A/N: I don't really have anything to say this time around, I guess, except for thank you SO much to my four fabulous reviews for the last chapter. I really appreciate your comments. ^^ This is sort of a short chapter, but... eh. In all honesty, I think I drew it out longer than I should have already, but I liked the cliffhanger and didn't want to continue this further.
The large double doors to the Sealed Temple swung open with a bang. I gazed around the epansive room, as tranquil and silent as I remembered. No one was in sight. I took a few tentative steps forward before drawing in a deep breath. "Hello?"
"Welcome back, Zelda."
I yelped and spun around with surprise, holding out my hands defensively in front of me. Then I recognized the old hunched figure emerging from the shadows and sighed with relief. "Oh, gods. I'm sorry. I'm jumpy after spending so much time in the forest. There were Bokoblins everywhere. H-How did you get behind me?"
"You walked right past me," the woman said, smiling beneath her cloak. "I've been waiting for you." She took a step toward me, her eyes briefly reflecting in the fading light that sifted through the branches over the temple's open roof. "Did you...?"
I averted my eyes. "Yes." I wasn't particularly eager to discuss this. Not to mention that I'd been somewhat dismissive of her insistence earlier, and now I knew that she had been right the whole time. I was half expecting an "I-told-you-so" – she had every right to say that.
But instead, as I should have known, she merely nodded with approval. "Good. Next, you must head to an area known as Eldin Volcano. The spring there, known as the Earth Spring, houses another–"
"Wait." I put up a hand and took a step back so that I could fully examine her. "Before we get into that, I have some questions for you." I frowned, remembering my resolution to interrogate her. "Who are you? I don't really have too many memories at this point of my... my previous life... but you know so much about me, apparently. How?"
She paused. She didn't seem surprised, but she did seem... what? Unsure? Hesitant? Confused?
There was a long silence.
"...I'm afraid I cannot tell you that now. Not yet." I opened my mouth to protest, but she cut me off. "No, I'm very sorry. I know it's difficult for you to understand now. But I assure you, once you gain all your memories you will understand. Or at least I can explain everything to you then."
"Then how can I trust you?" I asked angrily. "Why are you helping me, anyway?"
"I was trusted by Hylia to protect the Spirit Maiden," she said abruptly. I blinked, my interest piqued. That was more along the lines of what I had been looking for.
But something seemed wrong about that story.
"Except... I don't remember you. I highly doubt that I would actually trust my own safety in the hands of a mere aquaintance."
There was a challenge in my voice – but the woman did not take the bait. She inclined her head. "Again, I'm very sorry. I cannot tell you anymore. It would not help matters now."
I was quiet, staring at her thoughtfully. All of my logic told me that I couldn't believe her, that I should either walk away now or demand that she tell me... but I wanted to believe her so badly. Ever since I'd met her I'd had an inherent trust of her. But what if it was some kind of trick? There was no plausible explanation that I could think of right now for why I felt so safe around her.
"If I may continue now..." She looked at me. I bit my lip. I really should press farther... but instead I reluctantly nodded. I supposed it couldn't hurt to at least hear what she had to say and then make my own judgements. She hadn't done me any wrong so far; obviously she'd gotten me my memories back, so how could she be evil? Maybe I was simply overreacting.
"You must go to the Earth Spring, deep within the Earth Temple of the Eldin Province." Something about that name sounded familiar, and then I suddenly realized that that was exactly what Link's mysterious monotone companion had said I'd do. How had she known that? It was somewhat unnerving that she knew my path before I did. Perhaps she was in contact with the old woman? "Bathe in the waters there once more and pray at the Goddess Statue to obtain more of your memories."
"Is that going to be it?" I inquired hopefully. "Is that going to be the last of my memories?"
"No," she said. "After this you must head to Lanayru. One step at a time, Your Grace."
