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So we fight again

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He was twelve when Ordo took him in, returning from wars beyond Termina for Hyrule, heading to the small village of mercenaries and their families on the edge of the forest and the plains. The merc would later joke that he had traded a leg for a brother; it took a while, but he learned to laugh and not have his stomach drop at the joke.

Ordo paused the weary horses, turning towards a sound that barely rose about the wind in the forest. Easing himself from the wagon, he limped towards it. A boy sat, hunched against a gangly young horse, furiously eyeing a pile of gear across from him. Ordo was shocked to see that it included a warrior’s full kit—sword, shield, bow and quiver.

“I don’t want to fight anymore,” the boy had whispered when Ordo finally got him to talk. His eyes, blurring with tears he refused to let fall, were old, older than they had any right to be. Ordo had seen such eyes before, but always in much older men, men who had fought for years in wars that no one believed in, least of all the soldiers drafted repeatedly to serve some fool cause.

“Then you don’t have to,” Ordo replied. What else could he say? “Now come, young one.” He pulled the boy to his feet, the horse rising as well. “We shall both go to a place where we don’t have to fight anymore.”

Those old eyes bored into him, but the boy nodded. His gear was unceremoniously dumped in the back of the wagon, and they left, Ordo on the wagon bench and the boy on his skinny horse.

He was fifteen when he told them why he woke up screaming on the nights of the full moon, why the wind out of the desert always made him pause.

The village didn’t know who he was, but they knew he had fought as hard as any one of them, those former mercs, and they kept him as one of their own. There was a group of them, men and women, who would gather when one of them was having a bad day. The first time he had woken screaming at memories of years lived twice, Ordo had taken him to meet them. There were no questions, just knowing looks. No pity, just stories of all sorts, the kind designed to take a boy’s fancy and distract the man within.

Ordo called him little brother, and Faera, his wife, would laugh and say she’d never seen such a mismatched set. Dark-haired and dark-skinned, Ordo stood strong despite his lamed leg, broad in the chest and set heavy with muscle. He was fair, lean and slight, though he came head to head with Ordo by the time he was deemed a man.

He was seventeen when his past came crashing in on him.

A shadow hovered on the edge of the village, and though no one saw it, several felt it. He finally followed the hairs on the back of his neck, stepping into the woods that surrounded the village on three sides.

Friendly woods, not the wild, powerful Forest of so many years ago.

“Link,” the shadow whispered, and he stopped. Shocked. The voice was familiar… but the one to whom it belonged to was long gone, never existed now, except in his memories.

“Sheik…” he stammered hoarsely, stunned at the figure before him, who stood, silent in the trees.

But was it? Anger flared.

“Go away Princess,” he said softly. The figure laughed, sorrow mixed with ill-humour.

“The Princess is in Hyrule Castle. I do not exist for her anymore.”

Silence.

“I was a shadow…” Sheik stepped forward, looking as he remembered, but paler, insubstantial. “And as a shadow I survived the turning back. And now… here I am.”

Eyes as old as Link’s, bitterness and confusion and despair warring within them.

He brought Sheik, trailing and nervous, back to the village. Ordo just raised an eyebrow, Faera clucked over Sheik’s thin figure. And on some days, the select group had a new member.

As the years went, past wounds healed as well as they could. Nights full of dark memories were few, the emotions accepted and their bite dulled. He laughed more, remembered how to take simple joy in the sun and the rain. The Forest had taught him resilience, along with the pleasures of the moment. Saria had shared the latter with him; he didn’t blame Mido for the former.

Sheik had given up the tight-fitting uniform of the Sheikah for the loose garments of the village, rolling large sleeves up with baggy pants falling just below the knee. A skinny waif, topped with a halo of pale blonde air, bare foot even though a pair of boots waited by the back door. No one knew whether Sheik was man or woman, and that was how Sheik liked it.

“I am a shadow. Shadows have no gender.” Sheik had said when Link finally got the other to talk on the matter. “Zelda-as-Sheik was male. Zelda is female. Separate from her, I …” Shrugged. “I guess I don’t know what I am. What I want to be.”

