A/N: I'm really, really sorry about this. This is still my favorite story, and I want you all to know that I honestly did not intend to leave it for so long, and with a little luck, it won't happen again. The problem is... the visions. Those stupid visions. I had such terrible writer's block. I literally have over nine different versions of this chapter. They're so varied, too; one of them was in present tense, another featured OCs, some were one big scene and others were several small ones, like this one... I just had no idea what to say. When I told you last chapter that there'd be angst and romance and Debbie and blah blah blah, I had already written what will forever be remembered as the sucky first version that no one likes. It had Hylia talking with the Golden Goddesses, which makes absolutely no sense if you observe her dialogue in the game, where Zelda seems to have no knowledge of the goddesses at all. And it also revealed so much that I'd have nothing to say in the other two visions that Zelda needs to have later in the story.
Therefore... I'm sorry. But there's not much of that angst or romance that I promised. That'll come later. Possibly next chapter, but likely much later. Also, this chapter isn't terribly well-written, but it's not the worst thing I've ever wrote (especially compared to the other versions of this chapter) so I hope you'll enjoy it nevertheless.
And, uh, sorry about the long author's note, heheh.
Once I arrived at the steps leading up to the quiet temple, my guilt finally got the better of me. I glanced over my shoulder. Due to the layout of the forest, Gorko was still clearly in sight, across that second pit, but he ignored me. I was relieved. What if he kept yelling pleadingly at me? I might actually have turned back...
At last, I reached the top of the stairs and the big, elaborate door of Skyview Temple. It had an ornate, almost flowery design on it, and even appeared to have jewels inlaid in the stone; it was a wonder that they hadn't been stolen over the years. They appeared to be secured fairly deep into the door, but with the right tools one could probably pry them free...
I placed my hands on the door and tested its weight with a small push. Unfortunately, a small push did nothing. So then I pushed a little harder. Then with both hands. Then my whole body.
It didn't even budge.
Groaning partially from frustration, partially from exhaustion, I glanced around, wondering if there was any other entrance. I found none, but there was a strange stone tablet just sitting in the grass not too far away.
Curious, I descended the temple's steps once more, wading my way through the tall, rustling grass toward the tablet. I was amazed to find words printed on one side.
He who descended from above:
look into the star that the bird
rising heavenward gazes upon
and aim your shot there.
What was that supposed to mean?
I mean, uh, okay... one line at a time. "He who descended from above..." Well, I descended from above, but they got my gender wrong. And what bird was it talking about? What star? I swept my gaze over the area briefly, but there were no birds or stars in sight.
There goes one hope...
Deciding that I'd been wrong in the assumption that this ancient tablet was here to aid a poor, helpless Spirit Maiden, I forlornly trudged through the grass around the back of the temple to renew my search for an entrance. Of course, there was nothing. Then I crossed the path leading to the other side, deciding to check over there. I found exactly the same thing I had on the first side, which was a grand total of nothing. Nothing except grass and stone and a few butterflies. Well, maybe I'd just have to go back to that tablet and solve the riddle–
I froze, something that Gorko had said echoing in my mind. He'd mentioned how the Spirit Maiden would enter the temple with a beautiful melody and a trio of Blessed Butterflies. That's what these were, right? I vaguely recalled that the butterflies with the blue wings were called "blessed," supposedly because the Goddess herself had made them. Apparently she'd made too many, because I'd never seen a butterfly of any other color than blue. Blessed Butterflies were found everywhere, at least in the sky. It was stupid calling them blessed.
...You know, assuming this whole Goddess reincarnation thing is true, I guess I just insulted myself.
Instead of pondering over this further, I examined the butterflies, counting them. There were – surprise, surprise – three. I pulled out my harp and settled it on my shoulder. I paused. Now what?
Well, I only knew one song... so it was probably best to start there.
As the first few notes of the Ballad of the Goddess drifted out of my instrument, the whole world seemed to hold its breath. Everything grew silent and dim, and it felt like all attention was being refocused to me.
I plucked the final note, leaving a gorgeous chord resonating through the air. The notes slowly faded, but everything remained still, like a spell had been cast over the area.
