Day 1, 7:00 AM, 71 hours until impact.
"I guess I have some explaining to do."
That was the greatest understatement Link'd heard in several years. "So, you're the-"
"-the Kaepora Gaebora?" The bird nodded. "Yes. I'm actually the version from the time you were an adult, Link. You may also have figured this out already from the Gossip Stones, but I am also Rauru."
Link had that learned as well- before he retrieved the Lens of Truth from the Bottom of the Well in Kakariko Village, she had spent a day playing around with the various masks that she'd helped sell.
"I'm confused about-"
"About Nabooru and Zelda?" The young heroine replied, "Yes. I've gotten conflicting information about them."
The bird's head rotated slightly, as if trying to remember the details. "Then let me start from the beginning."
"The two first met while Ganondorf was meeting with the King of Hyrule, faking a pledge of support. The two became friends fairly fast, but did not see each other again for years, primarily because Nabooru was busy hunting for the Silver Gauntlets."
"Wait," Link/a stopped him/it, gesturing with the Golden Gauntlets on her hands. "If that's true, then why does Zelda have a crush on Malon?"
He hesitated before explaining. "Well, it's like she told you the night that she helped you beat back your nightmares. She'd been repressed- and you were the one who told her that the world wouldn't end if she acted on her real feelings."
The great bird was getting quite irritated by the constant interruptions. "Please, let me finish! What happened is that Zelda found out about Nabooru's plight through your adventures, and became torn between the two."
Rauru the bird stopped. "If you would PLEASE-"
"Which adventure, Rauru? Was it saving Hyrule or Termina? That adventure," she ranted, "or this one."
Link nearly exploded. "SO SHE KNEW ABOUT-"
"NO, SHE DID NOT KNOW! NOW SHUT YOUR PORKTRAP, AND LISTEN!" Rauru's feathers had clearly been ruffled, and his eyes were filled with- regret? Sadness?
"Yes, she did find out about what had happened to her old friend that night that you and the Princess figured out how to turn back the clock." Link prepared to interrupt again, but refrained. "And yes, I knew about what would happen."
"YES! But only because I warned myself!"
The tension between the bird and the girl was thick enough to cut with a butter knife. Link couldn't believe her ears. The Sage of Light, the man who had watched over him/her as she slept, the bird who pointed him in the right direction as a child, had known what miserable fate would await her. "But why?"
An audible sigh escaped the legend's beak. "Link, I've been around for four hundred years. I've seen the past, the present, and some of the future, and it's taught me one thing. No one should know too much about their future."
"My dear boy- uh.... girl... would you have tried so hard to save your childhood home if you knew what was in store? Would you still have braved the hot fires of Death Mountain, the dark depths of Lake Hylia, and the five Temples if you had known you would be screwed over as a reward?"
The words were out of her mouth before she even knew what she was saying. "Well, yea!"
"NO, YOU WOULDN'T! You teens are all alike!"
The bird shuddered violently in his fury, trying to be the calm one of the fight/discussion.
With a few deep breaths, Rauru started again. "Link, I warned myself to stop a time paradox. The whole triangle with Zelda, Nabooru, and Malon, it's an inconsistency in the timestream. It's not like the time you let the demon out of the well in Kakariko Village, this one won't fix itself. It may not have been your fault, but you've got to be the one to fix it."
"I didn't want to tell you that, but my GOD, you wouldn't pay attention to me! You've changed! You've gotten quite the temper, and you're nowhere near as polite as you used to be."
This was like getting a blunt twenty-pound weight in the face. "...I'm sorry. But you can't just expect me to hear that and not overreact."
The Kaepora Gaebora shook his head. "It's okay. Puberty tends to bring out the worst in people."
DING!! The clock tower rang nine times. Tatl finally spoke up. "Lina- I mean, Link, we need to get going. I think we should go to the Snowhead Mountains next."
The two began to run off to the north, but Rauru spoke up. "Wait! I might be able to help you out!"
The Hero/ine and the fairy turned to find the Sage flying towards them, stopping a few feet before them. "I can fly you around Termina. Think about it. It'll get you saving this place faster, and it'll get you back home faster."
