Disclaimer: Nintendo is the owner of Link and the Legend of Zelda, this story is written without prior consent, I am not making any profit through this story. My only intention is to entertain, and make people seek answers to the questions within themselves.
The Legend of Zelda:
Why We Fight
Leather boots cross over a smoothly-hewn, granite floor. Light flickers from a torch set in the wall, lighting the figure clad in a red chain-mail tunic. The reflection of the flames glints off the silver blade in his hand, shining off his silver mirror shield. His left foot hits the ground and he grimaces, the bleeding gash in his calf forcefully reminding him of its presence.
The harpie facing him lets loose a screech as she dives at him, talons held wide to rip him open. The knight Link nimbly takes a side-step, turning as he slides out of her direct path of assault and muscling his sword through her side, using his shield to fend off wicked, curving claws. The semi-human beast shrieks and thrashes, one of her talons catching his shoulder and tearing down across his chain-mail.
Link gasps in pain at his enemy's death throe and pushes the dead creature to the side. "Why do I go through so much? Is it some . . . obscure obligation for my country?"
"Obviously not," A boy dressed in Kokiri clothing replies. Link turns away from his younger likeness, but this doesn't stop him from continuing. "After all, couldn't you say a country is no more than its leader? Why would somebody fight for a man?"
A Link with hair paled from age crosses his arms over his green tunic. "King Daphnes Hyrule has led the people out of drought and famine to keep the nation prosperous despite repeated raids by the Gerudo."
The knight points out, "So I'm fighting to prevent famines?"
The boy shakes his head, stating what all the Links already know. "No. So maybe it's not the comfort—"
The knight pauses wiping his sword to gesture to the bleeding gash in his leg, and his stomach growls. "Do I look comfortable?"
The older Link leans against the granite wall, tapping his boot heel against the wall as he thinks. "It's the nature of life for people to give up comforts to make others more comfortable."
The boy brushes his blond hair out of his face. "So what's the difference between what we're doing and what a despot makes people do?"
The knight looks up as he sheathes his sword. "I'm willingly giving up my comfort, a despot takes other peoples' comfort by force to make his own life better. We're fighting so other people can be happy." He begins wrapping a bandage around his calf. "But my question remains. Why am I willingly doing this?"
The Link against the wall uncrosses his arms. "You're not the only one. Many others before and many after you will do the same thing." He walks away from the wall and begins to pace the perimeter of the circular, dome-shaped room. "But that doesn't answer the question. What motivation could all of them have in common with you?"
Young Link pulls out his old slingshot and pulls at the empty sling for a moment as he considers a new possibility. "Glory? Plenty of people in Hyrule know about us by now."
The adult shakes his head. "Not everybody in Hyrule knows the name 'Link'. Besides, that's all most of them know. They don't really know Link, they merely know about him."
Knight Link looks at the tengwar etched into the edges of his silver mirror shield. "Riches?"
Both of the other Links break out into laughter. The younger clutches his sides and is the first to recover his breath. "If you wanted money, you wouldn't have been nearly so selfless, you wouldn't still live in a peasant's hut north of Lon Lon, and you wouldn't have turned down a single one of the rewards the King offered you."
His heart begins to sink and he again wonders, Why should I do any of this if I don't have any idea what I'm fighting for? "What's the point? I leave home, I fight until I'm bleeding and sometimes on the brink of death, then I come back home just to be another person hustling through the crowds in the market?"
The elder Link stops his patrol around the room and points his index finger at the knight. "Now you may be onto something. It's self-preservation."
The child quips, "Now, really. Since when have these events ever been an immediate or direct threat? For all we know, I could have sat idly by as Ganondorf ran around Hyrule looking for the sacred stones."
The knight does see logic in his younger facsimile's words. "Or I could have sat there as Agahnim took the place of King Hyrule. What's one man over another?" Aside from the fact that Agahnim was a pawn in a plan to break Ganon free from the Dark World, though I didn't know that at the time.
The elder Link shakes his head. "Or I could have decided to sit at home when Ganon returned to Hyrule and abducted Zelda to take her power. Eventually, each of these beginnings could have led to a situation endangering us. But we didn't wait that long, we didn't even know that most of the time, so there's got to be more to it."
The boy sits down cross-legged and shoots a small deku seed at one of the torches on the wall, causing the flame to flicker as the hard seed passes through. "Some sort of overactive altruism? We saw evil afoot and set off to prevent it from disrupting our lives. Or maybe it wasn't so selfless, we were out for our own interests."
Link resumes his pace around the room. "We've already considered selfish motives, but we put ourselves in danger before we had to, we went farther than was necessary as far as we could see at the time. So it's not a reason about ourselves, but it is protection."
Knight Link spreads his arms. "So what am I protecting? Hyrule's got an army, there are plenty of other people who could go out and do the saving the day."
Young Link puts away his slingshot. "But each of those people, at some level, have to agree to be in the army. If nobody volunteered to join the army, there still needs to be one, so then there'd be conscription. That's why Hyrule's volunteer corps is so different from non-volunteer armies." He shrugs. "We're losing the point. Either way, each person makes the choice to step into the path of danger. It's too hard to care about the nameless, faceless Hylians out there. Granted, if one of them died we'd call that a tragedy, but we pick up and move on."
Adult Link crosses his arms behind his back and continues pacing. "So it's something more specific."
Knight Link fiddles with the boomerang on his belt as he looks at his younger facsimile. "So are we still stuck on the question of 'what's the difference of one person over another'?"
Young Link shakes his head. "No. We can't fight for a distant person or people we know nothing about. That must mean we're fighting for people we do know about."
Knight Link nods his head, understanding slowly dawning. "We fight so our loved ones can live through the night."
The knight readies his sword and looks around the empty room. Having consulted many possibilities, once his mind locked on the truth his heart somehow already discovered, there is no longer any need to sit and ponder. Friends are depending on him.
Written in response to a challenge on FFNetAuthors(dot)proboards29(dot)com(slash)index(dot)cgi.
Dedicated to 'Nichols', a poet and my friend throughout Basic Training. To all those who wonder why people volunteer to join the Army.
We struggle, not for might, but for right.
We fight so our loved ones
Can live through the night.