Zelda took a deep breath before diving into the lake, closing her eyes as the cold water crashed into her face as she plunged below its surface. When she opened them again, she looked around, taking in the murky surroundings of the lakebed. Thankfully, the sun was bright enough today to completely illuminate everything underwater. She wouldn’t have to worry about getting lost.
Ruto waited at the entrance of the temple, floating serenely as she watched Zelda. The Zora’s body swayed to the rhythm of the currents effortlessly, as if she was perfectly in sync with them. Zelda only hoped she’d be able to make do with the limited abilities she possessed.
Thankfully, her magic would allow her to breathe underwater and sink with ease. As her feet touched the bottom of the lakebed, Zelda glanced up, noting the entrance to the temple before her. A gate barred her from entering, though she noticed a switch right above it.
Ruto held out her hand, and the switch unlatched instantly, floating up to the surface. Zelda looked at her and nodded.
“Don’t thank me yet,” Ruto spoke, her words crystal clear despite being underwater. “Getting in is the easy part.”
Zelda quickly swam across the threshold until she reached the main chamber, followed by Ruto. Ahead of her, the floor rose upward. Zelda swam to the surface, where she found herself in a massive, echoing chamber.
Black, iridescent rock covered the walls of the chamber, likely carved smooth by the water’s flow over time. It was a cavernous place, but it wasn’t foreboding. It was simply massive and deliberate in its design, as if every rock, stone, and droplet served a greater purpose. A large, stone tower stood before the two princesses in its center, though Zelda could see it had many floors, the rest hidden deep underwater.
“Hmm, that’s funny,” Ruto’s voice broke her daze.
“What is it?” Zelda asked, not turning to face her.
“If someone other than a Zora or the royal family enters this place, the traps activate instantly,” Ruto’s voice grew suspicious, “but it didn’t.”
Without warning, Zelda felt a wave of water crash into her, sending her flying towards the tower. Her body slammed against its wall, and she struggled to draw her kodachi as she slid to the ground.
“Who are you?” Ruto walked along the water’s surface as she closed in on Zelda, her hand stretched out.
In her peripheral, Zelda could see two blue tektites turn and face her, their spider-like bodies and big, red eyes glistening in the light. Almost in unison, they began hopping in her direction as Ruto continued to question her.
“Answer me!” she demanded.
Zelda gritted her teeth and slashed at one of the tektites, cutting it in two. It fell to the ground with a splash, though it didn’t deter the other. Ruto motioned towards it with her hand, and a bubble formed around it. She motioned again, and the tektite was lifted off the ground before sinking deep below the water’s surface.
Satisfied there’d be no more interruptions, Ruto turned to face Zelda once more. “If you won’t answer me, you leave me no choice.”
She raised her hand again, surrounding Zelda in a water-filled bubble. She lifted Zelda high into the air, watching as Zelda flailed about inside. Just as a triumphant grin crossed Ruto’s face, Zelda vanished instantly. Shocked, Ruto released the spell, sending a torrent splashing down before her.
“Where did she go?” Ruto asked out loud.
“I’m sorry, Your Highness.”
Ruto started to turn her head when she felt the flat of Zelda’s kodachi strike her, knocking her unconscious. Zelda crashed into the pool of water with Ruto, struggling to carry her to the tower’s shore. Once on the dry land again, Zelda peered around the structure, noticing a door that was partially hidden behind a large, serpent-like statue on the other side of the chamber from where she was positioned. That had to be it.
Zelda glanced down at Ruto, who was still unconscious. She’d never intended for a fight with the Zora princess, but she understood her reasoning. Ruto had to protect her people from Ganondorf, and Zelda had appeared before her as Sheik, not the Hero of Time or a member of the royal family. For all she knew, Zelda had been sent by Ganondorf. As the Zora heir, she couldn’t take any chances.
Once Zelda was finished, she’d come back and get the Zora princess to safety. She called upon the blessing of Farore and teleported to the door she’d just spotted. Touching its surface, she could feel the same magical presence she’d felt at the Forest and Fire temples, signaling she’d reached the right place.
At her touch, the door slid open, revealing a slope that led upwards. She quickly raced to the top towards a massive door. Opening it, she entered a room with several pillars rising up from a pool of water.
Just as before, she called for her harp and began strumming it, a new melody echoing throughout the room. Soon, blue tendrils of light sprouted from the pool, joining together as the Sage of Water made his appearance.
A short, stout man with sparkling blue eyes gasped as he took in his surroundings. His face was without a beard or whiskers, though his white hair was tied up into an intricate bow-like pattern. He looked as if he’d just been laughing at something remarkably hilarious before being interrupted.
Zelda expected him to have the same furious disposition as the others, but he simply smiled, as if this was all to be expected.
“My, my,” he looked over at Zelda, as if seeing an old friend. “Hello, my dear girl. I am Mison, the Sage of Water. I sense others are awake too, though not all. So, the royal family still lives.”
Zelda nodded. “Yes, I come here to seek your aid in defeating Ganondorf.”
“Such an imposing name,” Mison gasped, drawing himself back theatrically. “It will most certainly keep children awake at night when they’re told the legend of his defeat by the Hero of Time.”
Zelda closed her eyes, trying to hide her frustration. There wasn’t any time for this. She then opened them again, taking a deep breath.
