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No one is born a hero, but a hero can be born in anyone.
Chapter 1: Prelude to an Adventure
When the kingdom of Hyrule
Falls to evil, dark and cruel
Vibrant life will turn to wraith
Wandering without sun nor faith
In answer to the people's plight
The gods will send a hero of light
Whom with sacred sword in hand
Will banish darkness from the land
And only when light and dark are one
Will evil's foul reign be over and done.
"Do you ever feel a strange sadness as the sun sets?" Rusl asked.
The swordsman was unsure exactly why he had said those words. They just came out on their own. Perhaps it had to do with the way the twilight cast the forest under a soft golden cloak, turning the lingering green of autumn leaves to a deep earthy brown. Or perhaps it was the way the world had fallen into lonely silence, disturbed only by the gentle lapping of the spring water at his feet, as the creatures of the day prepared for slumber and handed dominance of the world to those that walked the night. Such an atmosphere was enough to stir buried memories in the old man, many of old regrets and friendships long since ended. It was as though the world itself had paused to take the time to mourn.
The young man sitting beside him said nothing. Instead he glanced curiously at his elder, not quite understanding what had been asked. "They say that it's the time when the spirits of those gone from this world are closest to us," Rusl continued, "looking back with regret and remembering all that they had left behind. Their sorrow seeps out and is felt by the living during the hour of twilight."
The youth of seventeen, a few months shy of adulthood, continued to watch Rusl with crystal blue eyes as he contemplated the idea. He lowered his gaze to the ground and causing his scruffy, sand-coloured hair to fall in thick locks, far different to the swordsman's short, light brown hair. Beneath the boy's shirt, Rusl could see his strong muscles moving ever so slightly as his fingers picked at the grass pensively. The motion drew the older man's attention to the marking on the back his companion's left hand.
Three black triangles stood out in stark contrast to his tanned skin, touching at the points so that they made a single, larger triangle. The shape was no common birthmark; far from it. It was the sacred symbol of the goddesses that created the world, and legends told that those few individuals blessed with their favour were destined for great things. But such destinies were never free of pain or anguish, for often was the case that bearers were called upon to play some instrumental role in times of despair.
When the kingdom of Hyrule
Falls to evil, dark and cruel
Not for the first time, those lines came to mind from an old prophecy Rusl had heard as a lad, and to this day they would still send chills down his spine. There were many prophecies in Hyrule that foretold of pending doom, some of which had already come true, but for some reason that particular one haunted the old man the most.
In answer to the people's plight
The gods will send a hero of light
That part of the verse concerned the swordsman the most. Whenever Hyrule was under threat, a hero would always appear to protect the kingdom. In many cases the heroes bore the blessing of Farore, the great goddess of courage, and were renowned for being mighty warriors of compassionate hearts. But the honour of being the hero was also a curse, for he was the one to face the most gruelling of trials, to lead the charge to battle, and to defeat the enemy in a final stand. Rusl prayed for the boy's sake that his life would pass without that sort of fate, and that their kingdom was not about to come to crisis. Goddesses knew that it was too soon since the last one.
He shook his head to rid the dark thoughts. "Enough of this talk of sadness. There's something I want to ask you, Link."
Link let the green blades drop from his fingers and turned to his elder. "What is it?"
"A few days from now I plan to ride to Castle Town. The mayor's sending me to deliver the village's tribute to the royal family. I was wondering if you would like to accompany me."
The interest that had been in the boy's eyes was quickly replaced by apprehension. He looked away. "You want me to come with you...?" he asked quietly. "Are you sure about that, Dad?"
Dad... Rusl was not truly Link's father, not by blood. However he had raised the boy since before he could crawl, and loved him as if he were his own. Rusl had trained him with the sword and shield himself, and the youth demonstrated early on a natural talent that Rusl had never seen before in his life. Though that gave him great pride for his surrogate son, it also concerned the swordsman as his fears became more well-founded.
Rusl understood his student's nervousness. Despite his skill and ability, there had always been one problem that held Link back. The boy was timid. He disliked violence greatly, and although that was a valuable mindset for any swordsman, the boy's aversion sorely affected his training. Link's movements were precise, his reflexes swift and his defences strong, but it was often for him to hesitate before attacking, and when he did strike it was without sufficient force. If Link was to ever be made responsible for guarding their village as his mentor had, and the older man knew that day may come sooner than he hoped, Rusl fretted about how he would cope against a sudden invasion.
