The Lost Woods had not changed in Zelda's century of absence. Gnarled trees still loomed behind veils of fog, wildlife buzzed within pools of shadow, and the inescapable sense of being watched kept the hairs on the back of her neck at constant attention. If it wasn't for Link striding confidently in front of her, she would likely have been lost hours ago. In one of his hands a torch was held defiantly against the whispering mist while the other was wrapped protectively around her own.
It was commendable the ease with which Link moved through this place, his calm demeanor and poised features a welcome island in the sea of anxiety flooding Zelda's mind. It was ridiculous she knew, she had faced much worse than a forest of grinning trees and flickering torch light. Yet there was something about the undulating mists and the unknown lurking beyond that had her head swiveling from side to side like a paranoid doe.
Her distress must have been evident as Link gave her hand a small squeeze, keeping his eyes locked on whatever passed for a trail in this goddess forsaken place.
"Just a little farther," he told her quietly. Despite all his outward calm Zelda didn't miss the fact that Link kept his voice low. It seemed even the chosen hero was not completely impervious to the eerie airs that saturated the wood. Zelda returned the squeeze, ignoring the heat that had blossomed in her chest at the young man's subtle gesture.
Holding hands had been a practical decision the moment Minshi Woods' vibrant vegetation had given way to roiling fog and skeletal branches. If the two were separated the goddess only knew if they would find each other again, and Zelda would rather face a group of angry lynel than spend the night alone in these woods. Still she would be lying to say there wasn't a part of her that was pleased with the physical contact, even if it was temporary.
Something flapped overhead and the princess whirled around so fast she nearly lost her hold on Link's hand. The young man's grip tightened at the last moment, refusing to let her fingers slip away. His cerulean eyes scanned the mists, the torch in his hand hefted like a weapon.
A beat passed in silence. Then another. Finally Link turned away, his eyes sliding to Zelda, the corners of his mouth lifting.
"You alright?" he asked. Zelda cleared her throat and nodded once, embarrassed by her overreaction. For the first time she found herself grateful for the shadows' lengthy reach as they cloaked the tinge she could feel spreading across her cheeks.
"Y-yes. Of course," she responded stiffly. "Let's just keep moving."
Zelda strode stubbornly forward only to pause at Link's side upon remembering that he was the one with the torch. She glanced over at him and he raised a brow, holding the torch out to her with a slightly amused expression.
"Oh stop," she told him, waving a hand dismissively. "That would be a disastrous idea and you know it. Just get us out of these woods." A beat. "Please."
The ghost of a smile slid over Link's lips, a silent sign of his acquiescence.
"Stay close," he murmured, his hand tightening on hers lest she accidentally attempt to yank it free again. She nodded at his back and immediately felt foolish as he could not see the gesture, her cheeks having gone red again at the gentle protectiveness in his words… What a hopeless case she was.
The shadows cast by the torch's flickering light leapt and danced across the surface of the mist, creating the illusion of figures writhing sorrowfully just beyond the tendrils of fog. Over the whine of the wind Zelda thought she could hear the sound of high-pitched laughter, sharp like the snap of dry twigs, echo from somewhere in the dark. The princess suppressed a shudder and moved a little closer to Link.
At long last the massive hollowed out log that marked the tunnel to Korok Village materialized in front of them and Zelda released a breath, patting the old bark fondly as the shroud around them dissipated.
"At last," she breathed.
Link released her hand and doused the torch, the glow emanating from the village plenty bright enough to illuminate their way.
"Shall we?" he asked her, gesturing toward the tunnel. Zelda smiled at him.
As Korok Village opened around them Zelda felt a wave of emotion wash over her as thoroughly as if she had submerged herself in the Hylian sea. The last time she had stood beneath these boughs she had lain the Master Sword to rest until such a time that Link could take it up again. Back then Link himself had been…
Zelda let the thought slide away, not wanting to revisit that particular batch of memories. The champion was whole, unharmed, and presently shooting her an inquisitive look, no doubt wondering why she had so suddenly stopped moving. Lifting her chin Zelda made the conscious decision to leave any dark thoughts back in the fog and together the two stepped into the Deku Tree's clearing.
