A/N: Hello there you beautiful reader, you!
Since you clicked on this story I'm suspecting one of two things: either you just liked my summary and decided to give it a try (yay!), or you came here from my beloved Twilight Princess novelization, What Makes a Hero (welcome back!). If you are in the latter category, then you have no worries – I'm glad to have you back! If you are in the former category then let me give you a bit of a disclaimer.
This is a sequel, so if you plan to read this story without first reading What Makes a Hero, you might struggle to keep up. It is set post Twilight Princess, so you could try to follow along if you want to, but I'm warning you that it's very likely that you will find yourself getting lost here and there, so I would definitely recommend going back and reading What Makes a Hero first!
Without further ado, welcome to our next big adventure together as writer and reader! I hope you absolutely love it and stay with me 'til the very end!
Disclaimer: The story below contains intellectual properties from Nintendo Co., including, but not limited to, The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess and The Legend of Zelda franchise, and are in no way owned by myself, nor do I claim ownership of any of the events that directly correlate with previous installments made by Nintendo Co. in the franchise The Legend of Zelda.
This chapter was revised as of 3/6/2016 - Polished, minor errors and typos fixed.
This chapter was revised as of 8/31/2016 - Polished, bits and pieces added.
This chapter was revised as of 6/2/2017 - Polished, minor errors and typos fixed.
This chapter was revised as of 2/26/2018 - Polished, minor errors and typos fixed.
This chapter was revised as of 5/16/2019 - Polished, bits re-worded.
When Heroes Fall
By: Selphie Kinneas 175
The sound of his voice lingered in her head for days on end without pause. His handsome face danced before her closed lids with every waking second. There was not a moment's respite that her mind would dare allow; he was all she could think about.
He left. She told him to.
She let him go… to find her.
She loved him, but his reciprocated affection was not of the same measure. She loved him with every fiber of her being, and that was ultimately why she let him go. She knew he would never be happy here, without the girl with whom his heart truly lied.
The girl's departure had destroyed him, and she had seen him at an all-time low that she hoped she would never have to bear witness to again. His absence was much less painful than enduring his misery, because at least he was pursuing something greater. Even if he never found it, at least he was out trying, and that was far better than lying down and giving up.
The two of them had made a mistake… or was it a mistake? He left, and not long after, she had his child. A night of lustful ignorance perhaps wasn't entirely in vain. She had his son, and she gave him the name he had mentioned would show the sincerest form of honor for the man that had saved both of their lives on numerous occasions. But both her and her boy lived each day never truly feeling happy.
She was restless, worried, and she found it impossible to go a day without feeling overwhelmed by despair. Her son was fatherless, and it broke her heart each time he would ask her to tell him stories of his heroic dad. She wished she could find him and tell him that he was a father, that he was needed back home, that he had a son that longed for a father's approval, a touch, or a comforting word.
As the years went on, that little boy began to grow up, and he began to realize what he was missing. He knew and loved his mother, his grandmother and grandfathers, the villagers that he considered aunts and uncles or brothers and sisters, but he needed a father. He needed to know the hero that his mother had spent so many years telling him about. He needed to know why he left them so long ago, and why he never returned. He needed a reason, an explanation, but more than anything he just needed to see his face at least one time.
This is the story of a boy named Ren, and how he helped his father, the heroic Link, find the light again.
Chapter 1: A Light in the Dark
"Ren!" his mother called to him from inside their home, but the boy paid her no attention. He was much too focused on something far more important: tadpoles.
He was playing in the stream just outside, the cool waters running through his little fingers as he watched the tiny creatures flitting about farther downriver. His uncle, Colin, had shown him where the infant amphibians most liked to hang out, and he greatly enjoyed watching them go about their simple lives.
Ren was a pretty quiet young boy. He mostly kept to himself, only really stepping outside of what was comfortable when he needed to, which wasn't too often. He wanted to do things like learn how to herd the goats and wield a sword because he had heard so many stories about his father doing those things, but his mother would never let him. She would always say, 'No! Your father got hurt doing that and I won't have you getting hurt!' He would sigh and get upset, trying to fight back for a bit of leeway, but she would quickly lose her temper with him and send him up to his room with an exasperated huff.
