A/N: Hmm… well, I've decided I've been too quiet for too long. Staying quiet is boring, since nothing happens that way. So, here's a new story, even though my old ones aren't quiet finished yet. This is meant to help encourage the creative juices to move, so hum. And with that, I welcome you my newest mash of ideas: Golden Treasure.
The moment after the victor struck the winning blow the guards flooded the arena and forcibly disarmed him. The crowd was too dazed from the sudden surge of armoured soldiers and agreeably stayed silent in the podiums. Shouting loudly, the would-be victor wrestled his way past one soldier, tripped another and was going to make a break for freedom before a ring of spears successfully surrounded him.
"Hey, what gives? I thought this was a friendly tournament-"
"You are accused of entering this tournament under a false name-"
"Alright, Bornibo Borbinos was bad taste but-"
"- under false pretence of claiming the prize-"
"I do want that prize! Seriously!"
"- and you are here accused of attempting to assassinate the Royal Family."
The would-be victor, who had been nervously eyeing the spears during that argument, turned to face the head soldier head on. The crowd "oohed" and "aahed" speculatively.
The head soldier stared at him passively for a while before continuing to read out loud the rest of the charges. "Under our current War Decree, we are entitled to imprison you without additional evidence for a period of sixty days until further proof can be obtained for or against your crime." He smiled flatly. "You will of course have to serve an additional sentence of fifteen days for attempting to hide your identity."
The would-be victor sighed deeply and nodded. "I'm Link, if that helps me any," it didn't, "and could you please stop poking my backside with that thing? Next thing I know one of you will be asking me to bend over."
The guards didn't find that amusing. But with the crowd roaring in laughter ﾨC where the little children were told daddy will explain when you're older, sweetkins, just cover your ears ﾨC the guards skipped that part of their handcuffing procedure as they led him away.
The other finalist, still lying in the sand, groaned and struggled to get up. Well, better to lose to an idiot called Link than Bobobo Borborbos or whatever he called himself. In fact…
"I… win?" he croaked from the dirt.
The referees weren't sure. It wasn't everyday the champion was arrested.
Hyrule Castletown generally is a very pleasant place. The marketplace, central court and public gardens are clean and healthy, kept safe with the odd patrol watching for pickpockets or illegal salesmen. The residential districts range from opulent to compartmentalised, the upper class residents living closer to the centre and the working class satisfied with the low rent at the fringes.
Hyrule Castle is a grand symbol of economic achievement, religious piety and cultural wealth - but more importantly military superiority. It was both fort and palace, high walls both artistic and defensive, training grounds mixed with the palace courtyards, underground barracks shielding the castle in a ring of soldiers. It is said that one of the military tunnels connects to the mysterious Sheikah Caverns in far off Kakariko, the shadowy servants to the throne hidden protectors that would cut off any attempt that escapes through the obvious defence.
Hyrule Castle dungeons were boxy, moist and smelled like boiled socks. Located near the barracks, each cell consisted of two linen sheets as a bed, one bucket as a toilet and metre thick walls of granite plus enforced steel bars as containment. Link was certain it was underground, but he wasn't sure how deep under: going in involved being led through a maze of steps that went up as much as it went down.
It was certainly a disheartening place. The only light came from the jailer's lamp and cigarette, and he often left the room, taking his lamp with him - it wasn't so much negligence but more assurance no one could escape. The man in the cell to Link's left kept whimpering how he'll be a good citizen and won't sell faulty goods anymore.
"Haha," Link declared once the jailer left for the sixth time, "unknown to all, I have the keen eyesight of the bats and can see past this deep, deep darkness. And with only a fingernail as my tool I can pick through any lock that comes my way-"
"Bats are blind, you moron," a guard called from outside the jail room, "and these locks are sealed with magic." A light appeared as the guard popped his head in. "And you're facing the wrong direction if you want to find the lock." Chuckling, he closed the door once more - Link listened closely to the clicks and whirrs of gears shifting and spinning - and remarked, "If you want to plan an escape, next time don't shout it out loud."
A heavy duty door; as it clicked shut there was a faint clap as the mechanism locked itself. Link sighed. "This is what you get for saving a country," he murmured softly to himself.
