Link grew up in the small mountain village of Ordon, spending his first few years there living with Bo and his family. He knew from the beginning that they were not his family, but they treated him as if he were their own child. No sign of his parents was ever found beyond what Rusl and Bo had found the day he came to the village, and no one ever came to the village claiming to be his relative, so gradually, the boy came to view the people of Ordon as his family.
The first few years of his life in Ordon were largely uneventful for Link. People died, or moved away, and children were born. Link gradually became determined to learn all he could, to help out around the village more. He viewed it as repaying his debt to the people of Ordon for taking him in, and he sought to become as useful as he could to his adopted home.
First, he asked Rusl to teach him how to use a sword, so he could help defend the village and the goats from the occasional attacks by wild animals or monsters.
The former soldier was more than willing, and Link threw himself into the training, devoting his days to sparring with Rusl and practicing on his own and most of his nights to studying the manuals Rusl had brought back from the army. There was more than one night when Bo or Ilia would awaken and find Link asleep at the desk, his head resting on the book he was reading.
He devoted almost equal attention to riding, and as the foal he had been found with grew, he named her Epona. He had been riding from the time they were both ready for it, and the horse quickly became so accustomed to her rider that he barely had to give commands beyond an occasional nudge with his leg or tug with the reins, and she would instantly obey, understanding what he wanted her to do almost before he did.
A horse was of great use to the ranching community, but they had decided the day Link had come to the village that Epona belonged to Link alone. This was also decided later by the fact that Epona refused to let anyone but Link ride her unless he was present. Fado, one of the other boys in the village, learned this the hard way, and spent several weeks nursing his ankle after being thrown.
Life was fairly peaceful in Ordon, and not much news from Hyrule ever made it there, though occasional hints made their way through that the Golden Kingdom was not what it had once been. There was not much contact with anyone outside the province besides the occasional traveling merchant or the inevitable tax-collector.
When Link was twelve, already tough and increasingly self-sufficient, he started work on building his own house, aided by some of the other villagers. He selected an old tree just outside the main village, which he had discovered was hollow several years earlier. It was still alive, but there was more than enough space inside for a simple dwelling, all Link really wanted.
He worked on it in his spare time, and by the time he was fourteen, he had gotten it just the way he wanted it and moved in. Link had developed a solitary personality, and preferred to be by himself as much as he could.
He knew he was different, and not just because he was Hylian and everyone else in the village was human. There was something that set him apart from everyone else, and as he grew up, Link came to suspect that it had something to do with the triangle marking on his left hand.
No one seemed to know or was willing to tell him much about it, and though it had been there for as long as he could remember, Link got odd feelings sometimes, especially when he was fighting. This became more apparent one day when he was fifteen.
Link had just begun rounding up the goats at the ranch, to put them away for the night, when he heard distressed bleating and the unmistakable scream of a mountain lion.
He looked over to see several of the goats dashing about, panicked, and he put his heels to Epona's sides, heading over to the commotion.
The lean, muscular cat was chasing one of the goats, which was bleating frantically, and Epona dashed for the goat, suddenly coming between the mountain lion and its prey and giving the cat a kick in the side with her front hooves.
Link vaulted from the saddle, pulling out his wooden sword, and slashed the mountain lion across the nose before it could further react.
It backed off a couple paces, growling softly, and the big cat's eyes met Link's. He simply readied himself, totally unafraid of the predator. With agile quickness, it sprang for him, front paws outstretched and claws fully extended.
Link rolled to the side, and the big cat hit nothing but air. He slashed its back with his wooden sword, and it yowled in pain, spinning quickly to charge him again.
He lashed out with his sandaled foot and hit it square in the nose. He heard a sharp crack, but the cat was attacking again and he was knocked over by the force of its leap.
He pressed against the mountain lion, which almost weighed more than he did, digging his wooden sword into its neck and trying to keep its deadly teeth away from his neck, its clear target. With a sudden twist of his body, Link rolled the cat away and leaped to his feet, plunging the point of his wooden sword into its side.
It yowled in pain again, enraged, and sprang at Link again. He suddenly moved to the side, and almost before he could think about it, he was on the thing's back, his arms wrapped around the big cat's neck, trying to squeeze off its air.
