Link knew he should have been in pain, yet he felt nothing. Well, that wasn’t entirely true. He could feel water trickling down from the crown of his skull to his toes. This was unusual, seeing has he had just taken his – as Zelda called it – semi-annual bath this morning. Morning…morning… There was something important there. What was it? In the darkness, he considered what it was that made him harp on the morning. He’d had breakfast and taken his bath and then…then what? Link tried to remember but for some reason, his mind returned to the fact that he was supposed to be in pain, yet he wasn’t, and he was feeling water roll on his skin.
Why was it so dark? Link lifted a hand to his face, running his fingertips over his skin. There was a grainy feeling to his cheek, going over both his eyelids. Absently, he brushed it away, surprised at how exhausting it was to move his hand. “Open your eyes,” he hissed to himself, baffled by how loud his own voice sounded. “Just open your eyes and sit up.” Yet, for someone who had defeated hordes of Moblins in times past, he found this task to be incredibly difficult.
Moblins! All at once, the memories came flashing back to him. After breakfast and the bath, there had been a cry from the top tower of North Castle. Suddenly, great confusion descended upon the throne room as dozens of Moblins began swarming in from the hallways, the windows, and every conceivable entrance. There seemed to be no end to them. He remembered the way they carelessly stampeded down the courtiers, all of his friends in the Castle. And Zelda…what had happened to Zelda?
Yes, he could remember that too. He remembered one of them making a grab for her, throwing her over his big, brutish shoulder like a sack of potatoes. She had screamed, tearing at his flesh with her nails, but the hulking beast didn’t seem to care. The scene played out in his mind in full color, despite the darkness forced upon him by the fact that he refused, or perhaps couldn’t, open his eyes. He chased the Moblin bearing the princess down the hall, fighting off the others as they seeped in through the very stones of North Castle. There were just too many of them. He had no way of knowing about the one behind him with the…
Link sat bolt upright, his eyes popping open. He could feel his heart skip a beat as he took in his surroundings. All at once, he realized that the grainy texture on his face was sand and the reason why he felt water on his skin was because he was lying on a beach, right in the place where the waves met the shore. As his eyes scanned the horizon, he saw nothing but a line, dividing the sea and the sky, a perfect, robin’s egg blue sky, not a cloud in sight.
Where was the sun? Link sunk his knees into the sand and turned, trying to scan behind him, but his eyes instead fell on a dense, tropical forest, so thick that he could not see the sky in between the trees. Enormous palm trees shook their fan shaped leaves at him, bowing their narrow trunks like giraffes, bending over to drink. The yellow sand beneath him gave way to rich, black soil, moist and barren, wanting for sunlight.
Slowly, Link rose to his feet. He felt uneasy at first, but gained his balance again. Carefully, he ran his fingers over his shoulder and down his back. For all the strangeness of finding himself on a mysterious beach, he didn’t find it unusual when there was no gash, no cut, no protruding weapon to be found. “Of course not,” he chided himself, allowing his fingers to slip away from his damp tunic, “why should this make any sense?”
He began to walk down the beach, his boots sinking deep into the sand and making a delightful squashing noise as he lifted them. Absently, he ran a hand through his bedraggled, brown hair, wondering where his old green cap had disappeared. This hardly seemed a pressing matter, but Link wasn’t sure what else he could focus his attentions on at the moment. All of this was too surreal and too frightening to think about. And above all people, Link hated to admit to being scared.
The mysterious beach seemed to stretch on to eternity. The landscape was pleasing enough, yet it never changed. Link found himself walking along the same sand, passing by trees which all looked the same. Yet, he knew he just had to keep going. There had to be something else, something was calling to him from the far, unobtainable horizon. And so he walked. And walked. And walked. It was better to stare at the sky. And the ocean. They weren’t as maddening as the trees and the sand.
“Hello, Hero.” Link looked up. Something had changed! Directly in his path now, Link could spy three figures.
At first, he couldn’t make out precisely what they looked like, for some reason, his eyes refused to focus on them. But, blinking and squinting, his foggy vision cleared, revealing the three glowing women standing before him. All three were exceptionally tall and exceptionally beautiful.
The one in the center was perhaps the most powerful presence. She was a statuesque woman with long red hair, pulled back simply behind her head. Her slender, athletic body was draped in a rose colored cape. As she moved, the cape shifted, revealing bright flashes of silver armor, tempered to fit her feminine form. Before her, she held a wooden staff, crowned on top by a glowing bit of gold that seemed to take on a different shape every instant.
