A/N: Hi everybody! This tale is a sort of novelized version of the beginning of the SS Manga in the back of Hyrule Historia, which deals with the era before SS Link and is the tale of how Skyloft came to be. I hope you all enjoy! It is a bit on the long side, but in my humble (and totally non-biased opinion) I think it is worth the read XD
Summary: (SS Manga) Link has been wrongfully imprisoned for a crime he has not committed while his entire world crumbles and falls around him and the land he loves is sentenced to its doom. Has he truly been forgotten by the ones he once called friends? And what will he do when the very ones who abandoned him beg for his aid? (Takes place before and during the first part of the Manga with a bit more)
Disclaimer: I do not own The Legend of Zelda or Hyrule Historia and the contents of the manga within. If I did, I would be turning said manga into a novel or a game. But alas, instead I spend my time sitting in my room writing measly contributions to fanfiction. (but I can still dream XD)
To Wake the Lion
The incessant grating sound of metal upon metal that rang through the blackness of the shadows made him remember. He had often tried to forget, to focus only on the present and not on what he had lost, but the sound of screeching metal seemed to ring with all hope that rain brings during a fire storm. It made him remember: remember the joy of brighter days that had disappeared from his grasp. Though the sound was rasping and drove his thoughts backwards, it filled his tired body with the stirrings of interest and excitement. He found himself relishing the cacophony of echoes.
It was strange that he should draw comfort from such a discordant sound but, for him, it brought far more hope than the triumphant cry of the castle's war horns, which used to guide his steps — a sound which he had grown to hate. The horns seemed now only to be an anthem of the very people who had let him down when he had tried to save them, forgotten him after they betrayed his loyalty and trust.
The harsh scratching sound of a file against metal, which had been going nearly continuously for several hours, finally subsided. Link scanned the wall of his prison nervously, licking his lips. His anxious look around did nothing to ease the tension because he could hardly see anything through the gloom. He hoped, for the sake of his friend outside the door of his cell, that the guards were not making one of their famed surprise rounds. He let out his breath in a sigh of relief when the sound of his friend's voice met his ears instead of the tramping sound of soldiers' boots.
"I've made it through, Link," his friend Orville said excitedly, his voice carrying softly through the barred metal door.
Orville had infiltrated his way into the dungeon for the sole purpose of helping him escape, and had been working right outside the door of his prison.
"Good," Link replied in equally soft tones, "it will be daybreak in an hour and we need to get away before then."
He strained his eyes to see his friend's handiwork. Did he dare to wish for the word that had tempted his dreams since the day his world had crumbled about his feet — freedom? The first pale blue light of morning managed to shaft through the small heavily barred window of his cell. The scant light allowed him to finally be able to see to the door of his prison from where he was chained to the wall on the opposite side of the room. He squinted his eyes to see further and then raised an eyebrow at the sight that greeted them.
"You have been filing all night and all you were able to do was create that minuscule hole?" Link said finally, after a pause.
Though his tone was flat and scathing, there was in it the hint of jibing friendly fun he used to speak to his friend with.
He thought that he had long forgotten that familiar companionable ease. He had set his mind to remain grim and silent… but his heart, though still rife with bitterness and anger, had refused to forget the camaraderie that once had tied it to another. So he spoke in sarcastic friendliness he had used of old, wondering all the while if he could dare wish that some things might stay the same, even though so much had changed.
Despite his words, he was quietly positive that his best friend hadn't made the mistake of failure. Though his workmanship did, admittedly, look dubious, he knew that Orville wouldn't let him down. Though his plans were often a bit on the questionable side, Orville was the only one who had never let him down before.
"That door is made of some pretty thick metal," Orville protested, the old ease evident in his words as well — the friendly banter of those used to putting their lives in each others hands, used to facing danger together.
"There were bars in the window of the cell door; you could have tried to saw through those. I thought that's what you were doing," Link hissed, continuing on partially because his friend's method was the one that he himself would have chosen last, but mostly because he couldn't help it. He had missed this.
"Those bars are also made of thick metal and, to get you out, I would have to cut through about three of them. There is no way I'd be able to saw through even two of them in one night," his friend replied.
"So you decided to file through a solid metal door instead? Brilliant Orville, brilliant,"
"I was going to cut a square opening wide enough for you to fit through."
