((Well, it wasn't a year, that counts for something, right? In my defense, I worked on this over spring break, and I'm uploading this literally a few days after my latest college semester ended. Meaning, I worked on this as often as I had decent chunks of free time.

Also! You'll meet a few new characters this chapter, but all have been mentioned before… so I hope you enjoy them now that we finally get to see them! 3))

It wasn't a long trip into Paz's office, but it was nerve-wracking.

Sheik found herself feeling more anxious than usual, as she trailed just after the old Sheikah and her partner—the pair of who seemed to be getting on as old friends. Which, as she thought back to his history in the Castle, was probably the truth.

According to Link's tale, he had gotten up to a lot here in Castle Town. Most of it work as a knight, yes, but it was no stretch that he may have known, or even been close to, this aged Sheikah before them.

It was hard to imagine the castle as anyone's home, but even if Link was more at home with Telma, Sheik knew that the castle must have served as a home away from home to him. And she wondered, not for the first time, just what he thought of her for leaving this place and never coming back.

The pair of them came to a blank wall, before Paz beat her fist against it and it split into two, sliding them apart to reveal an office. "Come, come, hurry along, you two," she said simply, as if she hadn't done something awe-inspiring with her magic. Sheik picked up the pace, and gently took Link's hand to get him to do the same. Paz then ushered them inside before closing the doors behind them, likely making it look just like the blank wall it had been only a moment ago.

Sheik tried not to feel trapped, knowing she couldn't replicate the magic used to enter this place.

Impa had always taught her not to participate in magic she couldn't duplicate. But then, she seemed to be discovering new magic all the time now that she wasn't outright rejecting the Triforce of Wisdom.

Sheik took a deep breath, trying to brace herself for whatever awaited her. There was once a time when she was looking forward to meeting Paz—even excited for it. But now that the woman was before her, Sheik didn't want her to open her mouth for fear of saying something that ruined the image of her.

And what did she know about this woman, anyways? That she was Impa's sister? Sheikahs were known to be sisters in arms. She wondered if, perhaps, that was all that was meant by it.

And yet, as she spared a look up at the woman, she knew that there was something all too familiar in her face.

It made Sheik feel queasy; made her wonder what other secrets Impa might have been hiding.

More than that, it made her wonder what other things she didn't know about the woman who had practically raised her—and why Impa hadn't simply told her.

The office was small and a bit cramped, with a bookshelf filled to its max capacity, and books lining a desk next to it. Beyond that, there was a cozy looking chair, which Paz hobbled her way towards.

"Now," she said, gesturing for the pair of them to come closer to the desk. "I'm afraid I don't have seats, but young'uns like yourselves can't mind standing too much. I've only had a few glimpses of what you've been getting up to lately, and frankly, a few moments of standing is hardly the worst you've seen."

Sheik stared at her, then glanced between her and Link.

"You have been… watching us?" she repeated, just to be sure she had heard correctly. "By what magic?"

"A gift of Sheikah prophecy," Paz said dismissively, waving a hand at her. "Not important, for these purposes. You don't have it through your Sheikah magic, much as I would have liked you to have inherited it."

Sheik frowned. "Then… How have I—"

"That's Triforce of Wisdom magic, Sheik, dear." She smiled indulgently at her, looking patient. Perhaps more than Sheik deserved. Of course Sheik had known that, but— "You do know the difference, don't you?"

"Yes," Sheik said, a bit offended, given that her Triforce glowed when she used it.

"And, you do know about Sheikah magic from what Impa taught you, yes?" The old woman leaned back in her chair, looking quite comfortable in her position of knowledge and power over them. "All the lessons she made sure to drill into your head?"

"Yes." Sheik wondered what this woman was getting at. "Though I've never been able to do many of the spells she tried to teach me."

Paz nodded, as if it was expected—likely because she was a prophetess. Sheik tried not to feel too bitter about that. Everything she and Link did would be easier if they could see their next step two weeks before they needed to take it. "Alright, very well then. Tell me the basics of what you can do, young one—magic is so tricky with creatures of your sort."

Sheik felt small, suddenly. "I'm not a creature," she said defensively. "I'm a person."

"Yes, yes, details—now, your powers, please. We haven't got all day and I've too much to teach you to waste time with offense. You think I'm a self-righteous, wrinkly old woman, and I think you're a stubborn mule who wastes time ignoring the obvious, but we can't change that about each other." She leaned forward, steepling her fingers and resting her chin against the tips. "You were saying?"

Sheik looked over to Link, who looked as though he might be enjoying this. Some partner he was. But Sheik just breathed a sigh through her nose and steeled herself for the answer. If Link trusted Paz, then she would, too—no matter how much she personally disliked this Sheikah. "I can do most of the elemental spells, except for fire. I can change my appearance—at least, I think that's Sheikah. And I… I can make myself and others invisible. Those are the main ones I can still do. The others I'm out of practice with, because I haven't needed to use them."

"And what were those, dear? Or was it so long ago that you don't remember?"

"I could once levitate… Though I think that was more elemental," Sheik said, frowning as she tried to remember. "And… something with magnetism."

Paz stared at her, a pensive expression on her face. "I see. So, only ones that deal with the physical world, and you cannot create anything on your own." She stroked her chin, then looked over Sheik as if she was examining a piece of meat. "Classic halfling," she finally said. "You haven't the time to remember old magic, so I suppose you're quite lucky your Triforce has been picking up the slack."

"Haven't the time for what?" Link asked, at the same time Sheik asked, "Halfling?"

Paz looked between them, then finally let out a puff of air, clearly frustrated with the lot of them. "Silly things, you are. Why you feel the need to ask instead of drawing the obvious conclusions, I'll never know, but…"

With a snap of her fingers, Paz had moved the book of Sheikah magic from Sheik's hands. She laid it on the table, then with another snap of her fingers, it turned to a page on known origins of Sheikah powers. "There. Peruse this while I try to remind your partner of his quest."

As Sheik started to decipher the old writing, she heard Link starting to argue.

"My quest was to find Zelda—er, the King's daughter, Sheik, bearer of the Triforce of Wisdom—whatever you want to call her, I found her."

"Oh, yes. Great work, young hero. Is that the praise you were seeking?" Paz asked patiently. At what must have been a very put-out expression on Link, Paz chuckled. "No, no, of course you do deserve gratitude, little one. But your quest has hardly been about that over the last few months. You set your sights on things a bit more important, mm?"

Sheik knew Link well enough to know the flushed pink his cheeks had turned. "Well… Yes. The kidnapped girls, and fixing the spells on those cities…"

"Then love. And now, stopping Lord Ganondorf." Paz reached forward and patted his hand. "I trust you understand the importance of this final quest."

Sheik tuned them out as she tried to decipher the words in front of her. Eventually the words started making sense as she adjusted to the dialect. But try as she might, nothing jumped out at her. This was all review from lessons long since passed. Impa had truly taught her everything—even if a few lessons ended in failure, on Sheik's part.

