I was awoken by a soft voice whispering in my ear.
"Please...", it said, the trembling sound unmistakably female, and seemingly in pain, and thunder cracked and boomed outside as if to accentuate her plea. The storm must have finally broke in the night. It was pouring down outside.
"Please help me..." the cry for help seemed strained, as if the owner of the voice wasn't used to having to ask for help.
"I have been made a prisoner in the castle dungeons. Everyone inside is under his control...You are my only hope. Oh no.. Please hur-..."
The fact that it ended so abruptly was probably what awoke me, what convinced me it was real, and not some part of a fragmented dream my own mind had wrought. That and what happened next.
I lay in bed for a few moments, contemplating what to do, or really what I could do. I was still just a youngling after all, I won't be of age until next year, when my uncle lit his lantern, obviously having climbed out of bed and gotten his clothes on. He was holding the sword and shield which were now missing from above the fireplace and told me to stay in bed...he'd be back later. And with that he pulled his cloak over his head and was gone out into the storm, headed straight for the castle.
Thunder boomed outside, as if daringme to leave the safety of the house, andI realized that yes this was actually happening, it wasn't just some strange dream. And from what I've seen and heard about the wizard who'd become the King's new advisor recently,I don't think I could doubt it, especially since Uncle definitely seems to have heard it as well. But in any case, Uncle Taran was the only family I have left, and despite how strict and cruel he could be with my education and training, I know I would miss him if something were to happen.
So I decided to climb out of bed and take our spare lantern and cloak, and wear my favorite hunting tunic. I'll probably regret this, but...
And out he went into the storm after his Uncle, and towards the desperate plea for help he had heard so clearly. He walked up the muddy road to the castle, carefully avoided the guards in case they really were under some kind of mind control, and sneaked his way into the outer garden area on the east end, where his uncle had once told him a secret entrance into the castle existed, where people could escape if the castle was no longer safe.
In fact the entrance was a old well which was still in use by the castle gardeners, but he realized that this was how his Uncle had gotten in judging from the rope leading down into it tied off on a nearby tree. He climbed down with his lantern in his teeth, and made splashed into the tunnel below. It was dark, but a torch was lit further down the tunnel, and he saw...no, it couldn't be!
I ran down the tunnel towards my last living relative. The man who'd cared for me and taught me ever since my parents died in the war when I was only five. Now I was remembering their broken bodies, and the horrible smell of blood and even worse, the screams of my mother as those men took her while they tossed me in a corner and kicked me if I tried to get up.
Now my uncle was on the floor of the tunnel, his own blood leaking out of a wound on his side. Two guards were dead around him.
I ran to my uncle, trying to close the wound up with my hands, but more and more blood poured out from between my fingers. There was nothing I could do. He was dying. Just like that.
He groaned. "Link. Is that you? Oh, thank the goddesses. Listen. Forget about me. Go. You have the strength. You are the only one who can save her. The princess."
Suddenly it all made sense. It was the princess' voice I'd heard before. It was our family's duty to protect the royal family. A duty which now rested solely with me. And I wasn't going to fail.
"Link, you are now a man. You have the strength of our ancestors. Forget about..groan...what I told you before. You will have to use that power now. Save her. Here takemy thi..."
I reached up to close my Uncle's eyes for the last time. I did the same for the soldiers my Uncle had killed. They had families too, although they were better off now than inthe dark wizard Aghanim's control. I take my uncle's satchel and hook it to the shoulder of my tunic. I also take up his sword and shield and the fuel from his lantern.
My trade is hunting, and I've been taught from a small boy how to move without sound or being seen. But I've never stalked humans before. I'd feel better if I hadn't broken my bow on my last hunting trip, but I have no choice but to move forward now. It's going to get messy.
The short sword my Uncle had wasn't perfect for stealth but in most ways humans were much easier to sneak up on than any animal, particularly the guards I encountered next, which seemed completely obvious thralls of the wizard, unable to move at all without his commands. I simply sneak up behind them and slit their throats. I doubt the wizard will even notice them gone. I search through the tools and find a good knife at the other end of the room, obviously the gardners shed judging from its contents. It'll be easier sneaking about wielding this for now and only using the sword if I have to. I pull my cloak back over my head and head out into the storm which will really make it easy getting in the front door, if it all goes right.
