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Sands of Time

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When Link dreamed, the Song of Time always played in the background. When he dreamed of the Moon falling, of Impa whisking Princess Zelda away, of the darkness stripping Ganondorf’s mortality away to reveal a monster, the song always played, like the Goddess of Time stood beyond his sight with the Ocarina of Time at Her lips. When he was bored or restless, Link’s fingers moved, playing the notes in the wind.

Link heard it now as he struggled to open his eyes. A noisy rush of wind almost drowned it out, even as he felt nothing on his skin. It rang out in time with what sounded like a baby crying. He thought he heard a woman whispering but he couldn’t make out the words, lost amidst the other sounds. Did she say his name? The sounds faded as with each refrain, the Song of Time grew softer and softer. Was there someone out there? Did someone need help? Somewhere, a wolf howled, and the song and the baby and the wind and the woman fell into silence.

One howl, then another, and Link’s sharp ears perked. Time to move. Find the woman and the baby? Wolves...where was he? It didn’t matter. Heroes were just flesh and blood and as tasty as anything else to hungry wolves.

More howls. A pack. Link struggled to open his eyes but exhaustion settled deep him in like he had been fighting for days. Had he? He ached , muscle and bone screaming in protest with each fumbling motion, and for the life of him, Link couldn’t remember why.

Not important. Assessments could wait until he wasn’t about to be eaten. Link dragged his eyes open and blinked at the tan, sandy stone beneath him. It was pale, bleached by moonlight, but Link had traveled through the desert far too many times to not recognize it.

Another howl and Link grunted, pressing a knee under him and pushing up. His knee shrieked at him. His body shook with the strain. Later, later. Another howl, too close. Link wobbled to his feet and looked up.

Even after years of separation, Link recognized the suspension bridge leading to the Gerudo Fortress. How did he get here?

Later. Link looked around and saw the moonlight glinting over too many pairs of eyes, all looking down at him from the valley walls. Survive countless trials to end up as wolf food. Sometimes, Link thought the Goddesses were laughing at him.

Legs as weak as a newborn foal’s, Link ran for the bridge. The bridge itself acted as a good defensive point, with sanctuary just beyond it. Nabooru would help him. He could stay there while he figured things out and not get eaten.

Link flinched when he heard the thud of the wolves leaping to the desert floor behind him. He tried to run faster but he only stumbled, legs too damned weak. He did a quick inventory of his gear. He still had the Silver Sword he gained from helping the Zora in the far east. He still had a forest bow and some regular arrows in his quiver. He still had his bags on his belt, and he knew at least one contained two potions. If only he had time to take one.

If only he had Navi or even Tatl with him to help him fight…

Adrenaline gave him one last push, and he stumbled onto the bridge. Muscle memory had Link whipping out his bow and arrow even as he turned, firing into the face of a wolf leaping forward. The arrow caught the wolf between the eyes, and it fell without a sound.

Six wolves stalked behind the fallen one. They made no move to get closer, eyes and fangs gleaming in the dark. Link cocked another arrow and kept it steady as he crept backward on the bridge. Six turned into twelve turned into six again. Link blinked and the wolves blurred, grey fur blending together before separating again.. Beneath him, the suspension bridge seemed to sway.

If he passed out, he would die. The wolves would be on him before his body hit the bridge, if he even fell onto the bridge itself. Link had not survived everything to die here.

As if sensing his weakness, one large grey wolf began to growl and stalk forward. Link aimed the arrow for what he hoped was between its eyes. Inspired by the lead wolf’s bravery, the others began slinking forward.

Link just needed to make it to the other side. That was all. Just to the other side.

Suddenly, the wolves stopped and cocked their heads. Link paused and didn’t move his aim away from the lead wolf, even as his arms began to ache from the strain. Just as he heard the faint sound of hoofbeats, one wolf yipped and then they all sprinted off into the shadows.

Only thing worse than dying from wolves was getting trampled because he was blocking the bridge. Link’s hands shook as he slid the arrow back into his quiver and put his bow away. The muscles in his legs were cramping as he made it to the other side of the bridge. He crumpled to the ground just in time to see a small group of riders galloping toward the bridge.