Rusl wondered if this disposition had anything to do with how he brought up his son. His other son Colin shared a similar demeanour to his older brother, so it wouldn't be surprising. Rusl discarded his doubts, though. He had done the best he knew how to raise his children and had no reason to be ashamed of them. Both boys were kind, honest and helpful, traits any decent person should have. It didn't help that his wife mollycoddled them to no end, but Rusl knew that the fault was most likely in the environment that they had grown up in. Ordona was a peaceful province removed from the rest of Hyrule, so there had never been any real danger that would have stiffened the boys' spines. It may be that a chance to see the greater world and explore the unfamiliar would boost Link's confidence, and that was the reason behind Rusl's proposition.
"Of course I am," he answered with a broad grin. "You've never been outside the forest before, have you? Hyrule holds many wonders besides the ones you see here, and the capital is one of the grandest. It's a city far larger than our little Ordon, with different sorts of people everywhere you look. On top of that there's the castle, more magnificent than anything you could possibly imagine. And inside the castle is where Princess Zelda sits the throne. It's said she's as beautiful as she is wise. If you come, you might be lucky enough to meet her yourself." Rusl laughed heartily, hoping that had the desired effect.
Link did not share in the laughter, and instead chewed his lip for a time. When he spoke at last he said, "Okay... I guess I could." He's tone was uncertain, but for Rusl it was a start.
"There's nothing to worry about," he assured him. "The capital is only a day's ride even on a slow horse, and Epona's one of the fastest I've ever seen." He pointed a thumb at the reddish-brown giant of a mare drinking several paces away. Her saddle was laden with firewood collected from a good day's foraging. Andel, the old chestnut gelding beside her, was similarly burdened as he grazed contently on the long grass. "Not to mention that the roads are safe for the most part. We're unlikely to come across any trouble we couldn't handle."
Looking up at the darkened sky, Rusl realised with a start how late it was getting. "We should be getting back. I'll speak with the mayor about this matter."
He picked up the cane by his side and moved to stand. In spite of his great care, a bolt of agony shot up from the swordsman's knee, a reminder of an old battle wound that never healed properly. Link got to his feet with all the ease of young man's body and took hold of Epona's reins. Meanwhile Rusl did the same with his own horse. Dull pain throbbed whenever he took a step, though it was nothing he couldn't handle. Rusl much preferred to feel his discomfort than sit around doing nothing all day. He had been an active man throughout his life, and the thought of kicking back and taking it easy never really appealed to him. A few hours at a time was no problem, but it was not something he wished to do for the rest of his days. That's what life as a soldier did to you sometimes.
The narrow path opened up to the gaping ravine where the Faron and Ordona Provinces were divided. A single bridge spanned the abyss, just wide enough for the two horses to walk comfortably abreast. The Farona Bridge was a sturdy structure and its thick ropes didn't sway an inch under their shifting weight. The wood it was built from, harvested from the deeper reaches of the Faron Woods, was strong and difficult to set alight. Although it made for terrible firewood, its value for constructing houses and fences that could withstand the worst conditions was without comparison.
At the other side of the bridge was a large wooden gate. Rusl dipped a hand into his pocket and fished out a key to lock the doors behind them. Built from the same material, the gate served as the village's first defence from wild animals that would prey on the livestock. It could also hold off an invasion if necessary, since an attacker would need a great deal of force to break the gates, or a lot of time to cut through the wood with a sharp axe. But the likelihood of such an attack ever happening was fanciful at best. After all, what was there in Ordon that was that valuable to anyone? Goats and pumpkins weren't that hard to come by.
Rusl was grateful that they were almost home. As they passed the village spring, he made a silent prayer of thanks for another day of peace. Ordon was not much further. It was a small community with a population of only fourteen, but it was a pleasant place to live and the neighbours were a tight-knit bunch. By the lake that was their main supply of water, Rusl and Link left the wood they gathered in the storehouse where it would be safe and dry for winter fast approaching.
They turned to find a pair of figures walking towards them. The smaller one, a boy of eleven with short blonde hair quickened his pace to a jog before he wrapped his arms around his father. With a warm smile, the swordsman ruffled his son's hair then looked up to met his wife's tender gaze. He stepped away from the younger child and embraced her, mindful to be gentle with her growing belly.
"How did you go today?" Uli asked him, looking deep into his eyes. "Any problems I should know about?"
Rusl smiled at her. He understood her anxieties. "No worse than usual," he answered, brushing a stray golden strand of hair from his love's face. It was all that was required to soothe her.
A smile of her own was the woman's response. She turned to face Link, who stood to the side brushing his horse's shaggy white hair with his hand. "Will you be coming over to dinner tonight?" she asked fondly.