Most seventeen year olds were helping at the family business or in apprenticeship. Link wondered if he was the first seventeen year old to be thrown into jail. Probably not, he decided, for even though Hyrule was fairly safe, it did have to deal with occasions of lawlessness.
"So," he turned to address the left wall, "what type of faulty products did you sell?"
He never got an answer. Just then the door opened again, and six soldiers marched in. One held onto the lock briefly, and Link could see the faint glow of magic unravelling - invisible to normal eyes, they probably never expected to hold mages in these dungeons - before the door opened. Gesturing to Link, the led him out and for questioning.
"Where were you born?"
"In Hyrule, somewhere to the south."
The interrogator stared flatly at the vague answer. "Where in the south?"
Link shrugged. "Where the trees grow?"
The interrogator snorted. "You're not making a good defence of not being a foreign assassin, you know. Who were your parents?"
"No clue?" Link tried to wipe his hair away from his face - it was really getting dirty, he needed to wash it soon - but the block manacle around his wrist made that difficult.
"… Initial guardian, then?"
The interrogator rubbed his head. Torturing potentially innocent suspects was considered bad form, but this brat was proving to be unnecessarily difficult.
"You know, if you want my opinion, you're not a foreign spy." The interrogator smiled thinly when Link blinked in surprise. He clasped his hands together and leaned forward slightly. "Foreign spies take time to be trained, and are generally much older than you look to be. While blonde hair is fairly rare in our country, you don't have the jet black hair common to the Devans, or the dark skin of the men of Shuwa. No one in their right minds would hire a youth to attack the Royal Family, especially through a public way such as the tournament you just participated in."
Link blinked again. "Thank you."
The interrogator waved it off. "Of course, there are still many questions you won't answer. Where you're from, who your parents are, where you learnt such sword skills and at such age-"
"The other finalist was only slightly older-" Link protested but was cut off.
"The other finalist was our Commanding General's son. You, on the other hand, are a conundrum. You say you have no fixed residence, you mention no family, you carry no documents, you provide no information." His eyes narrowed. "Dangerous."
Link sighed. "The prize of winning the tournament is one thousand rupees and a dinner with the Royal Family, right?" He waited for the interrogator to nod. "That's all I wanted. Doesn't wanting to see the royalty count as patriotism?"
The interrogator shrugged. "Yes, but we're in a time of war, and we can't just let anybody greet the King and Princess. Especially unidentified swordsmen."
Link's hair was really irritating him. Next time it wouldn't hurt to invest in a bit of twine. "Fine, then just give me the one thousand rupees and I'll be on my merry way…" He smiled and winked conspiratorially.
The interrogator sighed. He really hated dealing with this brat. "Alas, your charge of being a foreign assassin still stands. You'll have to wait sixty days for that charge to be cleared, unless you provide evidence against it."
Link slouched back into his chair, and yelped when it tilted over. With a thud his back smacked against the ground, accompanied by a soft thump as his head bounced off. "Ask Princess Zelda. Tell her that Link wants to talk about the story of the treasure of the Golden Land."
The interrogator rolled his eyes but noted it down nonetheless. What a silly boy to think that the Princess would even talk to him. He was going to enjoy a lonely sixty days in jail.
They scrubbed him and nearly drowned him in boiling water. Toothed contraptions clawed at his skull as foreign chemicals were forced into his mouth to coat his teeth and gums. Saws worked at his fingernails and more foreign chemicals were pasted onto his skin.
The standby beauticians had the duty of making one Link presentable enough for the appearance of one Princess Zelda. And he was the stinkiest, dirtiest, worst-kept creature they ever came across.
The brown tunic he had been wearing was apparently meant to be green. It took two hot washes and rapid dry treatment to get all that mud off. The head beautician clucked at it and decided no; the savage will have to wear the maroon silk suit they will provide. After forcing him into it - it was really hard ignoring his fashion ignorant comments of "I look like a bloody rhubarb, who in graces designed clothing to make people look like vegetables" - his hair was combed once more - he was nearly strangled after his comment "you don't need to share your baldness, shiny" -teeth flossed - "vhat typfe of toof fairy are yhu" - and, lastly, shoes assembled.
By the end they were grateful he made no comments about the shoes. Some of them nearly cried when he left tap dancing in those priceless clogs.
