Second Full Revision Notes: I re-re-standardized chapter formatting to make it consistent through book 1 and 2. I re-edited everything to reflect plot decisions made years after the first few chapters were written, although this didn't involve any particular amount of retroactive continuity changes. I finally got around to fixing dozens of tiny mistakes, although I can't guarantee ffnet's interpretation of my word processor's formatting language won't randomly remove spaces around italicized text, among other small eccentricities. Finally, I removed large sections of author's notes detailing previews for new chapters and future plans and replaced them with personal commentary on the respective chapters, at least where these comments did not already exist. In other words, if you haven't reread the story recently, now is a good chance to get caught up in time for the conclusion to book 2.

If you have never read this story before, the chapter-end notes sections may spoil the plot somewhat, so skip them if you care about that sort of thing.

First Full Revision Notes: (outdated) I re-standardized chapter formatting and renumbered the chapters to divide them into parts, reflecting the lengthened story plan. I also made some minor alterations, including renaming Reanalds Jr. and the Prince of Ghent, as well as quite a bit of spot-revision. Almost certainly, this is not the only revision notes entry I'll ever have to make.

Original Forward:

I hope you all like this. I think you'll find my writing style pretty word-heavy, but I can assure you that I have a plot that's going places. Give it a chance. Events are post Twilight Princess, which is property of Nintendo. I've taken liberties with explaining the political situation before and after Zant seized control of Hyrule and imprisoned Zelda, so read carefully.

The Golden Power

Chapter 1: Chosen of the Gods

Reanalds Mansion, Hyrule Province

"Your Majesty, this week's reports from the borders have arrived." The aged minister in his fine robes set a stack of sealed envelopes on the corner of Zelda's desk. He waited quietly for some acknowledgment from his monarch, and at length was dismissed with a wave. If he had a problem with his brief treatment, he wisely kept it to himself. None of the old ministers had taken well to the way Princess Zelda had asserted her authority so suddenly after the mysterious incident of two months past, but those who had protested her new-found enthusiasm for running the state she had inherited from her father quickly found themselves without a job. The smart ones had buttoned up and let her claim the burden of power from them without question, if not without grumbling.

Zelda was left alone with the rows and piles of paperwork arrayed around her as the wind blew gently into her study through the open doors of her balcony. The wind played through her long hair in its regal braids, and rustled the silken expanses of her official gown. It took an hour every morning with a team of three servants to achieve the look, but the effect it had on people was perfectly worth the effort. And then as small a thing as opening the windows added an effect you couldn't buy.

Out below her windows, Hyrule Castle and the town around it nestled in the verdant valley carved by Nayrue's River. The Reanalds' Hyrulian estate was built on the highest canyon cliff of the brief foothills between Castle Town and the Faron Forest. The view allowed her to survey her domain and to watch the constant progress on the castle's repairs, and was a feature of her current lodgings that the princess appreciated… perhaps the only one.

"Ah, Princess Zelda, if I might have a moment of your time?" a new voice called at Zelda's open door, and her pen stopped its progress at the missive she'd been writing. It was an effort not to wince as she set it aside and turned to face the invading enemy forces, as she couldn't help but consider the young Lord Reanalds Jr.

"You've taken one every other day this week, David," the Princess allowed herself a quiet rebellion against the necessities of this barely tolerable living situation, and as she suspected, the revolution went entirely unnoticed. To call David Reanalds stupid was to give him too much credit.

"It is my family's great pleasure to host her majesty's presence in our humble abode while the palace is being rebuilt." The young man was tall, athletic, and had a jaw you could crack nuts on. But, even as he spoke his kind, empty words, Zelda could hear his insufferable mother forcing him to memorize them. They had that subtle ring of uncertainty he never managed to lose when he was reciting from a script.

