Disclaimer: The Legend of Zelda, Hyrule, Link, and all other characters, objects, and locations in the Legend of Zelda series, are owned by Nintendo. Thank you for not suing me. Original characters belong to me. Nyah.

The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess

A Novelization

Chapter One: Peace

It was getting late in the day, but for old Rusl, his work in the Faron Woods was far from done. Not that he particularly minded; the real work for the day, gathering firewood for the village he protected, had already been finished, and this was as much a pleasant game as it was part of his own personal self-imposed duties.

Steel edge met steel edge as the two weapons crashed together, and the swordsman snapped his blade out to the right. The other blade's wielder compensated, hopping back a step and bringing his weapon across his body to catch the older swordsman's follow-through, and then snapped the weapon down to head off a low cut at his ankles. A swift riposte from his opponent, deflected just as quickly, and a guarded counter to that same counter. Though the blades struck and flashed, quite deadly in their own right, their wielders fought with smiles, each one observing the other's motions. For Rusl's part, the old swordsman kept his eyes a bit lower, on his foe's feet, watching him move, and was suitably impressed by the boy's balancing.

Rusl had once been a Hylian Knight. He'd spent thirty of his fifty-five years of life serving the Royal Family, promoted to a point where he commanded an entire battalion of soldiers, and eventually accepted a position as a trainer of the Royal Guard themselves. He'd fought with, trained, and lived among the fighting men of the kingdom of Hyrule for a long time before he'd finally met his wife and had his first son at the age of forty-seven. Priorities had changed, and he had bid his army and the Royal Family a fond farewell five years ago, and had settled in a quiet corner of Hyrule to spend the rest of his days raising kids and chasing off monsters with his blade. The people of Ordon treated him well, and he kept them safe from what little danger presented itself.

Yet, he'd always felt a pang of regret when he's left the army, and when he'd encountered the young, wide-eyed teenager who helped Fasl the goat herder run Ordon Village's ranch, he was reminded of the many idealistic recruits into the Hylian Knights, boys joining for glory and patriotism and adventure. When the kid had asked him about swords and fighting, Rusl had gladly offered to teach the boy.

These old bones weren't born to rest, not completely at least.

With that thought, his smile remained as he met blades with the boy. For five years he had taught this kid on and off, and in those five years he had never seen a better raw swordsman. He took to the blade like a fish to water, and though Rusl had thirty years of fighting experience and was one of the best warriors to have served Hyrule, he found the boy's skill was closing with his own. No doubt he would have been a great champion if he hadn't been raised in this little corner of the country. Old Rusl almost considered him a second son, after his own boy, Colin . . . though unlike his pupil, Colin had a fear of blades and violence, which Rusl understood; not everyone was a fighter, and most people shouldn't even have to be that way; a country of warriors was a country that would be impregnable to enemies but succumb to its own inner woes first.

Rusl had to backpedal as his pupil struck faster and more surely than he anticipated; caught up in his momentary reminisces, the old warrior had been distracted, and his pupil had seen that moment of weakness. A flush of pride and satisfaction ran through Rusl as he swiftly replied to that attack; the boy's senses and judgment were more keen than anything he'd seen.

Link was his name; Rusl didn't know who had given him that name or even whom his parents were, or even his exact age; the boy had been orphaned long before the old soldier and his family had settled on Ordon. His hair was an odd dirty blonde, like tarnished gold in the light, though in the relative shade of the woods it was much darker. His blue eyes were sharp, and the women all said he was quite handsome; he was strong and athletic, due to his constant training and work at Fasl's ranch. But even more than that, his mind was sharper than any blade Rusl had ever wielded, and yet he was quiet . . . not silent, but a lad who preferred to let actions and emotion speak before words. A good philosophy, Rusl thought. Maybe that was one of the reasons he had taken to the eager young lad . . . .

They continued dueling for a long while, Link never seeming to grow tired, and Rusl certainly not letting hints of his age slip through. The swordsman wasn't certain how old his pupil was, just that he was somewhere in his late teens or early twenties, but he was tough and energetic, and had learned to pace himself in the many training sessions. Rusl had spent a long time teaching the younger Link the philosophy behind the sword, to never draw it in anger or in times of emotion, but only to take it in hand when life - his or another's - was in need. The sword, he had explained, was a tool to defend and protect, and not to conquer and destroy. Link had taken this to heart, and as the months had passed, Rusl had explained the basics of the sword, but always in moderation. He would not let the boy push himself too hard, for that would ultimately lead to ambition, and a swordsman needed no ambition when fighting to protect and defend. And now, with Link becoming so skilled, their training involved less teaching and more physical testing, and a demonstration of the subtleties of battle: observing the enemy, thinking ahead, positioning oneself, maintaining balance, conserving energy . . . .

