EVEN THOUGH THE forest fairies had only arrived briefly before Saria's visit to the Great Deku Tree, time altered that perception. To the Kokiri, in their halted state of a forest, the fairies had been with them for what felt like years at this point. New Kokiri were accompanied by new fairies, and it became a Kokiri right to a fairy companion.
Saria, however, only made her journey with Tera to the Great Deku Tree moments after the fairies had settled in, from an outsider's perspective. Still, to the concerned soothsayer, her worries felt as if they'd been going on for years. She looked up at the massive tree before her, roots curling into the ground and green leaves growing from every possible twig that extended toward the sky. Saria almost heard hushed little voices among the branches, remembering that this sacred tree was the home of many fairies.
"Darkness is coming to Hyrule," came a gentle yet authoritative voice, that of a much older female. As if on cue, a beautiful woman seemed to emerge from the intertwined branches of the tree. She was three times the size of Saria, and had a misty haze about her that made the Kokiri question whether or not she was a physical being. She had long green hair that seemed to turn into the tree's vines as it fell down her back, matching with the foliage that covered her body. Unlike the fairies that now swarmed Kokiri Village, this beautiful woman had no wings, nor shining necklace of light.
"You're the spirit of the Great Deku Tree?" Saria said, incredulous.
The Great Fairy let out a laugh that sounded like the chatter of fairies, only much more graceful and distant, as if a giant bell had chimed in a faraway land.
"The Great Deku Tree merely accepted and welcomed me into his sanctuary," the Fairy answered. "I am the Great Fairy of Courage, and I watch over your village."
"How do I stop the forest from dying?" Saria asked hurriedly.
Another laugh from the Fairy sounded through the glade. "The forest is cursed, little one. Timelessness is not something to treasure. With death comes growth, and the birth of new things."
"But this means the Kokiri will die," Saria said, tone panicked.
"The Kokiri are safe in the arms of the fairies and the Great Deku Tree," the Fairy consoled. "But you must know of the dangers that come with change." The Great Fairy descended from the tree, hovering in the air until she was just above Saria's head. "A new age is dawning on all of Hyrule. This is why it is necessary for the forest to die, and for new things to grow in its place. However the time is encroaching much too quickly. The forest must live on or else it will become corrupted too soon, and nothing new will come of it."
"So what do I do?" Saria said.
"Music has always pleased the gods," said the Great Fairy. "And in the new age that is dawning, it will rule the skies. The birth of the new princess will grant the people of Hyrule the music of the goddesses, which when played by the chosen hero can be used for the good of the land and the people." The Great Fairy waved a hand through the air, conjuring up a small wooden ocarina. "Fashioned from the bark of the Great Deku Tree, I grant you this ocarina, Saria of the Kokiri."
Saria took the physical ocarina from the ethereal being's hands, eyeing it closely. "How is this supposed to help the forest?"
"There is a song you must play," the Great Fairy said, returning to her perch in the branches of the Great Deku Tree. "It was stored away within your heart from a distant life and can ebb the death of the forest. But know that when it is time for you to pass on your ocarina, it is time for the forest to die."
Saria gazed up at the fading entity of the Great Fairy. "How will I know? Great Fairy, please, how will I know when to pass on the ocarina, and how will I learn the song?"
The Great Fairy paused, turning to flash a smile at the Kokiri. "The forest will guide you, as you harbor a wise spirit." And with that, the Great Fairy let out a peeling laugh and vanished within the Great Deku Tree.
Saria gazed down at the wooden ocarina in her small hands. It was oblong-shaped with an array of holes. She had no idea how to play, but she knew that in order to save the forest she would at least have to try.
"The Great Fairy is right," Tera said quietly, fluttering by Saria's ear. "The death of the forest may be frightening, but it is inevitable."
"But why now?" Saria said, out of breath from the encounter. "There will be a new princess?"
"Some things even we fairies are not meant to know," Tera chimed. "For now, all you can do is learn the song of the forest and continue its life for a little longer."
