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Title: Dawn's Early Light
Chapter 1: Induratize
Author: Sailor Song
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INDURATIZE (verb): to make one's own heart hardened or resistant to someone's pleas or advances, or to the idea of love.

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"Link?"

"Yes, Your Highness."

Zelda was startled. Not because of his rapid response, for in the month or so since he had been stationed outside of her chambers for the evening shift, she had grown comfortable with his near-constant presence. No, her shock had more to do with the fact that she had called out to him without having a reason.

"I…" Curses, think of something. "I... Sir Link, just what do you think you are doing?"

"Don't move, Princess" he said, pulling out his bow and aiming an arrow so quickly that she couldn't think. She closed her eyes and could hear the whistle as the arrow flew towards her. Correction, it flew past her. After hearing it make contact with something behind her, she opened an eye and watched as Link walked in the direction where the arrow had flown.

"Got it," he said, turning proudly to show off a dead rat at the end of his arrow.

She could feel one of her eyes start to twitch. A rat?

"I'll dispose of this at once, Princess. Was that all that you required of me?"

Oh, right, she had called him into the room. "No-Yes," she stumbled, feeling a rush of heat rising to her cheeks. Clearing her throat, she said, "Yes, that is all."

"Very well." With the rat-skewered arrow hidden behind him, Link bowed towards her to excuse himself from her presence, but she couldn't help but notice the bemused smile that crossed his features as he rose and walked out of the room. "I'll be right outside your door should you have need of me again."

"Sir Link?"

The next evening, she actually had a purpose for calling out his name, and it had nothing to do with exterminating vermin. When she didn't hear his reply, she instantly became worried. Never once had he failed to enter and address her within seconds. She spoke his name once more, perhaps with a bit more emotion than she had meant to use, but when he again did not reply, she hurried towards the door.

"Link? Oh! Hello, Sir…"

"Theo. I'm Sir Theo, Your Highness. Was there something I could do for you?"

Thinking quickly, she replied, "I had a question for Sir Link. He has traveled extensively through Hyrule, so I was hoping to see what he knew about the state of Snowpeak Fortress."

Link had already told her all about the mansion and its current occupants, but it was an obscure enough request that it wouldn't draw any suspicion from the other soldiers.

"I'm sorry, Highness," the knight replied. "Sir Link requested an evening off and asked if I would take his place. However, if it is an urgent matter, I can send word to have him summoned here immediately."

"No!" she shouted at him, causing the man to jump. "I mean, please do not trouble yourself, or him. There is no rush. Thank you."

He bowed, but before he could complete, "You're welcome, Your High-," she had already reentered her quarters and shut the door.

An evening off? Link hadn't told her about that. Was he tired of serving in the guard? No doubt it was a droll existence compared to his previous adventures. She, herself, now found being confined within the castle walls to be stifling, and she had only spent a fraction of the Twilight Invasion sharing a life force with the Twili imp.

A scratching noise pulled her attention to a corner of the room. Perhaps it was another rat, but she did not want to call on Sir New-Guard again so soon, especially for something so trivial. Grabbing the nearest heavy object within her reach, she moved slowly forward. The scratching grew louder, escalating into a banging nose, and then suddenly, the wall flew open and out flew a dark, hooded figure. Without a second thought, she threw down the object in her hand, a large book containing legends of the kingdom. She turned to flee from the intruder, when she heard him whisper her name.

"Link?"

A groan was all she received in reply, and she rushed over to pull back the hood, revealing that it was indeed her missing hero.

"By the goddesses," he groaned. "What did you hit me with? A rock?" he asked, pushing himself onto all fours.

"A book," she replied, although, that probably didn't make it any better. "What are you doing here?"

He remained crouched, almost wolf-like in his pose, as he rubbed the back of his neck. "The rat yesterday. I thought it might have wandered in through a secret passage to your chambers. As your guard, I thought it my duty to find it and make sure it was secure."

She couldn't believe he found a secret path to her room. Not even she had known of its existence. "No, I meant what are you doing here, working? I was informed that you had taken the night off?"

He shrugged. "I couldn't very well leave your room unguarded while I spent hours crawling through tunnels."

"That's not a night off, Link," she sighed. "You've done so much for Hyrule. You should be out with your comrades drinking-"

"Apologies, but I don't really drink, Princess."

Being interrupted, something this was not accustomed to, caused her to snap. "Then enjoy a night out with a girl!" she exclaimed. No. Not that. Take it back! Take it back! "I mean, I just want… I wish for you to be happy."

He turned his glance to the floor as he took in a breath. The silence hung over them like the fog of Twilight. "How do I make you understand?" he whispered to himself before looking her straight in the eyes. "If that is what you truly wish," he said, rising to his feet, "I will do as my princess commands."

