A/N: Greetings. This is the first part of a novelization project that will eventually span both Ocarina of Time and Majora's Mask.

The basic premise is this: How might the familiar events have played out if we took excessive gamishness out of the game? The familiar storyline we saw in the game will be tweaked and added to, but not so drastically as to render the product unrecognizable; this is still a fanfic.

Hope you enjoy the story!

There were many kinds of lore circulating among the Kokiri. Some of it was things the children had found out or made up on their own, the Know-It-All brothers being the biggest repository of knowledge of that sort. Certain things, however, were passed down from the Great Deku Tree himself. In particular, almost everything concerning the forest and its borders came from the Deku Tree. The Protector imposed few rules on his children, and A child of the woods shall not leave the woods was one such rule. That rule was not questioned. It was not doubted. While many of them entertained thoughts of seeing the outside world, no one seriously sought to trespass that rule; not out of curiosity, not on a dare, not for any reason.

The string of landmarks that outlined Kokiri territory was well known and everyone had been taken to see them all with their own eyes. In fact, some of Link's earliest memories were dim recollections of Saria holding his hand as she took him on his first tour of them. Those images were unusually clear in his mind; even at four years old, he had sensed the grave air of the affair. Not that Saria was given to gloominess, but it was a serious thing and she had treated it as such, and it had rubbed off on him. Link had later come to think that they all, even Saria, felt that same vague fear of the unknown whenever they came upon those sites. And could it really be otherwise? A child of the woods who leaves the woods shall die. Link had always felt as though he could sense the death beyond them, that the creeping dread in those places would have let him avoid them even without being warned. To the Kokiri those specific trees, ponds, glens and bogs marked the corners of their world.

To the west, where lay the shortest and most direct route to the outside world, the landmarks came more frequently. There was the pond with the fallen bird cherry and elm trees in it, the Oaky Ravine – which was a popular playground for all that it wasn't very far from the off-limits area – and many more. And most importantly, there was the series of hollow logs that sat on the only real path to and from the village. Despite the actual border of dangerous ground being a good way off, that fact had made it a place to be avoided. It was just to be on the safe side. You never knew what you might run into if you went straight west.

What Link needed right now was the most direct route out of the village. He'd stopped to wipe his hands and face on the way, had even tried standing under the village's waterfall in an effort to clean his clothes, but they were still dirtied beyond salvage by all the blood. Over half of the front of his green tunic was now covered in bluish-purple stains. He couldn't help seeing them if he looked anywhere near the ground, so he didn't; he only looked ahead, where he was going. He could have gone and taken out one of his spares from his house, but he hadn't had the presence of mind to do it. What he needed was to stop thinking about anything and just get out. He couldn't stop to think. The Deku Tree had asked him, so he must go. The others had noticed the state he was in, and they had whispered and pointed, and that only spurred him on.

Mido's words rang in his ears. It's all your fault! Had he been saying that to the others while Link was trying to wash away the blood? They couldn't have believed him, they couldn't have, it wasn't fair, Mido lied, everyone knew he lied...

...Didn't they?

So why the pointing and whispering? No one had come to ask him what had happened. He'd seen Fado and Limme running to the Know-It-All brothers' house, yelling something and waving wildly in the direction of the Great Deku Tree. One of the brothers had come out to meet them but Link couldn't hear what they said. Every face he passed was turned either his way or to the canopy of the Deku Tree, and all wore the same expressions of uncomprehending alarm and horror. Even the fairies were in distress – he could tell from the way they darted to and fro or sat stock still on their wards' shoulders. When he took a look at the Deku Tree himself, he already knew what he would see, but the sight still made his insides twist with fresh nausea.

The curse that had killed the Deku Tree had bleached his leaves of their natural color. The formerly green mound that was the Deku Tree's canopy, visible to the village even above the other trees, now looked like a bare, stony cliff. A mild breeze brought individual leaves drifting from his clearing to the village.

The leaves were gray. Not green, as if they had been torn off. Not red or yellow or orange or a dark, blackish brown like in a real autumn. Gray.

The Great Deku Tree really was dead.

Link had taken to his feet. With his wet clothes he was cold, but he hardly noticed. Nor did he feel the sword in its sheath and his shield bumping rhythmically against his back, or the unfamiliar weight of the brilliant green stone in his pocket. All he knew was that he had to leave. It was the last thing the Great Deku Tree had asked of him before he died, and he now saw the same thing in everyone's eyes.