The magic was broken by a sound that could only be described as a whoosh, like all the wind had congealed into one concentrated point. Similar to a gust, a tangible force pushed back on me, but I held my ground, rooted in place with bewilderment. Suddenly, a blinding light burst out of the spot, forcing me to look away and cover my eyes. As the magical wind died down and my dress stopped fluttering, I dared to peek open my eyes again and gasped.
Printed on the ground was a strange, circular design with a column of faint light shooting out from it into the sky. I blinked at it, clutching my harp painfully close to my pounding heart out of shock. What was this? Had simply playing my harp in front of a few butterflies caused this?
Tentative and hesitant, I extended a hand and allowed the light to graze my fingertips. A warm, pleasant tingling feeling met me; it was similar to the way I'd felt when the old woman had healed my ankle, actually, but less painful and more... inviting. I had the quixotic urge to step inside and surround my whole body with the light.
It's a portal. The knowledge seemed to come from nowhere, but I was certain it was true. This light, if I stepped into it, would take me somewhere else...
And it was probably the spring...
Before I could regain any rational thought and realize that this whole thing was completely insane, I placed my harp back in my pouch and took a deep breath.
Then I plunged into the light.
The effects were immediate. The very second I vanished into the column, I felt myself disappear and rematerialize in another location. I gasped as the magic left me, and I collapsed, stunned. I could not believe I'd just done that. What kind of idiot walks into a magical portal of unknown origin? Anything could have happened!
I pushed myself to my feet and got my first glimpse of the vicinity – and froze.
I was in what quite possibly was the most beautiful place I'd ever seen. That portal had dumped me right in front of the door leading into the spring, on a rectangular platform that worked as a path through the area. There was no ceiling – just the beautiful blue sky – and the area was boxed in by natural rocky walls, but it didn't feel small or cramped. Water surrounded both sides of the platform, calmly rippling every once and a while from a slight breeze or the stirring of a fish. The twittering, high-pitched sounds of those Surface birds accompanied the rushing waterfalls at the back of the spring, creating a tranquil atmosphere unbroken by the disturbance of man. This place was just teeming with life – butterflies (yes, the blessed kind) flitted around, trees grew straight out of the shallow water, and an otherworldly, ancient spell shrouded the space, causing me to feel small and insignificant in comparison with this magical display. At the back of the room was the silent stone Goddess Statue, watching over the room solemnly, looking perfectly at home in this life-brimming place, despite being man-made.
My eyes drank it in, wide and awed. This was... incredible! I'd never witnessed a place so magical, so enchanting... so powerful...
I cautiously took a step forward, almost thinking that the spring was merely a hallucination and it would disappear, but the image remained intact.
I started walking down the path. My footsteps were rather annoying – I hated their intrusion upon the peace. The path was made of stone and bordered by six columns, leading north into the spring until it dropped off into water. Round stepping stones led the rest of the way to a circular platform in front of the Goddess Statue. Staring up at it and meeting its austere gaze, I felt something stir in my heart.
Remembering the woman's instructions to "purify" my body in the spring, I stepped into the water. It was a bit colder than the one I'd bathed in earlier, but still rather comfortable. Considering that I had already washed off the dirt earlier, I didn't really want to drench myself again and end up shivering in the wind, so I simply waded in until the water was lapping at the very bottom of my dress and then scooped up some water and splashed it into my face. It felt very refreshing.
Finally, I climbed out of the pool back up onto the platform and turned toward the statue. Bordering on giddy and more than a little nervous, I bowed my head and knelt on the ground, smoothing out my dress around me. Finally, it was time to get some answers.
I folded over my hands and recited one of the prayers that my mother had taught me as a young girl.
At first, nothing happened.
Suddenly, a wave of nausea hit me and I doubled over, a pounding headache claiming me instantly, eliciting a groan. I was now grateful that I was on my knees, for I surely would have fallen over if I'd been standing. And that was only the beginning.
A barrage of information hit me like a solid wall, and I felt my breath taken away. Hundreds of images began to rush through my head, throwing me into a maelstrom of confusion. Nothing made sense. There were too many thoughts, too many voices from visions echoing in my head – and then suddenly one stood out.
It was cold today.
