After leaving the Temple of Time Link finds a castle guard under attack by some Stalfos that were minions of Ganondorf. Helping the guard Link learns of all that has happened; Zelda has not been seen for seven years and Ganondorf has taken over Hyrule Castle. After their brief exchange of words Link hastily makes his way to Hyrule Castle. Along the way Link realizes just how much the town has changed. What was once a lively and prosperous town was now nothing more than charred ruins of an abandoned wasteland.
When Link arrives at the castle he is met with a startling sight; where Hyrule Castle once was now stood a foreboding fortress floating above a lake of lava. A ghost appears and says that Hyrule Castle disappeared a long time ago. Obvious that it is a minion of Ganondorf Link kills it. In doing so, however, Link finds himself quickly exhausted. Having used too much of the sword's power Link realizes that he needs a strong arm to properly use it. In order to do this Link decides he needs training. With that in mind Link leaves Ganondorf's castle and begins his journey to become stronger to better use the Master Sword and to find Princess Zelda.
Navi: What's the matter, Link? You stopped suddenly.
Link: Oh...I was just thinking that even the scent and sunlight on Hyrule Field...are completely different then before.
‐ Volume 1; Hero of Time - Chapter 1
As Link makes his way across Hyrule Field he is surprised by how much it had changed during the time he was gone. Everything that was once familiar to him from when he was a child had now suddenly felt different. The sunlight, the scent of the field, and even the air itself had completely changed. Feeling like he was the last person in the world Link wondered if he'd ever see Zelda again. With a word of assurance from Navi Link feels a little better and decides to play his ocarina so that she may hear it. After that his training began. However, despite all the training, it could not prepare him for a battle he would soon face.
Within the heart of Death Mountain Link would face his toughest challenge yet, for the beast he was to defeat was once a dear friend of his whom he had met in the market seven years ago. Cursed by Ganondorf his friend Volvagia became an evil dragon which threatened to destroy Goron City and even cause Death Mountain to erupt, destroying everything in its path. Told that the only way to break the curse on Volvagia was to kill it greatly discouraged Link and he couldn't bring himself to fight against his old friend. When the volcano began to show signs of erupting, Link knew he had little choice and decided to confront Volvagia in hopes that he could make the dragon remember him. When this failed Link cut him down and in Volvagia's dying breath he said Link's name, indicating that he finally remembered Link.
Deeply saddened by the death of Volvagia Link remained in Goron City for a while to recover from the loss, knowing that he would never be able to defeat Ganondorf if his emotions were to erupt. Still, he knew he had to defeat Ganondorf and left sooner than he needed which resulted in him traveling the wastelands of Hyrule Field without bringing any food or water with him. When things were beginning to look bleak Navi found a village. Relieved Link figured he'd be able to get some food and water there. Upon his approach, however, he is ambushed by a dark figure. Link fights back but is easily knocked down. With a dagger stopped inches from his throat the figure turns out to be Impa who had mistaken Link for a monster trying to sneak into the village.
The village Link arrived at was called Kakariko Village, Impa's hometown. While there Link was able to eat and drink to regain his strength, but was then scolded at by Impa for his carelessness and calling him a fool. Knowing his mistake Link explains that he can't stop thinking about Ganondorf and that he needs to defeat him and worries that the longer he takes the more Ganondorf will hurt the people he cares about. Impa then decides that Link is not allowed to leave the village until he builds his strength and spirit back up. Although Link does not like the idea he feels he has no other choice and remains in the village. He then asks Impa to train him to be a true warrior so that he may become better and stronger. Impa agrees and over the course of the next several days the sound of clashing swords rang throughout the village.
One day, when they take a break from training, Link curiously asks Impa about Princess Zelda's whereabouts. Before she can give him an answer a shadowy mass appears from the well and takes a form that looks exactly like Link. As Link fights it it seems to copy his each and every move with perfect precision. Though this causes much frustration to Link Impa tells him to keep calm and that the shadow is merely a copy of him and can do anything he'd ever done before. Keeping this in mind Link decides to use what he learned while training with Impa and successfully defeats the shadow Link.
With Kakariko Village safe Impa performs the coming-of-age ritual on Link by piercing his ears. Although it was something normally meant for Sheikah men she felt Link had matured into a real hero and was deserving of it. Impa then continues to tell him that Princess Zelda is safe. Although she is unable to tell him where she is they will meet again when the time is right. With this in mind Link makes his way to his next destination with a new found strength and resolve, knowing that one day he will meet Zelda again.