Hyrule Castle stood nestled in the hills, it's tallest spire barely peaking over the tallest hill. It wasn't a very strategic spot, but, then, that was the point. The King of Hyrule had wanted to place a city in the center of Hyrule. One that was accessible to all races. He did not want a fortress, but someplace open that any and all could come to and feel welcome.

And a fortress it wasn't. Not only was the building nonstrategic, the Hylian Militia had merely been a casual job for people with no military training since the First Great War. Occasionally there was a murder or some such crime, or a juicy robbery plot, but usually the most you had to deal with were a few teenagers in the daytime rowdily protesting cucco slavery, or stray dogs at night stealing pies. These were obviously dealt with using words, and "dealt with" is probably too strong of a statement. Guards certainly had spears in the recent past, but they were more of a symbol than an actual tool to uphold the law, and now they had been abandoned completely.

Especially since the Hero of Time, Link, had become Captain of the Guard over a decade ago, mandatory suits of armor and sparkling spears had become a memory. A hot, heavy, sweaty, and distant memory. The most the guards wore to prove their station was a mantle about their shoulders the color of their rank and a special, metal badge—which wasn't too difficult to forge because no one had tried to do so yet.

All of these things Shad thought as he related the weekly report to Link on their way to Castle Town, the bubbling town within which Hyrule Castle resided. Shad was impressed by and possibly unbelieving of the great improvements to life in Hyrule since Link had become part of it. He was so involved that he didn't know why it wasn't HIM on the throne next to Zelda, instead of . . .

That Shadow fellow, he thought bitterly.

Of course, the fifth-hand rumor was that Link had been the one to refuse a relationship, not Zelda. Idiot. This reaction, Shad knew, was because he was one of the few who actually believed Zelda could rule alone, and it was irritating hearing people speak as if Link were king.

Or worse, as if Shadow were king.

Comparing the born princess to the farm-boy Hero, it was easy to see why the common people trusted Link more than their own princess, no matter her triumphs in the past. They just didn't want to think that a Royal could possibly be of any greater use to society than they were!

Those people had not been around when Shadow appeared. Despite not trusting the princess consort, he couldn't deny that Shadow had a direct influence on Hyrule. Link resided at Lon Lon Ranch with his wife, Malon, and only came to the castle once a fortnight or so. In the meantime, it was Shadow who dealt with domestic and military affairs. Shadow had come up with over a hundred little things to improve on Link's guard design. He was incredibly focused on details. He provided education to new recruits and expected all guards to have good communication skills, and focused on this rather than military experience as a trait of hiring. No longer were the so-called dregs of society thrown into the Guard as a last resort to control them. Those dregs were shaped into respectable persons through education, and Shadow kept the others in strict order. People were more likely to obey the law when the police were their friends, respectable people, and police were less likely to abuse power against friends and neighbors—or in the face of strict punishment. If there was one thing to be said about Shadow, it was that he was positive, but very intimidating. There were so many applicants to Shadow's Royal Guard that Shadow had initiated a school of thought for those that passed but did not fit. Shad attributed the sudden influx of interested parties to Shadow's relatability with the lowest of the low, the worst of the worst, the most evil of the—

—Shad stopped himself. It would be unwise to let his thoughts run wild about the princess consort of Hyrule. He might actually say something to somebody. He chose to return to thinking about the princess.

The princess . . . he was fond of her, to be sure. Unlike many Hylians, he'd had a close-up look to the princess' childhood. He had seen her expertise in ruling when she became queen at the mere age of seventeen. He had watched her poise during the Twilight Era, and during the Conflict that came a few years later.

He also knew that behind that poise was a confused, terrified woman, insecure and self-critical, and most of all depressed and tired from countless sleepless nights.

That was the Zelda of the past, anyway. No one had been able to gain her trust, to break past the mental wall of stone, to reassure her successfully, to comfort her completely after one of her many prophetic nightmares.

Despite Shad's misgivings, despite everything in his body rejecting the idea of it, he watched Zelda's anxieties fall away to nothing the first time he saw her with Shadow after the Conflict. She had perfect faith in him. Shad couldn't deny it, but that didn't mean he had to like it. With the Princess of Destiny happy, the people of Hyrule didn't have to worry. They figured as long as Shadow was around, life was good.

They may have compassion on Shadow NOW, but what about before? When Shadow had been under Ganon's control? When he captured Hyrule Castle, had the princess under house arrest, and put the city into a spiral of darkness? Sure, he ended up betraying Ganon and setting the princess free. Sure he was the reason Ganon had been forever locked into the Sacred Realm, this time for centuries? If not for Shadow, Ganon never would have escaped to begin with. How did the relationship between Zelda and Shadow evolve from such horror to . . . "love?" Others didn't remember the angry, violent Shadow that Shad and the Resistance Fighters had fought against. Shad would always distrust the man.

Well, somebody had to. Link and Zelda were completely taken with the Shadow King.

The drawbridge into Castle Town came into sight over the next rise. The sun was just beginning to set, but they were expected, and so the guards waited for them to enter the city before pulling up the drawbridge for the night. There were not so many monsters on the field anymore to bother the city at night, but old habits die hard.

"Heeeeeeeeey!" a voice called to them just as the drawbridge shut behind them. The Mailman came running up to them across the cobblestones. Shad's heart lifted a little, but he was quick to mask it by slumping in his seat atop the horse and fixing his glasses. It might not be for me.

It was. The mailman, dutiful as always, jogged up to Shad's horse and held out an envelope. It was a creamy color with vines decorating it—an obvious Ordonian letter. Link glanced at the scholar as Shad quickly grabbed the letter and spoke quickly, "Yes, thank you, you can go, please don't—"

"It's from Ilia," the mailman announced dutifully, "the Mayor of Ordon's daughter!"

Shad's face reddened. He ducked his head and avoided Link's face. I didn't expect THIS to be how he found out!

"Well," said the mailman, "my business is concluded. GoodbYYYYEEEEE!" And he jogged away.

"Shad," Link began suspiciously.

"Tally ho! We're late!" Shad shouted, spurring his horse into a canter and speeding across the drawbridge.