The adolescent nodded. "I'll be there soon. I just need to take Epona back home." With that, he took hold of Epona's reins again and led her back to the village entrance where he lived alone, being old enough by Ordon's standards to live apart from his family.
Like his wife, Rusl watched the young man go. Tonight he would have to inform Uli about the arrangements he had made just minutes before. He furrowed his brow. She, Rusl knew, was not going to be as easy to convince as Link to agree to this. Hopefully she won't be as bad as he was expecting her to be.
Link walked up the road to the place he called home, Epona following obediently. The house he lived in was quaint yet at the same time quite peculiar. Among the pines, the multi-storey structure had been built atop the cliff at the side of the path, its front door was five meters off the ground and only accessible by the ladder fitted against the rock. The natural stone foundation was deceptively hollow as it concealed a large basement underneath the main building. It wasn't much to boast about but Link was content with the house he had. He led Epona into her little shelter outside and filled her troughs with fresh hay and water. Next he unloaded the last few logs hanging from her saddle and moved them over to the wooden platform by the ladder. Before he had the chance to climb up and operate the lift, a pair of hands appeared from behind and covered Link's eyes.
"Guess who?" chimed a girl's voice. He recognised it instantly and grinned.
"Is that you, Jaggle?" Link pulled the hands away from his face and turned around. The expression he met was one of mild annoyance, belonging to a teenage girl with short dirty-blonde hair and a cowlick poking out from behind her neck. She folded her arms across her sleeveless white shirt.
"Really? Jaggle? I don't even sound anything like him, you dummy," she scolded playfully.
Link chuckled. "Sorry, Ilia. Your voice does have a kind of gruffness to it, though." She shoved him hard for that, but from the smile on her face he knew he was already forgiven.
"It does not," Ilia protested. She then turned her attention towards Epona and patted her affectionately on the neck. The animal nickered in contentment.
The lifelong friends climbed up and sat on the porch together, watching the sun's light slowly vanishing beyond the trees. The crickets of the forest burst into song from their hiding places. A flock of sparrows added their voices to the orchestra. And if you strained your ears, you could also make out the frogs croaking low from the spring.
Ilia closed her green eyes and listened. She relished these moments when she could sit back and appreciate the beauty of nature. She especially enjoyed sharing these opportunities with Link, her closest friend for as long as she could remember. They often spent the last hour of the day together, just relaxing and watching the sun go down. There weren't that many other things to do living in a remote farming community, but it was the little things in life that Ilia found to be the most breathtaking.
She opened her eyes again, expecting to see Link smiling up to the heavens, but instead his expression was quite the opposite. He continued to stare upwards, however his slight frown suggested that something serious was on his mind. The joy she had been feeling withered away as worry infected her as well. Ilia gave him a gentle nudge with her elbow and snapped him out of his stupor.
"Hey? What's up?" she asked.
He blinked at her a few times. "Huh? Oh... It's nothing, really," His hand came up and rubbed the back of his neck, a nervous habit that Ilia knew too well of.
"I doubt it. Come on, you can tell me."
Link looked to her as she smiled encouragingly at him. With a sigh, he leaned back and rested his weight on his hands. "Well... My dad just asked me to do something for him. He wants me to go with him when he delivers the tribute to Princess Zelda."
Ilia's eyes lit up. "Really? That's amazing! You should be excited about that."
He grimaced slightly. "I know I should, but why would he ask me rather than anyone else in the village? I've never left the forest before, and I wouldn't know what to do when I meet the princess. What if I end up embarrassing myself in front of her and make Ordon look bad?"
Despite the seriousness in his voice, Ilia couldn't help but giggle at him. "Link, I honestly don't think the princess will expect you to be perfect. So long as you're polite and remember to bow to her you'll probably be fine. And besides, it's not like you're going alone. Just do what your dad does and everything should turn out alright."
He turned away from the smirk she was giving him. Link still wasn't completely sure about it all, but the way Ilia always simplified things did make him feel a lot better. "I guess you're right. Dad wouldn't ask me to do something like this if he thought I was going to mess it up," he relented.
"There you go," she said, clapping him on the shoulder. Ilia placed her hands on her lap and lowered her gaze. "You know, I'm kind of jealous of you." Her bare feet kicked the empty air subconsciously. He stared at her but did not reply, simply waiting for her to go on.
"I've always wondered what it's like out there in the rest of Hyrule. I hear everyone talking about how different everything is. There aren't so many trees in the other provinces. And besides us, Hyrule is also home to the gorons and zoras, who are unlike us in so many ways, and they say there are even yetis in the far north. I'd love to go and see it for myself one day, even if it's just for a short while. It would be so much nicer than just spending my whole life here where everything stays the same day after day."