In the end the only indication that he was a prisoner was the escort of six guards accompanying him and the manacles still cuffing his wrists. Standing as tall as the tallest guard he strode with a regal bear, eyes focussed towards his goal down the corridor. His body message spoke of purpose, of contained power, and of an itch somewhere a bit too impolite to scratch in public.
They led him to a study room, guessing from the number of books that graced the shelves. Near the side was a long antique table with twelve chairs around it, and they pushed him into the smallest one with the back towards the door. Link stretched as he waited.
The sun was on its descent and he was still waiting.
He glanced at the nearest guard. "She takes her sweet time, doesn't she?"
The guard grunted in disgust at the casual reference. "You wait upon the Princess, not the other way round."
Link would have continued the discussion when the guards suddenly stiffened into position. The Princess' arrival was introduced by the heavy march of another escort of guards down the marble corridor. He twisted around in time to see twelve guards file into the room before the Princess herself.
Despite seven years under the reign of Ganondorf with the dangerous food shortage and foul air Zelda had grown up to become a beautiful lady, but seven years of a proper diet and a clean environment showed the true beauty she was. Link smiled slightly sadly when she looked in his direction, but that smile was wiped away by his general cheer.
"So, the Princess does exist after all, and isn't a fairy tale to hide the King's impotence." He still smiled when the head guard clobbered him over the head for that insult.
Zelda looked at him uncertainly as she moved to the furthest seat opposite from Link. "And a good evening to you," she greeted at last.
Link nodded. "Isn't it kind of hard talking across this long table like this? And do we need so many guards in this room?" The six that led him plus the twelve that escorted her added to eighteen altogether, all armed and watching him warily.
She smiled lightly. "I apologise for this precaution. You stated you wanted to talk about the Golden Land?"
Link laughed and shook his head. "Nah, that was just a story to get you to come down here. I just need you to vouch against my sixty day prison sentence."
"You dare!" One guard roared before restraining himself. Turning slightly, he addressed Zelda, "Do you know him, my Princess?"
She looked at Link for a long time before shaking her head.
Link almost sighed. Of course. When time was sent back all the Sages were sent back to sleep, and with that, their memories of the future. Link was the only being that remembered that dystopia.
"That doesn't matter, future queenie, I'm just asking for your judgment." He smiled and let the same guard rant about addressing her as the Princess before continuing. "Do I look like an assassin to you?"
She looked surprised at this turn. "I don't believe this is my judgment to call-"
Link waved it off as best as he could with his restricted hands. "They think I won the tournament for the purpose of killing you, your family and your pet dog." He rolled his eyes at the guards. "I just want the reward money and the invitation for free fine dining. I'll admit I don't come across as the most outstanding of individuals, but do I look like a criminal?"
She chuckled. "No, no you do not, but it would be foolish to make a judgment on looks. I'm sorry, but I don't know you well enough to judge your character."
No, not anymore. Link bowed his head momentarily as she prepared to leave. "The war is straining the King's resources, isn't it."
Zelda paused in surprise, as did the guards. "What gave that idea?"
Link raised his head in memory. "To quote, 'the top sixteen contestants are given advanced entry into the Hylian Army'. It's a bloody invitation. Now, including all those army adverts that cover Castletown and Kakariko, it doesn't take too much to figure out that more men are needed. The Hylian Army is skilled and was never short on manpower before." He pointed out the window. "A bit of travelling shows that the King has hosted the same tournament with the same rules and rewards in the Gerudo, Zora and Goron regions."
He sighed. "You father has been quite the political bully, eh? When Ganondorf pledged his loyalty and then disappeared, it didn't take too long for your father to assimilate the Gerudo Kingdom those seven years ago, and then soon affirm the loyalty of the Zoras and the Gorons." He sighed and stood up. "And look at us now, at war with Deva and Shuwa. Just three years before there were countries between us and them, but they've been conquered too."
Link looked straight at Zelda. "No one hears the voices of the Goddesses anymore. They do not accept worship by sword and fire." He shook his head. "The Goddesses are angry. The treasure of the Golden Land is no longer a form of reward, but a tool of punishment."
Princess Zelda looked like she was going to ask questions but he shook his head. "It looks like you'll have to wait sixty days for an answer, hmm?" Standing, he allowed the guards to shift from their startled stupor before letting them escort him out.
As he walked past Zelda at the door, he nodded her direction and smiled.
