Posted on September 07 2018 by Adam Barham
Chapter 22: The Trial of a Hero
“So, you’re the legendary Ganondorf?” Link couldn’t help but break the silence. He glanced behind himself, making sure Zelda was alright. Her demeanor, despite appearing as her normal royal mask, still showed hints of mistrust and fear, her eyes constantly glancing at the Gerudo. He’s not that bad so far. It’s been half a day easily. He could have killed us if he wanted to. His gaze turned back to Ganondorf, walking beside him.
The sun shone through the leaves of the Great Hyrule Forest. Link was almost relieved to be in familiar territory again, passing through a small collection of trees just to the east of Hyrule Castle. However, that didn’t stop the exhaustion from creeping in; Zelda had insisted that they make haste to this “Master Sword” she and Ganondorf spoke of, and he had filled his compliant duty.
As you wish, Princess. He stifled a protesting yawn, his body arguing in frustrated disagreement.
“Yes, though I would much prefer if you didn’t call me that.” Ganondorf kept looking forward, as though trying to not draw attention to himself. He occasionally glanced back at Zelda, tensing a bit every time when he would meet her narrowed eyes.
Link hesitated before responding. He knew from Zelda that Ganondorf’s past lives were marked with war, strife, and unease. “I’ve…heard the stories from Her Highness. I understand why you don’t want to be tied to the name.” He paused. “But it doesn’t have to be that way. Everyone is more than a name.”
Ganondorf looked over, looking at Link’s almost naive expression. It’s not that simple. “True. Your past lives have gone by many nicknames, if I recall. Hero of the Skies, Hero of Time, Hero of Light, the list goes on.”
Link snorted in mild amusement. His past certainly was full of verbal fluff. “None of them have used ‘The Hero of Hyrule’?”
“I was wondering the same thing earlier, actually. I believe even many of the old, crotchety royal storytellers would have agreed that title in particular would be repetitive and stale after a while.”
“I suppose that makes sense.” Link chuckled to himself. And here is the story of the 57th Hero of Hyrule, who saved our land from a big wild boar. It wasn’t a creature of Darkness, just really big. Kept leaving droppings everywhere. Yeah, he desperately needed sleep. “So I’m a reincarnation of the Hero then, and I have all these titles?”
Ganondorf opened his mouth in hesitation. “Well…yes and no. You don’t really keep the titles, just the spirit, if that makes sense. You continue the line. It’s the main reason I’m fully aware of who you and the princess are actually. But I am no Demon King.”
Damn. Hero of Time sounded pretty cool. Link nodded. “And, is this ‘Master Sword’ related to us then?”
Ganondorf sighed. “The Blade of Evil’s Bane, wielded by the Hero. Though at this point, it’s almost a rite of passage, as if it was just another task to check off on the list of what it takes to become a hero.”
Link glanced behind him, thinking he heard a small chuckle from Zelda. “I should make that a list and mark it off, followed by ‘Save Hyrule from Insert-Evil-of-the-Generation’ then.”
“Perhaps, if you’re able to pull it from the stone.” Ganondorf turned his attention forward, though, a slight smile crossing his lips. “I’ve never had the privilege to ask a previous incarnation about why they do what they do. To be fair, my previous incarnations had a lust for power and didn’t bother trying to socialize with their enemy. But, I want to know.”
Link paused, glancing forward, a smirk on his face. “I’ve got a lot of people looking up to me. They have been for a long while now.” He thought of his time as nothing more than a Guard at Ordon. He thought of Rusl, and his comrades. Of Kaden. A simpler and easier time. Before he knew who he was meant to be. “And I don’t want to disappoint them.”
“Have you helped to guide them with wisdom?”
What? To him, the question appeared practically out of nowhere, and he knew his confusion had written itself all over his face. Have I helped…have I helped to guide them? He furrowed his brow “I…suppose I did? It’s not necessarily what I was trying to do, but, it just sort of happened.”
“And have you shown the power to protect them with your life?”
“Every day. Why do you a-”
“And is it sufficient to say that you have the courage to protect them, even when the odds are stacked horribly against you, such as during that attack on your village?”
“What are you impl-”
“Then today will certainly be an interesting day.” Ganondorf stopped walking and considered the trees around them. “We’re here.”
