The Legend of Zelda: Reconciliation
Greetings once again!
For those of you who aren't aware of what this is, it is, in fact, a sequel to my Legend of Zelda fanfiction entitled The Legend of Zelda: The Return (story id: 344741). Far be it for me to tell you what to do, but if you haven't read The Return, I would suggest doing so (or at least skimming it) before starting this one because although I did my best to remain true to the original game, I DID make use of poetic license once or twice, and I elaborated greatly on much of what was left unexplored in the game (the game being Ocarina of Time). If you don't feel like investing your time in the Return, that's fine and dandy, but it may take a chapter or two to adjust.
Further to it being a sequel, however, Reconciliation is something else as well: an adaptation of A Link to the Past and an attempt to reconcile (ironically enough) the two different Hyrules of A Link to the Past and Ocarina of Time. Essentially what this translates into is the plot of A Link to the Past adapted to the Hyrule of Ocarina of Time (with all of the elaborations and definitions added to it in The Return).
Why A Link to the Past? Because I like it. As much as I liked Ocarina of Time as a matter of fact. It has a great plot as far as games go (particularly games of the time) but is still open to creative license because of the large gaps in it. However, a fair warning before I start (because I know some of you will be upset with me for it, which is not necessarily a bad thing. You guys keep me honest if nothing else. :-) ): Reconciliation will follow the plot of A Link to the Past in so far as back story, important plot elements, etc.. It will be recognizable as based on A Link to the Past. HOWEVER, it will not follow the dialogue and other, smaller things as closely as I perhaps could. It will NOT be a word for word retelling of A Link to the Past. I have too many reasons that require too much justification to go into here, but if you have ANY questions/doubts/etc. about this, or anything else for that matter, just e-mail me and I'll be glad to explain myself (this applies to any part of the story as well). If this bothers you greatly I ask you to give me the benefit of a doubt and try to enjoy the story on the basis that it is just that: a story. If you can't, you can't, and I ask no more of you. :-)
For anyone who HASN'T played A Link to the Past (and I'm assuming there's quite a few of you as the game is pretty old), this shouldn't be too much of an issue.
For anyone who HAS played the game, I have a small request: please try and keep anything that might be a spoiler out of your reviews. While I've already said that I'll be veering slightly of course on aspects of the game, the majority of it will follow the original game. A lot of you like to speculate in your reviews, which is great, I absolutely love it, please don't stop, just keep in mind that some people haven't played the game and don't have the advantage of using their knowledge of it to predict future plot directions.
After much humming and hawing, as well, I have decided to slip Majora's Mask in there between The Return and Reconciliation. I'll deal with the details of how, exactly, that works in a flashback or reflection or something soon enough. Basically the biggest effect it has on this story is that Navi is still missing as of the beginning of this story (my apologies to any Navi fans out there).
Reviews, naturally, are more than welcome, however if The Return is any indication there will be too many of them for me to reply to each individually, so if you have any questions/comments you would like a reply to, please e-mail me directly (, PLEASE don't forget the 's' in 'fengs'). I generally try to answer all my story related e-mails either when they come in, or, failing that, when I upload a chapter. If I don't get back to you for some reason, feel free to prod me until I do. :-)
One other warning is that Reconciliation will be much, much darker/sadder than The Return. This isn't to say that I'm forsaking the humour and the light heartedness and everything else. I'm not. However, Link's Heart of Hearts promised him at the end of The Return that there were hard times ahead for him, and he wasn't lying. HOWEVER, if The Return demonstrated nothing else, it should have demonstrated my affinity for mostly happy endings. As loath as I am to give anything away, I point the following out in the hopes of dodging any death threats related to some of the more depressing events of this story: it will all work out in the end. I won't say how. I won't say for who. But please don't give up on me if something bad happens, all right? Because a lot of bad stuff is going to happen.
You have been warned.
I am back at work full time for the next few months, as well as part-time school, which can be good or bad for writing depending on the amount of work piled on top of me. This will no doubt make up the bulk of my excuses for late chapters, as it has in the past, so I figured I'd better get a head start and tell you all now. :-)
Last but not least, as always, I hope you enjoy the read (and that it was worth the wait)!
Thanks very much!