He didn't know why she was so overprotective, but to her, it was the only way of ensuring that he would be alright. After watching Link get hurt so many times… seeing him near death and severely injured and knowing how much it drained from him… she absolutely could not allow her boy to suffer anything even remotely close to that. His safety and well-being was the top priority to her; she had already lost his father, she would fall apart at the already so-loose seams if she were to lose him, too.
Since he wasn't allowed to help with the ranch or the night watch, he found himself mostly tending to the petty tasks his mother asked of him. He was often responsible for catching fish for supper, fetching firewood for their hearth, tending to the garden as well as rounding up the ripe vegetables that grew there, keeping his room clean, and helping to tidy up after each meal. As he grew older, those simple tasks became more and more rudimentary, but whenever he tried to garner more responsibilities from his mother, he could practically see the worry and hurt in her eyes even at his young age, and he didn't want to do that to her.
Ren was by himself at that little stream, staring down with eyes identical to his father's brimming with excitement and hair only a few shades darker than his mother's dangling in front of his face. His brown sandals along with his gray britches were covered in mud, especially at the knees. Dirty little handprints tarnished his once-white top, his honey colored, signature Ordonian waistband, and the maroon sash that wrapped around it. He waited there patiently, yet intently, eager for that moment when one of those tiny little creatures would be still enough so that he could catch it and keep it in a bowl in his room. He would take such good care of it, and, eventually, it would turn into a frog! He would name it something really important sounding like… Rauru after one of the sages, or Darmani after that one Goron hero, or Daphnes after one of the old kings of Hyrule, or maybe even Viscen after the current king (but he heard he wasn't very nice), or – the one he always went back to – Link.
"Ren!" the voice called again, making him jump at the sharp, sudden sound. His quick movement startled the tadpoles and they scattered in a flash, finding refuge in the nearby foliage and lily pads. With a defeated sigh, he leapt from his perch and hustled inside.
"Yes, mother?" he asked monotonously as he closed the door behind him, knowing that she probably had work for him to do. Honestly, he was also quite disheartened by the whole tadpole incident – he had really been convinced that today would be the day he finally caught one.
"Go and get us some wood for the fire, would you please?" she inquired sweetly as she bustled about the small kitchen in a hasty flurry to get dinner on the table for her son and her father before bedtime. "With winter creeping up on us we'll soon be freezing in the middle of the night, so we could use all the extra firewood we can get."
With a huff, he nodded and turned back toward the door.
"Ren," she cleared her throat, ceasing what she was doing temporarily as she faced him with her hands on her hips, "You know the rule."
He turned back toward her with a look of slight annoyance, "Mom, I'm ten. Do I still have to?"
"Of course you do!" she chirped with a grin as she grabbed her son by the shoulders and planted a kiss firmly on his cheek.
"Bleh!" he grimaced, promptly wiping his face as soon as she withdrew, "Can I go now?"
"Yes, yes, go on," she smiled, "But hurry back! It won't be long before the sun goes down and you know that-"
"I can't be out in the dark. I know, I know."
"Promise me," she demanded firmly.
"I promise," he replied without a second of thought, flying through the door before another word could be said, but he could tell that his mother was still smiling.
The sun hung low in the sky as the young boy ran through the lively village towards the forest. Even though dusk was not far off, many people were outside either hard at work preparing for the harsh winter that was close upon them, or simply enjoying the cool breeze before it got too cold to bear. He splashed through the shallow river that ran through the center of the village, almost accidentally plowing into Beth with her little boy, Evan, to whom he profusely apologized.
"Watch out, kiddo! Been walking long?" Beth teased as she pinched his cheek, knowing that he hated being babied.
He frowned and shrugged her away, but he was unable to hold back the hesitant smile as she giggled at his display.
He tickled Evan and made a silly face, eliciting an excitable grin from the chubby little toddler just before darting off with a wave to Beth and a smile of his own across his youthful features.
