A Darker Time

Featuring an alternative adulthood for the Hero of Time... Link, jaded and bitter toward Rauru and Zelda for stealing his childhood and turning him into a weapon for their own use, initially abandons their mission and disappears to the East of Hyrule... but he soon realizes that destiny is inescapable. You may run as far as you wish, but it will always catch up to you.

Disclaimer: Not mine. Just playing around in someone else's sandbox.

Chapter I

Three weeks. Three weeks to the day since Link, the fabled Hero of Time, had stormed from the Temple of Light in Hyrule after learning Zelda and the Sages of Time had stolen seven years of his life. Seven years of his childhood that he would never get back.

Link could vividly remember every mind-numbing word Rauru, the Sage of Light, said, and how he'd come to terms with his own missing past.

"The Master Sword is a sacred blade, which evil ones may never touch... Only one worthy of the title of "Hero of Time" can pull it from the Pedestal of Time... However, you were too young to be the Hero of Time... Therefore, your spirit was sealed here for seven years. And now that you are old enough, the time has come for you to awaken as the Hero of Time!"

"Seven... years?" Link exhaled sharply, expressing his disbelief.

The overweight monkish Sage went on with his monologue sounding heavily rehearsed. He sang the platitudes of Link's destiny and rattled on about 'Hero of Time this' and 'Hero of Time that', making mention of Sages and Temples and all other manner of being. Like largely ignored the pompous old man, instead studying the form that seven years had given him. As he clenched and unclenched his fists, ensconced in reinforced leather gauntlets as they were, Link could tell here was a wiry strength in his new body. Link could not help but think back seven years, though it felt like only yesterday, and considered the friendships and companions he'd had. Doubtless they thought him dead or worse – captured by Ganondorf.

"The Hero of Time, chosen by the Master Sword! Keep my spirit with you... And, find the power of the other Sages and add their might to your own!" Rauru finished. The room was illuminated by an otherworldly glow, basking Link and the cerulean platform in blinding light.

"No," Link commanded through clenched teeth.

The light dissipated and Rauru looked quite taken-aback. "No?"

"I am not your weapon, to point at your enemies as you please," Link announced harshly, every muscle in his body drawn taut from anger. "What gives you the right to steal my childhood, take from me my memories, and every lasting relationship I ever had?" Link was beyond angry now. He'd never felt this kind of rage come over him.

Rauru sputtered. "You are the Hero of Time."

Now he was starting to get tired of that phrase, as if him being some prophetic hero gave them the right to rape his childhood and manifest his mind in a future body. They could have done a better job of preparing my body, at least, Link considered off guardedly, noticing how lean of form he was. "I'm leaving now."

"Very well," Rauru granted, believing the young hero had accepted the great burden the Sages had placed on his shoulders. Link belatedly received the Light Medallion, a token of power from the Sage of Light, and heard Rauru's departing words... "Find the other Sages and save Hyrule!"

Since abandoning his charge and 'destiny', a dark cloud had settled over Link, forcing him into a deep, dark depression. After seeing what had become of the once-bustling Hyrule market, being accosted by the undead remains of the townsfolk and having to slay them when attacked, a great fire grew inside Link's chest. The same anger he'd felt toward the Sages earlier magnified with every atrocity he witnessed. Rauru, of course, would doubtlessly go on to blame Ganondorf, but Link knew that if he'd been around, if only he had not be locked away and frozen for seven years of his life, he could have stopped... he could have done something, anything. Sheik had valiantly attempted to talk sense into the young hero, but Link would have none of it. He'd heard too much rambling about time and the Sages and destinies for one day, as he brushed past the blond Sheikah, taking only a passing notice of how the boy smelled of vanilla, like her...

Navi had been a continual annoyance since Link had shucked his Hero of Time responsibilities and shaken both Sheik and Rauru off his case. She continually reminded me of his 'destiny' and the expectations placed on him. In order to silence the ceaseless fairy, Link simply offered her two choices: stay quiet and follow, or leave. For the mean time, at least, Navi seemed to have accepted the former as the lesser of two evils. The Great Deku Tree had, after all, entreated her to aiding and protecting Link wherever his adventures may take them.

After cutting a path through the bodies in the marketplace, Link carefully navigated the remains of the old gate and ruined drawbridge, finally arriving in Hyrule Field and taking an appraising view of his surroundings. The field looked antiquated, aged, but also darker somehow, as if all the light had been removed from the world and left behind was a harsher, surrealistic, nightmare version of its former self. Link grimaced as a heavy rain began to fall, pelting him and the landscape with its cold droplets. Clad in only the outfit the sages had provided, his white shirt and trousers, forest green jerkin and cap, leather belt and reinforced gauntlets, and his trusty boots. Having little desire to catch pneumonia or become hypothermic, Link begrudgingly backtracked across the destroyed drawbridge and considered the old guardhouse. The door was jammed, blockaded from the inside in some manner. Link drew the Master Sword and a few strong hacks served as good as any key.

