Chapter 1: Back to the Beginning

Disclaimer: I do not own any Legend of Zelda characters or logos. This fan story is written for fun, not profit.

It had been months since the Hero of Time had sealed away the Evil King into the depths of the Dark Realm, and things in the Land of Hyrule were slowly beginning to return to the normal. When the Ganondorf had touched the Triforce, the realm beyond the Temple of Light had become a world of monsters, a dark reflection of the true world filled with nightmares beyond mortal imagination. It seemed almost fitting that the Gerudo leader was now doomed to live forever in a prison of his own creation.

Whether or not he reveled in the darkness was irrelevant, but with hide defeat the people could finally sleep peacefully at night. Since the destruction of Ganon's Castle and his confinement in the Dark Realm, the monsters that plagued Hyrule for the last seven years had slowly begun to decrease. Their numbers had been ravaged, and many had fled into the mountains following their master's fall. Occasionally small groups of Moblins would emerge to plunder innocent people, but these incidents were becoming fewer and farther between as time passed.

Zelda leaned over her desk as she went over several forms and requests. There was so much to do now that the kingdom was undergoing reconstruction projects everywhere, and the several races of Hyrule were trying to re-establish the same sense of order that had existed before the war. So many lives had been lost and so many things destroyed, yet at the core she couldn't help but feel responsible.

The princess felt a deep sense of guilt in her heart at having caused so much harm. Her foolishness had ultimately caused all of the hardship they were forced to endure for seven long years, and no amount of apology would be enough to compensate. She was foolish to imagine that sending Link back to his own time would be enough to undo the physical and mental torment he had suffered for so long.

"I suppose that's enough for tonight…" she muttered with a sigh, gently removing the pair of glasses she used for reading and resting her head on the stack of papers.

As the only remaining member of Hyrule's Royal Family, it was her job to govern the land in place of her deceased father. The disappearance of the monarchy during Ganondorf's raid so long ago had left the land in political anarchy, and due to the lack of unification between several power-hungry noble factions, the leaderless land had been helpless to fight back against the Evil King's monstrous armies. Despite blaming herself for so much, she felt little pity for the nation's nobility, who had been too busy trying to grab power to protect what was really important.

Realizing how foolish she must have looked, Zelda lifted her head and hastily arranged her paperwork, trying her best to differentiate the construction permits from the stack of requests she had been accepting from her fellow villagers. Despite her status as the acting monarch, her current dwelling consisted of a few sparse rooms filled with simple wooden furniture, and a small upper level where her working space and bed were kept. The house she lived in now had belonged to the Sheikah Impa, who had opened Kakariko Village to the public and was more or less its acting leader.

Zelda let out a small chuckle at this last part. Having her old attendant around all the time made her feel like she was still a kid, but in a way it had also made her feel like things were beginning to return to normal. The woman had been by her side since birth, had been like a mother following the death of the queen. Having Impa around to dote on her made the princess think of the days they spent sitting in the Castle Courtyard together whenever her daily lessons were finished.

As if reading her mind, the gray-haired woman seemed to appear out of thin air, her arms folded and her serious expression barely concealing a note of amusement. Having trained in the Sheikah arts for several years, the princess was immediately aware of her presence.

"So, what is the status on our latest construction project?" Zelda asked with a half-smile, feeling no need to hide her emotions from her old guardian.

The Shiekah woman leapt from the platform, landing gracefully on the lower level. "Mutoh and his crew have begun building you a larger dwelling, but according to the information he passed on to me, the project had already been commissioned and funded by a private benefactor before we even contacted them."

Zelda looked slightly affronted by the idea as she descended using the stairs. "I never would have asked someone to pay me for something like this?"

"Of that, I am most certain." Impa nodded sternly before resting one hand against her side.

"It is not the place of the people to mindlessly serve their princess, but rather their leader's responsibility to serve the people. If you know the identity of this person, please inform him that I will not accept such an extravagant gift."

"Growing used to living here, I see… While you never were the type to become immersed in the foppish trappings of nobility, I imagine you would be far more comfortable in a larger dwelling, preferably something more suited for your comfort and safety than my humble abode."

Two months ago the princess had deemed Hyrule Castle Town to be uninhabitable. The place was filled with horrible memories for those who lost family members during the war. Even though the Redeads had perished in the light of the sun, the ruins of the town had become a place for criminals, thieves and monsters to hide away, many of which were equally as dangerous.

While she had discarded the royal garments in exchange for something more casual, she felt a sense of pride in having chose and paid for the clothing herself. Growing up she had been gifted with opulent dresses and jewelry almost constantly, and her male Sheikah outfit was hardly flattering for a woman. In truth, having the freedom and time to purchase and wear her own clothing made her feel like a normal girl.

Exhaling deeply, Zelda admired her garb for a moment. Her current outfit consisted of a one-piece pink dress with a golden trim that ran down to just above her ankles and a gilded brooch. She also wore a white sash around her waste bearing the Royal Family's Emblem and a plain white vest around her shoulders, a pair of nice brown boots visible on her feet. Having discarded the tiara for the moment, Zelda had opted instead for a golden necklace in the shape of he Triforce, matching bracelets, and simple blue earrings

Impa noticed that her young charge was admiring the dress and smiled if only for a second. "You certainly have developed a sense of style, my princess. I suppose spending several years dressed as a man deprived you of a luxury that many girls would crave."

"I hardly possessed the desire for such things. Fighting for my kingdom's survival has been such a large part of my life for so long, that I never realized how many things I had lost until recently."

The older woman nodded solemnly, silently understanding her young charge's deep-seated insecurities. "Indeed, Link was not the only person who missed seven years of his life."