Silence.

“Then just be Sheik.”

Sheikah. The Shadow-People. Sheik was a sheik, a shadow in name and essence. A cipher, one of the old women had cackled at his skinny friend, making Sheik laugh and admit that it must be so.

He sometimes wondered what would have happened if Sheik hadn’t sought him out. Would he have been able to come to terms with the past, confront its pain and move forward, without the help of his friend, the one other person who remembered that time? He didn’t think so. Ordo and Faera had tried, when he told them who he was, but they didn’t remember and he didn’t want them to.

But things were better now. He was even an uncle, to Ordo and Faera’s twins. He smiled, joked, and it didn’t feel like a mask. It was real.

A challenge screamed through the air. A whisper stopped his steps, which sought out the scream’s cause.

“It’s Impa.”

“Sheik?” he asked, shocked, turning to peer into the shadows cast by the tree. Wide-eyed and pale, Sheik stared back, lips pressed tight together.

Impa had made Sheik, made a tool out of shadows to protect the princess. She would use the tool she made again if need be. Because that is what the Sheikah did: always they would protect the royal family. But what happens when a Sheikah is longer sure about that purpose? Why fight when you have been abandoned, cast off even before the world turned back?

“Stay here, in the shadows.” The scream cut through the air again. “I’ll handle Impa; when we leave, look …” he stuttered, throat suddenly dry.

“I’ll watch over them all,” Sheik promised, stepping forward slightly, hands lightly settling on the sides of his face. “Go with the shadow’s protection, Link.” A light kiss on the forehead and Sheik was back in the shadows, the words heavy in the air and full of portent.

Impa was the Sage of Shadow, but Sheik was shadow. They spoke with their sibling, shared secrets kept from the sunlit world and the bright-lives that moved within it. When children disappeared into the dark, lost in the forest or the night, Sheik always found them, following the ripples amongst the shadows and their world.

“I ask them,” shrugging when Ordo asked about it. “After Maron’s son became lost in the woods, they watch for me, mark any path the child should take.”

They were twenty-one—Sheik had taken Link’s age, though at twenty-one Sheik looked the same as at seventeen—when Impa came, following the princess’ dream.

The barrel chested chestnut mare blocked her path, screaming a challenge to the wind. The soldiers with Impa thought the mare was challenging the stallion she rode; the Sheikah knew better, though she could not exactly say why. Upon the first challenge, she had halted the procession, waiting. The skinny filly that Ordo had picked up with the boy had grown as he had, and a powerfully built, confident mare stood in the filly’s place.

A young man in a faded tunic slid past them, quicksilver in the dimming light, and came up to the mare as she began to rear up, to slash out with her broad hooves. His hand on her nose, he calmed her before swinging up on her back.

Patting her neck, he chuckled, turning her towards the village. “You should know better,” he teased the mare before looking over his shoulder, more seriously, “As should have you, Impa of the Shadows.”

She was here to find the Hero, bring him to the castle and then to wherever the princess would send them. The big innkeeper he called brother had frowned, eyes dark in protective anger, when he heard her reasons for being here.

“It is ok, Ordo,” the Hero had said softly, “This is my choice. I chose to fight this time.” The big man was unconvinced, she knew, but he let them go, standing with his wife and two small children as they turned their horses away from town. She thought she saw someone familiar hiding in the shadows, but that couldn’t be. She only knew the Hero in this town.

He waited in the garden, watching the princess speak to the king through the small window. Impa stood on the other side of the castle wall, ready to leap through the window if need be, close to the princess all the same.

No one else remembered, but he knew what a terrible fighter she had become. He remembered her shadows that would slip through unseen and drag the life out of the bright-lives, even the monsters. Her power was greatest of the Sages, save Rauru. Single-minded, determined, even Ganon watched her warily.

A thunderous argument emerged from within the castle, and he turned away from the window. A few moments later, Impa stood beside him.