As the sun began to descend, Rusl and Link finally ended their session, the old warrior pleased. They started off, heading toward the nearby freshwater spring for a moment's rest. Rusl paused as Link took the reins of his personal mare, a great, white-maned horse with russet fur named Epona. On the horse's back was a harness, to which were lashed several large bundles of wood the two men had cut on their trip. Whispering quietly to his horse's ears, the boy followed Rusl.

They soon enough came upon the spring, which flowed up the earth's surface and gathered in a small, clear lagoon, in a quiet corner of the forest. With a smile, Rusl gestured toward the water's edge, and sat down. Link followed suit, but not before taking a bottle of water from the small lagoon and offering quiet thanks to the spirit of Faron, guardian of the wood. Link offered the bottle to Rusl as he settled onto the grass, and the old man took it, sipping the cool, soothing water and sighing in content. He passed it back to Link, who drank as well, while his mentor peered over the spring and the sun setting in the west.

It was quiet. Very quiet, very comforting . . . and yet, as the sun went down, it was eerie. A sense of regret passed over the old warrior as the sky steadily darkened, and he glanced at his pupil, who was peering over the waters as well, a thoughtful expression on the boy's face.

"Tell me," Rusl asked as they sat there. "Do you ever feel a sort of strange sadness when dusk falls?" Link settled back, and after a moment, the boy nodded slowly. He knew Rusl had more to say, judging by his tone, and remained silent.

"They say it's the only time when our world intersects theirs," he continued. "When you can almost feel the lingering regrets of the spirits that have left our world. As if the setting sun reminds us that we are mortal, and that there are always things left undone . . . . which is why loneliness always pervades the hour of twilight."

Link remained silent for a long while, and behind them, they heard Epona snort. Rusl finally stirred out of his reverie.

"But enough talk of sadness," he said. "I have a request for you."

"What is it?" Link asked, the first words he'd spoken since they had started their training today. His voice was young, but almost husky, possibly a product of his voluntarily rough and physical life.

"Well, you know I'm delivering our tribute to Hyrule Castle tomorrow," he explained. "The Mayor has already talked to me about it . . . But I was wondering if you could go in my stead?" Rusl watched Link's face as he thought about the request. There was a bit of surprise on his features, but there was also a great deal of curiosity, and a hint of excitement. The boy had lived in Ordon all his life, but Rusl knew he wasn't born to stay in the sleepy farmlands and the protective woods. It was almost as if he had been dropped into the village by accident, and simply took root there . . . .

"Why?" he finally asked, and Rusl smiled.

"Because, lad, Ordon is too small a place for you," he replied. "You have never left the woods, never seen Hyrule Castle, or the city surrounding it, or the splendor of Death Mountain, or the majesty of Zora's Domain, felt the chill winds of Snowpeak or seen the great sands of the Gerudo Desert . . . Hyrule is far greater than our little village, and far greater than even Hyrule itself is the rest of the land the Goddesses have gifted us. I think you should experience it all, Link. Settling down is for the old and the weary; you are young and there are many years left in your life. You should look upon it all with your own eyes."

The sun continued to descend, and the forest steadily darkened.

"Come, it is getting late, and this fighting has made me hungry!" Rusl stood up, and Link did as well. "I will talk to Bo about the trip to Hyrule Castle in the morning."

"Hey, Link!" came a call from outside, and he opened his eyes all the way. He had woken up a short while ago, the sun shining down into his face, and had simply been dozing, until the familiar voice called. Link paused, honestly wanting to stay in bed, but he ignored his body's demands to stay asleep and sat up, rubbing his eyes, before sticking his head out the window over his bed.

Down below, outside Link's modest cabin, was Fado, waving to his ranch hand. The muscular goat rancher called Link's name again, and the blonde grunted and got out of bed, his bare feet hitting the wooden planks. The bed was on the highest floor of the little house, which Link had built himself over the last few years. Though it was over two stories in height, it was relatively small and cozy, just the way the boy liked it. He climbed down the ladder that led up to the high loft and threw on a pair of baggy trousers and a sleeveless white shirt, before stepping outside into the morning sunshine.

