Legend Of Zelda Fan Fiction ❯ The Legend of Link: Lucky Number 13 ❯ What's Done In The Dark. . . Pt. 04: Old ( Chapter 36 )

[ Y - Young Adult: Not suitable for readers under 16 ]

Chapter Thirty-six

So, let's get a few things straight: (1) I wasn't exactly without mystical abilities as once thought; (2) this loophole allowed me to communicate with home, more commonly known as my son; (3) this expenditure of energy cost me more than I realized; and (4) time to get to the point.

Hyrule: A land of magic, wonderment, and a bitter ex-god. During the course of my journey, I began to notice certain things about myself. You see, each day that I awoke, I found that I had aged a little bit. At first, it wasn't that noticeable-a wrinkle here or a spot on my hand there, which was nothing big. Other days, there'd be bigger consequences. I must've aged a century in a night's rest one time, because I barely recognized myself in this stream I had found by the fourth day. But the surface changes weren't that disturbing. It was the stuff beneath the skin that began to wear away at me. My sword hand, for instance, began to ache… and ache… and ache some more. It was even hard to close my hand into a fist after a while. Then, as if that weren't enough, I began to notice tenderness in my knees. Okay, that's an understatement. It took minutes to get to my feet, especially when I had to sleep outside on flat ground.

And that's when it dawned on me: These were the results of my lifestyle. The results from years of fighting had come back to bother me. Keep in mind that, all of this time, I'm telling my son that I'm on my way home. It frustrated me to appear to him in his dreams under one form, but be a completely different one in reality. What would he say when his dad came back a limping prune of a man? And that was if I made it back. I knew something was seriously wrong, internally speaking, when the chest pains began. I had to stop frequently during my trip to catch my breath, not due to fatigue but because it hurt to breathe. Mercifully, this troupe of gypsies allowed me a spot in their caravan when they rode by, and I was able to ride back to Hyrule. Before that, however, I began to do some thinking.

That's when another candle went on. "What did the guy on that roof in Kakariko Village say about Death Mountain?"

I remembered he, and later the guard, telling me that the air up there was poisonous to Hylians. That's why they put the gate up. Kids wandered up there, fell sleep, and never woke up. But wait a second-I had breathed that air for who knew how many days in my quests. I was at the bottom of Death Mountain Crater, inside of the Fire Temple, for god's sake. I knew the air smelled a bit funny, but it didn't hurt me-or so it seemed. It was a frivolous argument then, because the effects were apparent. By the time that I'd reached Kokiri Forest, I had developed this cough. It went amicably with the blinding chest pains caused by the poisons eating my lungs. I may not have been a god, but I didn't need mysticism to know my body. And I knew the effects from those gases were now killing me.

I stumbled across Saria coming back from her meadow, frightening her with my appearance all in the same moment. Heh, I had been walking for so long since the gypsies dropped me off-and my vision being so ruined-that I collapsed in front of her and made note to ask, "Could you not eat me? I have to protect the forest," because I thought she was a monster.

Yeah, replace the dying tree with the dying Hylian. Brilliant! Not.

Reputation can only carry a guy so far and, considering my haggard appearance, mine looked to have dropped me off a good while ago. I awoke a day later to the tune of Saria's ocarina. The song she played appeared muted, which was an oddity considering that she was playing right beside me. Great, I figured, now I was losing my hearing. You could label any number of instances that could cause me to go deaf-not the least of which were probably the few dozen bombs that detonated in my hands or too close to me. Either that or something in my ears was shook a loose during the battles where I was unceremoniously tossed like a salad. But just thinking about that made my old head hurt. From what my right eye-my good eye-could see, Saria had changed a bit. She'd grown her hair out, and gotten a little taller. Heh, that's what Farore meant by "She'll be yours when the time comes," or something along those lines.

"What happened to you, Link?" she sighed, believing that I was still asleep.

"What happened to you?" I mused, startled by the withered tone of my own voice.