Korok village seemed the only place in the world that had remained unchanged since Calamity Ganon's demise. The playful rattle of koroks joined the hush of rustling leaves and the bright peal of birdsong, the sounds melding to create a forest symphony in which Link and Zelda's footsteps provided the percussion. Sunlight that had been a stranger to the twisting gloom of the Lost Woods now filtered in abundance through the canopy of leaves that arced high above them. The golden light was complimented nicely by the gentle glow of bean lamps placed strategically about, illuminating the koroks that buzzed excitedly to each other, most flitting shyly out of sight whenever the two drew near.
Link took a deep breath, inhaling the scent of vegetation, damp bark, and mushrooms. This place, with its hospitable denizens all flitting about under the protection of the wise old Deku Tree, was one of the few places the hero could truly feel at ease. His gaze slid to Zelda in time to see the princess's eyes lift from Master Sword's vacant pedestal to the wizened tree.
The Deku Tree's voice was as Link remembered: deep with a rumble like thunder and a sigh like wind through treetops. He spoke only a word and yet somehow a word was all it took. Link watched silently as Zelda took one step forward, then another. Tears glittered in her eyes as she stared at the ancient tree and Link found himself starting toward her, the urge to comfort, to wipe away those tears nearly overwhelming him. At the last moment he held himself back, knowing he needed to give Zelda the space to say what she needed to say.
"Thank you," she breathed, the words bringing the princess to her knees, her hands resting just shy of the empty pedestal. "Thank you so much." All around them koroks were poking their heads from the bushes or hovering just beneath the Deku Tree's boughs in silent observation. The Deku Tree himself released a low hum, a sound that was somehow comforting though he spoke no words.
"You kept it safe," Zelda sniffed. "You kept him safe. Thank you."
High above their heads the Deku Tree shifted his upper branches, sending a rain of wayward leaves floating down around them.
"On your feet Princess," the tree said solemnly. "I played but a small part in this particular tale. The kingdom owes you a great debt. Allow me to thank you on their behalf."
As another tear slid down the girl's cheek Link's resolve shattered, the knight closing the distance between them in a matter of seconds. He moved to Zelda, the princess who loved her kingdom. Zelda, the woman who lived for scholarship and science. Zelda, the warrior who had held off a demon for one hundred years.
Link lowered himself to one knee as each of those truths resonated within him, extending a hand to the princess. This woman…she bowed to no one.
"Zelda," he said gently. The woman lifted her head, her eyes gaining a sense of clarity as they focused on his own. Slowly she set her hand a top Link's, his fingers curling around hers as he pulled her to her feet. Zelda sniffed once before wiping away another tear and gracing Link with a watery grin.
Above them the Deku Tree exhaled in a long, contented sigh.
"Like the sun..." he murmured. "One hundred years was far too great a time to keep from seeing that smile."
Watching Zelda, two spots of color darkening her cheeks at the old tree's words, Link found he quite agreed.
Link could safely say he had never attended anything quite like a korok celebration before, the small leafy creatures going above and beyond to provide their guests with incomparable hospitality. Upbeat melodies were played on instruments crafted from leaves and tree bark, the songs they produced unique in their woodland beauty, as though the forest itself had learned to sing. Mushrooms were served in abundance and it seemed that every time Link would finish off one kabob, a korok was there to supply him with another.
"Natie prepared his finest especially for you Mr. Hero!" they would say with such enthusiasm that Link didn't have the heart to tell them no. It wasn't long before he had been given more mushrooms than his stomach could comfortably handle, Link now resorting to subtle ways in which to stash the kabobs in inconspicuous places when the koroks weren't looking.
Zelda meanwhile had developed a particular fascination with the bean lamps dotting the area and the particulars of how exactly they were exuding light. At one point in the evening she went so far as to grab Link by the arm and drag him over to the nearest one so he could bear witness to her scrutiny. The princess's nose scrunched up as she studied the pod with a fascination only scholars could employ, flitting about the plant like an indecisive butterfly.