She met his gaze and held it firmly. "You should go and see as much of what's out there as you can. Make it into an adventure, something you can look back on someday and remember how incredible it felt discovering something new."
Link couldn't stop the grin from forming on his face. Her sincere enthusiasm was contagious. He suddenly felt excited himself. "Dad should have gotten your help to talk me into this. Okay, I'll go. And when I get back, I'll tell you about everything I saw on my journey." She beamed at him, glad to hear him being more positive.
A cold breeze then blew, causing Ilia to shiver. She rubbed her hands against the goose bumps on her arms to warm herself. When that failed, she shuffled closer to Link and pressed herself against his body. He stared at her, baffled.
"What are you doing?" he asked.
"I'm cold," she replied briskly. "This is supposed to be the best way to keep two people warm."
"Aside from wearing warmer clothes," he countered. Nonetheless he placed an arm around her shoulders as she did similar. "That's what you get when you don't dress for the season."
She gave him a soft glare. "You're not dressed much better," looking at his short sleeves.
Link shrugged. "I can handle the cold better than you can. I feel fine." The young girl huffed and didn't say any more.
Ilia felt better soaking in Link's warmth. His touch was gentle and calming in spite of the hard muscle in his arms, developed over a lifetime of labour. He smelt of the forest they lived in, fresh and fragrant, coupled with the musky scent of the animals he worked with. She could always find comfort in Link's presence. It wasn't because he made her feel safe or overly happy, but more because she knew she could share just about anything with him, like she knew he could with her. He was the person she trusted the most in their little world.
It was only natural that they would be so close. They were the nearest to each other's age than anyone else in the village. There were other kids in Ordon but the oldest of them was Talo, who was twelve. Although she loved them all like siblings, and she was sure Link felt the same, they were still too young for the kind of company the teenagers really wanted. Out of the adults, Fado was the closest in age although he was six years their senior. That had meant there had been a barrier as they were growing up, and that same relationship that Link and Ilia shared just wasn't there with the goatherd. For much of their lives, it was just her and the swordsman's apprentice.
Maybe it was because of this that Ilia had begun to feel something special for Link. She turned to him and admired how serene he was, how the last rays of sun made his hair shine with a beautiful quality, and how his clear eyes gleamed like sapphires. His elven features derived from an ancient hylian lineage, particularly his chin, nose and pointed ears, set him apart from everyone else with their rougher features. Those sharp angles and slight curves made him look handsome, almost prince-like in her eyes. Without knowing it she held him tighter.
Lately Ilia had been watching the married couples in Ordon from afar, envious of their love that was so obviously shared. Over time she had become drawn to Link in a way she never had before. She dabbled in fantasies of embracing him intimately, of kissing him, of one day sharing a home with him and growing old together. Ilia wondered if he secretly shared her feelings.
They were so close then that her heart fluttered and her thoughts became fuzzy. She was sorely tempted to say something then and there. The lure grew stronger, steadily overcoming her reservations. Ilia opened her mouth and felt the words rise up to her throat.
"Link!" a voice cried, but it wasn't hers. Both she and Link snapped their eyes to the village gate, where Colin hailed them from below. "Mom says dinner's ready."
Disappointment fell on Ilia as the boy's brother removed his arm from her to wave in response. "Okay, I'll be right over," Link called. He shifted himself over to the ladder and swung around so that he was facing Ilia.
"Sorry. Got to go," he told her. "See you later?"
Ilia forced a smile. "Sure. See you later." Grinning back at her, Link climbed down and turned his back to walk away. The girl's smile vanished as he went and let out a sigh. She rolled back so that she was staring up at the sky, now almost completely dark. 'Oh well. Maybe next time,' she thought.
His mother's cooking was second to none in Link's opinion, the best in the world probably. He took another spoonful of his catfish soup. It had been made to perfection with just the right amount of potatoes, goat cheese and spices to give it flavour and counteract the oiliness of the key ingredient. It was one of his favourite dishes growing up. When his bowl was empty, Link grabbed a slice of freshly baked bread to mop up the last remnants of soup before cramming it into his mouth.
The rest of his family were enjoying the meal as well, seated around a small table in their circular dining room. Rusl had already finished his first serving and dug into a second with gusto. Colin, on the other hand, ate at a more leisurely pace, swishing the broth in his mouth and appreciating the creamy taste before swallowing. Uli saw that Link was done and smiled at him sweetly. "Would you like some more, dear?"
"Yes please," he replied eagerly, holding up his bowl. She took it and walked over to the iron pot above the fire to refill it generously. Link blew on the first bite carefully before shoving it past his lips.