When Saria returned to the village, Mido immediately sought her out. "Saria. Has the Great Deku Tree spoken? What can we do to save the forest?"
The green-haired Kokiri pressed a hand against the ocarina, hidden safely in her satchel. For some reason she felt it was not necessary for Mido or the other Kokiri to know of her new responsibilities.
"There is still hope," she said simply, with a smile. "The Great Deku Tree predicts a prosperous time for the forest."
The Kokiri cheered in excitement, but only Mido regarded Saria skeptically. "Saria," he said below his breath, "what are you not telling me?"
Saria only smiled so not as to confuse the villagers, and turned on her heel to find the Sacred Grove. Once there, she felt within her the pain of the dying foliage, the leaking energy from the ancient temple. She watched Tera flutter around the entrance to the overgrown building, which towered above them. "Something is awakening the power from this place," the fairy said delicately. "It must be the new age that the Great Fairy mentioned."
"It once held the power of a gate that let one transcend time itself," Saria explained, although she knew the fairy must already know the grove's history. "It has been empty of such abilities for centuries."
"But it is being rebuilt," Tera said suddenly, fluttering down to Saria. "The gods are filling it with renewed energy. It must be why the forest around it is dying; the new surge of energy is too much for such a static place."
"Why would the gods be filling it with renewed energy?" Saria said.
"The Great Fairy must have concealed this knowledge for a reason," said Tera. She paused, wings flitting rapidly. "Do you feel the song of the forest?"
Saria closed her eyes, feeling the pulse of the ancient temple. The melody whistled through her like a cool breeze, lifting her spirits. She reached into her satchel and pulled out the ocarina, feeling the energy flow through it. Pressing the mouthpiece to her lips, she began to play. The speed of her fingers startled her, as well as the immense power she felt at the melody's sound. She played through a whole song, and then repeated. She kept on repeating, feeling buoyed by its lightness and empowered by its abilities. She could vaguely make out Tera's whistling voice, crying out, "It's working! Saria, it's working! The grove… it's regenerating!"
But in her mind, a whole orchestra of forest instruments had joined in. She danced in place, overjoyed by the tune and the energy.
In the midst of her dancing, she spun around and briefly opened her eyes, and suddenly the music stopped. Her fingers froze above the keys, and the symphony of instruments in her head ceased. There, standing at the entrance of the Sacred Grove, was a Skull Kid.
The stories of the Children of the Forest were only ever in place to warn new Kokiri of the dangers outside the village. On Saria's first day, Mido was merely a newcomer himself and told her the tall tale. The warning goes that if a Kokiri finds himself lost in the forest outside their village, the forest will eat him up and turn him into a Skull Kid, a scarecrow-like bandit that is always and forever alone. Hyrule theorists call them Children of the Forest, for the cautionary tale was not necessarily true. One theory suggests that a Kokiri once mated with a Deku Scrub, producing a mutated half-breed that has become a somewhat rare occurrence in the wood. Another theory, the one that gave these creatures the name Children of the Forest, suggests that they are truly children of trees, grown from Deku seeds that have been graced with a Great Fairy's tears, or the light from a forest fairy. All scholars, however, agreed that the creatures did not exist.
To the Kokiri, these somewhat frightening beings are the reason for the Lost Woods' naming, and are a good urban legend against the dangers of the forest. But experienced Kokiri are more aware of the truth being the tale. So when Saria saw the Skull Kid standing silently at the grove's entrance, her heart nearly stopped.
The Skull Kid had eerily gray skin, thin stick-like limbs, and two beady, orange eyes with no whites hiding deep in what must have been its face. It wore dirty rags that resembled deteriorated Kokiri clothing, including the straw hat of a Kokiri worker. The brim of the hat shadowed its face, but Saria had an upsetting hunch that no matter what angle she tried to look through, she wouldn't see a face at all.
"Play it again," the Skull Kid said, voice like crunching leaves.