It was expected, of course. A non-Sheikah couldn't learn every trick of the Sheikahs.

"Have you come to the obvious yet, Sheik?" Paz asked patiently, causing Sheik's head to jerk up to look at her. "Or shall I explain it, as Impa should have years ago?"

Sheik hoped her expression didn't look as surly as it felt. "Explain it," she finally said. Then, at a look from Link, she reluctantly added, "Please."

"You even managed to explain it to your partner, once," Paz said. "You told him of the different types of magic, yes? And how none but Sheikahs by blood could practice Sheikah magic?"

"Well, yes, with an obvious exception," Sheik said. Though she suddenly felt hesitant about her explanation, she continued, "My… Ah. My Triforce allowed me to practice certain things, since they would keep me safe."

"No. Not an obvious exception," Paz said. At Sheik's blank expression, Paz tsked. "I told you just a moment ago that your Triforce magic and Sheikah magic were separate. Should I call you Halfling again for you to understand it, or has the lesson sunk in yet?"

Sheik suddenly wished that she and Link weren't standing, because her head felt curiously light. She leaned forward against the desk, resting her hands there until the ringing in her ears dulled.

"So you're telling me," Sheik said, "That I am a…"

"A Sheikah. Yes. How you refused to come to the conclusion on your own, I cannot fathom, but I suppose it's not what you have been most stubborn about. I ought to count my blessings you aren't contradicting me." Still, despite her harsh words, she patted Sheik's hand. "Come, now. Relax. It is hardly the end of the world, finding out that you are at least some of what you pretended to be."

As Sheik tried to stem the numbness coming over her, she felt Link's arm wrap around her waist. His warmth helped to pull her out of it, and she reluctantly looked over at him.

"Sheik?" he asked softly. "Do we need to step out for a minute?"

"There's hardly time for that, dear," Paz said. "Now, Sheik. I trust you'll want the truth eventually, even if you don't want it right this moment. As it is, we can't afford to wait for when eventually rears its ugly head, so here it is. You're my great niece, and Impa's granddaughter." When Sheik went almost ashen, she tsked and took her hand properly. The familiar feeling of Sheikah healing magic came through her veins, and Sheik felt herself calming instantly. She almost rejected it on principle, but it happened too quickly for her to protest it. "There is a lot to tell there, my dear. And I will in time—perhaps later tonight, when you come to see me again. But for now, I tell you this because it is important."

"I came here for answers about Kakariko." Sheik was almost surprised at her own voice. "Not—I wasn't—I didn't come here for my bloodline to be explained to me."

"You came here for a great deal of reasons, Sheik, and you came to see me most of all. I cannot tell you what you would like to know, though—and, even if I could, it wouldn't be what you want to hear."

Sheik pursed her lips. "Stop talking in riddles, Paz."

"Lady Paz," Paz corrected. "And for someone who spent so much of her life in libraries, and who has the Triforce of Wisdom, I do wish you would use that mind of yours."

"Speak plainly."

"Kakariko Village is gone, and I cannot see where it is. I can see that you find it eventually, in the last place you'd think, but it is out of reach for now."

Sheik's stomach dropped.

Paz reached for her hand again, gently massaging the meat of it so she could more easily transfer magic. "Sweet Hylia, lovely, those callouses are something else. Now, are you feeling a bit calmer? Bad news is hardly what you came for, but sadly, it is all I can tell you on account of Kakariko."

Link's arm was warm around her waist, nearly as reassuring as the healing magic flowing through her. She wasn't sure if she'd rather Link help her leave, or if this was enough, but either way, she didn't push him away. "Lady Paz, if you can't tell us about Kakariko, what can you tell us about Ganondorf?" he asked, and Sheik appreciated the subject change. "Or—about anything that can help us, really."

"Goddesses, boy, I thought you'd never ask." She patted Sheik's hand, then closed it and returned it to her. "Ganondorf is, first and foremost, from the Gerudo Desert. He is here on an effort of rebuilding his homeland. I trust you understand that the kidnapping is a bigger issue than just looking for you, my dear Sheik?"

Sheik just watched her, wary as before.

Paz continued on as if she didn't care—which, admittedly, she probably didn't. "Right. The fact of it is, I don't know what all he has planned. But I can tell you he isn't killing the girls. He certainly isn't letting them go, but not a single life has been lost." She paused, then, "Well. Not of those he's captured."

And that—that was the best news Sheik had heard in weeks. She let out a relieved sigh, then leaned back until her back was propped against the wall.

"So they're alright?" Link asked. "Do you know where they are—or where they're going?"

"Every time I try to solve that one, lovelies, my head goes to other mysteries before I get an answer. Or I get another image of the pair of you, getting yourselves into trouble." Somehow, she almost sounded like she was scolding them for doing their duties. "I see the desert in nearly every present mystery and future path. I trust you'll make something of that, because a woman my age can't make the trek."

Sheik and Link shared a glance.

"We're to go to the desert next, then?" Link asked. "It's… about as far from here as we could get, Lady Paz. And we don't know where their settlement is. We could get lost for—for months, if not years."

"Yes," Paz said, sympathetically. "But as long as you're not lost or captured, you could afford to take as long as you need."

"As long as we—"

"Hush." Paz gave Sheik a warning look. "I've already told you those young women are not being hurt. Your Triforces are what Lord Ganondorf wants most of all. Coming here may have been good in that you met me, but it was beyond dangerous to come here."

"I know, Lady Paz. But—"

"Oh, I know you know, Sir Link." Link's mouth snapped shut. "Don't feel too bad. Better men than you have bent to Sheikahs before, especially when they think they're pretty."

Link's face went scarlet. "I—We are partners, I came here because it seemed like the best option we had, I would never—"

"Teasing, little one," she said, and—to Sheik's utter bafflement—pushed a jar of strange-looking food at him and gestured for him to take one. "So serious, I can't imagine how you came all this way. Now, Sheik. I trust you will be able to sort out a plan between you and that Trifroce of yours."

Sheik grimaced. "A plan, as in…?"

"To destroy Ganon, of course. I don't expect you to have one right this moment, without other information. But you will be able to create a plan, eventually, won't you?"

"I have before," she said, a little defensively. "I don't know the future, unlike you. But if lives depend on me, then yes, I'll figure something out."

Link caught the defensive tone, and moved to stand more in front of Sheik. There were traitorous crumbs on his lips, but despite his clear friendship with Paz (even with all her teasing), Sheik knew he wouldn't do anything to hurt her. So she tried not to let her heckles raise when he said, "Sheik, just try and trust her for now."

"Seeing as I'm the best information you have at the moment, I suggest you listen to your partner."

Sheik looked at Paz with an uncertain expression. "We haven't had time to build up trust," she finally said. "But if Link trusts you, then I'll… I will take you at your word."

Paz nodded confidently. "Right. Well then, I will bid you farewell. Link, I trust you'll have a wonderful evening in Castle Town. And Sheik, I will see you tonight."

