The flow of time was always cruel. Its speed seemed different for each person, but no one could change it. A thing that didn’t change with time was a memory of younger days.
The trees rustled, dancing to the rhythm gifted to them by the summer breeze. The time of cool mornings had long passed, signaling a true end to spring. Of course, in places like Kokiri Forest, it wouldn’t matter. The forest had its own sense of time, and Zelda pondered the fact as she stepped into the Sacred Forest Meadow’s clearing.
The fae swirled around her, and she stopped for a moment, taking in her surroundings. The Forest Temple loomed above her, its stone staircase destroyed by the passage of time. She’d heard of a device the Hero of Time could use to launch himself onto high places, but she was certain she’d never find it. She sighed. Perhaps there was another way.
“Adults don’t last very long here, you know.”
Zelda spun around. The voice had come from behind her, but she relaxed as her eyes fell upon a small girl, no older than 10 with vibrant green hair.
“You…” Zelda began. “You’re one of the Kokiri, aren’t you?”
The girl giggled, twirling around in a circle. “Of course! I’m Saria. What’s your name?”
Zelda crouched down, making herself eye-level with Saria. “My name is Sheik.”
Saria eyed Zelda curiously. “Sheik…That’s a funny name! Why are you here?”
Zelda stood up, gesturing towards the Forest Temple. “I need to get inside. There’s someone I must find.”
Saria smiled innocently. “A Sage?”
Zelda barely contained her surprise. “Well…yes. How do you know about them?”
Saria’s expression suddenly grew serious, and Zelda’s skin prickled at the transformation.
“I can’t explain it,” Saria replied, looking up towards the temple entrance as if in a daze. “It’s as if…there’s something I was supposed to remember, but it’s gone now. Ever since the Great Deku Tree passed, the forest feels…different. Like it’s waiting.”
Zelda then realized she was clenching her fists. Ganondorf had once put a curse on the Great Deku Tree long ago, causing its demise despite Link’s efforts. Now, the Kokiri were without their caretaker, children left to fend for themselves in the woods.
Zelda exhaled, trying to be discreet, before returning her attention to the young Kokiri. “I’m sorry. Are you all alone out here? Where are the others?”
Saria shook her head, her steely expression remaining. “Some of us are still in the village, while others are hiding in the Lost Woods. I come here because it’s…quiet.”
She seemed to get lost in thought for a moment before looking back up at Zelda. “You should leave here soon. Adults who stay here too long become Stalfos.”
Zelda nodded patiently. What a mercurial child! She’d always been told the Kokiri were ageless, mischievous forest dwellers, so it shouldn’t have surprised her. Still, to look into the face of a child who seemed to be both innocent and jaded all at once was a lot to take in.
“I don’t intend to be here any longer than I have to,” Zelda replied.
Saria pointed up towards the temple’s entrance. “You’ll have to fly to get up there, you know. I don’t think adults can do that.”
Zelda shook her head. “You’re right. I was just trying to figure that out before you came.”
Saria giggled and clapped her hands together. “Well, don’t worry! I can help you!”
She took out an ocarina, bringing it up to her mouth and closing her eyes. Zelda barely contained her shock upon seeing the instrument. She remembered Link having one just like it before Zelda had given him the Ocarina of Time. Saria began playing a serene, otherworldly tune that caused the fae to swirl around both of them.
Soon, their feet left the ground as they floated into the air and soared towards the broken steps. Upon landing, Saria stopped playing, gazing up at Zelda expectantly as she lowered the ocarina from her face.
“I can’t go inside,” Saria frowned. “There’s monsters and other scary things.”
Zelda gazed at the temple entrance, noting how everything on the other side of the threshold seemed to disappear into an endless dark void. This was it.
Saria clapped her hands together, giggling as if she’d just been told a new joke. “You liked my ocarina? You seemed to be very fond of it.”
Zelda opened her mouth before pausing. She couldn’t give herself away. This must have been the girl who gave Link the ocarina he arrived at the castle with. Back then, she must have known he wouldn’t return. After all, he was a Hylian, not a true Kokiri.
Still, she wanted to know if the young Kokiri had seen Link. Seven years ago, he’d departed on a journey through the forest to find a dear friend. Maybe he’d simply gotten lost in the woods.
“I once knew someone very special who played an ocarina,” Zelda said. “I think you would have liked him quite a bit.”
Saria smiled, studying Zelda for a moment. There was a pause, and Zelda could hear the trees rustling in the wind as the silence grew between them. Saria’s smile faltered slightly as a small, twinkling fae buzzed between them before disappearing out of sight.
“I know, Your Highness, but I haven’t seen him since he went deep into the Lost Woods seven years ago.”