P.S. For reference for those of you who've played the game, Tower of Din = Tower of Hera, Tower of Farore = Eastern Palace, Tower of Nayru = Desert Palace.
"In a realm beyond sight,
The sky shines gold, not blue.
There, the Triforce's might,
Makes mortal dreams come true."
~The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past instruction manual
Hunter sat at a small table in the corner of the little mountain inn and stared out the window at the swirling snowflakes. He wrapped his hands tightly around the warm mug of cider in front of him and silently willed the snow to stop. It was endlessly frustrating that they had managed to make it this close to home, only to be stopped by a snowstorm. On the other hand, he wasn't really complaining about one extra night – as much as he wanted to get back to Hyrule, he was not looking forward to finding a way to explain to Malon why he was not wearing the sweater she had sent him in the last bunch of letters and parcels from home they'd received without telling her the truth – which was simply that she couldn't knit worth a damn and as much as he'd appreciated the gesture the first time he'd put the sweater on Link and Neesha had laughed so hard they fell over.
The more he though about it, though, the more it was starting to look like he was just going to have to kill Link and Neesha and wear the damn sweater. He made a face at his cider.
It was just so ugly . . .
Link, on the other hand, was not so appreciative of the delay. The storm had put him in a foul mood that no amount of goofing around and cheering up from anyone could bring him out of. Everyone had chalked it up to his eagerness to get home – he had been against the trip right from the start in the first place, so it made sense that he was anxious to get home – but Hunter knew him better than that. If that's all it was he would have been open to cheering up. A joke here, a grin there and he would have been back to his usual self in no time, but even the combined cajoling of he and Neesha hadn't been enough to bring him out of his dark mood. Something else was up, and as curious as he was as to what, Hunter wasn't quite sure he wanted to know.
If it was bad enough to provoke that strong a reaction from Link, it couldn't be a good thing.
He had a feeling though.
He looked up as Neesha came down the stairs, looking every bit as pissed off as Link. He sighed.
"I take it he won't come down," he said dully.
"No," Neesha growled. "It's your turn to deal with him." Hunter made a face.
"I already had my turn," he said. "Just let him sulk. We can't go anywhere until the storm stops anyway. He'll realize it eventually and lighten up. Until then, I don't feel like getting my head snapped off because he's in a bad mood." Neesha glared out at the snow and the two lapsed into silence for a moment.
"Do you think everything's okay?" She asked after a moment. "In Hyrule I mean." Hunter sipped at his cider. Apparently he wasn't the only one who suspected the actual source of Link's mood.
"Of course it is," he said, though he didn't quite sound convinced. He frowned and tried again. "Look, just because we got less letters this time –"
"And the ones we did get were so fake it hurt," Neesha added darkly. "And have been getting progressively worse for the last little while."
"—doesn't mean that something's wrong at home."
"Rue didn't write," Neesha said. "Neither did Nabooru. They always write. One for me and one for Link. There was nothing this time. And none of the other letters even mentioned the Gerudo."
"Maybe . . ." But Hunter had no way to end that sentence. There was no explanation.
"Saria didn't write either. Saria writes the longest letters I've ever seen."
"Maybe . . ." Again, no explanation.
"Zelda's letter made it sound like everything was peachy keen at Castletown," Neesha said darkly. "Nothing is ever peachy keen at Castletown. When is she not complaining about this lord or that lady and this scandal or that fiasco? Since when are Castletown politics as non-existent as her last letter seems to suggest?"
"Since . . ." He struggled to answer her, but he couldn't because he had all the same doubts.
"I bet you something's gone wrong," Neesha said flatly. "Something's gone wrong, and Link knows it. That's why he's been driving us double-time for the last three days. That's why he's freaking out over one night's worth of delay. Something's gone wrong, and he doesn't know what, and it's making him panic."
"That's . . . ridiculous," Hunter said finally. "Even if something had gone wrong, how could Link know it?"
"I don't know," Neesha answered. "But he does." Hunter settled uneasily back in his chair.
"We've only been gone for three months," he said, reaching for his last defence. "One season. What could possibly happen in one season?"
Quiet descended as they both turned their attention back to the storm outside and silently willed it to stop.
I've seen some ugly things in the scant twenty-one years I've roamed Hyrule …
Stalfos, Ghoma, Bruiser naked (I learnt the "Knock-before-you-enter-rule" the hard way) …
But this thing pretty much takes the cake.