Screaming and thrashing, it twisted about, trying to throw him off. Spying his sword laying nearby, Link allowed himself to fall off, and rolling to absorb the force of his landing, he came to a stop with his hand on the hilt of his wooden sword. Again almost without thinking, he raised his weapon and met the big cat's next spring, stabbing it in the chest.
The mountain lion landed hard, and struggled to its feet, looking over at the young ranch-hand with what looked like fear in its eyes. It scrambled off out of sight, and Link nearly gave chase to it, but he felt a hand on his shoulder.
He turned to see Rusl standing behind him, his sword drawn but hanging at his side. Several of the other villagers were gathered behind him, and most of them, the children especially, were regarding Link with a measure of awe.
Rusl patted his shoulder. "That was incredible, Link. I've never seen you do anything like that before."
Link was breathing hard, and he waited until he could talk to reply. "I don't think… I have done anything like that before."
"It won't be the last time, I'm afraid." Rusl gestured off back to the village. "Come on. You deserve a nice big dinner for that."
Link ate with Rusl and his family that night, and Rusl's son Colin kept the young ranch-hand busy with questions during the whole meal. Most of them were just about random topics, but Link answered with good humor. Of the three children in the village that were about the same age, he preferred spending time with Colin. The boy was somewhat timid, but he was friendly and honest, unlike the brash and sometimes irritating Talo.
After dinner, Rusl, Colin and Link went outside to sit on the family's porch, and looked out at the village bathed in the soft moonlight.
The former soldier gestured out at the view. "This is why I decided to move back here. It's so quiet out here at night. It's not like the city. In Castle Town, there's always noise, people moving around, even in the middle of the night." Rusl smiled over at his son and Link. "Nothing disturbs the peace out here."
Just then, there was a crash from the direction of Hanch and Sera's house, and annoyed shouting from the shopkeeper. The three of them chuckled.
When all had faded to silence again, the three of them sat looking up at the stars for a while. Rusl put his arm around his son and pointed up at the sky, indicating one of the constellations.
"See that, Colin? With the row of three stars close together, and the four near them like hands and feet? That's the Hero. Legend says that the Goddesses made the Hero constellation so that people would always remember those who served them and defended the people against evil."
Colin nodded, and turned as his mother opened the door to call him inside to get ready for bed. "Good night, Link," he said as he went inside.
"See you tomorrow," Link replied.
After the boy had gone inside, Rusl looked over at Link, his expression serious. "There was something I wanted to talk to you about, but not in front of my son. He is not yet ready to hear of such things."
"What is it?" Link asked.
"I saw what you did today, Link. You truly have a warrior's spirit. I was glad to see that you paid attention to what I taught you. With all your skills and strength, you have considerable power now. But listen to me when I say this: You must never misuse that power." He looked Link in the eye. "The duty of the strong is to protect the weak. Always remember that."
Link nodded. "I will."
Rusl gestured out at the village. "You must never hold those who are not warriors in contempt. A life of battle is not for everyone. The ideal world would be one where no one had to take up arms for any reason, but that is not the world we live in, Link. It seems our fate to be eternally besieged by a line of wicked people who would disrupt the world and twist it to their own ends.
"There will always be those who cannot defend themselves from such people. As a warrior, one who can defend himself, it is now your duty to protect them. If you can use your sword, an instrument of violence, to keep violence from being visited upon the innocent, then you have done something heroic."
Rusl gestured up at the constellation of the Hero again. "That is why the Heroes are so celebrated. They are the ultimate warriors, chosen to fight evils that ordinary men cannot hope to counter. Theirs is the greatest power; the courage necessary to face up to what would cause normal men to flee in terror."
He clapped Link on the shoulder. "You showed great courage today, Link. Keep up your practice, and remember what I told you."
Link thanked Rusl and headed off down the path toward his house. Later, once he was alone again, Link lay in his bed, looking at his hand in the moonlight that shone though his window. During the fight, he had never been afraid of the mountain lion. He had felt only the need to protect the goat from the predator, and his actions had been almost second nature, as if his body knew what to do without him thinking about it.
Link rolled over and closed his eyes. Maybe this was just what happened when you had a warrior's instincts. He put the thoughts out of his mind as he went to sleep.
Over the next few years, Link noticed more and more that he could move faster than Rusl when they sparred, and that he was stronger than the older man, as well. Unlike their early training, it was now rare that Rusl was able to beat Link, and even then it was usually because the older man took advantage of some trick of his that he had yet to teach the young man.
