Soul Shadow (2015)
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It was finished.

Ganondorf had been destroyed and Hyrule was at last freed from his malicious grasp. Every soul in the kingdom rejoiced, and every voice lifted the name of their savior in song. Princess Zelda reassumed her position in the monarchy and, with the help of the other Sages, returned the Triforce—as whole and shining as it had been when the Goddesses first created it—to its rightful place in the Sacred Realm.

Her next order of business was to offer her gratitude to Link, the Hero of Time, who had risked so much—not the least being his life—to defend a land he could have easily forsaken. Link accepted the praise with grace and humility, unaware that his moment in the light was to be intentionally brief. There was the matter of time and swords to be dealt with, and of all the lives in Hyrule, only one had been abbreviated in order to fulfill a victorious destiny.

Zelda, in her wise and patient voice, reminded Link that he had lost seven years of his life in order to be able to wield the Master Sword—the same sword which was now capable of affording everyone in the land of Hyrule a new future, untainted by the existence of Ganondorf.

“Return the sword, and we all have the chance to live those seven years as they should have been, under a free and prosperous kingdom,” she explained. “If you choose not to, then we shall simply move ahead and begin rebuilding what Ganondorf has destroyed, and pray that the nightmares will fade in time . . .”

Link had wanted to argue—felt that he should argue; after all, even terrible events had their place in history, and many good things could arise from such painful lessons—but he was weary from his quest and ready to go home. Zelda seemed to sense his conflict, and she smiled at him kindly.

“My dear Link,” she said, touching his dirty cheek with her gloved hand, “you of all people deserve a second chance. Please, return the sword, and then you will be free to return home. And this time there will be no war waiting for you—only peace. This I promise you.”

Link, reluctant but obedient, heeded Zelda’s admonition and accepted her parting kiss upon his brow. Then he stood and planted the Master Sword into its pedestal.

Seven years flashed backward in streaks of blue and white, memories destined to fade in the march of time unless the sword was drawn again. But Link, now a child with the fiery coals of adulthood rapidly cooling in his head, turned away from the sword and let the doors of the Temple of Time close behind him.

He followed Navi on one last journey across Hyrule Field, heading toward Kokiri Forest. They said their goodbyes on the path that led into the dark hollow of trees, and Link sniffed back his tears until he had hiccups. Navi flew up, sent a burst of blue sparkles raining down onto the boy’s head, and was gone in a twinkle.

Link walked back to his village, fairy-less and forlorn.

His sadness was forgotten a little when Saria ran out to greet him, shouting joyfully at his return. Even Mido seemed glad to see him, though he teased Link about just how dumb a person had to be to get lost in his own forest. Link bit his lip and endured the ribbing—Zelda had said it might be dangerous to mention anything about the quest . . . Wait, who was Zelda again? Yes, the Princess of Hyrule. But the quest . . . Hadn’t it started in the Lost Wood? And hadn’t he gotten appropriately lost in there for a day or two?  

Well, it didn’t matter anymore. His friends were here in front of him, and that was much more important than trying to remember a fairy tale he might have read in some old Kokiri book.

So Link pushed all of those confusing memories to the back of his mind, and there they withered, grew smaller, and eventually disappeared altogether.

Within a year, all that remained were gauzy dreams and distant feelings that seemed to belong to somebody else. Very soon even those went away.



Link went on with his life in Kokiri Forest, perfectly ignorant of what he had gone through to save the future that had now become his present. He never learned that Saria had been vested with the divine authority of Sage of the Forest, for that had happened during his quest, and Saria had sworn an oath to Zelda to withhold those details in order to allow Link a chance at a new life, a clean start. It seemed he had, at least for now.

Time marched on, writing new pages over the ugly ones and obliterating the dismal fate that was almost Hyrule’s future. And while the Water Temple at the bottom of Lake Hylia was cleansed of all traces of Ganondorf’s evil, the secret room at the end of the labyrinth of halls remained untouched, undisturbed, unmentioned. It was lost to time and memory, for all those who knew of its existence had been destroyed.

. . . Or deceived, if even in the name of mercy.



As the peaceful, happy years continued to pass, Link became aware that he was not like the eternally childlike people whom he had known since his infancy. He began to get bigger. He first outgrew his soft brown boots, and eventually the rest of his clothes. He towered over the rest of the Kokiri in a crudely-sewn tunic made from several smaller outfits. His voice cracked and deepened, he got shaggy, and he started growing hair in strange places. He developed a musky scent that made him self-conscious to the point of reclusion. He was awkward and gangly and he didn’t really know what was happening to him or if it would ever stop. The Kokiri began to walk a wide path around the smelly giant in their midst.

Everyone except Saria, that is. She knew a little bit about the Outside and the people who lived there, and she knew that this was the process all Outside children went through in order to become grown-ups. She was aware that she would eventually have to tell Link the truth about his origins, but this was something she desperately dreaded. It would be the beginning of the end, and a small piece of her heart clung selfishly to the boy—her brother, her best friend—whom she had known and cared for nearly fifteen years.

A little bit longer, she prayed. Just let me be with him for a little bit longer.



Winter passed into spring in the lands of Hyrule. The snow melted and the sun grew warm again, and soon green grass covered the rolling hills of Hyrule Field. In Kokiri Forest, however, there are no seasons—only the mysterious, eternal twilight of a summer evening.

It was becoming dangerous for Link now. He was growing foggy-headed and more forgetful with each passing day, falling under the spell of the forest. Saria scolded herself for keeping him as long as she had, and decided one morning to finally address the questions that Link so sorely needed answered.