I figure the shock will protect me for now, but if I really think about it I'm taking human lives now. Something I never wanted to do. ButI suppose I also owe it to these men. They've lost their will, most of them, and the one's that willingly serve this wizard probably deserve to die. They're just like those men that killed my parents and raped my mother. Evil. I slip back into stealth mode and three more guards are dead before they even realize I'm there. The dirt on the gardner's knife now had blood mingled with the dirt and dust it was covered with previously. I'm grateful it's been kept so sharp though.
It's a horrible and wonderful feeling, killing men. I feel as if a little piece of me dies every time I do it, and yet I can't stop, too many things demand their blood to spill onto the ground. My Uncle's dead body. My parents. The Princess and her desperate cry for help. But most of all I feel freedom when I do it. As if every dead person is another link in a great chain that imprisons me, broken. Perhaps its the dark magic controlling them, but I feel justified in killing them, even though every man here is only guilty of being controlled by magic they can't have any hope of defeating. Suddenly I'm inside the castle, and two guards, two very awake, aware guards look at me, and see my blood stained knife and cloak, and roar with anger, drawing their swords. I draw my sword, finally. holding it two handed, focusing all the energy in my body at the tip of my sword like my Uncle taught me, and then I hear a sizzling sound and I release the attack. "Yaaah!" I shout, focusing even more energy into the blade. The same blade that failed my Uncle, the same blade that I hated. A dark green wave of energy passed through the soldiers, and their heads and arms were severed from their body, forever locked in a position to cleave me in half.
I would always carry that image with me, I knew. They would never leave that moment in time for me, the killing blow frozen in time, unable to strike me, but always looming over me. The rest of the guards in the entrance hall were drones which I killed to put out of their misery. Their souls had already been destroyed I knew, they were nothing but zombies reanimated through Necromancy. This wizard was a sick man. I had to get to the princess, though. I can ponder and feel guilt later. The memory of my mother's rape and mutilation drives me forward with ever increasing intensity, twenty, thirty guards die before my sword. I finally find stairs leading downwards to the dungeons, to where I can sense a presense of innocence held captive below. I won't let them take that from her. Not tonight. The demons of lust and greed possessing these men are nothing before my determination. I don't care about justice or duty or revenge for my lost family anymore. I just want to stop it happening to anyone else. I won't let this bastard wizard have his way anymore.
The guards are getting tougher to sneak up on.The guards of the dungeon have better armor, too. The magic the wizard employs is typical. Tying the wards of a room to the life force of the guards so no one can pass without his assent or killing the innocent men under his control. 'I'm afraid you mistake me, wizard, for someone who cares. I am now your divine judgement. Nothing will stand in my way. You won't have her as your personal toy you sick freak!'
The three guards surround me and all jab their spears at me at once. I leap above them, throwing down a deku nut I'd found in the forest, causing a blinding flash, making them pull back, and giving me more than enough time to charge my attack. This time my body's energy is a brighter green as it's released, as if a pale light was slowly filling my soul. The light of my own ruined innocence as it left me. 'I've become a killer,' I thought as I saw the men loose the tops of their spears; and heads.
I found a useful tool on one of the guard's bodies. A boomerang. I'd always wanted one for my hunting and here it was. The spoils of battle, I thought. 'It's even been enchanted by the wizard, probably a reward for following him willingly.' I feel no remorse as I pocket the item and moved downwards again to the lowermost dugeons. I sensed a foul presense below. Obviously the wizard had given more strength to the thralls guarding his precious Princess. He saw a man holding a wicked looking spiked ball and chain and wearing black armor, arguing with some obviously lower ranked men.
"But then we can't play with this one?" one of them asked.
the mans voice boomed out, as if somehow amplified.
"No, the master Aghanim gets that honor, and no one else! Now fuck off you little letches!"
"Ah, fine, we'll just go find ourself some village girl to play with." There was scuffling of feet and they came around the corner, mumbling to themselves about certain attributes of the princess they admired and how they were going to drug the 'boss' so they could get their turn with her. They were just looking up and noticing me when their heads were separated from the rest of them, rolling back around the corner.