She laughed, staring at me with obvious pity. I changed topics in an instant, pining for food this time. Saria smiled, going back to her house and making me a tomato soup. Man, I must've fallen asleep between her saying, "I'll be right back," and leaving to prepare it. Because, the next thing I knew, she was back and that seemed like ten seconds. I attacked the bowl only to find my attack was shaky. Hmm, I thought, this is interesting. Interest would turn into frustration, as I found that I was unable to feed myself with either hand. Neither could stay still long enough to hold the soup in the spoon. I wasn't even fast enough to get my lips to the damn thing to slurp the soup down. And, to top it all off, there Saria sat watching me. Three weeks ago, I had been as agile as ever. Now, there I sat, fed like a helpless child.

I discovered what little pride I had left that day to be ruined. It was broken, shattered into a thousand little pieces and held on the tip of a spoon. So broken down was I that I couldn't even eat soup without assistance. My pride came from the simple things, I noticed. I took pride in buckling my own boots, feeding myself, and the like. But I had it all ripped from me like an apple from its mothering branch. "To hell with this," I told myself after Saria left. "I'm going to that damn fortress and getting back what's mine." First of all, I had to settle up with The Great Deku Tree. Surprisingly, the big tree was brief and to the point when I finally came to stand before him.

"Thou are forest guardian now, Link," he bellowed. "Protect… my… children."

I would've liked to have said, "Look at me! I'll probably see you in a few days." Naturally, I didn't because the tree was dead.

I was responsible for that. While a few moments in the presence of a god can't kill, saturation of their powers into this realm can. And who's the guy that sprang a leak in this realm? Oh, yeah. He's the freak you're still nice enough to entrust with the role of forest protector.

I tried to calm down that day (you know, the one that started all of this), I really did. See, I figured if I sealed myself away in stone-created by my hand, of course-that my powers wouldn't be unleashed. Inside of that sarcophagus is where I would also find the ability to calm down, and make a rational decision. But the more I thought about everything that had transpired the angrier I became. Once I'd snapped and realized that my powers would escape, I tried to push them-and myself-as far away from Hyrule as possible. The problem with that was the merger. My powers merged with the clouds and rained down that gross influx on the earth in my absence. And to make matters worse, the clouds over Hyrule became static. They never moved, ever. Sure, it didn't rain all the time, but when it did, people had to seek shelter or risk those physical effects. Saria had explained that something weird happened with every rainstorm. Some trees died, others uprooted and walked away. Certain patches of grass became carnivorous pits that sprang to life, eating anything in its radius. And the capper to this whole fucked up snowball: Animals that were nice became enlarged and enraged beasts.

Goddamn it! It was like I had brought the second reign of Ganondorf down on the world.

Well, that was all fine and dandy. This just meant that I had to get my stuff together and get back to the fortress a little quicker. Unfortunately, this task would prove easier said than done. On second thought, it wasn't really. I awoke the next day and set out for the Gerudo Valley with a sword on my back, a cloak to keep that frigid summer air off me, and the same violet tunic that Nocturna had made me. Granted, I didn't arrive at the bridge to the valley for a staggering five days, but I made it! I hadn't encountered any freak grass or animals. In fact, I didn't notice anything different at all, sans the cloudiness. Heck, I even slept outside without incident. But that was unimportant now. I had one task and one task only: Get my godhood back. All I had to do was walk across the bridge, then go between the canyons, up the stairs into the fortress, and up another few flights of stairs to my bedroom.

Then why wasn't I doing it?

I just stood there at the edge of the bridge looking up at that tower. There was nothing in there but our old bedroom… that bedroom. I couldn't make my legs move another step forward. My mind was a mess with questions, neatly afraid to face what lie beyond that path between the rocks. The Hero of Time stood defeated before the first blow was ever levied. I'd never given up. So, I picked up my left foot and… stepped back. No, that was the wrong direction. Let's try it again. Same results that time, too. Heh, I was too afraid to see them all living well and happy to stroll in the decrepit, old man begging for table scraps. If I came in, I wanted to come in on equal grounds-not looking like some kind of broken vagabond. Besides, I knew that I'd more than likely try for Cornelius' throat when I saw him, and I didn't need that. Besides, getting killed by him on top of things would've been too embarrassing.

Did I walk away? Yes, I did walk away.