It wasn't a question, or an invitation. Sheik had never liked orders much, but she stiffly nodded. Worst came to worst, she could always blow off the offer and just not show up.

Link, beside her, looked utterly confused as to why he'd be leaving the castle and presumably going to Castle Town. Sheik was a bit confused as well, though she was admittedly more focused on how Paz was instructing her to come back here, rather than just staying and telling her the rest now.

"If that's settled, then," the old woman said, then waved to the door. It opened without preamble or sound, revealing the library just beyond. "Off you go. You may sleep where you entered, but leave the castle by morning. I cannot guarantee nothing bad will happen in the next day—but that is entirely up to your decisions."

As they started for the door, Link turned back to look at Paz. "Any advice on how to avoid those bad outcomes?"

"Ah, Link," Paz said with an amused, knowing smile. "My dear boy, if I gave advice every time I was asked, I'd be little more than a fortune teller, and both of your gifts would be rendered useless. So remember what I have said, but farewell for now!"

And no sooner than they'd walked through the threshold, the door shut behind them.

Sheik turned and found nothing but the blank wall—and her books mysteriously back in her arms.

Another hour passed in the library, as it seemed one of the only safe places in the castle. Sheik pored over the book on Sheikah history, as well as the one about Gerudo history. But she couldn't bring herself to focus.

Somewhere in this time, Link had ended up sitting between her legs, skimming through book after book. She herself was propped against a sturdy bookshelf, and had been reading one-handed, while her other arm was snaked around Link's waist. Sheik wanted to mind the proximity, but she appreciated the closeness more than she wanted to admit.

This went double, as she realized that the library seemed to get colder the longer they stayed inside it. As Link was the only warm thing in it, it only made sense that he would sit with her. The fact that he was practically in her lap had nothing to do with it, clearly. Even if he was cozy, leaning back against her chest while she held her arm against his middle—it was merely for warmth.

Still, even with Link pinning her down, Sheik felt restless. She'd tried to focus on the books Paz had left her—really, truly, she had. But her mind had been wandering, and it kept coming back to her heritage.

Finally, she silenced the area around them so that they could speak undetected. "Halfling," she finally said, the first word spoken aloud between them in an hour. "She called me a Halfling."

"Well. Looking at all the evidence, it does seem to be the most likely answer," Link said. He looked up from his book, turning halfway in her lap so he could face her. "I mean… You look Sheikah, Sheik. Even without your…" He made a vague gesture to her face. Sheik was reminded of the traditional Sheikah markings she'd put around her eye after Kakariko's fall, and of the fact that she regularly changed her appearance to disguise herself. "You've always had a Sheikah looking face. Something about the eyes, and the cheekbones, I think. I don't know. You just look Sheikah, I swear."

"I look like a great many things," Sheik said. "That woman just enjoys making me look like a fool."

Link covered a laugh with a fake cough. "You're not alone in that one, she does that with everyone," he said. Then, seeing that she wanted a real conversation rather than just a few off-hand comments, Link shifted so that he was still in her lap, but now facing her. When he did, he came face-to-face with her unimpressed expression, and had the gall to laugh. "Okay, fine. Still no luck with the books?"

"I was hoping for a map of the desert, especially in the Gerudo one," Sheik said. She held up the book she'd been reading, offering it to Link. "Instead, I got missing pages where they should be, and most of the interesting parts crossed out of the book."

Link raised a brow, taking the book from her and flipping through the pages for himself. "Who do you think marked out the passages?"

"The King—or someone before Ganondorf," she said without missing a beat. She pointed to some of the scratch-marks. "The scribbles and notes on the margin look pretty old—Plus, the dust on the book alone makes it seem like it's been like this for a while."

"Huh." Link looked harder at the book. "Why do you think they'd do this?"

"Sheikahs and the Royal Family have a long, very complicated… very violent history with the Gerudo. When the Royal Family thought they'd wiped them out, I think they celebrated." Sheik pursed her lips, her usual dislike for royalty showing plain on her face. "Sheikahs have more of a reason than the Royal Family. From everything I've ever found on the subject, Sheikahs and Gerudo have both been endangered societies at the other's hands."

Link flipped a few pages, looking at some of the old depictions of both. "Doesn't help that they have different gods."

"Mm. The Sheikah have different gods than Hylians, but they—…We, always managed to get along."

"We," Link repeated, giving her a look. "You don't have to embrace it as your heritage if you don't want to, Sheik. You know that, right?"

Sheik took the book back from him with a huff. "I can't ignore it. It's part of who I am. It was even before I knew I was Sheikah by blood, so now…," she said. When he continued to look almost pitying, Sheik shook her head. "No, you don't understand. It's—I learned so much about Sheikah culture growing up, and learned to respect it. At least, I thought I had. Even as an adult, I understood that Sheikah's role in serving the Royal Family was important, even if I never wanted to serve the Royal Family and only ever wore those clothes for my own benefit."

"I guess," Link said. "I could tell you weren't a Castle Sheikah because you didn't like the king enough, but you knew what you were doing otherwise."

"No." Sheik looked away. "I didn't. Not really. Not if I was truly a Sheikah, and not just posing as one. There are different rules, if you're imitating, or if you're actually a Sheikah. Much of what I did wasn't right either way, but it's forgivable if you're a foreigner and don't understand the implications."

Link's brows drew together. "Can you explain that a little more? I've been around Sheikahs a lot, but…"

"There are traditions, and prophecies, and magic tied to everything Sheikahs do." Sheik's lips settled into a thin line. "Had I known that I was actually a Sheikah… I wouldn't have dared to wear this without going through the rites of passage associated, or at least paying my respects."

Link looked at her expectantly, but it was a few moments before Sheik could collect herself enough to continue. In that time, she set the book aside, knowing she wouldn't be able to focus on it for now.

"Impa left most of what she had to me," she finally said, "And this was a part of that. But I wouldn't have chosen to wear the clothes of a dead Sheikah warrior if I'd known. Especially knowing that this person might have been a relative of mine."

She almost felt sick—and evidently looked it, as Link gave her a concerned look. "Sheik, slow down. I'm sure it's okay," he said. "Impa told you you could wear it?"

"It's not like she was around to answer specific questions I had afterwards," she said. "I—Everything she had, she said was mine. I assumed… that meant this."

Link frowned a little. "Then, isn't it fine?"

Sheik shook her head. "It means something different in Sheikah culture. Passing down clothes is more like passing down the role they took. The only thing is, I still don't know much about who wore these clothes before me. It's… I'm not sure yet, but if I did anything to disgrace their memory, it would be one of the most disrespectful things I could do."

And in a flash, she remembered all the thieving she did in these clothes. All the heists, all the pawning and running from the law, all the needless fighting and provoking the police…

When Sheik fell silent and failed to explain more, a line formed between Link's brows. "Okay, so it's pretty serious," he finally said, cupping her cheek. "Then just… Pay respects and stop wearing these? Or find a similar set?"