That he had missed her not-so subtle annoyance so completely was a testament to how poor a student of his mother's he truly was, and that knowledge made the young fool marginally tolerable in her eyes. She knew the manipulative old cow wanted nothing more than to worm her way into the royal family's good graces, unless it was to have her son marry into it directly, and her efforts were becoming intolerable. There was a throat-clearing sound, and Zelda looked up to see David waiting patiently with his simple smile. With a huff, she silently berated herself for taking out her problems with Lady Reanalds on the woman's unwitting accomplice.

"It is my great pleasure to be here, David," Zelda lied politically, "It was… kind of your family to take on the burden of hosting the royal presence during these trying times."

"Think nothing of it," he said, nearly glowing with pride at even that simple compliment. Zelda, meanwhile, could think of a hundred places she'd rather be than cooped up in the country villa of a stuffy old landlord like David Reanalds Senior, the current Earl of Ordonia. Politics, as usual, stepped in to complicate simple matters, and the young monarch found herself forced to play to her landed nobility's vanity as a show of national solidarity. There were times when she almost wished she were a captive of Zant or Gannondorf again, if only to escape from the mewling of courtiers and the mask-like smiles of people who could recite their exact lineages to at least ten generations.

"My Lady," the lordling went on again in his careful, practiced tone, as Zelda's mind continued to dwell on her upsetting circumstances, "it would bring myself and my esteemed family the highest honor if your majesty would deign to grace our upcoming garden party with her regal presence."

"Oh? Really?" Zelda said, before she could stop herself, and earned a look of confusion from her host. She cursed her annoyance-loosened tongue immediately; not even a simpleton like David would miss some extremes of rudeness. "That is to say, I have been very busy with matters of state, ever since the May incident was resolved."

'The May Incident,' as the quiet little war between Hyrule's various children of prophecy had been so artfully dubbed, was mostly a complete mystery to the general public. The number of people who knew any detail of Zelda's coerced surrender to Zant could be numbered on two hands, satisfied as the madman had been to work his puppet kingdom through figureheads and agents while his foul twilight magics discreetly corrupted the land. His spells had reduced all of Hyrule's people to shadow spirits without them ever being any the wiser.

As far as the average Hylian on the street was concerned, Hyrule Castle had been leveled during a failed, month-long test of the orange barrier shield that had cut off communications with the castle for the duration. None needed to know that a mad sorcerer embodying the sacred golden force of Power had seized complete control of the monarchy, and so not a soul was told. Whisperings from the multitude of staff that had been driven from the castle after Zant's coup were quickly silenced with rupees and stern warnings from the guards. Carefully chosen counter-rumors were spread to cast doubt on whatever rumors of the truth leaked out despite these efforts to silence witnesses, and so of the five or six conspiracy theories that competed for popularity in explaining the May Incident, only the least popular one was anywhere near the truth. As work began on reconstructing the largely ruined seat of Hyrule's dynastic leaders, life went on everywhere else more or less as it always had. And so the people were blissful in their ignorance.

"Ah, yes…" David was slightly downcast at her oblique evasion of the question, "So I should tell mother that you will not be attending then?" Zelda thought fast, weighing the satisfaction of snubbing the old bag against any public perception of trouble that might arise should she continue to dodge social functions. As had been happening more and more often lately, she felt a flash of insight that gave her the answer. Weirdness had ruled the land for months, and it was her responsibility as monarch to lead the public back to a sense of business as usual.

"No, no, not at all…" Zelda fought to keep a straight face as she said, "I would be happy to attend. Please do have it cleared with my valet, arrangements will have to be made."

"Excellent!" the someday-Earl of Ordonia barely restrained himself from a giddy little dance, and Zelda heroically contained the urge to wince. "Mother will be overjoyed! I shall personally see that it is an afternoon to remember!"

As soon as the pretty pest was out of her hair, Zelda turned back and finished drafting her missive, earmarking it for her secretary to send to the scribes. It touched on many issues, but was in largest part instructions to the captain of Castle Town's guard force to cooperate with the new military minister on the effort to step up recruitment and training. The goddesses knew those men needed help, after the way they'd gone to seed in recent years.