"Oh I see," Link calmly, "so, tell me this, where exactly are the sides of this square? And where are the top and bottom for that matter?"
"You try filing through metal all night long. So what if my ambitions were greater than my ability? At least I was doing something more than lounging comfortably against the wall all night. My arms are killing me. So I-"
"Comfortably?" Link snorted, cutting his friend off mid-sentence. Then he caught sight of the tip of Orville's file protruding through the tiny hole. "You know the kingdom has bigger files than that measly toothpick you are using. You had to go and pick the smallest one, didn't you?"
"It's travel sized for my convenience," came the indignant protest from outside.
"Well I'm glad one of us is feeling convenienced," Link said acerbically, "says the one who is not chained to the wall of a prison cell."
"Oh shut up," Orville muttered as he pulled the tiny file back and forth several times, his voice carrying through the metal in a slightly shamefaced tone.
It was then reality came crashing in, un-welcome, on Link's thoughts, slicing through those few blissful moments of forgetfulness brought on by friendship. He realized painfully how much time had passed since Orville had first started… and time was running out. He silently cursed the magic that made it so that the locks in this prison could never be picked. Those grasping tendrils of hope that had been tantalizingly close were slowly slipping through his fingers. They had needed to be out of here almost an hour ago now. Link closed his eyes.
"You need to get out of here. The guards will make their morning round soon and I can't let you get caught," he sighed. His tone had lost that spark of life, that spark of himself and what he'd once been, as he slipped back on the mask of impassivity that had been his shield these past four years…the mask that had kept him sane.
"Hold on I'm almost finished, it's just taking longer than I planned for," Orville replied, his voice slightly muffled.
"Yes I suppose it would, because someone tried to saw through a solid metal door in one night with a file the size of a flea."
"Oh be quiet or I'll inform the guards as to what I've been doing," Orville said defensively, "then you'll be sorry."
"That's a brilliant plan. I'm positive the soldiers will take kindly to the fact that you were heavily involved in your own scheme to release a dangerous criminal. Sometimes, I can't help but wonder if you were dropped several times as a child."
There came the sound of a muffled snicker from outside, "It was only the one time."
Despite himself, and his pain, the grim lines on Link's face eased fractionally and he could just imagine the irrepressible grin that was probably gracing his friend's face.
From the outside of the cell, there came the distinct sound of muttering. Link knew his friend well and could tell by the sound that Orville's tongue was probably protruding ever so slightly from the corner of his mouth, his brow furrowed in concentration. It was a gesture he performed when he was working and focusing hard on something. Suddenly, there was a rasping click.
"Yes!" Orville nearly shouted. "I-"
"Shush," Link warned in a harsh whisper.
"I've got it," Orville whispered exultantly, in a slightly chastened tone of voice.
He could hear the sound of a hand being pushed against the door and it swung open to reveal the tousled mouse brown hair and dark eyes of his slightly built friend. His mouth was spread wide in a self-satisfied grin, the tiny file held proudly in his hand.
Now that there was more light in the room, Link saw instantly exactly what it was that Orville had done. He had sawn through the door in the exact spot where the mechanism that controlled the bolt that locked the door was situated.
A small smile spread across Link's face, "You cut the bolt, clever."
"I was trying to tell you that's what I was I was doing but you interrupted me. I was going to try to cut an escape hole through the door at first, before I realized that it was a stupid plan. And call it dumb luck, but the place where I first started to file was right over the locking mechanism and when I saw that I thought, 'why not,' and here I am."
"You sounded a lot smarter before you explained yourself," Link said straight-faced.
"You looked a lot smarter before you became a damsel in distress and got yourself captured," Orville jibed back.
"Quick, cut me down before the guard makes his rounds," Link urged, looking at the chains that bound his wrists above and to either side of his head.
The reason he was here to begin with was because he had discovered plans of their kingdom's enemies to invade and destroy their land. When he had tried to warn the generals and King, he had discovered, far too late, that there were traitors in his kingdom in very high places. He was silenced before he could even speak. His warning was mocked and the traitor lord Dagainis, the king's second in command, had used his influence to ensure that Link took the fall for his treachery. Dagainis had always been two steps ahead, and Link had been too blind to see. Even his warrior's deeds and honor had been turned against him.