"The role is already mine to fill. Choosing not to wear this wouldn't change the fact that I've stepped into their… skin, almost." She paused. "It goes double because it was—it was one of Impa's children." Sheik's throat almost closed up from shock. "These clothes… When Paz said that Impa was my grandmother—that means that these might have belonged to my parents, Link. Or an aunt, or uncle. How am I supposed to…"

"Hey." Link set a hand on top of hers, where she'd started anxiously pulling at the fabric over her mid-chest. "Take a breath."

It took a moment, but soon she was breathing more steadily, and the world looked a little clearer, with fewer dark spots on the edge of her vision. "I am," Sheik said, a little helplessly. Then, remembering just where they were, she took a quick breath. "Cut me off if I start talking about this more. We need to stay focused."

Her partner didn't really look convinced. But one look around and he, too, was nodding—no matter how much reservation he still had about it. They were in enemy territory, with no promises of being undisturbed in the library even if Sheik was using a silencing spell. They couldn't afford to stall—at least, not here. "So. The plan."

"We can take these books back to the boiler room," Sheik said. "And I can study whatever it is Paz wanted me to learn from them, and you can study the history ones."

"You're sure?"

Sheik furrowed her brows at him. "Of course I'm sure. Why wouldn't I be?"

"I'm not as good with history as you are, Sheik." He laughed a little hesitantly. "I was never so much the book type, so it might take me a while to figure it out."

"You're just looking for something that jumps out to you," she said. "Something that seems important, like… Useful." She tried to clarify, but found herself drawing a blank. Whenever she read, she seemed to find the exact most useful information she would need, and even if she wasn't paying much attention, sometimes the less useful information almost seemed to dull and fade, until the only thing clear on the page was what she needed to know. "You'll know it when you see it."

Link stared at her for a moment more. "Sheik. When I read, I just read. Things don't jump out to me." He paused. "At least, not how you're describing. You sure you don't want to switch tasks?"

"Unless you have a secret skill at Sheikah blood magic," Sheik said, expression flat, "Then I don't think we can. Just ask Farore to give you good luck in finding what you need."

"Is that what you do?"

At Link's question, Sheik bit the inside of her cheek and shook her head. "Praying's kind of beyond me," she said. "Considering I share a goddess's bloodline, it always seemed a little self-defeating."

Somehow, that made Link crack a grin. "Right," he said. "My mistake."

He fell silent, then, and shifted so that he could curl back up against her chest. Sheik decided not to mention that they needed to get up for new books soon, and that they really did need to move to the boiler room.

But they could stay like this, just for a few minutes more. Sheik wasn't selfish enough to pull away from Link just yet.

After another hour or two, the pair of them had weeded out several history books, and collected a stack of more promising ones. It helped that as Sheik had looked through the titles, she'd grabbed anything that jumped out at her, and—lo and behold—those had had much of what they needed.

But as Link tried to find all the useful information he could, Sheik stayed focused on puzzling through Paz's books on magic.

Some of them were, unexpectedly, diaries of past Zeldas. She wasn't quite sure how she felt about reading those, but she wasn't against it, either. If they had something useful to say about how to use her Triforce most effectively, then she'd be happy to combine it with her knowledge of Sheikah magic.

But, as the sun's rays were blocked by clouds and as rain started to patter down against the huge library windows, Sheik took it as a cue to leave. "The boiler room," she said. "We need to go."

Link nodded, then started to put some of the discarded books away, so that no one would know that someone had been here.

It was still odd that no one had been here all day, but Sheik wasn't going to look a gift horse in the mouth. Not to mention, the fact that these books seemed in the process of being removed from the shelves, she supposed that King, or perhaps even Ganondorf, was choosing to take away the people's access to this place.

Or maybe, for once, she and Link simply got lucky.

She certainly considered nearly three hours spent reading with him a stroke of luck. It was rare they had an excuse to act in such a way—as if they were young adults in love, rather than responsible for the fate of the world.

Sheik wondered if this was what life might be like, once they found a way to defeat Ganondorf.

She wondered on it the whole trip to the boiler-room, only using her magic where necessary. It was a small miracle that she hadn't gotten hurt, and that Link had been there to pull her back from a few close calls brought on by her distraction.

By the time they got to the boiler room, though, the magic of the library had worn off, and Sheik was left feeling more aware of her role in all this.

People's lives were on the line. Including Link's.

She couldn't afford to let herself slip again. Too many people were counting on her to stay focused. So when they sat down to read, she pulled her knees to her chest and didn't allow Link to sit as close as he had before.

And yet, when he sat hip-to-hip with her, and gently wrapped an arm around her waist, Sheik didn't pull away.

They read in silence until the dark of the night set in.

Before tiredness could set in for the night, though, Sheik felt warmth from her Triforce. No spark of danger accompanied it though, so instead she took it as a sign that it was time to go see Paz.

When she got up, Link seemed to know her plan immediately.

"Do you want me to come with?" he asked.

Though Sheik's lips formed the word 'yes,' the only thing to come out was, "It's alright. Stay and keep reading. I think I need to do this on my own."

Link gave her a curious look, but he didn't try to follow. Instead, he nodded, and got comfortable against the wall again, curling up for now. "Paz said I'd have a good night in Castle Town, whatever that means—so I guess, given her uh, tendency to give out future hints… don't worry if I'm not here when you return."

A pit formed in Sheik's stomach, the idea worrying her, even though she felt no worries from the Triforce. There was no good reason to prevent Link from going, however, so Sheik merely nodded and chose not to press the issue.

"I'll be back," she said. And with that, she set out on her own for the library.

Sheik should have been frightened, traversing the castle alone in the dark of the night, with only her Triforce to guide her. She should have felt nervous, or anxious—she should have at least felt worried for the partner that she had left behind.

And yet, as she soldiered on, there was only determination, and a small spark of curiosity.

She couldn't place the reason for it, but she knew that her mood was being influenced by her Triforce—and the only answer she could think of was that she needed to be in a certain mood when she came to see Paz.

Either that, or her Triforce knew she'd turn back if she stopped feeling good about going.

However, as she followed along the pull of her Triforce, Sheik found that she was being led in a different path than the one she had left. In a matter of minutes, she found herself in a separate part of the castle, a long distance from the library.

It was something that she only had vague memories about; memories about visiting her father's—visiting the King's—throne room when she was small. But it also reminded her of the times she'd walked from her childhood bedroom to the gardens.

After she turned a corner, just as she would to go to the gardens, she found that her memories were justified.

Though it wasn't the open-sky gardens that she'd remembered, greenhouses and plants from all corners of Hyrule filled the room, from the entrance to the exit. And, through the glass, she found that it was the same for the rows of greenhouses lined up next to this one.

No matter how much she hated the castle, it was the most beautiful thing she'd ever seen.

And, it appeared, she was not the only one marveling in its beauty.