The small cabin was considered the northern edge of the whole village, as it bordered the Faron Woods; Hanch, the pumpkin farmer, joked that Link was more at home in the woods than he was in the village, and while it was just a joke, Link admitted that he liked the forest as much as he loved the village he called home. The cabin he had built was actually located on top of a small rocky outcropping along the trails that led into the forest, and a ladder led down to the little open clearing Link kept outside his home. Unlike the other villagers, the boy didn't keep a yard or lawn, just a small pasture for his horse, who slept beside his house in a small stable Link had erected.

"Hey, Link," Fado said with a smile. The rancher was muscular, and among the largest of the native villagers, only outmatched in size by Mayor Bo and Rusl, but like most of the residents of Ordon he was actually a bit short and lean.

"Sorry to wake you up so early this morning," he said. "But them goats have been giving me a heck of a time today. More stubborn than usual. Wanna give me a hand getting' the scamps back under control?" Link nodded, grinning at the idea of being able to herd the goats with Epona. The best rider in the village, Link was Fado's biggest help in keeping the goats under control, and he was very good at driving and herding the animals.

"Only, uh," Fado added, frowning. Link followed his gaze to the small stable where Epona should have been waiting, only to find it empty. "Well, where'd that girl wander off to? You locked the gate, didn't you?" Link shook his head; he never needed to lock Epona's gate, as the loyal horse always stayed in the stable when he brought her back. The mare was smarter than most others of her kind, and responded to Link better than anyone else . . . so why had she wandered off from the stable?

Link walked over to the stable, and stopped as he saw hoof prints in the dirt. With a frown, he crouched, and nodded as he saw a series of additional prints: the flat-soled impressions of small sandals, of a familiar size, which set the boy's mind at ease.

"Ilia," he remarked, and Fado nodded in understanding.

"I thought I saw her headed up this way earlier," the rancher remarked. "Ah, well, if she went and took Epona, she's probably at the spring. I tell you, that girl likes your horse almost as much as you do." Link nodded and stood up, and waved to Fado.

"I'll be back in a bit," he told the rancher. Fado nodded, patted his assistant on the back, and headed back to the south, toward the village proper, while Link started along the worn dirt trail leading through the outer edges of the Faron Woods.

The forest was quiet and peaceful, and enjoyably shaded this morning. Link took his time, ambling through the woods he loved, and walked down the long trail threading through the wood. After twenty minutes, the trail broke in two, one part leading to the west, and a few minutes of following that path led the boy toward the freshwater spring that blessed the Ordon Province. Much like the sacred spring in the Faron Woods, it was a source of healing and life for all that surrounded it, and Link knew his friend loved to spend time in its peaceful ambiance.

The boy was not surprised to see Epona's vibrant red coat as he neared the spring, and nor was he surprised to see the girl standing next to the mare, running a fine-toothed brush through her mane. She was slender, with pale skin and curly blonde hair, and glittering green eyes, and her lithe hands moved with ease as she tended to the horse, who happily accepted her care. Barely any younger than Link, she was clad in a simple tan cotton dress, and stood shin-deep in the clear spring water as she washed the horse, using the brush and a small ceramic pitcher of water. As she worked, her eyes spotted Link peeking through the edge of the trees, and she waved to him.

"Hey, Link," she called, and he stepped out of the trees and walked toward the pair, his bare feet sloshing through the cool spring water.

"I saw Epona looked like she needed a bath after you and Rusl went out yesterday," she explained, her voice soft and gentle as she brushed the horse. "I know how forgetful you get with all the work you do, so I washed her for you." Link nodded, smiling at her thoughtfulness, though he also knew she had done this because of her affection for the horse. Regardless, Ilia had done a wonderful job of cleaning Epona's coat and mane.

"Epona is a girl too," Ilia added as she finished. "So you have to treat her nice like one." Link nodded again as he walked around the tall, proud horse, and though he chose not to let on, he did understand the hidden meaning of Ilia's words. They had always been good friends for as long as they had known each other, and some of the kids in the village whispered giggling gossip about the pair. While Link cared for Ilia as a friend, and the feeling was mutual, he wasn't sure if he considered her more than that yet. But the girl had been saying small things here and there, and Link had been listening closely, and maybe it really was time to consider becoming more than just friends.

But not right now, with Fado needing the work done at the ranch. With a nod to Ilia in thanks for cleaning up Epona, Link climbed up on the side of the horse and settled on her back. He tugged the reins, and Epona reared back, both forward legs raised into the air, and spun, her hooves hitting the water hard. Ilia let out a cry of surprise as some of the water splashed on her.