"What ever do you mean by that?" She blinked once, her face genuinely innocent and curious. For someone who possessed a mind worthy of the Triforce of Wisdom, she seemed almost ignorant of her own words.

Impa leaned against the wall, her posture shifting uneasily for a moment before she spoke again. "It is true that you and I were present during the war, but in immersing yourself in a new identity as a Sheikah man and fighting for your life, you were also deprived of your childhood. In a sense, were you really all that different from him?"

"I suppose not…" her expression dropped slightly as she raised her head. "I saw the world change over a period of time, yet horrible as it was, I can only imagine what it would have been like to fall asleep in a peaceful land and awaken to a world of monsters."

The Sheikah relaxed her shoulders before making eye contact with the princess. "And yet we all suffered in some way from this ordeal. You may blame yourself for the outcome, but the fact remains that you and Link opened the Door of Time in the name of peace."

"And allowed the most heinous man in this world to seize the most powerful relic in all of history." Zelda finished with a gaunt expression. "Furthermore I involved an innocent boy in this ordeal and exposed him to traumas that no living mortal should have to endure, all of it was the result of my own actions!"

Her guardian responded with a thoughtful expression, her serious posture as unyielding as ever. "Think of it what you will, but the role you played in this ordeal was the will of the Gods. I am sure of it."

"What of the people that suffered because of my foolishness? What of those who died in the siege of this land?" she spoke, the word pouring out of her at last as she struggled with the last part. "What of Link?"

Impa considered her for a moment, looking as though she had come to her own realizations. No matter how many times they had rehashed this very same conversation, it always lead back to the boy whose peaceful life was torn asunder in so short a time. Through the power of the Triforce both he and the princess were bound by destiny, and yet her focus always seemed to return to him not as a hero, but as an individual.

"Calm yourself, child. You have repeatedly dwelt on this ordeal for far too long, and have continued to even following the defeat of the Evil King. Haven't you suffered enough?"

"Not as much as he did." She repeated, earning a look of interest from her former nursemaid.

Zelda's eyes seemed to wander for a moment, almost as if she were looking through a window into the past. She remembered the first day they met in the Castle Courtyard, so young and innocent, yet both possessing a certain awareness that most people could not imagine. He had been so cute back then, his blue eyes so bright and pure. She remembered how his very presence made her smile. It wasn't just because she had seen a green-clad figure in her dreams… It was the kind and gentle aura that he exuded that made it so easy to be around him.

The Sheikah smiled inwardly as she saw her mistress's expression. "You truly cared about him, didn't you?"

"Of course I did… I still do." The princess exhaled deeply

"I remember the first time you saw him all those years ago. Never once before had I seen you so happy. To feel such emotions in the presence of someone you had never met before… I admit, it was very strange to me."

Zelda took a seat at the small wooden table, no longer able to hold her composure as she buried her face in her arms. All of her tears had dried up long ago, but this was fine for her. She had resolved long ago never to cry again, a promise that actively prevented her from displaying the sadness in her heart.

Although she had been trained not to display her emotions, the Sage of Shadow felt a sense of pride for her apprentice. Although the thought brought a sense of sorrow, it was admirable to see someone willing to take the weight of the world on their shoulders. Impa hesitated for a moment before removing a kettle from the oven top, taking a moment to prepare some tea. Zelda accepted the small cup with a quick word of thanks before taking a good long sip, silently allowing the hot liquid clam her nerves.

The young monarch felt her hands stop shaking as she set it down on a saucer, earning the tiniest of smiles from the older woman. Having been together for so long, the two had learned to communicate without words, and Zelda instantly knew that her mentor was satisfied with he results. Certain types of plants had a calming affect when brewed into tea, and no one understood the use of medicinal remedies better than the Sheikah Tribe.

"In the end, he was a puppet of destiny like so many others." She mused, looking significantly calmer than moments before.

"Do not speak like that!" Impa snapped, surprising the princess. "I do not believe for a second that he was ever unwilling. The boy possessed a sense of valor befitting of not only the Knights of Hyrule, but of the Sheikah as well."

"Looking back, I feel as if I took advantage of his noble heart."

"Nothing you said could have stopped him from resisting the evil that was slowly descending upon our land. Sometimes one cannot escape from destiny."

"I led him down a path from which there was no return. For that, I cannot forgive myself."

Impa raised her head with a knowing expression. "Link fought bravely for the good of all of Hyrule, and yet one person was always at the front of his mind. It was you who he wanted to protect most of all."

"What!?" Zelda's stifled a small gasp, her expression displaying deep conflict.

"The moment you met him I sensed an intense bond between you both. It felt more like two old friends that had been separated for an age coming together for the first time in eons than that of children crossing paths in the garden."

"I remembered a similar person from my visions, and so was not afraid of him. It is just as you say: He felt comfortable and familiar to me, like a long-lost companion who shared so much with me, and yet whose name I was unable to remember."

"No doubt the same was true for him." Impa stated with a frown. "The day he defeated that phantom in the Shadow Temple, Link asked me of your whereabouts, to which I was unable to properly respond."

"I know that you would not have willingly shared my secret with anyone."

She seemed to ignore the last statement. "The look of sheer worry in his eyes was confirmation enough that he cared deeply for you. Upon the revelation that you still drew breath, he smiled with such childlike happiness. These reactions were all I needed to conclude that Link truly…"

It looked as though the princess had been holding her breath, but before either of them could finish speaking, a knock on the door jarred everyone back to the present.

"It would seem we have a visitor." Zelda hastily straightened out the wrinkles in her dress in an attempt to look more presentable.