She was at a loss for words. It was only after the secret door had closed behind him that she finally found her voice again, and yet, her cries for him to return only echoed against hardened stone.

The next day he had returned to his post, but she could not find the nerve to leave her room. She wanted to see him, to talk to him, to find out what he meant by his cryptic words, but her fear constantly got the better of her. What was it that she did not understand?

Rather than sit around and pretend to read political documents she would be unable to focus on, she decided to venture out. With a deep breath and a brush of her gown, she stepped out into the hall.

"I am going to visit my father," she spoke without looking back.

His voice was calm as without a hint of emotion he asked, "Are you in need of an escort, Princess?"

"No." Yes. She couldn't bring herself to say the truth, but hoped in chancing a glance back, he might see through her deceit.

"Very well," he said, standing at attention. Ever the good little soldier. "I will keep watch over your rooms and be here when you return."

"Thank you." Please come with me.

She turned back, but found that she couldn't move her legs. They suddenly felt heavy, and the very thought of walking away seemed an insurmountable task. Unable to move or speak, she could only wish herself to be somewhere else..

"Princess?" When she didn't reply, he continued. "I know it goes against your expressed wishes, but may I escort you? I would feel better if I was the one personally ensuring your safety."

Although she felt a sudden wave of relief wash over her, she kept her composure by giving only an affirmative nod before moving forward.

He was incredibly stealthy, she had to give him that. Once he had fallen into step with her, the sounds of his footsteps disappeared into her own. Unwilling to look back, she trusted that he was there and continued on to the quarters where the King of Hyrule lay in repose. The Twilight had consumed the people of Hyrule, and while the land had been healed thanks to the actions of the Hero and the spirits of light, its most prominent resident had still not recovered.

She needed a way to preoccupy her mind, and yet, what she really needed was a distraction from her distractions. Her mind should be focused on her people, on Hyrule, but like a schoolgirl, all she could think about was the boy walking behind her.

No, she thought. Not a boy. He was the one whose soul contained the spirit of the Hero of Legend. Who wielded the power of the Triforce of Courage in his hand. Who saved Hyrule from-

Even through her glove, she could feel his hand grasp her own as he stopped her, asking, "What's that sound?"

She listened, but her confusion turned to horror when she recognized the trumpets heralding the return of-

"No," she whispered. "No, not now."

"Princess?" Link tried, and when she could not answer, he pressed, "Zelda, are you cold? Why are you shaking?"

"He's back," she said, unable to stop her voice from quivering. "He's back."

"Who? Who's back. You don't mean G-"

"Daltus." She looked at him, tears burning in her eyes as they threatened to spill.

He didn't say anything, but the boy from Ordon seemed to know exactly what that meant, making her heart sink. The knights must have talked. She wondered what he knew - whether it was truth or rumors. Did Link know about all of the days and nights her brother had spent screaming at her for the most insignificant of transgressions? Had he heard about the names he called her? Or worse, had Link heard the horrible lies Daltus had been circulating throughout since she had her first blood? Had he heard the worst, the one about the stableboy? That poor, poor boy.

Her vision blurred and darkened. When she came to, she found herself lying on her bed. One hand held hers while another, calloused and battle hardened, gently caressed her face. No one had touched her like this, at least, not since she was a very young girl.

"Feeling better?" She nodded, but couldn't find her voice to answer. "Do you want me to stop?"

"No," she whispered so softly that she wasn't sure he could hear her. As he continued on, she wondered aloud, "Where did you learn to do this?"

"Midna," he said simply and looked away. It had been so long since either of them had spoken of her, the name had become something of an unspoken taboo between them now.

"Do you want to talk about it?"

He stayed silent at first, but then he surprised her. "When the Twilight first appeared, when I first changed into my wolf form, I had trouble adjusting and I couldn't sleep. As a wolf, my senses were always heightened, making me constantly alert. I would push myself to the brink of exhaustion, and very often collapsed on the side of the road for a brief bit of rest. I'm not sure exactly when it started, but she began doing this, soothing me when I'd sleep. Wolf or human. It was... comforting."

Zelda let out a soft hum to let him know she was listening, all the while her own mind drifted back to her younger years when her mother would hold her, subdue her in a similar manner. So calmed, she nearly forgot what had caused her worry in the first place, until without warning it came bursting into her bedchambers.

"Zelda, precious sister, your-"

Jumping up, she saw her brother as he walked into her inner room. She could only imagine what must be going through his mind as he took in the scene before him - an unfamiliar guard in Hyrule livery whose hands were touching his little sister who was lying on the bed. Nervously she watched as his facial expressions changed from shock to rage.

"Daltus, no, it's not-"

"What is this?" he shrieked out. "Guards, you will arrest this rogue this instant!"