Even now, a full two months since the dust of the castle had settled and the twilight mirror had been shattered, gangs of moblins and lizardmen still terrorized the trade routes and prowled in the untamed countryside. Trade had been suffering badly for nearly half a year, and it was no longer enough to simply keep the area inside the walls clear of such unreasonable and violent elements. It was not inherent to her nature to greet violence with violence, but that same insight that had been working in her favor of late told her that a refinement of their military was virtually her highest priority.

The country had not been in such a state of chaos since her grandfather's earliest days, as Lord Reanald was fond of harping upon at the family dinners she had no excuse to avoid. Opportunistic nobles saw current troubles as an excuse to grab power from the monarchy, and such was not a situation the young princess could tolerate. She could hardly count on them to manage their provinces fairly as it was, by and large, and Zelda shuddered to think of what greedy men, both inside and outside of the borders, might still do to her wounded nation.

Shaking such dark thoughts from her mind, Zelda gave an apprehensive glance toward the pile of reports that had come in today. The communications lag between here and any given border was such that even these courier-delivered messages were days old, and she could barely contain her dread of some of the boring minutiae her inexperienced observers felt the need to include in their letters. Still, her instinct was to devour the information. Comprehensive intelligence on world affairs was often the difference between a good decision and a poor one, and so the reports were a necessary evil.

As she pored though them, Zelda's mind was left with quite a bit of surplus capacity. Some of it analyzed the data she was so voraciously memorizing, but still more was left over. With no immediate purpose, it wandered slowly to simpler, more exciting times. Affairs of state like these seemed a pale burden of leadership in comparison to the dreadful choices forced upon her by Zant and the fearful struggle with the fiend Gannondorf. Though she had spent much of that time a prisoner of one sort or another, those hard decisions had tempered her mind in a way her life previous to them had never before approached. After placing her very life between evil and the safety of her kingdom, the effort of managing a bureaucracy and dealing with a court of fools and users was almost a joke. It was why she'd suddenly chosen to take on so many more of her royal responsibilities. She was the Princess, soon to be crowned Queen, and this life was as much her fate as had been meeting the Hero Chosen by the Gods and fending off evil in its purest form.

At length, one report caught her eye, drawing every ounce of her concentration, mostly because it detailed suspicious troop movements along their western border. In the far shadow of the natural wall formed by Death Mountain, the Principality of Ghent was supposedly holding wargames to keep their famous armies sharp. It was innocent enough on the surface, but Zelda felt her suspicions rouse none the less, her instinct whispering to her a grim theory. It was true that the Ghentese had to deal with the trolls as much as the Hylians had to deal with moblins, but that was no excuse for mobilizing so much cavalry on a border that had been disputed for hundreds of years. For the moment, it was just one more concern to add to her laundry-list of worries, but it had the potential to mean so much more.

Prince Philip of Ghent was not a stupid man, and doubtless news of Hyrule's troubles had reached his ears as much as it would any other neighboring state's leaders. Any one of them might take the opportunity to gobble up a bit of Hyrule while their guard was down, and this seemed to be the first indication of the scavengers moving in for a nibble at her nation's sovereign territory. It was a sobering thought, and Zelda dwelt on it and others as she watched the shadows grow longer in her study.

For no particular reason at all, a portion of her mind wandered to a certain young man with hard, unyielding eyes the color of clear skies. She couldn't help but wonder for a moment whether or not his life had settled back into calm simplicity as quickly as hers had returned to the litany of worries that was the weight of the crown. In her playful imagination, he was astride that fine mare of his, riding across farmlands in his hero's greens, going about whatever business that a goat wrangler got up to.