I couldn't handle it. Link gave up. He quit. He tucked his tail and limped home. Get it? Got it? Good, because that isn't the end. Call me old, but it was cold out, which is why I had decided to grab a (my dramatic music) old cloak from my chest in the tree house, as I said earlier. And, in an embarrassing set of events, a breeze came out of nowhere and wrapped it around my head, causing me to tumble down the plank and into the water below. Great, I was already cold, and now I was wet. To stomp my pride even more, I couldn't really get the waterlogged hood off my face. How embarrassing would that be? A print up in the Hyrule Observer about how I'd drowned in a foot of water. "He killed the King of Evil, Ganondorf, but the Hero of Time is no match for a puddle of water," the caption would read.

What's the Hyrule Observer? Gah, keep up. It's something that the locals call a newspaper. Apparently, people like a listing of the day's events and whatnot.

Anyway, I remember hearing someone laugh.

"Let me help you with that," he said, nearly picking me up out of the water. "Like my dad used to say, 'don't run when you can walk.'"

I quit swatting at the soaked piece of hemp draping my face, as my spine locked into position. Removing the hood at long last, there stood a boy before me. At first glance, he looked maybe fifteen or sixteen years of age. But, when you looked at his face, you… no I could tell that he was no older than eleven years of age. I bit into my tongue deep enough to draw blood, making sure that this was no illusion. This was my son, no longer a knee-high little tike, but a slender, tall model of near adolescence. This was my son! His vibrant red hair was now an almost solid white slate of flowing strands, making him seem rather stressed. Gosh, he was almost eye to eye with me at eleven. Maybe that isn't saying much, considering that I was a mere five-foot ten inches tall then. Still, it was taller than I was at his age. So, imagine how big tall he'd be in the next few years. Now, how exactly did I break the news? I never gave him one of those silly nicknames that some parents give their kids, so calling him some unique little name was out of the question.

"I guess this wasn't what you expected to see when I said that I'd be coming back," I said plaintively, watching as his smile turned into an odd sort of stare.

He looked horrified for a moment there. Then a slow, deliberate smile lined his lips, as he visibly lost tension. The hug was a bit unexpected, especially when you considered that I had no intentions of coming back for a while there. The boy did see me, right?

"Let's go tell everyone that you're back!"

"I'd rather not," I nearly fumbled as I spoke.

Link looked at me as though he wanted to question my statement, removing his arms from my being in the same instance.

"Mom figured you'd say something like that," he told me, though, only to mumble, "…if you ever came back, anyway."

"Want me to walk you back home?" he asked in the midst of the awkward pause. "Saria said that you left a few days ago. I must've missed you since I went around Mrs. Malon's farm the long way."

I agreed to his proposal, suddenly feeling very small about my former selfish grievances. The walk seemed a lot shorter, as I listened to him catch me up on the happenings in my former home. You could tell it wasn't a particularly fond subject, because his voice took on a rather cynical undertone. Or maybe that was just my ears deceiving me. Still, the question seemed to be: Why? Why weren't you there, dad? Explain it to me, please? Why did it take you this long to come back? Why do you look like you're about to die? Why do you keep coughing like that? Why? Why? Why! That's all I could hear after a while. I couldn't take it anymore! I finally stopped him to address this all.

"I know that you're disappointed with me," I said softly, as my throat had been coughed a bit raw.

"Not really," he lied, but he did turn around to face me. "But Uncle Vic never let me get too sad."

I crooked my head like a confused animal when he said that. "You've met him?" I couldn't help but ask.

Link nodded, saying that Vic had been at the fortress off and on for the majority of the time that I'd been away. "He and this blue lady were looking for you. Knock something or other… Nocturna! That's it."

From right to left, my confused face moved, as I wondered why exactly they'd go through the trouble (especially since I forgot to ask her when we were together).

"What did they want?" I asked, suddenly feeling a bit agitated.

"They said that they didn't want you to hurt anyone," he shrugged, as if the idea of me hurting someone was an inconceivable concept. "I told them that my dad wouldn't hurt anyone, but they all did that weird grown-up smile."

"And what's that?"

"The one big people smile when they don't want to tell a kid the truth," Link went on to inform me, looking at me as though I should recognize it. He stopped talking at that moment, letting the silence ask what he wouldn't. I immediately thought to make note of his Kokiri-like use of big in reference to adults, but that was more avoiding of the subject than I cared to do.

"They weren't entirely wrong," I replied evenly, noticing the flash of shock that appeared in my son's eyes.

