said, I see you are not hopeless. Of course, I knew that already, but it's still nice to know firsthand." He started walking back towards the forest.
"Wait!" Saria called. "What did you come for? Was it just some kind of game to you?"
The figure stopped. "Hmm… in a sense, I guess it was. I definitely had fun with it. But more importantly, it was a test. I wanted to see how you would handle a foe you knew nothing about, one who could wield both magic and a blade, and mix them effortlessly. In other words, I wanted to see how you would fare if Ganondorf was to return today, and you had to fight him at his full strength. You failed, of course, but that was to be expected. If you could have passed such a test now, my presence here would not be necessary."
"So who are you?" Link asked. "And how do you know all these things?"
"Were you not listening? I am the Agent. Who I really am will be revealed when the time comes, but know this: I am no longer your enemy. I would see you become what you should be. Both of you," he added. "Yes, Saria, in your own way you are just as important an asset as the Hero, and you will need me just as much. More than that, I will not say now." He held up a hand, and it shone blue for a moment. In tune with the magical light, the gash on Link's arm healed, and even his tunic mended over it. "Now, I'm done here for the moment. I have other matters to attend to. I will return to you in, oh… let's say five days. A nice even number. During that time, do whatever you want. Train, fish, sleep all day… I don't really care. After that, you are mine. Be prepared, Hero… Sage…" He vanished.
Saria fell to the ground, the spell holding her in place disappearing with its caster. Link rushed to her side, helping her to sit up.
"What just happened?" she asked, looking up at Link.
He pulled her up off of the ground. "I don't know. The way he talked, he almost acted like he was trying to teach me a lesson. But why would I need a teacher? I beat Ganondorf once. I think I could do it again if I had to. Maybe not at this age before I went to Termina, but surely now. And if I could do it, and he could beat me so easily, could he not do it himself? I don't understand the danger."
"He could have killed us both," Saria said, her voice trembling slightly. "We were lucky."
"He said he wasn't an enemy… we should go talk to the Sprout again," Link said, standing up. "He should know what happened." Link felt a bit of shame that they were defeated so easily. What if he had been evil? Link thought. I'd be dead, and so would Saria… He shook his head to clear it. He didn't even want to think of Saria dying. That was something he hoped never to face.
"Saria?" Link looked down at his companion to see that she was still shaking. He knelt beside her again. "It's okay, he's gone. We're safe. The forest is fine."
Saria jumped at him, wrapping her arms around his neck. "Oh, Link," she said through her tears.
The sudden display of affection surprised him. "What is it?"
"I thought… when he had you, I thought he was going to kill you." Saria's voice still shook from the shock of it. "I've never been so scared before, not even when the monsters attacked me in the Forest Temple. Please… just hold me for a minute."
Warmth filled Link's heart as he realized once again how much his friend cared for him. He returned her embrace and they sat together in the meadow, comforting each other, for a long time.
On the edge of the forest, the cloaked figure stopped and sat down to rest.
"Good thing I packed some green potion," he said to himself. "Magical battles really punch you right in the mana… not that teleporting almost continuously for the past few days helped either, but I didn't expect it to take so long for me to find the village. I'm nearly dry. It's another good thing that battle didn't go on for much longer. Ugh… I'm going to have to talk to the Deku Sprout about those protective spells. Maybe I can get him to weave in some protection for me like the Deku Tree did for Link. Holding them all back is going to kill me if I have to stick around here for a while."
He took out a bottle from under his cloak and took a swig of some thick green liquid.
"Aah… man, that's just awful. I have really got to work on making a better tasting potion. This world needs one bad. At least I've got the first of my real tasks done. After all my training… everything's finally coming to a head."
He glanced back towards the forest. "Link… Saria… You did a lot better than I let on. Holding a Sage back and fighting the Hero at the same time was almost too much. Her natural magic reserves are ridiculous, and who knows how many Great Fairies have blessed that boy…" He raised his voice, shouting at the heavens. "Seriously, Din, you could have at least helped me out a bit on the mana levels… You didn't have to let me scrounge it up on my own!" He grumbled to himself. "Damned goddesses… They can hire a free agent from another dimension, but boosting his magic levels? No, that's a step too far! Giving him a weapon? Of course not, he can find his own! Teaching him to fight? Let him figure it out! As if they weren't meddling just by bringing me here in the first place…"
From the heavens boomed a voice. "You know we can hear you."