Impa sighed with a look of irritation as the middle-aged man who usually tended to her house poked his head through the half-open door. He nodded to his employer before lowering his stance in the face of their country's leader. "My apologies your highness, but a gentleman is here to request an audience at this late hour. Shall I send him away?"

Zelda half considered taking the easy way out, but forced the idea out of her mind as quickly as it had come with a polite smile. "No, that won't be necessary. Please see him in."

Impa glanced up as their visitor entered the room, a look of surprising crossing her features, the previous conversation temporarily forgotten. He was a middle-aged gentleman wearing a posh dark green suit and expensive leather shoes befitting of nobility. Although he had small bits of light brown hair framing the lower half of his face, the crown of his head was completely bald, and his eyes betraying a sense of weariness that seemed to contrast with his attire.

The Sheikah scarcely recognized him as a former noble of Hyrule before Ganondorf's ascension to power. He had also been a wealthy and prominent citizen of Kakariko Village for over a decade along with his family, although despite living in the neighboring house, it had been years since anyone was said to have seen them. The entire clan had become reclusive in the years directly before the Evil King rose to power, never attending gathering of nobility, and ignoring summons from the Royal Family.

"It has been quite some time, Lord Reginald." Zelda greeted with a note of uncertainty, doing her best to conceal any signs of her surprise. She extended a hand out of practiced formality, her old pre-war instincts emerging at the sight of a noble.

"Indeed it has, your majesty." He took her hand and kissed it gently before straightening up. "You have grown quite beautiful in my absence from the Hyrulean Court. I regret not being able to do more to aid our kingdom in its time of need."

She felt the urge to strike the older man for his nonchalant demeanor, but her manners remained unaffected by this sudden impulse. In truth there was nothing any ordinary person could have done when the opposing force was the Triforce of Power itself, but she still felt bitterness towards the higher classes for disserting the kingdom when things became too scary. At the same time she couldn't blame them for fleeing before such insurmountable odds, but the lack of regard for others still upset her deeply.

Zelda forced a smile. "My father noticed your absence in the last days of his reign, but there were more pressing matters to attend to with the Gerudo insurrection."

"I hope you will pardon my interruption, my princess." Impa opened her eyes as if seeing their visitor for the first time, her sharp yet calm gaze settling on him. "The people of this town claim that your house remained sealed and empty until quite recently. There are a fair share of rumors floating around Kakariko, but perhaps it would be better to hear the truth from your own lips."

The balding man hesitated for a moment, looking genuinely distressed by the notion. He tripped over his own words before trying to cover his own nervousness with a good-natured smile. "Even with everything that has happened of late, I'm not certain you would believe the truth even if I explained it in full." He rationalized.

"Try me…" the Sheikah pressed him with a note of pronounced curiosity. "You may find that my knowledge of whatever ills that befell you surpasses even those of yourself. I am no stranger to the secrets of this village. Perhaps I can shed some light on the issue."

"Alas, it is a story of much pain and strife that I would rather put behind me and never speak of it again."

Princess Zelda raised a hand to stop them, her expression kind and gentle. "There is no need for you to share something so personal." She motioned for him to sit in the chair directly across the table. "Please, make yourself at home."

"I do not wish to impose on Lady Impa's hospitality." He replied, casting a quick glance in the woman's direction. "If you insist…" Despite his hesitation, the man dared not insult her display of kindness and sat down.

"Would you care to tell me why you have chosen to visit at such an hour, Lord Reginald?"

The noble undid the first button of his suit, looking slightly nervous. "To begin with, I wish to apologize to the Royal Family for my negligence in the years before the war. Although there were some complicated circumstances, I cannot help but feel remorse."

She considered him through her bright blue orbs before nodding her head in acceptance. "At least you were not directly involved in the feuds between noble clans during that time."

To her surprise, the middle-aged man bowed his head. "It is still my family's fault that we were unable to help!" he rested his hands against the table and humbled himself before the young monarch. "Were we not so wrapped up in our own pursuit of money and riches, perhaps my family and I could have been of greater service to the Royal Family."

Zelda felt strange as she prepared to give the same advice that her guardian had given to her only moments before. "There was nothing you could have done. Do not blame yourself for…"

"Please hear me out first!" Reginald cleared his throat, attempting to regain his previous composure. "I came here tonight not only to apologize for the past, but also to formally announce my desire to help the kingdom's recovery."

"What exactly do you mean to do then?" Impa finally spoke up.

"I apologize for acting without approval, but the recent commission made to the carpenters guild was my own doing." He noticed their looks of confusion, and decided to explain before they could protest. "Dear me, I only provided the funds… The actual specifications of her majesty's new home are hers to delegate whenever she chooses."

"I truly appreciate the gesture, but the total indicated in the paperwork Mr. Mutoh provided was simply too much. You need not have made such a large donation. I have very little to give you in return."

Reginald shook his head with a genuine look befitting of nobility. "I ask nothing in return, so do not worry yourself with such trivialities. The only thing that I ask if that you govern this nation fairly and honestly as your father would have desired."

The Sheikah attendant found this strange, although she could detect no lie in his voice. "Over a decade ago, you hardly seemed likely to part with such a substantial sum without reason."

"Perhaps you are right." He paused momentarily, attempting to phrase his words properly. The older man bit his lower lip and wracked his mind before answering. "You might say I was cursed by my own greed in those days."

"I am most curious as to what has caused this change of heart." Impa tested the waters with her statement, hoping he would bite a little harder this time.

Their visitor looked as if someone had frozen his face for a moment, but after a moment he exhaled calmly, the sudden change of demeanor catching his host's attention. "I realize now that denying the past will do nothing to erase it."

