Past, present, future…
The Master Sword was a ship with which one could sail upstream and downstream through time’s river. The port of that ship was the Temple of Time.
Zelda quickly darted around the rock formation, keeping her head low so as to not give away her location. She looked up at the sky. No clouds. She’d either have to wait for a whirlwind for cover or pray the sentries didn’t see her sprinting across the dunes.
Luckily, she had another way she could travel, and she’d be able to reach the entrance without being seen at all. She quickly measured the distance between her current position and the temple’s entrance. Yes, she’d be able to cross from here without landing too far away.
She clasped her hands together, silently praying to Farore. A gust of sand whirled up against her just as she flickered out of sight, a globe of green light being the only indication she’d been standing there. However, by the time the sand drifted down onto the earth, it too would vanish from sight.
Another globe of green light hovered in the air above the entrance to the Spirit Temple before Zelda materialized again. Wasting no time, she darted into the temple proper. Inside, she found herself facing a stairway that led to a dead end. She took a step forward and quickly jumped out of the way as two floating jars sprung to life and flew at her before crashing into the wall.
She reached the top of the staircase, looking to either side. To her left, she spotted a tiny crawlspace big enough for a small child. She pondered if she could somehow fit but abandoned the idea, turning to face the opposite way.
The path opened up into a large corridor, and she noticed a block in the ground in front of her, as if someone had pushed it into that specific spot. Whoever moved it had to be extremely powerful due to its size.
She slinked down the corridor, staying mindful of any potential traps. It wasn’t long before she entered what looked like a throne room. This must have been where Ganondorf spent most of his time. She paused. Since she’d entered, there’d been no signs of monsters, guards, or anything. Was this temple now abandoned? She shook her head. No, it couldn’t have been that simple.
Behind the throne was a door, and Zelda could feel the presence of a powerful force waiting behind it. She took in a deep breath before opening it, entering a massive hall with a large, elevated stage. Yes, something was waiting for her here, though she couldn’t be sure what it was yet. Still, she had to awaken the Sage, so she quickly climbed onto the stage and readied herself to meet him.
“And just what do you think you’re doing?”
Zelda spun around, coming face to face with a Gerudo woman with long red hair and piercing golden eyes. They reminded her of Ganondorf’s, though they weren’t as menacing.
“We’ve been watching you ever since you suddenly appeared outside,” she pointed a long, slender finger at Zelda. “What is a member of the Sheikah clan doing way out here, and how did you make it this far?”
Zelda reached for her kodachi, prepared for another fight, but the woman raised her hand.
“I did not come here to fight you,” she said. “I am Nabooru, one of the leaders of the Gerudo tribe. However, do not be mistaken. Unlike the others, I despise Ganondorf with all of my being. That is why I allowed you to make it this far.”
Zelda dropped her hand to her side. “I did not come here with the intention to harm any of the Gerudo.”
“I know,” Nabooru explained. “The Sheikah guard the royal family, which means you’re here for a reason that Ganondorf won’t like. I fully intend to support it.”
Zelda nodded. “Yes, that is true.”
“Whatever you plan to do, you must do it quickly,” Nabooru turned to look behind her as if something was approaching. “I’ve bought you some time, but it won’t last long. So hurry!”
Zelda nodded again. She didn’t want to be here any longer than she had to. Taking out her Goddess Harp, she began strumming it, playing a melody she’d never heard yet always known. Tendrils of orange light gently lapped her body before swirling before her as an old man dressed in a white robe materialized.
His skin was bronze, and his eyes were a deep amber. His white hair was cropped short and matched by a long beard that reached down to his waist. In one hand he held an old, withered staff that he used for support.
“I am awakened,” he spoke in a voice that was much deeper than Zelda expected. “And I see others have awakened as well.”
Without warning, they were instantly transported to the Chamber of Sages, and the old man rose from the bronze Spirit medallion in the pool of water.
“I am Abnar,” he said. “I am the Sage of Spirit, and you are the reincarnation of Hylia.”
Zelda sighed. “I have been told, but I do not know who she is. Will you tell me?”
Abnar paused for a moment, as if carefully considering his next words, before continuing. “The wind from this desert promises death, and it is the sand goddess who protects the spirits, the lingering regrets, even the abominable apparitions, who perish in her domain. Here she has lived all this time, without fail. All who worship the sand goddess, and all who do not, meet the same fate once the sand claims them.”
