The Forest Temple was a peculiar structure that stood at odds with the surrounding woods. Its architecture reminded Zelda of ancient Hylian structures she’d read about in the castle library. Of course, the resemblance was only slight, as the forest was well on its way to swallowing it up completely.
Upon entering the temple proper, it resembled more of a dilapidated mansion than a place of worship. By her estimate, she seemed to be in a foyer of sorts, and she marveled at how cleverly nature had reclaimed it. Nothing overcame the will of the forest, not even time.
Reaching the Sage was normally no easy task. The hero would face challenges meant to test his worthiness of gaining the Sage’s power. For Zelda, it would be different. The temple would recognize her for who she truly was, rendering all potential hindrances inside dormant. A lone door stood on the other side of the room, her only way to move forward. She hesitated, the realization of what she was about to do washing over her, and she took a deep breath. There was no going back now.
She reached for her kodachi, having sensed them the moment she’d entered the foyer.
The first Wolfos shot up from the ground and swiped at her, but she ducked and rolled to the side before driving her blade upward into its chest. It howled in pain as flames consumed it, and she tugged her blade free as the monster vanished, narrowly dodging another attack from behind.
She whirled around to face it, deflecting its strikes but not managing to gain any ground. Zelda’s eyes widened in surprise as she found herself pushed back, the Wolfos’ movements getting faster with each swipe. She led it around the perimeter of the room, searching for a spot to gain an advantage. Eventually she managed to dodge behind it, kicking it between its shoulder blades before rolling away.
Zelda watched as the monster slowly got back up on all fours, growling at her as she barely dodged another swipe. She brought her blade up again, this time stabbing the foe directly in the heart. It yelped before howling just like its comrade, vanishing in a pillar of flames.
Content she’d cleared the room of all enemies, Zelda rushed to the door, opening and quickly closing it behind her. A Skulltula hung from the ceiling, waiting for her to get close enough to strike. With its abundance of eyes, it should have noticed the woman it was staring at was a phantom, the real Zelda having already darted across the corridor. She opened the door, rushing through as the sounds of frantic rustling signaled the Skulltula had caught onto her ruse.
Now in a much larger chamber with multiple doors along its perimeter, Zelda deduced she was in the center of the temple. Before her rested a strange pillar with space big enough for someone to stand in. Zelda approached cautiously, noting she didn’t detect the presence of any enemies.
Upon closer examination, it looked like a mechanism of sorts. She stepped onto its inner platform, and it immediately began to descend. She stumbled, clearly startled by the sudden movement, but quickly regained herself.
She watched as she sunk into the ground, continually descending for several seconds. The light from above vanished, and Zelda assumed she must be beneath the forest’s floor. Eventually, the mechanism halted, and she saw a corridor that led to a hidden chamber.
She’d made it.
A path stretched out before her leading into a dark room. She pressed forward, the room brightening as she got closer. Once inside, she was startled to find the walls covered in portraits, each one identical to the next.
They all displayed the same scene. A dirt path stretched away from Zelda into the distance towards a black mountain. Withered, gray trees flanked the path, their spidery branches reaching up into a midnight blue sky.
Zelda moved to position herself in the middle of the chamber, turning to observe each portrait. Though her mind told her each one was the same as the last, she couldn’t shake the feeling she was being watched. The presence was unmistakable, and she only hoped it was the Ancient Sage.
She clasped her hands together, and the floor beneath her feet began to glow with a silvery white light. Her Goddess harp materialized in her hands, and she began strumming it, a melody she’d never played but always known emanating throughout the chamber.
Green tendrils of energy sprouted from the floor once again, swirling upward and combining to take on the shape of a man. She’d found him! Her Goddess Harp vanished from sight just as an old man dressed in green robes finally materialized before her. His hair was long and stark white, matched in length by his flowing, wispy beard. He had a slender frame, his deep green eyes seeming to take up the majority of his face. Zelda stumbled back, surprised by his sudden appearance. He looked around the room, his face contorted with confusion.
His eyes then landed on Zelda, his expression shifting to vexation.
“What is the meaning of this?” he demanded, his voice shrill and reedy. “I do not belong in this realm! My presence disturbs the pact made years ago! Why do you pull me into this world now?”
“Honorable Sage of Forest,” Zelda bowed, hoping a sign of respect would quell his annoyance with her. “I come before you because Hyrule is shrouded in darkness. Ganondorf, the King of Evil, rules the kingdom unopposed.”
The Sage regarded her for a moment, studying her as if she were a Mad Deku Scrub.
“The Sacred Realm should have awakened new sages,” his eyes wandered around the chamber as he spoke, as if suddenly disturbed by something. “Yet I do not sense its call, even now. Where is the prophesized Hero of Time?”