Well, maybe I was just imagining that chill wind that had just caused my body to shudder. Perhaps it was simply my emotions getting the better of me. After all, humans were highly emotional creatures – their perspective on things could change depending on their mood. The most dismal, cloudy day could seem beautiful if one was joyful. In human form as I was, I was just as susceptible to these controlling feelings.
And the feelings of cold and overwhelming sadness, no matter how fake or real, definitely fit the sight before me. The street was shrouded in the typical after-battle atmosphere – heavy and sad, with only the pained moans of the injured and the sobs of those left behind piercing its curtain. There were people everywhere, those few who knew even the slightest bit about healing scrambling all over the place. Though we'd drove the Demons back, I wasn't so sure I could actually count this as a victory; we'd lost so many people, mostly humans and Sheikah, and not all of them had been soldiers. The Demons had started a fire, and it had destroyed the humans' meager shelters, killing too many innocents. Now there were bodies littered among the wounded, many of them sickeningly burnt.
I surveyed the scene sadly. I'd helped to fight in this battle, as I did in pretty much all our confrontations with the Demons. Without me, they would have lost a lot more people. Without the power of a Goddess, they would have been decimated. However, even with my powers it wasn't quite enough. These raids were becoming more frequent and bolder, testing the strength of not only the mortals but me as well. It was becoming difficult for me to keep up. Goddess I may have been, but I was only one entity, only capable of being in one place at a time.
Fortunately, I had a plan now. If I could send the humans away, then maybe they'd finally be safe...
I had just enough time to feel confusion before I was forcefully pulled back under the curtain of memory again. What was this...?
When I appeared, a few glanced up at me in shock, most of them instantly bowing their heads in respect once they recognized me. The more desperate ones rushed to my side, begging me to heal their loved ones. I bit my lip in anxiety. I really didn't want to tell them no; I still felt like this whole war was my fault, anyway. It was a war between gods, and we'd pulled mortals into our troubles yet again. However, I really had to talk with Impa and make sure she and the other Sheikah were alright. Her race had lost the most in this war, due not only to their battle skills but also their extreme loyalty and willingness to protect me with their lives. I'd watched more than one Sheikah suffer injuries that should have been mine to bear.
In the end, I caved in and decided to help as many people as I could.
Briefly regaining a semblance of awareness as Zelda, scattered revelations flickered through my mind. These were memories! Not just some vision – memories!
But it couldn't... I couldn't possibly be...
Suddenly, the scene in my mind whirled and changed. Before I could fully comprehend what was happening, another vision suddenly seized my consciousness.
"I don't like this, Impa."
The light streaming in through the branches of the large tree covering the temple shrouded her stoic face in dancing shadows that shifted with the wind. "What don't you like about it, Your Grace?"
"I... can't say for sure," I admitted. "Something just doesn't feel right." She gave me a look that forced me to elaborate. "Just take a look at Demise. He is not a fool. Yet he left the plans of his forces' movement in the hands of a few Bokoblins. What if he meant for us to find out where he was? He's becoming bolder, and I'm worried that it's not simply pride blinding him..."
She sighed. "I have observed this as well, Your Grace, but there is not much we can do. You're confident that you can weaken his powers and seal him away, correct?"
I grimaced, turning away from her, pacing in the small space. "Well, that's the problem, isn't it? If I was confident, I'd have no problem in labeling him as impatient and cocky, but I'm scared that it's a bit more than that. I think he knows something I don't. He seems too certain he'll win."
"Is there much we can do, Your Grace?"
"No..." I said quietly. "No, there isn't. There's nothing. I will still send the humans to the sky and confront him. And I pray to my creators that we will survive..."
My head hurt as several memories flew through my mind, some only lasting seconds and others what felt like hours. Certain ones were very strong, and others were more like impressions of things, things that one just knew. It was hard to think as Zelda anymore, but I was suddenly very convinced that that woman had been telling the truth. The other consciousness seized control again.
The Demons were coming, and I wasn't ready for them.