Mido had been right all along after all. Link didn't belong with them. He had never believed it before, but he could see the truth of it now.

Familiar faces with unfamiliar expressions blurred by as he ran – Huna and Kaza and Milnoo, huddling together and looking scared. Link wanted to go to them, to say it wasn't his fault, to lie that all would be fine to make them feel better...

But then the tunnel west was before him, and around him, and then the village was lost in the mist behind him.

Haunted by the events of that morning, Link ran himself to exhaustion before finally coming to a halt upon reaching the bridge. There was no way to tell time for sure in the perpetually overcast forest, but it felt like he'd been up and running all day and then some. It wouldn't have surprised him to find the forest start growing darker any time now. Even so, he knew the bridge wasn't that far from the village. It just felt like he'd been crawling inside the Deku Tree for two days straight, rooting out the cursed parasite. Looking for it, and then...

Link shook his head. He didn't want to―couldn't think about it. He was too tired to run, so he set off at a walk.

Though she hadn't been hiding, Link didn't notice Saria until her voice startled him out of his stupor.

"Oh, you're leaving..."

Link stopped and turned reluctantly. His best friend looked sad – a rare expression for her. The knowledge that he was the cause made it much, much worse.

"Yes," he said quietly, looking away.

"Why? What happened with the Great Deku Tree?" She was looking him up and down. Before he could say anything, she asked in alarm, "Is that blood? Are you hurt?"

Link shook his head. "No... Not bad." He had been, though. He thought it must have taken the last of the Deku Tree's power to close his wounds after the fight. In its death throes the spider creature had thrashed violently and one of its claws had struck him almost clean through the leg. Just remembering the pain made him shiver. By the time the creature finally fell still and the faint blue light washed over him, his right boot had been overflowing with blood and he had been really dizzy. If not for the light, he didn't think he could have climbed out again.

But Saria didn't need to know that.

"There... There was a curse," Link went on, barely audibly. "The Deku Tree said this sorcerer from the west had cast some spell on this, this... I don't know what it was, it looked kind of spider-like, but it was as big as your house. It-it'd carved huge holes, whole caverns, inside the Deku Tree, and..." Saria's hands flew to her mouth in shock, and Link's own voice shook. "And I, I killed it. But it... it had these, these babies, some hatched, some still inside their eggs, and, and I―those too..."

Saria stood frozen to the spot. Link turned away from her. He wanted to do something, to look at her, to be alone, to run away, but most of all he didn't want Saria to see him cry. That thought suddenly seemed as bad as everything else that had happened to him so far that day. In the end, all he managed was to stare at the ground below the bridge. It was almost fully obscured, yielding only a brief glimpse of dark grass when the mists parted.

He felt Saria's arms wrap around him from behind. Link's knees almost gave way but Saria held him tightly enough to keep him standing. They swayed in place like that for a time, Saria keeping a fragment of his world in place and Link desperately trying to breathe past the tightness in his throat.

When he had recovered a degree of control, Saria let go of him. Link was both thankful and sad that she did. He turned to face her.

"You helped him, then? You fixed his sickness?"

Link didn't wonder about Saria knowing about it. She often knew things no one else did. He shook his head.

"No. It was too late."

"But then... Where are you going?"

Link's throat constricted again. He showed her the beautiful green stone and whispered hoarsely, "He gave me this. He said to take it north to a girl who lives there..." There didn't seem to be anything else to say, so he didn't.

Saria was quiet for a time. Then she took him by his hands. Normally Link would have found it embarrassing, but now he simply couldn't care.

"I knew you would leave the forest someday, Link―"


"―because you're different from me and my friends."

No. No no no. Not you, too. I finally got my fairy, you said it yourself!

A fresh flood of tears burned his eyes. He looked down and let him arms hang limp but Saria didn't let go.

"But that's okay, because we'll be friends forever... won't we?"

He looked up. His vision was blurred, he was confused and pulled in too many ways, but he managed a nod. "Yeah... forever..." I won't cry. Not in front of her. I won't.

Saria reached in her pocket and took out her ocarina. To his surprise, she put it in his hands. "I want you to have this ocarina. Please take good care of it."