"But killing monsters isn't bad," he offered in protest of what was an answer that wouldn't settle all that well. "You said…"

"A lot of things," I added. "Killing a person isn't that bad, exactly." His eyes slowly bulged, as I continued. "Given the right circumstances, some people have to be killed."

"You…" he swallowed, a bit sheepishly considering his prior confidence, "killed a person before?"

Oh, how I wish it were only one person. I had to be honest, though. I'd ducked and dodged his questions for too long. And considering my condition this may have been the last time to answer them.

"No," I replied, staring at my oddly colored hands as if they weren't mine for a second. I met his eyes, saying, "There's no easy way for me to say this…"

"How could you? You always said to talk about stuff," Link interrupted, looking at me like the stranger I was.

"Circumstances," I began before he interrupted me again.

"Why would you kill people? What kind of circumstances!" This was a change, I remember thinking. Zelda was usually the one blowing up at me. Still, a little shouting was light in comparison to what I felt was warranted.

"I never sought to kill anyone," I replied to my outraged child. "They declared war on us, and I had to do something to stop them…"

"By killing them!" he shouted again, this time tapping that parental nerve that had been dormant.

"Yes!" I shouted back, ignoring the tingle beginning in my chest. "They were killing people that I cared about, and I couldn't just sit there and do nothing! I killed as many of them as I could, all to make sure they didn't make it to Hyrule and kill little kids like you! That's… the circumstance."

"Did…" he paused, as I stumbled back a bit. "Are you all right, dad?"

"Fine," I wheezed, clutching my chest and stumbling back a bit further. That was a sharp one, I thought in reference to the pain. Looking at Link's face, I saw confliction.

"How many," was his question. I didn't respond, letting the silence hang as I tried to catch my breath. "Was it more than two?"

I chuckled despite the burning, as a glimpse of a boy showed through his adult-esque façade. Only a child would think there would be a war with three people. "I… didn't keep count. Just… did… what was necessary."

At this point, it became apparent that my breath wasn't going to come back. I fell back against the wall to Lon-Lon Ranch, coughing ridiculously. Fantastic! I'm going to die while I'm trying to tell my son the damn truth for a change. Oh, you couldn't have timed it any better. His last image of me would be an old murderer. I remember him calling out to me before his image began to lose focus, and I sort of passed out. Okay, so you can't "sort of" pass out. I woke up a bit later on my cot in the tree house with Link slumped on the floor, leaning against the side of the bed panting.

"How long have I been out?" I raised an eyebrow, because, instead of that withered wisp of a voice, I sounded like me. I swung my legs, actually swung them, over his head put my feet on the floor.

"Few hours," Link replied, stunning me a bit considering the amount of daylight left outside.

"How did we get back here?"

"I walked, and you rode on my shoulders." He was obviously joking at a time where it wasn't warranted.

Things seemed to be a little harder to understand, naturally. The boy claimed that he carried me-for half a day's trip in peak condition at least-on his shoulders, and made it to the forest in what had to be a matter of minutes. What the hell was that? The trip had to be a matter of minutes, though. If he had made it in twelve hours, plus the three on my nap, it would've been dark out. I had more questions, but I decided to wait. Link had fallen asleep, and I could ask about what he'd done for me later. It was odd getting adjusted to the lack of aches and pains. Walking over to where my sword laid across the table, I unsheathed it and looked at my face to see if these changes were cosmetic, too. The wrinkles weren't gone entirely, but they weren't as pronounced. You could see the line of my jaw instead of the sagging flesh of an old man. And, to make things more interesting, my hair was no longer blonde.

Even after I had aged like that, my hair had remained the same color and texture as before. The tips had begun to lose color, sure. But that was the holdover from gaining the barest specks of my godliness back. Now, my hair was all but a faded gray. It wasn't quite godly white, but it was a start. That's when it hit me. Ah, ha! If my bedroom was the catalyst by which to return powers, standing by that bridge must've worked to similar effect. Huh? Why would I pass out then? Good question, my observant little friend. I didn't know. My conclusion was good in theory but nothing more. Something had to happen while I was asleep, and that makes it hard to fill in the blanks. Or did it? I heard Saria beginning to ascend the ladder, which shocked me. Usually I didn't hear her until she was right next to me. Goodness, that felt great-to hear something that was crisp and un-muted. She saw me standing there and gasped, but I quickly found that the concern wasn't for me.