Link/a didn't even have to think about it. "Sure. Sorry about all the drama." He extended her hand out of sheer habit, not realizing that a bird was on the receiving end. Despite this, she found a bunch of feathers shaking her palm up and down.
"Thank you, Hero."
"What's this, what's this, what's this?"
A man dropped from the sky, a giant (but popped) red balloon attached to his back. When he got up, our three mismatched heroes noticed that the man was dressed in green. Just like a Kokiri.
"I knew it! I finally found a fairy, I knew that dressing up like one was the key! Tingle-Tingle, Kooloo-Limpah!" The man-fairy threw what appeared to be shiny pieces of paper in the air to accentuate his happiness.
Tatl flew up close to Rauru's frozen face.
"Get. Us. Out. Of. Here. NOW."
Day 1, 6:00 PM, 60 hours until impact.
Rauru and Tatl were chilling outside of a rundown shack in the middle of the Snowhead Mountains- literally. They were inches from becoming solid blocks of ice. As Link walked out of the door, she held two things in her hands- a new mask, and a golden blade that was about the same size of the Master Sword.
The occupant of the shack walked to the edge of the door. "Thank you for giving me something to do. Working on that 'Kokiri Sword' really got my creative juices going. And that Goron in there... well... thank you for helping her."
"No problem. Good night!" The door closed, and the light in the shed went out shortly after.
Her two accomplices looked at their fearless leader, looked at the sword, looked at her again, looked at the mask, before finally speaking up. "So the mask-"
"It's like the Deku Mask, but it turns me into a Goron instead of a Deku. The Goron in there was the leader, but she got sick." Tatl understood the rest- she had played the Song of Healing for her.
"So when this is all over-"
"When it's over, she'll break free of the mask and return to normal. She agreed to this, surprisingly enough. I don't think I'd be able to take living in a piece of plaster."
Tatl didn't comment, but looked into the sky. The snow was bearing down on them as hard as it had when they'd first arrived. "I don't think it's going to slow down any time soon, Link."
But Link wasn't paying attention, instead focused on a bright red light emanating from over the next ridge. She ran through the two feet of snow, and glanced over the edge. "I think I found the reason why."
"BOSS FIGHT!!!!" The voice echoed through the mountains, drowning out the nearby commotion of the Goron community.
There was a large, mechanical bull incased in a sheet of ice. However, the red light was still issuing forth from a large red jewel on the mechanimal's forehead. Despite the aforementioned 'boss' warning, there seemed to be no immediate danger.
Link prepared to fire off an arrow at the ice block, when Tatl shouted out over the wind, "Link! I don't think a regular arrow is going to cut the ice!"
"Who said I was firing off a regular arrow?" As she said this, the tip of the arrow began to be engulfed in magical fires. As the arrowhead continued to be set ablaze, she took aim.
Kaepora Gaebora and Tatl looked at each other before pulling out two sticks, and began making smores from the extreme heat being made from the Fire Arrow.
She fired the arrow, to hit the ice. As the clear block melted, the bull came back online, echoing its name through out the heavens.
"GOHT! GOHT! GOHT!"
One of 'Goht's' rear legs kicked up a bit, as if preparing to dash. Which it did, right where Rauru, Tatl, and Lina were standing.
Tatl and Rauru ran off in opposite directions, trying to eat their snacks. Link grinned a little bit, before putting on the Goron mask.
The feeling was different than it had been when she became the Deku. With the shrub, it felt like she was shrinking, as if she was being crunched into a box of sardines. This transformation, however, was pain incarnate. It was like she was being pulled apart, her human frame and clothes expanding to meet the needs of the Goron. Link could feel her skin hardening, but not to the point it had when she had been a Deku- it still felt like flesh, not the Deku woodlike stuff she had been covered with during her escapades in the Swamp.