Just a few dozen feet away, a girl no older than fourteen was using a stool and a watering can to attend to a particularly thirsty plant—one that was otherwise too far out of her reach. The stool was teetering on two legs, however, and the girl was precariously balanced with her knee against the stacked tables the plants were resting on.

She was pretty, Sheik noted—dressed in a nightgown that was worth more than Sheik's last two hauls combined, and with hair that curled into a bun at the top of her hair, save for two errant stands near her ears.

And, despite her blonde hair, her skin was almost as dark as Sheik's.

It wasn't the only thing about her that reminded Sheik of herself.

But before Sheik could identify her, and before the girl could finish watering the plant, the stool's precarious balance ended. It toppled, and it took the girl with her.

She fell with an undignified squawk, and before Sheik could stop herself, she hurried over and approached her, helping her up off of her back—though she stopped short of helping her to her feet, given the way that the girl was clutching a bloodied knee.

Sheik knelt in front of the girl, and was almost stricken with how alike she was. Only a few years ago, she had seen this face staring her back in the mirror—though Sheik had been notably less well-kept at the time.

"You aren't supposed to be in the gardens," the girl said, with a perfect Castle-Town Royalty accent. "What if Ganondorf were to see you?"

Sheik stared at her.

The girl shook her head, then blew out a sigh through her nose before tucking her hair behind her ears. "Well, I suppose it can't be helped. I'm not supposed to be in here, either. So I won't tell anyone as long as you won't."

"Of… of course not," Sheik said, finally finding her voice. Still, it took her a moment longer to avert her eyes and stop staring. "…Are you alright?"

"It's only a skinned knee." The girl patted the knee in question, though it seemed to pain her. "I can handle it, thank you very much."

Sheik blinked. "Right," she said, then, "I can heal it for you, though. …If you'd like."

The girl's eyes widened, then she pressed a hand over Sheik's face-covering, just over where her mouth would be. "You cannot speak like that," she said, sounding utterly terrified—though not for her own sake, it appeared, but for Sheik's. "What if someone were to hear you saying you'd use your magic?"

Sheik's Triforce warmed for the first time since she'd entered the greenhouse, and Sheik gently removed the hand from her lips. Then, she felt compelled to say, "There doesn't seem to be anyone here right now, does there?"

The girl pursed her lips.

"And," Sheik continued, "If I heal you, you won't have to explain that bloody knee tomorrow morning."

Though it didn't work immediately, the girl relented after a brief hesitation. "I suppose it couldn't hurt…" she said. "Very well. Do what you must, honorable Sheikah."

The title of honorable made Sheik feel guiltier than she had in a long while. It reminded her all too keenly of the fact that she was wearing an ancestor's clothes, and that after the life she had lived, she was anything but an honorable Sheikah.

Her Triforce, however, wouldn't allow the guilt to change the expression she wore, or the calm gaze behind her red eyes.

Then, without waiting to be asked twice, Sheik reached forward and took hold of the girl's knee. She gently lifted the pain, then sped up the healing process until the skinned knee was nothing more than a memory.

"Your secret is safe with me," Sheik said, a small smile crinkling her eyes at the edges. "May I escort you back to your room?"

The girl was too busy marveling at her knee to pay attention to the question. "I've never seen such beautiful work," she said, clearly starstruck. "What is a healer such as yourself doing in this part of the castle?"

"It is not right for Sheikah to be confined to one space," Sheik found herself answering. "Now, if you will join me, I can see you to your room."

The girl tilted her head to the side. "Are all Sheikah so informal at night?"

Sheik felt the briefest of a warning flare in her Triforce—but there was nothing to be done. Sheik knew there was something here that she was missing, and though she could place it if she just allowed herself to connect the dots, she wasn't sure she could obey the Triforce's instructions to be calm if she allowed the pain of realization to set in.

"Not all," Sheik said instead. "But this is one who will keep your secret excursions to myself, my lady."

It seemed the right thing to say. The girl brightened, then got to her feet, extending a hand to Sheik. Sheik, who was easily a foot taller, with narrower features and darker skin—but who appeared to be a stretched-out, broader version of this tiny blonde and dark-skinned teen.

"I can lead myself back to my room," the girl said, as she tugged Sheik up to her feet and angled her head far upwards to talk to her. "But I wouldn't mind the company. The ghosts around here have something against princesses who travel on their own."

Sheik heard the word, but chose not to process it.

"Yes, my lady," she said instead, and offered her arm to the girl, who took it with a confident smile, then led her out of the room, and towards Sheik's childhood bedroom.

There were no earthshattering revelations after Sheik led her to her room, only that there were several letters addressed to a Princess Tetra, and a portrait of a young Tetra sitting on what must have been her mother's lap, with Sheik's father standing next to them, with an arm wrapped around the woman.

The woman looked like the wealthy caravan salesmen of the far west—likely, considering the promise of income and foreign goods.

Sheik's stomach flipped at the implications.

After all, Sheik's mother must have been a dark-skinned Sheikah, as her—and Tetra's—father was so pale. But for him to choose someone who could produce a daughter who looked so much like Sheik…

It made her wonder if she had been intentionally replaced.

Those wonderings wouldn't do, though, as she felt her Triforce urge her to stay just a moment longer. Sheik wanted to ignore it.

Sheik said "Goodnight, my lady," as she backed towards the door and made to turn off the gas lights.

The girl, though—Tetra—sat up in her bed and stared at Sheik with those perfect, wide blue eyes. "Will I see you tomorrow?" she asked. "I haven't seen you around the castle before, and—and most Sheikahs won't talk to me anymore."

Sheik swallowed down a lump in her throat. "Yes, my lady," she said. "If you want me to be here, I will come."

"Good," she said. "Because… I've never had a Sheikah secret-keeper before. And I think I need one, as long as you won't tell Ganondorf or my father."

Sheik smiled behind her mask, relieved that her Triforce must have had a purpose beyond introducing her to her sister.

"I am pledged to the Royal Family. And, legend says that Sheikahs' allegiance is first and foremost to the eldest daughter of the Royal Family. That would be you, Princess Tetra."

Surprisingly, the girl looked down after such a statement. "Then I am not the Princess you need to pledge yourself to," she said. "But I hope you will still be my secret-keeper, until…"

Sheik could guess what she would say. So she nodded, allowing Tetra to trail off into nothing. "Yes, my lady," she said. "But I must go for now. I will be back tomorrow night at this same time, wherever you choose to meet me."

"The gardens?"

"If you so wish."

With that, the girl nodded and laid back down. "Then I shall see you tomorrow. Thank you for your service, Sheikah."

Sheik pressed her wrist over her heart, then bowed her head before backing out of the room. It was an old-fashioned farewell, but Sheik had always been fond of the way Sheikahs used to tell her hello and goodbye in this same castle.

She hoped Tetra would feel the same. But there would be no knowing until tomorrow.