Link wanted to run away, but he accepted the farewell gift. Even as his understanding of everything was fraying, he found a new horror in Saria giving him her own instrument – not the one he practiced on, but her own. Just giving it away, when he knew how precious it was to her...

"When you play it, I hope you will think of me. And... and please come back to the forest to visit."

It was too much. He took two shaky steps back before running blindly into the tunnel.

Although he had never been this far before, he recognized some of the things he was seeing by description. Kokiri weren't supposed to come this far, but some of the fairies had supposedly been here. From what he'd been told, Link knew there was one more hollow log after the one right after the bridge. That wouldn't be a mere warning sign, though. The bridge had been the turn-back sign; the next one would mark the border. Link was very aware of how there were fewer and fewer fairies around the further he walked. Now there were none except Navi. The air was still and shrouded in the ever-present foggy gloom that no fire or fairy light could ever fully dispel. The very trees seemed to grow blacker...

The mouth of the last log grew bigger as Link approached it, as if seeking to swallow him. He resolved he wouldn't stop. If he did, he didn't know if he could go on anymore. So he had to keep walking. No matter what was ahead.

He walked into the murk inside without slowing down. A sullen silence had fallen between himself and Navi after they left the Deku Tree's clearing, each of them absorbed in their own grief. She was floating around absentmindedly, at times behind him, sometimes ahead of him. Her swaying movements cast few shadows inside the tunnel, so dark was it on the inside.

Link's boots made dull clunk sounds as he walked. It was an easy fit, he didn't need even to duck his head to enter. The inside of the trunk was hard, almost like snow packed into ice, rather than soft and rotten like may of the previous ones. Link wondered briefly why that was; why did some trees become hard when they died, while others became soft? It couldn't be about moisture, he thought. If he didn't know any better, he might have guessed that it really was because soft wood could be stomped into hardness...

Thou art courageous, the Great Deku Tree had told him. Why? Why had he said such a thing?

Link sure didn't feel very brave.

But he did know why the Deku Tree had said it. It was just too hard to face.

Saria knew too. She would, of course. She was smart like that.

He didn't understand. He didn't really want to, was making an effort not to...

But he knew.

He noticed a light ahead of him. His heart jumped into his throat and he stumbled.

I won't stop. I won't stop. I won't stop.

The light grew. It seemed that only a brief, suspended instant later he reached the end. Looking out at the world on the other side froze his blood. Although he couldn't see anything out of the ordinary, the very familiarity of the outside gave off a sensation of wrongness, of the uncanny. He could not have said which sense of his told him so, but he felt as though he was being watched. The outside world was the predator, and he was the prey headed straight into its mouth...

It took Link a moment to realize he had stopped walking. He was standing right inside the mouth of the tunnel – right at the edge of the world. He took an involuntary, panicked step back and almost fell. He reached for the wall for support but snatched his hand back from the clammy wood.

Link tried to will his feet to move. The moist, cold clothes he wore suddenly seemed stiff, as if they had been left to freeze outside in winter. His body felt the same way. Link could feel his own heartbeat, the way it pounded and burned inside his head – hot enough, it seemed, to cover everything he saw in heat shimmers... After a moment of feverish disorientation he noticed it was just tears. He was shaking.

I have to move. I have to, the Deku Tree asked me to, I can't stay here...

He couldn't move.

Link's knees gave. He was so terrified his whole body tensed up, like a fist squeezed so hard it shook. The stomach-wrenching nausea was back, strong enough to make him sway in place even kneeling on the ground. If his body could possibly have clenched up tighter, he might have thrown up. He wrapped his arms around himself, as if holding a wound closed.

Navi, who had drifted ahead, noticed Link was no longer with her. Flying back to where she saw him kneeling, she was shocked at the state she found him in. She had thought she'd seen the worst at the parting with Saria, but this was even worse. Link was white as a sheet, trembling horribly and staring at nothing.

"What, Link? What is it? What's wrong?" Was it poison, something left over from the parasite's attack?

Link shook his head, rocking back and forth slowly.

"Please, Link, you have to tell me! I can't help if you don't tell me! Is it your leg? Does it hurt?"

Link shook his head again. His eyes sought out her glow, but they didn't seem to focus on her. He opened his mouth as if to say something, but nothing came out. Navi had never seen anyone look so miserable, and it tore at her heart to see him so.

"I..." Link croaked.

