I had seen the boy in this very same glade just a day or two earlier. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say I had seen the boy in a brighter version of this glade, where trees were trees and didn't have eyes or spit bombs out of their snouts. In fact, the boy himself had been, well, a boy, rather than a humanoid fox-creature clad in a vest and tunic. You'd think I'd stop being surprised at such sights after paying a monkey precious rupees to open the path to a temple, after speaking with trees and being chased down by armored, bipedal reptiles and hounds.
Still, I recognized him, sitting on that stump, just where I had seen him vanish. Only in that world, the grass had been a calming green, the trees swaying in a cool spring breeze while animals listened to him play expertly upon the ocarina. Now, however, he was surrounded by brown weeds and the trees were silent, observing. The gaze in their eyes was sorrowful, as if to say "Another lost soul. Poor chap, only a matter o' time before he's swallowed by this uncaring land".
"Hello, Link," the boy ventures. I cannot comprehend how his fox snout forms words so perfectly, yet he manages. I step forward, uncertain of what to say. Thanks to the Moon Pearl, I've maintained my shape in this accursed land, a form that has been viewed with jealousy by shopkeeps and bandits. After all, what makes me so special that I remain human while everyone else is transformed into some grotesque shape?
Just a trinket, friends, found in a tower atop Death Mountain.
I speak with the boy, though I never learned his name. Never had a chance, really. He was playing his ocarina when he suddenly faded from view. He tells me that he no longer has his musical instrument of choice, that it had been buried back in the light world. He longs for nothing more than to hear it once again.
I nod, taking the shovel he offers. Though I have an important quest ahead of me — several more maidens locked away in their crystal prisons — I can afford some time to help a friend. It's not his fault he was sucked into this dark and horrible place. He could use some comfort so long as he's stuck here.
I withdraw the mirror from my pack, gazing into its surface. A simple glance and you'll see what appears to be a mere reflection, but what you're truly seeing is a reflection of worlds. Soon I'm gazing into that wonderful green forest glade, a bright blue sky above. Though my eyes lock onto the mirror my vision blurs. Leaves that rustle with life fade into the earth-tones of dying petals and pines.
That's when I know I'm back, back in the same green glade the boy had vanished from, feeling the warm spring breeze against my skin. Yet I can feel the dark world tugging at me. The mirror creates a doorway between the worlds, and if I'm not careful, it'll yank me right back into the depths. So I step away, resisting the grasping fingers of that other world, and ready the shovel in my hands. I find the flower bed between two trees, the spot where the boy claimed to have buried his ocarina, and I begin digging.
It doesn't take long before I lift the shovel and see the ocarina glinting in the light of the sun. Despite having been buried in the soil, its surface seems quite clean. I wipe at it with my sleeve, smiling as I see myself reflected in its round surface. I turn and walk back to the doorway to the dark world, feeling it reaching out for me, yearning to reclaim me. I close my eyes, and once more feel as if I am falling. When I open my eyes once more I smile; the boy is sitting before me on that same stump.
The smile quickly fades. There is something wrong. His hands and legs are not quite right. They're surrounded by bits of wood, blending into the tree trunk. At first I think the stump is alive and is latching onto him, but the surface of the wood fades and blends into his fur. It dawns on me that the boy is not done with his transformation, that he is not destined to sit here as a fox, but as a tree.
I open my mouth to speak, but he cuts me off. He smiles at the sight of his ocarina, lamenting that even if his paws were free, he would not be able to play the intricate notes it would require. He instead instructs me in his favorite melody, showing me how to perform it. I place my lips to the ocarina, flinching as raspy toots and sharp whistles burst forth. After some practice, I manage to perform the song, the sweet melody that had called me to that spring glade just a day before.
The boy closes his eyes and smiles again. He thanks me, and makes one last request: that I find his sleepy old father in Kakariko Village and tell him of the boy's fate. Before I can open my mouth to give a weak, fragile attempt at reassurance, the boy closes his eyes once more and lets out a sigh. I watch as his flesh and fur transform into branch and bark, frozen in the form of a tree. I rest my hand upon the snout, now rough and hard instead of smooth and soft, empty of warmth or cold. The boy is gone.
I stand there in the silence of the cursed glade, looking at the boy's form. I was forced to pry a blade from the hands of my dying Uncle, the closest thing to a father I've ever had. My hand had clasped the clammy grip of a dying priest, arrows embedded in his chest, as he lamented his inability to keep the princess safe. I've even been forced to kill once innocent men hypnotized by the dark desires of the wizard Aghanim, servant of an ambitious thief that brought this blight upon what was once known as the Golden Land.
This boy was completely ignorant of all these things. He was an innocent to the conflict, asking for nothing more than to sit in a quiet glade and play his ocarina. But here he was, pulled away from that life and transformed into a living wooden statue.
When I first started this journey, it was because I was called forth by a princess locked in a prison. I was told I was the last of some line of knights, the only one capable of reclaiming some Master Sword. I wasn't quite certain why I had to do it — a boy who had never swung a blade in his life. But since then I've faced monstrous worms, terrifying centipedes, armored knights and masked reptiles that breathe fire. Yet always in this quest I found myself wondering why it was me that had to save the princess.
I stick the shovel into the ground and dig in my pack for the mirror. I don't know exactly what I'll tell the boy's father, but I'm going to let him know what happened to his son. Moreover, I'm going to tell him that no one else would have to suffer like his boy.
I am not going to allow Ganon to take any more innocent lives.