The Sheikah spoke of many ancient legends, long esteemed as attendants to the royal family of Hyrule. They were an old, secretive people, their crimson eyes and gray hair denoting their heritage and wisdom.
Impa had watched over Zelda since she was an infant, playing a gentle melody at night to help her fall asleep after her mother’s passing. Her mother. It had been almost ten years.
Zelda struggled to open her eyes, her entire body aching and numb. She heard a voice, and she tried to turn her head towards it. The words became clearer as her senses returned to her, but dread filled her mind.
“Don’t try to get up,” the voice said. Zelda sighed, knowing Impa wouldn’t let her out of her sight again. “It’s over. We made it back to the village thanks to your magic.”
Zelda tried to speak, but her voice was weak and dry.
“How long?” she croaked out.
There was a long pause before Impa replied, “It’s been at least two days now. I warned you not to go. Why didn’t you listen?”
They sat in silence for a moment, the memories of the battle rushing through Zelda’s mind. Phantom Ganon raising his trident, the sky being covered in darkness, Zelda’s spell sending them far away from Hyrule Field. Now, all was worse than it was before she’d stepped foot in the ruins of Lon Lon Ranch.
“I couldn’t do it,” she whispered. “I couldn’t save them.”
Impa sighed. “You must not say such things.” Zelda felt herself being gently raised up against the headboard of her bed.
Zelda finally managed to open her eyes, squinting at Impa. Her guardian was still wearing her Sheikah battle armor, her hair tied up in a neat bun. Her crimson eyes were full of worry and frustration.
Zelda closed her eyes, not wanting to feel like a petulant child. “I stood before his puppet, called upon the Goddesses, and it still wasn’t enough.”
Impa didn’t reply, only eyeing Zelda with concern. Zelda looked down at her hands, her fingers wrinkled and thin as she began to sob. “What’s wrong with me?”
Impa stroked her hair, cradling her. “Nothing. That was all you could have done.” Zelda’s sobs grew heavier, and she collapsed into Impa. “It is over now.”
The tears slowed as Zelda felt at ease in Impa’s arms, and the two of them stayed still for a moment. Zelda took a deep breath to calm herself. Impa helped her lie back down in her bed and tucked her in.
“You need to rest,” Impa said. “You won’t be back to full health for a few more days.”
Zelda nodded, and Impa kissed her forehead. “I will get you something to eat.” Impa walked over to the doorway and turned around to look at Zelda. She then smiled. “I am glad you are safe.”
Zelda watched her leave, her thoughts returning to the image of the dark clouds swirling over Hyrule Field. How could it have all gone so badly? She’d had a plan. The tears returned, and for a moment she considered calling out to Impa before managing to fight them back down.
She’d cried like this a number of times in her life. Most instances had been after she’d arrived in the abandoned village. Before that, she remembered being scolded by her father for trying to sneak into town. She’d fled to the courtyard, her favorite place in the castle, where her mother finally found her.
“Your father and I were very worried,” she’d said gently. “We couldn’t find you.”
“Father hates me,” Zelda scrunched up her nose and looked away from her mother.
The queen put her arms around the young princess, stroking her hair. “He doesn’t hate you.” Zelda held onto her mother tightly. “He simply worries about your safety.”
“I just…” Zelda sniffed. “I just wanted to make a new friend, that’s all. And when I tried to explain, he wouldn’t even listen! He never listens!”
Her mother chuckled lightly as she wiped away Zelda’s tears with a handkerchief. She was always so poised, so radiant. Nothing ever seemed to catch her off guard. Her bronze skin, fiery red hair, and blue eyes gave her such a unique appearance. If Zelda ever got to meet Din, the Goddess of Power, she imagined she’d look just like her mother.
“You know my favorite thing about you?” her mother said as they both stared at the nearby garden. “You love it all, my duckling.”
“What do you mean?” Zelda peered up at her mother.
