Author's note: Another NaNoWriMo novel! I hope you all enjoy. Please heed the individual chapter warnings.
Across The Universe
"So there is no other way, then?"
Beneath the shadow of the temple, a cluster of cloaked figures spoke in hushed whispers. One stood apart from the others, and yet they clearly deferred to him - he stood with a more confident bearing, strength and determination in his stance.
"There is not. It's a pity, yes... but if the former king hadn't wanted this to happen, then he would have arranged things differently."
One of the party eyed him suspiciously. "How do you know that it's true, though?" he asked practically, hood drawn up so tightly that their face was impossible to determine. "Isn't it possible that he fooled everyone? Maybe there never was -"
"Silence," the confident one said almost lazily, and the man's jaw snapped shut like a trap. "No, she has it. He was clearly mistaken in entrusting it to her - but his mistake will be our gain."
There was a murmur of assent - the group there had a common goal, after all.
A dark chuckle emitted from beneath the confident one's hood, the other men gazing at him - for leadership, for protection. "The girl will pay for her father's crimes, rest assured." And he raised a fist. "And Hyrule... will fall."
In the days of the Hero of Time, the Temple of Time stood largely empty.
Oh, it was hardly decrepit. The walls stood solid, the stained glass windows clear. The carpet beneath was plush, muffling all sound as a young man carefully made his way up it.
He was expected. At the altar, someone waited for him - a young woman, fair hair tumbling down her back, gold glinting at her brow. Yes, she had been expecting him - indeed, it had been her letter that had summoned him to this place, back from long wanderings and faraway adventures.
"Link," she murmured softly, and turned. "I've been waiting for you."
The young man in the green tunic paused, giving her an awkward smile. "Sorry... did you have to wait for long?" He joined her at the altar, one hand resting on the stone where the Spiritual Stones once sat.
Zelda shook her head, and turned to face him fully. It had been a long time since she had seen him like this, hadn't it? A boy turned man, then a man turned boy again, the two of them custodians of what had truly happened during the Seven Year War. And now he was grown again - naturally, normally, an adolescence she had restored.
She hadn't been able to preserve his innocence. His annual letters told her that much.
"No, it's alright," she told him gently, offering him an awkward smile of her own. "Have you been well? I haven't heard from you since the incident with the three-headed dragon."
He shrugged a little, glancing down at his booted feet. "I've been managing," he muttered, "I haven't found anywhere I've wanted to stay, yet... some of the people on the road are nice."
Slowly, Zelda nodded, turning back to the altar. "I am sorry," she said quietly, "That things turned out this way." Link laughed shortly behind her, but she didn't need to turn to see the misery she knew would be on his face.
She had returned him to his childhood. And in eight years since, all he had found was a childhood home he no longer belonged in, an adult world he couldn't fit in with, and a driving urge to move and wander and avoid the trappings of regular life.
They had made him like this - the Hero That Time Forgot. The two of them alone knew what had happened to turn Link from an innocent child to a young man that didn't fit in anywhere. Too Hylian for the Kokiri, too Kokiri for the Hylians, and too much of a Hero to settle down in to anything resembling normalcy.
"Link," she finally said, voice cracking, "I need your help."
Even without looking, she could see him snap to attention, and she hid a sad smile. Ever the dutiful one - Link had a loyalty to her that she couldn't quite bring herself to understand.
"What is it? If you need me to do anything..."
Slowly, she turned, hands held out. Link stiffened in surprise - in her gloved hands were three gems. Spiritual Stones, golden surroundings over a brilliant green emerald, a bright red ruby, a shining blue sapphire. "...The stones?" he asked, a note of doubt in his voice.
"And the ocarina," she confirmed, turning to set the stones in their place. When she next faced Link, it was with the Ocarina of Time in her hands. "Link, I've been having troubling dreams lately. I fear a new threat may be approaching, and I have reason to believe that you are the only one who can stop it." Imploringly, she met his gaze. "We have ways to ensure that he will never escape the Sacred Realm... will you take up the Master Sword once more?"
Link was silent for a moment, and Zelda could practically see the wheels turning in his head. It meant a return to heroics, but was that even what he needed? What he'd ever want? Guilt gnawed at her, settled in the pit of her stomach.
"Of course," he said quietly, swallowing hard. Zelda nodded once, then lifted the ocarina to her lips.
As the medley of the Song of Time combined with the grinding of stone on stone as the Door of Time opened, she turned back to Link. "Thank you," she said with a tired little smile, and led him up.
Silently, he followed her, accepting the ocarina she pressed in to his hand, hesitating as he stood before the Master Sword again. "It's my pleasure," he said with a sad little smile, then reached for the sword.
Zelda's eyes closed. Words flowed from her lips - an incantation, a plead to Time itself to protect Link on his journey. And as blindingly bright blue light poured from the gap in the stone to consume the Hero, all she could was watch.
And then... she was quite alone. For a moment, Zelda simply stood there, and then tilted her face to the heavens. "Be safe, Link," she murmured, "Do what is right. And... I'm sorry."