He was back in the Water Temple, in a barren room containing only a small island with a tree on it. The rest was covered in three inches of brackish water. This particular place was extremely familiar to the savior of Hyrule- one of the most difficult battles in the quest to save everything took place here.
Just then, Link's reflection jumped out of the water, with a sword just like his fully drawn. It was Link, but wasn't at the same time. This one seemed... cold. It had no facial features whatsoever. The copy was simply black all over. He remembered this foe- he referred to it as 'Dark Link' (not a very original name, mind you, but it fit the situation). Link decided that now might be a good time to unsheathe his own sword, which he did.
The two Links rushed each other, each trying to read the other as their swords made contact. They slashed at each other, but only made contact with the other combatant's sword with each move they made. A thrust, and a parry.
This was the kind of fight Link had fought back in his glory days, back when- wait, too much focusing on the past-
While Link's attention was divided, he had attempted to stab the Dark One. Dark Link jumped on top of the Master Sword, and kicked his good counterpart in the face- HARD.
The impact sent Link flying, further than he'd ever been during his first trek through the Temple. After about three seconds in the air, he finally made contact with the ground. And it hurt. Oh, it hurt like the dickens.
The sword had fallen out of his hand, probably jarred loose from the impact. He reached for the weapon, ready to strike back...
Only to have a certain copy squeeze his throat, dangling him in mid-air... wait, how on earth did his arm get to be fifteen feet long?
"Face it, you're weak. Go back to scrubbing floorboards, you weak little woman!"
With that, the clone let go. Link looked down, realized he had breasts, and remembered something that he'd constantly forgotten every time this dream came up. He was a girl now, not a boy.
Lina backed away from the Dark One, trying to get the sword, but it wasn't there anymore.
"Looking for this, wuss?"
The anti-Hero was now in possession of the Master Sword, rushing the blonde now-woman. Lina was defenseless at this point- at that point in her adventure, she hadn't had Biggoron's Sword forged, and the Hammer was too unwieldy against the Master Sword. As the attacker prepared his assault, Link briefly noticed one thing- his face had changed from all dark to colorful, his face now colored purple, with red and yellow splotches. It was almost as if there was a mask over the doppelganger's face. And that was all before Dark Link-with-a-mask-on-his-face slashed his sword. The blade was two inches was from cutting up Link's face-
And that's when a twelve year old blonde girl woke up in her bed, covered in a sheen of ice cold sweat.
'Again with the nightmares.... That's the third time this week.'
It had started two weeks ago, and had been getting more intense, more real ever since. It'd almost as if she was there again.
She looked outside. The sun was beginning to rise, and that meant that there was probably work to be done. Then she realized that today was Wednesday, and that meant that Talon and Ingo were taking the cows to the Annual Hylian Milk Festival. The two of them would be gone for a week or two. They'd (or as Ingo would tell you, he'd) won the whole contest last year, and they were not giving up the title without a fight. A fight that involved udders, wooden mugs, cookies, and picky eaters.
Since Malon and Link (Lina, it's still a fairly confusing conundrum) were still too young to attend (the limit is thirteen and older), they'd need a baby sitter.
Link (d'oh!) could very easily have taken care of herself. She'd saved Hyrule, and had enough weaponry in the general area to fight a small-scale war and win. Her self-defense skills were pretty darn good. But Talon didn't know that, and hopefully, wouldn't learn about that last part for a while.
Time had been well to the two girls, both of them getting taller, Link more so than Malon. But Malon was just starting puberty, so her body was definitely starting to go through some changes. Like the fact that her rear end had started to acquire a more feminine curve.
So it was just the two of them for the moment, eating flavored oatmeal for breakfast. The last babysitter that Malon had was apparently a druggie, and was scared of horses. Needless to say, the two of them did not get along well.
Lina (Finally! Well, maybe. I don't know what to call her/him/it) just ate, not making any conversation with the redhead, brooding about that dr- nightmare. When he'd actually fought Dark Link, the challenger was more or less a carbon copy of the real deal- in action and in mind.
'So was that dream really all me? Or is it something more sinister?'