Zelda looked upon him kindly. "You don't have to if you would rather keep the details a secret."

"In truth, my family had become so engrossed in our own greed, that we were punished by the powers that be." He spoke again, sounding much more relaxed than before. "Our own ill desires attracted monsters who fed on greedy sentiments, and the beasts laid a curse on my family that forced us to take the foul shape of our tormentors. In a way, we were transfigured into the monsters we were on the inside."

To his surprise, neither woman called him a liar or tried to refute his telling. The princess placed a hand to her forehead, her eyes closing for the moment. "I may have heard such a tale before… Why does it sound so familiar!?"

"Because I told it to you." Her attendant added, all eyes now on the Sheikah.

"It must've been one of the legends of your people. Am I correct?"

"Yes indeed." Impa replied, looking pleased that her apprentice has picked up so quickly. She instead turned to face their visitor, who now looked even more intrigued by their reactions. "The story passed down by my people tells of creatures known as the Spiders of the Curse. These gruesome arachnids that are drawn by human avarice like moths to a flame."

Reginald closed his mouth upon realizing that it was open, the words coming to him at last. "So you do know of this foul curse."

The Sheikah unfolded her arms and crossed over to where the others were sitting. "What interests me is how a man who was afflicted by these monsters could have regained human form. Even the legend of my people ever spoke of a cure, unless all of the monsters were slain."

"And they were!" The balding man replied, his demeanor lightening noticeably.

Zelda leaned forward with anticipation. "By whom, may I ask? Was it merely chance, or perhaps someone you knew was able to help?"

"Quite the opposite. A young boy in green stumbled upon my home and took pity upon my family. He hunted and killed those foul beasts and saved us all." His words elicited looks of interest from the women, but he continued cheerfully. "To think that there existed someone so generous that he would help monsters. Such a valiant lad that I shall never forget his face. I do believe he had a fairy with him as well…"

The princess smiled to herself as she thought about the tale, everything making much more sense in context. She couldn't help but feel a tremendous amount of admiration for Link, something that had quickly become very familiar to her. Zelda folded her hands in her lap as the face of her hero came to her mind. Although she pretended to listen, she was not fully listening to her guest's stories about the rewards his family had given Link for his efforts.

Impa acknowledged her charge's dream-like state with motherly chuckle before putting her foot down again. "I do not mean to interrupt, Lord Reginald, but perhaps now would be the best time to explain why you demanded an audience so late in the evening."

"Ah yes, thank you for bringing my attention to that." the middle-aged noble turned to face Hyrule's leader once more. "Your majesty, I have come tonight to formally lend my support to your reconstruction project."

"In funding the building of my new home, you have already done quite enough, good sir."

"For most people I suppose this would be true, but a man of my wealth can afford do so much more for his country! When Lady Impa so kindly opened her village to other races, the people strove to turn this little village into a true city rivaling even that of Hyrule Castle Town. Now that the Evil King is no more, I wish to help make this old dream a reality!"

Zelda rested her folded hands on the table. "It's simply too much to ask of you. I would not presume…"

"Oh, but I must insist!" Reginald beckoned enthusiastically. "I daresay, it's about time my family did something useful with our good fortune in order to prove to the rest of Hyrule that the upper class cares for the betterment of not only this nation, but also its people!"

Impa looked upon their guest with a look of disbelief, but she quickly hid it. "Well said." She replied, gently clapping her hands together.

"My words are genuine, although there was a time when I never would've said something so earnest. If that one peasant boy was willing to help my family despite not even knowing who we were, then why can't we do the same for the rest of this land?"

Zelda paused thoughtfully, taking in his words while waiting to see if he had anything more to say. When the wealthy nobleman did not answer, she decided to address him this time. "I mean no offense by questioning, but please tell me… How much you plan on contributing?"

Lord Reginald clapped his hands twice; prompting two of the carpenters he had hired to enter. Walking sideways, the two burly men heaved a large metal chest into the room, the receptacle clearly very expensive due to the gilded exterior and plush lining. Although a layer of dust on the surface indicated that the chest had seen better days, this was hardly the main concern.

"My hands are getting all chafed. That was really hard work!" One of the carpenters whined, his cries reminding everyone why Mutoh had so little patience for his employees.

"Thank you very much for dragging that chest to Lady Impa's dwelling." The nobleman greeted, tossing a pair of Red Rupees into the both workers' hands. "Keep the change for a job well done… Now gentleman, if you would please show her majesty the contents."

One of the carpenters forced opened it, revealing several Rupees bursting from the inside. The chest was completely filled to the brim with an obscenely large amount of money, even Zelda looking a little surprised. She had seen her family's treasure trove several times growing up at the castle, but this was the first time since her childhood that she had laid eyes on such a large amount of money. The Rupees within were mostly Silver, Orange, and Gold, the rarity of such colors signifying great value.

"I don't know what to say… This is such a generous donation!"

"And only a minor portion of my family's vast wealth. Consider it a donation for the betterment of our country, and may you spend it wisely!" The man replied proudly, motioning for both workers to leave the house while he sunk to one knee on the floor. "With all due respect, I believe it is time for me to return home. I thank you for your time, your majesty."

"You've done me a great service tonight." The princess responded cordially.

He stood up an inclined his head respectfully. "May you live long, and may this land prosper once again under your leadership."

Reginald ignited his tin oil lantern with the flick of a switch before taking his leave, the door closing behind him with a dull thud. The two women watched him go silently, both still marginally surprised by the visit. After being absent from the royal presence for over a decade, he had reintroduced himself as the benefactor behind Kakariko's construction project. It was a lot to take in all at once, but for the princess, one thing intrigued her the most.