"It doesn't seem to be an apparatus," she said to him. "But where does the glow come from specifically? And might there be some way we could harness it as a light source? Or if the light is, as I presume to be the case, merely part of the plant itself, it would likely prove an unreliable resource requiring constant replenishment to be remotely close to useful. Perhaps some sort of outdoor lighting mechanism? Or if the buildings were structured around the plants themselves…but no, that's not practical of course. Besides, I've never seen this grow anywhere but in this village." She sighed loudly, muttering to herself before walking away and giving Link the distinct impression that she had forgotten he was standing there at all.
The young man watched as the princess was immediately swept into conversation with an enthusiastic Chio who seemed to be instructing her on the most prolific methods with which to sprout mushrooms from one's head. The princess responded with an exuberance Link wasn't entirely convinced was feigned, particularly as he watched her produce a small writing pad from her pouch and jot down a few quick notes.
Despite any mushroom misgivings, the entire scene filled Link with a warmth he would have been hard pressed to put into words. Perhaps it was the sense of comfort elicited by the lazily drifting fireflies, or the lilting music played by expert hands. Or maybe it was the nostalgia of similar celebrations one hundred years ago when their whole mission had first come to light. There had been four other faces present back then, faces that time had not, in the end, been able to snatch away from him. They would have enjoyed this, Link thought to himself. He sent a brief prayer to the goddess, silently asking her to watch over the champions' souls as they danced amongst the stars.
"So serious even now?"
The softly spoken question caught Link off guard and he blinked, faces of a century ago replaced by the glow of a horizon aflame with sunset. Zelda was looking at him with eyes a more piercing blue than the purest of Naydra's crystalline scales. Those eyes…how could he have forgotten them, even for a moment?
"Link?" Zelda's voice again, concerned this time. "Are you alright?"
He allowed the corners of his mouth to tilt upward and he nodded at her, shrugging away the stiff posture of a moment ago.
"I'm fine," he answered, deciding to turn the conversation in a different direction. "Did Chio already teach you how to grow your own fungal crown?" Amusement grazed the edges of his words but Zelda actually looked ponderous.
"No," she replied, placing a finger to her chin. "I believe even with the use of proper elixirs such a state is specifically species exclusive…" The princess trailed off as Link raised both of his eyebrows. She blinked. "You weren't serious," she stated flatly, color creeping up her neck at the realization. "And here I am prattling on like a fool."
Link had the decency to look thoughtful.
"You're sure he didn't teach you?" the knight asked quietly, his eyes lifting to the top of her head. "I thought you'd already started."
Zelda blanched, her hands flying self consciously to her skull.
"Started!?" she exclaimed, patting her hair as though some imposing insect had suddenly flown into it. While she was distracted Link plucked a wild flower from beside him and reached forward, tucking the blossom behind Zelda's ear.
"You've already started sprouting flowers," he told her quietly. "I figured mushrooms were next."
Zelda's hand drifted up to touch the blossom now perched behind her ear. Perhaps it was simply the shadow cast by twilight, but he could have sworn her cheeks darkened.
"P-presumably," she stuttered, for once seeming at a loss for words. They were standing awfully close Link realized suddenly, and something about the way the princess was staring up at him had his hand itching to touch her face again. Zelda swallowed, hesitating a moment before she seemed to find her voice.
"Link I… There's something I… Well you see there's something I told the Deku Tree I would t—"
Link had never been so startled in his life and, from the expression on her face, he doubted Zelda had either. Maca had somehow managed to waddle all the way up to them without either hylian noticing, the little korok waving two kabobs at Link as proudly as if he had discovered the Triforce itself.
"I found more mushrooms for you Mr. Hero!" Maca stated excitedly, bouncing up and down as fast as his tiny legs would allow. His heart returning to a normal rate of palpitation, Link leaned down and plucked the mushrooms from the korok's grasp.
"Thanks Maca I'll, er, eat this right away…" he said, hoping the resignation in his voice was not as obvious to the korok as it was to him. Maca released a pleased exclamation before bustling off again, rattling all the while. Link took one look at the kabobs in his hand and heaved a huge sigh. Yet before he had figured out what to do with this particular portion, Zelda had plucked them from his fingers, done a quick onceover of their surroundings, and deposited them into the snarl of vegetation behind her. Link blinked, his eyebrows disappearing into his hairline as the princess merely shrugged, wearing an expression that was a little too innocent.