She jerked to attention. 'Oh no, Malon probably knows-'
"Is something wrong?"
'Crud.' "Uh... No."
She gave her friend a half-lidded stare. "You're lying again."
'Double crud.' "Wha? How?"
"You stuttered... you squinted, and your eyebrows came together. You have absolutely no poker face. It was actually a little cute."
The sheer absurdness of that last comment got a brief little chuckle out of the boy-gone-girl. The mere thought of someone complimenting her like that was laughable, but it wasn't crazy enough to keep his mind away from other matters. "It's nothing. Really."
That was code for, 'It's a guy thing. I'm a girl now. It really wouldn't make much sense.' Malon backed off, but she knew that the two of them were going to have to talk sooner or later. She proceeded to change the subject to Ingo's feeble attempts at growing a beard.
"No, it's not just you. It looks more like a goatee."
"Or like a Were-Stalfos attacked him!"
Their conversation was interrupted by a horse loudly trotting by. The two girls looked out of the window. The horse looked like it had gone through hell and back, but it still stood strong. There were two people on her back. The one at the reigns was probably in her early thirties, but her hair was white as snow, and-
Malon had heard that name before, somewhere. "Who's that? And who's the young boy behind her?"
The lad in question was nearly all covered up in dark, skin-tight clothing. Almost none of the skin was showing. Honestly, the guy looked like a ninja. There was an eye on the chest for all to see, and the boy had red eyes and blonde hair. Link's jaw almost hit the floor.
'Zelda. How the? Why the?'
Well, yes, it was Zelda. But, as those who've played the game before would've already figured out by now (again, shame on you if you haven't), she was disguised as the young Sheikiah warrior, Sheik (not a very original name, but it suits the purpose). Link knew that. She also knew that she couldn't let either of them in on the secret. She told Malon everything, except for the little detail that Sheik was actually the Princess of Hyrule.
As the two dismounted, Impa turned to her protégé. "Now, Princess, do you know why we're here?"
"Because we need money for food?"
"No." She looked at the chicken coop. "Because there's free food all around, for the whole week. And we do need money. For food."
"That and I had a vision about learning something here."
"Well, that too. Now remember, you've never met Malon before-"
"I know the drill, Impa-"
"-It kills me to do this, but I have to pretend that I've never met her before. And you can't-"
"....Let them know. We've been going over this since the day you came here, Link. Just relax, and I'll show you how to talk the talk and walk the walk."
The two girls prepared to walk out the door, when Malon stopped her. "Now, there's just one thing that you should know before we do this."
"Don't walk with your legs so far apart. You don't want people looking under your dress."
Link had almost forgotten that he was wearing one of Malon's outfits today. 'That's what I get for forgetting to do my laundry.' She was so self-conscious about whether or not her facade would work that she tripped over her own feet coming out of the door.
Impa's eyes widened slightly when she saw Malon carefully walk over Link's prostrate body. "Malon, so good to see you!"
The two hugged, remembering all those times when the ranch girl helped deliver milk. Sheik started to dismount her (his, this stuff hurts my brain), but promptly fell off of the horse.
Impa could feel that ulcer in her stomach going off. 'If she can't get off a horse, how does she expect to pass herself off as a boy?'
The two blondes finally scraped themselves off of the ground. Impa immediately strode over to her young counterpart. "Malon, I'd like to introduce you to my apprentice, Sheik. He's been traveling with me for some time now."
Malon, in turn, introduced Link. "This is a friend of mine. Her name's Lina. My dad hired her last year."
Impa sized up the young Hero/ine from head to toe.
'Oh goddesses, Impa's one of the smartest people I know. She's already got me figured out.'
"Nice to meet you, Lina."
Link was shocked to find that the Princess's guardian had extended her hand for a friendly handshake. She responded in kind, "It's a pleasure to meet you as well, Impa."
As Impa began to chat with Malon, the blonde "ninja-no-I-am-not-a-princess" Sheik walked toward Link, and nodded. "Like she said, the name is Sheik." They exchanged a nice handshake as well, but it seemed a bit colder than Impa's... as if Sheik wasn't in the greatest of moods.
'Maybe she's already met Nabooru?'