Taking her tall companion by the hand, Saria led him to the clearing where the Great Deku Tree had once lived, where the Seedling Deku was now happily growing. They sat together on flowering grass and Saria told Link the story of how he had first come to Kokiri Forest as a small baby held in the arms of his mother, a woman who had fled the war that claimed the life of her soldier husband during the dark years of civil unrest in Hyrule. She explained to an astonished—and somewhat relieved—Link that he was not a Kokiri, but a citizen of Hyrule. His mother had encountered the little people who dwelt in the forest and given Link to them, for she knew of the legend that surrounded their realm: those who went in never came out again. This was indeed true of adults, therefore Link’s mother was doomed the moment she chose the forest as her sanctuary. She was not thinking of her own life, but for the life of her child. In her last moment of lucidity, she passed her baby into the care of the Kokiri; then she swooned, her mind left her, and she died. Such was the fate of all adults who wandered into the forest.

The Kokiri sheltered the infant Link and raised him as their own. It was little wonder why he never felt like he fit in, Link realized now. He was the Boy Without A Fairy, the Outsider, the stranger. Only Saria ever offered him friendship and care that could truly pass in the place of family.

But now it seemed that that was all going to change. With tears in her eyes, Saria took Link’s large hands in her own small ones and told him that he could not stay forever, that he must soon leave and venture into the world beyond, where he belonged.

“But I’ll still be able to come back and visit you, won’t I?” he asked.

Saria shook her head slowly. “Once you leave the forest, you can never return. When you pass into the world of adults, you shall become one, and the ancient power that protects the Kokiri does not recognize friend from foe.”

“So I . . .” Link felt dizzy again, and his heart seemed to have lodged in his throat. “I’ll never see you again.”

Saria didn’t answer directly, but the way she looked down at her lap told Link all that he needed to know.

“I see,” he said quietly. “I suppose that’s why I’ve been feeling so strange lately, isn’t it? I’m becoming an adult, and the forest is telling me I have to leave.”

The little Kokiri girl nodded her head. “In its own way, yes. If you stay for much longer, you will begin to forget much more important things than names; how to talk, how to eat, how to move . . . and soon your heart will forget how to beat. You will die with your mind empty and your body a useless shell. And as terribly as I would miss you, I would not wish such a dreadful death upon so dear a friend.”

There was a long silence while Link absorbed the gravity of his situation. Finally he said, “How much time do I have left?”

“Not long. A few days, a week perhaps.” Saria’s face crumpled. “I’m so sorry, Link! I should have told you sooner. I shouldn’t have kept you he—”

“No, hey, it’s alright,” Link hushed, moving close so that he could put his arm around her. He held Saria while she wept against his patchwork tunic, and lifted his eyes up toward the gold-outlined canopy of trees.

It was beautiful in the forest today. Beams of warm sunlight glittered through the cool darkness of the shade. Delicate, beautiful insects danced in the shafts of light while unseen birds called to one another. In the distance was the quiet murmur of a nearby brook. The grass was soft and the air was fresh with the scent of leaves and flowers. This was the only home Link had ever known, and now it was evicting him forever.

He leaned his head against Saria’s, blinking back his tears, and wondered why it felt as if his heart were breaking in half for the second time.

 

Three days later, he stood upon the Kokiri side of the old swinging bridge, a Deku walking stick in his hand, gazing at the path that led through the thick trees to the outside world. He shouldered the pack filled with all of his worldly possessions and a few rations of food, and willed himself to move forward. His feet, however, were suddenly as heavy as boulders and more deeply-rooted than the oldest tree in the forest.

What if there’s nothing out there? Link thought. What if the whole world beyond the forest is gone? I’ll die if I come back, but I could die out there, too. If there are people out there, who can I trust? Saria said that the Hylians kill each other, sometimes even children. My father died because somebody wanted to hurt him. Will somebody want to hurt me?

He was never going to get out of Kokiri Forest thinking like this, he realized gloomily. Only a coward would stand here working himself into an anxious frenzy. He wasn’t a coward . . . at least he didn’t believe so, when it came down to it. But the line between caution and cowardice was a fine one; if only he had assurance that there would be something good waiting for him on the other side . . .

“But I don’t,” he said. “I guess that’s where faith comes in.”

“Faith is always a good torch to carry,” came a small voice, “especially when the path ahead of us seems dark.”

Link turned to see Saria standing behind him, looking up with glistening green eyes. She had only recently stopped crying, he saw. Her elfin nose was pink and her cheeks were flushed. She forced a smile and came forward, taking her hands from behind her back and lifting them toward Link. In them was her small wooden ocarina.

“I almost forgot this,” she said, sniffing. “Take it. It’s yours now.”

There it was, his heart in his throat again. He shook his head. “No, I couldn’t. That ocarina has been in your family for generations. It’s the finest one in all the village.”

“Well, it belongs to you now.” Saria placed it into Link’s big hand and pressed his fingers closed. “When you play it, think of me. Think of all the games we played and the songs we sang . . .” She trailed off and wiped her face on her sleeve.

Link kneeled down and gathered her into his arms, and she almost disappeared in them. “I will never forget you, Saria,” he said, his voice cracking. “I promise I won’t.”

He gave her a final squeeze and pulled back, pressing a gentle kiss onto her forehead. Then he stood and looked toward the bridge. Yes, he was ready now. He took one step. Then another. And another.

In the middle of the bridge he paused and looked over his shoulder. Saria was watching him, hands clasped to her chest, nodding encouragingly despite the tears rolling down her cheeks.

“Farewell, Saria,” said Link. “I’ll miss you.”

You will, but not for as long as I, she thought but didn’t say. She simply raised her hand and waved, and watched as he crossed the bridge and started onto the path. He disappeared into the shadowy trees and his footsteps faded out of earshot, replaced by the familiar sounds of the forest: hooting owls, creaking branches, humming insects.

“Farewell,” Saria whispered, lowering her hand. “May you light the path wherever you go.”


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