"What? What is it?"

Link hunched over slowly, as if guarding his body from breaking. His voice did break. "I, I'm s-sorry, N-Navi. I c-c-can't. I can't go. I can't."

"But why? Please, tell me what's wrong!" said Navi, who was becoming more and more agitated.

"I-I don't want to die, Navi," Link stuttered through his sobs. "I don't. I'm sorry, I know the Great Deku Tree asked me, but I, I..." His voice trailed away.

Navi, stunned to a brief silence by Link's words, interrupted him there. She flew to his shoulder and nudged his head in an attempt to get his attention. "Link. Wait, wait, wait. Please calm down, you're not going to die. It's all right, it really is. It's not dangerous, you just have to keep going."

Her words had no effect. Link only shook his head and hunched deeper to press his forehead against the wood, dislodging Navi from her perch.

"K-Kokiri die when if, if we leave th-the forest. E-Everyone knows it. Everyone says s-so. T-The Deku Tree himself said so. Saria, s-s-she said so t-too..."

Then it finally sank in.

Oh, by Nayru. Small wonder the poor boy was so distraught. He'd thought... That both the Deku Tree and Saria – oh, Goddesses. Her glow flickered at the thought.

"No, Link, no. Link, please, please listen to me. It's not what you think. The Great Deku Tree would not have asked you to leave if it was going to kill you, and Saria wouldn't have, either. They just wouldn't, you have to see that."

"H-H-How do you know?" Link sniffled.

Navi had a hunch explanations wouldn't stick just now. "I just do, okay? Listen, you're not going to die. I know you're not. So just," she floated a short distance away from the log, "Just come to me. It will be fine, I promise."

Link shook his head. He couldn't explain it, but he could feel it. This had to be what dying felt like. There couldn't be anything worse, there just couldn't. Maybe it wasn't a line that you couldn't cross, just that the farther you went, the worse it became. He shook his head again and moaned quietly, "No."

Navi was silent for a moment. She didn't know what to say, what to do. Then, she glided back to where Link was and settled on the back of his neck.

"Link..." she said softly. "The Great Deku Tree assigned me to be your fairy. You've lived in the village for many years, but maybe you don't know quite what that means. I would never tell you to do anything if it would cost you your life. It's not what the Great Deku Tree would have done, either." She reached around his green cap to pat his neck. "If you'll just take a few more steps, you'll see for yourself. I know you're scared, but it's not going to get any worse."

There was no response. Link remained curled up on the ground. She would need to convince him it was all right. Somehow.

Navi lay back on Link's neck and raised her legs on his head. "Well anyway, it'd be really boring to stay here all day. I imagine we'll get hungry at some point, too. But I'm not going to leave if you're not, because the Great Deku Tree told me to stay with you. So stay I will, until you're ready to go on."

They stayed that way for some time. A part of Link – a distant, sensible part, crowded out by the events of that day – knew that Navi was right about not being able to stay in that place forever. However, neither could he imagine turning back. And going onward was just as impossible. He wished it wasn't. He wished he could simply walk on even if it was going to kill him, but he didn't know if he could do it. Merely being here hurt so much...

But Navi was his fairy. And she had said it was okay, even if no one else had. And the Deku Tree had asked him to, as the last thing he did.


He felt the fairy shift in place. "Yes, Link?"

"If I go on... It's not going to hurt?"

"No, it's not. Trust me, it will be fine."

"And," he said, almost too quietly for Navi to hear, "and I won't be alone? You'll stay with me?"

The pitiful hope in his voice smote her. "I will. It's you and me from now on, Link. The Great Deku Tree gave you a mission, and I'll see it through with you. I promise."

Link took a while to rally himself. He then raised his head and looked out from the dank, hollow haven that was the edge of his world. Navi took off from his neck and started flying around him the way he'd seen other fairies always circling their wards. The sight meant all the world for him.

Link sniffed, rubbed his eyes, and slowly stood up. His eyes would be red from crying, he knew, but he was much too worn out to feel embarrassed about Navi witnessing it. And, he reminded himself, she was his fairy, after all.

"Okay then," he whispered in a shaky voice. "If you'll go with me, then... Then I guess... I guess it's all right."

Navi came to sit on his shoulder. "Go on," she said in her kindest voice, slipping a tiny arm around his neck.