Hallelujah, it worked! Link was performing the cancan in his cell as outside a guard was explaining the details of his release to the jailer. Had Princess Zelda shared with her father's expansionary ambitions, that trick of his would not have worked. Praise the high heavens for doubts!
As light filled the room he stilled immediately, lest anyone know of his excitement. Still, the jailor looked irked at the giant smile decorating his face. No one had the right to be that happy.
"Off you go then, got some lucky Royal pardon," he muttered sourly and unlocked the cell. Link hugged him around his giant potbelly and gave the fat of his three chins a happy jiggle before skipping away. The guard watched the procession stonily as he read out the terms of release, which Link nodded to agreeably but didn't pay a whit of attention to.
It wasn't long before he was escorted back to Castletown, garbed in his cleaned green tunic and breeches, the newest items in his inventory being the ugly rhubarb suit from two days earlier, an invitation to have dinner with the Royal family and a bank draft for one thousand rupees.
He quickly pawned off the suit and stuffed the two slips of paper into his fattened wallet. They probably expected him to attend dressed smart; hah for that. They probably expected him to attend that night; hah for that too. Rich folk can afford to wait one more day.
In all honesty, the fear of assassins was a legit one. A long while back there used to be a problem of small groups of Gerudo warriors sneaking all the way into the Palace grounds to attack the King, but they calmed down after special envoys were sent towards the Desert. The absorbed states were still bitter about the loss of sovereignty, and they probably did send assassins.
He was just walking down the alley minding his own business when he saw a distinctive ponytail of red hair slip around the corner. Sighing, he followed her towards the fringes of Castletown.
The streets got narrower as builders had tried to fit as many apartments into less space, and it wasn't long before he was weaving in between the laundry some tenants left hanging outside. He stood on a cat's tail which yowled at him, but ignoring that break in his secretiveness he followed her towards a warehouse.
"This is what, your sixth attempt to attack the throne?" Link called out to the large sacks of grain, "Don't you ever get tired of this? Give up and go home."
He tilted his head and allowed a throwing knife to sail harmlessly past and embed itself deep into a sack. Grained spilled out to scatter against the floor.
Ooh, her throws are getting stronger. Link knelt to grab a handful of grain. "Come on, Nabooru. I thought you thought Princess Zelda was a nice person."
It was as if she was summoned by the mention of her name. Link yelped as a wall of grain burst apart as the crazy woman charged her way through it. He twisted backwards to avoid the first swing at his head and had to do a complicated upside down crabwalk to dodge the follow up. Crazy Gerudo women always run around with a pair of swords.
"Why won't you die?" she snarled at Link as he continued to weave out of her attacks. A downward chop missed him, but tore through the sack on the other side.
"Because you love me and cherish me and want to keep me safe forever?" Link asked hopefully. Nabooru gave him a flat glare and renewed her assault, blades dancing in hypnotic patterns as they reached for his neck.
Link loved finding patterns. It made life that much easier. Dodging one thrust, instead of skipping backwards to avoid the following swing he jumped forwards instead. Nabooru didn't have much time to adjust as a handful of grain was thrown at her eyes. Her attack misguided, the only weapon she had left was the momentum of her attack as their bodies smashed together into the air.
Unfortunately, Link was a good twenty kilograms heavier than her. Much like the last time this happened, the moment his foot touched the ground he charged forward, body ramming her into a pile of deflated grain sacks.
"Sometimes I think you're just asking for a beating," Link commented casually. Nabooru's swords were thrown aside, and he was currently sitting cross legged on top of her back, acting the veritable mountain. She could only flop uselessly under his weight.
"Shut up," she grumbled, most of the previous heat in her voice gone, "you're too fast."
"I'm a bloody tornado with fifteen kilos of armour, I'm the god of light speed without," Link commented proudly from above. She snorted in repulsion and tried to buck him off.
"We seem to do this every odd day now. Don't you get tired?"
"Get off me."
"Now, you're a healthy twenty five year old lady that can do something a bit more productive than trying to kill the King." He paused for a thought. "Or me."
"Twenty two," she spat. "Get off me."
"I mean, you're the ambassador for the Gerudo tribes," Din knows why they picked a crazy impulsive witch like her, "and so you're meant to be here for goodwill talks, not assassination attempts. You make a lousy assassin."