He loved the little kids, but he didn't get to see them often enough. A long time ago – before Ren could even really remember – Beth had left the village with Malo in order to help him with opening his shop there, the one he still works out of today. Malo didn't need or even want her help, being that he was always so independent, but he was only 13 years old at the time he chose to open what he claimed would be 'the biggest success in all of Castle Town,' and his parents simply didn't feel right just sending him off alone at such a young age. Malo could not be convinced otherwise, though, and Beth had always wanted to see the castle up close, so they compromised and went together.
Something happened there, however, that no one had expected. Beth met a Hylian soldier at Telma's bar one night, and their instant connection was almost fairytale worthy. His name was Japas, and it only took a single heartbeat for her to get lost in his brilliant hazel eyes. They fell head over heels in love with each other in no time, and they were married very soon after that.
As was everything in their relationship, they wasted no time in having a child together, and every day she felt like she was in heaven. She had a loving husband, a perfect son, and everything was right in her world.
That was, until it all came crashing down when the king ordered all troops to invade a nearby kingdom. No one understood the purpose of the order, knowing that these were times of peace, and feeling that a petty war to claim something as shallow as additional land or resources when they were already so plentiful to the denizens of Hyrule was unnecessary to say the least. It didn't matter, though, as no one dared defy their king. King Viscen had proved so far to be a... stern leader, putting it mildly, but the people still adored him.
Japas went off to battle, but he never came home. Beth was left heartbroken and alone, and she moved back to Ordon immediately after where she took over her mother's store, confiding in her parents' help with her baby during her utter devastation. Even though it was sad, Ren liked that he was able to see Evan every day.
He missed his uncles, Talo and Malo, terribly. Malo still lived in Castle Town pursuing his greedy dream of being unimaginably wealthy. Talo, on the other hand, had been terribly lonely after both his brother and the girl he considered his sister left home. With his biggest brother, Link, gone, too… it was a really depressing time to be in Ordon.
He took up traveling to Kakariko Village quite frequently. He had grown immeasurably fond of both the shaman, Renado, and his daughter, Luda, during the twilight, and he missed them something awful. The older he got, the more he started to realize something… His cheeks grew red hot whenever the dark-haired girl looked at him, his palms got sweaty in her presence, and he found that he was making up more and more excuses to visit the dusty mountainside town. He had fallen for Luda, and he had fallen hard.
He could still remember how terribly his hands trembled and how shaky his voice was when he asked her to marry him, but when she said yes, it was like he was little nine-year-old Talo again. He literally jumped for joy and shouted at the top of his lungs. He made a lap around the room and took his soon-to-be father-in-law in for the tightest hug he could muster, and none of them could stop grinning if they had wanted to.
Talo moved to Kakariko Village to be with his new wife quite a few years ago now. Ren hated that he didn't get to see their little girl, Kina, hardly ever – he did hear that they were already expecting another, though, and he just couldn't wait to meet him or her!
As for here, at home… things were mostly quiet. He had Grandpa Bo who was getting older, and as he got older it got harder and harder for him to help around the house, meaning it was up to Ren to step up to the plate for most things – such as collecting logs for the fire. He didn't mind it to be honest; he liked helping, and he liked having an important role in the family, he just wished it was a little more important.
It was just him, his mom, Ilia, and Grandpa Bo in their house, and even though he got lonely sometimes, it was okay. After all, just a few steps away were his Grandpa Rusl, Grandma Uli, Uncle Colin, and Aunt Calie, but he and Calie were so close in age that he considered her more of a sister than an aunt… it even sounded funny when he thought of her that way.
He and Calie got into all kinds of trouble together, and he considered her his best friend. He almost spent just as much time with Colin, however, and he absolutely adored his uncle. He loved to learn everything he had to teach him, and he really, really loved all the stories he told him about his father, Link.
Ren couldn't help but notice that Colin always seemed a bit… sad. He tried hard to mask it, and for the most part, he did, but sometimes it was just plastered across his face like paint across canvas. It was the same look his mother got often, and it was the same look his grandma and grandpa Uli and Rusl got even more often. Ren was old enough and smart enough to know it was about his missing father, but, for some reason, Colin just… always seemed like he was having the hardest time coping with it, even this many years later. Colin had always felt somewhat responsible, even though he knew in his right mind that there was nothing he could have done to lift his big brother's spirits, he still wished he had done something. He was also hurt by the fact that Link had left without a word, not even a wave or a glance in their direction. He knew that his brother was left traumatized after his trials as the chosen hero, but that didn't make his sudden departure grieve him any less.