"Hurry!" I shouted at the humans, so few in number after the last battle. They were still scrambling onto the platform with the statue that was apparently supposed to represent me. We were supposed to be done with this by now! I could sense the Demon King's presence not too far away, a whole army trailing him. I was struggling not to panic as the humans moved so slow. Demise wasn't supposed to come so soon!
I had wanted to do this sooner, but the last battle had forced us to wait until everyone was healed. There were still some wounded that were being helped by the healthy ones, and they were not moving fast enough.
My heart clenched. We weren't going to make it before he arrived. I had to do something...
"Impa, continue overseeing this," I told her. She was standing beside me. She started at my voice.
"Why? What are you doing?
"I have to hold him off. Make sure all of the Sheikah and humans get there–"
I looked at her in surprise, startled by her interruption and disregard for my orders. This didn't happen very often. "What? What do you mean, 'no'? Are you insane? We need to–"
She waved me off with a motion of her hand. "I did not mean to object to watching the humans. But the Sheikah will remain here."
My surprise did not even falter. "Why, Impa? Your numbers are so few. There won't be any left!"
"Our duty, given to us by the ancient gods, is to protect you." She looked at me sternly. "We're not abandoning our task. We will stay on the surface to fight at your side. If our race is wiped out, so be it." She bowed her head. "Unless you give a direct command, we refuse to follow."
I wanted to argue, to demand that she and her race did not need to sacrifice themselves for me, the goddess who could not seem to stay out of trouble. For a moment I even entertained the thought of ordering her to go – she said she would listen to me if I forced her.
But how could I do that when she just told me she cared about me so much that she would die for me? She'd allow her own race to disappear... all because of me. How could I coerce her into leaving, knowing that it would hurt her feelings and probably ruin our friendship?
I was not worthy of such a good friend.
"...Fine," I whispered grudgingly. "Please be careful though. I really... I don't want to regret this decision..." I took a step forward, beginning to gather magical energy. The familiar feeling to power surrounded me. "Take care of them... and inform me when they are all ready. I need to send the island into the sky as swiftly as possible. Take the Sheikah and other races to fend off any approaching Demons."
"Of course, Your Grace."
I was no longer listening as a dark force blew over the area like a frigid breeze, causing everyone to shiver, particularly me. I was especially sensitive to energies, and Demise's power was unrivaled by any except my own. It was hard to tolerate such a strong wave of dark energy.
I was glowing with magic now – and just in time. Figures began appearing on the hill. I heard humans screaming in fear, the sound making my heart ache, but for now, I had to ignore them. All my attention focused on the being at their head: Demise, the Demon King.
And then I raised my arms and unleashed my power.
Like the rush of a floodgate, light poured from my body, surrounding me briefly before shooting off toward the Demon King and his minions. I heard him roar in anger as he realized what I was doing, but he could do nothing as the glowing barrier or light barred his entry into the temple area.
Our eyes met for a moment, and with a glare, he began attacking my power with his own.
I struggled as the dark energy writhed and pounded against my barrier, trying to find a crack to exploit, but I had made it strong. I was tired now, but I as long as the humans did not take much longer, I was confident it would hold. My power was stronger than his alone; it was only when our armies clashed and I struggled to protect my people that he gained the advantage. He would likely break my shield eventually, but hopefully, with a little luck, it would keep him away for the time being.
I glanced over my shoulder at Impa.
"They are ready."
I smiled. "Let's send them to the sky then." I turned toward them, gathering up all of my energy once again. It protested at being called up again so soon, but still rose to my call. "Impa, tell the other races to prepare for battle. That shield will not hold forever. Return to protect me. I'll be very weak after this."
She nodded and started shouting out orders as I sent out my light again, this time clenching around the platform that the scared humans were huddled upon. Concentrating with all of my might, I threw my energy down into the earth, causing a rather loud quake as the earth cracked and split. Through my focus I vaguely heard some fearful noises coming from the group of people, but there was nothing I could do about that.
Then, with one powerful lunge, I lifted the rock and sent it skyward.
This time I did not even have the chance to think before another image overcame me.