Saria was breathing heavily, from a combination of exhaustion and fright. The creature before her looked like a demon the forest had spit out, simply because it had been too hard to swallow. It was sagging and empty, and certainly seemed alone.
"Did you hear me? Play it again."
Saria swallowed the lump in her throat and pressed the ocarina to her lips once more. She searched for the melody inside her heart, but it didn't come to her. Her fingers were trembling, and she knew that without the spirit of the forest within her once more, she could never move them according to the song's swift melody.
"Play it again. Play it again, play it again."
It was acting like a little kid, like a whining child that wanted its way. And Saria had no idea what would happen if it didn't get its way.
"I can't…" she breathed, looking down at the ocarina.
"You were just playing it," the Skull Kid said, eyes boring holes into Saria's. "What do you mean you can't?"
"I don't know how… I was just…" Saria felt her heart pounding in fear. "Please don't hurt me."
The Skull Kid lifted its head slightly so that the hat could no longer possibly shadow its face. But where a face would be only darkness resided, with a large grin revealing two rows of rigidly sharp teeth. "Hurt you?" it echoed, sounding confused. "I just want you to play that song again. Play it again."
The Skull Kid took a step forward, and Saria shut her eyes, hoping it was somehow an apparition. But she heard Tera's tingling voice beside her whisper, "Ignore it. Let the voice of the forest flow through you again. You can do it, Saria."
Saria did just that, and was once more playing the joyful melody of the forest. She opened her eyes this time, watching the Skull Kid carefully, and to her surprise it began to dance. It hopped from foot to foot, eyes closed in joy. Then, to add to Saria's surprise, it whipped out a thin, wooden flute and pressed it to its lipless mouth. "Teach me," it exclaimed, interrupting the musical session.
Saria paused. "If I were to be honest," she said, choosing her words carefully, "I don't necessarily know how to play it. I just can."
The Skull Kid's glowing eyes landed on her ocarina. "Can I have that?" it said.
Saria's heart rate increased once more. "It was a gift. I cannot give it to you."
Suddenly the Skull Kid's perpetual grin turned somewhat sinister. "But I want it. I want to play it."
"I'm sorry, but I cannot give it to you," Saria said. She bit her lip, thinking. "How about I come to the forest once a day to play the song. Then you can enjoy it without me giving you the ocarina."
The Skull Kid seemed to consider her offer. It didn't seem too used to compromise, although Saria was sure it wasn't accustomed to much social interaction in general.
"Okay," it said finally, grin no longer malicious. "Play it again?"
Saria pressed the ocarina to her lips and played. The song was easier to find this time, and she could begin to place her fingers correctly without letting the energy completely take over. Perhaps one day she would be able to teach the Skull Kid.
The two of them were there for quite some time before the Skull Kid grew bored and left Saria and Tera in the grove. The Kokiri collapsed beside a stump, which was all that remained of a tree that failed to grow back. "The Skull Kids are real," she muttered to herself.
Once back in the village, she found herself avoiding Mido's attention. Something told her to keep her newfound responsibility a secret, and she certainly didn't want to frighten the Kokiri by mentioning her encounter with the Skull Kid. Surely it was best to keep the information between herself and her fairy companion.
Mido, however, was not pleased with Saria's silence. Days passed and the soothsayer refused to admit why the forest was suddenly healthy again. But what concerned him most were the daily visits through the Lost Woods to the grove. She always requested to go alone, and usually stayed there for a good portion of the day.
One night came when Mido was fed up with Saria's constant secrecy. He approached her while she slept and peered at the satchel beside her head. She never let it out of her sight, and Mido knew that it was the reason for her discretion. Quietly and carefully, he reached into the bag and pulled out the small wooden ocarina. It was beautifully crafted, with smooth, polished wood and a small green triangle by the mouthpiece. It certainly wasn't anything to keep a secret, not from the surface. Mido decided to replace the ocarina and leave the information alone. But if Saria continued to keep what she knew from him, trouble would come to the Kokiri.