Rusl joked sometimes that he was just getting older, and Link was still young and in the prime of his life. But Link still caught concerned looks from his teacher occasionally after a particularly fierce sparring match. As he got older and stronger, Link sometimes had trouble restraining himself, and more and more he began to suspect that there was definitely something different about himself, something almost superhuman.
Link was content in Ordon, he decided, and was happy doing his chores and spending time with his surrogate family. He sometimes craved adventure, wondering what life was like outside Ordona Province, which he hadn't left since being found by the villagers, but tending the goats and helping in the harvest was a fairly peaceful life.
One evening, he and Rusl sat by the spring in Faron Woods, resting for a few minutes on their way back from gathering wood. It was late in the day, and the sun was setting. The water in the spring reflected the colors of the sunset, and the general feeling in the forest was one of peace.
"Tell me," Rusl said, "do you ever feel a strange sadness as dusk falls? They say it's the only time our world intersects with theirs… The only time we can feel the lingering regrets of those who have left our world. That is why loneliness always pervades the hour of twilight."
He turned to look over at Link. "But, enough talk of sadness. I have a favor to ask of you, Link. I was supposed to deliver something to the royal family of Hyrule the day after tomorrow. Yes, it was a task set to me by the mayor, but… would you go in my stead? You have… never been to Hyrule, right?"
Link was thoughtful for a long moment. He hadn't ever been to Hyrule, or indeed north of Faron Woods in his life that he could remember. He'd heard stories of Hyrule, and had wondered what it was like there.
Rusl continued. "In the kingdom of Hyrule there is a great castle, and around it is Castle Town, a community far bigger than our little village." He paused for a moment. "And far bigger than Hyrule is the rest of the world the gods created. You should look upon it all with your own eyes." Rusl got to his feet. "It is getting late. We should head back to the village. I will talk to the mayor about this matter."
Link followed Rusl back to the village, guiding Epona across the bridge, and was deep in thought as they headed back to Ordon. Going to Hyrule sounded like fun, and would undoubtedly be an interesting experience. He looked forward to the trip, and wondered what adventures awaited him along the way.
Final Author's Notes and Acknowledgements: Writing this story was an interesting experiment. Most of what I write is heavy on the action, focusing on big, epic fights and suspense, and to do something a little simpler, more character-focused than action-focused, was a good learning experience for me. This was also my first attempt at tragedy, and I was a little reluctant to write the last two chapters.
As I believe I mentioned in one of my previous author's notes, I had spent the story up till Chapter 6 describing the hopes, dreams, and history of the Fenris family, telling the tale of Link's parents, and starting with that chapter, everything starts to go wrong for these characters I had created, ending with them being driven from the home they worked for and their son ending up alone, remembering nothing of them.
The story had to end this way, to agree with the events of 'Twilight Princess', one of my favorite Zelda games, and indeed, one of my favorite games in general. The story of that game struck a chord with me, and I've just felt the urge to fill out some backstory for the game and one of its more intriguing dungeons. Personally, I hope an official explanation for the Snowpeak Ruins never comes out, as I've grown rather attached to mine. ;)
This story is intended as a prelude to 'Twilight Princess', though it was more about Link's family than Link himself. It also serves as an introduction to the saga of the Fenris family, which I've decided will be the connecting theme of most of my future stories. The tale in Chapter 4 of the Hero of Lightning will be expanded out into a proper story, that of the first Fenris, but that will be after I finish my current epic, 'The Fourth Piece', which is a sequel to 'Twilight Princess'. This story also fills out a few details that wouldn't really fit in that story, and will be important to the plot in coming chapters, so I hope you paid attention. ;)
Now for the acknowledgements: First off, major thanks goes to my beta reader, Seldavia, whose suggestions and critiques improved the story greatly. It would undoubtedly be not even half as good without her help, and I'm deeply grateful for it. If you liked this story, go check out hers, especially the ones on my Favorites list.
Next, major thanks also goes to you, the readers, especially those of you who took the time to review. Writing on this site is a learning process for me, and I appreciate all feedback, good and bad, as ways I can improve my writing. I'm also glad other people were able to enjoy something I wrote, since, if not for this site, nobody but me would ever read this, anyway.
Thanks for reading!