They stood before me, a different colored flame flickering the braziers each one held. I observed them solemnly. Their tails swished anxiously with anticipation. Lanayru had been becoming ill, or so I'd heard, and he'd had difficulty flying here. Eldin feared for the eruption of a volcano that could destroy the Gorons' homes and wished to return as soon as possible. Faron was impatient at the best of times, and she unfortunately was not the type of person to wait just because I was immortal. But I really wanted to ensure that everything was perfect. This could be crucial in determining the fate of the world.
"Are you certain it will be enough?" I asked the three dragons.
They exchanged worried glances. "There is no way of telling the future, Your Grace," Eldin murmured, "but we are sure that it will help at least a little. The Golden Goddesses themselves blessed these flames and entrusted them to us. Their holy power will weaken Demise, at the very least, though by how much it is unclear."
I sighed, dismayed by the uncertainty. It must be enough. It had to be.
"Very well. Let's store their power in my blade, then. It is the only place that I can think of that would be both safe and accessible."
With a thought the Goddess Sword – as the humans had so aptly named it – appeared in my hand, and I held it out. One by one the three dragons offered their Sacred Flames. I lowered the sword into each of the three fires, and by concentrating on combining their power with what lay in the sword, it vanished into smoke as though blowing out a candle.
"Now," I said, gazing at the sword, which seemed to glow with an otherworldly light just as my skin did, "I am ready to fight Demise." I paused, then sheathed the sword, gazing at the decorated scabbard forlornly. After a moment's hesitation, I made the blade vanish with a thought and looked back up at the dragons' expectant faces, exhaling loudly. "I hope..."
And then, just like that, the visions were gone.
With a gasp, Zelda's consciousness – my consciousness – broke free. The sudden release caused me to fall forward, but I caught myself with my hands. I sat there for a moment, my eyes wide and shocked, staring at the ground. I only had a few blissful seconds of respite, a brief moment where I was too shocked to process anything beyond the quiet sounds of Skyview Spring, listening to the sound of my own labored breathing... before it all came crashing down on me.
I... I was Hylia. I was the reincarnation of the Goddess of the Triforce.
And I was now acutely aware of how different being a mortal felt. I couldn't help but feel so... fragile. So helpless. So... useless...
So many conflicting emotions and thoughts were going through my mind at once that it was almost dizzying and far too difficult to comprehend. Above all, however, I was simply overwhelmed. Why was this happening to me of all people? I'd seemed normal enough – I lived in Skyloft, had a best friend and a nemesis, got decent grades in school, I laughed, I cried, I felt lazy, I worked hard... and through it all, I'd been quite certain of my identity. I was Zelda, daughter of Gaepora. And no one could tell me otherwise. But now? I wasn't even sure who I was anymore.
Another broken story was now running through my mind. There were holes in places, and there was still blank spots waiting to be written, but it was someone's life nonetheless – my life, in another time. One part of me desperately wanted to reject the unfamiliar impressions, dispel them from my mind and body forever. But as much as I wanted to think of Hylia as another consciousness, a separate entity invading me... I couldn't. These memories felt as natural as Zelda's, despite their incompleteness. The woman at the Sacred Grounds was right – I was a lot like Hylia. I didn't have very many memories from her, but those that I did felt so much like me doing them that I would have had trouble telling them apart... if not for the fact that apparently being immortal is far different.
I had never before contemplated how terribly, terribly mortal my body truly was, but now I remembered countless battles, won and lost with the power of the goddess. Knowledge of magic and combat now flowed through me, as though it had been there all my life, but my body was entirely different than before. And by comparison... I suddenly felt very, very, very weak.
I was useless.
By Farore, why had I ever thought becoming a mortal was a good idea? They were even weaker than I'd thought!
And worse... I frowned. I honestly couldn't answer that question. Things were still missing from my memory... important things. In fact, very few of my questions had been answered.
I struggled to pick myself up, feeling my own mortality in every movement. For a moment, I felt a brief wave of irrational contempt toward all mortals for being so completely and utterly weak. It wasn't their fault, I told myself; it's mine for having this awful idea. While I still wasn't sure why I'd given up my divinity, I had a sinking feeling that I'd vastly overestimated their capabilities. And then I remembered that I had been mortal all of my life, and that none of this should be unusual, but for some frustrating reason now it was.