I closed my eyes. Assuming that she was correct, I still had a long way to go before this journey was over. Now that I actually had memories of Hylia, everything felt so much more real – and much more dangerous. Before, I could fantastize that I'd return to tell the woman that it hadn't worked and I was just plain old Zelda, but... now...
Goddess, I wanted to go home!
"So... where is this place exactly? Is it nearby?"
"Unfortunately, no," she told me. "It is far to the northwest. You will require some form of transportation."
I looked inward, sensing my Loftwing. His presence was surprisingly faint, but at least it was there, and he didn't seem injured...
"I think I have that covered," I told her. "I just need to know what it looks like to ensure that I have the right place."
"Eldin is a large volcano," she explain. "It's difficult to miss if you head straight northwest. The temple is on one of the upper levels, but below the summit." I considered that for a moment, a vague, hazy image of an enormous mountain that spewed fire slowly coming back to me with her words. I'd been there before, but the memory was incomplete. Without my previous life, though, I would have had no idea what a "volcano" was. I nodded slowly, hoping that my memories would kick in and help guide me to the area during the trip. I'd probably recognize it if I at least saw it.
"...You're going to fly your Loftwing, aren't you?" the woman then asked. I nodded, wondering how much she knew about my life above the clouds. I hadn't seen her with a Loftwing, so she probably didn't have one – not that you'd really need one when you had the incomprehensible vastness of the Surface. It was still somewhat mind-boggling to me that the entire Surface was on one jointed, inseparable plane. Skyloft already seemed so small and insignificant compared to even just these woods; I couldn't imagine what the rest of the world was like.
Well, I kind of could, because I'd seen it all before. But it was still hard to comprehend as a girl who'd spent her life in the sky.
"I wish you luck, then, Spirit Maiden. It will be a dangerous flight. If the volcano is erupting, it could harm your Loftwing. I advise caution."
"Of course," I responded dutifully. "Anything else?"
"I... I suppose not," she murmured.
"Great. I'll go call my Loftwing and leave." I started walking toward the temple entrance, reaching the door before looking back over my shoulder. She hadn't moved. "Is something wrong?"
"I merely was not expecting you to leave so soon. You just arrived," she said, her typically calm and resilient voice sounding hesitant. "Are you certain that you do not want to stay and rest for a while?"
I sighed. She was doing this again? The offer did sound tempting, but...
"How about you tell me about your journey in the Faron Woods?" the woman suggested. She trodded over to the corner of the room and gestured to the seat in front of her.
I glanced at her, then at the door, then to the chair. I really did want to take a break... but it wasn't a good idea to stall...
"Fine," I grumbled, striding over and reluctantly settling myself on the stool – the very same stool I'd sat in when she revealed my true past to me. I looked at her and grinned. "I guess now would probably be a good time to tell you that I encountered Ghirahim?"
I couldn't see her eyes, but I sensed her surprise. "Did you really?" she questioned, shocked. "How did you get out of that?"
"Well, I had a little help from these bracelets," I explained, holding them up. I paused. "And... Link showed up."
"Ah," she said, nodding. "I'm not surprised. He stopped by here earlier. I told him where to find you. Did you speak with him?"
"No..." I paused, thinking about what else to tell her. And then... her words then sunk in. "Wait, you let him follow me?" I felt a wave of irritation. "Are you serious? But you know that I can't go home with him! Why would you make him chase after me pointlessly? You could have at least told him that I couldn't talk to him! Or pretended that you didn't know where I was!"
"He has his own destiny to follow, just as you have yours," the woman replied cryptically.
"That's hardly an answer," I growled, still upset. I didn't want my friend to suffer because of me.
She shook her head. "I assure you, things will make sense in due time. Just as my identity is an issue, this will come to light soon enough. You must have patience, Your Grace." She smiled. "Now, why don't you tell me about your trip?"
I shut my eyes frustratedly and grudgingly began telling my story, starting back with meeting Machi and Bucha. But I hadn't forgotten her words.
She said Link had his own destiny. What exactly had she meant by that? What role did Link have to play in this insane tale?