To her right was a second woman, equally beautiful, though in a very different sort of fashion. Her hair was a strange, blue color, falling about her bare white shoulders in fat, bouncing curls. She wore a stunning blue chiton with gold pins holding it in place around her bust. A simple silver chain adorned her neck, the charm once again seeming to change shape. In her arms, she cradled a book, nestled there like a child, which she protected.
On the left of the trio was the girl woman. Link supposed she was the fairest of all. In a sense, she reminded him a bit of Zelda, donning the same simple tunics that his beloved princess wore. Unlike Zelda, her hair was an irregular sort of green color, cropped very close to her skull as though she couldn’t be bothered with it, at any other length. No, she didn’t look like Zelda at all, except for her bright green eyes. They were identical to the princess. Directly in the center of her belt was a bronze buckle that also changed shape, glimmering with ethereal light.
“Hello?” Link said, stopping dead in his tracks.
“Hello, Hero,” the redhead repeated.
“Who are you?” Link asked. As the words left his mouth, he knew how foolish they sounded, but it was the only question he could think to ask.
“I am Din,” she replied. She gestured to her right, “Nayru,” and to her left, “Farore.”
“Hello, Hero,” Nayru called.
“Where am I?” Link wondered.
“The Sacred Realm,” Farore supplied. “You’re –”
“Dead,” Link finished for her, uncertain of the truth of his words until he saw the three sisters all bow their heads respectfully. “I’m dead,” Link repeated, his chest swelling with panic.
“Yes,” Din confirmed his fear.
“Stabbed in the back,” Nayru added, opening her book.
“Defending the halls of North Castle,” Farore finished.
“And this is the Sacred Realm,” Link said, looking around. “I thought it would be different.”
“Well, what were you expecting?” Farore laughed.
Link shrugged. “I don’t know. Not an island.”
“Of course not,” Nayru sighed.
“Is this for real? Am I really dead?”
Din rolled her eyes. “Every time. That’s always one of the first questions.”
“Be kind,” Nayru chided her.
“Yes, Hero,” Farore supplied. “You’re really dead, I’m afraid.”
“What’s going to happen to North Castle?” he asked.
“Do not concern yourself with the mortal world,” Nayru told him. “Their concerns are no longer yours.”
“But I have to know.”
The sisters exchanged looks with one another. Din finally nodded and extended her arm out to the water. “Show,” she whispered.
“Show,” Nayru repeated.
“Show,” Farore echoed.
Link turned to look at the water. Before his eyes, the waves stilled. The glasslike surface of the tide started to glow and as the flash of light cleared away, he could see the halls of North Castle, looking into them with a birds eye view. He saw the Moblins running rampant through the corridors, chasing down the courtiers. One chased Nemi into the kitchen. She grabbed a frying pan and tried to throw it at his head. In another corner, he saw Lorenia shrieking angrily as Alrik tried to fend off two Moblins who were ravaging her steamer trunk.
“Zelda,” Link whispered, his eyes racing back and forth to try and find her. He looked up at the goddesses. “Where’s Zelda?”
The water rippled. As Link looked down again, he saw the scene change to the southwest tower, overlooking the courtyard. The Moblin who caught up Zelda around the middle was carrying her up the stairs, showing no concern for her head as he carelessly allowed it to bash into the stones of the tower wall. She was unconscious, oblivious to the indignation and impending terror that awaited her. Link’s mind raced, conjuring up worse and worse fates for her, waiting patiently for the Moblin to arrive at the top of the tower.
“No!” he cried, racing forward, into the water. His fingers passed through the vision of the castle as if it weren’t there. When his hands caressed Zelda’s face, she and the Moblin vanished from sight, leaving Link alone in the ordinary tide which once again began to bob with the gentle waves from the horizon.
“You must not let the living world upset you,” Nayru said gently. “You’ll soon cross over into the underworld.”
“No, I can’t,” Link told her.
“You must,” Din replied. “You’re dead.”
“Zelda is part of a different world now, Hero,” she reminded him.
“You have to let me go back,” Link said, walking out of the water.
“Go back?” Nayru asked, quirking a thin eyebrow at the very idea of it.
“You can’t go back,” Farore said.
“You’re dead,” Nayru answered.
Link licked his lips, looking up imploringly at the sisters. “You have to let me go back, please.”
Din folded her arms. “Why do you need to go back?”
“I have to save Zelda!” he cried.
“There are plenty of people in the castle who will fight for her.”
“But I don’t want to fight for her. I want to save her.”
“Why does this matter so much to you that you would carry this desperation over to the land of the dead?”
“Because…” Link trailed off, fighting for the right words.
“Yes?” Din prompted him.
Nayru leaned forward. “Yes?”