Despite most of her tears having dried up during the war, Zelda felt a warm sensation flowing down her left cheek. Her attendant was surprised to say the least. Impa had been with her for five of the seven years following Ganondorf's attack on the castle, and had seen the full range of the young girl's emotions during that time. Never before had they been so passionate, and yet through the suffering she had become numb and more distant in order to cope with it. Looking upon the princess now, it seemed as though a small bit of the Zelda's inner child had managed to leak through after so long, the tears innocent and pure.

"Something tells me that your reaction has nothing to do with Lord Reginald's visit?" Impa took a step forward while keeping a polite distance. "No matter how much time passes, it would appear to me that your feelings of regret never fade."

"To think that he went through so much trouble to help that man's family…"

"Perhaps now you can understand even more clearly just what kind of man Link truly was. He's simply not the kind of person who can stand by and do nothing while others are suffering." The older woman looked down upon the princess with a knowing expression. "You never did tell him, did you?"

"Tell him about what!?" she asked with a slightly nervous expression.

"About how much you grew to love and care for him not only as a hero, but as a very important person in your life."

She couldn't help but smile at the thought. "That's the reason why I sent him home. For all of his selfless acts, he deserved to regain those lost years and live a normal life."

"Before we were so suddenly interrupted earlier, I attempted to share something rather important. Were he with us today, Link would want you to know that he returned your feelings. I knew from the moment he accepted your quest that the boy cared for your well-being as much as he did the fate of this land."

Zelda's heart skipped a beat at the thought, causing her to jump ever so slightly at the sensation. After taking a moment to gather herself, she found her voice again. "Is it true… Did you know this from the moment he defeated that phantom in the Shadow Temple?" her guardian nodded slowly. "How long have you know about my own feelings?"

"From the moment you met him." she replied with a nostalgic expression.

The older woman always had a habit of reading her like a book, and Zelda couldn't deny the truth behind the statement. As her thoughts returned to the day she parted with her hero, the princess couldn't help but feel a sensation of guilt. Being so focused on granting Link that which had been stolen from him, she hadn't even give him a chance to protest. Now the memory of his hesitance and regret seconds before he vanished from her sight lingered in the growing silence.

"If only I had realized how he felt sooner. I should have spoken to him about my decision before sending him to his own time."

Her attendant sensed the tension in the air and frowned, unable to do anything to help. "You did what you believed was right, and that is all anyone can ask of a country's ruler."

"As his princess perhaps my actions were proper, but what should I have done as his friend?"

"Not every decision made is guaranteed to satisfy everyone. I understand your personal feelings on the subject, but this is something that you must learn to accept."

Zelda diverted her gaze as if afraid to meet the Sheikah's eyes. "I'm supposed to be the one who possesses the wisdom of the Goddesses, yet it took me this long to realize that a friend may not have wanted to leave my side."

Impa opened the door, the creaking of the wood catching her superior's attention. "I feel the sudden need to step out for some fresh air."

"At this late hour!? I must apologize if my self-reflection has become loathsome to hear."

"I have stood by your side since you were very small, do not think for a moment that anything you do could possible drive me to think that of you."

"This house still belongs to you as well… You needn't leave for my sake."

The older woman exhaled deeply. "I believe some time to yourself would be most beneficial at the moment. Besides, I was actually planning on investigating the claims of a ghost that has been seen in the graveyard, anyhow. As the last of my people, this village is still my home and thus my responsibility."

Zelda stood up, causing her mentor to freeze mid-step. She felt a pang of guilt, but decided to speak nonetheless. "Why can't I ever do anything right? Is it a curse that the so-called Princess of Destiny be doomed to one mistake after another?"

"The answers you seek cannot be answered by me." Although her tone remained courteous, she spoke firmly. "Nothing is guaranteed in this world, but destiny will always guide us to where we truly belong in the grand scheme of this world."

When the princess did not directly answer, Impa excused herself from the room, using the dim light of the street lamps to guide her way. In the last few months they had paved a small series of cobblestone paths throughout the village and placed a series of oil-burning lights at certain intervals in order to help travelers find their way around at night. Not only did it make the dark less creepy, but the new source of light also encouraged a certain amount of nightlife from the common folks. Kakariko was slowly becoming a real town, and it made the village leader proud.

Zelda sat at the table with her head in her arms as she considered everything that had been said that evening. She slowly came to realize the depth of her own folly, sending a hero back in time to regain childhood at the cost of everything he had accomplished. The princess resolved right then to ensure that no one would forget the name and story of the Hero of Time, but what good would it do for Link, now?

She had banished him to a timeline in the past where his great journey never happened. No one would remember all of the good that he had done for Hyrule, but she was certain now that nothing would ever erase the emotional scars he had suffered in the fight for freedom.

For a moment, the princess imagined herself in his scenario and felt a twinge of dissatisfaction. They had worked to ensure that the Hyrule of today would grow strong and prosper again as it had so long ago, but Link would never see the rebuilt kingdom he had worked so hard to save. All that he had was the peaceful land that didn't need a hero, blissfully unaware of the horrible future that could have been.

The notion made her heart sore, but at the same time it piqued her curiosity. "If I could have done things over again, what would I have done?" she muttered quietly.

Zelda pushed the idea from her mind, knowing that she couldn't have gone with him. At this moment she wanted nothing more then to join her friend in the distant past, but Hyrule needed her more than ever to rule and carry on the Royal Bloodline. While heroes were not needed in these times, the kingdom would be vulnerable with a leader to hold the people together. She had been raised first and foremost as a woman of duty.