"Link!" she shouted in mild anger, to which he burst out laughing, and a moment later Ilia joined in as well. With a wave, the boy departed, heading back up the forest trails to the village. Within a couple of minutes, Link and Epona had passed the boy's house and started into the village itself.

It was a quiet, peaceful little place, and in their many training sessions Rusl had explained that he'd come to Ordon because it was so different from the rest of Hyrule, separated by thick forests and a deep gorge and thus far removed from the hustle and bustle of the lands around the castle itself. For Link, though, Ordon was as it had always been, a place of cheer and friendship, where the whole village worked together and helped each other, living day to day with relative ease and little concern beyond their own matters.

The village itself wasn't that large, but it was beautiful. The houses were all constructed of wood timbers, with pastel paints marking many of the homes. Vibrant green grass and tilled fields of huge orange pumpkins surrounded the scattered houses, and running through the center of the village was large, deep stream, fed from the natural Ordon spring.

Along the road, Link could see the large, brightly painted Sera's Sundries, Ordon's main shop, which serviced the whole village, and the center of what commerce the village actually had. It was run by a large, portly red-haired woman named Sera, along with her husband, Hanch, and their daughter Beth. All three were out, with Hanch and Beth tending to the pumpkin patch beside their house while Sera swept off the dirt path that led to the front of her home. The woman heard Epona's hooves on the ground, and perked up as she recognized the sound.

"Hey, Link!" she called, and he nodded back with a smile. "You going to help Fado today, dear? I heard he's been having all kinds of trouble with those goats lately."

"Yeah," Link replied. "Surprised he keeps it under control when I'm out in the woods."

"Oh, I know," Sera said, shaking her head. "Have you seen any of those dirty monkeys running around in the woods lately? They keep stealing stuff from my store and causing so much more of a mess around this village. Hanch can't do a darn thing to stop them, either!" As she spoke, the portly woman directed a glare at her thin husband, who looked away.

"Well, I'm not a sprinter," the dark-haired man grunted, and Sera shook her head again.

"You take care, Link," she said as the boy continued riding on, and Link smiled and nodded. He continued down the road into the village, heading for the bridge that spanned the gap across the stream. By the banks of the stream, he spotted Rusl, who was sitting in the grass with a long fishing rod in his hand, and instructing a golden-haired boy of about eight years. Behind them were two more boys, one big and brawny, and the other tiny, little more than a toddler.

"Morning, Link!" the old swordsman called, waving to his pupil. The boy nodded in reply to his teacher.

"Fishing?" he asked, and Rusl shrugged.

"Showing Colin how to do it, actually," Rusl said, reaching across and tussling the blond boy's hair. The boy laughed as he tried to fix his shaggy hair, and Rusl nodded toward the other two boys. "Don't know where these two scamps came from, though."

"We were just watching," muttered the bigger boy, a kid named Talo. Along with his younger brother, Malo, the two were the sons of Jaggle, the town's wood-worker. Like his father, Talo was squat but bulky, as was Malo, though the younger child had still not begun to grow enough to resemble his brother or father in terms of bulk and muscle.

"Oh, hey, Link!" Talo added, before link could continue past them. "Rusl said you could show us some sword tricks!"

"He did?" Link asked, glancing at the old man, who grinned and cast his line again. Link then looked back to Talo, and nodded. "Maybe after I get done helping Fado today, okay?"

"Yeah!" Talo said, pumping a fist in the air. The kid was enthusiastic, and had been enthralled by watching Link and Rusl's training. Though he was still too young to wield a sword, he was showing a lot of interest. Rusl had mused about teaching the boy as well, but only after he got a little older. After all, Link hadn't started until his mid teens . . . .

"Good morning, Link," came a call to the boy's right, and Link looked up, to see Uli, Rusl's wife, walking along the foot trail from their house. Like her son Colin, her hair was a bright yellow, and she was taller than most of the men and women in Ordon, having come from the more populous regions of Hyrule. Her belly was swollen with the pair's second child, and had been for months.

"Morning," Link said, and nodded toward her bulging stomach. "How far along?"

"Sera's thinking any week now, actually," Uli said, patting her belly. "Rusl's trying to hide it, but he's anxious to get it over with!" Link smiled and nodded and continued on as Uli went to her husband and son along the creek. As he rode, Link waved to Jaggle, who was out tending to his pumpkin patch, in front of his house on the other side of the stream. The squat wood-worker grinned and waved back, calling a morning greeting to the boy. Link called back, and rode on over the bridge, passing near the biggest house in the village, a large two-story building of polished wood.