Zelda was intelligent enough to realize she was no-doubt romanticizing a life of hard labor, but it was such an utterly enchanting mental image that she allowed herself the moment's indulgence. On another level entirely, she was angry at herself for engaging in such foolishness and for her ignorance of such a simple thing as what goat wranglers actually do. The cocktail of opposing threads of thought and motivations was disorienting, and Zelda was quickly forced to clear her mind completely or face a terrible headache.

With a meditative technique that any sorceress needed to learn, she emptied her mind, and then quickly picked up with matters of state where she'd left off. Rather regretfully, she called for a page to fetch her military and foreign policy ministers for a meeting. Hers was not a life of goat-wrangling, and nothing reminded her of that more quickly than the fact that people would live and die based on the quality of her decisions. Best to make them good ones.

Ordon Village, Ordonia Province

Link kicked back in the soft grass, the afternoon sun shining lazily down on him as he half-dozed on an isolated bank of the little stream that ran through the village. One hand helped to prop up his fishing rod as the other plucked listlessly at a few reeds, and every now and then he'd find a choice one and put it to his lips to chew on for a while. He was wearing his work clothes, which were filthy-dirty from a long, long morning's job at the ranch, but was hardly as tired as he might have been before after the same amount of work. Like most things in his life, the measure of an honest day's work was divided firmly into the before and after, with the divider being his time as the Hero Chosen by the Gods.

Rather predictably, he smiled when he considered that grandiose title. Not even hearing four immortal guardian spirits and his sovereign monarch herself call him that had truly made it sink in, and now it was already over and done with. His epic journey was closed and over for good, and no one would even ever truly know about it. Except… except for the one who had lived it with him, of course. But, Midna was gone, forever.

As he often did when he thought no one was looking, Link pulled at a cord he wore around his neck, freeing a small object from concealment in his shirt. It was a tiny, lusterless fragment of thick glass, the largest shard of the twilight mirror he'd been able to find in the sandy mess of the Arbiter Grounds. A voice of caution had told him it was unwise to keep such a volatile, corrupting piece of magical artifact on his person, but the fact that it had lost is mystic glow quite completely compelled his sentimental side to overrule that voice. In essence, it was all he had to remember his ally and traveling companion. That made it a truly valuable memento.

With a shake of his head, he chastised himself again as he watched the clouds roll by. That strange, exciting, terrifying chapter of his life was closed, for good. Now, every day, he could look forward to the thrill of chasing smelly goats around a pasture and the constant, edge-of-the-saddle excitement that was a random bull charger taking a shot for the gates. It was… a definite change up from what he'd grown accustomed to: the chaos of combat, the peril of raiding ancient holy grounds, and the near-constant threat of mortal danger. Looking at it all now, ranching was easy. That made it hard to take seriously, which lead him to his recent penchant for slacking.

It was just so hard to keep his head in the work, and even now as he skived off by this peaceful, babbling brook, it was all he could do to combat the restlessness in his heart. Ever since he'd returned to Ordon and began to settle back into the daily routine of the 'before,' every day of his life had become a constant combat with a truly oppressive feeling. It was the unavoidable sensation that he was disconnected from himself. He'd gone off into the world and grown by leaps and bounds in every way as he fought to protect all the people and ideals he valued. Now, he'd come home and found the spot he'd left behind required only a much smaller person to fill it. The result was a terrible sense that he didn't belong in his own home, and that was probably the biggest reason he was so much less reliable around the ranch.

"LINK!" a cranky, cantankerous voice echoed across the fields, interrupting his dour thoughts. The young man knew that he'd finally been missed. "LINK! Where in blazes are you boy? Get your truant butt out here before I really lose my temper! It's past time for the afternoon round-up!"

Immediately, Link sat up and jerked his fishing line out of the water. They day's catch, which had been keeping chill on a cord dipped into the stream, was pulled up in turn and tied to his rod, and he was dashing through the underbrush and concealing trees of his little secret-cove the next moment. He met up with Epona where he'd left her to graze, and moments later he was cantering into the center of the village.