I was still pondering this hours later when I was in the sky, mounted on my Loftwing. Some remote part of me marveled how I could remain under the cloud cover and still see the blue of the sky – the Surface was entirely obscured from Skyloft, so you would think that Skyloft would be completely obscured from the Surface. Yet even though I did not see a thick cloud covering, I saw none of the floating islands above me. I knew now that it was a result of the magics I had performed when I sent up Skyloft. I was proud to see how well it had held up over so many years.
But then the other half of me was wandering back to Link. In some ways, it was a relief to know that he cared about me so much that he'd go to such lengths... but I wasn't just Zelda anymore, and I couldn't let him fight the battles of a deity. It wasn't fair to him, especially knowing that in the end, all of his hard work would be for nothing.
Of course, it was impressive that he'd even managed to make it this far. The Surface wasn't exactly the safest place imaginable, but I didn't even find myself particularly worrying about his abilities. He'd always been the most skilled at swordplay in our class, and he'd seemed perfectly fine when I'd last seen him – he'd even effortlessly killed three Bokoblins. On top of that, he'd fought Ghirahim and obviously wounded him, too. I smirked at the thought of the powerful Demon Lord being beaten by a knight student who hadn't been in any real battles in his whole life.
I tried to remember what Ghirahim had said about the battle. He hadn't said much... but from the sound of it, he'd definitely been rightfully bested and he really didn't want to admit it.
However, now that I thought about it, there was one other thing that Ghirahim had said that was a bit... strange. He'd mentioned his opponent using the Goddess Sword... which, if Gorko was to be believed, could only be wielded by me and the Hero.
But if Link was serious about having faced Ghirahim, then that meant Link had it. Combined with the fact that the woman had talked about his "destiny"...
That... couldn't mean...
No. No. Of course not. That was just silly! Link was good at swordplay, but not that good. And, besides, maybe I had this all mixed up! Maybe Link hadn't actually fought Ghirahim, or maybe Ghirahim had been talking about someone else. It could be a misunderstanding. And for all I knew, Ghirahim could have been lying about the sword thing.
Yet... I bit my lip as I considered the other option. Could it be possible that Link actually was...
Forget it, I told myself. Even if it was true, as absurd as that seemed, it wasn't like I could do anything about it now, right? I still didn't even know what the Hero's role was. I was probably wrong. I had to be wrong.
I didn't want Link any more caught up in this than he already was.
Sensing my distress, my Loftwing cawed softly, trying to comfort me. I smiled sadly and rubbed his feathers in what I knew was his favorite spot. I looked up again, where Skyloft should have been. I was momentarily tempted to fly up to the cloud cover, just to see what would happen – after all, Loftwings usually could not make it past the thick covering. But I knew it was best to stay on task.
Finally, the large, looming figure of Eldin Volcano appeared in the distance. Several memories started coming with it, and I smiled fondly, recalling friendly visits with the Mogmas and Eldin, the Earth Dragon. Of course, not all of the memories were happy; battles had been fought here, and although my recollection was incomplete, I knew I'd come here at least once to request aid from the powerful dragon. It seemed to me that there was some kind of important memory involving him, the other dragons, and my sword... and perhaps... some kind of flame?
Shaking my head of these thoughts, I examined the land below, noticing the lava everywhere and the scorched red earth. If I remembered correctly, the temple had to be close to the upper reaches of the mountain...
Ah! There it was. The large red and gold building was built into the mountain, its entrance guard by two enormous, dragon-crested doors that led into the rock. I guided my Loftwing down toward the edifice.
We landed gently at the top of a steep incline, and I slid off of my bird's back. I gazed up at the temple again. It was almost disappointing that there would be no climb up the mountain this time, but I had already noted the warmth of the atmosphere – there was no doubt that it would have been a painful, sweaty climb.