Perhaps he had not been as subtle in his mushroom disposal as he'd initially thought. The two of them laughed before lapsing into silence.
"What were you going to say?" Link asked after a moment's pause. "You know…before?"
Zelda looked suddenly flustered and she waved her hand dismissively. Link had seen her do this several times in the past, most frequently when she was feeling uncomfortable.
"N-nothing. It was nothing," she responded.
"Come on," she interrupted, grabbing Link's hand and pulling him with no small amount of force toward where the korok instrumentalists were playing. "Hestu has been wanting to teach me his 'shalaka' dance all evening and I will not be partaking in that bit of excitement alone."
"Zelda no, wait that's—"
She whirled on him, blonde hair windmilling about her face as she slammed one fist into her hip, using the other to point accusingly at his nose.
"You follow me from Zora's Domain to Gerudo desert and everywhere in between, including into the maw of Calamity Ganon himself, and you're telling me a dancing tree creature with maracas is where you draw the line?" she inquired incredulously. There was a moment in which Link could only blink dumbly at her before he chuckled nervously, rubbing the back of his head in defeat.
"…Shalaka dance you said?"
Zelda's answering smile could have blinded the stars.
As it turned out, Link was a much more willing participant in the dancing than Zelda had initially anticipated. Hestu, unsurprisingly, was an enthusiastic teacher. The whole thing was really less of a dance and more a vivacious waving of the arms. What followed was an overwhelmingly heartwarming and hilarious scene in which Hestu relinquished one of his beloved maracas to Link, the young man doing his best to match the large korok's spirited energy, his face flushing deeper and deeper red with every second that ticked by.
Zelda would have been remiss to ignore the opportunity and while Link was distracted, she darted forward, nimbly unclipping the sheikah slate from his waist and dancing out of reach.
"Zelda—!" he exclaimed, making a grab for the slate right as she snapped a picture. The resulting image was Link with a comically desperate expression on his face, one hand reaching toward the slate, the other still holding the maraca. Meanwhile Hestu could be seen in the background, a poof of green confetti shooting from the instrument he clutched.
The princess laughed until her belly ached, something she could not remember doing since before the days of the calamity. As she returned the slate to Link, the young man was unable to resist a smile of his own when he saw the picture.
"I suppose you're keeping that?" he asked her quietly, a dash of resignation in his voice.
"Framed on my wall," she responded, her words' jesting solemnity severely diluted by the mischief that sparked in her eyes.
The higher the moon rose in the sky the heavier Zelda's eyelids seemed to become. Suppressing a yawn, the princess made her way across the clearing, skirting a few koroks before settling onto a flattened stump near the base of the Deku Tree. She watched Link as he listened to Maca and Chio chatter, her knight looking more at ease than she had seen him in weeks. This little endeavor had been good for both of them it seemed.
"Has he heard your words yet Princess?"
The Deku Tree's voice was surprisingly quiet and though Zelda shot an anxious glance at Link, it was obvious the hylian had not heard the question. Relieved, the princess shook her head.
"No," she answered. "I…well with everything going on there just hasn't…I mean…opportunities are difficult to come by and I, I just…" she trailed off, feeling about as eloquent as the stump she sat upon.
The truth of the matter was that she feared telling Link the truth; feared how he might react. It was true that her champion had regained the majority of his memories, but that said nothing for the state of his heart. She did not want to assume anything, did not want to tarnish the relationship so blessedly restored to her. Zelda's hands clenched into fists and she drew her legs up against her chest, resting her chin on her knees as frustration knotted in her stomach.
"My apologies Princess," the Deku Tree murmured. "You must forgive the prying questions of an old tree." Zelda shook her head.
"No," she murmured, the word coming out like a sigh. "No, I would ask you to forgive the insecurities of a foolish girl." The tree was quiet a moment, pondering her words before speaking again.
