Courage to Hope

Link's mind was running in circles as he started walking towards the door that would lead him back outside the temple, seven years after he had entered it. Rauru had said Ganondorf had taken over, and that his evil was spreading… the newly grown-up hero didn't much like the sound of that. Ganondorf had caused the death of the Great Deku Tree, nearly starved the Gorons, and driven Lord Jabu Jabu to madness, all before he became the King of Evil. What else had he done since?

Link shuddered as he walked. It was no good trying to guess; after all, Ganondorf had everything he wanted now, so it wasn't like he needed to bully anyone for anything anymore. Maybe things weren't all that bad. He refused to believe that Saria, for one, was actually hurt. She was fine, she had to be. Why would Ganondorf even bother with a Kokiri? They never gave anyone any trouble; they just stayed in the forest. Just the same, he really needed to get into that temple and make sure she stayed fine. Which meant, according to Sheik, that he needed to hurry to Kakariko village and find whatever it was that would help him get into the temple.

He started jogging without quite realizing it, and ran past the gossip stones towards Castle Town. The sky looked all wrong, but that didn't really mean anything, did it? It was just stormy. Storms happened.

He ran faster. Kakariko first, and then home. Saria was probably in her house, totally fine. Rauru had just been making things sound bad so Link would really want to fix it all. And all Sheik had said was that Saria could not become a Sage because she didn't know she needed to, or something like that. That didn't mean she was hurt. There was just no way things were as bad as those two were making them out to be.

And Zelda… she had escaped, she was fine; she had to be. Just like Saria; they were both fine.

He came to an abrupt stop when he rounded the corner of the outside wall to the temple grounds and found himself facing the Castle Town Market. His eyes went wide and his legs gave out, leaving him on his knees.

He wasn't looking at the Market, he was looking at a nightmare; most of the buildings were only partly still standing, damaged beyond recognition; the stalls were gone; the people…

He heard himself whimper and his stomach contracted in a dry heave. He wrapped his arms around himself and tried to swallow, but his mouth had gone bone dry. In contrast, he felt his eyes flood and mercifully, the world became blurred to his sight.

The bustling crowds of Castle Town's Market were gone; in their stead, the square was filled with ReDeads. Link knew right away where they had come from; it wasn't difficult to add two and two together when loads of living people disappeared and loads of undead creatures appeared in their place.

A bright blur appeared in front of his eyes. "Link!" The tiny voice demanded his attention, as usual.

"Dead…" His own voice came out in a croak. "Everyone… everyone's dead…"

As if in answer, a ReDead screeched.

"We don't know that!" Navi said urgently. She put her tiny hands on either side of his nose, coming as close as she could to holding his head to force his eyes on hers. "Link… I know this looks bad, but it's just one place and we don't even know for sure those are the people that lived here. Ganondorf could have brought them here from somewhere else!"

Link swallowed. A vision of the Kokiri village, destroyed and full of small ReDeads, had just invaded his mind. "What if…" He trailed off; he couldn't even bring himself to say it.

Navi clenched her jaw; it was no good trying to make Link believe in the best case scenario; she'd only be opening him up to more heart aches whenever they found some new horrors. And judging by what Rauru and Sheik had said, and by the spectacle before them now, there would be no shortage of that on their quest.

"Link, listen," she said instead. "Right now, we're the only ones who can prevent Ganondorf from doing even more harm. We don't know how bad it is out there; maybe it IS all the same as here, but…"

"I can't fix it," Link breathed, staring off into the distance. "It's like the Great Deku Tree…" His eyes widened as he remembered Mido unfairly blaming him for the Kokiri's guardian's death. "It's our fault... we… we opened the door for him! We thought we were saving Hyrule, but…" He trailed off, seemingly forgetting he had been in the middle of talking, his eyes fixed on a point far, far away.

Navi chewed on her lips. She had no counter arguments to offer: Link was right. They couldn't fix what had happened, and technically, it WAS theirs and Zelda's fault. Not that she felt any of them were to blame… they had been played by Ganondorf, just like everyone else involved.

Besides, none of that mattered now; Link had a destiny to uphold and as his guardian fairy, Navi needed to help him do just that.

She slapped him. It wasn't in anger, far from it; she could understand how difficult this was to process. Link might not look it anymore, but he was still just a kid; you couldn't expect a mind to do a whole lot of maturing when it was locked in dreamless sleep like his had been for seven years. Kid or not, however, he couldn't stay like this; she needed to snap him out of it.

Link blinked at her. He had barely felt the slap, but it had been enough to clear his head a little. Navi was right; he couldn't just stay here and whine. He needed to get to Saria, and then he needed to get to the other sages. Nayru willing, they were all still alive. And maybe he'd be able to find the princess, too. He hoped she was all right as well.

"Regrets won't do anyone any good, Link," Navi said, echoing his thoughts.

Link nodded and swallowed. He couldn't do anything about what Ganondorf had already done, but that was no excuse to let him do any more. If there was just one Deku Scrub left alive and unharmed in all of Hyrule, Farore help him, Link was going to protect it with his life. Ganondorf wasn't going to hurt anything ever again.

He got to his feet and squinted at the crowd of ReDead. He couldn't fight his way through, there were too many. He turned to Navi. "I'm going to need your help."

"That's why I'm your partner, silly!" Navi said, grinning.

She flew off ahead, looking for a safe path, and willed her aura to turn green when she found it, beckoning her charge to follow her on the next leg of their journey.

Fin


Author's Notes

Many thanks to TinySprite for her help with this story, and thank YOU for reading! Please use that nice box below to review and let me know what you think.

This is - hopefully - the first of five stories, each featuring a different Link. Up next are two more one shots - the hero's incarnations from Wind Waker and from A Link to the Past. Following that, I have two more stories in mind featuring OC Links that had cameos in a very old story of mine (Hero) – those may be multi-chapter.

I might even eventually finish Moving On.