Not a day went by that Ren didn't think about his heroic father and what distant lands he could be traveling or what fearsome monsters he could be slaying at any given moment. He had this valiant image in his head of what his father was, and even though it was true – Link was a hero and the bravest, most selfless man any of them had ever known – no one would dare tarnish that image by letting his son know how far he had fallen at the end.
Most of the villagers had given up hope on Link ever returning, but there were those that still held on. Ilia was one of them, as was Colin, but just in case Ren never did get the chance to meet his father… it was best that he knew only the good things.
Yes… the rest simply didn't feel necessary.
Before he knew it, he was in the clearing that sent chills down his spine each time he passed through it. He gazed up at the tall tree, and at the quaint little home nestled amongst its branches. He had heard many stories about the history of this home, and it intrigued him to no end, but no one ever entered it. Everyone simply… left it as it was.
He had asked his mother if he could have a look, just a simple glimpse in through the door, but she had instantly told him no. The pain of going in there was just too much for her. She couldn't bear to see his home so empty… to feel the bitter cold in the loneliness and the anguish in the deafening silence. Even allowing Ren to go in by himself would be too much – the questions he would ask and the explanations he would crave would cripple her. It was difficult enough to get through the endless stories he wanted to hear about his courageous father; she hardly kept it together on a daily basis as it was.
Ren glanced all around, first looking to see if there was still daylight so he wouldn't be late getting back home, then checking to see if anyone was around to witness what he was about to do. The sun was still barely shining and he was completely alone. He couldn't help but think to himself, 'it wouldn't hurt to just take a peek…'
He stepped onto the ladder leading up to the silent abode and he grabbed the door knob hesitantly once he reached the top. He held onto it tightly without moving for a brief moment, gulping down the excitement that was so close to bursting before his small hands turned the knob. He pushed the door open slowly at first, only revealing but a small sliver through which he gazed into the dark room on the other side. It was eerily quiet and, honestly, a bit scary looking, but he didn't care. He glanced over his shoulder again, ensuring that he still wasn't being watched. Noticing that he was still alone, he dared to venture a little further inside. He opened the door just wide enough for him to slip through, and he shut it quietly behind him.
What he saw when he looked around was… not exactly what he had expected.
It was dirty, it was dusty, and it was just… cold. It felt so empty, like a part of his heart was missing that he hadn't known was ever there to begin with. He didn't understand, he couldn't understand. He was too young to really grasp it, but what he was feeling was the hole that his absent father had left in his spirit, the heaviness in never knowing, the confusion in wondering… the agony in abandonment.
Ilia told her son much about the history of the treetop dwelling, despite her reluctance in doing so. She told him how Link lived there through much of his adolescent life, and she told him how it was originally his father's, Ren's grandfather's, and how maybe one day in the distant future it could be his as well. However, there were also many stories that she explicitly did not tell him. She didn't tell him about how Link holed himself up in that house after the events of the twilight crushed him, and she certainly didn't tell him about how she had been the one to persuade him to leave in hopes of him finding happiness, even though she knew she was carrying his child.
There was another story, though, that she was sure she would never reveal to him.
10 Years Earlier
She didn't know how many weeks had passed, how many months; all she knew was that her heart was broken, and she was too embarrassed to face her loved ones.
She had locked herself inside Link's home almost immediately after he left. She opened it for no one, not even her father, and she did not leave. She kept the fire in the hearth going, and she simply sat before it day in and day out. Keeping that fire alive was like keeping his presence alive; it was the only thing that gave her even the slightest form of comfort, as minuscule as it was.
She knew keeping herself hidden away wasn't doing her any good. She knew the situation she was in, and she knew that the longer she kept it a secret, the worse it would be when everyone was to inevitably find out. She didn't care, though. She felt humiliated. She felt stupid. She felt so unbelievably childish and ignorant. She knew she should have told her family – his family – that she was going to have Link's child the very second she was positive about it herself, but she just… couldn't.