Inside he gathered as many rupees as he could find, stuffing each of the tiny gems into the wallet on his sturdy belt, and retrieved a lone dark blue mantle from near the guard's bed. He shook the straw and dust from the heavy fabric, trying to clean it the best he could, before donning the cloak and abandoning the guardhouse. Link returned to the Old Road, slowly making his way along the beaten route to Lon-Lon Ranch.

It was evening by the time Link arrived, banging his gauntleted fist on the wooden gate. Calling on his memories, despite them being incomplete and fuddled by the Sages, Link could still markedly recall there having never been a gate barring access to the ranch after-hours. Old Talon had always kept his ranch open to weary travelers in the passing hours. Link waited for what felt like several long, very cold and wet minutes before he heard activity behind the barred gate.

A man's voice, high of pitch and rather grating, Link decided. "Tend to the gate, girl!"

Link her soft footsteps approaching his position and saw a shadowed face at the bars holding a lamp. When she spoke, her voice was the polar opposite of the male. The tones were light, soothing, almost singsong. "Who's there?"

Link moved closer to the barred grate so she could see him, but cloaked as he was and in the dark, rainy night, it was very doubtful that the woman saw him any better. "I require a room for the night," Link said simply.

"Very well," came the female reply, opening the gate-hatch and allowing him access within the ranch. The woman, who Link now recognized easily as Malon, the young woman he'd met as a child, lead him toward what had been the inn. She opened the door for her but kept her distance. Link noticed how skittish she was, like a family pet that had seen the harsh side of a hand too many a time. Once inside he tipped the hood of his mantle back, finally revealing his features. Since leaving the marketplace, some of the color had faded from Link's hair and features, but the woman seemed to recognize him instantly.

"Fairy boy?" she whispered suddenly, keeping voice down. "Is it really you?"

Link raised an eyebrow. "I am Link," he replied matter-of-factly.

"I remember you," she breathed. "Do you remember me?"

He nodded, believing his earlier assumption to hold true. The same buoyant ginger hair, the same fair skin, although now she'd grown into her body and was a young woman where she'd been a girl in Link's memories. He cursed inwardly. The Sages, in attempting to prepare him to fight their holy war, had fragmented and changed much of his memory, as well as the changes made to his body of the last seven years. He cursed them again and would continue to curse them for the rest of his life, he decided then. "Of course I remember you, Malon."

At the mention of her name, she beamed up at him. All the light that had faded from Link seemed to have taken up residence in Malon as her smile lit the room. She then took him up the one flight of stairs to where the beds were. The room was empty save for a low table and a few beds, none of which occupied. While he prepared his bedspace and Malon watched on, she lamented her story of the last seven years. When Ganondorf took over, after Link had been forcibly removed from the picture, he'd taken over the ranch and forced Talon out. Ingo took over, but he was a cruel master who tormented both the horses and Malon. As she spoke, Link strived to not imagine some of the more gruesome atrocities that had occurred on the farm...

"What of Epona?" he said at last, breaking the silence that settled over them after Malon had finished spinning her tale.

"Epona?" Malon squeaked. "Why, she's Ingo's prized mare. He's training her to be his gift to Lord Ganondorf." Link only nodded to himself and that seemed to be enough to placate Malon for the time being. He was busy spreading his mantle out near the fireplace to dry the fabric and packing the small rucksack that Malon had provided for him to store equipment, and treasure, she had added, in. With methodical brevity, Link divested himself of his soaked tunic and hung it near the drying mantle over the fire. He was acutely aware that Malon was watching him undress the entire time, but she was harmless enough, so he paid her little mind. He removed his belt and wet shirt with deliberate slowness, leaving the belt by his bed and hanging the shirt alongside his mantle and tunic. Standing topless and wearing only his white trousers, Link finally let a cold shiver wrack his form. The weather had really dampened his already sour mood; it simply wouldn't do for him to catch illness on top of it all.

Malon's eyes were locked on his bare back the whole time he went about his 'chores'. When Link finally turned around, she did a remarkable impersonation of a young boy caught staring. Her lips were parted and her eyes wide as they tore into him, memorizing each and every contour of muscle on the young Hylian man. For a brief moment Link could have sworn that she'd licked her lips, but when she recovered and gasped, taking a step back, he ignored it. "Sorry," she muttered at last, though he suspecting she was anything but. "We don't receive many visitors since my father left."

Link nodded again, taking a seat on the edge of the bed. She padded across the room and sat on the bed beside his, folding her hands on her lap and gazing longingly at the hero. He finally kicked off his boots and slid beneath the covers. "Good night, Malon."

"Night, Link," she said, blowing out her lamp and placing it on the table. When he rolled over and faced away from her, she set to undressing. Malon wasn't sure why, but she felt safer in the brooding, quiet man's presence than in her own room, just down the hall from Ingo's. By the time she had stripped down to her essentials, Link had rolled back over and was watching her as she had him. She blushed lightly, though was flattered, and quickly leapt beneath the covers and tried to sleep.

To be continued.

Chapter II should be up in a few days.