Under the cloak, he grinned. It wasn't often the goddesses spoke to him anymore. "Yeah, Din, I know. But I also know that you need me too much to kill me." He sprung up. "Fine. I'm done groaning anyway. I've got to get to Hyrule Castle. To do your job!" He shouted the last two words, and was rewarded with a weak lightning bolt right on the bottom.
"Ow!" He cried, jumping at the shock. "Alright, alright, I'm moving!" He disappeared.
When one imagines a princess, one generally thinks of a dainty, beautiful figure, prim and proper, thinking nothing but airy thoughts, without a care in the world. One certainly would not expect a princess to secretly train herself in martial arts, nor would one think that a princess would know or even care about the goings on of her kingdom. One might even expect a certain level of foolishness, caused by being secluded and protected from life's worries and woes.
Zelda was not a typical princess.
Oh, she was unmatched in beauty, to be sure: fair skinned, with hair spun from pure gold and eyes the hue of the clearest blue skies, with a dainty figure to match. But anyone expecting to best her in a fight would be astounded by the kind of strength she wielded in those lean arms, strength cultivated through years of secret training with her caretaker, Impa. She spoke properly in court of course, never a word out of turn, but outside, with her extremely few friends and family, she was known for her sharp tongue and sharper wit. And Zelda's thoughts were anything but light. Indeed, she had seen more and experienced worse than the hardiest knight in her father's army, and her mind reflected that. And foolishness… Zelda was anything but foolish. She was by far the wisest and most intelligent person in Hyrule, even at the young age of fourteen.
At the moment, Zelda was engaging in one of her favorite pastimes: secretly watching her father's court through the window in her private courtyard. Zelda wanted a greater voice in Hyrule's affairs, but she was considered too young and inexperienced to be taken very seriously. This annoyed Zelda for two reasons. First, she believed that an idea should be measured not based on the concept's inventor, but on the merits of the idea itself. Second, and more importantly, Zelda was older than she appeared. Though her body was fourteen, her mind was twenty-one. Living through the Dark Era was a large part of why Zelda was so wise and experienced, but there was no way that anyone other than Link and the other Sages would ever believe her story. Without the respect she knew she would eventually earn, the only way Zelda could enact change in her kingdom was through her father. She would listen to his court, think of her own solutions, and then gently nudge her father's thoughts until, hopefully, he reached the same conclusions. It took enormous cunning and a ridiculous amount of Zelda's time, but it was all she could do to help Hyrule.
"Oh, father, you fool…" Zelda whispered. "Can't you see how he's tricking you?" She was watching trade negotiations with one of Hyrule's lesser neighbors, and the ambassador was playing the king like an expert. Her father was giving up far more than he needed to, and Zelda knew it.
"Ugh! Just give me one week in that chair, father, and Hyrule would never be the same."
"Are you sure, Princess? You've made some terrible decisions in your time, after all."
Zelda whirled away from the window. Only Impa was allowed in this courtyard, and that was not Impa's voice. She was greeted by a blue-cloaked figure. Zelda opened her mouth to yell for help.
"I beg you, please do not call your guards," he said holding up his hands. "I would be gone long before they could arrive, anyway. And I mean you no harm; I only want to talk."
Zelda stopped herself. He had to have teleported in, or he couldn't have passed all the guards unseen. Unless he could become invisible, but she doubted that. That level of Light magic was beyond everyone, save perhaps Rauru.
"Who are you?" she asked.
He ignored the question. "First, you allowed Link to open the Door of Time, despite knowing that Ganondorf wanted entry to the Sacred Realm. Really, why didn't you have him just keep the damn Spiritual Stones so Ganondorf couldn't get them? Instead, you told him to open the door, and so gave Ganondorf a piece of the Triforce."
Zelda was too shocked even to breathe. There was no possible way that anyone could have known about that.
He pressed on. "Then, of course, seven years later, you revealed yourself in the Temple of Time. Why the hell did you do that? Why didn't you just give Link the Light Arrows as Sheik and send him on his merry way? You could have revealed yourself once Ganon was defeated, and he would never have caught you. You could have assisted Link all the way through Ganon's Tower as Sheik, even. I admit, I had a good twelve years to think of the best option, but you had seven. Revealing yourself was ridiculously stupid. Very dramatic, but stupid."
