Wow... an actual one-shot. I've never written one before. ^-^ This is what happens when the fiction workshop packet is made up entirely of inner monlogue...

Disclaimer: The characters within are liscensed to Nintendo, not me. But that's okay, because I'm not making any money doing this.

My sword arm hurts. It's currently too dark to see the bruise, but I can trace the pain with my fingertips. From my wrist halfway down to my elbow, this is where touching stings. Two thousand men on that battlefield, and only one could mark me. I'm quite proficient with my broadsword, I'll admit, as arrogant as that may sound, but a six-foot man with a claymore bears a force I can hardly claim to match. Let alone take. He should have cut straight through my gauntlet, but I managed to evade just enough to get away with a deep dent in the metal and merely a bruise on my person. Had my life not hung in the balance, I would have been unable to hold onto my weapon. I could be dead now.

But I'm lying here, awake in one of the palace beds and none worse for the wear, as they say. Tomorrow they may say I'd killed a thousand men, which is quite ridiculous, considering more than that many walked away. Or limped, rather. I myself can't say how many I slew. One hundred and fifty arrows I packed on my horse. When I close my eyes, I can see the charging soldiers to my side as I ride past them, well out of their reach. The weaknesses fell open before my trained eyes, and I fired. One hundred and fifty arrows, and I only distinctly remember missing with three. Three times I felt that falling disappointment when I failed to draw blood. Somehow, the thought does not make me uncomfortable. What kind of monster am I?

Nothing but a wolf. The champions of other nations…they're referred to as lions, as dragons. The Lion, he honorably charges his greatest foes. The Dragon, he destroys all that come before him. Me, I pick away at the weak ones.

How many men did I slay today? More than all together ever before in my life. And I only remember the ones I made eye contact with. I turn over and hug myself for comfort, feeling the warmth within my arms. My sword arm hurts. I want to do something human, but I can't think of anything. So I simply lie in the dark, awaiting the dawn. I don't have to be strong here…I want to do something human. I don't remember when or what I ate last, but it is sour in my stomach. I watch one hundred and twenty-four pairs of eyes drift through my memory. They must all hate me now. If angry spirits do haunt the ones they hate, I should be completely smothered by their bitterness. They won't stay long, though, for my aura is bright enough to draw fairies from their hiding places in evil lands.

Maybe I destroyed my shining purity today; the purity for which the gods chose me as hero. For fighting through hordes of undead to cut down an evil sorcerer… That's different than today. Men make monsters: monsters out of nothing, monsters out of creatures, monsters of themselves. I slay monsters and evil men. I vanquish oppressors, murderers, and destroyers. The men today, they were not evil. Today, I was the monster.

I might as well have destroyed the weak on either side. I shot and slashed with no other motive than to be the one not to fall. There was no conviction in my blade today. I fell into the chasm of survival, the strength of my heart caring for nothing but life…and only mine. But also because of her. She asked me…no, commanded. When I was young and still a child, I gave her my unconditional love. The world may crumble into a mass of stone and fire, but she would still be safe, so long as I lived. It was probably too surreal for her, for the light in her dreams to appear before her and believe her when no one else would and serve her when all others called her daft. I don't blame her for making practical use of me. But I will not do this again.

I trace the goddess's mark on my hand. I can't see it, sure, but its power doesn't need to be seen. This strength should not be used against men. I'm too strong for war; too strong for my own good. The princess should have known better. Few worship Farore, favoring Din for her carnal patronage and Nayru for knowledge. They see Farore worshippers as strange nature lovers who run around in green and love trees and flowers. Din is goddess of Power and Nayru, of Wisdom…why is Courage so thoroughly misunderstood? Why am I alone?

Farore is Courage, but she is also Life. The courage to be born, the courage to live, the courage to die…the courage to kill. I sit upright, holding my aching arm against myself and curse aloud at my divine patroness. Why had she given me the might to take life without the might to give it back? How could she trust me to make the crucial decisions…who deserved to live and who deserved to die? And why was I so weak to hand that decision to Zelda when she wanted it?

I do not hide the answer from myself the way I hide it from the princess. My devotion once ran so flawlessly deep that I expected nothing from her, but now I feed the secret hope that someday she'll help me make life. Help me ease the pain in this heart that can feel such powerful compassion, but can only lend its strength to these lethal arms.

I lie back down. I'm not tired, but sleep would do me some good. An old man once told me that the strong live at the expense of the weak, but the stronger ones can pull a few of the weak in their wake. If one can pull a nation behind him, he is strong indeed. But it seems a nation can only survive at the expense of another nation. What was I to do but choose a favorite? Hyrule, Zelda's nation… She wanted it to succeed…to survive. In this sense, good did come of today. But in these few hours before dawn, I needn't be so strong. It needn't be so righteous.

I want to wallow in my pain. I want to feel fragile. So I recall the battlefield once more, as I pulled the broadsword and set forth against a sea of writhing flesh. Death lurked there, certainly, but not in her best forms. I don't recall dying screams, just the footsteps behind me. I don't recall the clashing of metal on metal, just my foe's grunt as he prepared to swing again. Death leered and jeered at me, but the most experienced hand she could find merely bruised me. I wasn't vanquishing; I was murdering. Finally…I shiver. It's not fear, no, fear has no force on me, but it's a reaction. And now sadness. I welcome the droning weight into my being, crushing my spirit into my flesh. I don't feel quite mortal yet, but feeling is enough. It is enough.