The first two steps felt like wading against a current. The feelings of illness mounted again, and Link steeled himself against them. On the third his heart dropped to his stomach, and then he was standing on alien ground. The sense of doom was still there, unchanged. He took another step. And another. He didn't drop dead on any of them.

After fourteen steps, he stopped counting. He raised his eyes from the ground in dull wonder and gazed straight ahead. The land in front of him was still not much different from home.

It didn't even occur to him to look back.

Navi hadn't lied. Nothing bad happened to him as he went on. Even the anxiety of walking on had abated instead of getting worse. And most importantly, he was still alive.

Oddly enough, there was something of a trail to follow, too; not a real footpath, the ground wasn't that worn, but a thin, faint, meandering track where vegetation grew the slightest bit shorter than in the surrounding area. Link had sharp eyes and had little trouble following it, but he knew it would have been hard to spot in the dark or if he hadn't been walking on it since leaving the village.

Only a few minutes after leaving the tunnel, Link had noticed a spider web studded with dew drops. On an impulse, he had taken a closer look. The spider crouching under a leaf nearby looked like nothing special, but the web was of a design he had never seen before. It was the first real novelty the outside world had offered. Navi hadn't been able to tell him anything about it, but he didn't mind. It had distracted him from his worries for a time. What kind of other new things would he see? Would he see a horse? He had heard stories about them, but had never really thought he would see one. He had no real image of one in his mind. Navi hadn't seen one herself either, but she tried to describe one based on what she had heard. It didn't amount to much.

Link's imagination was eventually distracted by a different set of problems. As his fears subsided, they were replaced with an increased awareness of his damp clothes and empty stomach. The question of what he could hope do to stop someone powerful enough to kill the Deku Tree also occurred to him. Even after thinking about it, he had no ideas. Hopefully the issue would straighten itself out once he found the "Princess of Destiny." Maybe she would know. Link only hoped he would recognize her if he saw her. Come to think of it, he had no idea how far it was to the "castle" the Deku Tree had mentioned. He decided to ask Navi.

"Not too far, as a fairy flies," she told him. "It will take longer for you, but no more than a day, I think."

That still sounded like a lot to Link. A whole day of nothing but walking in a single direction? He knew the Lost Woods were bigger than that – no one really knew how big – but it was still a long way. And he had no food with him, so he would need to stop to find some, which would take even longer. He would be lucky to happen upon a pond or stream and had nothing to carry water in anyway, but that wouldn't be too bad. He could always suck on some leaves or grasses for dew if it came to that.

Such idle plans and estimates occupied his mind for a good time, distracting Link from his surroundings. Navi was still floating around, flying on ahead now and then and returning to him after a while. So passed their journey for some hours, which had long since blended into monotony for Link, who no longer had the energy to watch out for novel sights or sounds. He really should stop to take a nap at some point, no way was he going to walk until dusk, not after the morning he had had...

Then something particularly conspicuous up in the trees caught his eye.


The most beautiful blue he had ever seen.

He had no idea what it was. The leaf of some new tree? It couldn't be, the trees were just plain old spruces. A rare flower or vine, perhaps? Probably, since it disappeared after a few more steps. As he continued in the direction he was going, however, he spotted more of the unidentified things, most of them paler than the first. Keeping his eyes aimed up now instead of at the ground, Link stumbled on, his curiosity piqued.

Link picked up speed as new fragments of that wondrous blue kept appearing. As the forest began to thin out, he saw more of them. There were many, many blue slivers and blotches of blue now, and they seemed to be growing, gathering together like steam on a hand held above a pot of boiling water. Link was running by then, hardly seeing the ground at all. It was like following a river and watching it grow on every step. He hardly knew what he was doing. Navi was saying something, but Link heard nothing over the rush of air in his ears and the sticks that he snapped as he crashed along through brittle, low-lying branches. More and more of the blue specks kept appearing, both large ones and small.

There was a steep ridge ahead of him, and he went that way at full speed, all weariness gone. He sprinted up the slope, reached the top, took a handful of stunned steps, and finally came to a stop by a person-sized boulder. He didn't even notice the treeline as he left it behind. The run coupled with the disorienting sight facing him took his breath away and he had to hug the stone to stay up.