The bull was now twenty feet in front of her. Goron-Link/a sidestepped the mad mechanical beast's rampage, and grabbed onto the bull's front left leg. As her feet left the ground, she noticed a peculiar effect- the Golden Gauntlets that she had been wearing were still amplifying her strength, and since Gorons were notorious for their brawn, it goes without how tight that Link had grasping that leg.
She'd noticed it first the night that she'd met up with Malon during the Redead scare- no, focus! She was in Termina now, not Hyrule!
The Goron continued to climb up the bull's appendage as it began to buck back and forth, trying to get rid of her like a flea.
Link finally reached the top of the bull, centering herself on the center of Goht's back. The bull's jerking motions were getting worse, so she grabbed random wires, and prepared for the bucking of a lifetime.
From a distance, it appeared that Link was riding a mechanical bull like a drunken maniac.
Slowly but surely, Goron-Lina crawled up Goht's... 'spine', for lack of a better word, making way to the monstrosity's neck. The spastic movements of the bull seemed to lessen there, but her grip was finally starting to weaken a smidge.
She looked at her hands, white from the grasp that she'd held on the circuits of this mad beast. A mad plan formed in her frostbitten brain. Mad, yes. Plausible, possibly. Stupid? Well, all plans are until proven otherwise.
Her hands returned to the spine, which was the largest of the tubes running down the length of Goht. With all the strength she had left, she tugged at it, pulling and pulling until it snapped with a sickening crunch.
The effect was immediate and intentional. The monster fell to the ground, groaning. As it slid to a complete stop, Link crawled to the top of the head, noting that the jewel was still glowing hot red. When the bull finally completed its last journey, she punched it until it shattered.
The shards flew out like the pieces of paper that Tingle had thrown earlier that day. When the light went out of the jewel's remains, the forty-foot long, twenty-foot tall monster shrunk into a three-inch long, six-inch long mask, which disappeared as Link held it up.
The mask's disappearance was followed by a massive cheering. As Goron-Link looked around, she saw that her fight had gotten an audience. The nearby Gorons had gathered on the nearby cliff edge, clapping at the victory over the wintry machination. As the celebrations continued, Link looked up into the sky, feeling a sense of elation; the snow had stopped.
And that's when the clapping stopped as well, disappearing with the rest of the mountains.
She knew the routine by now. With Rauru and Tatl by her side, she met the second of the four giants.
Day 2, 8:00 AM, 46 hours until impact.
Link thanked the Goron Elder for his hospitality, but he would have none of it. "Please, Darmuni, we can't thank you enough."
Rauru looked visibly confused at the name, but Link whispered, "That's the Goron's name," in the spot where his ear would've been.
"You've definitely made some odd friends in your quest to rid us of the eternal winter, though," noting the presence of Tatl and the Kaepora Gaebora. Link just smiled and nodded.
"And your request for a Powder Keg license has been approved."
That dampened Link's smile a little. She didn't remember applying for anything.
"Forgot about that, did you? Not surprised. Now you can destroy that big boulder in front of the Romani Ranch, just like you promised the humans."
Tatl hovered over to Link's ear. "Link, that's where my friend put Epona!"
The wheels were starting to turn in Link's head. Turn back the clock again, and find Epona.
After finishing up her conversation with the Elder, she prepared to pull out her Ocarina. Instead, she pulled out something else.
"Bongos? Gorons play the bongos?"
Day 1, 9:00 AM, 69 hours until impact.
"I can't believe it! I just can't believe it!" Her voice was much deeper than usual from the magic of the Goron mask.
Tatl was tiring of these constant exclamations. "Yes, Link. We get it."
Still, it was a bit of a coincidence. The Romani Ranch was south of the town she kept ending up in (which was named Clock Town), on the same path that led Link and Tatl to the Woodfall Swamp.
The road to the Ranch, however, forked into two directions. One had a large boulder blocking it, and the other, well...
It was as if Ingo, the greedy ranch hand had cloned himself. Three times over. The three were beaming at the big rock covering up the way to the Romani Ranch. The youngest of the three was leaning on a sign that said, 'This Way to the Gorman Brothers Ranch'.