The Tower of Din rises high enough to make me dizzy if I try and stare at the top of it from this close up, and jutting out from all over it are spiky things and gargoyles and a hundred other little details that just add to the general impression that it's trying to be hideous.
It reminds me in a strong, and unpleasant way of the … renovations that Ganon made to the Golden Palace in Castletown before I changed time.
Then again … there isn't much Aghanim's involved in that doesn't remind me of Ganon.
Nor is this the only affront to Hyrule's general prettiness. There are three of these suckers jutting out of the ground on the borders of Hyrule. The Tower of Din is buried far up in the heart of the mountains, the Tower of Nayru was more or less forced upon the Gerudo and is buried in the Desert, and the Tower of Farore now overshadows Lake Hylia. They're supposed to represent our faithfulness to the Goddesses (I was pretty sure we already had the temples for that, but hey, why not erect hideous, ugly boils on the face of Hyrule and name them after the Goddesses who created Hyrule? What better way to show how much you appreciate their gift?) and to stand as a monument recognizing our dedication to a united Hyrule.
Or so they say.
Personally I think it's all bullshit, but hey, what do I know?
It's too bad that our path home takes us past it. Those towers are as much a sore spot for me as the stupid diplomatic mission I've spent the last three months on and it takes everything I have not to let it ruin my mood.
On the upside … once we make it to the other side of the tower's shadow … I'm home!
And I'm never leaving again.
Except maybe to visit Termina, because I promised Tatl and Tael and everyone else that I would. Then again, I don't really consider Termina 'away from home' because as far as I'm concerned if I can get to it through a Lost Door it's Hyrule, even if it is a seriously screwed up Hyrule (Gerudo on boats. HA! That'll be the day. Hunter and I can't even get Neesha to go fishing with us). Maybe I'll even find Navi this time.
I let the wave of sudden loneliness wash over me as it always does when I think about Navi and then try and force my mind back to happier things. I'm home. That's a happy thing. I'm home, I'm home, I'm home.
For a minute or two I chant those two words like a mantra, trying desperately to improve my mood …
… to no avail. I'm not going to be happy until I'm firmly entrenched back at the archery shop and in a wrestling match with Hunter over who gets to sleep in the top bunk and I can put my mind at ease and convince myself that everything is okay and Hyrule survived the three months without me.
I'm aware of how arrogant that sounds – Nayru knows Hunter and Neesha have both accused me of it on this subject – but I can't shake the feeling that I never should have left. Last time I left Hyrule alone for any length of time was before I changed time, when Rauru sealed me up in the Sacred Realm for seven years, and that didn't go so well for Hyrule. I suppose you could technically count my escapade in Termina as time away as well, and when I came back from that these goddess damned towers had been erected and it was too late to do anything about them …
Before I can get any further into that particular train of though, however, I find myself staring a glistening white snowball shoved in front of my face. I blink and look over at Hunter, who's grinning at me from under the scarf that's pulled up, over and around his face.
"You looked like you were starting to get pissed off again," he says. "So I figured we might play a little 'Peg the Gerudo'." He's handed off his horse to one of the other members of the group we're with and is holding his own snowball in his free hand. I debate for a moment whether or not I really want to climb out of my funk, but I've been a bastard for the last couple days to just about everybody, and I don't really enjoy it any more than they do. Besides, I'm home. I can relax now, right?
Besides, the idea of nailing Neesha with a snowball is just too good to pass up. I pat Epona's nose and release her reins, taking the snowball instead, then turn and look for the teenaged Gerudo. She's up ahead a bit walking with her horse beside some of the other Gerudo, which is just beautiful. If she was with the Gorons, or the Sheikah they might have helped her retaliate against Hunter and I, but the Zora's are too miserable in the cold to bother, and the Gerudo won't lift a finger against me unless I attack them directly (in which case I get the living daylights beat out of me, but to tell you the truth, it's usually worth it).
Neesha, who has time and again demonstrated a sixth sense when it comes to Hunter and me and mischief, twists around to glare at us through the tiny little slit in her winter gear and calls something that's completely unintelligible – Neesha, for all her bravado and Gerudo toughness, does not enjoy the winter (can't really blame her, what with her having spent her entire life up until three years ago in the desert, but I still think it's funny) and is bundled up so tightly that conversation with her becomes impossible. All that comes out is some random sounds and a lot of 'mmph' syllables, which is more or less what we get now. I smirk at her and toss my snowball from one hand to the other.