Rubbing her temples wearily, the young monarch attempted once again to calm herself. The last remnants of sunlight had gone, leaving her feeling even more alone than before. Zelda took in a long series of cleansing breaths before ascending the stairs, returning to her makeshift room in the house's upper level.

After removing her daywear, the princess removed her royal jewel and bracelets, making certain to remove her hair accessories and earrings too. Zelda shook her hair out, letting the long golden locks flow freely down her back. She rummaged through a small closet of her meager belongings before withdrawing a long-sleeved, light blue nightgown. The elongated dress cascaded around her like the waves of a waterfall as she slid the material over her slender frame.

Zelda wiped a thin layer of makeup from her face using a wet cloth, having become perfectly fine with her more casual state of dress as of late. With no formal events, no castle, and no formal assembly to attend, she had allowed herself more liberty when it came time to choosing her clothing and makeup.

Sitting down on the surface of her bed, the princess took the candle from her bedside and blew on it gently to extinguish the flame, a small wisp of smoke rising to the air. She pulled one leg over the other and pulled the covers over her body, the day's tension slowly draining from her body. Now nestled gently in a nest of blankets, the princess felt her thoughts return to the night's conversation and the memories of the person she left behind.

"If only there was a way I could have gone with him without abandoning my kingdom." She lamented as her eyes slid shut. She chuckled bitterly at the notion before muttering to herself again. "Such a silly wish…"

Although she had been trained extensively in magic, none of her knowledge would provide such a solution to the separation of time and space. Such things simply did not exist. With a heavy heart, Zelda closed her eyes and drifted off into a deep dreamless sleep, her consciousness fading as the triangular symbol on her hand began to glow.

In a Time Forgotten…

Link sat at a small wooden table, his simple meal largely untouched as he stared off into the distance. The boy had spent quite a bit of time trying readjust to life in the Kokiri Forest, but without Navi he was once again the child without a fairy, and he knew from the Deku Sprout's revelation about his true ancestry as a Hylian. Armed with so much knowledge about the true pleasures and horrors of the world beyond the forest, he could never truly return to being the same person he was before his adventures.

The green-haired girl sitting across from him stood up suddenly, her face displaying an almost motherly expression that heavily belied her child-like appearance. "Is there something wrong with your food?"

"Oh no, it's great!" He stated a little too quickly before stuffing a handful of freshly picked berries into his mouth. The green-clad boy struggled to swallow and gasped for air before forcing it down, a look of relief flashing across his face moment later. "Phew, that was a close one!"

Saria giggled as he fell out of his chair. "While you haven't quite been the same lately, some things never change. I see you're still just as clumsy as ever."

"Unfortunately…" Link shook his head with a dazed expression, gently rubbing the spot where he had bumped it.

Despite his pensive mood, he couldn't help but smile at his lifelong friend. No matter what time line she called home, Saria was still Saria. They had been together as long as he could remember, the green-haired girl having been his primary caretaker as a baby, and later his closest friend. Having spent so much time with her, he had noticed how she always displayed a certain level of maturity that was not so common among her fellow Kokiri. Although he now lived in an era where no one remembered his adventures, she had still been an incorrigible comfort to him.

"Thinking about your adventures again?" she questioned with an eager smile.

"I guess so." He answered, looking surprised that she had predicted his thoughts. The boy shifted into a sitting position on the floor and placed his hands against the ground. "Y'know, I'm still really surprised you believed such a crazy story."

"Even someone like me who spends a lot of time playing in the Lost Woods wouldn't dare to say that I know all of the secrets." She fell onto the soft rug of her home, staring up at the ceiling of her house. "This world is full of wonders beyond our imagination… Things that even the Great Deku Tree cannot fully explain. You've never lied to me about anything before, so why wouldn't I trust you?"

Link stroked the back of his neck and smiled widely. "Guess you're right… I suppose it's not so hard to believe considering how amazing I am!"

"Don't push it." Saria shifted into a cross-legged sitting position, playfully punching her friend on the arm with a wink. "Even if I had a reason to doubt you, the story has way too much detail to be completely made up. Honestly, you were never much of a story teller, and an even worse actor if truth be told."

"Gee, thanks a lot. If I recall, I was cast as the lead during last year's Forest Festival Pageant."

"Would've been more impressive if Mido wasn't the only other choice. Not to mention you were playing the Great Deku Tree in the performance."

"I'll have you know that was the most important role in the whole play!"

Saria shook her head with a false sigh and half-hidden smile. "Even so, you only had three lines, two of which you messed up. Then you and Mido got into a fight when he kept stepping on your toes, and you pushed him off stage."

"I say that was highlight of the performance. No one expected a battle to take place in the middle of our yearly musical."

She placed a hand to her mouth to stifle her giggles, but Link soon joined her in laughing at his past endeavors. Sitting here rehashing old times like this made him feel almost like he had never gone on his adventure in the outside world. Link knew in his heart that he didn't belong among the forest children, and yet it comforted him to be in that familiar environment where he had spent the majority of his life. There were moments that he wondered if he was also trying to use the forest's shelter to run from the life as a Hylian he was certain to live.

As he thought about the situation, the boy's laughter began to die down. At times like this he wasn't certain whether his heart and mind were those of a child or adult. Sure he had been sealed for seven years and thus retained his original mindset, but all of the horrors he had experienced during the war had quickly forced him to accept his responsibilities and grow up.

Being back here in a time where no one remembered these terrible events tempted him to regress to his simpler self from before, and yet the scars inflicted by the future timeline's unspeakable horrors would never completely fade. Furthermore, there was one more piece of his adult self that he couldn't completely forsake.