"You know how much can change in the time it takes a leaf to fall to the forest floor, a knowledge you keep more intimately than most. I do not have to tell you that moments like these…" he paused again as the breeze stirred, tenderly picking up the strands of Zelda's hair and blowing them in Link's direction. "…they are precious," the Deku Tree continued. "Just as your words are precious. Do not allow them to crumble into memory while you remain as silent as the flower that shares your namesake."
His words were a gentle precaution yet burdened with a weight Zelda was not certain she could lift with words of her own. So she did exactly as the tree had told her not to and remained silent, suddenly feeling more exhausted than ever. The princess raised a hand to her lips as her weariness took shape in a large yawn. Beneath her the tree bark suddenly felt more comfortable than it had any right to and the only thing she could focus on was how badly she wanted to sleep. From above her the Deku Tree's sigh was like wind through open fields, his voice a soothing rumble that calmed her like a lullaby.
"Rest Princess," he murmured. "Your words will still be there in the morning."
Rolling onto her side Zelda curled herself into a small ball, resting her head in the crook of her arm and closing her eyes. Her breaths became deep and even as she sailed into dreams, carried on a boat of korok song and a hylian's gentle laughter.
As quietly as he could, Link slipped away from Hestu, Maca, and Chio, making his way across the clearing and to the side of his sleeping princess. He had been aware of Zelda nodding off, proceeding to keep a protective eye on her lest she move in her slumber and tumble off the tree. He stared down at the princess now, his chest feeling unusually warm. Zelda's expression was serene in the glow provided by the bean lamps, long strands of hair falling across her face like locks of braided sunlight.
With as much care as he could muster Link lifted Zelda into his arms, cradling her against him as he carried her to the Deku Tree's inner sanctum. Her head lolled against his shoulder and she mumbled something indistinguishable in her sleep. Link felt himself smile, breathing in her familiar scent of flowers and fresh soap.
Pepp rattled up to him as Link stepped into the Deku Tree proper, the korok glancing curiously at Zelda before speaking.
"I have beds prepared Mr. Hero, for you and the princess both," he piped up, motioning him further inside. Link nodded, following silently after Pepp as the korok waddled over to a vacant bed saturated in the ripe scent of tree bark and fresh leaves. Link carefully set Zelda upon the mattress, the princess murmuring softly as he released her. He leaned over, gently tucking the blanket around her shoulders, his fingers lingering inches from the smooth skin of her cheek. His heart started to beat faster, his face warming with a heat that had little to do with the Deku Tree's cozy interior.
"I prepared a second bed for you Mr. Hero, if you would like." Pepp's small voice piped up, jarring Link from the enraptured stupor that had infiltrated his head as thoroughly as the fogs of the lost woods. Clearing his throat, Link gave an abrupt nod of his head, stepping back from Zelda's bedside with uncharacteristic clumsiness.
"Lead the way," Link answered, smiling down at the korok and hoping the little creature correlated the red of his cheeks to the tree's pigmented lighting. Pepp nodded enthusiastically before gesturing Link to follow and rattling away again. The knight took one step after the korok, hesitated, and glanced once more at the slumbering young woman.
"Good night Princess," he murmured before at last turning away and heading after Pepp.
The first thing she noticed was the smoke, great toxic plumes of it billowing into the sky as incensed flames devoured the surrounding plain. In the distance the horizon burned against a blood red sunset as men scrambled like panicked animals in the wake of a storm. The sound of guardian blasts pierced the air, the sharp 'pi-pi-pi-pi' the harbinger of an answering, deadly flare.
She knew where she was. Remembered the stampeding guardians, the burning fields, the hopelessly outnumbered soldiers. The only thing missing was…
His name was a prayer on her lips. She glanced wildly around, aware of the flames closing in on her with every erratic beat of her heart. Even from this distance she could feel their scorching heat, every bit as searing as the depths of Death Mountain.
She spotted Link then, his form silhouetted against the crimson sky. He was a solitary figure, heaving for breath as he stumbled to one knee, supporting himself solely on the strength of his sword.
NO! The word screamed through her mind as she tried to run to him, tried to get her quivering legs to move. Yet she could do nothing, her body frozen in place even as a massive guardian crawled over the debris, its single eye fixed on Link with deadly focus.