She growled a tiny curse, lifting my son up onto my cot. "I told him to stop using so much magic," Saria rambled under her breath.

"Magic," I whispered to myself, remembering what used to be base knowledge. The boy was a demigod. I came up with a new theory on the spot…

"He kept trying to make you wake up with it," Saria replied, though, more offhanded in lieu of watching Link sleep. "Hardheaded little… he knows what happens when he uses too much, but will he listen to me? Nooo, he won't listen to me, just like a certain someone that I told to stop climbing the fences before he hurt himself."

Taking time away from my own confusion, I regarded the sight before me. Saria sat there in the velvety green tunic, with a small yellow butterfly hairpin holding her hair out of her eyes. She just sat there staring at him. No words, nothing-just this nursemaid's attention to his breathing and little pieces of relief flickering across her face each time that he did so. I felt out of place being there, like I was intruding on something that I didn't deserve to see. Saria barely thought enough of my strapping the sword on to ask me where I intended to go. I barely made mention of checking on the forest before she said, "Okay." I made my way into the forest, taking advantage of my renewed physical conditioning. From my brief polling of the Kokiri, I discovered quite a bit about these trees that died.

"Big people were coming and taking them away," the same thing that fairy had said was now repeated by the Kokiri.

In other words, they had begun to log the forest. Hyrule had been steadily expanding since I left, and, apparently, there was a population influx from somewhere. And without The Great Deku Tree to persuade people from entering the forest, Hyrule's biggest untapped source of wood had just been… well, tapped. This was an interesting dilemma. Between these yet-to-be-seen walking trees and the loggers, I had to figure out a way to stop one or the other. Stopping the animate trees required facing something that I didn't want to face in returning to that bedroom. Stopping the loggers required me to do one of two things: (1) Kill every lumberman that came into the forest or (2) go through the legal system. On the Kokiri Scale of Measurement, the forest was about a million feet big. In real size measurement, no one actually knew how big it was. From what I explored on my journey to and from Termina, I'd estimate its size is anywhere from three to as big as ten acres in every direction (using the Great Deku Tree as the epicenter, of course).

So, for three square acres of land-with land owner's tax and city tax-that would run somewhere in the neighborhood of about forty-thousand rupees. Now, if Nabooru hadn't cleaned out our account at the Hyrule Bank, I could foot the bill for that easily. But the question was: How did I go about getting the money without anyone discovering me in town? Over the course of the next few hours, I had the Swishy Sisters sew me a set of pants. They were exactly like the carpenter pants commonly worn around Kakariko, but a bit baggier. The extra slack was to create the illusion that I was bigger than I was. I figured that my face had been changed enough for no one to recognize me if it were obscured by a hood of some sort. I swear cloaks are the greatest gifts that Ganondorf gave me. It had to be modified to fit my sword beneath it, while giving the effect that I wasn't armed. By nightfall, I had dressed in my new costume and set off towards Castle Town.

When you think about it, I had only had (maybe) three hours of sleep and one bowl of soup in the past few days. But I felt great! Well, there was a pain here or there, but it was nothing in comparison to what it had been. I ran almost the entire way to Castle Town, if that's any indication. I made it there the next day, just as the gate was opening. I took a second to catch my breath and to adjust my pants. I'm glad Saria talked me into wearing the tights underneath, because that crabgrass would've chaffed me to no end.

That's a pretty dumb question, but whatever. What good would big pants be without an equally big body to fill them? I had to fill them up with something or I'd look a bit silly, don't you think? Not to mention the fact that I needed something to balance out the bulk the cloak gave my upper body. Whatever the case, things had changed a bit since my last visit. The royalty had expanded the town square, creating a more open space that didn't seem quite so cramped. In the middle of that was a fountain that stood maybe nine or ten feet tall, with the Royal Couple standing atop it with each of them holding a side of the Triforce.