Link's liege lords turned their backs on him; the very people he had tried to save scorned his name. Four years later, all the enemies' plans against their kingdom were put into effect. They were, even now, wreaking havoc upon Hylia's unprepared people. But, Link knew that if they acted swiftly, the darkness could still be turned back. He sought freedom for freedom's sake, but also because he could not bear to see the kingdom he loved, that he had sworn a knight's oath to protect, to fall to darkness. He would try to turn it aside; not for the sake of the lords who had betrayed him, but for the sake of the land itself and the few people whose hearts had not turned black.
Orville strode forward, then his face went pale. Link's own heart beat faster. Down the hall, footsteps could clearly be heard clicking of the bricks of the dungeon floor. Orville froze, his eyes wide with fear. Then he glanced down at the file he still held in his hand. With an odd pinched sound, he stuffed the implement inside his belt and scurried out of the cell, shutting the door behind him.
Link could barely hear his friend's soft footfalls as he tried to slink down the dungeon hallway. Orville's stealthy progress was halted by a voice.
"Orville," it boomed loudly, "What are you doing down here?"
Link could not hold back a worried sharp intake of breath.
"I, uh, got permission to visit my friend, milord," Link heard his friend stutter in reply.
"Well its good you're here," the voice of the castle lord boomed again, "We have news, and have been looking for you."
The footsteps drew level with the door. There came the sound of fumbling with a key ring, the only keys that coudl open the locks here, and then a clinking sound as the ring dropped to the floor. Link heard Orville speak.
"I'll get them, and open the door for you."
To an ordinary person, Orville's voice sounded normal but Link could hear the relief in his friend's voice, probably inwardly jumping for joy from the fact that the castle lord would not have to come into direct contact with his file work.
Orville made a pretense of unlocking the damaged door and stepped inside after the castle lord, and war leader.
Link's ice blue eyes narrowed into angry untrusting slits as he caught sight of the two people. Orville, still pale, positioned himself in front of the hole he had carved into the door, trying and failing to look inconspicuously casual. Link noticed for the first time that his own sword was slung across Orville's back.
Link had not grasped the hilt of his father's blade in so long. The last time he had seen it it had been broken, shattered. His hand itched to feel the familiar grip, itched to heft the perfect balance.
The focus of the two who had entered the room was not yet directed on him and it was distracted still further as two more entered the room. These last two were men who had once fought by Link's side and even under his command a few times. Link felt his insides knot and sink, his heart near bursting with a pain born of loss and shame. He hung his head.
The knowledge that his escape had been foiled and he was still a prisoner, drained the little energy he had left — and that was precious little. The fire that kept him going had dwindled to almost nothing over the years, and the small rekindling the hope had brought was even now guttering out. His heart felt like dying coals and embers. This had been his last chance, his last opportunity, and it was gone. He felt all his resolve crumble to nothing inside him.
Seeing the familiar faces of those he had once served and once trusted as friends, only served to remind him of what he lost. He slumped brokenly against the chains and closed his eyes. He did not know why they were here and frankly he didn't care.
Usually, when people came to speak to him, it meant that he had done something to displease his superiors and was about to get some form of retribution. It probably had something to do with his slight rebellion about a couple days ago, the reason he was chained to the wall.
As a prisoner he had been made to perform forced labor and was treated little better than a slave. Not only did a few whispered words get out about an escape he had devised, but he also crossed one of the most ruthless slave-master prison guards one too many times when the bully of a man had tried to beat a helpless boy who had been enslaved for the petty crime of thievery. Needless to say, he had felt it necessary to show the cruel guard that there was a big difference between bullying and actual fighting. The guard was a coward with no skill in combat and Link had, admittedly, taken a certain measure of pleasure in showing him that. He had then been forcibly subdued and locked in the dungeon by his hands and feet for two days now with, only a few rest bits and hardly any food.
If he had actually committed a crime, he would have accepted his punishment. However, not only was he innocent but also, aside from Orville, he was the only one who knew how deeply the kingdom was in danger. Aside from Orville, he was the only one who knew and believed that it was imperative for him to escape.