Regardless, the four of them walked back inside the building next to the cow stables, and Malon began to cook some omelets for the two newcomers. Impa sucked in her food like a vaccum, while Sheik picked at her food without really eating it. That all but confirmed to Link that something wasn't right. Malon noticed it, but Impa either didn't see it or decided not to see it.
"Thanks for the food, Malon." Sheik got up from the table.
"But you didn't eat anything."
"I'm not very hungry." And with that, he walked in the direction of the horses.
"Excuse me." Malon picked up what was left of Sheik's food that Impa hadn't tried to eat already and went after him, which left Link, the Hero/ine of Time in hiding with Impa, the future Sage of Shadow.
Naturally, Link didn't have much to say to his old friend, mostly because of his new gender. Impa made the first step as she finished off the glass of milk she'd been chugging.
"So, Lina, how did you end up here? Where did you live before here?"
That gave Link pause. For all the precautions that she and Malon had taken to ensure that no one figured out the secret, they'd never come up with a plausible cover for where "Lina" came from. Talon had only asked for her name, and Ingo was too in love with himself to care.
"I don't like talking about it much." Which was a true statement- no lies there.
"There's no shame in talking about it." 'She's persistent....'
"...." 'Think of something!'
"Wait... Malon said you showed up here about a year ago, right?"
Link nodded. 'Yes. Let's just not go for details-'
Impa smiled. "Now we're getting somewhere. Where?" '...Crud. Details.'
"...Hyrulecastletown." It came out so fast, that Link didn't even know what she'd just said.
"Hyrule Castle Town?" Link nodded again.
'Yea, let's go with that. No more questions, please!'
"And your parents?"
And that was when Link's brain finally ground to a dead halt. S/He never knew anything about his father, and his/her real mother after begging the Great Deku Tree to take care of her.
"Uh... my... parents?"
'Oh no. Here we go...'
"Were your parents killed in that monster uprising last year? And you came here because you had no place to go?"
Link had nearly forgotten about how she'd gotten to where she was. 'The Redead attack?'
"Yes." That wasn't so much a lie as it was a half-truth. She really had no place to stay but at Lon Lon Ranch.
"I'm sorry. I'd heard about the Redead... but I'd never thought they'd show up in the Market District. I was too busy with... royal affairs."
"You mean the Princess?"
Impa tone immediately went from pleasant to serious. "How in Nayru's good graces did you know about our escape from town?"
'Think, Link! THINK!!!!!!' "Uh.... I saw you on the horse with the Princess." That was true, but she wasn't in town when she saw it. She wasn't a girl at that point, either.
The Sheikiah's tone now became sad, near remorseful. "I'm sorry I pressed. I didn't know. Believe me when I say that I would've tried to help, but I had to get the Princess away from... well, it doesn't matter anyway. Please accept my apologies."
"It's okay. I guess I'm still a little sore about it." Now THAT was a clear-as-crystal lie. And it looked like Impa'd bought it!
"As long as there's no bad blood between us." She turned her attention back to her plate. "Can you cook up another batch of those omelets? They were delicious!"
By the time Malon caught up to Sheik, he was sitting at the entrance to the horse corral, hands behind his head.
"There you are! You barely touched your food!"
"I said I wasn't very hungry."
"Well, you need to eat. I'm sure you don't get to eat much on the road." Malon offered Sheik (aka-Zelda-aka-don't-spoil-the-plot) his plate again, and he took it. Malon smiled as he began to actually eat the omelet. There was a hint of a blush on his cheeks.
"Thanks. It's pretty good"
'Darn it! Malon's one of my best friends, and I can't talk to her like one! Thing's just aren't like last time.'
As Malon began to walk away, Zelda's- I mean, Sheik's- eyes found themselves unconsciously wandering toward Malon's rear.
'Definitely not like last time.'
Nothing that eventful happened for the rest of the day. Well, almost nothing- that evening, Link could see that Vaati was camping on the hilltop next to the ranch that.
From what she could see, he had most likely hit puberty by now- he'd gained at least six inches since the last time he'd shown up. His build wasn't that much more muscular than last time, though- he was still as scrawny as always. Other than that, nothing much had changed- his clothes were still purple, and his eyes still scarlet red.