She just prayed that Tetra would have something useful to share with her.

Before Sheik could even begin to process how she felt about meeting her sister—half-sister—however, she remembered Paz's instructions to meet her in the library. So Sheik hurried down into the library, careful not to be seen by any who would turn her in.

"So I understand you met with your baby sister," Paz said, as she broke open a container of something sweet. She held it out for Sheik to take one, but Sheik politely declined, stomach twisting at the thought of putting castle-food into her body.

Paz raised both brows at her but didn't press the issue, merely tsking before taking one for herself and closing the jar.

"Well, what do you think?" Paz continued. "Strongwilled and brave, that one. Gets it from her mother."

"Her mother," Sheik said, the first thing she'd said since entering Paz's study. It made her throat feel tight. "Who was she?"

"And here I thought you'd be asking questions about your own mother first. But I suppose it can't be helped." Paz leaned back in her chair, looking upwards at the beautiful glass ceiling above them, where this room must have once been used to look at the stars. "Tetra's mother is also a half-breed, born of Gerudo blood and the dark-skinned Hylians to the southeast."


"Don't be so surprised—the Gerudo weren't half as contained to the desert as we like to pretend." Paz said it flippantly, waving a hand as she spoke, but Sheik's mind was already swimming with possibilities, with curiosities and wonder. "Now, I suppose you recognized how alike you look. It's no accident, I'm afraid."

"My—the King chose someone who looked like her, then." Sheik pursed her lips. "Why?"

"Well, because he loved your mother, of course."

Sheik's gaze hardened, ever so slightly. "Then why is she dead?" she asked, though her real question was why had her father abandoned his beloved wife's firstborn daughter.

But that was something she simply couldn't ask. It would show too much vulnerability, and Sheik couldn't do that quite yet. Not with Paz, when she was just barely starting to open up to Link.

"Circumstances beyond his control." At Sheik's disbelieved scoff, Paz narrowed her eyes. "No, I mean it, halfling. Sheikahs and Hylians were not meant to mix. Sheikahs rarely survive the process of transferring so much of their blood to another—surely by now you understand the importance of your magic's origin?"

Grudgingly, Sheik nodded.

"If you must know, your father fell in love with her because she was his bodyguard and a brilliant Sheikah warrior. Your mother was the bravest, most fiercely loyal woman he'd ever known, and he would have married her if not for Zarai's—your mother's—family."

"You mean yourself and Impa," Sheik said. "Why?"

"Impa had already lost her husband and a son," she said. "And, since so many Sheikah-Hylian relationships ended with the death of the Sheikah woman, it seemed likely Impa would lose the last of her family."

"And you?"

"I had no wish to lose my niece," Paz said. "I also saw a great and terrible destiny for any child that shared such heritage, especially in a time prophesied to bring back the King of Evil." Paz reached forward and took another sweet from the container, then another, which she passed to Sheik whether Sheik wanted it or not. "Eat, you're beginning to look a little gray."

Sheik reluctantly took it, though it tasted like ash in her mouth from everything she was learning. "Why did my mother choose to stay with him?"

"Because she was as big of fool as your father, and more stubborn than he was."

"I thought she was brilliant." Sheik only managed half of the treat, then set it aside. "How can you be brilliant and a fool?"

"It happens when you're in love, little halfling. You ought to know," she said, voice as teasing as it was warning. Sheik forced down a burn of anger at the accusation, though she couldn't deny its relevance. "But I said she was a brilliant warrior—not brilliant in other things. She was certainly not stupid, but her body was a weapon, fine-tuned and filled with grace few others could imagine. She saved his life from more than one assassination attempt—I suppose that's why he loved her so stubbornly."

Sheik swallowed thickly.

She could picture it perfectly. A Sheikah warrior, beautiful and fierce, assigned to some pompous king. Of course he fell in love with her—she was probably the most beautiful and unattainable thing he'd ever seen. She was something beautiful he couldn't have, so he wanted her.

Sheik wondered why her mother had wanted him in return.

But then, sometimes people wanted those who were bad for them. Like Link and Hilda—and like Link and Sheik, given how cold she once was. How cold she still could be.

Though she wouldn't admit it to him, sometimes she wondered if she was really what was best for him, given how much warmth and love he needed—how much he deserved.

So while Sheik didn't like to picture her parents, it was hard not to picture herself and Link in the same situation. Though, she supposed she didn't know who would play her mother in this. After all, Sheik was as entranced by Link's abilities as he was by hers.

"You look more like your father, in your face," Paz said, after Sheik went quiet for so long. "As does Tetra. The Royal Nose, I think, and something in the eyes. But I suppose there's something of her in your cheeks, and how easily fighting comes to you."

The last thing Sheik wanted to hear was how much she and her half-sister looked like the man who had abandoned her. So instead, Sheik folded her hands in her lap, staring into them, and the callouses that had formed along them over the years.

Fighting hadn't come easy to her, no matter what Paz believed.

It came along with pain, and loneliness, and knowing she was on her own. At least, until Link—but that was a feeling to sort through another time.

Instead, she merely asked, "Tetra's mother… Was she to replace my mother?"

"There's no replacing love. Finding new love is one thing, of course," she said lightly. "But she was not replaced. Your father was under pressure to marry and put the scandal behind him. He put it off almost five years after she died, but finally he gave in. And he happened to choose someone who had many traits that he'd loved and admired in your mother. Not to replace her—but because those are traits that were things he felt were important in whoever he married, your mother or otherwise."

"I see."

Given Sheik's tone, Paz raised her brows at her, giving her a level stare. "It's not such a bad thing, you know. Many people fall in love more than once. Not everyone has the luxury of having a soulmate like you, with your Triforce bond. Sometimes, us normal people fall in love, and out of love, and in love once again. Just because you love someone new doesn't mean that the love you felt before was false."

Defensiveness crept up in Sheik's throat. But for once, she didn't vocalize it. Not even at the implication that she had a soulmate. Instead, she just clenched her fists where she sat, and tried not to feel half as angry as she wanted to be at her father.

"My sister," she finally said, after a moment of peace. "Tetra. She wants me to come back to her room tomorrow night."

"Then do it," Paz said. "Trust your instincts and get as much information from her as she will provide."

"No, I mean—I already know I'll be talking to her. It seems… important. But… Should I tell her…?"

"That you share a father? That you're the older sister that disappeared before she was born? No." Paz shook her head. "Not yet. Someday, of course—your future won't always be in shadow, Sheik. But for now, perhaps it's best for you to leave well enough alone and be what your sister needs you to be. That's your best bet at overthrowing Ganondorf.

"She's planning—?"

"She may not have the Triforce of Wisdom, but she's not stupid," Paz said. "She's been raised to be a diplomat, no matter how much she hates it. Of course she wants to overthrow Ganondorf after he's usurped the throne."

"I see." Sheik took a breath, then released it. "Was this all you needed me for?"