I can ask one for help. They all knew him, some more intimately than others. Link squinted as he watched the group approach. Six riders, faces hid by the dark and his own dizziness. Just needed to flag one down without getting ran over. Get to the fortress, rest, find Nabooru, figure out what was going on. Link started to raise a hand, only to drop it when the first rider hit the bridge.

Link knew that face. He had been his executioner, and he had been there in another time when the Sages acted as executioner in his stead. This was impossible.

Link knew he should grab his sword or his bow and arrow or something, but instead he sat, still and numb, as Ganondorf, King of the Gerudo, led his group across the bridge. Link watched as Ganondorf almost rode past him before the Gerudo’s head jerked around, catching Link’s eyes.

He looked young, Link noted as Ganondorf called to the others in his own tongue. He looked different than he did when Link first saw him and definitely different from when Link last saw him. Link tried to wrap his mind around him, but he couldn’t think. He could barely breathe as the Gerudo circled him, similar to the pack of wolves they had just ran off.

Ganondorf was dead. He was defeated twice over . Link had done it, the Sages had done it… Link bowed his head and tried to breathe. He stared at his hands on the ground, and they wavered before his eyes. Ganondorf was dead . This was just a dream. This was only a dream. He was done with this .

“You must be brave, Hylian, to travel this far,” Ganondorf said. Even his voice sounded different from Link’s memories, still deep and rough but without the edge. Link looked up in time to see Ganondorf raise a glaive, slipping it under Link’s jaw. Link held very still as the blade tucked under his chin and pressed up, raising Link’s head so he faced Ganondorf. Like this, Ganondorf on his horse and Link on his knees on the ground, Link flashed back to Ganondorf riding after Impa and Princess Zelda. He had batted away Link like he was nothing. It was that moment of weakness more than anything else which prompted Link to go to the Temple of Time.

He had been too weak to wield the Master Sword then, and he felt far too weak now as he stared into those familiar eyes. Except...they weren’t that familiar. Just like everything else, there was something different about them. Link tried to place it but his head ached dully and there was a sharp blade too close to his throat.

“Are you a spy for the Hylian King then?” Ganondorf demanded. “You have made it farther than any of his others.”

Hylian...King? Link blinked, more confused than ever. There hadn’t been a King in years --

Ganondorf looked young, far younger than Link could recall. He looked as old as Link was, physically.

Something about Link’s expression gave Ganondorf pause. To Link’s surprise, Ganondorf pulled his glaive away from his throat and stared at him with those odd eyes. Link could only blink at him when Ganondorf jumped off his horse and walked toward Link. There were several other Gerudo, and they all pulled out their weapons and aimed at Link like he would leap at Ganondorf. Maybe he would rip out the Gerudo’s throat with his teeth? He dreamed of being a wolf sometimes…

Link had to close his eyes and breathe for a moment. When he opened his eyes, Ganondorf knelt before him, studying his face. “Can you speak, Hylian?”

Link nodded, then grimaced when the world wobbled around him. Ganondorf scowled at him. “Can you speak this tongue, Hylian?”

Link scowled back and nodded again. This time, he had to close his eyes until the dizziness went away. He heard the Gerudo speaking in their own tongue above his head, and he wished he had taken the time to learn their tongue. Nabooru taught him some words, but none worked here.

When Link opened his eyes, Ganondorf glared at him. “Hylian,” he snarled, reaching out to grab Link.

His touch was like playing the Song of Time, was like entering the Shadow Temple, like putting on the Fierce Deity’s mask. Link’s breath caught in his lungs and his hand burned. Around him, the Gerudo began to shout, and Ganondorf’s hand tightened painfully around his bicep. Everything lurching sickeningly around him, Link opened his eyes and looked down at Farore’s mark glowing on the back of his hand.

One of the women whispered something, and Link recognized those words: Marked by the Goddesses. He knew that one in all of the Hyrulian languages.

Link looked up to meet the shocked eyes of his worst enemy, and then he closed his eyes and passed out.

In his dreams, the Song of Time began again.