She knew everyone's initial reaction would probably be to feel enraged at Link, not understanding the full story and not realizing that he had no idea about any of this, but she just didn't have the strength left in her to explain it to them. And it wouldn't be just explaining it once, either. No, it would be repeating it, and repeating it, and repeating it, over and over again to each and every individual that asked her, and she just knew that she couldn't handle it. Besides, what if he was to come back and she wasn't here to greet him? She needed to be here when he came back... if he came back.
So she stayed there. She stayed perched on the stool he had occupied in front of the fire he had ignited, and she stoked it and prodded it like a nervous twitch, desperate to keep that flame dancing.
She had lost all manner of time, and she was beginning to wonder if this was how Link felt towards the end, as she realized that she was doing something similar to what he had without even acknowledging it. She wondered if he felt as alone as she did, despite the fact that people practically banged the door down each and every day, worry thick in their muffled voices. She wondered if he felt as ashamed as she did, like no matter what choice was made it would have been wrong in one way or another. She wondered if he felt as terrified as she did, like the walls were closing in and the fire was all-consuming and time was the biggest enemy in the entire world.
Alone, ashamed, terrified… That's exactly what she was to the letter. Each emotion was so powerful that it alone would have been enough to cripple her, but the three of them together ganged up on her like bullies in a schoolyard, and she was too weak to fight back.
Time ticked on and on, and people begged her through the door to let them help, but she always refused. She had propped a chair underneath the doorknob, and then pushed a nearby table in front of it as well. She was lonely, but she didn't want the company, couldn't have the company… she just couldn't.
Just as was with Link, her friends and family left delicious meals and comforting beverages just outside the small home, hoping that she'd come out and grab them not only so that they could see her, but they were genuinely concerned for her well-being. Bo had pleaded with his lifelong friend, Renado, to stay in Ordon just a little longer to make sure that his little girl was alright. He wasn't the brightest man alive, but he was well aware that the kind shaman had been at her side over the past year spent in turmoil, and he knew that if anyone left in the village could convince her it would probably be him. Of course he couldn't decline, so when it wasn't Ilia's father or her uncle Rusl begging through the door for her to come to her senses, it was Renado, but whoever it was didn't even matter to her.
She never stepped outside, not even for the split second it would require to grab the provisions left on the doorstep – she could not let anyone see her. After all, Link did have some water and a few pieces of stale bread left in his cellar, but even as little as she ate she was starting to run low. She felt lightheaded and ill often, and it was severe enough that it would bring her to her knees where she would just sit for as long as it took to subside, or even lay down and pass out for an untold number of hours.
She knew it was beyond stupid, she knew she should be taking solace in her loved ones not hiding from them, she knew she shouldn't be acting this way, but she wasn't in her right mind and, therefore, saw no alternative.
There came a day around five months after Link's departure when her father had had enough of her childish behavior. He knew she was hurting, but Goddess-damn it she needed to see her family and her family needed to see her.
It was evening, and when another meal went untouched by his daughter, Bo banged louder than usual on the wooden door separating them.
"Little girl, that's enough o' this nonsense! C'mon out, you need to get yourself somethin' decent to eat!"
But there was no response.
Even though she never made signs of improvement, she always responded at the very least. She would usually mutter, 'I'm sorry,' or 'I can't,' or 'please just leave.' There was never just… nothing.
Because of this, her father immediately went into a full panic.
"Ilia!" he pounded his fist harder, his deep voice practically rattling the logs beneath his feet with its sheer volume, "ILIA!"
His mind instantly went to all the things that could be wrong; had she fallen sick? Gotten herself terribly hurt? Something worse…? He thought of the promise he made to his beloved wife before her passing; he was supposed to keep his little girl from harm, and if he had failed...
His cries went anything but unnoticed, a number of villagers rushing to the clearing that was home to that treehouse to notice their mayor at his wit's end.
"Bo!" Rusl called from below, "What is it?"
The larger man turned to his friend in a fluster, "I-Ilia! M-my-my little girl! Sh-she's not answerin' me!"