"Mornin', Link," said the large, bald man towering on the building's porch as he spied the approaching rider. Mayor Bo was the leader of Ordon Village, serving as its spokesman mostly due to the large degree of respect and intelligence he wielded. The third best fighter in the village behind Link and Rusl, he was also a powerful physical specimen, towering over everyone else and his beefy body covered with muscles. Lately he had been slacking off, but Link knew the burly mayor could easily bench more than any two other villagers put together; Bo even boasted that he had bested the huge, rock-like Goron people in a wrestling match back in his prime. Link, having never seen a Goron before, wasn't sure what to make of that claim, but he didn't doubt it.

"Fado's been having a mess of trouble up at the ranch lately," Bo added, shaking his head as he walked down off his porch. "You're goin' up to help him out, I hope."

"Yes sir," Link replied, and Bo nodded, stroking his blond mustache.

"By the way, you seen my daughter? She was headin' up your way earlier, and hasn't come back yet."

"Ilia was taking care of Epona at the Ordon spring," Link said, patting the mare's neck. Bo grinned, happy at that news.

"I thought Epona was looking awfully pretty today. You don't mess her up helping Fado today, alri-"

"Whooooooooooooooooa! Goat got loose! Someone stop it!"

As Fado's distant voice was echoing through the village, both mayor and ranch hand looked up along the trail leading toward the pastures, and spotted a large horned beast running toward the village. Link immediately dismounted, knowing that using Epona would simply cause the panicked animal to run sidelong, possibly into the deep stream, and instead jumped ahead into its path. Before Bo could move to help him, the great horned goat crashed into Link head on.

Though the animal was large, weighing more than Link, the rancher had set his legs, digging the balls of his feet into the dirt and clenching his toes, and both his hands clasped the goat's horns as it collided with him. Furrows dug into the ground as the goat pushed Link back, but the boy grunted, his arms strained, and he held his position for several seconds, before suddenly pivoting, turning the goat's momentum against it. He flexed his arms as he spun, and the goat's own momentum lifted it up into the air as Link twirled. He released the horns as he spun, and the animal flipped through the air and collided heavily on its side.

The goat lay there for a moment, totally confused at what had just happened, and as it stood up the rancher walked around behind it. He waved his hands, whooping, and the surprised and pacified animal started back up toward the ranch, bewildered but calmed. The "grab, spin, and throw" was a trick Ordon ranchers had developed a long time ago, when they realized that Ordon goats were not very intelligent and became easily confused when they were thrown aside, and quickly pacified as a result.

"Now that was a good toss," Bo remarked, and Link chuckled as he walked back toward his horse. "These goats have been awfully skittish lately. Something's spookin' them, and now we've got these thieving monkeys sneaking into the village and causing mischief too. All kinds of trouble." Bo paused, and then grinned.

"Oh, by the way, Rusl mentioned something about you delivering our tribute to Hyrule Castle, didn't he?" Link nodded. "Good! I think a nice traveling vacation would do you some good out there. Get out of town, see Hyrule Castle for yourself. I tell you, the stories and the drawings, they do not do the thing justice." Bo stopped, and the mayor chuckled.

"Listen to me ramble. Hurry up and help Fado get these scamps in the barn for milking, before the whole herd stampedes down here!"

Fado hadn't been joking about the goat herd being obstinate. In fact, it would have been more accurate to say the goats were rioting.

"Whoa whoa whoa!" Over Fado's yelling and the thunder of Epona's hooves, Link could hear the howls and bleating of the horned goats. The rancher was running to and fro, herding a wild and unresponsive mass of horns, fur, and legs every which way. The animals did little to heed his calls, and Link found himself amazed that only one of the creatures had gotten loose already.

Epona's hooves hammered the dirt as Link closed in, his eyes flicking over the herd, and he angled toward one end of the mass of goats. Fado spotted him and waved, and jabbed a finger toward the barn. Link nodded, and as the goat herder hurried toward the barn doors and moved inside, Link swept toward the goats, whooping and yelling.