Ordon was alive with activity at this hour, and Link idly checked up on his extended family as he rode into town. He got a wave from Talo, who had been press-ganged into helping his old man put up a cuckoo coop. Rusl and his boy were sparring on one of the piers, the sight of bruises patterning Colin's arms bringing back stinging memories of his own training in the basics of swordsmanship. Beth was halfway through weaving an enormous basket with Uli, Sera, Pergie, and Uli's darling little baby, Ilia conspicuously absent from the congregation of ladies. Next up down the lane was the boss himself, and boy did the old man look steamed.

"For my life, I cannot understand what has gotten into you Link!" Mayor Bo shouted in his grumpy way as Link and Epona sauntered by. "Now you get out and line up those goats before I tan your hide, boy! Don't think I can't still whoop you! Anyway, if you're late to work one more time, its coming out of your wages!"

The last was shouted at his back as he urged Epona into a slow gallop and headed up the trail into the ranch. Even as he heard it, the threat rang hollow. Everyone in town knew about the chest full of rupees he'd brought back with him from his travels, and rumors of its size were gossip from here to the other side of the valley. What he was quite sure none of them knew about were the twenty five orange rupees buried under his tree house's roots, a fortune roughly equivalent to three good harvests combined. If only he could think of something to do with it, he'd be all set. For certain he wasn't going to retire, not when working twelve hour days of this simple, menial labor was leaving him so stir-crazy with extra energy that he actually resorted to fishing to calm his nerves.

His brooding was interrupted when he reached the ranch proper, and with an idle nod to Fado, Link kicked Epona into a full gallop. For a while, he could abandon himself to the joy of speed, the unmitigated rush of becoming a unit with his partner, Epona, and racing the wind in the vast spaces of the corral. When he was riding like this, he felt complete, like he was connected to the well of potential within him that languished unused during the rest of his chores. Riding was the thing he lived for, or one of them, anyway. It let him speed away from his confused heart.

Goats bolted and scattered as he whooped and hollered like a wild beast, but there was a precise method to the seeming chaos as Link abused the herd mentality to drive them all to the barn. The round up in the first corral took mere minutes, and as Fado hurried to shift fences around, the two of them moved on to the next herd.

One crazy, unprecedented hour later, nearly all six hundred head of goat were milling about in their overnight stalls. About halfway through the record-breaking display, the ranch hands from the next village over, who normally stuck to managing the far pastures, had gathered to gape in awe at Link's display of horsemanship as he worked up a storm. Everything just seemed to click into place, every hoot chased the goat the right direction, and not even Fado's normal level of bungling could slow down the one-man show Link had become.

When the last goat, a nasty old patriarch they called blacktooth, tried his daily gate-busting run, Link didn't even hesitate. He urged an exhausted Epona up next to the six-hundred pound beast and leaped wholesale onto its back. Gripping its horns, he rode out is wild bucking and twisted its head until it lost its balance, driving the cantankerous beast into the ground. When it stopped, he kept going, landing in the heavily-grazed pasture in a soft roll. Against all odds, he came right back up to his feet without a single speck of dung on his person. When the blood stopped thundering in his ears, Link could hear a dozen voices raised in unrestrained cheering.

Link stood stock still as he listened to the cheers draw closer, the whole world seeming oddly distant. For a moment, he'd recaptured the spark of evolved awareness that was the wake of mortal combat, life and death teetering on a blade's edge of physical conditioning and personal skill. In that brief flash of insight, he was whole again, utterly in touch with the whole of his self for the first time since he'd stored away his armored hero's garb. For just a moment, he recognized exactly what he'd lost, exactly all the things he'd lost, and the pendant hung heavily around his neck. The wan shadow of near-death exhilaration faded the next moment, when Epona nudged him with her sweaty muzzle.