She tried to scream but was rendered silent as that mechanical head turned slowly toward her.
Her limbs quaked as she tried to lift her hand, tried to summon the power that had immobilized the monstrosities all those years ago. Yet it was an echo of what it had once been, her power akin to the last gasps of smoke from a once great bonfire. Still she tried, fought, coerced herself into scrounging up what wisps she could. Her hand began to glow with a faint golden sheen, one that paled in comparison to the blaze of surrounding firelight.
The guardian seemed to contemplate her for a moment and then, before her very eyes, it began to transform. Blight burbled up from inside it, oozing from mechanical joints and sockets before falling to the earth in great smoking globs that bubbled and hissed like acid. In moments she was no longer looking at the guardian, but at a face with glowing red eyes and a wild red mane. The face that had haunted her for one hundred years.
Calamity Ganon stared at her, his mouth wide in a garish smile that froze the blood to ice in her veins. In that moment she knew what was about to happen and though she screamed and struggled, she was powerless to stop it. Calamity Ganon's head swiveled slowly back to Link, the hero fighting to rise, to face the scourge on both feet.
Death's prelude a dissonant metronome in her ears, she raised a hand toward Calamity Ganon, tears streaming down her cheeks as she prayed with everything she had for the strength to spare Link. To save him.
The glow around her fingers flickered once and went out.
There was a whooshing sound as cold light flashed, the beam shattering its target and her world in the space of an instant. A leaf, blown from the heights of a burning forest, slowly floated down in front of her and landed with silent finality upon the charred plains. It crumbled to ash as she fell to her knees.
She had failed.
Zelda sat bolt upright, her blonde hair damp with sweat and clinging to her forehead, her heart throwing itself painfully against her ribcage. It took the princess a moment to realize she was not trapped in a field of death and fire, that Calamity Ganon had been stopped and Link was still very much alive. She placed a hand on her chest, forcing herself to take a long, calming breath. A moment passed, a moment in which Zelda forced back the near suffocating anxiety that had accosted her at the sight of those glowing red eyes.
Swallowing the princess swung her legs over the side of the bed, knowing logically that Link was safe, but needing to confirm this fact with her own eyes.
As silently as she could, Zelda crept toward Link's bed, breathing a sigh of relief as her eyes fell on the hero sleeping there. She took comfort in the peaceful expression on his face, drinking in the steady rise and fall of his chest, each breath he took a defiant scream against her nightmare's falsehoods. Her fingers itched to reach out and touch him but she stopped herself, afraid that by doing so she would wake the sleeping knight. She also wasn't entirely sure what Link might do if he woke to find her standing over him like some curious forest creature and her cheeks heated at the thought of having to explain herself.
Zelda turned away, tiptoeing not back to her bed, but instead to the tunnel leading out into the moonlight. She needed to see a sky unhindered by smoke. Needed to prove to her quaking heart that the stars were still there.
None of the koroks stopped her as she made her way toward the empty pedestal. Whether they were sleeping themselves or going about nightly business she wasn't sure, though in truth the princess welcomed the silence. Her thoughts were loud enough on their own.
Sighing Zelda settled down on the smooth stone platform, her fingers brushing the hollow where the Master Sword had slept. The fact that it now stood empty was a testament to the truth of her success. She was not a failure. She had succeeded in every way that mattered, the sword returning to Link's hand and Calamity Ganon's demise proof of that. And yet… Zelda frowned, drawing her knees beneath her chin as the Deku Tree's words whispered through her mind.
"…your words are precious. Do not allow them to crumble into memory while you remain as silent as the flower that shares your namesake."
Her gaze drifted to the silent princess flowers that dotted the stone's border, their petals blowing gently in the nighttime breeze. The Deku Tree had warned her against sharing in the blossoms' silence, but perhaps she could draw inspiration from another of their traits. Had she not spoken to Link of her hopes that the flower might be strong enough to prosper on its own? Should she not expect the same of herself? Should she not find the strength to speak the words that had collected dust on her lips for over a century?
