Fandom: The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
Summary: It has been years since Ganondorf was banished to the Sacred Realm, but Link has one thing he must do before he can be at peace.
Notes: This is my first fic in the Zelda fandom; with some canon research and the help of bookofjude's beta-ing I've become quite pleased with it! But since I've lost my game I cannot check on details, so if you see any inaccuracies feel free to point them out.
Last night he dreamt of her again. He never saw her face, not all of it. He could imagine her eyes, her mouth, her hair, but never everything at once; it was as if the memory made a sport of eluding him.
He remembered her warmth, however—her fingers in his hair during those quiet nights, the nights when the war raged on someplace in the distance, muffled for a few brief hours. He didn't know whether she'd held him close to comfort herself more than him.
Today he walked in the grasslands of a country he did not know, his fairy trailing behind in a hot, bored stupor. The world was silent but for the dry stalks swishing past him and the heavy footfalls of his horse. Several sweltering minutes of this went by, and his horse stopped, sniffing around for some nourishment.
Slowly she chewed a long yellow stalk of grass. Then she snorted. The fairy glittered angrily and darted away, as she had been in front of the horse's nose at the time.
"Nothing like the weeds at home, I guess," Link murmured.
The horse's eyes bored into him for so long he got the impression she would have shoved him onto the ground if she had arms. He turned away to squint at the light of the rising sun.
"You're right," he said reluctantly. "What home have we got?"
He mounted the horse and rode on. His fairy fell into stride a moment later. Half the day and half his rations had disappeared by the time Death Mountain rose on the horizon. It was more than a relief to find clear blue sky above it, rather than the red darkness he'd once been accustomed to.
That had been ten years ago. He'd saved Hyrule as a man, and then Princess Zelda had magically returned boyhood to him. But somehow he hadn't been a boy at all. The horrors of battle haunted him. Zelda had often called him courageous, but that made him no less susceptible to the nightmares of zombies, blood, fires, and orphaned children.
And with it all came the unshakable feeling that he simply didn't belong in Hyrule, that something in his life was missing.
So he'd fled. He'd become a wanderer, with no companions but those with him today.
Passing around the mountain, he took a moment to breathe the sweet air of coming spring. He didn't know why he'd waited so long to return; he knew he'd been aching to long enough. But, he realized, it was worth all the aches in the world to return to Hyrule and complete this mission that had been coming to him in his dreams for years.
He kicked his heels, stooped low, and rode full speed toward Kokiri Forest.
Nostalgia grew heavily in the pit of his stomach as the land sped by. He remembered the green pastures, the well-trodden dirt trails, the little flowers and insects, the moaning of cows. By the time he arrived at the great hollow log that served as an entrance to his childhood home, the feeling was only stronger.
He dreaded what he might find on the other side. But she was there. And she would haunt him until he went through with this.
"Are we really returning for good?" his fairy cried. "I can't wait to meet my old friends, I bet they've all—"
"Stay with Epona, please," Link said, and continued on foot.
The fairy buzzed against his ear. "But I'd really love to come! We haven't been to the forest in such a long time—hell, we haven't been to Hyrule in such a long—"
"Navi," he said shortly. "I must do this alone. Now go keep Epona company. Make sure she doesn't wander toward the ranch."
Heedless of her tiny cursing voice, he stepped onto Kokiri ground and immediately came into contact with a red-haired boy, who was guarding the entrance. Despite wielding a wooden sword, he tripped over his feet at the sight of Link and scuttled into some brush.
"Help, help!" the boy shrieked.
"Mido," he said quickly, "you don't need to—"
But the heads of more child-like villagers were popping out of windows and doors, and soon he was confronted with a crowd of little alarmed faces. Mido clutched his sword as though he didn't know how to use it. The others stared in wonder. Some held watering cans and woven baskets filled with eggs. Some were half-dressed with their hair fuzzy and caps askew. Several hid behind trees and even climbed into the leaves for protection.
Of course they didn't know who he was. He shouldn't have suspected otherwise.
A girl was pushing through the group, her deep green hair curled up the same way it was the last time he'd seen her. Link's breath caught in his throat: Saria. He hadn't realized how deeply he missed her until this moment.
"Who are you?" she asked with a hint of recognition.
He swallowed, and said slowly, "My name is Link."
"But... no, you're wrong. Link is one of us. You're too big to be a Kokiri."
"He wasn't a Kokiri."
The children began to murmur. Some of them hurried away in fear. Who is this man? they were surely thinking. Who is this man saying these strange things?