The man in black noticed, and picked up his spiked ball and chain, swinging it, ready to attack whoever was around the corner. The spiked ball swung around the corner straight at my face. This guy was good, I thought as I ducked under the attack. He estimated where I was standing without actually looking around the corner. I got out my knife and another deku nut, rolling out as he was yanking the spikes out of the stone wall. He didn't seem fazed by the flash and just kept swinging his weapons around him, keeping me back, and he knocked the knife I'd thrown away from the opening in his helmet with a gauntlet covered hand. This wasn't going to be easy. I got out the boomerang I'd picked up, which he recognized, and became enraged, swinging again hard enough to nail me to the floor, but I ducked aside, hoping for this. As his spike was stuck to the floor I threw the boomerang which he dodged, and yanked his spike back out, swinging it around, but I lept forward, blocking the spike with my shield, andthrowing the trapped ball and shield through the bars of a nearby cell, trapping the man's main weapon. Distracted, he got hit in the back of the head with the boomerang, which surprised even me, as I'd had no practice with the thing. Probably just a fluke, I thought, or maybe the enchantments on it. Regardless, I took the opportunity to charge forward and stab the man through the gut with my Uncle's sword, seeing a weak point in his thick armor. He staggered backwards, yanking the sword away with him. Yikes, this guy was strong, I thought. He pulled a long dagger from one of his gauntlets and threw it at me, but I dodged it easily, leaping forward, and yanked away my sword in the same move. Blood spurted from the wound and the man fell to his knees.
"You have won, hunter," he said in a different voice from before. "But I, Aghanim will destroy you utterly and you will watch as I kill the princess before your very eyes! Mark my words, boy, you will regret this!"
I smiled, knowing I had successfully pissed off a very powerful necromancer and wizard.
"I'm not so sure, wizard. I have seen your deeds and I've passed judgement over you. You're not worthy to be dogfood."
The man screamed in rage but I cut him short, literally.
Then, covered in blood and gore, I made my way down to the end of the cell block and found the Princess. I felt...angry. She was the reason I'd had to leave the comfort of my bed only less than an hour ago, the reason my Uncle had died fighting six guards at once, and the reason I had killed over 30 men to get to her, and as far as I could see, the reason I still had a purpose in life. It was a frustrating feeling, having pinned the reason for your existence on one person. He didn't even really know what kind of person she was. He'd heard the Princess of Hyrule was a kind person, but he'd never met her, and he didn't normally believe gossip like that even if he did overhear it often. He hoped she was really worth the price of his broken soul.
She took one look at him and screamed.
'Do I look that bad?' I thought as I looked down at my cloak and tunic. 'I guess so.' I cast off the ruined cloak and use it to wipe clean my sword and knife.
"Is that better?" I asked, knealing before her, looking down at the floor. "I heard your plea, and came to get you out of here, your Highness."
She still seemed a bit too shocked by just how much blood she had seen to move, so I tried to assuage her fears.
"Highness, I know that didn't look good but the men I killed to get down here were nothing but shells by the time I got to them, the wizard has definitely got some twisted dark magic going on here." As I talked I walked over to Blackie's corpse and found the keys to the cells, along with a huge wallet. 'Good, I may need some funds later If I plan to actually defeat this wizard.'
I placed the wallet in my satchel and unlocked the poor girl's cell. She looked a bit more composed and finally decided to speak to me.
"Thank you, Link. You have done well to get here so quickly. Now I know a way out of the castle but we'll have to get back upstairs to the throne room somehow."
I stared at her. 'How does she know my name?'
"Oh, I have some telepathic ability. That's how I've contacted you. The Sages and their family have been teaching me. But Aghanim has done something with all the young girls." her face fell, and she sniffed a bit. "I can no longer sense them in this world..."
"Don't worry, I'm sure they're okay, but right now we've got to get out of here, Princess. Please stay close behind me." And with that I turned to leave, with the Princess Zelda following me closely. I'd heard all the stories as a kid of how my ancestors had rescued the royals in the past and daring adventures involving wizards and great kings of evil and assassains attacking from the desert, but for me to be doing this now was a bit disconcerting, andI wished it wasn't me that had to do this. It wasn't worth being remembered in some story centuries from now.I just wanted to be back inmy bed asleep.
'I'll think about it later.' I say to myself as I retrace my steps back through the dungeons, and taking a different route back to the throne room to avoid detection by any remaining guards. Surprisingly, the huge royal crest behind the thrones was blocking a hidden passage. A passage that was completely dark. I got out my lantern and prepared to face whatever came our way. I knew these must lead to the sewers, which wasn't by any means a safe or sanitary place to be, and the Princess was wearing a dress. 'I may have to fix that.' I thought. 'I do have a spare change of clothes, if she's not completely against it, in which case I'll have to carry her most of the way. Either way I was determined to see this through, at least until she was safe.
The Princess saw fit to derail my thoughts.
"I'm not changing and you're not carrying me. I can make it. I'm not a child." She said with such childlike impetuousness that I almost wanted to leave her there. But something kept me from giving up, most likely the memory of my parents' death, which I decided to keep in the forefront of my mind for now, hopefully keeping the Princess from prying into his head any further.