Tatl hovered close to Link's ear again, noting, "They were really happy when the Skull Kid blocked the Ranch off."
Link, still wearing her mask, pulled out what appeared to be a large TNT barrel that'd been ripped straight out of the Donkey Kong Country video games. She lit the fuse, threw the rip-off, and dove for cover.
The explosion was louder that a KISS concert, and just as flashy. The rock parted into millions of tiny rock that flew every which way, with chunks of dirt flying through the air. When the dust cleared, so was the way inside the Ranch.
The three brothers booed the aftermath, but their response didn't matter to Link. When she entered the ranch, she darted behind a bush and took off the mask.
The reversion was instant, and much less painful than putting the mask on. It was just your standard 'I'm too lazy to animate transformations so I'll just place a bright flash of light' deal. When Lina emerged, she was her standard 'I'm-me-again-but-still-cursed' self, blonde hair and all.
She could clearly see that this farm was different than the one she'd stayed on for the past year or so. It was hilly, and the cows were roaming the ranch freely instead of being confined to their stalls. There was an archery range there as well, and preparing to take aim at one of the target dummies was-
She began dashing toward her friend, not believing what she was seeing. As she got closer, though, she could feel something pulling at the collar of her tunic.
"Tatl! Rauru! Lemme go, I wanna go talk to Malon!"
The fairy spoke first. "Think before you act, girl- I mean, dude!" The bird followed that suggestion up with one of his own. "Just look at her. Stay silent, and look."
Reluctantly, she followed their advice. The Malon-look-a-like kept shooting arrows at the stationary target, but she wasn't very good at it just yet. Another redhead appeared out of the nearby barn, holding a bowl of steaming hot soup. And if Link didn't know any better, she could've sworn that this one was Malon as well.
But this one was grown up. In fact, she looked just like Malon had when Link was a grown man.
Day 1, 5:00, 61 hours until impact.
The inside of the nearby house was like a combination of the kitchen at the Lon Lon Ranch, Malon's room, and Link's own. Nonetheless, it didn't make her feel like she was home.
But the residents of that domicile did. The younger one, Romani, said that she'd been practicing her bowsmanship to take on the aliens who, according to her, 'keep taking our cows before the Festival of Time.'
The elder of the two, Cremia, was busy looking at a picture of three people. While she was gone, Link took a brief look at the still. The three appeared to be at last year's Festival, enjoying themselves immensely. One of them was Cremia, but the other two looked familiar.
The red head to Cremia's immediate right looked familiar to Link in the same way that Romani and Cremia had looked recognizable- the lady looked just like that girl from Kakariko Village, the one who had been allergic to Cuccos.
The other prominent person in the picture was also familiar, but in a different sense. The boy that Link/a saw pick up the mail every time she reversed the clock, the purple-haired one that had been wearing the Keaton mask, was in the picture.
"That's Kafei and Anju."
Link jumped at the sound of Cremia's voice, nearly dropping the picture frame.
"Anju's a close friend of mine, and Kafei's her little brother. I was worried that I wasn't going to see them this year."
She gazed silently upon the picture with a longing that Link had seen before in Ruto's eyes, albeit this look was far less lustful. '...Does she like Anju?'
Outside, there was a whinny that Link could've recognized anywhere. "That horse is upset again. I swear, between us, I think Romani's the only one that can calm it down."
Link ran outside, hoping that it wasn't too good to be true.
Day 2, 11:55 AM, approx. 55 hours until impact.
The alien invasion was well underway, and Link was busy fending them off, firing arrows from the back of her trusty horse, Epona.
'Malon- Romani says that these light thingies stay for a while, then fly off with the goods.'
She'd been tremendously lucky with the horseback archery- she'd never really been that good at it, even when she had been hunting Poes. She drew back her bowstring, aimed, and nearly dropped her arrow when one of Epona's hooves hit an especially hard rock.
Despite this though, the alien lights appeared to be leaving, without taking a single cow.
As the lights faded from the sky, Cremia ran out of the house shouting, "What are you two doing?"