Though large and stubborn, the goats were much smaller than the huge, imposing Epona, whose sheer speed and bright crimson hair helped intimidate the obstinate animals. Goats that refused to listen to Fado fled before Link's shouting and Epona's bulk, and the boy circled around the outer edge of the herd, forcing them toward the barn. Over their protesting and frightened bleats, Link continued shouting and circling, and the goats began to file into the barn, the skilled rider's movements making the doorway the only direction they could go to escape. Inside, Fado worked to guide the goats into their individual stables as they filed inside.

It took Link half an hour to round up all the goats, but they were all brought inside the barn well before noon.

"Wow, that was fast," Fado muttered, clapping his hands to get the grime off them. "You tryin' to set a new record for yourself, Link?" the boy chuckled as he and Fado walked through the barn and back outside.

"Well," Fado said, looking around the pasture. "Today's milkin' day, and the scamps are gonna be inside all day long while I take care of 'em. Since we got done so early, I'll be able to finish up quick enough. Why don't you take the rest of the day off, huh?"

"Sure," Link said, nodding. Checking around the ranch to make sure everything was fine, the boy bid Fado a farewell and headed back out into the village, his work for the day finished. It had been a while since he had most of the day off; he wasn't sure of exactly what he'd do with it. Maybe he could find Ilia, and . . . .

"Link!" came a shout, and he looked up, to see Malo, Talo, and Beth running toward him. He sighed, remembering that Rusl had foisted entertaining the kids upon him earlier.

"You said you would show us how to fight with a sword, right?" Malo asked, his voice remarkably deep for such a small boy.

"Yeah, we want to know what to do if we see another of those nasty monkeys in the village!" Talo added.

"Alright, alright," Link said, holding up a hand to calm the kids. "My house, let me get my sword." The eager trio chased after Link as he rode back through the village and toward his home. Once he arrived, he headed inside, and returned a couple of minutes later with a blade in a scabbard at his right hip and a large wooden dummy in hand. He climbed back down, one hand holding the dummy while descending with the other, and set the dummy in the middle of the small pasture.

"Okay," Link said, looking toward the waiting children. He drew his blade and held it before them in his dominant left hand, and they stared at the weapon with rapt attention. It was a short blade, only about two feet in length, and wasn't particularly beautiful or ornate, but it was sharp enough to cut, and it worked at its job.

"This is just a short sword," he explained. "Its what I train with usually. Rusl hasn't forged me a big sword yet." He turned toward the dummy, and considered what to show them. They were just kids, not here for instruction, but just entertainment.

"Now, with the sword, there's three basic attacks," Link explained, sliding into an even guard, both legs spaced out at shoulder width, his left leg forward. If he'd been carrying a shield, he would have reversed the position, but with no shield he was relying on his blade for defense.

"The slash," he said, and his arm flew up in a horizontal cut, the edge of his blade digging into the wood of the human-shaped dummy's side.

"The simplest attack. You swing the sharp end at your enemy and slice them open. The second attack is the thrust." His arm stabbed forward, the blade's tip burying into the center of the dummy's "chest."

"This attack works best with small blades, but it can work with larger ones. Its just awkward. Now, the third attack . . . ."

Link grasped the small blade in both hands, and edged back a step, and then rushed forward, chopping down with both hands, and the blade dug deep inside the dummy's head with a low thunk.

"The cleave," he said, "uses the weight of the blade and sheer power to cut into the enemy."

He glanced back at the children, to see them all watching him with apt attention, even Malo. With a tight grin, he prepared to finish the display with a trick Rusl had taught him, one that had taken a long time for Link to perfect.

"Now, watch this," he explained, and crouched. "Get a good distance back." As the kids scampered back away from him, Link slowly extended his sword out behind him, and closed his eyes. He released his breath, inhaled, and then went completely still, focusing on himself and his blade. His mind sharpened and concentrated, and he touched the very core of his being. Rusl had taught him basic meditation and how to access the latent power of the sprit, what he had described as chi. and directed that power down his blade. As the children watched, a line of light spread down Link's sword, reaching he tip and converging into a glowing point.

With a snarl, the boy stepped forward, and whipped his blade around in a wild spinning arc, the chi erupting forth in a blasting wave of light. As Link finished the attack, he looked upon the dummy, to see the thing ripped clear out of the ground and hurled across the pasture.

"Whoa!" the children all said at once, and scrambled forward, surrounding Link..

"So, that's what we do if we see one of those nasty monkeys!" Talo said, pumping his fist in the air.

"Yeah, like you could ever hit something with a sword," Malo muttered.