"Sorry girl, I know I worked you pretty hard," Link said, the first words he'd spoken all day long. But, then the cheering crowd was upon him, and he had to weather a storm of back-patting and hand shaking. He did what he could to be jovial with the boys, for old time's sake, but like most things lately, his heart wasn't in it. He deftly eluded numerous drinking invitations and cuffed Fado around the shoulder. He had to be jerked out of his unabashed enjoyment of Link's reflected glory. With hours of milking and the evening inspection still to go, Link found he was looking forward to his day off.

Reanalds Mansion, Hyrule Province

Zelda looked up at the two people sitting across from her, and nodded to the page at the door, who promptly shut them in. The guards outside would ensure privacy for this, a meeting of Hyrule's top ruling officials. Zelda had no choice but to think of it that way, so that she had less trouble accepting that the aging historian and Spartan woman in front of her were all she had to rely on to help make decisions that could cost lives. Of course, their competence was as unquestionable as their loyalty, which had been proven in blood. They had impressed her so much that she'd been compelled to replace their predecessors, who had proven quite useless during the May Incident. Zelda reminded herself of all this and drove further concerns from her mind.

"I know you're both reading the same reports I am," Zelda began the meeting without formalities. "Auru, Ashei, I want to know your opinion of the situation with Ghent."

"The troop mobilization is a transparent ruse; a farce! The bastards'll be on our backs within the month!" Ashei snapped, her braids twirling and rattling against her armor as her pale skin flushed with emotion. Hyrule's newly appointed military minister was the daughter of Zelda's father's own military advisor, and perhaps Hyrule's last trained strategist and tactician. Years of peace had softened their country, and these days Zelda was regretting every military cutback her father had ever authorized, and that the regency ministers had left uncorrected.

"Err…" the young hothead seemed to remember her station suddenly, and appended, "Begging your majesty's pardon." Zelda forgave Ashei her outburst with a smile, noting that the woman's trained opinion echoed her own fears. Then she turned to her foreign policy adviser.

"Auru?" The dark-skinned, aged man had also served the same role in her father's court for a time, back before Zelda was born, and was knowledgeable in most forms of diplomacy and around as many languages as Zelda herself had been forced to learn. Added to that was a weight of experience that she could not hope to match, and which she leaned upon regularly.

"I met Prince Philip once, during a tour of the continent I made many years ago." Auru framed his opinion as a story, as was his habit, and Zelda ignored the urge to grit her teeth in annoyance as she concentrated on absorbing his experience. "He cares mostly for the safety of his people. He did not strike me as the type of man who would lead his nation into warfare without a much stronger cause than dusty old border disputes. For the time being, I recommend a diplomatic mission. Certainly there must be a reasonable explanation for whatever he's up to, though I must admit this evidence is rather damning. Still, inquires must be made."

"Hah, and I suppose you'll want us all to bend over and take whatever those horse-loving bastards feel like throwing at us without even putting up a fight, eh?" Ashei stated boldly as she rolled her eyes. "Sending a diplomatic mission into a situation like that, we might as well be sending goats to the slaughterhouse. At best, they would be lied to or sent away."

"And what would you suggest?" Auru gave a look that doubtless made his grandchildren cower, "send some of our ill-trained, poorly-equipped soldiers down to the border to counter-demonstrate, escalating the situation? It would be a fool's errand."

"That's a good point," Zelda's calm, almost cheerful interjection diffused the argument easily, "Ashei, are our standing troops even ready to fend off an invasion, should such a situation arise? I must admit, they have done little to impress me with their quality of late." Ashei had the decency to blush as her department came under royal scrutiny. After all, no one knew better just how ill-prepared Hyrule's defense forces were than the woman who'd been handed the monumental task of whipping them into shape.

"Well, your majesty, I'm certain I can beat the lazy arseholes into something resembling an army, given enough time." She looked gravely down at the map spread across Zelda's desk before continuing, "But, from the looks of these troop movements, time just isn't on our side. I'm afraid your late father left little for me to work with, the way things went to hell after my father's forced retirement."