"Yes." The door cracked open just so, a cue that it was time for Sheik to go. "Link won't be back from Castle Town for a time. You probably ought to go after him. And… Enjoy yourself as well. Find some high ground to gain perspective."

Then, without another word of explanation, Sheik was escorted out of the room. With Paz's cryptic instructions on her mind, Sheik followed the now-familiar pathway from the library to her and Link's secret hideaway behind the boiler room.

And when she arrived and Link was predictably not present, Sheik took a breath, then set out for the secret passage they'd taken in. She just hoped she could find Link soon. Because, unlike walking around the castle and meeting Tetra, Sheik had a bad feeling about this.

Sheik wandered Castle Town in the same disguise she'd worn just inside the gates. Brown hair, Hylian clothing, and tired green eyes. At least the tiredness wasn't a lie—these last few days had been challenging. Perhaps there hadn't been as much physical stress as there had been in towns where she and Link had been fighting for their lives, but the emotional stress alone had made her feel years beyond her age.

But the stress of not knowing where Link was—that was an entirely different problem. One that her Triforce wasn't helping her with, either.

As she traveled around Castle Town so late at night, she was struck by how crowded it was even in the dark of night. She couldn't imagine trying to get anywhere when it was light outside.

There was no way all the people flooding in here had jobs or places to stay—and she couldn't imagine that people who had lost their homes had taken much of worth with them, either.

(The Jewels she'd pilfered from Ardock said as much.)

But it would be worth it, she tried to remind herself. The crowding would stop as soon as she and Link spread the word that the cities' issues were over, and people could go home and live in peace while she and Link followed the other mysteries facing Hyrule.

Yet even as she tried to think so positively, she couldn't rationalize it. The towns around Hyrule were empty, and Castle Town was a sea of displaced people. Hylians who were lost and scared—who had nothing of their own, and nowhere to go.

No wonder the atmosphere felt so bleak even with the stars so bright up above.

Sheik found herself combing the streets with only one person on her mind, searching for the green of Link's tunic and any sign of trouble. But despite the crowded streets, she found nothing—not even a small dispute about prices on goods, or children squabbling.

Though she'd certainly never wish for trouble, it was eerie to see people moving in this way. There was no urgency; no drive to get from one place to another. There was only the fear of darkness and being refugees in a new and overcrowded city, and being so paranoid of causing a disturbance that every motion was broadcasted before it was set into action.

Sheik's heart went out to them. But, she wondered if their fear had been caused by something in Castle Town. If Ganondorf had threatened anyone directly, or if it was merely assumed from a knowledge of history that everyone had to keep out of trouble for fear of retribution. She wondered if there was some terrible price paid by any who did cause a stir in Castle Town.

But before she could think too hard on it, she saw a windmill off in the distance. There was no sign from a Triforce, and no urgent feeling that she ought to go there—but the windmill was tall and separate from town.

She remembered Paz's cryptic warning, about finding the high ground and gaining perspective. She wondered if this was what she meant, going to go see the windmill.

There was no way it wasn't occupied, either, with how crowded Castle Town was.

And anyone who was on the edge of town but not inside of it… There had to be a reason for why they didn't make do like all the other refugees.

Either they were a particularly vulnerable group, or they were somehow important.

After the crowds and despondency all around her, Sheik decided she might like some separateness. Though Paz had said Link would be in Castle Town, Sheik needed a breather, so a breather she would have.

When she arrived at the windmill, she wasted no time in going to the top of it, resting on the rooftop just behind the swirling fan. It was hardly comfortable, and it was windy enough that the fan was constantly moving and squeaking as it went, but it did give her the heightened perspective she had been searching for. She closed her eyes and sat, legs crossed with her thighs spread low enough to press them against the ground, with her feet tucked up in the space between. For just a moment, the world seemed peaceful.

But then the wind died down, and the fan stopped, and Sheik couldn't help but hear voices down below her.

Any other time she wouldn't mind, but the hushed whispers felt important. If nothing else, they were the voices of her people. Perhaps they weren't her people in the same sense as they might have been Tetra's, or her father's—but Sheik was still half-Hylian, and still entrusted with a Triforce piece to keep them safe.

Of course she was concerned about them.

"—Not sure how we're supposed to swing this," someone said from down below; a man's voice. "Stay in Castle Town till it's safe?"

"Like anything's going to change to make Ecchar safe again." A woman's voice, this time.

Sheik narrowed her eyes. Ecchar wasn't a city that had been magically transformed. Why did these people have something against returning?

If they were referring to the crime, from Link's description, it seemed that the woman was right. Ecchar had always been pretty heavy with criminal activity. There was no such thing as making Ecchar safe 'again'—it had never been safe in the first place.

"I'm just sayin', boss," the first voice said. "Couldn't we just stay here?"

"No. Not with that bastard in the castle." The woman's voice from before sounded rather angry, even when muffled through the mill. Sheik found herself leaning over to press her long ears against the roof. Most regular citizens would hate Ganondorf, it was true—but something seemed different about her. "I broke my deal with him. He'll kill me if he finds out where I am."

Sheik's blood ran cold. She knew who was there, even before she heard the name.

"Obviously, Miss Hilda." A third voice piped up, of no distinguishable gender. "No one was saying that they'd rat you out for going back on the gig. But we don't got any other options."

"That's what I'm working on. There's a rumor going around that at least one or two cities have been fixed, and there's always Marr." The first voice, Hilda, sounded as though she was moving—pacing the windmill floor, likely.

"Marr's almost as bad as Ecchar."

"And there's business in that. Don't forget our goals. We might have failed back home, but that's because of circumstances outside of our control."

"Out of our control?" A new voice laughed. "Please, Hilda, don't be stupid. You chose to betray Lord Ganondorf after swearing allegiance to him. It's your fault that we're on the run."

"Silence, Yuga. Or have you forgotten that I'm still in charge of this operation?"

"What operation?"

Sheik bit her lip, feeling the urge to leave. To get away from here before she got too involved. But that was what the old Sheik would have done—the one that didn't have a partner. And this news, even though It would probably devastate Link, was Sheik's business to find out.

She didn't need to wait for her Triforce to tell her to stay; she'd already adjusted her position again to listen closer.

"We're not going back to kidnapping Hylian women," Hilda snapped. "It goes against everything Lorule stands for."

"That's all well and good, but what are we supposed to do instead? You decided to serve Ganondorf, not the other way around, or have you forgotten?" The voice, presumably Yuga, sounded almost sickly sweet. "You didn't even stay loyal long enough to become a double-agent like you had hoped."

"It's not my fault someone rescued the girls from under our noses and ruined our reputation."

"You know who must have done it, Hilda." A voice from before, the man's voice, piped back up. "Only a couple'a people knew the route. So either we've got a traitor with us, or your boyfriend finally grew that spine he was missing."

"What Ravio and I had is finished." Hilda's voice was sharper, now, and Sheik found herself having to strain less to overhear. "And you know as well as I do that that coward would never pull a stunt like that."