The land was open, almost empty but for hills, grass and some solitary trees, but the sky! He could hardly make sense of what he was seeing. The blue was growing on nothing but it filled the sky anyway in a vast dome all the way from his left to his right. There were only a few wisps of mist showing through beyond the blue, and they seemed somehow very far away, although they moved slightly when the kept looking – and whiter than the mellow, yellowish off-white he'd been seeing all his life.

It was completely, so absolutely unlike anything he had ever seen in his life.

Between his awe and his wild dash out the forest and up the hill, Link was ready to faint. His knees had already given up and he hung on to the boulder with both arms.

"N-Navi... wh-whuh, what... wh..."

An agitated Navi was flying in agitated circles around him. "What, Link? Why did you start running? What is it?"

Link could only point with a shaking hand, and almost fell down for his trouble. Navi was trying to follow his finger but she couldn't figure out what he was pointing at, and he couldn't get the words out. "What is it, Link? What did you see?"

Link shook his head, all words sucked into the exquisite blue nothing he was looking at. The sky was gone, and behind it there was blue.

And such a blue! It brought tears to his eyes to see it.

Link could not have said how long he stood there if his life had depended on it. Navi only saw that he seemed to be catching his breath and calming down, and decided to let him be. She was still on the lookout for what the boy had seen.

Then Link noticed something else that took considerable piecing together. The ground immediately next to a nearby pine was darker than elsewhere. It was like a shadow, only that made no sense. It was much too sharp, like... like shadows cast on a wall by a fire, or a fairy, except this was an open space and it was day, not night. And that just made no sense, because for that... That would take...

Link took a few wobbly, aimless steps ahead, looked up and in the opposite direction of the tree's shadow, and saw it. The upheaval of his world fully complete, he fell on his backside and stared dumbly upwards through reflexively narrowed eyes that he desperately wanted to open fully, mouth opening and closing silently. After a moment he looked around for Navi.

"N-Na-Navi...? Wh..." Please make this make sense.

Navi, finally realizing what was going on, had to laugh. Link's face was such a picture that she would have laughed anyway.

"That's the sun, Link," she said.

Link's head felt airy and light, as if his skull had been stretched every which way and all his thoughts were mere puffs of smoke drifting around, darting around in directions they'd never been before. It was the weirdest feeling. Navi's explanations, barely heard and barely understood, dropped in that empty space like dandelion seeds in a strong but directionless wind.

He was out of the forest. When did that happen? He was also alive and well. The sky was gone – though hadn't Navi said something about the blue as if it was the sky? Link was pretty sure she had. The sun's light had turned out to be wonderfully warm, like from a fire, so he'd taken off the tunic and placed it on the stone to dry along with his boots. Between the sunlight and the gentle winds blowing across the hilly plains, maybe they could finally dry properly.

There were a thousand things to think about. So many that a familiar one surfaced eventually.

I can't wait to tell Saria!

The thought lead to others.

He really was alive and well. The Great Deku Tree's task would be possible to do after all. And he had thought... forget what he had thought. It meant that after he was done, he would be free to do what he wanted. Which meant he could... He could...

Why, he could go back, later! It was the first time the thought had seriously occurred to him since leaving the Deku Tree's clearing. And if he went back, he could come back out again.

With that thought came an indescribable thrill of expanding possibilities. Link started to look around again, now with an eagerness fueled by understanding. The world was open, and huge, and there were no more borders. He was free to go anywhere he liked.

The grassy hills stretched farther than he could see.

He wanted to know what was on the other side.

And the castle! And the princess! Whoever she was, she couldn't live alone, so there had to be more people

"Hey! Have you been listening?" Navi sounded annoyed.

"Yes, Navi. Well, uh, I mean yes, but... Uh. Sorry." Suddenly Link could barely stand to sit still. He couldn't understand how he could have been tired before.

Navi sighed. Link scratched the back of his neck with an apologetic smile, then blurted out the first thing that came to mind.

"Navi, what's the castle look like?"

"What? Oh." A pause. "Oh! Link, the castle, we were supposed to...!" Navi made what Link thought of as the alarmed fairy noise. "Link, get up and get moving, we're not supposed to sit around here all day! I'll explain on the way, now up!"

Link grabbed his clothes from the rock. He needed no further prodding.

Link walked and Navi talked for hours. She told Link as much as she could, but there was simply no end to the questions. The only thing that allowed Navi to save face as a wise guardian fairy was Link knowing next to nothing.

