Disclaimer: The Legend of Zelda belongs to Nintendo. Period. No questions asked.
"Hey, Link! Are you up yet? It's morning already!"
It's too early for this, Link thought to himself, eyes still closed. He lay there for a few minutes, reluctant to rise, bathed in the light shining in from the one window of his house. He sighed, stretching out over the soft fibers of the rug, paws vibrating slightly as he extended his legs away.
"LINK! Hello up there!"
Recognizing young Talo's voice shouting from outside, Link allowed his eyelids to lift away the darkness, peacefully viewing the roughly carved interior of his house, the wall carvings, the tattered red shade hanging gracelessly from the window. His blurred blue eyes were somewhat crossed, noticing with some confusion the tip of his black nose sticking from his gray furred muzzle.
He quickly stood up on all fours, opening his teeth filled maw to let out a deep, cavernous yawn. Shaking his mane-like ruff, his wolf ears pricked forward when the boy's voice came again, this time with more impatience.
"Are you gonna come down or what?"
He nearly answered Talo's call with a growl, but sleep no longer clouded his mind and he caught himself just in time. With an agile leap he jumped down from his raised bedpost, ignoring the ladder, and landed on his feet in front of a glass case set up against the wall.
It was a clear, diamond-like surface, resting on an old oak table Rusl had built for him many years ago. Inside the glass, a gem of some kind levitated, its cool obsidian surface glittering an iridescent liquid black.
Link used his nose to tilt the glass case over enough to uncover the gem, then in his mind uttered the familiar spell:
...Lupus velut luna...
His body darkened, the shadow particles gathering in a cloud, his back arched back to a humanoid's erect shape, his eyes, though remaining the same blue, surrendered their slanted shape to become more ovaled. The tawny gray fur disappeared, giving way to a forest green tunic, roughly knitted flax pants, and leather boots worn over what used to be his back paws. His senses all became dulled; his eyesight revealed more color hues, his sense of smell was greatly reduced, and the hearing that once allowed him to hear a tree whisper in the breeze became less acute. The shadow dissapated within seconds, and the wolf that stood there before emerged as a man.
Link rose on two legs, eying the gem again. It's glossy black surface was now lined with glowing trails of orange, and tiny traces of heat wafted forth as the little object quivered with the powerful magic it now contained.
I fell asleep as a wolf again, Link thought sheepishly to himself. I'm getting more use out of this thing than I ever thought possible, especially since I returned home.
He could easily recall the life-changing events that changed his life close to one year ago. Starting with his first encounter with the Twilight, he befriended the imp Midna and traveled to the ends of Hyrule, in a quest than began with the rescue of his friends, the village children. As time crept on, the journey became a race for survival; the usurper Zant was destroyed and Ganondorf defeated, at least for a time. Midna was freed of the curse that had binded her, and thus was able to return to her world to rule the Twili in peace. Before going through the Twilight Mirror, her last gift to Link was the very shadow gem that enabled his transformation into a wolf.
"Keep it close," she said. "Never speak of it to others. This is for your eyes only."
Then she stepped through the Twilight Mirror, shattering it as she disappeared, destroying the last connection between the two worlds. To this day, Link could not fathom her reasons for doing it. He suspected that she wanted to prevent history from possibly repeating itself, to keep light and shadow separated as they were meant to be. Although Princess Zelda's words remained in his thoughts: "Light and shadow are two sides of the same coin. One cannot exist without the other." Link also believed, without a doubt, that as Midna crossed into the other world, shattering the Mirror with a single glistening tear, she had nearly told him she loved him. A fleeting possibility, Link convinced himself. Even though he cared for Midna dearly as a close friend, he could not bring himself to say he loved her in return.
Yet, Link's heart ached with the pain of Midna's absence, as she had literally ridden in his shadow for nearly his entire journey.
The only thing he had left to remember her by was this powerful gem, which gave him the ability to transform into his wolf form whenever he wished. Though Midna had been in charge of its use before, prior to her departure, she taught Link how to use it properly. By touching the gem with his bare skin, he would revert to a wolf. Then, when he wanted to resume his human shape, he simply had to say the spell, Lupis velut luna, though being a wolf and unable to speak verbally, he could think the spell and it would have the same effect.
"Link!! Are you even up there?!" Talo's precocious voice had a nervous edge to it now.
Drawn out of his reverie, Link answered, "Coming!" His voice was hoarse from lack of use. He took an old quilt from the shelf on the wall and draped it over the glass case, hiding the glow. Trusting Midna's words, he had not told his secret to anyone in Ordon, not even Rusl, though he knew if he kept on changing back and forth, the sharp old man may catch a whiff of secrecy. Rubbing the sleep from his eyes, he strode to his door and opened it up, now ready to meet with the village children.
"It's about time!" The boy called Talo remarked as Link stepped down from the ladder. "What took you?"
"I was down in the basement," Link lied smoothly. "Hiding the slingshot."
"You couldn't let us take a few more shots with it?" pleaded Malo, Talo's younger brother.
Link chuckled with sarcasm. "No. Last time you did, you whacked old Pergie upside the head." He laughed as the boys shuddered at this memory.
"We got scolded something awful," said Malo. "But Talo was the one who did it."
"It was an accident!" Talo growled. "I was aiming for the sign above Mum's head. I bet I could get it right this time!"
Link shook his head, smiling, and began to walk toward the village. "Well, I'm not going to give it back until we can set up some new targets," he said. "Far away from the village."
He heard the boys groan dejectedly behind him. He was conscious of the fact that his role among the villagers had changed somewhat since his return. Not everyone knew the full extent of his travels; in fact, only Rusl and Uli knew exactly what he had gone through. Link had decided to keep some of these incredible events private, with the inclusion of the shadow gem. Even so, he had become more authoritive to the children, especially Malo and Talo, since they got into the most trouble. He knew they did not mean it, but it hurt him slightly when he heard the boys mutter "Funcrusher," or "Tattletale," under their breaths.
"Well, since we don't have the slingshot, at least take us through the woods, like you promised," said Malo.
"Yeah, can we?" asked Talo, sounding excited again. "I wanna see some of those monsters you fight, Link! Show 'em what we're made of!"
"Talo, I don't fight monsters," Link told him. "At least not anymore. I'm not going to look for trouble to get into. My sword is only used defensively. But..." he grinned. "I suppose we can take a walk through the deeper places of the wood."
"Yeah!" Talo cheered triumphantly. "Let's go right now!"
"Yes, lets," agreed Malo.
"Fine," said Link. "But let me go invite Colin to go with us."
Both Talo and Malo groaned again. "No, not Colin!" Talo complained. "He ruins everything. He'll just keep telling us to be careful, and go back, and stuff! He's no fun!"
"I agree," said Malo. "Let's go without him."
"Now, guys," Link told them sternly. "I think Colin would like to come with us. And besides, he could easily be ready to show his courage again in case either of you get into trouble."
The comment struck Talo and Malo hard. Talo glowed red, thinking about Colin's brave actions back in Kakariko, then murmured, "Okay, he can come."
"Glad you changed you mind," Link said brightly. "I'll go get him now."