"Now, my master feeds me carrots too. But he's never sung a song about how horses are better than people."

The reindeer stared at her.

"Then again, the ocarina doesn't really lend itself to singing. And there's so many kinds of people that we've encountered. Zora, gorons, gerudo…'people' might be too broad a term.'"

The reindeer stared at her.

"But Sheik, he knew how to play a harp. Taught my master songs. Course Sheik was really Princess Zelda and…well, you know how princesses are. Never what they are on the surface, am I right? Not that Zelda unleashed an eternal winter or anything…granted that Zelda's now in an alternate timeline but…"

The reindeer stared at her.

"You don't talk much do you?"

The reindeer stared at her.

Epona let out a snort, wondering why the reindeer wouldn't answer her, and why a reindeer was in a stable in the first place. True, he had some ridiculous snowflake-shaped bauble tied around his neck, but that didn't seem to warrant the royal treatment. But the stable was bereft of horses as per some kind of royal hunting expedition…thing…that her master had decided to help with. But thanks to an infected hoof, she'd been forced to stay behind.

"Figures," Epona said. "I'm nearly sold to Ganondorf. I'm kidnapped by Skull Kid. I'm forced to travel with Link as he searches for Navi, even into other worlds like Termina. And now that I'm in this world, I'm stuck with the most boring creature I've ever seen."

The reindeer titled his head to the side.

Epona sniffed. "Obviously Farore slacked off with you. Or maybe Nayru forgot to give you brains."

The reindeer tilted his head again.


Snorting again, Epona started pacing around her pen. It was a good pen, all things considered. The castle town had nothing like the open space of Lon Lon Ranch, and none of the stable hands had the…'touch,' like Malon had. Whatever 'the touch' was, it was something that Epona had felt, but never been able to define. But then again, none of them had been like Ingo in his darker years, nor had anyone tried to sell her to a maniac who wanted to rule the world, so she figured fair was fair.

"I mean…" the horse began. "It's not so bad being in here, I'll give you that. I mean…well, Link's out somewhere. He'll be back…I guess…maybe…"

There wasn't a maybe, but Epona felt a tingle in her hooves all the same. Already Hyrule was beginning to fade in her mind. Link had explained as best he could that so many of her memories were confined to a different time, and only through the wisdom of a priestess of Nayru did she remember any of it. And yet, what had those memories been used for? Nothing but hunting down a fairy that could be anywhere, or if time travel was possible outside Termina, anywhen.

Epona heard a door open and let out another snort. If she'd left Link without a word (not that he could understand her), would he come for her as well? And why would she leave like that anyway? Just fly off, without saying a word. World saved, problems over, have fun.

"Hey Sven. Got your carrots."

Epona kept her gaze fixed on the wall. Carrots. It was that same guy who'd come in earlier…Christopher or something, all the names here sounded identical. Carrots for this reindeer who couldn't even talk properly. Carrots like the ones Link gave her. Usually as a reward for when he had to push her harder than usual.

"How's your friend doing?"

Epona turned around to face him. Blonde hair, muscular build…she almost wondered if this was this world's version of her master. There was no real evidence to support it, but after Termina, after seeing what she thought was Malon again…

"Well, you're standing up okay." He reached out to pat her name. "Your master will be glad to see that."

Epona snorted. Master. It was the way the man said it that got to her. Not friend. Not companion. Master. The one who was quite happy to leave her locked up in here while her reindeer companion got his second lot of carrots today. The creature looked at her sheepishly, even as it scoffed the vegetable down.

"Oh, that reminds me," the man said. "Your master left a note behind. Olaf missed it." He sighed. "He does that a lot actually."

Epona pricked up an ear. She had no idea who this "Olaf" was.

"So, eat up," he said, putting a bowel of carrots before her. "Special orders from your master. He wants you to get better."

Epona remained impassive.

"And these are the same brand I get for Sven," the man…no, boy, Epona told herself, considering the way her was acting. "Best of the best."

Epona glanced at the reindeer. The one called "Sven" she told herself. The moron who was eating those orange, silly…juicy looking…mouth-water inducing…

Epona neighed. Then proceed to dig in. She heard the boy say something, but she could barely hear it. All that mattered was the food. This delicious, crunchy, hunger-curing, carrots.

"Huh," said the boy. "Looks like you enjoy them as much as Sven does."

Epona kept eating.

"I think your master will be pleased. Given the note, he was quite particular that you get the best treatment. He knows you've been through a lot and-"

Less talk. More eat.

And Epona did so, finally understanding why the reindeer didn't speak. Okay, the animals in this world had no such capability, but when you got food this good, why use your mouth for anything else?

"So…yeah," said the boy named Christopher. "I'll, er…leave you."

You do that.

Epona didn't mean it harshly. But she was too hungry, too intent on eating to give any sign of her gratitude.

And besides, she told herself, the real gratitude was to be reserved for her master when he came back. And a promise that unlike his fairy friend, she'd never leave his side. Provided the food continued to be this good of course.

Hearing a satisfied snort from Sven, the reindeer seemed to agree.


Update (07/03/14): Cut down on some of the repetition.