“Even when you are afraid, you still find the courage to love,” her mother said. “Even being born a princess, I’ve never known you to treat anyone unkindly, no matter their status. You have a powerful gift.”
Zelda scrunched up her face in frustration. “Father says my visions are my gift. He says I’m the Princess of Destiny. I must always do what I can to fulfill it.”
Her mother regarded her for a moment, her expression suddenly rigid. Zelda had seen her make that face only a handful of times, when she felt her mother wanted to say something but couldn’t.
She eventually allowed a smile to cross her face before leaning down to kiss her daughter on the forehead.
“My darling, destiny can be broken. You are so much more than that.”
Zelda bolted upright in her bed, unaware she’d fallen asleep again. She looked towards the window, noting it was still light out. Her kodachi rested against her bedside table, and she grabbed it instinctively before placing it back down.
She stared down at her hands again. What could she possibly do against someone as powerful as Ganondorf? How was Link able to defeat him alone with only the Master Sword?
Zelda recalled the story Link had told her, of how he climbed Ganondorf’s tower and faced down the evil sorcerer. With the Triforce of Power in his possession, Ganondorf transformed into Ganon, a fearsome beast who could only be stopped by the combined efforts of Link, Zelda, and the newly awakened Sages.
A combined effort…
Zelda gasped as the realization struck her. Link hadn’t defeated Ganondorf alone! He first had to find the newly awakened Sages across Hyrule. With all their power combined, Ganondorf was sealed away forever.
And the leader of those Sages had been Zelda herself.
She sighed, slinking down onto her pillow. With no hero, it was unlikely the Sacred Realm would awaken new sages in this timeline. So, what was she to do now? She closed her eyes, opening herself up to the Sacred Realm. If there was an answer available, she would see it in her vision. After a few moments, she opened her eyes again, the humming of magic coursing through her veins.
She then blinked and found herself no longer in her room but in a vast, dark chamber filled with floating platforms. Water cascaded from each of them, including the one she was now standing on. As she gazed around herself, she noticed six different-colored symbols in the water and knew what they meant immediately: forest, fire, water, spirit, shadow, and light. They were symbols of the six temples scattered throughout Hyrule, where the Sages would go once they were awakened.
Except, there wouldn’t be any new Sages without the Hero of Time.
Zelda shook her head, lamenting at the solemn reminder of her powerlessness when figures began to rise from the symbols. She couldn’t make out their faces, but each of them was wearing long robes denoting their status as Sages.
Other figures appeared behind them, these much darker than the Sages. They were dressed differently, their attire much more form-fitting. They also looked much younger than the Sages, shrouded in darkness to hide their identities. And perhaps their intentions.
The dark figures each held out one hand, positioned as if they were about to strike the Sages in front of them. Zelda’s body filled with dread as she watched the scene unfold. Who were these shadows, and why were they about to attack? The Sages then rose their hands up in unison, and the shadowy figures evaporated instantly.
Without warning, Zelda felt herself being flung backwards at a rapid pace. The seemingly endless dark chamber, the floating platforms, they all zoomed by as everything faded to white. She closed her eyes and found herself back in her room gasping for breath as if she’d been holding it for hours.
She jumped out of bed, surprised to find she didn’t feel tired anymore. What did that vision mean? Zelda had never seen anything like it. The Sages had looked like they were banishing dark figures. She concentrated on remembering the details of the Sages themselves. They seemed old, wizened, and the robes looked familiar. Where had she seen them before?
She clapped her hands together. The library! She had been studying the history of her kingdom there, her mother’s favorite place in the castle. She’d read about how the Ancient Sages worked with her father to unify Hyrule under one banner. They fought to protect the Sacred Realm during the war, entering an eternal slumber upon its conclusion.
Zelda gasped. That was it! If she wanted to defeat Ganondorf and save Hyrule, she couldn’t do it alone. No one could. She’d need the help of the Ancient Sages, and she knew just where to find them. She reached for her kodachi again, this time certain that she intended to use it.