Orville had been imprisoned too, for about two years. He had been released before Link because Link had been the leader and therefore was responsible. After his release, he'd practically been sent to live in exile near the border lands before he'd been allowed to return. Link knew that Orville had petitioned the kingdom for his release twice when he'd made it back to the capital, but had been forbidden from doing it again on pain of punishment: hence the fact that Link was still imprisoned. When Orville had heard about Link's recent harsh treatment, he had decided the whole thing had carried on a bit too long, thus bringing about last night's actions.
Link was slightly surprised when the castle lord spoke, not in a tone of anger or dark sarcasm, but genuine sincerity.
"Link," he said softly. He paused slightly before continuing, "Link, the hero."
At the sound of the name and title he once held before he had been disgraced, he opened his eyes and darted them upwards to look at the speaker, without actually moving his head. Hero: the word he had once taken pride in sounded like cold hard steel to his ears, so often now was it bandied about with scorn. The war hero Link, for him, the title did not ring clear with the glory of old for its notes were sullied with shame, lies, and his old pride. It had been tarnished. He would not allow his mind to admit how much he desired for that word to mean what it once did for him, how much he missed what he had lost. He had been pushed low and fallen far. None the less, he kept his eyes upon the speaker, wondering what he would say next, for this man's tone had neither been of mocking or contempt. To Link, it sounded hesitant and ashamed.
"The traitorous lord Dagainis, who framed you, has been killed by our enemy and your name has been cleared."
Link raised his head in surprise and stared directly at the speaker. He had not expected this. They knew the truth and his enemy was dead. The court-martial that sealed his fate, mock trials and false charges, all led by that one lord. But, if the castle lord's words were true, then his enemy was dead, and his name was cleared. It was a fitting end for the traitorous lord to die by his own pride at the hands of the ones he had betrayed his kingdom to — even if Link would have rather settled the score himself.
"Your premonitions of danger were correct, we see that now." the lord continued, not looking Link in the eye. His voice had grown softer, almost as if in apology, even though his pride would not let him say the words directly. He cleared his throat, his voice rising in strength again. "Even as we speak, the enemy crosses our borders. The west wall and the city of Burhan has fallen. Though you were a youth, you were one of our best commanders, strategists, and war heroes. We need your help."
"It was you, my own people, who said you had no need of a powerful warrior, and now you ask for help when it is convenient for you? Now you want me to fight for you?" Link replied darkly, unable to hide the acerbic tone in his voice, a small contemptuous smile, devoid of any humor, touching his lips.
"We need your help," the lord repeated. "You are the only one who can drive off our enemy and protect our kingdom. Will you come into the light? Our misunderstanding is at an end."
Oh, is it? Link thought slightly bitter, I am glad someone is willing to forgive themselves so easily. He bit back the snarky reply and spoke in the courteous manner of the knight he was.
"Even if I was to fight for you, my sword is broken, I have nothing. I can't even run anymore."
The lord turned to Orville and motioned him forward. Orville hesitated, reluctant to move his body from shielding the evidence of his treason carved in the door. He took a pace backward, eyes wide.
"Orville," the castle lord repeated in a more commanding tone, gesturing him forward impatiently.
Orville muttered a silent prayer that they would not see his work and moved forward. As he walked, one of the last two men to enter the room handed him a bundle. Orville, finally understanding, took Link's sword from his back and placed it on top of the package. He stepped forward and placed the bundle neatly on the ground as he knelt before Link. He held Link's sheathed blade out towards him in a humble gesture of fealty.
"Orville, has kept it safe for you these past two years," the lord said softly.
Link raised an eyebrow and shot Orville a look that clearly said, 'you could have spent those years tending the bars of my cell rather than my sword.' Orville grinned at his silent joke, well understanding the meaning.
"And, with my file, it would have taken that long too," Orville said so softly that only Link could hear. Link tried hard to bite back the small smile that sprang from Orville's joke. Despite his snappish thoughts, he was extremely grateful to his comrade for caring for fixing, and caring for, his weapon. When he met his friend's dark eyed gaze, he saw that Orville's eyes were shining with relief and gratitude but, most of all, friendship.
"I had your sword fixed and have guarded it carefully," he said, this time loud enough for everyone to hear. "Link our hero," he said with a grin, slipping into the required formality of such situation, "It is my honor to present this blade to you," he finished. This time, all traces of teasing were gone from his voice.