As bewildered as she was at what he was saying, Zelda still felt the need to defend herself. "I… I needed to tell him! He needed to know where the last piece of the Triforce was to complete his mission."
"Nonsense. You wanted to tell him, so you did. Admittedly, he needed to know where you were at some point, but did he need to know right then? Of course not. And then! Oh, the piece de resistance! You took the easy way out."
"What in Hyrule are you talking about?" She demanded. "We sealed Ganon away! How else were we to stop him?"
"By killing him, you imbecile. Do you even know what you've done?"
"We've protected Hyrule and saved it from seven years of darkness," Zelda proclaimed boldly.
"How?" Zelda ordered. "And I demand to know who you are and how you know all of this!"
The figure sighed. "You know, I really can't blame you. In theory, the Seal should work just fine. And if you knew everything, you would never have done it. I suppose the goddesses are really to blame for this problem, for giving you the tools and not telling you they wouldn't work."
"Explain!" Zelda demanded again. She was on her last nerve, and about to call the guards whether this person would be there when they arrived or not.
"As you wish." He sat down on the grass. "I am a messenger from Din, Nayru, and Farore, here to tell you what has to be done to keep Hyrule intact and safe. My name is unimportant at the moment. I promise, the day will come when I will tell you all, but that day is not today, or any day soon. I apologize for that in advance. Long ago, I chose the title of the Agent, as that is what I am: the goddesses' agent in Hyrule. But I suppose I should give you a name… Call me Ardeon."
"Ardeon…" Zelda said slowly, testing the name. It wasn't one she was familiar with. "So how do you know about Ganondorf's reign?"
"That is something I can not explain. I could tell you, of course, but you would not believe me, and even if you believed me, you would not understand. If it makes you feel better, then believe that the goddesses told me what I needed to know to do my job."
She decided to let it go for the moment. "And that job is?"
"To prepare Hyrule for Ganondorf's return. Because he will return, and soon."
"Impossible," Zelda replied. "That seal will hold for hundreds of years or more, and that's assuming that he fights it every second of every day from now to then."
"Yes, that is true," Ardeon admitted. "But he doesn't have to break it."
"Then how will he reach Hyrule?"
"By going around it. Listen, Princess, because reality is greater than you know. Your understanding is that there are two worlds, correct?"
She nodded. "This world, in which Hyrule resides, and the Sacred Realm, where Ganondorf is locked away."
"What if I told you there were more worlds? Many more? Infinitely more?"
"Then…" Zelda struggled with the new knowledge. "I don't see what this means."
"Let me show you. Come here." Zelda looked at him warily, and he laughed. "Oh, come now. If I wanted to hurt you, I would have done it already and been gone. Believe it or not, I'm trying to help you. I'm sorry I startled you earlier, but it's not as though I could simply make an appointment."
Zelda walked slowly to the cloaked man. "Now, look," he said. He drew two circles in the dirt with a finger, then a line connecting them. "Each circle is a world. This is Hyrule, and this the Sacred Realm. Now…" he smudged the line between the two. "The Sages' Seal has cut off all contact between these two worlds. It would take a ridiculous amount of power to move from one to the other through that seal, more power than even Ganondorf can muster with the Triforce of Power. Eventually, he could store up enough power to break through all at once, or simply wear it down over time once the Sages are dead and no longer adding energy to it. But, as you said, either path would take centuries or millennia. But these two worlds are not alone. There are an infinite number of universes, Zelda, all of them connected to each other. But we don't need an infinite number to illustrate; we only need one more. Let's say… Termina. After all, Link already visited that one, so I'm quite sure that it's well connected to Hyrule."
He drew one more circle above the first two, and drew lines between the three. "Do you see the problem?"
She stared at the image for a moment before the answer suddenly hit her. Zelda's knees gave way as she understood. "So Ganondorf could come here at any time."
"At any time. All he needs to do is step into another world, any other world, and then from there proceed to this one. You are lucky he has not come already."
"But why has he not come?" Zelda asked. Her voice was laced with terror, and her eyes shifted about as though she expected Ganon to leap out of the shadows at any moment.