“You are a brave boy,” she told him, hand tapping the side of her crossed arms. He winced, could not tell her how familiar the gesture and words were, what they had meant at another time. “To come all this way, to save this beautiful land.”

He nodded. She handed him a small object, then started walking. “A gift from the princess. Now come; if the guards find you, they will take you to the king, and there will be trouble.”

He was twenty-one when he faced the princess again, deep within the halls of Time. They were all gathered within the Temple when he and Impa arrived, Sages and the king, counselors, and choice soldiers. They were arguing. Darunia looked bored, Nabooru amused.

The stones reverberated with the voices of a thousand ages, chanting in time with companions across centuries. He had the Ocarina, but playing didn’t feel right. Pursing his lips, he began to whistle, the notes echoing off of the walls, the eerie tune harmonizing with the sounds only he could hear and feel. Silence accompanied him, uneasiness growing on the faces of those who realized that the young man in front of them was older than he had any right to be.

The Master Sword hummed in anticipation, behind Time’s Door. He smiled to himself as he finished Her song.

“It was always meant to be sung,” he said softly, eyes unfocused for a moment before they fixed on Door and the Sages who stood before it, Impa now in their number.

 “So we fight again?” He asked, no one in particular. His voice tired, troubled, excited. Another fight, another test; would this ever end? Silence at his words, footsteps echoing as he walked to the pedestal in front of the door.

Three hollows. Two stones.

He turned to the princess. “Nayru’s chosen,” he whispered softly, and an eyebrow twitched.

“Welcome back, Hero of Time,” she said gravely. Paused. “Faore’s choice.” Just as softly.  He didn’t know what to say, didn’t know if he wanted to speak.

“Brother!” the rumbling thunder of a Goron’s shout, wind gone as Darunia crushed him in a Goron hug.

“Brother,” he gasped back, gripping Darunia’s outstretched arm once he was let go.

He had cleaned up the mess in Dodongo’s Cavern before leaving Hyrule.

Darunia glowered at the small boy. A child. But he knew of Dodongo’s Cavern, and the problems there. How could a child defeat King Dodongo? No help was coming from the King of Hyrule though, his Sworn Brother had forsaken their brotherhood.

“You named me Brother once,” the boy offered, old eyes sad in his young face. “I don’t know if that helps.”

“We were Sworn Brothers, in this Time you speak of?”

“True Brothers, you said. I did not forget.” His quiet fervor spoke of a promise made long ago … or in another Time.

Darunia made his decision. “Come then. We are Brothers still; I will not forget this time. You will need this.”

The Goron’s Bracelet. It hung, heavy, on the boy’s slim wrist, but he seemed familiar with its weight. Further proof, Darunia thought as he watched the boy enter the cavern, that he was who he said.

Letting go, he found Ruto facing him, eyes bright and cheeks dimpled.

“Welcome back, zora-gho.” Zora’s Friend.

He had rescued the headstrong princess as well.

“I did not ask for help!” she scowled, stamping her webbed foot. The boy just sighed, as if he knew how this conversation would go.

“Yes you did, Princess. I found the bottle. And you need to get the Spiritual Stone, so let’s get moving.”

No one had ever spoken to her like that. She glowered at him and stomped ahead. She had been thinking to let him carry her, but there was no way she was letting that rude Hylian touch her now.

He looked relieved, for some reason.

Bright Fish, he was insufferable. So what if he was from the future, or past, or whatever he had said. She was the PRINCESS!

Nabooru grasped his forearms, and he hers in return. The Gerudo queen bowed her head gravely, grinning when she returned upright. He repeated the gesture, smiling softly in return.

The desert and its queen had been his last stop before he returned to the Forest, before he chased the Skull Kid into Termina and its troubles. There had been no need to return to the Temple of Shadow—Bongo Bongo remained quiet, his dread drum silent in its swathing of shadow.

She stumbled over to where the kid knelt, shaking. Din’s Fire, how had he been able to stop the Iron Knuckle?

“Hey kid,” she clasped his shoulder, “What the hell were you thinking? You could have been killed.”