I moved past that swiftly, trying to get a feel for which buildings were homes and which were businesses. Nestled in the corner by the old Bombachu Gaming House was the Bank of Hyrule. They had finally taken my suggestion to heart and posted guards, both of whom I had never seen before. Probably some of that Sermonian stock, which wouldn't have surprised me. At any rate, I went in and went through the paces of identification. Kinda weird, the clerk wasn't Clarence but someone else that I didn't know. He performed his task by sprinkling the identifier powder on the back of my hand, causing the account number to illuminate slightly for verification. We exchanged a few moments of chitchat, mainly about me purchasing the forest. He whistled, wishing me luck with my purchase and warned me to arm myself to fend off these same beasts that I'd been warned of prior. Now, all I had to do was go on over to the court building, give them the transfer number to get the rupees, and get the deed. My plan had not a single flaw, not a single hitch! It was perfect!

"Yeah, with a purchase this size, you have to get the deed notarized by the king and, or, the queen before it can go through."

I felt like hopping the counter and strangling the clerk, but I didn't. Of all the goddamn luck! I had to go right into the damn throne room to face them. I was not amused. I also wasn't about to turn back this time. The way I figured it: I was back to my five-foot ten-inch frame, and no one would recognize me. Plus, I neglected to sign the deed until I had their signatures, so Zelda and Arthur wouldn't notice. This satisfied me enough to make my way on up to the castle.

Insert the song and dance with the guards about motives, and I'm in. I had to leave my sword with the guard that patted me down at the main gate, but that was of little consequence. Walking down the main corridor towards the throne room, you couldn't help being a little disturbed by the large paintings on either side of the room. I knew Zelda had painted each of them because of the eyes. She always drew them so vividly and mixed the colors so intensely until they looked as though they were alive with thought and mood. This was also probably the first time that I was a bit intimidated by Arthur-in the paintings, I mean-but the moment passed.

The servant announced me as a foreigner looking to purchase a spot of land… perfect.

"Must be a pretty big spot if you need to see us," Arthur noted, putting the seemingly light discussion between the spectators on hold, and allowing me to approach.

I handed the deed to the servant that came from his sire's side, sensing his lowly opinion of me from the outset. "You could say that," I replied, keeping my voice short and a bit deeper than usual. I couldn't see the majority of my surroundings because I had the hood pulled down over most of my face, but I got the distinct impression that this was about to get a lot more difficult when I heard Arthur begin to choke after he read the contents of the deed.

"What in the gods' names are you going to do with three square acres of forest?" he shouted, more in disbelief than anger.

His flustered voice amused me in a way, curving my lips into a little smile. "This purchase isn't for me, but certain benefactors," I answered him, this time with an indifferent tune to my voice.

"If I sign this, our loggers are going to have to travel a great deal out of the way for our timber," he informed me as though it mattered. "I'm sure we can come to some kind of agreement that gives those forest children a sufficient space to play, or whatever it is that they do."

"Three square acres is my deal," I said curtly, but with no sting.

"You expect me to just turn over one of our largest resources to you…"

"I expect you to obey your laws," I said a notch above him. "Hyrulean Law says that I may purchase any sum of land so long as (1) I don't try to secede; and (2) I give ten percent of all profits earned-if any-to the government of Hyrule. I have no intentions of seceding and I don't intend to sell anything beyond fruit, and the seller's tax covers the state's percentage in that case. Denying this request would be malice in its purest form, because there is a forest north of here that can deliver the same resources at the expense of no one. So, what is the harm in giving the children a guarantee that their forest won't be demolished?"

The air effectively came out of the room, as I didn't need to see his face to know Arthur's expression. I still found it fun to twist the knife a bit with him.

"Heh, so you're well versed in our laws," Arthur said with a rather bemused laugh. "I'll give this some thought…"

"Then I'll sign it," Zelda interjects simply. "Understand, if your claims are false the forest will be confiscated and you'll be thrown in jail for perjury."

I don't recall making an oath that there was another forest, but whatever floated her boat. I agreed to this, but Zelda took it a step further when it came time to get my deed.

"No, he has legs," she motioned to her servant to keep his feet where they were and summoned me to stand before her. "Let this rude little man get it himself."

I ascended the few stairs with grace, standing on the same platform as royalty when it was customary that I should've stopped a step shy and genuflected. Zelda held out the hastily rolled parchment for me to take, and like a fool, I took it with my left hand. While most of my internal problems healed, the Triforce-shaped scar on the back of my hand had not. The good queen gasped, as if shot, when she noticed. My back stiffened, as I quickly tucked the document into my shirt. She was going to make a scene. Wrong. I turned to walk down the stairs, allowing the sun to catch the right half of my face, which surely cleared up any doubts as to who I was to the fair queen. In that split second that her eyes met mine, a wealth of information passed. More important than the information, we reached a silent understanding. She'd give me time to work my problems out without interference, and I was thankful for that.