She flopped one more time, and yielding he rolled off her. Patting her back, she glared when she felt the footprints embedded onto her vest. Grumbling at him, she went around to fetch her swords before disappearing for a moment. She reappeared carrying a roasted lamb shank and a basket of fruits, which he tossed in Link's direction.
"Free food!" he cheered delightedly as he snatched both before they would hit the ground. The meat was still warm; she must have smoked it recently. "See? Don't you love me and cherish me and want to keep me safe forever?"
Nabooru rolled her eyes and sat down opposite him. "You're the only nut who won't tell on an assassination plot for food." She glared at him. "And I wasn't planning on killing anyone today, just fighting for fun."
Nabooru hated losing to Link. While she wasn't the strongest among the Gerudo, she was still pretty damn strong. It made no sense to lose to a Hylian who claimed his profession was a bloody treasure hunter. The impertinent brat even asked for permission to go rob the Temple of the Colossus.
Speaking of fighting for fun, she smirked. "I heard you got thrown in jail for winning." Her smile widened at his irritated grunt. "Was it some breach of the rules? Forgot to enter wearing trousers? Deliberately took a leak in the middle of a fight? Farted loudly at the championship ceremony? Blew your nose on the Princess' dress?"
Link gave her a flat stare. "I'm hurt that you weren't watching. Some friend you are."
They weren't really friends. Their first meeting involved Nabooru crouched in a corner of the Palace rooftops and aiming a crossbow and Link making a very loud greeting, ruining her stealth. After a healthy chase by the palace guards Nabooru tried to kill Link. Him the smelly jerk that he was, he managed to steal a win with extensive use of Deku nuts and demanded a free dinner. The second meeting involved her tactical ambush of the King's Guard halted by Link falling out of the sky and on top of her. Another chase by the guards, another fight, and another free meal.
The same thing happened the following three times. Nabooru had the feeling that Link didn't take her assassination attempts seriously.
"Why'd you come out of jail so early?" Smelly jerk should have stayed in there forever. "Did it cost too much to feed you?"
Link fished through his wallet and flicked a laminated piece of paper at Nabooru. Folding out the creases she tried to read it. "Little princess likes me," Link answered through a mouth full of lamb, "bailed me out, now she buys me dinner. See, that's a real lady for you. Why can't you do that more often?"
Nabooru wasn't paying attention, her senses focussed on the invitation. "There isn't a name," she suddenly stated.
"You name," she clarified, "it isn't written on it."
A calculating gleam entered her eyes. "I'll buy you dinner, don't worry."
And then she was gone. Ran off with his ticket.
Link stared at the empty space in surprise. "What? Hey! Give that back!"
The guards looked at the ticket and then at the guest. The invitation looked authentic, if a bit crumpled. The guest didn't look like who they were expecting.
"Trust me, it's me," Link heaved deeply through his lungs. Damn Nabooru, making him chase her all over the place. "I'm Link, happy victor of your tournament."
From running through the streets to bouncing off rooftops his hair was a wreck. Chasing Nabooru through the gardens led to a few twigs and leaves and what suspiciously looked like bird droppings caught in his hair, and the dust and soot from the industrial sector turned his hair from blond to incredibly dirty blond. The same soot plastered his exposed skin and clothes, and from falling into the river once his breeches and boots were soaked and coated with mud.
And he stood hunched, glared like a maniac and breathed noisily. He didn't look quite like someone invited to meet the Royal Family.
"Crazy witch made me run to get it back," he mumbled before doubling over, "I think I have indigestion." He contorted his face in pain and farted loudly.
The guard returned the ticket to him. "I'm sorry, but you will have to look presentable before we can admit you."
Link glared up from his position and pushed the invitation back to the guard's hand. "I don't think you understand the pain involved in keeping this little piece of paper," he seethed, jabbing at the guard with a finger, "and so the sooner I can get rid of it, the better. Now, I realise I look like crap, smell like crap and do in fact have bird crap in my hair, but if you don't mind, I'd like to get this over with, hmm?"
The guard looked at his partner and sighed. Time to call the standby beautician team again.
Princess Zelda wasn't sure what to make of the tournament champion. The rumours fluttering among the maids were that he scared his way past the gate guards. The stylists and beauticians said that he was an absolute monster, a creature undeserving of civilisation. The guards themselves kept quiet.