"Thinking of that princess from your adventure?" Saria asked with a coy smile. She folded her arms and plopped onto the stump in the center of her house. "The look on your face is the same smile you get whenever you talk about that girl from your story. It's also one of the things that makes me certain you were telling the truth."

Link looked up with an innocently puzzled expression. "Huh!? What do you mean by that?"

"As a Kokiri I'm no expert on romantic love, but I do know what true happiness looks like. Something tells me that girl meant more to you would care to admit."

Link looked as though he was about to protest, but after a moment of consideration he seemed to accept it. He might have looked like a child on the outside, but this wasn't something he could simply ignore. Over the years he had learned that hiding things from Saria never worked. She had a way of coaxing the truth out of him, and he wasn't in the mood to resist.

Perhaps it was her sixth sense and unusual wisdom for a Kokiri that allowed her communicate with the Forest Spirits. Among the children of the woods none would have been better suited to serve as the Forest Sage, something that Saria had been delighted to hear when he first told her about his adventures through time.

"I know better than to hide things from my best friend." He replied in defeat.

"To think it wasn't that long ago that you needed me to wake you up every morning just to make sure you didn't sleep the days away. Looks like you've really grown up, Link."

He gave her an awkward half smile, his eyes wandering off for a second. "Try waking up as an adult and learning that the weight of the world is on your shoulders."

"To be honest, I don't remember what it's like to age. Kokiri don't typically keep track of birthdays either."

"That was just an excuse so you don't have to tell me how old you are." Link added playfully.

Saria's shrugged off the intended jab. "Being ageless makes it seem a little silly for most Kokiri to think about stuff like that." She gave him a sad smile. "Besides, we don't know exactly how old you are either."

"Instead we always celebrated the day the Kokiri took me in."

"You were such a cute baby. I remember when you were first learned to walk, and how you used to try to catch my fairy and you certainly came close a few times. You were smart even back then." She ruffled his hair playfully.

"Gee thanks, mom." He replied, causing her to giggle at the comparison.

After a moment she stopped and smiled, suddenly looking much older than usual. "I have to admit, your presence in the forest gave me an opportunity to experience something that no one else around here truly understands. Being born of nature itself, we Kokiri don't typically know what it is like to care for another person so intimately."

"I guess stuff like parenthood and romance are not familiar concepts for people who never age."

Saria suddenly drew herself up to her full height, which was barely equal to his. "I guess having you around taught a lot of things to me. For the next moment I'll be speaking to you as a parent, not a friend." She winked, causing Link to shift uncomfortably. "Your recent behavior makes it obvious… It's high time you paid that princess of yours a visit!"

"What!?" Link choked on the water he had been sipping, the small wooden cup bouncing as it hit the floor.

"You heard me right! I'm sure she's waiting for you to return to her, too."

He looked away painfully, his previous luster disappearing. "She wouldn't remember me…" he struggled to figure out a way that he could phrase the situation without confusing her. "Zelda changed everything back to the way it was before all of those horrible things happened. Even if she exists here, it's not really the same her that I…"

"Fell in love with!" Saria glumly finished his sentence with a shake of her head. Removing her hands on her hips, she crossed the room and yanked Link to his feet, giving him a gentle shake. "If the new you is a quitter, I'm not sure these adventures changed you for the better!"

The Hylian boy looked up with a conflicted expression. "You don't understand… You can't…"

"Maybe that's true, but I know you want to do it, and I know you won't be able to snap out of this funk until you do!"

Link considered the notion for a moment, his face lighting up with a spark of his old childhood innocence and spirit. "Ya know what? I think I'm up for one more adventure!" He smiled widely before heading to the door, stopping on the threshold with his hand on the frame. "The last time I left the forest, you seemed hesitant to let me go. Now you're practically kicking me out!"

Saria's expression dropped for a moment, but she retained her composure. "Just promise me you'll come back in one piece."

"I can handle myself just fine, or are you beginning to doubt my stories already."

"Just get going…" she gave him a gentle shove through the door.

The green-clad boy waved back at her as he headed across the village, earning a soft smile from his best friend in return. She watched his retreating form until the boy had passed out of sight, a frown tugging at the sides of her mouth as she returned to her home. Truthfully she didn't want him to leave her behind, but his stories had awakened something deep inside of her that she was unable to ignore. .

At times she imagined the details of his adventures so vividly that they seemed more like long-lost memories of something that had happened long ago. On the inside, Saria knew that her friend wouldn't be happy living here in the forest for the rest of his life, pretending that nothing had happened. Even when he was a baby she somehow knew that Link was destined to live in the outside world. More than anything, she had hoped he would find true happiness somewhere, and that day seemed to have come and gone.

The Next Day…

Link jabbed the Kokiri Sword over his shoulder almost instinctively as a Stalchild came at him from behind, smashing through it's skull plate without even sparing a glance. Knowing that the undead creature would not go down so easily, he spun around and slammed the side of his shield into its gut, grounding the monster with a sweeping kick to the leg joints.

Having fought so many of these living skeletons in the past, the young hero had learned all of the most efficient methods to taking them down. Compared to the much larger Stalfos, the smaller undead were hardly a challenge, even in large numbers. During his first trip into Hyrule Field, he had been terrified to find himself surrounded by the walking bones, but their fearsome appearance did little to hide their limited movement and fighting skills.

It was almost morning anyway, and he had little to fear from the slow-moving monsters. A few more Stalchildren rose from the dirt as he approached the castle gates, but the sun's light quickly drove them off, their glowing eyes widening in terror at the sight of the dawning star. Scrambling away like frightened animals, the bones sunk back into the dirt, leaving no trace that they had been there to begin with.