Rusl gulped down the involuntary fear that gripped him for his friend's daughter – his niece – but he wasted not a moment. He practically soared up the ladder, moved the frantic father aside, and in one swift motion he lunged forward. He braced himself only briefly before plunging his shoulder into the door with all his might. It gave way and he stumbled through a bit before catching himself. Bo rushed in, pushing the chairs and table aside, and Rusl glanced over his shoulder to see Renado making his way up the ladder as well, but not even the wise shaman was prepared for what they were about to find.
The three older men stood paralyzed in the threshold for an untold number of minutes; each one's voice seized up in their throats, their feet planted themselves into the floor, and they could've sworn that their hearts had stopped beating altogether as the color drained from each of their faces.
None of them knew how much time had passed before they finally heard Bo's trembling voice, "A-am I... Am I s-seein' things…?"
Ilia was lying unconscious on the floor in front of the fireplace, lying parallel to the diminishing flames. Her once-vibrant blonde hair was drenched and matted about her shoulders. She was trembling, and dark circles encompassed her closed eyes. A small puddle of blood pooled up beneath her vulnerable frame and despite appearing so utterly weak she was clutching something tightly and protectively in her arms. Even though no one was positive what it was, they all had a very, very good idea, but none of them wanted to be the one to say it out loud.
Having been the first to regain control of himself, Renado dashed to the young girl and knelt down beside her. Filled with anxiety, he gently pulled back the thin quilt that Ilia had at some point hastily and shoddily wrapped around the bundle in her arms. He saw what he had presumed was the situation as soon as he had entered and taken it all in, but even though he expected it, it didn't startle him any less.
"What is it!" Bo yelled, closing the distance between them a bit, but his nervousness and fear of the worst still holding him back – he didn't want to see her if she was…
But the shaman returned to silence. He placed the back of his hand to Ilia's red cheek, and despite being drenched in sweat she was exponentially cold to the touch. He grabbed a nearby blanket and covered her with it just before slowly and carefully taking the form from her arms into his own, and that's when everyone heard it.
It was soft, weak, and heart-wrenching, but no explanation was needed.
No explanation, but a bit of a snap to reality, "I suppose you two are grandfathers, then."
Bo began to tear up, and he wanted to smile so badly as he approached the tiny figure in his friend's arms, but he just couldn't - he was still so wrought with fear.
"My-my little girl, Renado… My little girl…?"
"She will be alright," he assured, "with time. It's apparent by her size as well as the baby's that this was quite premature... They will both require extra monitoring, but I don't doubt that they will be just fine given time to recover."
Bo could smile then, and he outstretched his long arms in hopes of holding his grandchild that he had no idea he was going to have until this very moment. The large man stared down at the small human in his embrace, and even though he couldn't believe what was happening, the sheer joy of becoming a grandfather outweighed all of the unnecessary details.
"Rusl," Bo said, not looking away from the baby for even a second, "We have a grandson! A grandson! Can ya believe it?"
The baby was so small, but he cried with a power beyond his size. His skin was pale and silky smooth, and he had the tiniest little tuft of blonde hair just at his crown. Bo was awestruck and felt the instant love for this boy that he remembered feeling the first time he held his daughter all those years ago.
"How do we know he's Link's?" Rusl asked seriously, grabbing the attention of both men and wiping off their grins in a flash.
"She and Link were always very close, Rusl," Renado tried, glancing between him and Bo, a bit taken aback at the scruffier man's question, "I just assumed it was a bit of lust and a lot of miraculous intervention from the goddesses that granted us this chi-"
"If Link was going to be a father, he wouldn't have just up and left," Rusl stated, his brow tightened in confusion mixed with slight anger at his son, "There's no way he would have just abandoned Ilia if this was his child."
He knew he was coming across as rather cruel, but that wasn't his intention, and he didn't know how else to phrase it. He said it more so as a means to reassure himself that Link was better than that, he was raised better than that.