Looking into the mirror she decided there was no need to wear makeup for this event. Father thought that this champion was a funny fellow, and thought that interacting with him would be a good experience for the other nobles.
"Are you attending as well, Impa?" Zelda called out. A light grunt of affirmation was heard from the corner.
"Of course. After the past two assassination attempts, we can't be careless with your life, Zelda."
She sighed. After the guards managed to chase away an assassin with a crossbow the first time, the number of escorts she had increased from the standard two to a dozen. The second one had been more serious, with a Shuwan female masquerading as a Gerudo and approaching close. If it wasn't for the goodwill ambassador Nabooru falling on top of her (although there were questions on what she was doing on the roof at that time and swearing at ink of all things), none of the guards would have been capable to defend Zelda against the poisoned dart.
With a sigh she put on her earrings and left the vanity table. She patted her dress to make sure that the defensive knife Impa insisted she carry was hidden.
Zelda hated greeting the nobles. Oh, there were a few good ones, but most of them were pompous asses with the hunger from territorial expansion filling their eyes. The worst was the duke of the new southern provinces. That man deserves to be hanged.
She nodded to her personal guards and waited for them to create the protective ring around her before continuing down the hallways. Arriving at the banquet hall, she took a deep breath, twisted her lips into the needed fake smile, and pushed open the doors.
There were the nobles, and her father of course, but what was apparently catching everyone's attention was the juggling feat the guest Link was performing with knives. Her father laughed in good spirits as Link added a complicated twist, letting the blades dance around his body like flowing ribbons as they arced over his shoulders and waist. Seeing her enter, he wriggled his eyebrows before snapping all the knives up in one hand and passing them over to the closest servant.
"A fine display, good Link!" the King clapped in appreciation, leading the light applause from the other nobles, "life would be more entertaining if the fellows around here would bother learning skills like that." The applause immediately gave way to nervous laughter. The king turned around and noticed Zelda enter. "Ah, my daughter! Come, you will find this guest of ours the most pleasant of company!"
Link turned to face her and wriggled his eyebrows. A waiter ran up to whisper into his ear, and his eyes immediately lighted up before performing a bow. As she approached in greeting he smiled lightly.
"Good to meet you again, Zelda," he greeted softly.
Sitting next to the guest Link was an uncomfortable experience. Whenever their eyes met he had the "I know something you don't" look, a look that made her feel unpleasantly ignorant. He seemed to treat the world around him as some sort of game, his eyes lighting with amusement no matter the words spoken or the actions done.
The legend of the Golden Land was an obscure one. She needed to find out how he learnt of something where the only texts exist in the Palace libraries.
The only problem was that she didn't want this discussion to be shared among the nobles. And with her father there, the current discussion was monopolised in his direction.
"Treasure hunter, eh?" the King mused over that profession as he sipped his wine. "You say you've helped the Gorons regain one of their historical relics from Death Mountain?"
Link smiled. "You can ask Darunia to confirm it."
The King laughed and clapped Link heartily on the back, but Zelda frowned. To the best of her knowledge no Hylian received a pass allowing them to cross the border security in the past twenty years.
"And so what's your new plan of action, treasure hunter?" one of the nobles called from his seat.
"I thought I had permission to enter the Gerudo lands and hunt for something there, but the last time I tried they threw me out." He shrugged. "Guess I got to try harder."
He took a bite of his food and frowned. "I hate to surprise anybody," he proclaimed loudly, "but you might want to avoid the mint gravy." He took a look at the colouring lathering nearly everybody's food. "It's drugged."
The first response didn't come from the dinner guests; they were all sitting blankly uncertain whether he was stating a joke or not.
The first response came as a throwing knife hurtling towards Princess Zelda.
Link swore loudly when he snatched it out of the air.
The guards positioned at the windows had no chance. Glass shattered. Short spears skewered armour. Cloaked beings swung through the broken windows, long curved knives seeking the throats of the soldiers that were still breathing.
Link was too busy catching throwing knives.
He yelped when he kicked aside a thrown spear.
Assassins. Twenty of them. And only fifteen guards standing.
Someone was screaming the alarm. Link paid no attention to the nobles diving under the table, but he did take note of the defensive crescent formation the remaining guards took.