Now gazing up at the drawbridge, Link found himself feeling a sense of longing. He had not returned to Hyrule Castle since the day Zelda had sent him back in time. The young hero had spent months trying to readjust to his old life, but he was no longer the same little boy who overslept in them morning and played tag with his friends in the village training grounds. Caught up in his own thoughts, he was unaware that someone had been trying to get his attention.

"Oy there! Did you hear me, boy?" a soldier shouted from the top of the tower, his cries startling the hero back to the present.

"Sorry about that! I came to visit the Castle Town… Does not the drawbridge open at first light?" Link called up to the guard.

"I was jus' about to do that when you was grappling with those monsters. Gotta say, that was some impressive display of fighting skills! We could always use a strapping young lad like you in the Hyrulean Army, I'll tell ya that!"

Link thought about the idea for a moment, quietly wondering what he was planning on doing with his life. All he could do was smile. "Thanks for the mention, I'll keep it in mind some other time."

The gate guard let out a loud booming laugh. "You're still a little young fer that, but I like your enthusiasm!" the older man chortled before pulling at the winch, the chains releasing the drawbridge into place with a resounding thud a minute later. "Go ahead and enjoy yer visit!"

"Thank you, sir." The green-clad boy replied courteously as he crossed the drawbridge into the normally bustling marketplace.

As he walked along into the main square, his eyes settled on the Temple of Time towering over the surrounding rooftops. While the central street in town was usually very busy during the day, his early arrival gave him the luxury of a quiet stroll. Several merchants were already preparing their shops for the daily rush, but only a handful of people walked the streets so early in the day.

The place was largely unchanged since his last visit, with the exception of a closed sign on the Happy Mask Shop door, but Link's current train of thought was far-removed from the crazy salesman's business ventures. Suddenly, a hand tapped him from behind, causing the boy to jump up with a surprised yelp.

"Good morning, my little friend. I must say, your return to this place was quite unexpected."

Link looked up to see the perpetually smiling face of the Happy Mask Salesman, his heart skipping a beat as he tried to act normal. For some reason the man had always sent shivers down his spine, and this had only gotten worse after the time he returned to the shop without the money he made selling one of the man's masks. Some things were not meant for mortal eyes.

Right now, he was wearing a large pack on his back as if preparing for a long journey, the presence of several masks implying that it was business related. "Oho, so it is you!?"

"Do I know you?" the hero blinked twice with a sense of childish confusion "Do you know me!?

"Such a simple pair of questions, and yet to answer it would probably take more time than I feel should be necessary. Something tells me you could answer them yourself, with some hesitation due to the circumstances involved."

The green-clad boy considered the notion himself before grasping his temples and shaking his head irritably. "Just what do you mean by that?"

"Good question… Perhaps I'm just throwing words around for the sake of fun."

"It's not fun for me!" Link retaliated angrily. At first he wondered if the man knew about his previous adventures, but now it felt more like the odd mask man was messing around. "Never mind…" he seethed with a forced smile. "Is there something I can do to help you?"

The salesman scratched his chin pensively. "Perhaps not at the moment, but something tells me you and I are destined to meet again very soon, and in the most dire of situations, may I add." The boy felt a cold tremor run down his spine, but the man's creepy echoing laugh turned it into a full-blown shiver. "The Goddess of Time is a strange one… Isn't that right, legendary hero?"

Link turned his head with a look of shock, having never expected someone to address him like that here. He scanned the surrounding alleyways for any sign of the strange businessman, but it was almost like he had vanished into thin air. Link had seen a lot of strange things during his journey, but the encounter had certainly been one for the list. Shaking his head to clear it, he decided to ignore the meeting and focus on getting to the castle.

His trek through the front gates had gone the same way it did during his previous visit, and before he knew it, he had already reached the courtyard. Link sidled quietly along the side of a particularly tall hedge, his senses strong and alert. Having crept through the Castle Courtyard before, it was a relatively easy quest to navigate through the brush and into the interior gardens.

After passing the last pair of guards, he took a deep breath and willed himself to continue through the last stretch. Peeking out from behind the last hedge before the inner sanctum, Link stared down the stone corridor and into the small garden beyond, his eyes settling on the girl whose face still filled his mind. Just as when they first met, the princess was standing on the raised stone platform at the end of the garden, her back to him.

As he crept forward as quietly as possible, the young hero hesitated to disturb her, silently wondering if it was only his nerves. Deep inside, he wondered what was going to happen next. Saria might have talked him into following his own heart, but he dreaded that this Zelda wasn't the same person who he had fought alongside and fallen in love with. Without the memories of their time together, she couldn't be…

Sensing an intruder, Princess Zelda turned around with a look of surprise, her mouth opening as she brought a hand to her face. The next thing she said made Link wish he had never came. "Who are you?" she asked with an innocent puzzled look.

Link's heart sank… … …

Note to Readers: Here's my first Legend of Zelda Fanfiction. This story will note cover Majora's Mask since most people are probably already aware of the events. However I plan on expanding the story of Link's life following Majora's Mask using inspiration I received from Zelda Games and other materials.

I think this chapter did a good job depicting some of the relationships between the characters, and in some places it was fun to write. It took me a while to get this one out, but I'm not entirely certain whether I should continue with this. If you liked something about my chapter or have any suggestions for the story, feel free to tell me. Drop me a review if you want me to keep going. Whether or not I do may ultimately depend on how much support I get for this first chapter, so don't be afraid to tell me if you liked it. If anyone wants to critique my work so far, you're more than welcome, but please no flames.