The crumbled leaf from her dream stole into Zelda's mind but she clenched her fists, stomping the image beneath a foot of resolution. She had already proven to herself that she was not a failure, no matter what the nightmares of her past might whisper. She would prove it again by speaking her words and living with the consequences. The result could not be worse than the regret that was bound to follow on the heels of silence and inaction.
Feeling significantly better Zelda rose to her feet, brushing herself off and lifting her eyes to the heavens. The stars winked down at her from between the forests' leaves, glittering like jewels cast into an ocean of velvet.
There was no smoke.
There was no fire.
"I am not a failure," Zelda told the stars, her words fierce in their resolve. She glanced down at the flowers, strong in spite of their fragility yet as silent as the stone beneath her feet. "I will not lose these words to fear and doubt," the princess promised herself. "I will not."
The stars, of course, did not answer. Still Zelda felt a sense of calm that chased away any lingering unease left by her nightmare.
Turning she stepped off the pedestal onto the grassy floor and almost jumped out of her skin as the ground unexpectedly wriggled beneath her boot. It took Zelda a handful of disoriented seconds to realize the thing she was stepping on wasn't ground at all but a hot footed frog. With a startled gasp she leapt backward, the creature croaking indignantly at her before hopping away.
Zelda stared after it, her eyes narrowing as they took in the unusual markings on its back. She had never seen markings like that on a hot footed frog before…Perhaps it was a new sort of species? Excitement coursed through her at the possibility.
Suddenly wide-awake Zelda darted after the frog, cursing herself for leaving her notepad behind in the Deku Tree. She would just have to take as thorough of a look as she could, committing her observations to memory long enough to write them down later. If she could get actually get ahold of it of course, she thought through gritted teeth, ducking under a toppled tree branch as the frog darted beneath it. Her quarry was infuriatingly agile.
The amphibian took a sudden left, changing directions with an unexpectedly swift hop. Zelda pivoted after it, her feet leaving the ground as she lunged for the frog. Hands outstretched, her fingers just grazed the smooth skin of its back before the creature vanished into a swirl of mist.
Instantly Zelda stilled, a cold dread settling into the pit of her stomach as she took stock of her surroundings.
Mist. Coiling, whispering tendrils of mist ebbed and flowed around her like tides on a ghostly ocean. Somehow, in her blind pursuit of the elusive frog, she had left the comforts of Korok Village and wandered back into The Lost Woods' undulating unknown. Whirling around she searched desperately for the path she had taken to get here, but it was already swallowed by the hungry fog, lost beneath a translucent carpet of white and gray.
High above Zelda's head a wind whipped through the skeletal branches of trees that grinned at her through garish, open maws. The rattling of their boughs mimicked the sound of eerie, high-pitched cackling, making it seem as though the trees themselves were laughing at her. The sound seemed to come from everywhere at once and Zelda had the terrifying suspicion that it wasn't tree branches at all. She wrapped her arms around herself, her heart thundering in her chest as she stood disoriented, afraid, and alone.
"Mr. Hero! Mr. Hero it's terrible! Terrible!"
A high, panicked voice yanked Link from a vivid dream of mushrooms and dancing maracas, the knight blinking groggily as a bouncing green face swam slowly into focus.
"Pepp…what…?" Link began, unable to completely finish his sentence due to the haze that still encumbered his mind. He lifted himself onto one elbow, rubbing the sleep from his eyes and tried again. "What's going on?"
Pepp rattled anxiously, still hopping up and down in apparent distress.
"The princess Mr. Hero! She—"
Link was out of bed before the korok could finish, the fog in his head burned away by the alarm brought about by those two words alone.
The champion dashed the short distance to where he had left Zelda sound asleep and safe, skidding to a halt with wide eyes as his worst fears were confirmed.
The mattress was empty.
Zelda was gone.
A/N: Sooo this was originally supposed to be a oneshot. You guys see how well that worked out. Anyway haven't written a Zelda fic in years but I am on such a Breath of the Wild kick right now that I just couldn't help myself. I sincerely hope you guys enjoyed this, I will likely have the final chapter up next weekend sometime.
Go be awesome awesome humans and I will see you in the next/last chapter