The assassins had their faces masked, but the distinctive black hair marked them as Devans. Link nearly whistled appreciably at the weapons they carried: some had crossbows slung across their back, but all of them wielded a single edged sword and a knife as a pair.
"You know what the problem of being alive is?" Link suddenly called out, attracting the assassins' attention. He stood on the table and flipped the three throwing knives he caught casually. "You fear death."
With a leap he crossed the ring of guards and smashed bodily into one Devan. One hand grabbing the enemy's head, Link shoved downwards and smacked the skull against the floor.
Hidden among the shrieks of the nobles, the furious roar of the assassins and rallying cries of the guards was an amused laugh. Weaving between the knives and swords that followed him, Link laughed.
He skipped to press his back against one opponent. Foot extended, the opponent fell and had his skull knocked against the floor.
Link flicked out one throwing knife. It flew badly, and the handle slapped the assassin's face. Good enough. Link shot a palm to the gut and charged him into his partner behind. Link kept on dashing until both of them smashed against a support column.
Three down. Four down.
The fifth assassin was surprised when Link hooked his fingers to grab the sword from the blunt side and twisted it free. A stomp to the knee was followed by a snap kick to the gut and knee to the chin.
Five down. There, fifteen against fifteen.
With the element of surprise gone the professionalism of the King's Guard decimated the foreign assassins. Sharp swords and knives did little against the steel Hylian shield and the clubbing power of the longsword.
Link looked around the room. "I believe we're missing one person." He flipped a throwing knife. "I've got a gift to return, o buddy o mine."
He twisted and threw the second knife. Its arc through the air was cut short as it slapped against a knife flying towards Link.
The third knife flew true. The man in the waiter's costume released a brief shout as the knife wedged into his ankle.
Seeing Link approach slowly, the last assassin scrabbled back frantically before drawing out another knife. As the guards surrounded, he swung it deep…
… into his own heart.
Link blinked. "Could have taken poison. All he had to do was drink the mint gravy."
The nobles were still cowering beneath the table. Link didn't know whether it was some foolish courage or paralysing fear that had kept Princess Zelda and the King still sitting in their seats.
"You don't make a lot of friends in this profession, eh?" Link winced as the Royal Family's doctor bandaged his palms. Catching throwing knives was one of the dumbest things to do, although Link mentally noted to thank Nabooru for the practice.
The palace chemists had done some fancy analysis on the gravy and determined that Link was correct in calling it drugged, but the drug's purpose was to cause drowsiness. Link guessed that it would have made more of a spectacle to have assassins waltz in, kill the sleepy target and waltz out as opposed to the target dropping dead suddenly.
"This is the third attempt on my life," Zelda sighed. Life was beautiful before the war; no additional need for soldiers, no greedy nobles, no assassination attempts. It was tragic how she could almost understand the assassins in their cause.
The five assassins Link managed to defeat alive had poisoned pills hidden in their teeth. Including the fake waiter - a Hylian, which was most disturbing ﾨ- there were none alive for questioning.
"Seventh," Link corrected.
"Seventh attempt on your life, but most of them were done by the same person." Looking at her horrified look, he placated, "don't worry, Na- she's relatively harmless, you'd probably like her if you got to know her."
Zelda hated that all-knowing look of his. "How do you-"
"What's more worrying," Link cut in loudly, "is the most recent attempt. Wow, if I wasn't there, they probably would have succeeded." He thanked the doctor before the doctor left the room. Turning back to Zelda, he pointed in the direction of the dining room and continued, "Don't you find it strange that twenty Devans managed to sneak past all the heavy watch protecting the palace? One or two I can see slipping through by stealth, but twenty is pushing it."
He wriggled the fingers of his bandaged hand. "Coupled with the Hylian assassin, someone's helping them get in. The Devans want you dead, granted, but now a Hylian also wants you dead." His smile wasn't comforting. "Cheerful friends you have."
Zelda was close to asking him why, but that infuriating gaze of his made her bite back the question. No, while the Devans would have taken a shot at any royalty they could, they wanted her father dead. Assuming the Devans were working with the planted Hylian, that attempt was deliberately targeting her: memories of knives flashing through the air kept reminding her of that.
As the only child, the inheritance of the throne goes to her. With Hyrule expanding under her father's command, that throne was getting more and more coveted. Hyrule prior was already blessed by nature, but with the countries absorbed it was now rich in iron, salt and gold. If either Shuwa or Deva falls, then Hyrule would become politically the largest country on the continent.