Pushing away these thoughts, I stood. I'd have to go to the other Goddess Statues now to get the rest of Hylia's memories. Then perhaps I could learn more about these strange mysteries, including the reason for my change.
But... I was scared. In order to save the world, I would need those memories. However, deep down inside, I was still more Zelda than Hylia. And Zelda knew that getting those memories meant becoming more like Hylia. I'd have to change... and the part of me that was still and always would be wholly mortal was absolutely terrified. Zelda didn't want to be suppressed by Hylia. Zelda didn't want to lose her identity. Zelda really, really didn't want to be a goddess.
"Spirit Maiden... Do not be afraid... Embrace your destiny and return to the Sealed Grounds..."
I jumped and let out a very un-goddess-like shriek, spinning around to look for the speaker. I searched my memories – both Hylia's and Zelda's – in order to place the voice, and I finally remembered it as the one who had been speaking to be back at Skyloft about destiny and whatnot. I frowned. It seemed familiar to Hylia, too, though, but I wasn't entirely sure why... "Who are you?" I demanded, feeling more confident now that no one was around to hear me. "I can't remember where you're from in my past life. What do you want? What do you get out of helping me?"
The questions had just been asked out of desperate hope without many expectations, so I was very surprised when I actually received an answer. "The release of the Demon King would be catastrophic. All life depends upon you and the Chosen Hero. Go, Zelda..."
"Why do you care? And who is this 'Chosen Hero'?" I growled. "No one seems to know!"
A trio of small birds flew by and chirped. The waterfall continued to gurgle in the background. The wind rustled the tree branches.
But no mysterious voice answered me.
I sighed, outwardly appearing annoyed in case the owner of that strange voice was watching me, but truthfully I was rather relieved that it had broken me out of my thoughts from earlier. I probably should attempt to reconcile my memories as Zelda with memories as Hylia at some point, but I had been about to go down a path I really didn't want to explore right now. It was probably best to just listen to the voice and ask the old woman where the next statue was.
As I began making my way across the stepping stones back to where I'd entered, a slightly different sound reached my ears and I paused. It took me a moment, but I realized that it was the unmistakable sound of two swords meeting one another in battle. I'd attended far too many Knight Academy practice sessions – and, in another time, far too many war clashes – to not recognize that. It must have been coming from behind the door. Now treading more quietly and carefully, I crept up to the door and confirmed my suspicions. There was definitely a battle going on in there. But what could that be about?
I frowned. Considering that apparently Demons were after me, it probably wasn't a good idea to stick around and wait for who it was. If they were hostile, I could be in danger. Unlike when I was a goddess, I could only feel a slight bit of magic in me – a tiny, miniscule amount compared to the power of a divine being. Not to mention that I still wasn't confident enough in my memories to be sure that I could handle it. I'd be essentially helpless to defend myself.
But I was burning with curiosity. Who would head into an abandoned, ancient temple just to have a sword fight? What if they needed help...?
Regardless, I told myself to forget about it and question the old woman later. I hoisted up my harp and strummed a C-chord to open the light-filled portal again. For a moment, I didn't really want to enter. I stood in the tranquil Skyview Spring, listening to the sounds of battle from behind the door that disturbed the peaceful nature noise. I wondered what was happening... I seemed to be able to hear some shouting if I really listened closely...
I shook my head, dispelling my thoughts. No, I had to go. Before I could become distracted again, I stepped into the light and left the temple.
A/N: By the way, I'd forgotten in the previous chapter to tell Zelda to bathe in the spring. Which makes the whole scene with Machi completely stupid and redundant. Sorry! I'm sure it seems out of place now. D: For some reason I had this really dumb idea that the whole "purify your body" thing was just a metaphor. I don't know why I thought that, but I did, and I truly regret it now, hahaha. Anyway, I went back and edited that in.
I'll probably come back and edit this later, but for now, this is what I've got. Hope it wasn't to philosophical or rambling toward the end (or at the beginning, for that matter). I told myself for sure that I'd never leave this story for a year, so I'm eager to update it now.
Thanks for reading! Did anyone else get Hyrule Historia? It really helped me with this chapter. It gave me a pretty good idea of the timeline in Hylia's era and inspired me to keep writing. ^^