“Just a man, what does it matter?” his reply was bitter, but wry. It sounded something a man, full-grown, would say, not a scrawny boy years from his first beard.

“Some men are worth keeping around,” Nabooru said gravely, deciding to treat this young warrior as she would his older self. “And I am just a thief.”

“But you will be queen,” he straightened and looked her in the eye. “And you must stop Ganondorf.”

Her mouth had gone dry; the boy in green spoke with the voice of prophecy. “How do you know this?”

He turned away, eyes troubled. “I lived the years that no longer exist. I fought Ganondorf, and killed him. Now I fight him this way, by stopping him from getting the Power he had.” His eyes fixed on hers, and she saw the warrior, tall and stern that lurked within the child’s body.

“Now you must fight too, Gerudo Queen.”

He was 21 when Ganondorf raised his banners, coming in from the wastelands Nabooru had exiled him to. He stood at the head of an army of monsters and the dead.

He came for the Triforce.

“No.”

The babbling stopped.

“I will not open the Door. That was how things went wrong last time, and I will not do it again.” Steel in his voice, steel in his hands. Or was, once. Did they not know that he once called down the magic of the goddesses, shot power blessed by the Fairies?

“Besides,” he continued, more softly, “Darunia and Ruto have brought their Stones, but that leaves us one short.”

He had returned the Forest Stone to the Deku Sprout, returning only to his glade, not going into the small village. He couldn’t. He could still hear the soft voice of a child, plaintive and remorseful... Tell Link …  Tell him I’m sorry. Mido.

“I will tell Saria that you are alright, and why you could not see her,” the Sprout promised. “She will understand. Now go Link, find your heart again.”

He had gone to find Navi, but found instead another troubled child, lost in the woods. The Skull Kid had only wanted a friend … would that have been him, if he hadn’t had Saria? Didn’t have Epona?

“Link!” Tiny voices, bright lights, as four fairies whirled through the Temple. Hiding in the rafters, they had waited until the hubbub stilled for them to be heard.

Voices excited, but soft. Not shrill, like … hers.

“Play for us Link, play!” They bobbed around him, and he couldn’t help it. Joy, happiness. Bright days in the glens, cries of joy from the packs of children playing under the protective leaves: the fairies carried memories of better days with them, the simple exuberance of the Forest’s glades.

“What shall I play?”

“The song!”

Of course. Her song, the song. The only song, besides the one that moved, that the Forest knew. He raised the blue Ocarina to his lips. The King gasped at the sight of Time’s gift to the Royal Family.

He played, and the music sang friendship. Darunia chuckled, swayed in the dance.

“Saria … will always be Link’s friend.”

“Link?” The fairies hummed with the magic of the song, magic drawn from deep within the Forest, whose roots reached wide under the earth of Hyrule.

“Link, you must come and get me. I’ll meet you at the Temple!”

The magic faded, fairy lights dimmed. He looked over to the Sages, the King and counsellors still trying to come to terms with what they had seen.

“Guess I’d better go.” Bemused, he played again, the other Forest song. Shouts of surprise followed him as the magic wrapped its vines around him, disappearing together.

They should have known; you can never hold Time.

“Have you returned to the Forest?” Sheik had asked once. He shook his head tersely. Too painful, those memories. Never really a Kokiri, then never really a child. What was the point?

“Think about it,” his friend continued after a moment. “Childhood friendships are important.”

“Which childhood?” he asked harshly. Sheik shrugged, “Both, of course.”

The glade was as he remembered, the magic setting him down as a girl, green from head to toe, dashed in.

“Link!” A running tackle, hug, the enthusiasm of a childhood never dimmed by war and monsters. He held tight, tears in his eyes. Sheik had been right; he should have come back earlier.

The Sages lined up in the Temple had set a pit in his stomach. Foreboding.

“You know why we have been called?” Saria asked, voice trembling but standing strong. He knelt and nodded. She pulled out the Stone; his heart broke.

 “Then we must go,” her eyes serious and only a tremble shook her voice. So brave. Kokiri Queen, if the Forest children would have ever recognized such a title. Forest Sage.