If Zelda was dead, who would the country go to?
She didn't know.
Her smile made her feel sick. "Cheerful friends indeed."
They were back in the library, but this time they weren't sitting far opposite one another. Guards lined every shelf and wall, three posted to each window with two facing out and one facing in. Link didn't need to guess that there was someone attending to the door.
And there was also Impa. As Zelda dropped her head into her palms in weariness, Impa placed a calming palm on her shoulder.
Link sighed. The Zelda he knew was stronger than this. Then again, the Zelda he knew had a clear cut enemy, and with a title of 'King of Evil' it was easy to tell whether you were on the good or bad side.
"Well, you bought my bail for answers," Link shuffled his chair so that they were sitting face to face, "so it's time for your questions. What do you want to know?"
The first question that jumped to mind was for him to clarify his knowledge on the Golden Land. No, the guards looked impatient, and she could tell it wouldn't be long before someone threw him out. Better ask the question on the punishment of the Goddesses.
Instead, she asked, "Why are you so strong?"
And at once his face changed from lightly amused to nostalgic and sorrowful before returning to his usual mask, but weighed with a heavier happiness. He seemed to absorb her profile as she stared at him, his eyes tracing across her face with a withheld longing. Involuntarily his lips moved in answer, but he shook his head and inhaled.
"Because my profession requires it." He jerked his eyebrows up in joke. "Not very ladylike, but you can be a treasure hunter too. I bet I'll perform better with a rival, even if she's some coddled rich kid."
He leaned back, more relaxed now, but Zelda could tell his eyes were still tracing her face. She had the feeling that he was comparing it to some other image, some other memory.
The guard grunted at the insult thrown at her and declared visiting time was up, if he would like another appointment would he please register his name at the entrance but it would not be due for another week. Waving in understanding Link got up and approached the door, but he turned around looked deep into her eyes before leaving.
Impa played around with the idea of Zelda as a treasure hunter, but she was more intrigued by another matter. He may not have said it, but Impa read the words that danced across his lips, and Link's silent answer to Zelda's question was mysterious.
Because you made me so.
"A moment of your time, Link."
Link had an incredible feel of déjà vu, meeting Impa at the Castletown gate. He was almost expecting her to point towards Death Mountain and then disappear with a flash of a Deku nut.
But never mind with the memories. The assassin issue was a week ago. He managed to wrestle a Gerudo pass from Nabooru the day before - the "please, please, pretty please" method didn't work, the "but you stole my royal invite, it's only fair" method didn't work, the "just give it to me or I'll kick your sorry arse" method did, after he kicked her sorry arse - and he was off towards his next treasure stop when Impa stopped him before he stepped onto Hyrule Field.
"I'm sorry for the late introduction. I am Impa, the Princess' caretaker. We have been most impressed by your performance at the dinner, and would like to request your help in improving the protection of the Princess."
"Ah, that's nice, but I've got places to be, people to meet, busy, busy-"
Impa raised her palms to cut off his excuse. "I don't intend to chain you down to Castletown. My… nephew is also charged with the Princess' security, and I would like you to accept him as your apprentice as you follow your own journeys." Seeing his uncomprehending stare she added, "It is only for one season, and you will be duly rewarded."
Link took the large bag of rupees she extended automatically, but his attention was riveted to the new figure that appeared from behind Impa's large frame.
Funky Sheikah battle gear and cowl. Check.
Funky Sheikah eye symbol. Check.
Funky Sheikah red eyes. Check.
Girlish way of standing. Check. Real men cross their arms.
Hello Zelda, Link almost spurted out. Hello Sheik, then he remembered he wasn't meant to know her alter ego's name yet.
"Hello partner," Link greeted with a very broad grin.
He didn't expect her to take that treasure hunting idea of his seriously.
A/N: And voila, here's the first chapter. If you haven't figured it out already, this is set in a universe where when Link was sent back in time, and everyone forgot what happened in the future - think of this as a happier version of my oneshot RememberMe.
Don't have much to say. Other than I hope you enjoyed this. Every time the exams roll around I start writing fiction. For non-fanfic authors out there, I recommend you guys to take up writing; it's incredibly soothing, if a bit wasteful of your time.