"So then we have a traitor among us," Yuga said. "And let us be honest with ourselves, Hilda. You are the only one here who was so against serving Ganondorf. Of everyone, you were most likely to have freed them while we weren't looking. Can anyone even vouch for you about that night?"

"I was halfway to Solen, you nitwit."

"So you say." Yuga's voice changed location, moving closer to meet Hilda's, and Sheik sensed a fight coming.

She had the strangest urge to intervene. But her Triforce told her nothing, and she had no love for Hilda, no matter what she was saying about being a double agent or betraying Ganondorf.

Hilda had hurt Link. That was all that mattered.

So after a brief moment of hesitation, Sheik deftly jumped from the mill, then started back towards town. It was high time that she found Link, after all. It wouldn't do for her partner to find out this information on his own.

Though he needed to know about it, perhaps tonight wasn't the night to share. At least, she hoped not.

It took another two hours for Sheik to find her partner. But when she did, she found him alone at the back of a bar, drinking something that looked alcoholic, but that she strongly suspected was not.

Sheik slid into the bench across from Link, resting her elbows on the table and gently reaching forward for one of his hands.

Link looked up at the contact, initially startling at Sheik's altered appearance. But he soon remembered her disguise then spared her a small smile, though it looked rather tired.

"Paz's prophecy must have been lacking," Sheik said as she considered him. "You don't look like you've enjoyed your night in Castle Town at all."

"Is it that obvious?"

Sheik gently stroked her thumb across the back of his hand. "You look like you've been awake for days."

"Just thinking." Link frowned a little, then finished the rest of his drink. "The people here are suffering, you know? I've never seen a place where people look so hopeless before."

"They're displaced and without jobs," Sheik said. "Castle Town wasn't built to accommodate this many people overnight."

"Yeah." Link took a sip of his drink. "Ganondorf's just leading them in, like cattle."

"Looking for more girls, yes." Sheik very nearly said 'me'; she was grateful she remembered in time. In a space this crowded, it was dangerous to let anything like that slip. Especially in the den of the enemy.

Link nodded, then set his drink down to rest his other hand atop hers, holding Sheik's hand delicately between his. "Yeah. And there's a bunch missing here, too. More than Marr. I already know where they're being kept—I did some exploring, and some talking to people who're missing sisters and daughters. But even if we free them, there's nowhere else for them to go. Ganondorf's got people everywhere, looking for anyone undefended. I'm not sure how smart it was to come here."

"We can't leave without freeing them first."

Sheik knew it was foolish—maybe even an immediate threat to their lives. But she couldn't handle the thought of them just abandoning her people. Not even with Paz's reassurance that none of them were being hurt. And once they freed this group, they could take them straight to Malon, just as Shad and Ashei promised to.

Link, though, looked conflicted.

"We don't have backup, and we already know they're fine," he said. "And if I lose you here, after everything…"

"You haven't lost me yet."

"We've come too close the last two rescue missions."

"I didn't know all the… power we had at our disposal, then. We only knew what we were up against, not what we could throw at the other side." Sheik leveled a steady gaze into Link's eyes, but he returned it just as evenly. "We have to, Link. You know we do."

Sheik's Triforce warmed, but more interestingly, she felt Link's warm, too, reacting to her own.

He glanced at their joined hands, then let out a slow sigh. "Okay. Okay, we won't leave until they're free. But I'm serious about needing backup."

Without meaning to, Sheik's mind went back to Hilda in that shack. Much as Sheik hated her, she was the only person they knew in Castle Town that would potentially be on their side. But then, she knew Link wouldn't be able to function half as well as he ought to, if they were to team up.

And Sheik didn't eve know how many people Hilda had at her disposal. There weren't many voices in that mill, though there was certainly space for a great number of people.

Then again, Yuga hadn't sounded particularly loyal to Hilda. None of the other voices did, either.

It seemed like poetic justice for Hilda's people to turn on her, but if she'd truly turned it around, then it seemed a waste for her to lose the few resources she had left.

"I know of someone who may be willing to help," Sheik said, as her Triforce's glow faded. But even without a force of Wisdom telling her what to do, she knew it was important to at least present her partner with their options. "But you're not going to like it."

Link stared at her, something hard and skeptical in his eyes. "Who?"

"I went to the outskirts of town to get out of the crowd for a little while, when I went to find you." Sheik paused, unable to look him in the eye for a moment. "I didn't know who they were, at first. I only overheard them. But there is a small group of people, the leader of which opposes Ganondorf, though I'm not sure how loyal her followers are."

The use of the word 'her' immediately got Link to sit up, spine and shoulders going stiff. "No."

"Hilda is here," Sheik said, as if it needed saying, given a reaction like that. "As far as I know, she's the only person here with the resources to help us."

Link's lips pressed tightly together, and his face had lost much of its color. "We've only been here a day."

"And we can't stay here for longer than absolutely necessary. I'll be seeing my sister tomorrow night, then—"


Sheik realized she needed to choose her words carefully, lest someone overhear something truly dangerous. Rebellion alone was probably something worthy of execution, with Ganondorf in charge—but for anyone to hear who Sheik's sister was…

"Yes," Sheik said simply. "I'll tell you more later. She doesn't know it was me, but she… befriended me, and I'll be seeing her tomorrow. I have to stay until then. It's important."

"And it's also important that we get out of here, or else find other allies—anything that can speed along what we have to do."

Sheik took a breath. "I know. We're in a time crunch. All I can think is that tomorrow we can try to find other options, and that night I'll see my sister, then we can try to rescue those girls as quickly as possible and get them to safety. There's no way they can prepare for an attack if we strike fast."

"Just like Ecchar," Link said, taking a breath. "Okay."

Sheik nodded at him, expression settling into something a little softer than the determined expression she'd been wearing for the duration of the conversation. "Let's get back to our room," she finally said. "We can hash out the details there."

Link managed a tired laugh. "Or sleep," he offered. "I know you said I look tired, but you don't exactly look your best yourself."

"Then we'll sleep and work out the details when we wake," she said. With that, she stood, then took Link by the hand. He held hers loosely in his, gently squeezing it before bringing their joined hands to his lips, pressing a soft kiss against her knuckles.

"I hope you're right about all of this," Link said quietly. "I don't know how much faith I have in this plan."

"Then have faith in me, and what… gifting I have." Sheik traced her thumb over the back of Link's hand, where the Triforce might rest if it was exposed. "And have faith in you have. It's worked pretty well so far."

Link nodded, and the pair fell silent as they walked back to the secret passageway, still hand in hand. It was nearly dawn before they arrived, and they slipped inside the last door just before exhaustion claimed them.

But, if nothing else, they had time to find their rightful spaces next to each other, with hands and hips joined just so on their sleeping mats.

((I hope you enjoyed this chapter! Hopefully the next one won't take forever, but I make no promises, as always… If you liked this, please review, and even if you didn't, let me know what bugged you!))