As Orville bowed, the other five in the room did likewise and Link's eyes widened with surprise. He could see now that the bundle at Orville's feet was his warrior's tunic, armor, gear, and the red cloak that had denoted him as a high ranking knight.
Slowly, his eyes bright for the first time in years, he nodded his assent and was cut free from the chains. The others left the room to give him some privacy except for Orville who stood by his side, holding his armor and sword. Link stood, wincing in discomfort for a moment before his circulation was painfully restored to his limbs.
He felt life flood through him again as he donned his weapons, tunic, armor, and cloak. His soft leather boots and finely made gauntlets covered the chafe marks on his wrists and ankles from the chains. After he straightened his light blond hair, he looked more like himself.
Orville nodded his approval and handed Link's sword to him, hilt first. Link grasped the well-known leather-bound grip with his left hand, feeling the familiar weight and balance, feeling strength flood back into it as the razor sharp broadsword once again became an extension of his arm.
And here I thought I would sleep in peace, he thought to himself, but if you wish to wake the lion, then give him fangs, it was an expression his father had told him once and it seemed strangely fitting at the moment, considering the present circumstances. He brandished his sword in a salute then twirled it skillfully in his hand, his muscles remembering the moves.
The castle lord chose then to re-enter and arrived just in time to see the last flourishing skillful flicks of Link's blade. He was a battle hardened war leader and knew a sword master when he saw one. He wondered briefly if he had in fact made a wise decision in letting Link go, considering all that had happened to him. After a few seconds pause however, he decided he had. This was, after all, not about him, it was about the kingdom's survival.
"Link, son of Killian, knight of Hylia, if you would, please follow me," he said bowing to show respect.
Link repeated the gesture and started after him. Orville trotted to his side and glanced ruefully at the unlocked chains and his work on the door, which had thankfully gone unnoticed in the dark gloom of the dungeon, as they left the prison cell.
"I can't believe they finally released you, finally realized the truth," he said softly. Then his voice rose slightly with indigence as he rubbed his sore right arm. "All that hard work for nothing," he moaned.
"All what hard work for nothing?" the castle lord turned to ask him, puzzled.
Orville's face paled slightly as he realized he had been overheard and his hand dropped instinctively to his belt where his file lay hidden.
"Uh," he stammered, "all the work I did on those petitions," he said quickly, trying to cover his blunder. "I don't write much as a rule."
"I thought you often wrote poetry, Orville," the castle lord said, his brows furrowed in puzzlement.
"Poetry and legal documents are very different my lord," Orville replied hastily, licking his lips, "for me anyway."
The castle lord seemed to accept that answer. He nodded slowly and turned back around.
Link could not hide the amused smile that grew on his lips at the sight of Orville's sigh of relief and still worried face. He bumped his friend playfully with his elbow.
"You know, they are going to find out about that hole sooner or later," he whispered.
"Don't tell me that," Orville whispered back, "I don't want to hear it."
Link stood on the ramparts of the castle, in the high place where the nobles and war leaders usually stood to make their speeches. He had followed the castle lord to this point and, as soon as he had come into view, the mass of warriors, soldiers, and villagers below set up a deafening roar of cheering and clapping. When the lord informed them he had been reinstated, the people started chanting his name. The war for the country loomed near and the people needed as many effective war leaders as they could get.
Dazed, Link looked from the cheering warriors to the borders of their land where a dark shadow seemed to be growing on the horizon.
He looked out over the cheering masses. It was sad how petty some people could be. A few of the ones who were cheering for him now, had been the very ones who had called for his imprisonment not too long ago.
"My beautiful land of Hylia," he said softly, shifting is gaze from the people to the gorgeous countryside of his homeland, "though the people's hearts may change with time, this land's purity, pride, and beauty, never change. If you have need of me, then I will forever fight to defend you," he said as he stepped back a pace.
"It's not just their hearts that change," Orville muttered bitterly from his position at his side, "their memories seem to change as well. You and I fought side by side for years to defend them and help them. We traveled the country together and they don't seem to remember my name!" he said in an exaggerated insulted tone with an expression, that could almost be considered a pout, marring his features.
Link turned from his revelry with a chuckle at his friend's outburst.