Zelda pondered his words, waiting patiently for him to continue.
“You have embarked on a great undertaking,” said Abnar, “but you must be prepared. For, you see, memories linger even in places long forgotten by the world. More invisible than spirits. And much more treacherous.”
Zelda nodded. “There is a shadow that follows me. With each Sage that I awaken, it grows stronger. Why is this?”
Abnar’s eyes widened. “You have seen it?”
“Yes,” replied Zelda. “It will be waiting for me once I leave this chamber. It has tried to attack me once before.”
Abnar leaned on his cane, mumbling to himself. “No…no…they were to remain sealed, even if we were awakened.”
Zelda’s skin prickled and grew cold. She took a step forward, and Abnar drew himself up as if she’d startled him.
“Who is this shadow?” she asked, her voice little more than a whisper.
The Sage was quiet for a long time before finally answering. “You have one more Sage to awaken, do you not? I cannot give you your answer here, but you must know that shadow seeks revenge, same as you. It will not stop until it has achieved its goal.”
“I must know what this apparition is!” Zelda insisted. “Why does it want revenge?”
“You will know soon enough,” said Abnar. “In fact, I believe you were destined to know all along.”
“You must tell me!” Zelda pleaded. “In the Water Temple, it took on the appearance of the Hero of Time. It knows I am not a member of the Sheikah clan and that I’m awakening the Sages. It speaks to me. Why?”
“Ah yes,” Abnar gazed across the chamber as if lost in thought. “The sin speaks.”
Zelda stomped her foot, the water splashing onto her leg. Her clenched fists were trembling now. She had come all this way, fought so hard, only to be met with more riddles. She took in a deep breath, trying to regain her composure. She still had questions, even though he may not answer them.
Abnar noticed her frustration and sighed. “It is not my wish to cause you pain, but you cannot learn the truth here. I am sorry.”
“Honorable Sage,” Zelda said, her voice calmer now. “Is there anything else you can tell me that may help? Anything at all?”
The Sage grew quiet once more as if caught in a moment of reflection.
“You asked me before about Hylia,” he finally spoke. “It is not my place to tell you who she was. Go to the Shadow Temple, where the last Sage awaits. He will tell you…about Hylia and the Sheikah. You will soon know the truth, but it must be there.”
Zelda sighed. It seemed to be of no use. Still, she had one last question, and she had no one else to ask.
“There is a place here, hidden within the Haunted Wasteland,” she said. “In this place, there is a cursed mirror, and it is known as the Arbiter’s Grounds.”
Abnar slowly turned to face her, his eyes wide with terror. He leaned on his cane as if all the wind had been knocked out of him. Zelda took a step forward, hoping she would finally get an answer this time.
“Please,” she begged. “I must know what this place is.”
“You must never go there!” Abnar rasped. “You must stay away!”
The Chamber of Sages faded almost instantly, transporting Zelda back into the Spirit Temple. In her hand rested the bronze Spirit medallion, and in her mind, she could still hear the Sage’s words. The Arbiter’s Grounds. It existed after all.
“Ah, yes, it seems they’ve fallen into our trap, sister,” came an old croaking voice.
“Indeed, we must see what we can make of them,” came another voice.
Zelda turned to see two witches floating above her on broomsticks, each wearing traditional Gerudo attire. Nabooru appeared at her side, brandishing a scimitar in each hand.
“I’m sorry,” she said. “I ran out of time.”
Zelda peered up at the two witches. “Koume and Kotake, I presume?”
“Ah, he even knows our name,” Koume giggled.
“That makes it much easier,” Kotake purred.
Zelda clutched her kodachi, her mind filled to the brim with unanswered questions and uncertainty. Why couldn’t the Sage simply tell her what she needed to know? What was this shadow, and what did it want?
She froze. The shadow! Where was it?
“Nabooru,” Zelda tried to keep her tone of voice as even as possible. “Be wary of the shadows in this room.”
Nabooru’s brow furrowed. “Shadows?”
Zelda nodded as the two witches descended towards them, each cackling in unison. Maybe the Sage wouldn’t give a proper answer, but Zelda had a feeling she could still solve at least one riddle. If anyone knew the location of the Arbiter’s Grounds, it would be Ganondorf’s teachers, the magical experts themselves. The sands of time were roaring against them all, filled with lingering regrets and confusion.
And all the more dangerous.