"Daltus!" she cried out as Link was approached by his brothers in arms. Though they hesitated to take one of their own in custody, she knew they ultimately would never be able to go against the orders of Hyrule's Crowned Prince. She slid off the bed and positioned herself between them and Link.

"Zelda, get out of the way." He moved forward, but she wouldn't flinch, suddenly emboldened. "Whore!" he shouted into her face, and still, she didn't move. Even when he raised his hand to strike, she could only close her eyes and wait for impact.

It never came.

The room fell silent as Link's strong hand wrapped around the arm of the prince.

"You dare lay a finger on me? You are going to regret that," Daltus spat. "I will see you spend the last days of your life in the depths of my dungeons before I have you beheaded in the town square."

With a sudden forcefulness in his voice Zelda had never heard him use before, Link replied, "You will do nothing of the sort."

She could feel her hand begin to burn for the first time since the fight with the Demon King, but it was forgotten when a bright golden light erupted from Link's own hand. It was absolutely blinding, and at first, she didn't understand why it was so much brighter than her own until her eyes adjusted slightly. Link didn't just have the piece of the Triforce that represented Farore and courage. He also had the raw power of Din, which had previously been held by Ganondorf.

Two. He was now the guardian of two pieces of the Triforce.

"What is this?" her brother asked, panic rising in his voice. "Who are you?"

Link ignored the prince, instead turning to face Zelda with his eyes full of pity. "I am so sorry, Princess," he said softly, but before she could inquire what he meant, he looked back to Daltus. "My name is Link of Ordon. By the goddesses will, I was called upon to save the land of Hyrule from an ancient evil. My task is now complete; therefore, I am invoking the clause set out by the last Queen Zelda-"

"No!" Daltus screamed. "Silence. Someone shut him up! Guards, stop him!"

Not one guard made a move, either because of fear or respect, allowing Link to continued on uninhibited. "Queen Zelda, the one who prevented a great evil from descending upon the land, predicted that the darkness would return to the kingdom and that a hero would emerge to save the land. If victorious, she wrote, it was his right to marry the princess who carries the blood of the goddess and together they should be deemed fit to ascend to the throne of Hyrule."

Zelda could only stare. This was all too much information to take in all at once, and she was far too reserved to make any sort of reply.

Daltus, however, had never been considered thoughtful nor reserved. "You are a liar!" he shrieked. "You are a nobody. I've never even heard of you or Ordon for that matter!"

"I may have been nothing more than an orphan and farmhand who lived in a small hamlet when the land was covered in Twilight," Link said calmly, "but I am that hero she foresaw. I did not ask to be chosen for this fate, but nevertheless, I answered the call of the goddesses, and I fought with all I have to protect my friends and to save… the land I love."

"LIA-"

"I am no liar," Link said calmly. "Summon the council. I have proof of the Queen's decree and can provide witnesses who testify that I am telling the truth about my deeds."

Zelda was confused. When he'd returned to the castle, she had offered him titles, wealth, lands, power, but he had turned it all down, asking only to enter the military without any favors or rank. She couldn't help but wonder what had changed.

She looked over to her brother, wondering just what must be going through his head in this moment. He must have realized that the guards, having already ignored his wishes once, would potentially become mutinous if he threatened their brother in arms. "Very well," Daltus sneered. "You're only delaying the inevitable. You'll need more than a glowing hand to convince those doddering old fools of anything." Thinking he had gained an edge, her brother gave a laugh and snapped his fingers for the guards to follow with Link in tow as he swept from the room. She only got to see a fleeting glance from Link, who gave her an unreadable glance, before she was left completely and utterly alone.

After the whirlwind of activity that had just occurred, she realized that she too should be there to testify on Link's behalf, and dressed herself for a meeting with the high council. With one last glimpse in the looking glass, she grabbed a hold of her skirt and rushed down the corridors to find where they all had headed.

Hold on. She stopped, her hands flying to her face in total shock. Had Link just said it was his intention to marry her?


AUTHOR'S NOTE: Twilight Princess was not my first Zelda game, but Twilight Link and Zelda are definitely my favorites. I'm not intending on making this a "10,000 years ago" story, but rather, the story of the post-Twilight Invasion that lays the groundwork for the BOTW backstory. In doing this, I'm going to be ignoring Four Swords Adventures from the official timeline. If you'd like an analysis that supports moving that, NintendoBlackCrisis has a video that goes into detail called "The Zelda Game that BROKE the Timeline? (Zelda Theory)."

I also learned that the map for TP was flipped for the Wii. Since it's the only system I played it on, I wasn't aware until I started writing this. I can't post a link here, but if you Google "Zelda Twilight Princess BOTW map" you should be able to find the one I've been using.

Finally, this story will be much more explicit than anything else I've written. I will censor it here, but you can read the full version on AO3 under the same username and title.