“The hero is gone,” she spoke slowly, trying to keep her composure. “He will not return to save us. In his absence, I will fight for Hyrule with the help of the Ancient Sages. With your help.”
Mison giggled, a sweet, high-pitched sound, as the two were transported to the Chamber of Sages, the sound of waterfalls cascading around them echoing across unfathomable distances. Zelda uncurled her clenched fists, keeping her eyes trained on the Sage. She couldn’t lose focus. She needed to convince him just like the others.
“What brought you here?” Mison stared upwards, the same silly smile plastered on his face.
Zelda sighed. “The melody of my mother’s harp brought me here, the Goddess Harp.”
“And that melody…” Mison rubbed his chin, his eyes still looking upward. “It was a serenade, right? Have you ever been serenaded before, dear child?”
Zelda shook her head. “No, I haven’t.”
Mison smiled as if extremely amused with himself. “People once heard a serenade, you know. Indeed, a very powerful one. It came from the Sacred Realm and spoke of the Triforce. Naturally, people longed for this power, and some were well-versed in the mystical arts. And so those who knew powerful magic intended to use it to enter the Sacred Realm and claim the Triforce for themselves.”
Zelda stared at Mison. “What happened to those people?”
Mison’s smile flickered for a second, and he finally met Zelda’s eyes once again. Then, he continued. “They were branded as the Dark Interlopers, traitors to all who walked in the light. The King of Hyrule ordered them to be sealed away, and so they were.”
“The Dark Interlopers?” Zelda gasped.
Mison nodded. “Yes. Their new domain is a place called the Twilight Realm. It rests beyond a mirror, hidden deep within the desert. They can never return as they once were. It is a place that disfigures and corrupts all who live in it.”
Zelda stared down at her hands, now more aware than ever of the echoing sounds of the waterfalls spilling off of countless surfaces. It couldn’t be the same place, the hidden location deep within the desert that plagued her mother with awful visions.
“The mirror,” Zelda said. “Where is it?”
“In a place that is obscured by the magic of the Haunted Wasteland of the Gerudo Desert,” said Mison. “It is a place not meant to be reached.”
Zelda’s mother’s face flashed in her mind.
“Why have you told me all this?” asked Zelda.
Mison’s smile no longer reached his eyes. “Serenades are so romantic, aren’t they?”
With that, he disappeared just as the other Sages had done, one pool fading into another. Once again inside the Water Temple, Zelda picked up the blue medallion while drawing her kodachi. She knew it was here.
“Come out!” she called.
The room remained silent, but she knew better. Whatever it was, it was in the room with her, watching her every move. She whipped her head around, looking for any possible hiding spot. In the Forest Temple, it hid in the portraits. In the Fire Temple, it lingered amongst the roaring flames.
Zelda froze. There was only one place it could be.
She stepped towards the edge of her platform, peering into the water beneath her. At first, she couldn’t see her reflection. Then, the water’s surface shimmered, revealing a shadow with red eyes staring back at her.
She leaped back just in time as the shadow plunged out of the water, just missing her face with its shadowy blade. Zelda hopped onto another platform as the shadow further materialized before her. She could now make out a tunic and a long cap on its head. Its sword looked instantly familiar — it had the same shape as the Master Sword.
Zelda squinted as she tried to make out who it was. “Link?”
“No!” Zelda and the shadow turned in unison as Ruto came into view, her hand stretched out towards them both. “That is not Link!”
“Two more remain,” the voice was deep and hollow as if drained of all passion and hope. The figure stepped off of the platform, vanishing into the pool below.
“Darn! I almost had him,” Ruto snapped her fingers. She then turned to face Zelda. “I’m sorry about earlier. I saw the Sage just now. You were right. He was here after all.”
Zelda shook her head. “It’s fine. I was just about to come find you.”
Ruto gazed into the pool, as if the apparition would come flying out at any moment.
“I thought at first you might be him when the traps didn’t activate,” she said. “We made a promise as kids, you know. He promised I’d be his wife someday.”
Zelda hoped she couldn’t see her blushing. This certainly wasn’t what she expected to hear.
“Of course, no one could fulfill a promise like that,” Ruto smiled, though it seemed sad and distant. “We were just children, oblivious to how the world actually worked. Still, I wanted to see him again, the boy who saved my life even though I’d been an awful brat to him.”
Zelda nodded. “I am sorry you haven’t been reunited.”
Ruto glanced up at her. “That thing…it looked like him, but it wasn’t him. It was dark and full of hatred. Link could never be like that. There’s no way!”
Zelda sighed. She wasn’t sure what to think anymore. Awakening the Ancient Sages was proving to be much more complicated than she anticipated. She took out her harp, ready to play the melody that would transport her to the Desert Colossus, but she hesitated.
“Your Highness,” Zelda bowed again. “When the time comes, when I’m ready to face Ganondorf, can I count on your aid in the final battle?”
Ruto turned away from her, as if pondering the question. Finally, she answered. “Don’t keep me waiting like he did.”
“Yes, Your Highness,” Zelda began strumming her harp, the notes echoing throughout the room as bronze-colored tendrils of light encircled her. Mison’s words echoed through her mind as she recalled the vision that inspired her quest.
“They were branded as the Dark Interlopers.”
Were the shadows she’d seen the Dark Interlopers?
“Serenades are so romantic, aren’t they?”
Was she acting of her own volition, or was she simply answering a call?