"Yes, your father was one of this nations great treasures," Zelda said, the words tumbling from her lips as her instinct took command of her mouth. They truly seemed to startle her general with their undisguised honesty. "I only ever knew him as small child, but even then I could tell he was Hyrule's shield. Now, you are Hyrule's shield Ashei. Tell me what I have to do to defend our home."

Both Ashei and Auru looked utterly moved, and Zelda made no show of how little of her conscious will had gone into the words. They expressed what she truly felt, but it was as though her desire to praise and motivate her people had gone directly from her heart to her mouth without ever stopping in her brain. Words that touched the hearts of others had always come easily to her, but the effect was increasing now, one of many oddities she'd experienced since the May Incident. She had little time to examine it, but however it came to be, it worked.

"Heh, I don't know what to say about that, your majesty," Ashei fumbled for words as her one-track military mind wrapped itself around the problem at hand. "I guess… I can only wish I had someone like… well, no, that's just wishful thinking."

"None the less, you might as well tell us," Zelda half-commanded with her suggestion. Ashei worked at the knuckles of her armored gauntlets with her teeth for a moment in a nervous gesture, and then nodded.

"I was just wishing I had even a few men with even a shred of the ability of that young man from Ordonia. I think you know the one I'm talking about, your majesty. That man had more grit in his small finger than the entire guard force of Castle Town combined. If I had a few hands even nearly that experienced, oh what I could do!"

"Oh yes," Zelda said immediately, "you're referring to the Hero Chosen by the Gods." The instant she said it, both of her advisers nearly jumped out of their seats in surprise. Auru and Ashei looked at one another, then back to their princess, confusion on their faces. "I fear a man of his quality is going to be quite hard to come by, Ashei."

"Link was… the Hero?" Ashei asked, rather dumbly. She'd known he was a marvel of a warrior, but to hear her own gods-appointed monarch claim he was the hero of countless legends shook her to the core. Her father had raised her on the ballads and poems sung of the many heroes of the past, and to think for a moment that she had met and worked with one of them without ever knowing it just blew her mind. Doubtless Auru had his own shock to deal with as well, but the princess simply waved their surprise away. They were tracing over ground she'd already contemplated several times herself, and she'd have loved for the subject to have never come up.

"Link rose to the call of the goddesses and stood with me to defeat the evil that threatened to eradicate Hyrule, as was our destiny." Zelda's advisers' eyes widened as she made small talk out of prophecy and the will of the goddesses. "That he made no detailed mention of it simply proves that modesty is one of his virtues. Now, about this powder keg on the Ghentese border?"

"Your majesty, if Link is truly the hero of legend, why not put him to work defending Hyrule?" Ashei asked, the moment she was able to articulate the obvious solution to their shortage of competent manpower. "Can you imagine what he'd be able to do? Why—"

"Ashei, stop right there." Zelda's face creased with a deep emotion, and her advisers looked on in concern at the change in their usually nonplussed leader. Zelda herself hardly understood her own passion on the subject, though that didn't slow her explanation in the slightest. "Don't think I haven't considered what you're saying, because I've thought on that very subject long and hard. Link, in his service as the Hero, has sacrificed more for Hyrule than any other living person. When I think of the horrors he faced… of the things he had to give up…" In her mind's eye, Zelda saw the expression on Link's face when Midna shattered the twilight mirror and vanished forever from the light world, "I cannot bare the thought of calling on him again. He has given so much, and yet, he is not capable of refusing the call to give more. It is our responsibility not to make that call. The hero is living his life now. He earned as much, and far more."

"But…" Ashei was torn between the urge to argue sense into her monarch and awe at the depth of conviction she seemed to show on the subject. In the end, her protest died on her lips. "Yes, your majesty."

"Very good," Zelda waved away the whole subject and brought the meeting to a close with brusque orders for the two ministers to draw up plans for a mission to Ghent, either military or diplomatic, and have them ready for her review.