Link looked around and stopped. The line between the Great Hyrule Forest and where he stood right now was stark. Twisting, haunting, trees with evil faces and gaping maws riddled with bushes and thorns and veiled with a deep fog.
“Are you sure this is the place? It seems…strange.”
Zelda chuckled as Link tied her mare to a nearby branch. “You must have taken a wrong turn then. Knight, prove me right.”
Link sighed and walked into the forest. He looked behind him to see the fog block his view of Zelda and Ganondorf. He glanced about to see if there was any sign of a path, but he found nothing. He shook his head. Maybe I should think about this outside of here. He turned around and tried to walk out, but the forest continued to surround him. What he thought was the entrance was replaced with trees and fog.
And then he started to panic. Where did… The entrance is gone?! He looked around frantically, searching for any sign of the entrance. But only the fog greeted him, taunting and laughing in a symphony of childlike voices. He twisted and turned, trying to make out what they said, but found himself dumbfounded and confused. He took a step back, only to catch his foot on the root of a tree and fall to the ground, right where he started.
“Are you alright?” Ganondorf leaned over and stared down at him. “You were in there for a few minutes.”
Link sat up and brushed himself off. “I’m fine. I just need a moment to think.” He placed both hands over his face, bringing them down and taking a deep breath. Wait…
He stood up and stepped into the edge again. The fog settled around him, though he could still glance back at Zelda and Ganondorf if he needed to.
Link started to calm himself, slowing his pounding heart and closing his eyes. The wind swept through the leaves, bringing with it whispers interwoven. He forced his mind to focus, continuing to breathe, in, out, in… Bit by bit, the whispers untangled, until he could focus on one. It was small, calm, and in a language he couldn’t quite recognize, but…but knew.
Somehow, he knew that voice.
His own mind called out, and he listened. Do you recognize me?
The voice, like a jovial spirit, didn’t hesitate to answer. “I do.”
Link glanced back to Zelda and Ganondorf. Ganondorf looked on, face pale and sickened. Zelda watched in mild frustration, impatient for the circles Link and Ganondorf had already woven. Link smiled at her before turning his head toward the direction of the voice. I think I know how to forge through this forest. I think I remember this.
“And it’s been a very long time.”
He took a step toward the haze.
I remember a song.
He smiled and took another step.
And a mirror.
His heart raced again as the voice called his name. “And what else?”
He opened his eyes, glancing back toward Zelda and Ganondorf. The fog that had obscured their way before came closing in behind him, guiding him away. He could barely see them now.
“I know where to go,” he called to the Princess. Her eyes grew bright with fear as she understood what was happening. “Hurry, hurry!” They ran up to him just in time to watch the path behind close.
“Are you sure you know where we are going?” Zelda whispered to him. “What if we end up back there again? Or worse…?”
“We won’t.” Link knew that for sure this time. “I’ve been here before.”
He led them through the forest, weaving through the trees almost as if by instinct, pausing to call out to the voice for reassurance. But the deeper they went, the more confident he grew. I remember following the song. There was a temple once. And a girl. I think I remember her too. He was determined to make his way through, pushed along by every thought not his own, yet so painfully familiar. The trees had been his home once. The voices had been his friends. The spirits his guides, just as surely as they were now. This was right. This was where he had belonged once, so long ago.
I remember home.
And the sword.
I remember the sword.
Finally, he stepped into what seemed to be a clearing. The voice, alight with excitement, called his name once more. “You’re ready, Master.”
And, as quickly as it had come, the fog cleared, revealing a lush grove of flowers and trees. Ivy lit by little bioluminescent seed pods glowed soft and golden to light a path. He sighed in relief. Beneath him, fallen leaves crunched, bringing to his nose a crisp, earthy smell that spoke of comfort.
“Link?” Zelda stepped up next to him; he felt her fingers on his arm before he saw her. She blinked around them in fear. “Where are we?”
“We’re safe,” he assured, without question. He had never been here before, but he just knew. Before he had a chance to elaborate, though, Zelda gasped and stared at something ahead. As Link turned to follow her eyes, his mouth dropped open.