"Thank you both," I replied in my humblest of tones, bowing at the waist before walking the plush blue carpet to the exit. So close to freedom! So very, very close! That's when she sprung her trap.

"L-Link?" a voice that I never wanted to hear called out to me.

For half a moment, I stopped my stride. It wouldn't even register to the average person. Most people would look at that reaction and figure they had the wrong person. To someone like me, this pause represented correctness. If a person has the greater part of his or her head covered up, there's no visual indication as to who is calling them. There wouldn't be a reason to stutter in their step, because it was a foreign voice. To someone like me-or someone that trained to be me-that damn pause would signify that the person called had recognized the voice calling them, and had probably responded to both the person and name before. Damn, I had to get gone! I didn't want to arouse suspicion, though. I had to walk, not run, to escape without incident. What do you mean? I wasn't being melodramatic… just a coward. I had made it all the way through the gate, down the path to the other gate, got my sword, and was heading out of Castle Town when I heard it again.

"Link," this time the voice sounded desperate, going so far as to snatch the hood from my head in the same breath.

My temper immediately escalated, as I didn't want anything to do with her. In a weird twist, I found that it wasn't Nabooru that had chased me down like some kind of animal. It was Sepaaru. The fact never changed, though. And that was a simple decree to stay away from any and everything Gerudo that hadn't come specifically from my loins.

"Let me guess: This isn't what you were expecting," I replied wryly, mainly to her wide-eyed expression.

Snatching my hood back into place, I remembered that I had to have Zelda's signature copied and filed to records-not to mention sign the deed myself. With this irksome news in mind, I walked back into town and back to the court building. My former pupil saw fit to follow me, yet she said nothing. As I wrapped up there, Sepaaru continued to follow me like some kind of stray animal. In fact, she went so far as to remind me of those dogs that used to pal around back in the day and how they'd follow anyone who made eye contact with them. She never did take hints too well, so I stopped to enlighten her after we were in the field.

"Is there something you wish to say?" I asked, unwavering in my show of disinterest in whether she did or didn't.

"What happened to you?" she'd whisper, still carrying that same stunned expression. "We looked everywhere…"

"Obviously not," I said to get to the point, grinding my teeth as she continued to ramble. "Let's make this short, shall we? I'm powerless. I aged a hundred and something years in a matter of days. Then I came back here a week ago, and a large percent of those years disappeared after I passed out talking to our son. What else? We've covered age, power, and mysterious aging."

"Junior's been with you?" Sepaaru asked on the heels of that, sighing in relief as I nodded. That's when her attitude soured. "What the hell is with the attitude? It's not my fault…"

I laughed mockingly at that load of bull. "Yeah, some friends you all turned out to be."

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"Nothing, it isn't your fault at all." I then turned away from her as I had my fill of the conversation.

By Link's Theory of Life, Sepaaru should complicate that in one form or the other-that theory is seldom wrong.

"No, tell me what it is," she called after me, quickly setting herself in my path.

I went left and she stepped to her right-block. I went right and she went to her left-block. That was annoying in a sense that I didn't have the foot speed to juke her off balance. We know how I deal with roadblocks.

I took a deep breath and just spilled my guts. "Here it is: After everything I did to convince you all to change your opinions of me, you all just lied to me." I dropped the bomb, but my target seemed oblivious. "Damn near twenty years, and not one of you could tell me that my wife was with that… that coward! You looked me in the eye-and did so day after day, ate with me, accepted my gifts with seemingly infinite gratitude-and none of you bothered to pull me aside to give me a clue. I've been here for a week and I already wished that I never came back. Just looking at you is a reminder of the stupidest period in my life, and now what? I can't blow up the world, or anything else. So, please, rest easy and tell whoever that the threat is neutralized."