"Perhaps he didn't know," the shaman suggested, ever the wisest and most collected one, "Perhaps she kept it from him knowing that he would have given up all other callings and endeavors in order to be here for her and their son. We all know the hero well, Rusl," Renado continued, closing the gap between him and his friend and placing a comforting hand on his shoulder, "I am sure, without a shadow of a doubt, that this was Ilia's conscious decision to keep this from him," he turned to Bo, "She's a very brave and selfless girl, and she didn't want Link to give up what it was he really wanted to do – what he needed to do for his sanity's sake."
Bo smiled, but as the excitement waned ever so slightly the questions started pouring in, "You're the smart one here, Renado – why'd she hide it from us? Why'd she lock herself in here and go it alone? Why didn't she get help? Why did it happen so early? I mean… we saw her, what, five months ago and she wasn't… ya know. Is she sick? Is the baby sick? Is she-"
The shaman lifted a hand to calm him, "You can ask her all of the questions you like once she is well, my friend."
The newfound grandfather smiled again, and Rusl reluctantly did the same as he looked down into the baby's slowly opening eyes. He was shocked and confused, but deep down he knew that this was Link's boy just as the others did - their eyes were identical.
He couldn't help but feel… bad. He knew that Link would hate to be missing out on being a father, and he knew that Link would never want to knowingly subject his child to a life devoid of one parent, but no one had any idea where to find him. He knew, however, that even if Link had remained here for this, that he wouldn't have been able to be the father Rusl knew he could be when at his best. He was simply too worn down, too traumatized, and was left far too empty. He would want to be the best father he could be, he would give it every damned thing he had in him, but the ends would just never be able to meet, and Link would further hate himself for it.
Ilia knew that, Ilia knew all of it, and that's exactly why she did what she did.
It didn't take long for the rest of the villagers to check out all the commotion, and the children were beyond ecstatic to have a little one to play with, even though they couldn't exactly do that just yet. Everyone was, of course, dumbfounded, but the sheer joy brought on by a baby far overshadowed that, and it was a bittersweet feeling when they realized that even though Link was gone, there was part of him still here with them.
Renado saw to getting the new mother and her tiny infant as comfortable as possible, and he tended to them consistently for days. They stayed in Link's treehouse, as moving them elsewhere would have caused unnecessary stress on the both of them. They prepared a makeshift cot for both her and the baby out of various pillows and blankets, and Bo had fetched his daughter's favorite nightgown from their home that Uli and Pergie dressed her in so that she would be more comfortable. It had been her mother's when she was young, and it was a beautiful, rose-colored satin that flowed loosely off of her fragile form. Uli had brushed out her tangled hair gently as she slept, adoring how the young girl looked when her hair was down as it had grown quite long compared to how she usually kept it.
Ilia came to both briefly and rarely, her body having undergone major stress from not only enduring the process alone, but doing so while being very weak and ill due to lack of proper sustenance and care. Renado told her the first time she woke up that she had a handsome son, and that even though he was incredibly tiny and frail – weighing just barely five pounds – he was tough and pulling through it valiantly. She had smiled then, and Link's name just barely escaped her lips before sleep took her again.
Quite a few days passed before anyone even knew what the baby's name was. Each time Ilia had come to, she had whispered, "Ren… Ren…" but everyone simply assumed she was calling for the shaman.
Almost a week later when she started making better progress, Bo, Rusl, and Renado stood nearby when her father finally asked, "Ilia, does my lil' grandson have a name yet?"
Again, she whispered, "Ren..."
Renado had thought it was odd considering no one had called him that since he was a child, but he still just chalked it up to her being slightly delirious and assumed she needed him for something.
"Yes, dear, what is it?"
She giggled almost inaudibly and shook her head, motioning toward the bundle in Rusl's arms and repeating, "Ren… His name is Ren."
Rusl and Bo turned to look at the awestruck shaman. His eyes were wide as saucers, he was stone silent and just as still, and his eyes were frozen into Ilia's.
"His name is… Ren?" he reiterated.
"Yes," she smiled. When the gentle, older man still seemed confused, she elaborated barely above a whisper, "Link didn't know he was going to be a father… but I still asked him for a name anyway... He said Ren, to honor you for all the things you've done for him... for both of us."
Renado was as quiet as a tomb, so she added one final thing, "You've saved both of our lives, Renado... We owe so much to you… this is just one way we had hoped to show you that."