"What was that Neesha?" I call. "Couldn't hear you through the scarf. Maybe you should take it off." Hunter packs his snowball down some more. She releases her horse's reins and points at us, shouting something in a nasty tone. I pull my arm back and Hunter does the same and she snarls one syllable that is likely a swear word before trying to move behind her horse for cover. Unluckily for her, her winter gear slows her down considerably and she catches both snowballs in the back then loses her balance in the snow and goes down, face first.
Farore did that feel good! I can feel my grin widen, just a bit.
Amplisa, one of the Elite Gerudo with us pulls down her white scarf long enough to grin at Neesha, who's picking herself up from the snow.
"You gonna take that from a couple of little boys?" She demands. "And I thought you were a Red." She moves on past Neesha who's got a pile of snow in her hands now as well and is packing it down like a thing possessed.
"You had to show her how to make snowballs, didn't you?" I demand of Hunter. He raises an eyebrow at me as we both start backing up slowly.
"Hey," he says, "I showed her how to make snowballs, yes. But you're the one who taught her to pack them down until they're ice."
"Yeah well, you're the one who –" Neesha nails me in the side of the head with her snow (ice) ball, knocking my hat off. I stumble to the side and give an over exaggerated moan before falling flat on my back. I raise a hand and clutch at my heart.
"I've been hit!" I cry. Hunter rolls his eyes.
"She hit you in the head, not in the heart." I crack open and eye to look at him.
"Shut up, I'm trying to be dramatic here," I say. "Where was I?" He grins down at me.
"You'd been hit."
"Right! I've been hit! Hunter, son of my father's brother, my only living kin –"
"Last I checked both our dads were still alive."
"Last I checked, I told you to shut up. Now listen, it's important and the snow is starting to seep into my coat."
"I love how senseless violence against sixteen year old girls cheers you up like nothing else can." I ignore him.
"You have to avenge me!" I cry.
"Avenge you?" He demands.
"Yes, avenge me." I confirm.
"Because we're family you moron, haven't you been listening?" He considers it, then casts a glance over his should at something I can't see from my position.
"Actually, I think I'm just going to shove snow down your back."
"What?" I demand, propping myself up on my elbows. "Why?" He grins at me.
"Because Neesha's on her way over here at three hundred miles an hour and she's more likely to forgive me if I help her be mean to you."
"You double-crossing bastard!"
"I'm telling your dad you swore."
"Fine! I can take the both of you!"
The caravan continues moving on past us, more than a few of them rolling their eyes at our antics as the three of us suddenly become entangled in a confused snow melee which generally amounts to me against Neesha with Hunter randomly changing sides whenever he's got an open target on one or the other of us. All we really accomplish is getting soaked through and no one gets seriously hurt (kind of hard to hurt anything when we're all bundled up so thickly a Goron could fall on me and I wouldn't notice) except my hat which got kind of crinkled and abused, but its been through worse.
By the time we're done most of the make-shift caravan as moved on except a couple Elite Gerudo left behind to wait for us (it's a rare day indeed when there's not an Elite within shouting distance of me). Hunter and Neesha each grab a hand and haul me back to my feet. I shake the snow out of my hair and scoop up my battered hat, pulling it back on over my head. I turn around and offer a gloved hand to Neesha as a peace offering.
"Truce?" I offer. She raises an eyebrow at me, then rolls her eyes and storms off toward the other Gerudo, ignoring my hand entirely. Hunter grins.
"I think that's a yes," he translates. I smirk.
"She didn't punch me in the stomach," I say, "that's definitely a yes."
With a laugh we move after her, finally moving out of the shadow of the Tower of Din. A weight I hadn't noticed lifts from my chest as we do so and I breath a sigh of relief.
"Well," Hunter says, shoving his hands into his pockets as we walk. "We're officially back on home soil." I grin at him.
"We are indeed," I say. "And Goddess is it good to be home."
"Hey, listen," he says. "If it's all right with you and Neesha I'm going to split off with the rest of them when the caravan breaks up." I throw him a knowing grin.