Whoo! Now, that felt good to get out of my system. It wasn't that three-hour-long spiel that I had worked up on the island. But this was a sufficient vent of frustration. I walked away from Sepaaru feeling like a million rupees. I'd expressed my feelings in a somewhat coherent manner, and I'd all but severed two of my ties with the Gerudo. Those two ties were tolerable, but the rest could burn in the flames of the sun for all I cared. By the time I arrived at the forest, I was exhausted. My tolerance for staying awake and physical expenditure had decreased, I slowly realized. It was still well above most hylians, but it was substandard for me. I spread the word of my acquisition of the forest on behalf of the Kokiri, which got a pretty nice cheer out of everyone. However, my main concern was sleep. And I'd address that as soon as I checked in with the kid.

Sleep. Let me rephrase that. He was still asleep in my bed with Saria. What? No! They were clothed you sick, sick freak! Ugh, you sicken me still. Anyway, my versatility was keen here, as I basically took my nightly rest in the chair at my table. A few hours later, a large percent of the Kokiri Village woke me up standing in my home, staring at me. It was an unnerving experience to have that many little people staring at me all at once. They were there with purpose, though. According to Navi, there was a large group of big girls outside and they looked mean. Well, that wouldn't do. What kind of forest guardian would I be to let my betrayers mob my new home? The kind who discovers his youth was temporary, and found to be a feeble old man once again.

I stood up amongst the confused crowd, ignoring my prop pants as they fell down my emaciated hips, and went to reemphasize my point. There's no way that you can keep your pride when that happens. I'm the hero… who's so old, and so crusty that he couldn't even keep his new pants up! I'd lost so much muscle mass that my tights appeared to be holding twigs instead of legs. And now I had to go face this crowd and speak as if none of that mattered. Somehow, I managed. Seeing as how I didn't get undressed when I came home prior, I still had my tights on beneath the pants. And since the pants were so large, I was able to lift my legs out without too much hassle. Stepping out onto the porch, I found the skittish group of twenty-eight looking about nervously. Probably wondering if they'd turn into beasts or monsters-like the legends say-I figured.

"What do you all want?" was the first question.

Stepping out from the crowd, Sepaaru thrust herself into the role of the group's voice.

"Our king back," she stated in equal tone. I snorted at the notion, going into a painful cough. "But more than that, we want our friend and our teacher back. You said that we only took things from you, but it never meant that we didn't care." I coughed up something in reply to that rubbish. "The things you've given us go beyond nice clothes and food. You taught most of us how to read and write, add and subtract-and that's just to name a few. We didn't feel afraid to complain or speak our minds to you. You exposed us to more than we ever knew existed, and you think that we hate you for it. Why would we hate someone who has done so much for us? Not telling you about a surprise party is one thing. But you said that we never told you information that we, ourselves, didn't have!"

"Heh, someone's been reading," I mused, mainly to myself in light of how my rugged little student spoke so confidently. "She told you more about our lives than she did me. And now I'm supposed to believe that no one, not a single one of you knew? You're the tightest sect of people in Hyrule when it comes to guarding your own, period."

"Then why are we here groveling before the, supposed, outsider instead of at home with our sister?" Check and mate, the match goes to Sepaaru for crippling the old man in his tracks.

I hate it when that happens. Where was the argument? I couldn't claim to be stupid enough to miss the sincerity in their eyes, even if my eyesight was blurry. Ah, here's where Link links two completely different things together to make a point. Unfortunately, when I do this the point is never really pointed. It's just kinda dull.

"So, is this the big part where everyone denounces the queen and sides with the broken king?"

"Yes," the group answers.

I wanted to say something nasty, something so spiteful that they'd all leave me alone. But I couldn't do it. As wronged as I felt, the only thing I could actually find the will to do was go back inside and speak with Saria. By way of The Great Deku Tree, I did have governing power and my decision was law, but I still thought it only right to get a group vote on the matter. The matter, I hear you asking yourself, is a bit marred in its intent. With my luck, these weird monsters that lurk about would appear at my weakest moment. So, how do you stop these beasts? Enlist the services of twenty-eight able bodied female warriors to help protect you and the children. No one objected to the suggestion of live-in guards, so I made the introductions and began to make plans to alter the living arrangements. A tour, albeit a very slow one, was also included to show the Gerudo around the forest. I discussed strategic placements of the guards, ending once we reached their temporary abode: The Forest Temple.

Let me get something to drink…