After that the Princess looked disconcerted and stayed close behind him.It soon became obvious that Aghanim hadn't discovered this passage yet as all they encountered were rats, giant leeches and a few bats in the sewers. Finally they found stairs leading back upwards again and they entered a well lit room, escaping the harsh smell of the sewer. The only problem was on the far side of the room, where rocks were piled up around the exit. A cave in.
I searched the room for any other possible exits, and I found two spots in the wall that were obviously filled in with clay and could be broken through pretty easily. I reached into my Uncle's satchel to bring out a small explosive he'd bought from the merchants on Lake Hylia and lit the four second fuse. Taking the too curious princess around a corner to shield her, I saw a look of fear in her eyes again. It was obvious she was afraid of me from the first time she saw me, covered in blood and gore. 'But that was the price for your rescue, Princess.' I thought at her deliberately. 'And you shouldn'tbe so naive. Most of those men I killed had already been stripped of their very souls by that monster, Aghanim. What did you think he was planning to do with you, anyway. Have tea and buiscuts?'
She shot him an angry look. And only succeeded in looking cute. doing it.
The wall exploded.
I checked into the next room only to find what was obviously a theives secret cache. He probably never expected anyone to find this. But it won't get us out of here, I thought.
I collected the rupees, obviously a large amount, judging by how many purples and golds were here. I'd count it all later. I was also able to collect a dusy quiver of 20 arrows and some more explosives. They would be very useful later on.
"Well," I said, "We obviously can't get out this way. So we'll have to start moving rocks out of the way."
She nodded and didn't hesitate to move some of the smaller rocks away from the exit.
In the end it took over an hour and some more of my explosives, but we got through, though quite a bit dirtier than before. Her dress was ruined. She should have just used my spare clothes. But we were able to exit through the back of thesanctuary north of the castle walls. The Sage came runninginto the back room when he heard the explosion . He greatedthe Princess with a hug and thanked Link for his help.
"I'll have to give you this for helping save Zelda. You don't know how important she is. If the wizard had been able to use her in his rituals the seal on the evil realm would be broken, and there would be a second darkwar." He handedmewhat looked like a small crystal shardthat pulsed in my hand, and soon it was pulsing with the beat of my heart. Completely in tune with me. ThePriest did something with the shard and told me to press it to my chest.
When I did It dissapeared and I felt ahot energy flow through my veins. I felt a little stronger, tougher than before.
"What was that?" I asked.
"That was a heart shard.A piece of crystal made by the sages of old in order to prolong their lifespan and aidthe Knights of the King's tablein battle. They are very rare nowadays, particularly a whole one like that I just gave you. But you have earned it, Hunter Link. Sadly, this will not last. Eventually the magic of this sanctuary will fail under Aghanim's power and he will find Zelda here. If you want to save Hyrule from war you will have to seek out Sahashrala, my fellow Sage. He will know what to do. An old friend of mine in Kariko will know where to find him. I'll mark his house on this map."
He handed me a map. I suddenly felt exasperated. I should have known this wasn't going to end here. Now I'd been swept up into some horrible fate.
The Sage laughed. "I know just what you mean. But its something none of us can escape in times like these. Fate, I mean. There's no choice but to go after the wizard and defeat him before this gets any worse."
I nodded to him, realizing I wasn't likely to get any rest anytime soon like I had hoped, and started walking away. He nodded back. "Good Luck."
I didn't want to speak to the Princess or say good bye to her. I felt very awkward in front of her now. Like I had failed her somehow. Failed to live up to the image of the Knights and Heroesof old. My ancestors. 'My unfortunate ancestors', I realized. I wouldn't wish a life like this for my worst enemy. The constant killing and rescuing and dark magic. Nothing like what I always wanted. To live a quiet life on a farm of my own with nothing but the hunt and the crops to take care of. But it was obviously our curse to bear, I thought. All this time.
I wasn't prepared to feel her hands on my shoulders, stopping me. "Wait, Link." she said. "I can at least give you this." she turned me around and pulled me into an embrace. I could do nothing. To be honest with myself, I was in shock at the time. I couldn't remember the last time someone had hugged me. My mother probably, but that was so long ago I barely remember it. And, just like that I felt the fatigue and pain leave my body, and my heart felt a little bit warmer. I felt wide awake again. Without thinking, I leaned down and kissed the top of her head with a smile. "Thank you, Zelda. Stay safe here. I'll be back."
And with that I turned and left the safety of the Sanctuary. Leaving behind a shocked Princess.