"A little impatient to get to Malon?" I ask. He raises an eyebrow at me.
"Oh like you're not going to head straight for the palace and certain blonde-haired, blue-eyed princess when you get into Castletown." I turn my gaze forward again.
"You doubted it?" I demand. "Do what you want, man, but if you're not there to fight me for top bunk I get it by default." He makes a derisive noise.
"Only until I get to Castletown. Then you'll forfeit to me."
"I'll forfeit nothing," I reply. "But seriously, if you're going to take off then I think I'll just warp to Castletown once we all split up and head for home."
"Aren't the Elite going to complain?"
"Strenuously," I answer. "But deep down there's not a single one of them who wants to spend any more time than necessary away from the desert and I think I can talk them into heading home without me. All I have to do is promise them that I'll take the heat from Nabooru when I get back. I'll have Neesha anyway, and it's just Castletown. I'm safe there. What could go wrong?" Hunter rolls his eyes.
"I hate it when you say that."
The light is failing by the time the group has broken off into individual parties to wind their own ways home. Hunter has headed off with the other Sheikah and the Gorons towards Goron City and Kakariko (as well as the Hylians who will move on past Kakariko to Castletown). The Zoras and Gerudo (after much freaking out and yelling about me going off on my own) and split off in their own directions as well, leaving just Neesha and I. She makes a face as I whip out my ocarina and begin slipping my gloves off so I can play it easier.
"Oh relax," I say. "I know you don't like Ocarina travel, but look at it this way, you can spend ten seconds going via ocarina and we arrive safe and warm, or we can trek all the way across Hyrule Field in the winter with the wind and the snow and the cold." She shudders and gestures for me to play, grabbing hold of my arm. "Hang on tight!" I say, then set the flute to my lips. The notes of Prelude to Light drift up on the crisp evening air, travelling far and echoing back.
Just before the final notes fade and Neesha and I are pulled up into the magic, a dark streak tears across the night sky from somewhere behind us and heads toward Castletown.
I blink in surprise but before I can think on it further the magic washes through me and when I'm oriented again, Neesha and I are standing on the platform at the Temple of Time in Castletown. I whirl around to face Neesha who's pulling at the scarf around her mouth.
"Did you see that?" I demand. She finally breaks free of the wool and her eyes narrow.
"Whatever it was it came from the Tower," she answers. She hesitates. "Do you think it's a threat?" I frown.
"I don't know," I answer truthfully. "Maybe it's nothing." I'd actually been kind of hoping it had been my imagination, but if Neesha saw it too … "You're sure it came from the Tower?"
"It came from that direction," she says. We both frown uncertainly. In the background the unseen choir chants as always. Nothing seems out of place. Nothing feels wrong …
Nothing ever does in here though. This is the one place in all of Hyrule that always feels right …
"Maybe it's nothing," I say after a moment. "I think we're both just getting paranoid. Too long away from home." I cast a paranoid look around. "I'll mention it to the Sages just the same, though."
"All right," Neesha says, nodding. She pulls her scarf back up over her nose. "Let's get to the archery shop then so I can take off all this stuff." I nod and we move to the door, pushing it open and stepping out …
… and right into a ring of spearheads. We stop short and I blink in surprise.
"What the Hell –"
"Link and Neesha of the Gerudo," says the guard standing behind the group of men holding spears pointed at our throats, "you are under arrest in the name of Aghanim, Prince Regent of Hyrule."
I stare at the guards incredulously.
"Welcome home," Neesha mutters.
From worse to Link we go.
A Brief Interlude
Hunter cocked his head to the side and frowned beneath his scarf at the gate to Lon Lon Ranch. It was swinging loosely back and forth in the wind, pushing the snow beneath it into little piles with its motion, giving an eerie little creaking noise every time it did. He shook off the ominous feeling the image left him with and moved up to it anyway. The storm the night before must have simply pulled it from its lock.
But why hadn't the Lon Lon clan re-secured it?
They must be cleaning up the rest of the ranch, he decided. If it pulled a gate this sturdy open it probably caused all sorts of damage. He shook his head. I hope the animals are all right.
He led his horse into the gate and then moved to do what he could do to keep the gate shut. He paused with his hand half-way there, however, and blinked instead at the mechanism that usually held the gate shut. It was intact. It hadn't been broken. He looked back at the edge of the door. That piece was unbroken as well.