"I don't need a sword!" Talo shot back. "I'd just get me a big stick and beat those wimpy monkeys into a pulp! Right, Link?" The swordsman grinned and chuckled, and as he did so, he caught a bit of movement at the edge of his vision, along the trail leading into the forest. There, he spotted a gray-furred, humanoid creature lurking at the border of the woods, watching the group of children. Talo noticed where he was looking, and followed his eyes to spot the creature as well. As soon as he did so, the boy jumped in surprise and excitement, and jabbed a finger at the creature.

"A monkey!" he shouted, and the other children saw it as well. At the sound of his voice, the animal spooked and dashed back into the woods, and Talo burst into a sprint after it. "Get back here!" Malo and Beth started running after him, and Link followed a moment later, still startled by Talo's impulsive reaction. The children had already disappeared into the woods by the time Link plunged into the trees.

It took Link only a few minutes to catch up with the children as they crashed through the wood, and he found Beth and Malo had stopped, panting heavily, neither of them able to keep up with the spry Talo.

"Talo ran on ahead," the girl said, pointing down the trail. "He crossed the bridge and into Faron Woods." Link sighed, and checked his sword to make sure it was still in its sheath, and then nodded to her and Malo.

"Don't worry, I'll go find him and bring him back." Link started off after Talo, and hoped the kid hadn't gotten into any trouble running into the Faron Woods by himself.

"They have seized the lower levels!" The frenzied shout came from the entrance to the chamber as dozens of wounded and battered soldiers stumbled inside, their armor rent in places by inhuman claws. She firmed her jaw as she saw the remnants of her own personal guard retreat into the throne room; beyond the immense double doors of stone and metal, smoke rose into the sky as parts of the castle burned.

"The battlements have been taken, my lady," reported another soldier, rushing up to her side. "Our troops have been routed!"

"The entire lower floor had been taken?" she asked, and lowered her hand to the scabbard at her side. The officer nodded grimly.

"We cannot retreat," he said, but as he spoke, the soldier took his sword in hand.

"Then we shall hold here," she replied, and turned, striding toward the throne at the center of the vast, vaulting chamber. Her men gathered quickly, as they heard the sounds of battle below, ascending up the long stairwells that led to the highest part of the castle. Grim-faced soldiers turned to face the heavy doors, their large metal shields raised and pikes and swords in hand.

"Let them come," she shouted, standing before her throne, and drew her slender blade. Her best soldiers gathered before her and at the foot of the throne, while the rest formed up before the doors, ready for battle. Though they were afraid, she saw that none of her men wavered, and their blades and pikes were held with steady hands.

"Hold here!" an officer shouted, raising his blade. "Give them nothing! Take from them everything!" The soldiers let out a unified shout of agreement, but went silent when they heard, and saw, the enemy that had swept through their defenses, appearing inside their greatest fortress without warning.

Darkness jetted into the chamber, flashing forward and engulfing the first rank of troops, who let out cries of shock. Shouts and orders to hold could be heard, and before her throne, the woman clenched her teeth, hands tightening over her sword. For an instant, there was silence.

They came. Horrible, hulking things of blackness and shadow billowed forth from the encroaching darkness, swarming upon the first ranks of warriors like wolves would fall upon sheep. They burst upon the defenders with shocking quickness, closing and crashing into the soldiers in an eyeblink.

With roars of defiance, the soldiers met them head-on, shields high and weapons striking. Their swords cut, and their pikes thrust, the men banishing all fear in defense of their leader against these black abominations.

But all the courage and all the defiance was for nothing. Swords fell and pikes struck, and were turned aside, long, sinewy limbs crashing through defenses, crumpling armor, and blasting aside parrying weapons. Soldiers were hurled off their feet, smashed down into the ground, lifted up by their throats and crushed in their enemies' grasp.

In four seconds, the entire remaining Royal Guard were down, dead, unconscious, or held in the grip of their silent, monstrous foes. Beasts stood at the base of the steps leading toward her throne, watching the few remaining troops and the lone woman with sightless heads.

Then, from the darkness, he came, walking forward with two mighty monsters of darkness flanking him. Wide, long sleeves and a loose, rustling robe of black and glowing green lines wreathed his body, obscuring his shape; were it not for the spindly legs and long arms hidden in the sleeves, it wouldn't have been clear if he was even as vaguely humanoid as his servants. An immense, pointed helmet of metal topped his shoulders and head, with bulging, sculpted eyes halfway up its length. There was no way to tell what he looked like beneath the large, loose clothing and armor, but she had her suspicions.