"People usually have a hard time remembering the name of the apprentice, I wouldn't take it personally," he teased.
"Partner," Orville said with emphasis, shooting Link a scornful look, "I was your partner."
"Sidekick," Link corrected with mock arrogance.
"Say that again and I'll show you a sidekick, or should I say, kick in the side!"
"I'm just saying," Link replied holding his hand out in a gesture of peace, his face a picture of mock innocence, "People don't remember much about the sidekick."
"Keep this up and they won't remember much about your face either," Orville threatened raising a fist. Orville gave Link a mock death glare for a moment before he stepped forward and clasped arms with him. "Damn, I missed you," he finished with a chuckle.
"Me too," Link whispered back, returning his friend's strong grip. "More than you know."
"For a moment there I thought you two were about to attack each other," Cirdin, one of Link's old friends and captain of the guard, said. "I suppose I should have known better."
All the others who had come to see his release, old friends and army commanders, stepped forward. Many of them had been scattered across the kingdom, exiled, trapped in remote places, their warnings and protests ignored. Lord Dagainis had done his work well and, if his overconfidence and pride had not led to his premature death, the kingdom might have fallen. Even now there was that risk.
As if of one mind, they stuck their hands together from their positions in a rough circle, in the way they had done many times long ago. This gesture symbolized their determination and loyalty to fight for what they held dear. It reminded Link of the way things used to be before his imprisonment. He felt a smile spread across his normally taciturn face and found it mirrored by his old friends around him.
"Let's organize our defenses and give our enemy the surprise and resistance of a lifetime." Link said, glaring defiantly at the growing darkness on the fringe of the kingdom. The war leaders chorused their assent.
Orville grinned broadly, "Well, now that the kingdom has finally come to its senses and brought all us masterminds together, our enemies will get far more than they bargained for."
Another cheer rang out and Orville was clapped heartily on the back. Orville was rather lanky himself and Link watched him stagger slightly under the weight.
"I hope you have your mighty file sharpened and ready for battle," Link told his friend, blankly.
"Very funny," Orville replied. He fingered his bow and long bladed duel knifes. "You know," he said thoughtfully, "that could actually be a useful weapon, if we improve it."
Link raised an eyebrow slightly.
"We need a new weapon to fight back the enemy to hold out our defenses, an epic huge file-like weapon might do the trick. We need something new and unexpected."
"A weapon that looks like a long file… sounds rather familiar," Link said musingly, "now where have I seen something like that before? Oh yes, I remember — a sword," he said flatly.
"Don't knock it until you see it," Orville scolded as he took out a paper from the inside of his tunic that he used to make poetry notes and began to jot down his idea, "I wasn't going to make a sword, I have something more refined and mature in mind: like a giant metal crossbow that shoots long sharpened file-like metal projectiles. Everything has to be a sword for you, doesn't it? Think about it — a giant bow; we could take out rows of attacking enemies with it."
Link glanced at Orville's hurried sketch.
"If you don't have anything to absorb the recoil, you'll wind up taking out rows of our own defenders."
Orville flushed and made a hurried note on his paper and Link barely resisted the urge to roll his eyes. Orville's earlier phrase about his ambitions being greater than his skill once again came to mind.
Smiling inwardly, Link set off to organize defenses and make battle plans. As he thought about it, a giant crossbow could come in handy, if one disregarded the notion of shooting files, especially if he could make it fire more than one arrow at a time.
Tomorrow would bring a red sunrise and the promise of fire, but his heart and strength were more than guttering coals now. He would fight fire with fire. The kingdom he loved was facing doom and its people had called for aid. Though he held no desire to forgive, forget, or trust, he had true friends at his side, a burning hope, a name that, though it was not free of blemish, still held some honor. And, unlike those before him, he would not turn his back.
A/N:Thank you all for reading! I hope you all enjoyed! Feedback is very appreciated. When I first read the manga, I always seemed to sense a sort of camaraderie between Link and Orville and I wanted to develop it more. Also, I found it strange that he would not have at least tried to come to his friend's aid if they were companions, so I came up with the attempted rescue at the beginning, while still keeping with the rest of the tale. I hope it came across well and did not detract from anything.
Question: What did you guys think of the manga? Or the first Link his personality and his tale? What about Hylia's tale and personality?