It couldn't have been the wind.
His eyes narrowed and he resisted the urge to jump back on his horse and follow Link and Neesha straight to Castletown.
I'm overreacting, he told himself calmly. It's most likely just Talon who forgot to shut it. Nayru knows he's absent minded enough for it. My training's getting the better of me is all. Nonetheless, he led his horse outside the gate once again and tied him loosely to the tree there. If something was wrong he'd have an easier time getting away.
Not that anything's wrong. He told himself again, slipping past the gate and resisting the urge to blend into the shadows against the high walls of the ranch. Link's paranoid ramblings are getting to me, that's all. He's making me as bad as him. We've only been gone for three months. One season. And fall, besides. Everybody would have been too busy with the harvest and everything else to cause any trouble. Hyrule's perfectly capable of taking care of itself. It's not going to collapse in on itself just because we left for three months.
A little voice at the back of his mind was quick to point out that they left at the insistence of Aghanim, advisor to the throne.
Aghanim, who was one of the most brilliant politicians Hunter had ever met.
Aghanim, who had been unable to manoeuvre around Link because Link was one of the worse politicians Hunter had ever met.
Aghanim, who had every reason in the world to get Link – and all of Link's allies – out of the kingdom for any length of time.
We'd know, he assured himself, slowing his pace ever so slightly despite his self assurances. There's no way we wouldn't know. Someone would have said something in their letters. And Aghanim's good, but Zelda's better. She could have kept his ambitions at bay. Besides, what can he do? No matter how powerful an advisor, he's not a member of the royal family. He'll never be King. Zelda's father is still alive and kicking and even if he wasn't, the throne would go to Zelda.
But already his mind was exploring the political avenues and pathways available to a man of Aghanim's position to consolidate power – pathways that were multiplied a hundredfold if one was willing to use less savoury methods. He wouldn't have thought Detsu could have ever taken over the Sheikah, but he hadn't counted on Detsu's underhanded methods. And though Aghanim had never given them any indication that he was capable of such methods, Link refused to put it past him. He said he didn't like Aghanim's eyes.
Hunter had learned long ago to trust Link's instincts on that type of thing.
So he had watched Aghanim like a hawk, but the wizard was careful and Hunter had never been able to find anything concrete to back up Link's intuition – though not for lack of trying. It didn't help that Aghanim was not, himself, a citizen of Hyrule. The King had brought him back with him from a diplomatic mission beyond the mountains. At any rate, by the time Aghanim had convinced the court that another diplomatic mission was due, now that Hyrule was fully and truly united – and who better to lead the mission than the Heroes of Hyrule themselves? The children who had united Hyrule for the first time in 20 years? – Hunter had been unable to give Link any legitimate reason to turn him down. They had all tried. They had all wracked their brains trying to find a reason short of, "Because I don't want to," but had been unsuccessful. The nobles were far too caught up in it, and Aghanim had even half-convinced some of the Sages. In the end Link had caved in and they had gone.
Hunter had learned that Link was not only a poor politician, he wasn't a very good diplomat, either. Which wasn't to say that he hadn't made allies over there – quite the opposite in fact. If you could survive his temper and sarcasm it was almost impossible to wind up not liking Link. He had a clumsy knack for making just about anyone his friend (one only had to look at the Gerudo, most of whom at the very least tolerated him and at the worst loved him to pieces, to erase any and all doubts of that) – it was just that he didn't do it very diplomatically.
In all, the trip had been as much a success as a diplomatic mission to an already friendly country could be. And every bit as pointless.
Maybe Link was right, Hunter thought uncertainly to himself. Maybe Aghanim did just want us out of his –
He let the thought trail off as he rounded the corner and got his first good look at the ranch. To the untrained eye nothing looked too much out of place. There were no animals in the field, but it was winter and the field was covered in snow. The animals should all be in the barn. A pristine blanket of snow coated everything, at least a foot thick in some places. The whole scene was peaceful as only winter scenes can be.
But it was the snow that bothered Hunter.
It was too perfect. There were no foot prints. It hadn't been cleared off the track, or off the flat roof of the chicken coop at the back of the grounds. It was too quiet as well. No animal sounds could be heard from the barn, and there were no lights on in the house, despite the overcast sky.
