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The River Ever Runs

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Zelda feels Link wake up like a jolt of electricity, a sudden gust of wind after a century of stale air, and she knows instantly that they were successful. 

The century stretching behind her seems to shrink into insignificance: he’s back, he’s here, he’ll come for her. She knows it. She knows it just as surely as she feels Hylia’s constant presence flowing through her. Around her the castle shudders as the Calamity realizes it, too, and it explodes outwards in a scream of rage that would have punctured her ear drums, were she still corporeal. It shoots into the sky, determined to break free and descend upon the Shrine of Resurrection—

No you don’t!

She can’t do much else to help him, but this – this, she’s good at. After all, she’s had a century of practice.

She draws on the light within her and yanks the Calamity back like it’s on a leash. The constant struggle is bound to drain her power – and sooner rather than later – but for now, she takes a certain vindictive pleasure in denying the beast what it wants.

If I can’t leave, you certainly can’t. You cannot have him.

It howls and thrashes every which way, seeking to break free with the greatest urgency she’s felt since right at the beginning, but at every turn she rebuffs it, throws it back, pulls it down, and it thrashes ever more violently, desperate for an escape, and then—

And then, something unexpected happens.

The roiling Malice seems to part for an instant, and she sees a man within it.

She recognizes him instantly; the pitch-black armor, the wild mane of red hair – she knows him from every half-remembered nightmare, every monster she’s ever imagined hiding under her bed. Even if she didn’t have the legends she was raised on to guide her, her soul has been awakened. She’d know him anywhere, now. In all her century of waiting, fighting, hoping, she’s never seen this from the Calamity before. For a moment she suspects it’s some trick designed to distract her. If so, it won’t work.

(She shunts it back almost casually as it tries to break free again.)

His eyes are shut, and he is still and unmoving, suspended in the Malice as it churns around them both. It wraps around his limbs, banding across his chest in thin, glowing ribbons and winding its way up his neck to his face. 

This, then, is the source of the Calamity?

But something is wrong. It flows through, not from him, holding him like a web with a thousand tendrils. He –

He is not in control of it, she thinks. She feels Hylia’s presence thrum inside her and knows it at once to be true.

An unexpected burst of sympathy chases that realization. They are each as trapped as the other, here, in the Calamity that has brought ruin on her kingdom. She stretches her power towards him, wondering, feels it brush his skin—

His eyes open.

They’re bright and golden and full of fire. They remind her of the sun she hasn’t seen in a hundred years, and for a moment she almost feels warm. His mouth opens as if to say something, but he never gets the chance. All at once the Malice boils, and he’s jerked away like a puppet on a string, into the swirling black.

It wants to keep him from her. She doesn’t know why; all she knows is that whatever the Malice wants, she wants the exact opposite. She dives after him with renewed vigor, parting the swirling Malice with rays of light.

He’s holding fistfuls of the viscous tendrils, trying to pull them off his chest, but they reattach themselves quicker than he can tear them away. He looks up at her, desperation on his face and in his wide eyes, and without knowing if it’s instinct or Hylia that guides her she reaches.

Take my hand!

She doesn’t have a voice to shout with, but he hears her, he must, because he stops trying to rip the Malice off him and stretches toward her, and as the clinging darkness starts to envelop him completely, she takes his hand in hers—