"Then you're the same boy?" Saria asked, breathless. "The same Link?"
It wasn't as if he and Saria would join hands and skip through the trees like before if he were to answer "yes". Even so, "yes" wasn't the whole truth either; nothing he could tell these innocent people would convey the hate, the pain, and the death that had changed the boy they'd known.
He said, "Not quite."
"Then are you his father? Why hasn't he come to visit me? You can give him a slug on the shoulder for keeping me waiting—for keeping everyone waiting! It's what he deserves."
"You're probably right."
"I'll take you to his house," Saria said, already trotting away. "That's what you came for, isn't it? Mido, that vermin, tried to move in—tried to sell Link's things! Well, I told him off for it. He put up a good fight," she added, glancing over her shoulder as they came upon an overgrown tree.
He saw the remains of a small house within the leaves and curling boughs; and a ladder, so short nowadays he hardly needed it to climb it to reach the top, stood erect, bound to the structure by vines. The house was so weathered it reminded him of the dilapidated villages of Ganondorf's rule.
"I made sure no one touched it," Saria said quietly. He saw her cheeks were pink. She wouldn't look at him. "Link was my very best friend. I'm not sure I'll ever see him again..."
It hurt him to think of lying. It would be easy to say, "You will see him again", but hadn't she waited all these years, hoping just that, already? He couldn't burden her with more expectation...
"I'll do what I have to do, and be on my way," he mumbled, and hoisted himself into the tree house, not using the ladder.
The place was exactly the same, if darker and dustier. A candle sat half-burned on the table. The bed sheets were rumpled. A drawing of a fish on a piece of parchment was peeling off the wall, threatening to fall off and land on a pair of tiny leggings bunched on the floor.
It was surreal to be in this box, where the ceiling was low enough it pressed down on his head, and know that he'd lived here.
Automatically he turned to a shelf and spotted what he'd traveled all this way for: a small, sturdy plank of wood, partly hidden behind a plant holder. He grabbed it. He blew on it and the dust flew up and revealed a painting of a young blond woman and her infant—faded, hastily-done, and an all-round disastrous work of art. But to Link it was a masterpiece.
It hadn't been until he learned he was Hylian that he realized who the woman was and what significance the painting held (besides that he'd had it ever since he could remember).
In those dark years of Ganondorf's rule, when Link lay at night, so frightened of his fate that he trembled, he would think of this painting and the woman in it. He would think of what the Deku Tree had once told him—that his mother had brought him to the Kokiri Forest for his safety. The Hylian war had been going strong at the time, and she had traveled through many a peril for his sake.
That had been a comfort in the dead, frightening night. It had been motivation for him to push forward, to fight for Hyrule's people and his mother's honor.
Seeing her face on the wood brought back the memories full force—of swords clattering and the screams of innocents. Mother had a wound over her eye, didn't she? Yes, he saw that in his dreams, too. It dripped onto his face as she clutched his tiny body.
No matter what fears she'd had then, she'd traveled through the dangers of the war to beg the Deku Tree, not knowing whether her journey was in vain.
And now that Link had vanquished those who caused his mother's grief, he was free to lay her to final rest in her homeland.
He tucked the plank into his tunic and made his way back to the curious people outside.
Saria followed him to the forest entrance. She didn't seem to know what to say.
Before he stepped into the log, she exclaimed, "Tell him I miss him."
Link stopped, his nails clenching in the old wood of the passageway. He said, "He knows," and looked over his shoulder to find Saria smiling softly, almost knowingly. "Oh, I almost forgot—"
He would probably regret this; there was no knowing when he would need such a tool again, but looking into his best friend's eyes he couldn't stand the thought of not giving her something to remember him by. He pulled from a clasp on his belt a small wooden instrument painted blue.
Saria's eyes lit up as he handed her the ocarina.
"He told me you like to play them," Link said. When she didn't respond, he quickly left. The ocarina would be safe in her hands.
He would have liked to stay in the village longer, especially having traveled so far. The water and trees had looked inviting, he thought, as he took Epona by the reins and waved off Navi's annoyance at being left behind. And how he longed for a taste of some traditional Kokiri food and wine...
But that had not been his goal. His goal was stowed safely in his tunic.
He would bury this painting in Hyrule. He would pay his respects to the woman who had risked her life for his. He would pray to the Goddesses that his mother lay knowing her son was safe and that he acknowledged the hardships she'd endured for him. Only then would Link find peace within himself, after all these years.