By Queenie Z

His pilgrimage had lasted the better part of three months, and Link was beginning to grow quite weary of it. Approaching forty-one years of age, his body simply could not handle the stress of adventure quite as well as it could when he was younger. In addition, the part of him that was prince consort wanted desperately to return home to the newly-built castle, wrap his young daughter Zelda in his arms, and be there to take care of his wife Tetra. He knew she'd be around seven months pregnant with their second child by now, and while he knew her keepers and servants would diligently assist her, he felt a tinge of guilt for not being there for her as her husband.

Yet the part of him that was Link, captain of the Hyrulian Guard and Hero of Winds, knew he had to make this journey. Indeed, it was his duty and his heart's greatest desire to defend New Hyrule and everyone in it. It all started from many sleepless nights, worrying about this beautiful new kingdom he and Tetra had made their home years before. He mulled over the legends left behind by the old kingdom - the Hero of Time, the Master Sword, and the Triforce - and wondered whether the ancient gods who created those legends were still with them in this new land. He wondered, too, about the guardian spirits who created the Spirit Tracks. Did they smile upon their new country? Were they angry? Did they even still dwell upon this earth?

However, more than anything, more than whether or not the gods and spirits watched over them, he wondered about what would happen should evil haunt this new land the same way it haunted the ancient Hyrule under the ocean. It was a very real possibility; the demon king was merely sealed away, not destroyed, and all seals could be broken one way or another. If this were to happen in his lifetime, Link knew he would once again risk life and limb to keep his people safe. But the Hero of Winds couldn't live forever. When he and the queen were gone, who would be around to protect New Hyrule? Would a new Hero rise from the ashes, as he himself had, or would he fail to appear, like the Hero before him?

These thoughts and fears ate away at Link for weeks, until, finally, he decided that he had no choice but to plead to the gods and spirits for answers. He would take a handful of his finest men and journey to each temple - forest, snow, ocean, fire, and sand - and offer his prayers in their innermost sanctums for three days and nights. He would then end his quest at the Tower of Spirits, where he would climb to its highest point and pray for the final time. Through this, he hoped he would receive some kind of an answer and be able to return home knowing what he had to do to protect his kingdom.

Of course, Tetra had thrown a fit when he proposed this to her, and Tetra's anger was not to be taken lightly. Yet she reluctantly allowed him to do as he wished, knowing that his and her concerns were indeed one in the same. So he began his pilgrimage, bringing along four men and walking when the tracks could not take them where they needed to go. His men served him valiantly, charting the unexplored temples and fending off monsters as he prayed in each temple. Finally, the day had arrived when he would return to the center of the country and climb the Tower of Spirits and, hopefully, receive the answer he had sought. After telling his men to stay put at the bottom, he began his ascent alone.

Dust flew into the air as he climbed the staircase inside, his boots and cape grazing the ground that had remained undisturbed for centuries. It was a long climb, one that he was sure his younger self could have made in a much shorter amount of time. Had he really been only twelve years old when he first climbed a tower like this, and thirteen when he made a similar trek in the Temple of the Ocean King? It boggled the mind to think about it, and he was almost glad when the fresh breeze came to greet him at the apex of the tower and snap him out of his reverie.

The sight of his and Tetra's kingdom from the top was breathtaking, and almost immediately his regrets for making this pilgrimage melted away. If he could learn how to best protect this wonderful land, then all of the hardship, the journeying and fasting and sleepless nights of prayer, would have been worth it. He approached the edge facing the sea, the last link between the old Hyrule and the new one, and breathed deeply. Then, he called out to the sky.

"Gods of Old Hyrule... Spirits of Good... hear me, your servant Link! For years I've watched over this land and served the people who dwell here, and I will continue to protect and serve for as long as I live!" He went quiet for a moment, then looked down at the grassy field beneath him. "...But I'm only a man, a man who will die one day. A man who won't be around to be the Hero forever. I haven't feared death for a long, long time... but I do fear dying without knowing what will happen to Hyrule."

The Hero shut his eyes and pleaded. "I ask for nothing more than an answer. I only want to know. Are you still with your people, the descendents of the old kingdom? Will you send us a Hero to take my place? Will my children, their children, and their children's children be protected?" His voice grew shaky and intense. "I ask this as your chosen one... please... answer me...!"

He opened his eyes, and, for a split second, he thought he saw something glimmer on the far horizon over the ocean. He held his breath, wondering if it was a sign he should pay attention to. After a few moments of silence, however, he dismissed it as a figment of his imagination. Disappointed, but not yet ready to give up, he turned and headed away from the edge -

- where he suddenly blacked out, falling to the floor with a thud.