"Now the time has come for you to choose," a booming, deep voice spoke, resonating from within the helmet. "Surrender, or die."

She remained silent for a long moment, and watched the struggles of those men still alive, held aloft in the mighty beasts' hands. She turned her eyes back toward the figure at the center of the room, imposing and dark despite his small stature compared with his minions. It seemed that he sensed her hesitation, and continued.

"Oh, yes. It is a question not only reserved for you, Princess, but for all the people and lands of Hyrule." He paused, and though she couldn't see his face, she knew that he was smiling.

"Life?" he asked. "Or death?"

Her guards looked to her, uncertain of her next choice. The air remained tense and thick, and she could smell blood in the air. Her eyes turned to the fallen, and then to the back of her right hand, before turning her gaze toward the dark man glaring at her from behind his great helmet.

"What choice is this?" she whispered. Either way, she realized as she looked at him, they were doomed. Already she could see the sky changing outside, the blue sky turning red and the white clouds shifting to an ominous black.

Permanent death, or watch my Kingdom slip into eternal undeath at his hands?

The long seconds stretched past, and finally, Princess Zelda, ruler of Hyrule, lowered her hand, and her sword fell to the marble at her feet.

Before the last echoes of the clattering blade disappeared, the spreading twilight engulfed the castle, the soldiers, the invaders . . . and her.

This initial chapter took quite a bit of work for me to do properly, and even then, I felt a little "off" as I finished it. An important thing I was aiming for with this chapter was to properly depict Ordon Village and its inhabitants without bloating the narrative; in all my time writing I've learne dthat when one is writing a novelization one has to strike a critical balance between depicting what it in the game in order to evoke the feelings and sense of a particular location or character without bogging the story down too much. This is especially difficult for Ordon Village, for while the village's people are all interesting characters they have comparatively little bearing on the actual plot, but have an important background role in Twilight's story, as I feel Link does a lot of what he does in the game for his hometown; much like the hobbits in the Lord of the Rings stories, Link always has his home in the back of his mind as he journeys across Hyrule. Thus I had to introduce the characters of the village without getting too deep into them; for this reason I partially compressed everything in the introduction, cutting out some of the minor tasks Link performed in the village at the beginning of the game. As nice a set of items as the fishing rod and slingshot are, they don't have much bearing on Link's actual adventure.

You'll notice that I made a few modifications to Link's own arsenal, such as the short sword instead of the wooden blade. This is mostly because the wooden blade isn't that effective of a weapon, and I have a notorious tendency to give my characters backup weapons (Squall's handgun and knives in Gunblade, Master Chief's combat kniife in Arbiter, etc) Maybe I've been watching too much 300, too. Speaking of that, there's a 300 quote thrown into this chapter, too. Points if you find it.

Finally, to address an issue brought up by a review from the prologue: as far as I am aware, I am following canon. There is very little spoken of within the game as to what went on surrounding Ganondorf's capture and execution at the hands of the Sages; they themselves simply state that he attempted to invade Hyrule with an army of thieves to usurp the Sacred Realm, was exposed, captured, and to be executed. No mention whatsoever is made of Link, Zelda, or a timeframe surrounding when he was defeated and captured, so anything else relating to this is fan theory, and not in-game canonical information. Its hard to break canon when there is no canon to break, and my personal interpretation is as valid as anyone else's unless I get an actual in-game source saying otherwise. Similarly, when I mentioned the Twilight Mirror and the "underworld" in the prologue, I was quoting direct from when Link meets Auru in Twilight, right before heading for the Gerudo Desert, where he says, very bluntly and clearly, that the Twilight Mirror is used to banish condemned criminals into "the underworld." If you have an issue with this, take it up with the game's own dialogue.

I have put extensive research and thought into the game and the story for this work; before taking issue with the factual accuracy of what I present in this story, please do some research as well. I'm currently using a complete game script compiled by an obsessive Zelda enthusiast to help me write this story, in order to ensure I am operating at peak factual accuracy; the only times I will be breaking canon is when I need to do so to smooth out the narrative or make the story more interesting, as I've done with Gunblade, Mako, and The Arbiter.

I made a pretty blunt and stupid mistake this chapter when I referred to Epona as a stallion in the initial version. I'm working on ironing that little kink out right now . . . this version of the chapter should be correct, though I may miss things at times. Thanks for catching that, andif there's any other mentions of "stallion" where there should be "mare," let me know!

Until next chapter . . . .