When he started to tear up, he hid it extremely well. For now, the only fitting response he could muster was a smile and a heartfelt, "Thank you… truly."
Bo clapped his lifelong friend on the shoulder, "I couldn't agree more."
"Yes," Rusl grinned, "There was simply no better choice. I only pray that Farore will bring Link back to us soon – to his son."
"She will, Rusl," Renado replied with a genuine smile, "I believe, one day, she will."
Somewhere else entirely but at approximately the same time – where the air wasn't as sweet and the people weren't as friendly but the hours ticked away just as slow – a large, ornate door swung open.
Boots clicked along pristinely glowing tile before clunking onto thick, red carpet. The rug ran narrow along a corridor that was just that, and a grand, lavish chair lay at the end of its trail. The man those boots belonged to stopped just short of the extravagant seat, lowered himself to one knee and hung his head.
"I know why it is you have come," a beautiful, feminine voice echoed in the near-empty hall, the smallest hint of playfulness in its otherwise quite serious tone.
The man lifted his head, "Then you can help me?"
"Perhaps, but… perhaps that isn't the best choice."
The man got to his feet, "I know you can help. This is all I'm asking of you."
She said nothing, and when the room was far too silent for his liking, he added, "I know she loved me."
The woman's eyes flashed the faintest hint of surprise for the briefest moment before she regained her composure.
"Yes. I'm the one that told her to lie," she declared, having nothing to hide.
The man was taken aback, but he could put up a stone exterior just as well as she could.
"Why?" was all he said.
"She had to take care of her kingdom," the woman replied matter-of-factly, "I am terribly sorry for the pain that it caused you, but a ruler must always put her people first."
He said nothing.
"You must understand," she began, "She is where she is meant to be. She is the ruler of the twilight, and it cannot be without her."
He was still as silent as the grave, but his gaze locked into hers never faltered.
The woman stared long and hard into his deep blue eyes, and as she got lost in them she saw a number of things. She saw the culmination of an endless amount of torment and agony. She saw a desperate desire to find his sanity and peace of mind again. She saw a once-innocent mind aged too rapidly and chained down by unnecessary terrors. But more than anything she saw an overwhelming hunger for closure, an exceptional need for answers – to simply know why.
She knew this man was deserving of her assistance more than any individual in the entire land crafted by the deities themselves.
She rose slowly from her seat, her brow tightened and her eyes latched onto his persistently.
"If I do this for you, you must promise me that it will not be in vain. You must promise me that no harm will befall my kingdom or my people."
"Princess – sorry, queen," the man tensed up, exhilaration quickly grabbing hold as his once-impossible dream now had the slight prospect of becoming reality, "I promise I will do everything in my power to keep Hyrule safe. There's no way I would ever let anything happen, Zelda, you know that."
She sighed, "I know."
He smirked then, and she could see that spark of hope flicker in his eyes as he said, "So, there is a chance I could see her again, isn't there?"
Zelda tried to smile, too, and she did slightly, but she was wary of what would come of this. There was a feeling in the pit of her stomach, an uncomfortable knot that just wouldn't let loose.
There was only one word he wanted to hear, and that was the only word she could muster.
With that, he gave her an enthusiastic nod before whirling around on his heel towards the exit, eager to meet up with the smartest man he knew in search of all the assistance he could gather.
"Hero," she called out just before he could leave.
He turned back to her, "Princess?"
She gave him a look.
He shrugged with a mischievous grin, "Sorry. Old habit."
She held back the smile that tried to grace her lips, and she did it well. She gulped down the apprehension, the fear, the uncertainty. This was the man that almost died protecting everyone in the kingdom, if she refused to help him of all people, what kind of queen – what kind of person, for that matter – would she be?
Instead of a long-winded lecture, advice she knew would go unheeded, or some elaborate story explaining her uneasiness, she allowed him this brief respite from his pain; he deserved that much.
"I trust you, Link. I truly, truly do. Please… do not let me down."
With his trademark half-smile and a reassuring nod in her direction, he said, "I won't, princess. I promise."
The darkest night often makes way for the brightest light.
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A big thank you to the following for helping me get this chapter out there!
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