Link opened his eyes - at least, he felt himself opening his eyes, but his surroundings were far too dark to be able to tell for sure. What in the name of the spirits had happened? He remembered praying before suddenly feeling dizzy and light-headed. Could he had fallen off of the Tower of Spirits? No, he realized, he couldn't have. His surroundings were dark, but he felt the distinct sensation of floating around in water, although he could still breathe. The ocean - the deep, dark ocean where the fallen Hyrule lay hidden - that was what this feeling reminded him of.

He looked around in the wet darkness, struggling to find a point of reference. When he saw one, however, his eyes widened in shock. A sword lay before him, its blade glowing with a mystical white light. It was the Master Sword, the Blade of Evil's bane Link thought was buried beneath the waves forever! Memories of his first journey came flooding back to him, and he couldn't help but reach out to it; to be reunited with the sword that had once served him so well.

He drew his hand back, however, when a strange figure appeared behind the sword as if from nowhere. It was human - or at least had the shape of a human girl - and wore a flowing blue and purple cloak, its colors reminding him of the Master Sword's hilt. The figure was knelt before him, her head bowed in reverence. Link opened his mouth to speak, but the strange spirit spoke first.

"It's been a long time," she said, her voice melodious yet distinctly monotonous, "my master."

Link was dumbfounded - this mysterious creature had called him her master! Yet he couldn't shake the feeling that this was not the first time he had met her. Her presence with the Master Sword couldn't have been a coincidence, either. Before he could attempt to put the pieces together in his mind, though, the spirit lifted her head, her eyes empty and her lips curled into what might have been a small smile.

"The gods of old have heard your prayers," she said, standing, "and have awakened me from my slumber at the bottom of the sea to deliver to you their answer."

The old Hero stared in awe as the spirit began to dance, gliding elegantly around him, running across the water he had felt surrounding him.

"Proud Hero of Winds," she began, "your creator goddesses have not abandoned you, and neither have the ancient spirits of your new land." She jumped, twirling around twice before landing. "They have always watched over you, and they have seen your kind soul, your valiant courage, and your loyalty to your kingdom. Recognizing these qualities, they leave you with this promise; a promise that shall be upheld for all time."

The oracle of the Master Sword turned, gliding in a figure-eight shape behind Link. He turned to listen to the rest of her message.

"Your legacy is an ancient one; the Hero has existed since time immemorial. His spirit has lived on in the hearts of every Hero that has come before you, and it will live on forever in the Heroes still to come. You are but one link in the great chain that upholds the peace of this world, and that chain will not end with your passing."

Link's eyes widened as he broke into a large smile as he listened. The thought that his spirit would live on, that new heroes will arise whenever Hyrule needed them... it was the best answer to his prayer that he could have possibly hoped for. But the oracle had not yet finished her message - she maneuvered back to her place near the sword and twirled rapidly.

"In less than a century, a baby boy will be born at the mouth of the southern ocean, and he will share the great destiny of you and your predecessors. A great evil will awaken and separate the land. However, together with the daughter of Hyrule, this boy shall reunite the kingdom and vanquish that evil forever. So it has been written by destiny, and so it shall be."

When he heard the oracle's joyful prophecy, Link could contain his emotion no longer. His eyes filled with tears, he fell to his knees, his arm covering his face to keep himself from weeping.

"Thank you," he choked quietly. "Thank you."

The spirit ended her dance and hovered closer to the overwhelmed Hero. "It has given me great joy to be able to deliver to you this message. Fear not, Master Link. Let your heart be at ease. Your legacy shall not die, and your beloved land shall be protected for all time."

Link looked up with a tearful smile. "I will," he said. "I promise."

Her purpose finished and her work completed, the spirit descended into the Master Sword, where she would continue her eternal slumber. The moment she did this, Link felt himself being pulled upwards by a strong current.

He gasped as he awoke, holding his breath as he took a good look at his surroundings. He was still on top of the Tower of Spirits, although the sun was now beginning to set. Once he had his bearings straight, he sat up. He had a vision, a most wonderful vision of hope... but he began to have his doubts again. Was the message of the oracle real, or was it just something he had made up in his mind?

He drew his knees up, then noticed something odd on his left hand. When he took a closer look, he couldn't believe his eyes. It was the sacred mark of the Triforce. However, it did not glow gold like it had when he once possessed the Triforce of Courage - instead, it was a dark mark that appeared to have burned onto his skin. At that moment, all doubt he ever had about Hyrule's future and its favor with the gods vanished; although Link, prince consort to the queen of Hyrule and captain of the guard, would one day leave this world, Link the Hero - the eternal Hero - would return to fight whenever he was needed.

With that realization, he buried his face in his hands and wept.