"Have you heard of the boy-hero?" the Hylians whisper. The mutterings flit from town to town, hitchhiking on horseback and merchants' shoulders and harpists' strings. "Ah, yes, the boy-hero! A mere child from the woods of Ordon! And he saved the day- why, how splendid!"
Splendid, indeed, must explain the shadow of a beard creeping across the boy-hero's jaw. Splendid must explain the deep black bags hanging from his eyes. Splendid must explain the scraggly, shoulder-length hair, the torn clothes, the odor of sweat, the bruises, the scrapes, the limp. Splendid must explain those feral inclinations, that untamed indignation.
When the journey first began, there was no beard. The hero's jaw was soft, pink, and perfectly bald. Now, months later, his chin, his cheeks, the spread of skin across his neck; it is all prickly and brown, filthy and itchy, unbecoming as well as unwanted. But there were no mirrors nor razors in the untamed wilderness where the boy-hero spent months. There certainly were no onlookers in the deep bowels of the earth, where the light of day was far beyond recall. And certainly there was nobody to impress in that awful, chilling other-world, the realm of half-death and half-sorrow and half-delirium.
This half-boy, half-man in a terrible half-world.
When word gets out that the boy-hero is really much more of a man than anything else, the hype subsides a little. "And unattractive, too!" the whispers continue. Apparently the boy-hero is all sallow skin and gangly limbs. His muscles poke out awkwardly and his hair is dirty and uncut. He's tired, they say. Sick, they say. Not worth their time, they say, and then they go and find a new obsession.
"Have you heard that the princess is to be queen?" the Hylians whisper. The rumor is soon confirmed in bold print. "CORONATION IN SIX MONTHS," the headlines read. The Hylians gush over the news. "Our beautiful Zelda is to reign! Ah, how splendid!"
Splendid, indeed, must explain the weight of the crown upon her brow. Splendid must explain the shiver that crawls across her skin when she remembers how Ganondorf once piloted it. Splendid must explain the puffy gowns to cover her prominent bones. Splendid must explain her fervent prayers to every god she knows, for strength, for wisdom, for luck, for something, anything, please…
When Hyrule initially was at peace, she hardly prayed. She was so, so young, and remarkably beautiful, and there wasn't a prince in the world who wasn't begging for her hand. Now, months later, she has no faith in her power, and certainly no faith in herself. She struggles to find faith in her gods. But there were no gods in those months of utter darkness. There certainly was no reason to pray when it seemed that humanity had been forsaken. There had only been terror, terror in her spine and in the air and on the backs of her eyelids. Terror in the flickering firelight, terror in the howling wind outside, and terror, horrible, blood-chilling terror in the footsteps just outside her door…
When word gets out that the queen-to-be is acting nervous and is no true goddess, the hype subsides a little. "And unattractive, too!" the whispers continue. Apparently the queen-to-be is all hollow cheekbones and tired eyes. All that satin and lace is to cover her ribcage, and it's said that her voice shakes when she speaks. She's tired, they say. Sick, they say. Not worth their time, they say, and then they go and find a new obsession.
"Have you heard of the shaman who's living in Kakariko?" the Hylians whisper. At the shake of a head, their eyes go wide. "Well, the whole town was massacred, and now he is the only man left!" Gasps of horror- but wait! "The shaman is really a hero! He saved the children of Ordon, the mayor's daughter included, saved the boy-king Ralis, and healed all their wounds! Ah, how splendid!"
Splendid, indeed, must explain the spade in his hand. Splendid must explain his hardened expression as he buries the dead that the shadow beasts left behind. Splendid must explain his young daughter's sudden fear of the dark. Splendid must explain the nights upon nights where the shaman can't sleep because his daughter is sobbing into his shoulder. Splendid must explain the ghosts in the graveyard. Splendid must explain those insistent words, It's all right, We're all right, The war is over, Darling, We're safe now…
When Kakariko was prosperous, no such words were necessary. The streets were all full, the townsfolk bustling, and the shaman was surrounded by friends day and night. Now, months later, the only sound in this village is the whistling of wind. It is better, perhaps, than the screaming of the innkeeper, the shop owner, the gravedigger, the policemen… In those hours of darkness, when he was frightened out of his skin and covered in sweat, when he refused to light even a candle for fear of drawing attention, when Barnes had considered playing dead and Luda had admitted she'd sooner die than be turned into a shadow beast... in those hours of pure horror, Renado had forced himself to be brave. It was bravery that spared his life, and now, the only living man in a city of ghosts, he is paying the price.
When word gets out that Renado is truly lonely and full of regret, the hype dies down a little. "And unattractive, too!" the whispers continue. Apparently, Kakariko's shaman is all aged eyes and grimy ankles. Gravedigging is no hygienic pastime. He's tired, they say. Sick, they say. Not worth their time, they say, and then they go and find a new obsession.