The harsh, ragged sound of his breath was foreign, outside of time. Twilight permeated through the branches, spattering patches of bloody light on cool, dark leaves. Vaguely, he noted branches cracking and clacking against each other; was it he who disturbed them? A single bird trilled a brave note into the silence, stopping only as he thundered underneath its perch. Its scent, the intoxicating aroma of the wild, rippled from his snout down to his claws. He felt something violent and utterly feral take hold of him, and his tired muscles pumped even faster. His sight jarred with every swift step he took, and soon he seemed to be separate from his body. He was a spectator watching as miles of forest slipped behind him in a haze of shaky images and maddening scents.
Impulsively, a rough growl rumbled through his fangs, evolving into a sort of strangled howl. He pushed his body even harder, slamming his paws almost masochistically against the forest floor. His breathing grew harsher, but it was something apart from him now. There was only the setting sun and her inescapable, infuriating scent. It plagued him, chased him like the morning, and seemed to be nearly as impossible to run from. It followed him, she followed him, as surely as if she were running alongside him. But that was impossible now, he knew, and the very thought of it incensed him. It was one of the few rational, irrational, completely human thoughts that had stuck with him; as much as he hated it, he clung to its existence with an absurd tenacity. There was little of him now, here, that wasn't ruled by instinct, and a part of him was terrified of losing his humanity. Then again, he supposed he'd always been more beast than human anyway. There was a strong sense of instinct running hot through his blood, and it had rarely steered him wrong. Why slip into humanity, such a forced, tightly-stretched skin, when a beast's heart had always ruled him?
He tried to suppress it, focusing instead on sounds miles away, but the thought slipped into his madness anyway: things had never been forced with her. From there, a cavalcade of memories spread like spilled ink, darkening his mind to any other process but reminiscing.
It had been instinct, brash, wild impulse, that had saved him in the beginning. He was no warrior; the greatest battles he had ever fought were keeping the goats in their field. He knew how to wield a sword in theory, but had never truly battled against another being, never truly fought for his life. The day the moblins had stolen the children and he had been called into battle, he'd moved in a dreamlike daze. The entire process seemed surreal, and he was barely aware of his own actions. When the battle was done, the blood dried on his fingers, the ultimate reality struck him all at once. He laughed at the absurdity of it, shamelessly, incredulously, and had wondered that he was still alive. He was driven far beyond humor when he received the green clothes of the Hero, when that then-impossible mantle settled heavily upon his shoulders, when he seriously considered the absurdity of his place in the world. He mixed instinct with instruction and learned what it was to be a warrior, to fill in the contours of a legend.
It had been instinct when the wolf's shape had settled on him. After the first few terrifying moments passed, he felt remarkably comfortable in his wild form, feeling more relaxed and confident than he could ever remember. He adapted to his beast muscles more quickly than he would have thought. He missed his human form, true, but there was a beauty of the beast that captivated him, a fluid grace and deadliness that empowered him. His senses were all heightened, tuned to extreme efficiency, and while it at first startled him, he soon felt at a loss with his normal, human senses. There had been the startling, wonderful surprise of speaking to Epona for the first time, his long-time companion. There had been the eye-opening experience of discovering another world where every living animal was within his means of understanding. There had been a defining moment, thereafter, when he refused to eat any sort of meat, as he very well might have conversed with said meal.
It had been instinct that had driven him to her in the first place. Wary and unknowledgeable as he was, he needn't have followed Midna. He could have found his own way, but he followed the Twili imp instead. Led by Midna, he journeyed to the tower where she was imprisoned and knew her for the first time. He saw in her eyes then a strength and a sadness that swelled and broke his heart respectively. He knew then that he would do anything to help her. He knew he could never save her, though; she was too strong for that. When he had brought a broken and dying Midna to her on that rainy, terrible day, when she had poured her very soul into the Twili in order to save her, he had not despaired; he knew somehow she would exist once more. When Ganon had channeled his darkness into her, forcing him to strike her, he nearly threw down his sword in protest; he hated harming even the shell of her. When she insisted on fighting with him in that last battle, his nerves burned for her safety, but he did not protest. He knew it would have been worse for him had he refused. When he stood by her in that final moment of victory, capturing her eyes with his, he knew he'd known her before, and a likewise recognition crossed her face as well. There was something deeper than a lifetime connecting them. So when his dear friend Midna returned to her realm, breaking the way forever in parting, he mourned but did not despair. He knew that within her there was something worth living for.
It had been instinct that had led him to love her. He had attempted to settle back into his old way of life, returning to Ordon and once more tending to goats. There was little satisfaction left for him there, though, and he soon grew restless. He impulsively packed a few things, mounted Epona, and left Ordon at a gallop. When he arrived at Castle Town, he was given a warm reception. He soon settled into the life there and grew busy with repairs. He was invited to a ball as reward for his help, and he accepted. The sight of her gave him wonder again, and something timeless stirred within him. When he asked her to dance, she accepted with a smile. The dance led to small talk, and small talk led to enthusiastic conversation. When the ball was over, he hated to leave, and her words still lingered in his mind. He sought after her more often, and she tried to see him as much as her schedule could allow. He grew to love her mind and the strange, softer side she hid from the public. She spread across his mind, sinking in permanently and invading nearly his every thought. When it came time for another ball, he unashamedly stole every dance he could with her. When the evening came to a close, he kissed her recklessly in the shadows, and she returned his affection. When their embraces gradually faded into the daylight, no end of rumors emerged with their romance. Some whispered that the Princess and the Hero were soon to be Queen and King, and most agreed that no finer match could be found. When the rumors became fact, when she happily accepted his marriage proposal, he'd felt an overwhelming surge of love and completion.
It had been instinct that had told him not to leave. They were two months away from their wedding, and he could barely stand to be a moment without his bride. However, there was a disturbance in the desert, and it was his duty to protect the people. So, against his inner-self, he rode away from the castle, intending to return in no more than two weeks. Two weeks stretched into four by the time he finally rode home, and he was eager to see his love again. But he would have to wait a lifetime to see her, now. The same fever that had taken her family years and years ago had finally wakened within her, and she had gone to them. When he stood in front of her grave, some would have sworn they saw his spirit die.
It had been instinct that led him to the hilltop of the battle with Ganon. Mechanically, he searched among the grass until his fingers closed upon a shard of Twilight. Unflinchingly, he forced the shard into the palm of his hand, watching as the darkness ran through his veins and changed him. Numb, grief-stricken, and succumbing to the very wildest of his impulses, he charged into the forest, running. No one had attempted to stop him or track him down, so far as he could tell. It was the kindest service he could have ever been done.
Yet for all his running, and he hadn't stopped since that first day, he could not escape her still. She wove herself into his very being, knitting him together with sweet memories and slashing him apart with the reality of her death. He wanted to scream, to tear at himself until he ripped her from under his skin; he wanted to close his eyes and try to recall the feel of her hands. He did not even know where he ran anymore, as the sights and smells were strange. In his delirium, some rational, irrational, completely human part of him held onto the absurd hope that if he ran long enough, he'd eventually find her.
He knew that with every ragged breath, every desperate race with the dawn, he was closer to wherever she existed now. After all, instinct was all he knew now, and it had always led him inexorably toward her.