“No Saria, this time we must first say good-bye.”

A gaggle of children met him as he returned, Mido trailing beside. They sought news of Saria, who had gone into the woods to stop the meanies and protect them.

“Saria … S….” Mido brushed angrily at tears. He rested his hand on the boy’s shoulder and knelt, beckoning them all closer.

“Saria cannot come back,” he began, soft in the twilight. “She has gone to protect the Forest and Hyrule with the Sage of Light. She is the Forest Sage.”

Wide-eyes answered him, some filling with tears. Fighting his own he smiled encouragingly at them. When had his voice become so grown-up, so calm?

“She says you are to be brave, to look after the Deku Sprout and one another, and she will always watch over from the Temple of Light and the Sacred Realm. And she says good-bye.”

Calm words, but they could not still the pain.

As he turned to leave, the twins rushed forward. “Mister, mister—if you find a boy named Link, who looks like us, can you tell him about Saria? They were best friends.”

Children who never grow old do not know how to find a child in the body of an adult.

Swallowing words that would do no one any good, he nodded. They smiled, and continued. “And… and tell him we want him to come home. That we miss him.”

Surprise greeted them at the village. Mido strode forward, chin jutted out, demanding answers.

He knelt, the other boy at eye level. “Hello Mido.”

Shock, disbelief. Saria nodded, and Mido paled.

“You can’t be Link—you’re old!”

Head hanging, shoulder shaking, he laughed. “Yes, I suppose I am. I’m sorry it took me so long to come back.”

Mido stared at him, the Kokiri behind him too. And then … he was flat on the ground, laughing and crying with them all.

Children who never grow old may not know how to find the child in the adult he becomes, but they welcome the adult with the child sitting uneasy inside as no one else can.

He returned their embrace, clinging to the friendship he had thought lost, thought he had never had. They tugged him towards the Tree’s glade, to see the teenage Deku Sprout. Taller, but not the behemoth he would one day be. Sprawled in the glade, he laughed and smiled and remembered what it was like to be a child, before Ganondorf had come the first time.

Too soon, time to go. Even he couldn’t stop that. Saria’s goodbye was met with tears, some flowing, some fiercely blinked back. They both promised to come back as soon as they could.

One knew the promise could never be kept; the other wasn’t sure if it would, or when.

He played a new song this time, resounding light to return him and Saria to the Temple. As the Light surrounded them, he picked Saria up; she clung to his neck. No Kokiri could touch ground outside of the Forest and live.

“I will miss …” she whispered softly. “Everything. Everyone. You.”

“I will miss you too, Saria,” he said. “I will always be your friend.”

She smiled, “Me too, Link.”

Then Light all around, calling, and they were in Time’s Temple. Angry shouts greeted him, but the child in his arms stilled them.

No one had seen a Kokiri before.

“Hello!” Saria said brightly, cheeks dimpling as she smiled. “I’m Saria!”

“Is that a fairy?” the red-haired girl asked, eyes wide in wonder. A simple question, repeated so many times over the days, then years.

The Forest protected its children fiercely, the Great Fairies their small sisters. It was rare to see a fairy out of the Forest, and Navi garnered more attention than he did in his bright green attire.

Fairy Boy … Forest Boy. One and the same, really.

Only the Sages, Princess, King and guards remained. None looked happy. Well, he wasn’t either.

Angry, sad, frustrated … yes. Disappointed. Why must this happen again?

“We can only protect the Triforce from within the Temple of Light,” Impa began, voice calm and steady. “Ganon’s power grows, and we must end this, now.”

“You must grab the Sword when the Door opens Brother,” Darunia continued, arms crossed across his chest. “The Dark One will appear once it opens, and we will protect the gateway.”

“Then take my place,” he finished. They nodded, and he sighed. If that was all there was, it was a good plan. Better than the one two children and one lone Sheikah had come up with; but how were they to have known? The goddesses do as they will.

“Get ready. And remember, you must shut the Door when we are all in.” Saria perched on Darunia’s back, her small face serious. The princess stood to the side, her bow drawn and ready.