"Because Ganondorf is as ignorant of the other universes as you were a few minutes ago. But he will not remain ignorant forever, and the instant he realizes he can escape, he will come for you. And he has learned from his past mistakes." Ardeon started speaking slowly and steadily, as though he had memorized this speech long before this moment. "He will not underestimate Link and allow him to fight a fair battle. He will murder Link in the dead of night, and he will come for you. Or perhaps he will merely strip you of your Pieces and capture you, so he can torture the two of you at his whim. In any case, the entire Triforce will be his. Then he will use its power to remake this world completely: the Dark Era will be but a shadow of the horror he will unleash with the full Triforce at his command. He will exterminate every trace of you and Link in an attempt to end the reincarnation cycle; he may even destroy the entire Hylian race as a mere precaution. He will never rest, always destroying you as infants or children, never allowing you two to live long enough to rise up against him. Someday, maybe, he might slip and allow you and Link to grow strong enough to defeat him, but how many lifetimes would that take? How many generations of people crushed under his mad reign?"
"Then all we can do is wait for him to come destroy us?" Zelda murmured hopelessly.
"Come now, Princess, you know better than that," Ardeon said, standing up. "There is always a way out, and I have spent the last four years planning it. But it must be you, not me, who executes it. I am only here to give you the knowledge. It is up to you to use it."
"What is it, then? Tell me!" she pleaded. In her fear, Zelda was acting less like the twenty-one year old she really was, and much more like the young teenager she appeared to be.
"First… Ganondorf's mind must not be allowed to wander. You must keep him focused on the Seal at all times, so that he will not attempt any other means to escape. Power gives him more than enough magic to travel between worlds. If he ever attempts it, then all is lost."
"How can I ensure that?"
"You will have to play a very dangerous game, Princess. You will need to make Ganondorf believe he is winning. If you and the other Sages deliberately weaken the Seal somewhat, Ganondorf will attack it with all his might in hopes of breaking through. But you must not make it too weak, or he will actually break through, and all will be lost anyway."
"And then what?" Zelda asked. "We can't keep that up forever. Eventually we will either die or fail, and then we won't be able to control the seal anymore."
"You will continue to train yourself in magic, and in battle. And I ask that you tell the other Sages to do the same… except for Saria."
"The Forest Sage? Why not her?" Zelda asked. "And why must we all train? Only the Master Sword can truly defeat Ganondorf, and only Link can wield it."
"You all need to be ready because Ganondorf will raise an army to destroy Hyrule, just as he did at the beginning of the Dark Era. If you were Hyrule's queen, I would ask you to raise an army as well, but you are not, so you seven will have to be able to fight his demonic forces alone until your father is able to see the danger firsthand. As for Saria… she is a Kokiri. She does not know how to train herself to fight, and she is still afraid to leave the forest to learn. I don't even think she knows that she can. And since no Hylian (save Link) can enter the forest to teach her, that task must fall to someone who can."
Ardeon laughed. "No Hylian can do it, and so no Hylian will. I will tutor Link and Saria myself."
Zelda laughed right back. "You? Teach Link? Ha! He's already fought more creatures than you can imagine."
Ardeon shook his head, the cloak moving back and forth. Curiously, Zelda realized that even though she should be able to see part of his face under the hood from her angle, she still saw only darkness under it. "Zelda, Link has fought monsters, and monsters he can defeat. I have no doubt of that. But against an intelligent magician and swordfighter, he doesn't stand a chance. He can use some rudimentary magic, and he knows how to use a sword somewhat, but that will not be enough for him to defeat Ganon. Hell, he couldn't even defeat me today. And Ganondorf toyed with him; his pride was his downfall. If not for the binding magic of the light arrows holding back Ganondorf's power, Link would have been destroyed the instant Ganondorf realized he was a threat. And if not for Ganondorf's own stupidity, he would have fought a real demon in Ganon, not the mindless monster he was lucky enough to face. You saw that, and you knew. And you knew that even with all of those advantages, Link could not kill him in his current state. That's why you chose to seal Ganon away."
"I…" Zelda hesitated. "Yes. All of that is true. But with Power, Ganondorf just keeps coming back again and again. He can't be killed."
"Indeed. Power makes him nigh-immortal, and I doubt Link could prevail against that. Even the Triforce of Power has its limits, but you and I both know that they are incredibly difficult to reach, and Link would probably die of exhaustion long before Ganondorf reached them. But there is something in this world that will nullify that advantage, and reduce Ganondorf to a mere mortal man, if for only a short while…"
Zelda shot up. "What? Where?"
"Hold on, Zelda," Ardeon said, chuckling. "In due time, Link will have it. I will be sure of that, just as I will make Link a master of both magic and swordsmanship. And at the end, when Link and the Sages are ready, you will release Ganondorf, and Link will kill him. And Hyrule will be at peace."