"Link!" She knew that Impa was calling. "It's time for bed!"
Link walked back to her room, and opened to door, only to find Sheik unrolling what appeared to be a very well worn sleeping bag.
"What are you doing in here?"
Sheik finally took notice of the young ranch hand. "Sorry. Impa said that I have to sleep in your room. There's not enough room in Malon's."
Link could live with that. "Sheik?"
"Just out of curiosity, how old are you right now?"
"Just curious." With that, Link did a little bit of thinking in her head. From what she can remember from her conversations with Impa and Rauru, that would mean that Zelda would be in the middle of her own puberty. Which must've made masquerading as a boy be like going through hell.
As Link fell asleep, she began to understand that she wasn't the only one trying to live a lie.
Meanwhile, Sheik was trying to come to terms with what had happened that morning. She had looked at Malon in a new light... and she had kind of liked it.
'Hm? What the?'
She'd almost fallen asleep, but had noticed that her roommate was talking in her sleep.
Her latest attempt to fight back against Dark Link hadn't worked. In hindsight, she should've remembered that magic didn't exactly hurt the dark creation last time, either. Oddly enough, the thing hadn't turned her into a girl this time- yet.
She'd exhausted just about every weapon at her disposal, and she knew that Nayru's Love would not protect her forever from its assaults.
Zelda couldn't help but use some of her magic to see what the poor girl was dreaming. It wasn't that she was nosy, it was that she was interested. There was a difference.
What she saw was simply shocking. She saw Link, all grown up, fighting what appeared to be a badly colored copy. He looked like the man that she'd envisioned him being. However, it looked like she was losing. Badly.
She didn't understand why Lina was dreaming about the Hero of Time, but she knew that she didn't want to see what would happen if he lost.
'Now is probably a good time to put last week's lesson to good use.' Impa had taught her a lot during the last year, even if they never really stayed in one place more than a few weeks these days. Including how to project herself into people's dreams- it was difficult to master, especially since it was originally meant to be used by actual Sheikiah, but she'd done it. And now, she'd do it for real.
She landed in the water, perfectly disguised as the ninja, Sheik. She brought out a chain whip, and lashed it at Dark Link's throat. The Dark One's hands immediately went to the chains, trying to break free.
Link had to do a double take before confirming that Sheik had somehow popped up. Not the Sheik from the future, but the Sheik of now. He looked at Link, determined to aid the warrior. "Hurry! Do something!"
Link was already trying to figure out what to do. Every single weapon in her arsenal hadn't worked. Every weapon that she'd gotten to that point....
'Wait... Sheik wasn't there during the original fight. And if Zelda's here now, then all bets are off!'
She then proceeded to pull out her bow. She knew that the regular arrows wouldn't do much damage. But she began focusing on a different type of arrow- one that she had received much later, but prayed she could still access it.
She could! As she began to pull the arrow back, a yellow light began to envelop the arrowhead. The light became more and more intense as Link pulled the string and arrow, finally turning white as snow. The magical drain from Nayru's Love was only going to give Link one shot, so he'd have to make it count.
Sheik's chain was clearly being strained, and he was losing his grip on it.
As the arrow left the bow, Link knew it would make contact. It was as if time had slowed down as the Light Arrow flew toward its target. Dark Link finally loosened the grip the chain had on its throat, gasping for air. As it looked up, it could see a beam of light, whiter than snow and brighter than the sun, shooting toward it.
It only groaned as the magic weapon pierced its neck. It fell to the ground, disintegrating while it hit the ground. It gradually did so, until only a mask was left. The room began to disappear as well, leaving only black. Which left only Lina, Sheik, and the mask.
Only one word echoed throughout the empty void.
And with that, Link sat upright in her bed, trying to come to terms with what had just transpired in the nightmare. 'He's gone,' she thought, 'but if that actually just happened, then-'
It was at that point that she realized that Sheik was awake. And staring at her.
"Lina. A quick question, will you?"
Sheik got out of her bag, and sat on top of it, Indian-style.
"How do you know Link?"