I glanced around. The green pathway was somewhat ruined, with large chunks of the rock having given way to dirt. Two braziers lined one side, but the other side did not mirror it – they'd probably been destroyed or something. Looking to my right, there seemed to be some kind of... encampment. I frowned. It appeared to be a type of crude village, with tents roughly constructed from some sort of tan material.
Even so... there wasn't a living being in sight. I didn't see anything around here... no movement, no indication that anything else might be alive. It seemed odd – the torches were still burning, so clearly someone had been there recently... but I saw no one. It was making me uneasy. For some reason, I'd been expecting Eldin to be overrun by monsters, just like Faron was. I didn't see any... but it was probably best to be cautious anyway.
My Loftwing let out a soft sound behind me. I turned around, suddenly realizing with a pang of guilt how hot he must have been under the coat of feathers. He was definitely well-suited to the cool skies of Skyloft, but not in this sweltering Surface land. Personally, I was just feeling thankful that the old woman had made me wear this new outfit – I would have been dying under the layers of clothing in my Wing Ceremony costume.
"You can go," I told him quietly. "I'll probably need your help getting back, though, so I'll call you when I'm done, alright?"
I sensed his concern for me, but I sent him what I hoped was a reassuring smile and stepped back. With some reluctance, he lifted off and flew away into the distance.
I closed my eyes, preparing myself for the next big reveal. Hopefully it wouldn't be as bad as last time. I mean, at least now I was expecting to actually get memories back – before, I'd still doubted the whole thing.
Looking at the door ahead, I took out my harp and walked to the closest brazier, peering around it to take one last scope of the area. It was just as empty as before...
So why did I feel like stepping out into the open was a bad idea?
I took a step, hesitated, and then finally gathered up my courage. This was ridiculous. No one was here.
I hurried over and stood right in front of the imposing doors. I looked up at them, and then dropped my gaze down to my harp again. Would I need to play it one more time to open a portal, like at Skyview? I didn't see any butterflies around, though. You know, it would have been really helpful if I had given myself those kind of memories first...
I straightened in horror at the sound of an all-too-familiar screech behind me.
I spun on my heel, facing a Bokoblin threateningly waving his sword. Terrified, I could only take a step back to get away and instead heard the swish of a sword rushing right beside my body. Another one had snuck up behind me as I was distracted.
I finally broke free from my fear, remind my trembling legs that they could be used to flee. I had to leave. Now!
I turned to run in the opposite direction... and was stopped by a third Bokoblin.
I stepped away in alarm, my gaze darting frantically around me, staring at the three smug faces of the creatures one by one. Oh, no. No, no, no. This couldn't be happening. There had to be something. There had to be a way out! I couldn't get captured! I couldn't...!
My heart sank as I realized the truth. I was surrounded.
"No," I gasped, looking down at my harp desperately. I then remembered the lavender bracelets on my wrists and my hope momentarily rose. "Help me!" I shreiked at them. "Defend me like last time! I need a shield!"
The Bokoblins stepped closer.
"Please!" I cried, nearly sobbing. "I-I can't..."
A Bokoblin raised its sword.
Something hit the back of my head and the world faded into darkness.
"Bracelets, Your Grace? Why bracelets? Are they really necessary?"
"Yes. I know that seems foolish, but they should protect the Spirit Maiden."
"They are gifts from my creators. By invoking them, the bracelets should shield their bearer."
"Just a shield? Don't you think you might require some sort of weapon?"
"Well, there will be the Hero, of course. But, actually... I was thinking. I want to send a protector. Someone to watch over her... over me. Someone to ensure that she is kept safe."
"Who, Your Grace?"
"...Impa, will you serve the Spirit Maiden as a protector?"
"I know you don't agree with my plan and probably do not want any part of it, but you are the only one I could ever trust with such a task. I had to ask."
"But... how? Won't this be several years from now? How can I–"
"Don't worry about that. I have it all figured out. Will you do it?"
"You... I... Yes. Yes, I would be honored. I will protect the Spirit Maiden... at all costs. I swear this to you, Your Grace."