As Uli made to refill Colin's now empty bowl, Link looked to his right to speak to his father. "So how long until we leave?"
"What's this?" his mother inquired, glancing back to the table. Rusl's eyes went wide.
"Dad's taking me to Castle Town to help deliver the tribute," Link answered her.
Uli turned back towards the fire without a word. The room fell so silent that Link could hear the ladle creaking from her tightening grip. He noticed his father flinch in the corner of his vision. Across the table, Colin looked about as nervous as Link was beginning to feel. An odd sense told him that he may have said something that he probably shouldn't have.
"When was this arranged?" Uli finally asked. Her tone carried a cold flatness to it.
Link's hand rose to the base of his neck. "This afternoon," was his meek reply.
"I still need to make the finishing touches to the gift, so we won't be going until at least the day after tomorrow," Rusl spoke curtly after another pause.
Link was starting to become very uncomfortable. Then his mother returned to her chair wearing her usual pleasant smile. "Well doesn't that sound wonderful? You must be excited," she chimed as she handed Colin his second helping. The younger boy quickly busied himself with eating.
"Yeah..." Link warily replied. Wonder was definitely the word to describe what had just happened. "I wasn't really sure at first, but now I want to see what Hyrule's like."
"Then I hope you enjoy yourself. Just try to be careful, won't you dear?"
Link nodded. "Sure, Mom, you know me."
The conversation fell after discussing Link and Rusl's journey, though no one complained. After they all had their fill and the dishes were cleared, Link thanked Uli for dinner and left for home tired and ready for sleep. Once Rusl had sent Colin off to his room for the night, his wife suddenly grabbed him by the arm and dragged him outside. Trying to keep up with her hurried pace did no benefit for his aching leg. She turned him to face her hard glare. The swordsman's heart sank to his stomach in dread.
"When were you planning to tell me about any of this?" she growled. He didn't need her to explain what she meant, nor did he dare to.
"I didn't think it was necessary," Rusl responded evenly. He saw the outrage building in her eyes so he quickly added, "Link is a grown man now; very responsible and mature. It was his choice alone whether to accept my offer or not."
"He's never been outside of the woods before," she argued. "What if something happens to him? What if he gets hurt?!"
Rusl placed a gentle hand onto her shoulder. "I'll be with him every step of the way. Even so, he's more than capable of looking after himself." He gave her a gentle squeeze. "You can't keep him in this village forever; no matter how much I know you want to. One day he may have to leave us and there will be nothing either of us can do to stop him."
"He's just a boy, Rusl!" Uli cried. She always hated discussing this subject. "He's not a warrior or a soldier like you were. He doesn't deserve to be forced into that kind of life!" He placed his arms around her and she erupted into tears, sinking her head onto his chest.
"I know," he said, stroking her hair as she sobbed freely. "But it's not up to us to decide that. It might be that he'll spend his entire life without having to use a sword, but if not then he will need us to have faith in him."
He wasn't sure what effect that had. "I just don't want to risk him getting killed," Rusl finally heard. "He won't even have a choice himself in any of it. It's not fair."
"Few things in this world are." He pushed her away so that she could see the small, reassuring smile he gave her. "We're likely worrying over nothing. This is just a simple errand Link and I are doing. We'll be there and back in a few days, no more. I doubt anything terrible will happen in that amount of time."
Uli seemed calmer at hearing that and nodded in response. Rusl was relieved but his own fears were not sated, for he knew too well that the worst catastrophes often occurred all too suddenly. And he had a feeling in his bones that something was about to go wrong.
So very, terribly wrong.
Hello, everyone. I'm back with a new story and yes, it is a retelling of Twilight Princess.
You would have noticed a few changes that may have left you a little confused. While I wanted to do a retelling for some time now, doing it exactly how the game played out would have been extremely tedious and boring. So I've gone and mixed a number of things to keep the story as fresh as possible, with several major deviations later on.
The idea of the retelling has been used countless times before, but I hope to stand out with this story as a few other authors have already done with theirs. I never really took an interest in some attempts of retellings that state in their summaries that they will be unique; so instead of telling you The Strength of Courage will be unique, I decided just to jump in and show you. And if you made it this far, you might agree that I sold it better than some people. The summary is probably one of the most important elements to get right.
Given how long I expect this story to be, the number of chapters I have written so far, and my real life commitments in the coming months, I will be updating this story a little less frequently as I have previously. Chapters will be uploaded approximately every two weeks instead of the usual one week.
So feel free to follow and review as they give me greater encouragement to keep writing. I await your feedback and responses with anticipation.