Author's Notes: With so many recycled plotlines in the Zelda universe, I decided to write my own interpretation and redeem the fandom. I'll bore holes into my eyes if I read one more fanfic with Link acting like a spastic teenager. One of the most humble and dignified leads in gaming history, and we somehow manage to "fudge him up." Behold the brilliance of the fanfiction community.

In any case, this story focuses on Link from The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. Hyrule has been restored, and Link, having regained his lost seven years, struggles against the conspiracies of fate to lead an honest life. I'll warn you ahead of time that, while romance is subtle, I do support the pairing of LinkxZelda. If you prefer LinkxMalon or yaoi pairings, and take offense to any pairing but, then I suggest finding alternative reading material.

I can't say, as of yet, how long this story will be. It depends on which ideas change, which ideas remain the same, and which ideas disappear altogether. It will, however, span several chapters, though I promise to update as regularly as possible.

Feel free to contact me with any questions or concerns you may have. As always, comments are appreciated. Thanks.

Disclaimer: The Legend of Zelda © Shigeru Miyamoto and Nintendo.

The Fires of Compromise
Prologue: From Then to Now

By Boggy

If you asked a man to define excellence, to define what it is that makes men great, isn't it best you first define the character of the man? And is it better to ask a man who's achieved that greatness? Or a man who's watched greatness fall, watched the excellence pulled from his fingertips and thrown to the flame?

What is it man would say? Is it fame? Glory? Is it boundless riches, infinite power? Is it titles or fancy clothes, wisdom or a gold-plated plaque? Or is it something as simple as living an honest life, standing by your beliefs, earning pay for a hard day's work? That perhaps, just maybe, not all heroic deeds are "dungeons and dragons," but a stark realization that the simplest task or chore, if performed correctly, is of even greater power than the mightiest sword.

The men of Hyrule would say, "When we find a man of excellence, we'll tell you."

For Hyrule was a land of legends, stories, ancient parables. So-called "men of excellence" existed only in childhood tales. Heroes and villains, "good" versus "evil," knights in shining armor and a damsel in distress—timeless elements of storytelling used to entertain the young and inspire the old.

Taverns housed the most colorful of stories. Most, if not all, were exaggerations of veteran drunks and aspiring adventurers hoping to charm their attractive serving wench. It seemed infeasible for intoxicated men to conceive such creative thought. And yet, stories thrived in its inebriated atmosphere, alcohol the very fuel of imagination.

At thirteen, Link was restricted to the workers' quarters near the back entrance. He wasn't old enough to serve, nor drink. Link could only observe, at best, through the cracks in the wood of the kitchen door, fascinated by the colorful clientele of the pub.

From his post, Link followed the wayward eyes of men trailing the curves of voluptuous women. Some would wink or smile or strut. Others would slap or scold or splatter drinks. All the while, onlookers gulped their drinks down in long swigs, toasting their jugs in merriment.

It was puzzling to Link, who worked the early morning hours, sheltered from the chaos of the night. The crisp morning air would pour in through the tavern doors, eradicating the stale stench of booze and lust. He swept floors, washed tables, and delivered supplies to neighboring businesses. It wasn't what you would call a "glamorous job," but anything was better than living in the streets.

Besides, living in the Market meant living near the palace. And living near the palace meant living near the Princess. And with his seven years restored, and Hyrule back to its prosperous, regal self, he and Zelda could be as they had always meant to be.

And he took advantage at every opportunity.

Zelda used his frequent visits to the castle as a way of schooling him in politics and economics. It seemed she had spent her entire life deliberating, arguing, searching for the alternative, and made a point to teach Link the same. It never crossed his mind to ask why.

But it wasn't just Zelda he enjoyed. There was something familiar in his return to the palace, something nostalgic. He remembered sneaking in as a child—his "first self" as he called it—seeing her turn, smelling the palace soil, watching the sun pour in through the stained glass windows of the court. And when he saw her face and smelt the soil and saw the sun rise over the eastern sky, he knew where it was he belonged.

Link never returned to the Kokiri Forest. It was too hard and too far in the past for him to rekindle a bond with his former Kokiri brethren. With a silent farewell to his forested beginnings, Link volunteered his services at Lon Lon Ranch, in exchange for room and board. Talon agreed, grateful for the extra hand. Link was hired immediately, his chores ranging from herding cows to carrying firewood to patching damaged rooftops.

Malon had been all too pleased with the development, attaching herself to Link instantly. But what Link considered a simple "friendship" was turned into something far more complicated.

There was always some miscommunication between them. Whether it was a newly purchased dress or the shape of the moon, Link never seemed to say the right thing. Her dresses were "fine," the moon "clear," but to Malon, everything was "soooooo romantic."

What was "soooooo romantic," Link couldn't tell. A dress on Malon looked the same as any other, and the moon was the same as the moon had always been. What did Malon, a farming girl, care about clothes or shoes? Talon needed help with the horses, the cattle, the cuccos, the land—with all the work to be done, who had time to stare at the moon?

Not that she was entirely to blame. Link was a soldier, a man of servitude, and "life on the farm" simply couldn't be. Not for him. He'd missed Zelda, missed Hyrule Market. There was simply somewhere else he'd rather been.

So, in the best interest of everyone, Link parted ways with Lon Lon Ranch.

And thus began Link's virulent career as a tavern boy.