“I remember this one thing,” she whispered as he looked over. “Let’s hope it’s enough.”

Three hollows. Three Stones.

He raised the Ocarina … and played.

It felt … it felt like years hadn’t moved, hadn’t happened. But as Time stood still, he felt the rush of silent moments, laughter, tears—all the things that mark the passage of lives, that give meaning to the seconds, minutes, and hours that make up the days and years of the turnings of the sun and moon. He heard the chilling laughter of the mask salesman, crooning out the song for him; he felt the wind brought by the Giants’ ponderous pacing. Magic ran through him, calling out the child and sending forth the man.

He wept as he played; Time’s magic did not come without cost. But the memories would remain, for she was not so cruel as to steal them too.

“Do you know the story of the Silver Goddess?” Faera asked, wiping tears from his face in the flickering light of the fire. He was a child again, woken by an adult’s nightmares of bloodshed and war.

He shook his head. She smiled, and told her story. “The Silver Goddess, Time, was once one of us. For how else can the Silver One know how to spin the thread that will see us through our days if she did not live them as well? So the Sisters sent her down, a babe born to Sheikah, Hylian, and Gerudo. They sent her again, stone to become Goron, came to the Zora under the lake, and, for a brief spell, danced among the Forest fairies.

“She learned to love, and hate. She warred with friends, and fought for her clans. And in her last life, she fell in love with a Sheikah prince. But you can’t stop time, and soon the Silver One had to return to the Sacred Realm. Her prince refused to accept this; he sought her out, destroying his people and his sanity in return. He clawed at her heart, for though immortal again, she still loved him. His own time was short—cut down by those who refused to let him kill them in his search for the Silver Goddess, he left this world. Time could not extend his life, but she caught him up before the Gates closed on him and threw him into the stars. His image lies there, and she remembers.

“All things must end, and some remain while others must leave,” Faera smiled softly, “But while Time will not change our fate, she is kind, and she does not take our memories of sunlit days and laughter. She lets us keep our love, as She keeps hers.”

Still air rushed out of the chamber, dark except for a light thrown from the Temple of Light onto the blade. Pristine in the raised pedestal; he heart beat loudly, blood racing.

“Saria …” She looked over; everyone’s eyes on the Temple proper, waiting. Not much time now.

“Take this in with you; remove it from this world.” The blue Ocarina. The king opened his mouth to protest, but the princess spoke first.

“No father, it must go. Me or the Ocarina.”

No choice there, really. He handed Saria the Ocarina of Time, accepted a tremulous smile and the Fairy Ocarina in return. His own had been lost, so many years ago. He would take care of this one, as she would Time’s.

Turning his back to the Sages, he walked into the chamber. There, where once as a boy he pulled the great blade from its rest. Where he had returned, when needed, to turn Time back on itself. And, finally, where he had come to find the princess, to see her cast off the shadow that was now Sheik. Had it been years? The blade reached far, he had felt its pull in Termina, held its phantom weight as he turned Time to stop the Moon from falling. Back again, at any rate.

Fingers traced the leather on the handle, tightened as they reached the cool metal of the hilt. He hadn’t used it this turn of years, but it felt as if he had never left it.

“Hello, old friend,” he whispered, smiling at the thrum of welcome from the blade. Gripping it, he pulled the blade out in a slick, sudden, practiced move, his body remembering what it had never experienced. And then he ran, leaping to meet the shadows that formed in the Temple’s centre.

Blades clashed, and Ganondorf roared in fury. His muscles screamed, for while he knew how to move and dance in the fight, they snapped at the unfamiliar movements. But it didn’t matter; he could feel Time shifting, moving within him so that as he cut and lept, slashed and blocked, the years of fighting that had once toned his body and strengthened his limbs returned and made him the Hero again.

“Link, now!” A bright flash of light, followed by others, and Ganondorf was forced back.

He slammed the Sword into the Triforce in the centre of the Temple’s floor, twisted the blade as he willed the Door to close.