Link had decided to stop by a copse of spruces, which turned out to be the only sure source of food within sight. In hindsight, he should have thought of it before leaving the forest, of course. Or even better, come prepared. Of all things, who would have thought he would run out of trees? Link shot a miffed glance at the plains. Even now, Link wondered if the responsible thing wouldn't be to just turn back, go home and see to the basics of traveling before setting out on journeys where no Kokiri had gone before. For pity's sake, he hadn't even brought along one single Deku stick―!

The thought killed his own insignificant problems. Many bad things had turned out better than expected that day, but the fate of the Deku Tree hadn't. What would the village do now that there would be no more Deku sticks?

"So, Navi... You know of anything else to eat around here? Other than the ants? I don't wanna hunt bugs just now."

Experience told Link that there were always things to eat even in treeless meadows, and he figured the vast grasslands were no different. However, many of those things would need to be dug up and cleaned or cooked, and Link had brought neither water nor the equipment for starting a fire. Besides which, the idea of using the only sword of the Kokiri people to grub for wild carrots made him blush to have thought it. And so they were down to eating trees. Link had taken his cap off and turned it inside out, and was now filling it with soft, light green shoots.

Navi swayed from side to side in the air. "Sorry, Link. If you don't like the ants, the how about grasshoppers?"

"I'll pass, thanks." The thought wasn't a bad one, though. Link would have given his shield for some leeks with blueberry-grasshopper paste right around then. Still, it wasn't as though he was going to die of hunger in a single day.

Link felt Navi's eyes on him as he ripped off fistfuls of young needles. "Do you seriously mean to eat all of those and nothing else?"

"Yu-up," Link drawled. "Like I said, I'm not in the mood for bugs."

They left the copse not long later. Link's cap was half full of spruce shoots by the time he judged his supplies sufficient.

The food was hardly a problem. Navi's niggling misgivings aside, Link wouldn't have been caught dead whining over one day without the comforts of the village. That would be just embarrassing. It was the absence of mist that Link hadn't seen coming. The air was much drier in the outside world, so it wasn't obvious whether there would be any dew at all... Small wonder there were so few trees around. Still, thirst shouldn't become a problem if Navi's estimate of "no more than a day to the castle" didn't turn out to be off by too much.

After a time of walking and munching on his green meal, Link spoke. "Hey Navi, could you go check again?"

The fairy sighed. "I just flew up not a third of an hour ago, Link. The country is full of hills as far as I can see – I doubt we'll spot the castle now. Besides, it was well past midday when we left the forest, so I doubt we'll get there today anyway."

Link sighed, too. "Yeah, yeah..."

It had turned out to be surprisingly hard to walk all day. Link's sword and shield, little as they weighed, seemed to be growing heavier and chafing his skin, and his shoulders ached from carrying them. It was small enough an inconvenience, but it did wear on his patience as the hours passed. Link entertained himself with thoughts of how much Mido would have whinged at the first little problem. It did its part to keep Link going.

So. We'll get there tomorrow. That's fine. Pretty as the plains were – not to forget the sky! – Link was already itching to gaze on the next wonder of the world.

As it happened, one such did find him before the day was out. He and Navi had decided to settle down for the day as night approached. They chose the shelter of a tall willow for their camp, such as it was. Link used branches and leaves from various trees to make himself a bed just substantial enough to sleep inside.

Weary as Link was, he didn't fall asleep right away. That turned out to be a stroke of luck because soon enough the sky to the west began taking on more colors: brilliant reds and oranges that glowed like a bed of embers, shades of purple that were rare even among fairies, pink wisps of cloud, and the stunning orange disk of the sun, now possible to look at directly... A vast, slow riot of color as if an autumn forest had transformed into fairies and taken to flight. Link stared at the sight from his bed, trying desperately to stay awake and not so much as blink.

"Navi... Why does it do that? The sky?" he asked blearily. The fairy was perched on his head, her white light visible only as a faint silver lining on his bed and the overhanging leaves.

Navi chuckled softly. "I don't know, Link. I don't think anyone does." A brief silence. "But it's pretty, isn't it?"

Link only nodded.

I'm glad we came, he thought.

But as hard as he tried, he couldn't remain awake to the end – Link's day of miracles had finally caught up with him and he fell asleep before the sun sank out of sight.