“Because I love her!” he exploded. Silence followed from the sisters as Link listened to his voice echo off the trees. As they did, he realized that although he had never said it to her, or admitted it to himself, his words were true. He was in love with Zelda. Desperately in love with her. Now, as he thought about it, he couldn’t even pinpoint the exact moment he had fallen in love. He had just always felt this way. It was as natural as breathing. When the realization had sunk it, Link felt uncontrolled laughter spill out. There was no way to stop it, he just started laughing and found that he couldn’t stop.
The sisters exchanged bemused looks. “You laugh,” Nayru finally said, pursing her lips together to suppress a small smile.
“Yes,” Link chuckled, “yes, I do.”
“Because it’s so funny!” He struggled to catch his breath, gesturing to his chest. “Me. With no education. With no lineage. With no dukedoms. I love a princess.” He shook his head. “No, not just any princess. I love Zelda.”
“It’s time for you to cross over,” Din said after a moment, as Link’s laughter died out.
“No,” he said, shaking his head. “I can’t.”
“You haven’t given us your reason for why you need to return.”
“Yes,” Link answered sharply. “I have.”
“He loves Zelda,” Nayru told her sister.
“I can think of no better reason for being alive,” Link declared.
Din glanced at Link, then to her sisters. She sighed softly. “Nor can I,” she finally admitted.
“So I can go back?” he asked hopefully.
She took a deep breath. Both Nayru and Farore watched her carefully. “Very well,” she decided at last, waving her hand dismissively.
“Yes!” Link pumped his fist in the air, whooping triumphantly.
“However,” Din said sharply.
Link’s face fell. “However?”
“There is a price,” she said.
“Whatever it is, I’ll pay.”
“What has been done, cannot be undone. We cannot undo death. However, what has not yet happened can be prevented.”
“What do you mean?”
“We are ready to turn back time for you,” Nayru said.
Link furrowed his brow. “Turn back time?”
“Yes,” Farore explained, “we’ll set you down at the entrance to the castle.”
“The attack will begin anew,” Din went on. “All the Moblins you defeated will be restored to life.”
Farore nodded. “You’ll get a chance to start over.”
“And you won’t remember ever being here,” Nayru added.
“But if I don’t remember being here, how can I change things?” Link asked.
“There are an infinite number of possible futures,” Din said majestically. “An infinite number of choices to be made in a single instant. You are not destined to make the same mistakes twice. This time, something will be different.”
“I’ll be able to rescue Zelda?”
“We’ll see, Hero. We’ll see.”
Nayru leaned forward. “Are you prepared to accept our terms?”
“Yes!” Link cried immediately. “Anything, just let me return to save Zelda!”
“Very well, Hero,” Din sighed.
With that, Nayru opened her book. Seemingly out of thin air, she pulled a quill in between her thumb and forefinger. Without dipping it in ink, she began to write in her book. Link felt a strange tingle race across his skin. As he stared at the goddesses, his vision slowly dissolved into a white nothingness. In the water, his reflection rippled and suddenly vanished, leaving behind an empty stretch of sand.
Din sighed, watching as a projected image of North Castle appeared in the water, everything reset to its proper place. The little people moved through the halls, going about their mundane business, blissfully oblivious to the stampede of Moblins about to descend on them. Link appeared at the castle entrance. For a moment, he seemed somewhat dazed, but almost immediately after, he was drawn back into the routine of castle life.
“Do you think he’ll succeed this time?” Farore asked in a gentle, innocent tone as she peered down at the scene.
“Who knows?” Nayru said, shrugging slightly.
“I doubt it,” Din muttered. “He’s already come back here twenty two times now.”
“He’ll get it right eventually,” Farore said, hopefully. “After all, there are an infinite number of possible futures, you said so yourself. Surely there must be one where things work out properly.”
“Maybe…” Din sighed.
“Well, you’re the one who keeps allowing him to return,” Nayru pointed out.
“That is true.”
“Why do you keep doing it?” she wondered.
“Because Link is right. There is no greater reason to live than for someone you love.” Din folded her arms, still peering down curiously at the water. “The power of love is stronger than the Triforce, sometimes.” She watched as the tiny image of Link approached Princess Zelda. Although their voices couldn’t be heard, Din could well imagine the banter they were sharing, like a well choreographed dance, both exciting and quite predictable at the same time.
Farore followed her sister’s gaze. “It is a shame he can’t remember discovering that he’s in love with her.”
“Yes,” Din agreed without taking her eyes off the couple. “Still, every time he returns here, he makes the same discovery. I have hope for them yet.”
Nayru raised an eyebrow once more. “Do you really?”
Din nodded. “Yes. I have a feeling things are going to work out for those two. It’s only a matter of time.”