Zelda hung her head before looking up. “I fear he is gone from this world completely.”
The Sage’s gaze returned to Zelda. “Do forgive me. You may call me Nove, child. I never expected to be awakened, but you are no ordinary Hylian. Even in your disguise, I know you to be one of Hylia’s reincarnations.”
Zelda squinted, confused by the Sage’s words. “Reincarnation?”
At this, Nove chuckled, but he didn’t smile. Instead, his expression became both sad and whimsical. “With the passage of time, it appears such knowledge has been forgotten, but no matter. You must wait for the Hero of Time to return. Perhaps his absence is why the Sacred Realm hesitates to send the awakening call.”
“I have waited long enough!” Zelda exclaimed, her hands balling into fists. “For years I’ve waited while Hyrule continues to rot. I will defeat Ganondorf myself. Please! I implore you to help me!”
Nove huffed, and the room began to change. The pictures faded away as did the walls and floor. Soon, Zelda found herself standing in the middle of a great pool of water. She looked around, realizing she had returned to the place she’d seen in her vision, and she now knew its true purpose. It was the Chamber of Sages, the meeting place of all people chosen by the Sacred Realm.
Just like before, several different colored platforms with symbols on them surrounded her. She looked over at the platform with the forest symbol just as a pillar of light began to rise from it. Nove soon came into view, his green eyes glowing as he looked upon Zelda.
“I would tell you something,” he said, his words echoing into the blackness of the vast chamber. “Do you know the origin of the Forest Temple?”
Zelda shook her head the same way she did as a child listening to her tutors. It was a silent display of obedience, that she intended to listen without interrupting.
Nove studied her face for a moment before continuing. “This place was once a lush, empty meadow where the fae gathered undisturbed. That was until men entered it, seeking a place to build a stronghold for war. They succeeded in building that stronghold, but the forest claimed them and sent their children to the Great Deku Tree.”
Zelda pondered his words for a moment. Saria’s image flashed through her mind, and her body grew cold with realization. The young Kokiri’s words sounded once again.
“You should leave here soon. Adults who stay here too long become Stalfos.”
Yes, the forest made sure to correct anything that didn’t belong. Yet, perhaps it had shown mercy once. Perhaps, it knew the difference between innocence and malice.
“The children,” Zelda chose her words carefully. “Those children the forest sent to the Great Deku Tree became the Kokiri, didn’t they?”
If Nove had heard her question, he chose not to answer. “Do not underestimate the land you wish to protect. Eventually, those who are wicked will be claimed. Fate is inescapable.”
The Sage was then engulfed by a flash of light before vanishing without another word.
“Wait!” Zelda called out, but Chamber of the Sages began to fade from view, once again becoming the room with the paintings. She noticed she was balling up her fist and looked down at her hand. She uncurled her fingers and found she was holding a green medallion with the symbol of the forest engraved in it. She sighed.
The Sage of the Forest was going to help her after all. She’d succeeded!
Zelda reflected on Nove’s speech, remembering how she first came upon the Forest Temple. Why would men try to defile this place? She recalled her lessons about the Hyrulean Civil War, another time of darkness where all fought to claim the Triforce for themselves. Zelda knew the origin of the Triforce by heart and was always mesmerized by the tale of the Golden Goddesses who created Hyrule.
She’d never heard of a Goddess named Hylia. She’d always thought it was simply the name of the lake, inspired by the word “Hylian.” She only knew the temples to be places of worship, meant to house the Sages once they were awakened by the Sacred Realm.
What if each of them had once been something more?
She looked up at the paintings, observing each one again. She still wasn’t sure what she was looking for, yet she found herself drawn to them. What was their purpose? Out of the corner of her eye, she could swear one of the withered, gray trees was casting a peculiar shadow. It resembled a human shape, standing in a rigid upright position, glaring at an intruder.
Zelda brandished her kodachi without hesitation. She was certain now. Something else was in this room.
“You are not Sheikah.”
A feeling of dread collapsed over her immediately, like a filthy tide she’d only just noticed barreling towards her. She whirled around, searching for the source of the voice, but the shadow she’d seen before had vanished. The paintings once again appeared to be identical.
Zelda felt the presence depart from the room as the paintings vanished, leaving behind only stone-gray walls. She crouched to the ground, her arms feeling as heavy as the stones that made up those walls. Why did she feel so empty all of a sudden, so helpless?
She called out for her harp, watching as it once again materialized in her hands. Strumming it carefully, she waited for the music to flow through her, guiding her through what to play next.
A march. The beating of drums. Yes, that was it. The song was coming to her, and it would soon carry her off to the next destination. The tendrils of light appeared again, this time colored red, and surrounded her until she could see nothing else.
She would now fly to the highest mountain, holding onto the hope that her weight would soon be lifted.