"Of course. Then I… wait." Zelda eyed the intruder suspiciously as she calmed down and wisdom overcame her fear. "How do I know we can trust you? You're asking me to weaken Ganondorf's prison before anything else. Why should I do that? How can we be sure that you aren't Ganondorf's servant, trying to free him?"
Ardeon sighed. "Does the fact that I know things that should not be knowable not convince you that I'm telling the truth?"
"I believe that you were not in this world when Ganondorf was sealed and time reversed. But how do I know the rest is true?"
"Princess, your entire 'Seal' plan hinges on the Sages. If Ganondorf had any minions in Hyrule who knew that, you would be doomed. Right now, two of the sages are children or teenagers, and one is an unguarded chieftain who knows very little magic. If I wanted Ganondorf free, he would already be free. I would have killed Saria and Ruto, and possibly Darunia. I'll admit, Nabooru, Rauru, and Impa would all be extremely tough opponents, even for a spellsword like myself, and even if I were to kill you here and now, Wisdom would probably revive you unless I destroyed you utterly. But with three or even two Sages gone so quickly with no preparation, your Seal would be quite worthless. Ganondorf would break it in a matter of days. And further! If I wanted Ganondorf to win, I would have told him who Sheik was during the Dark Era. I could have even told him the best time to strike you: immediately after your struggle with Bongo Bongo in Kakariko Village, when for a moment your guard was down. With the knowledge I possess, I could have ruined your plans a thousand times, Zelda."
"So your proof is that you didn't ruin all my plans before?" Zelda remarked skeptically.
"That's all I have," he said with a shrug. "You're supposed to be the wisest person in Hyrule. I will leave it to you to judge me. If you believe me to be a liar, call your guards, and I'll go. I'll try to prepare Link and Saria for the coming war on my own, and I'll hope that they can beat Ganondorf before he masses his army or kills you, and hope that he doesn't return before they're ready to fight. I doubt that I'll succeed, but I'll try my best. But I beg that you'll listen to reason, because it will be ten million times easier with your help. It is in your hands, Princess." With that, the man stood still and waited for Zelda's judgment.
Zelda was torn. The man made sense, but she wanted so much to believe that he was wrong, and that Ganon would stay sealed for a long time more… But she didn't get the Triforce of Wisdom for being a fool. She could sense deceit, and this man didn't carry any. As horrible as what he said was, he was trustworthy. And so she would trust him.
"Ardeon… I believe you. And I will do as you ask."
Ardeon released a held breath. "Whew… ha ha… Thank you, Princess." He bowed as deeply as he could manage. "You have absolutely no idea how long I have been waiting to hear you say that. And you had me worried that you weren't going to trust me, and that would mean over a decade of work as wasted as a magic carp spending a turn using splash!"
Zelda was intrigued. "What in the world do you mean?"
"Um…" He sounded almost… embarrassed, which didn't fit with his mysterious appearance at all. "It's a sort of… uh… you know what? I'm just going to be going now. I have a great deal of work ahead of me, as I'm sure you do." Ardeon bowed to the princess. "Thank you for your audience. I promise, we will meet again."
"Wait!" Zelda said, holding up a hand. "I still have so many questions!"
Under his cloak, Ardeon smiled. "Ah, but don't we all?"
And with that, he vanished.
And that, my good Zeldarians, is the end of the first official chapter of my soon to be longer Zelda fanfiction, Resurgence! I hope you enjoyed it. By the time you read this, I will have had it finished for quite a while, because although I finish this at 2:16 on July 15, 2010, I will not post it until I have completely finished my Pokémon novel, Of Creation and Destruction. And I don't even know when that'll be done, so… Anyway, between now and the publishing of this chapter, I hope to get a chapter or two more done, and I plan to outline the whole story. Will I get it done? I don't know. Depends on a lot of things. Anyway… I like cake. I'll probably do another paragraph of notes right before I publish this, anyway. Oh, well… cheerio! See you next chapter!
Your loving author,
Oh, yeah, here's the other paragraph. It's now mid-October. I was planning to wait until after Basic to publish this, but I've changed my mind. Of course, there will still be a hiatus while I am in training, beginning on November 23 and ending in late January. But I figure that it'll be fine. I'll try to get another chapter out by the time I go.
Still the same person,