The chamber collapsed on itself, stone groaning as the Door fell, breaking in two and filling the air with dust. The hum of the magic filling the Temple of Light, hidden in Time’s Temple, could no longer be felt. The Door … was no more, was closed. The entrance to the Sacred Realm was gone.

Ganon would have to find a new way in.

“So long as you hold the Master Sword and the Ocarina of Time,” Rauru said solemnly, “You hold Time herself.”

He had wanted to ask something then, but didn’t dare… but, what if he didn’t want to hold Time? Power too great for him.

Raw, wild power, black in its intentions and source, threw him against the Temple wall, slicing at his face. He could feel the blood, warming his face and clotting his eye.

“The Door is closed Ganondorf; you have lost.” His head rang, he barely heard the Gerudo’s furious response.

“What do you think Ganon will do, now that you have lost?” Silence. “The same thing he did last time.”

The princess stood behind him, dozens of small cuts on her arms and face. But the bow stood strong, arrow notched and pointed at Ganondorf.

He walked slowly to the Sword, still locked in the Triforce insignia. Ganondorf trembled in fury and indecision.

“I remember, Gerudo king,” he continued steadily, grasping the blade, but not drawing it. Waiting; would this end any differently? “I remember fighting you in the Time that was; I remember defeating you. But I did not kill you.”

Eye to eye, he wanted Ganondorf’s attention; he needed to know. “Ganon did. You met us in the forecourt, and then he ripped your body open, using your skin and muscles to give form to his spirit. What your body couldn’t contain, he made anew, turning your bone into sinew and reshaping your bones to bear his monstrous body. You did not die honourably, Gerudo king, nor easily.”

A scream of rage and pain, ecstasy and despair.

“I wouldn’t wish that death on Ganon himself.” Pause, nothing. “It happened once, believe me. Do you think he will spare you a second failure?”

Ganondorf stared, shuddered once, and then roared, arms bearing his great sword high to crash it down on him. The princess shouted in fear.

And then the Master Sword cut into Ganondorf’s body, finding the opening the man had purposely left open.

“Not so bad, after all … boy,” the Gerudo cackled, blood pouring out to drip over his hands, to fall between them. He blinked, then pulled back. Dead … but a warrior’s death. A quick death.

Ganon, trapped in the dying body of the Gerudo King, could only scream. He heard the demon’s curses, felt his rage. He knew that sometime, at some point, Ganon would return. Not in his lifetime, but another.

“So it is finished,” the princess whispered, looking down at the man who at one Time bore the Triforce of Power. Din’s choice.

“For now,” he conceded. “I am tired of fighting, princess.”

“Zelda,” she corrected. Paused, stared at what was left of the Door. “I am too. Let’s leave this place, and remember our friends.”

Nodding, he followed her, wiping the Sword on some forgotten hanging and sheathing it in a scabbard he didn’t remember having.

I will come for you and yours, boy-hero, Ganon whispered to the wind. That is my vow.

“I will always be here to fight you, Ganon,” he murmured to himself, to the spirit hurtling itself back into darkness. “I may be tired, but I am not so tired I cannot fight, or help others to do so.”

Time’s last gift to her hero: a boy laughing in a village on the edge of a forest, strong and healthy, bordering on wildwoods. He would grow into a man in this village of goat-herders and farmers. And when darkness would fall over Hyrule, his blood would sing to the moon, calling on the Hero to fulfill his promise.

Link smiled at the sight, then left the blood soaked stones of the Temple, never to return. He was ready to go home, to laugh in the sun again.

An old man walked slowly, through steadily, through the twilight. A blade hung on his back, plain—a warrior’s blade.

The man paused, smiling at something only he could hear.

“Very well,” he whispered, pulling the blade from his back, point to the ground. “Here it is.” One, final thrust into the ground, and the Master Sword stood tall in its new home, waiting for the next hero to be worthy.

“Good-bye, old friend,” Link smiled. “Take care of my children.”

The Sword thrummed its answer, a steel smile as dusk fell. Hero and Sword.

Then just a Sword.