The path’s end came at the roots of a massive tree, wild and untamed, breaking the ground with a mind of its own. Protective arms. Shelter. Home. And before that tree sat a stone pedestal, beams of light shining down like radiant beams from Hylia herself, sparkling gold off a blade untouched by time.
Link walked up to the sword, scanning its every feature. The regal blue winged hilt, the mark of the Triforce, and the pristine luster of the blade confirmed his suspicions. This had to be the Blade of Evil’s Bane, that cut the land in the time of the Goddess: The Master Sword. “I remember you.” He reached his hand forward, then stopped and pulled back. His heart suddenly pounded once more in his chest, a cloud of doubt building in his mind.
“What are you waiting for?” Zelda called from behind him. “Pull the sword.”
“The stories of the heroes of legend. They all performed great deeds and heroic acts. How worthy would I even be compared to them?”
Ganondorf stepped forward, his voice balancing between being stern and assuring. “You are worthy of this blade as you are.”
“I’m no hero.”
“You might not be the Hero of the Skies, or the Hero of Time, or the Hero of Light. But to Ordon, you are their hero.”
Zelda stepped up to stand opposite him, looking first to the sword, then to him. He locked eyes with her, and she reached for him, palm out. He took it in his own, and they stood together with the sword between them. “Link,” she whispered, and he knew immediately she spoke without her crown, without her title. She spoke to him as his friend and companion. “Are you going to make me say it?”
“Say what?” He tilted his head.
She scoffed, giving him a look that just said, Oh, come on. He waited. “Fine. I‘ll say it. Without you, I don’t know how far I would have made it after Ordon. Without you, I probably would not have even survived Ordon. You say I am good with words, but the truth is, I am terrible with them. If I were good, I could come up with something so much better than this. You’re my hero.” She placed his hand on the sword’s hilt, squeezing his fingers closed, and stepped away.
Link opened his mouth as though to speak, but the words just couldn’t come out. I… He looked back at the Master Sword. But what if that doesn’t qualify me…? That doesn’t… I’m… The more he dwelled on the thought, the more time itself seemed to slow down and the more he felt as though he was trying to attain a height too high to grasp.
“Link.” Another voice rang out in his head, the one from the bank of the river, the one from his dream. “You are worthy, and you have been ever since that attack.”
“Every hero faces the trials of Courage, Wisdom, and Power before attaining the Master Sword. Even you. And you have passed them without hesitation.”
“Yes.” The voice soothed is nerves, encouraging him to try. “And there’s already enough evidence to show why.”
Link closed his eyes and gripped the hilt tighter with both hands, feeling a sort of warmth in his fingers. He took a deep breath, repeating the mantra, in, out, in… once more. And then, he started to pull on it, wincing as the blade began to draw strength from him.
“Every incarnation has a different origin. The trials they faced were varied. But there was always one thing they all had in common.”
Light began to emanate from the blade, threatening to blind Link. But that didn’t stop him. He gritted his teeth, continuing to pull as his strength left him.
“They all rose to the occasion, going above and beyond what was asked of them for the sake of the greater good. No matter the personal cost. No matter the pain, the fear, the threat of all they faced; they approached head on, calling upon their own courage and will.”
The blade began to give, and Link focused entirely on drawing it out, every fiber of his being twisting into his fingers around that hilt.
Don’t stop. Don’t give in. Keep going.
“Anyone else would have fled before tackling a danger he or she had never seen. But you? You didn’t even hesitate for a moment, despite the odds being horribly against you. Exhausted to a point of collapsing, underpowered, and alone, you were willing to sacrifice everything to save your people, and to save her life.”
He struggled. His knees wanted to buckle; he felt his arms lose strength. It’s too much. I can’t pull it out.
The blade slid free. Link looked down as he fully drew the Master Sword from its pedestal, feeling his strength flood back into him in a wave. The sword felt completely balanced to him, as though it was made specifically for him to wield. The jewel in its hilt seemed to shimmer for a second, and he thought he could faintly hear what could only be described as a musical sigh.
“Link, this is why I believe in you.”
Taking the sword in his right hand, he raised it above his head and pointed it toward the sky, and the sunlight gleamed off its freshly-revealed steel.
“This is why you will be the next Hero of Legend.”
Featured image by MaskedGolem.