It looked as though no one had been here for weeks. It had to have been weeks. It would have taken that long for the snow to accumulate.
He felt a sudden sinking feeling in his gut.
"Malon …." He whirled on a heel and dashed over to the house door, ripping it open and ducking inside. He would have kept going, tearing up the stairs to Malon's room had he not skidded to a halt just inside the door to stare, wide-eyed, at the scene presented to him.
Something had happened. There were two plates set out on the table with food still on them, a third had fallen onto the ground, it's contents scattered across the floor. Chairs were overturned and the curtains on the other side had been torn. A dark stain stood out on the wall beside them.
"Blood … oh Goddess …." He wanted to take the stairs two at a time and scream for Malon and Talon and Ingo, but his training kicked in at last and he finally slipped back against the wall, pressing his back to it and eyeing the shadows for threats. He doubted he'd find any – the place had been abandoned for too long – but it didn't hurt to be careful. He crept towards the stairs and forced himself to move slowly up them, avoiding the third step from the top which he knew was squeaky and slipped down the hallway, casting cautious glances into the bedrooms. They each looked as though they had fared worse than the kitchen. Someone had gone through each with a fine-toothed comb and hadn't bothered to put anything back. Malon's was the worst of the lot, though. Her clothes were thrown everywhere, her mattress had been slashed open and the feathers inside were everywhere. Her desk drawers had been dumped out and their contents strewn across the floor (the drawers themselves had been thrown carelessly to land wherever they would). Hunter would have been furious if he hadn't been choking on a sudden overwhelming feeling of dread.
Whoever had done this had been after something. Something Malon had and wouldn't give them from the look of it.
His mind flashed back to the bloodstain on the wall in the kitchen.
She's not dead, he told himself. None of them are. There would have been bodies. They wouldn't have gone to the effort of hiding the bodies then not clean up the mess. He bit back his panic.
So where are they?
What were they after? Did they find it?
If they didn't … whatever it was, he knew where she would have hidden it.
He turned around and made his way back down the stairs and out the kitchen door, making a beeline for the barn. As he'd suspected the animals were all gone – he assumed stolen since none of the stalls seems damaged in any way – but he wasn't there for the animals. He leapt for the ladder to the hayloft and took the rungs two at a time, scrambling up to the top and moving towards the furthest corner.
He and Malon had a box. It was just a small thing, a little, lopsided wooden jewellery box he had built for her out of boredom one day, but it had served them well. They didn't use it for jewellery, but for special things. Secret notes, little presents, souvenirs from days spent together, and the only two people in Hyrule who knew of its existence were he and she. Not even Link knew about it and Hunter told Link just about everything.
If she'd really wanted to hide something …
She would have put it there.
He all but dove at the corner and dug beneath the straw, feeling at once a sense of relief and longing when his fingers felt the familiar wood, cold from being left in an empty barn for so long.
Whoever they were, they hadn't found it.
The only question, then, was whether or not Malon had gotten the chance to put whatever it was in there.
He pulled it out and dusted the straw off of it before pushing open its lid and surveying its contents. Everything that was normally in there was gone, replaced with a single, delicate pendent, engraved with the symbol of the Triforce, on a long, silver chain, set atop a white envelope with his name on it. He pulled them both out of the box, carefully pocketing the pendent and slipping the box back into its hiding spot before slitting open the envelope. He pulled out the letter and read it quickly, eyes growing narrower with each line, before angrily crushing it in his fist and grinding his teeth.
"Link was right," he hissed to himself. "We never should have left."
He was about to whirl around and to his feet when a tall shadow suddenly fell over him. He froze.
He had been found out.
He hadn't been careful enough.
Someone had laid in wait and he'd just walked right into their hands.
He hesitated only for that brief instant before reacting, throwing his weight onto his hand and lashing out backwards with his foot. The figure sidestepped and grabbed his ankle, twisting it and sending Hunter spinning to the ground. He gasped and rolled over onto his back, staring up at his attacker.
"So that's where she was hiding it," the figure said. "Clever girl. Too bad her beau's losing his touch." He lunged unexpectedly and grabbed the front of Hunter's uniform before he could scramble away, hauling him roughly to his feet.
"Give me the pendent!"