She looked at Link, who was still saddled on Epona, then shifted her focus to her sister, who was guarding the barn entrance with her bow and arrows.
"Romani! Do you have any idea what time it is?"
"It's 12:07! You need to be in bed so you can help me load up the cart for the milk delivery!" She hustled over to the barn, grabbed Romani by the ear, and began to drag her back to the house.
"But sis, aren't you glad that we fought off the aliens?"
"Yes, I'm actually thrilled. I'm so thrilled, that I realized that WE NEED TO SLEEP!" The door slammed behind her.
Link decided to Epona out to pasture for the night, and prepared to walk back to the house. When she arrived back, the older of the two sisters was waiting for her.
"Lina, I can't thank you enough for what you and Romani did. Please don't take my anger as a sign of disrespect or a lack of gratitude. I hate to ask, but can you do me an additional favor?"
"....And that's it. Well?"
She looked at the window to the guest bedroom. Rauru was perched on the windowsill, with Tatl floating close by.
"Link, remember that we don't have much time to waste. We need to solve our little problem with the Princess."
"Yea, and we've gotta get that crazy mask off my friend."
With that, good-byes were exchanged, and Link slept for the first time in a while.
'I just hope that things calm down when I get home.'
Day 2, 8:00 AM, 46 hours until impact
The plan was simple- act as an escort for Cremia's delivery of her famous "Cheateu Romani" Milk.
Before Cremia began to move the milk wagon, she called Link over. "Now Link, I should warn you. The last time we tried to deliver milk, a band of thieves tried to steal our shipment. We lost half of the milk before they went away."
Link nodded. "I just hope I have enough arrows."
"Don't worry. I'm sure they won't try to steal from us again. It's just a precaution."
With that, the wagon started to move out. Romani waved the two of them off before returning to bed, tired from moving the crates of milk and fending off alien invaders.
As the wagon moved past the Gorman Bros. Farm, the three brothers were still there, their mustaches as stiff and twisty as ever. They stared in unison at the wagon, and then noticed the horse accompanying it.
When the caravan was out of earshot, the tallest of the three began talking. "Well, it looks like she's gotten a friend this time."
The shortest of the brothers nodded. "It's only a kid, though. What can a kid do against the might of-"
The three brothers pumped their fists into the air. "THE GORMAN BROTHERS SLASH THIEF EXTRAORDINAIRES!!!!"
The middle sibling looked into the nearby trees, annoyed at something. "Is it just me, or has that owl been there all night?"
The other two brothers joined him in staring at it. The bird, finally realizing that it had been noticed by something, flew off to the north.
"Shall we get started?"
Not so far away, Link was staying steady with the cart, making pleasant conversation with the driver.
"Are you sure this is really necessary?"
"I think so. The Gorman Brothers are really jealous of our success, so they might have hired someone."
With that, there was a familar *THUNK* of an arrow hitting a piece of wood. Epona slowed down a little, and there it was- an arrow with a black piece of cloth attached had struck the bottom right corner of the cart.
When Lina took a closer look, the cloth had a drawing of an outrageously styled mustache.
Rauru came out of nowhere, appearing on Link's right. "Link! They're coming!"
She looked behind her, only to find that three horses had somehow snuck up on her, along with three masked men, all with impossibly angled facial fuzz.
"Kinda obvious, don't ya think?"
Tatl had clearly been infuriated by his statement of the obvious.
Lina carefully readjusted herself to face the bandits. She prepared to return fire when a thought popped into her head.
'I don't have to kill them.'
Every time she'd fought against someone or something, she'd gone for the kill, with the exception of the Gerudos, which she had gone for incapacitation.
This time, she was up against three misfit brothers who wanted to make a quick buck.
She fired off an Ice Arrow at the ground in front of the three horsemen, creating a slippery slope of magical ice.
One of the horses slipped, causing its rider to fall out of the chase. The other two merely went around the frost, and avoided making the same mistake.
Link shot off a regular arrow this time, nicking the shorter of the two remaining chasers on his right shoulder. He slumped off his horse, grabbing at his wound in pain.