Outside Zelda's office, Ashei was still in a sort of amazed reverie. Before that meeting, her conversations with the princess had been brief, her exposure to the monarch she'd long ago pledged to guard quite limited. To feel the full force of her charisma, to understand the mind behind those gorgeous, doll-perfect eyes, could only be summed up in a single word. "Wow," she whispered, using a breath she hadn't realized she was holding.

"Yes," Auru said, smiling at his young compatriot, "I had forgotten that you hadn't had a personal, face-to-face meeting with her yet. She has that effect on everyone. It makes you proud to be a Hylian. Although… of late, the effect has been… greater…" He looked contemplative, but did not elaborate.

"Now, I believe I finally understand my father's commitment to the royal family," Ashei admitted, as the two of them began to walk the shadowy halls of Reanalds Mansion. "I only wish she would have agreed to let us at least contact Link. Link!" she nearly laughed the name as she recalled the shocking news, "to imagine that lad was the Hero. I think, on some level, I always knew. He had… the eyes of a fearless beast."

"Yes, about that," Auru said, stroking his chin as he escorted Hyrule's young general, "I believe I will draft the letter to him myself. Good fortune that he lives in the same village as old Rusl: I have his messenger falcon in my study at this very moment, waiting to take back my chess move for our latest long-distance match. I believe I will ask Rusl to speak on our behalf as well. Doubtless his words hold some weight with the young man."

"Wait… what?" Ashei asked, not sure she was hearing the older minister correctly. "But the princess… our monarch… just gave us exactly the opposite orders!"

"My dear, allow me to give you advice from an old hand in the business of advising powerful people." Auru turned and gave her a knowledgeable, almost laughing smile. "Part of our job is obvious: to grant experience and expertise our leader can use to make better choices. Part of the job is to take on delegated tasks. Yet another part is less well known—to share guilt in the bad choices the leader will inevitably make, so she does not bury herself in the pain of such enormous responsibilities." He paused, indicating that he was finally reaching his main point.

"The final part is the least well understood and the most often abused: a good adviser must know when his leader is wrong and act accordingly. Something… something is blocking her majesty's good judgment in this. At the very least, there is no harm in simply asking for Master Link's continuing aid. No man is incapable of refusing a task he truly does not wish to do—many are merely too great to ignore a task that needs doing. It is not the same thing, no matter what Her Majesty might say."

His explanation at an end, Auru fell to silence. That silence lasted until it was time for them to part ways. At the door to Ashei's room, she caught his arm and gave him a thoughtful look.

"I'll think about your words, old man," she said honestly, "but you're still defying the princess. On your head be the consequences."

He nodded, accepting them gladly. If his hunch about the source of the princess's burgeoning ability was correct, both she and the Hero would be vital to securing Hyrule's future. After all, the Sacred Golden Power was Hyrule's greatest secret treasure, why shouldn't it go to work keeping the nation safe and strong?

Second Full Revision Notes:

This whole story began as an experiment in fantasy writing that I took up mostly to fill empty time during a mind-numbingly boring desk job internship I worked during summers away from university. I had had some success with over-the-top, suspense/melodrama with my Teen Titans fanficiton before, and wanted to try for something more serious and coherent than that overproduced (but quite fun) farce. In terms of beloved Nintendo properties, which provided iconic characters without the burden of highly structured characterizations and back-stories, Legend of Zelda was the obvious choice. I had just beaten Twilight Princess a few months before and felt that it left room for a much more violent, gritty approach to the post-Gannon activities that these cinematically powerful super-people might have to face. So, in an effort to be unique, I took as many absurd features from the game series I could think of and played them 100 percent straight, rather than trying to mitigate them for novelization, and this story was the product. This first chapter was mostly an attempt to establish the theme of people dealing with the ongoing development extraordinary, inhuman powers—the theme that would pervade the rest of the series. Of course, I also had to begin to establish the conflicts that would define the plot arc of book 1.