That left the tallest of the three, who was catching up quickly with the caravan. He bypassed Link, instead choosing to aim for Cremia.
Link might not have been shooting to kill, but he was.
Thinking quickly, Link began reciting a magical incantation that she'd learned during her last adventure, a spell that had saved her life during her very first fight with Dark Link.
As the brigand's arrow left his bow, he didn't hit the woman, but instead hit a mysterious blue shield that had appeared out of nowhere.
'I guess Nayru's Love works on groups of people, too.'
The cursed Hero commanded her horse to go faster, to be at the highwayman's side before the spell wore off.
The hooligan, meanwhile, had taken out a dagger and began to slash wildly at the protective barrier.
As it finally began to fade, the final crook felt a slight tapping on his shoulder. He turned around to find a block of gold soaring into his face.
The impact threw both horse and master flying through the air, at least sixty feet away.
'I'm never letting the Golden Gauntlets out of my sight again.'
As the spell wore off completely, the wagon came to a complete stop. They had reached their destination...
"And not a single bottle missing! Lina, I can't thank you enough!"
The two dismounted their respective rides. Cremia, in a fit of blazon happiness, grabbed Link, raised her into the air, and kissed her on the forehead.
Lina didn't know why, but it made her feel warm and fuzzy inside.
"Cremia? Is that you?"
The Malon-look-a-like gently let Link down to the ground to look at another red head.
"Cremia! Thank the stars, it is you!"
The two ran into a hug, which quickly turned into a heated kiss. It looked very inviting.
"I knew the two of them were always close."
Link turned to her left to find Kafei, the kid with the Keaton mask. "Thanks for helping them out. I don't think I could've taken another day of Anju complaining about that boulder."
Anju had walked over during that explanation to speak with Link as well. "Lina, Words can never express how happy I am that you helped her out!"
She turned to her younger brother, and became giddy. "She said yes."
Kafei was stunned, but quickly released a smile that was nothing short of beaming. "So she's-"
"She said she wants to do it tonight!"
The siblings quickly embraced each other in a familial hug. Link walked over to Cremia, who couldn't help but smile. "Lina-"
Cremia dug out a package from the seat compartment of the wagon. "I want you to have this."
She opened the wrapping to find another mask. This one was black, and had golden rings surrounding the eyes. There was also a hint of a blush on the mask, which gave it a certain charm.
"It's called the Couple's Mask. It brings good luck to the owner's love life." Link looked at the previous owner, bewildered. "Lina, it's not like I'm going to need it anymore. I want you to have it- you've gone above and beyond to help us out."
As she rejoined her fiance, Tatl and Rauru finally reappeared at Link's side.
Rauru was shaking his feathery head. "That was nice of you to do, Link, but you know that this won't carry over when you go back, right?"
"I know. I want to enjoy just one moment when I get to see something go right."
Day 2, 11:00 PM, 31 hours until impact.
The local bar wasn't a real bar- milk was as popular as beer- but it was still the place for newlyweds to enjoy themselves after the ceremonies were through.
So it was no great surprise that Anju and Cremia were still dancing slowly with each other, late into the night. Link played a slow tune with his Ocarina, savoring what was probably the first peaceful moment she'd had since Zelda and Impa had shown up at the Ranch.
Link looked at the clock that hung over the bar door. 11:05. She had put it off long enough.
As Anju and Cremia walked out the door, holding each other's hand, Link prepared to play one final song. She had hoped that they could've kept dancing, but they had to do that thing that newlyweds do- Link wasn't sure what that was, but knew that they needed their alone time.
As she prepared to turn back the clock again, she felt a twinge of regret that this, of all things, couldn't repeat during the next cycle.
Not much had happened since Link left the ranch.
Well, one thing, actually. The sun had set an hour ago.
Which made Vaati feel at ease, if only a little bit. 'Tomorrow, I'm finally gonna show that stupid Malon. Without that green girl to help her, I'll finally show her.'
Obsessed much? Probably. But Vaati had been deadset on staying on the Lon Lon Ranch for three years now, and he was NOT about to give up on that now.