My second fanfic, my other one being 'Hero of Moonlight'. Just as was the case with the first fanfic, I own none of the Zelda characters but do hold over those that I make within the story itself.

--

.Chapter 1.

Hero of Hyrule

The brittle rays from the sun cast themselves upon the still sleepy world below. The surrounding forest stood in good health, the morning chorus of birds drifting through the trees as well as around the small and cozy village. For the time being, everything hung in serenity and balance while the solar disc spread its warmth. Slowly as the dawn progressed, the steadying sunlight threw itself over the only two figures up and moving outside of their homes with a large horse in tow.

None other than Link himself would be the first among the pair, the other a more bulky fellow named Fado that also helped in herding the town's livestock at the ranch. The hero had retired his armor for the time being and was back to his classic casual wear that he'd donned before his travels. Silent, there was a mild tension in the air despite the good nature of the morning. Sure Link was a very renowned figure in Hyrule nowadays, but his demeanor hardly showed him to have let the fame go to his head. Rather, more than anything, he'd somewhat withdrawn from people and had even become a bit more distanced with Ilia.

And so, it was reasonable that now Hyrule's celebration over the victory against unknown evil was slowly beginning to dim, some people's opinion of the stoic adolescent had also varied. Some still admired him and thought of him as an unearthly being. However, some had a not so kind view on things. There had been rumors of him speaking with shadowed beasts and muttering wretched things under his breath. But what seemed to hurt Link's reputation the most was the man himself. Due to his somewhat reclusive habits, a good few had grown slightly edgy around him. For as much as Link had remained a kind and brave soul, he'd also changed more than even he'd know.

Thus, this was Fado's judgment to pass that even though Link was a good friend and person, it was irritating at times to work with him now. It was difficult to tell if he was listening at times or even paying the slightest bit of attention. However, Link had yet to foul up any of his duties at the ranch, which was good enough for Fado. Though he could not help but wonder just as many did. Just what did happen to Link in that long journey to save Hyrule from a dark fate? It was a touchy subject and no one, not even Rusl or Ilia, knew just how Link had done it or even what he'd done fully. What was most mysterious though was the sheer refusal Link had about speaking of it. It was almost as if it was a painful topic and, quite frankly, Link would avoid it at nearly any cost.

Nevertheless, it wouldn't be long before the silence was broken, but it wasn't the men to do it. As the two walked passed Mayor Bo's and Ilia's house, they both suddenly stopped at the most peculiar noise. They could hear the bleats and grunts from the goats which meant some sort of distress. Fado and Link both tore off as quickly as they could up the dusty road, for the same thing had crossed their minds.

Link, oddly enough, pulled Epona's reigns to bring her along side him. Instead of mounting the horse though, he rather pulled his Ordon sword from its sheath and bared the blade to the sunlight. It was in his fashion never to travel without a weapon handy, and who could really blame the warrior?

Battleready, Link charged towards the barn, which was discouragingly battered. A few of the goats had managed to flee through a large gap and were huddled in the far reaches of the field. Terror stricken cries rent the air, but so did a not so usual noise. Both Link and Fado had to pause at the strange sound, a high pitched wailing that was as heartbreaking as it was haunting. Whatever it was…it was in pain.

"What is that?"

Link turned towards Fado as the other presented the question, but could only shake his head in a silent answer. Practicing caution they neared, Link headed towards the large hole in the boards and Fado towards the doors. They were both in shock as to what they would find there. A couple goats lay dead, one disemboweled and the other sporting a torn throat. Those that were still trapped in pens were stomping around and bleating in terror, but Link finally honed in on the creature that made the screeching cry. It resembled a feline-type animal and was lying on its side, a chunk of wood wedged between its ribs with blood dripping down its surprisingly pale fur. It wasn't exactly a true white, but it appeared bleached by the sun as bones often were. Gleaming red eyes stared blankly as it spotted Link, the beast going quiet and breathing hard.

"Don't go near it. It may be a carrier."

The gruff voice made both men jump, Link having been approaching the wounded feline and Fado kneeling over one of the dead goats. They hadn't noticed before, but there were two men standing nearby. They both were strangers to this village, not even Link having seen them in his travels before.

"Who are you?"

It was nearly wary in how Link inquired such a thing, eyes locked upon the odd men. One was short, muscled and had both brown hair and eyes. As for the other, he didn't look terribly much like a threat. Sandy hued hair, green eyes, glasses, and a very weak build. He hardly looked fit for such a task of taking on a feral animal and slaying it. Glancing back towards the wounded creature, which gurgled with blood in its throat, Link silently concluded it must have been the first of the men to pull such a thing off.

"Never you mind, young man. We are simply here to study the wildlife." A pause…and then. "And seeing as you have livestock I suppose its best you know."

"Know? Know what?"

"About the virus that is spreading."

Link was slightly caught off guard, but only the furrowing of his brows suggested anything of the sort. "Virus? Of what kind?"

"Ah, I thought you'd be interested. Now I don't know as much on it as my friend Ril here. Perhaps he can tell you."

For the first time, the scrawny man finally spoke up, taking a step forward and clearing his throat in a businesslike manner.

"The virus we speak of has no name yet, though we think that might be a strain of rabies. It is different though, for the infected beasts never seem to lose their minds entirely yet they all seem to lust for blood. All we really know is that none live once tainted, normally dying a week or so after being turned."

In the following silence, Fado slowly moved to stand next to Link, and this time it was he to address Ril and his shorter friend.

"So it kills animals….is…is it harmful to humans?"

"Hm, humans? Heavens no…not that we can tell. Urik here had been wounded a week or so ago and still shows no signs of illness. Normally symptoms start in a matter of hours and he has been just fine so far."

"But that is no proof it is no harm to humans." Link intervened. "Do you have any sort of cure just to be sure that he won't be 'tainted' as you so put it?"

At this Ril looked rather uncomfortable, but Urik grunted and gave both ranchers a stern look. "Now see here. I think we know what we are doing. This virus, though new, is being thoroughly studied and no human has ever been altered from what I understand despite many injuries. You best just keep your goats safe unless you want them to end up like those two."

As if tension had broke, the dying beast suddenly shrieked with new vigor, its entire last bit of power put into such a task. All four men jumped, turning to face the feline as it writhed for the last time in a pool of blood. It wasn't much longer before it ceased movement, but those dead eyes were locked on Link. And the hero stared back, feeling a slight chill run his spine as he gazed at death itself. Shaking himself mentally, he turned back to Urik and Ril.

"If no threat…why would you tell us not to go near it because it was a carrier?" Softly spoken, he stared evenly towards the pair in wait for a logical reply for this.

"Don't you know anything, boy? Even if it can't taint humans it's best not to take chances and let fools like you go get slashed up. Who knows? Maybe no one has been infected because no one is stupid enough to approach a clearly deranged beast."

Instantly, Link's eyes narrowed in silent spite, but Fado was quicker to release his tongue than the hero. "Link is no fool. He is the reason Hyrule and all that surrounds it is still standing. Show some respect."

At this, Ril looked intrigued, but Urik seemed indifferent. Link merely shook his head before eyeing Fado calmly. "As heroic as my deeds have been claimed…I am still equal to everyone and deserve no more respect than you or these two."

"You're the Hero of Hyrule? Fascinating…I've heard some stories about you while we were traveling through Castle Town. Oh, the farfetched tales I've heard! How you single handedly saved the relationship between the Gorons and the humans of Kakariko village. Oh! And how you escorted a sick Zora prince to a Kakariko shaman just in the nick of time to save his life. And don't even get me started on-"

"Ril! You're getting a bit carried away again. Hero or not, this boy doesn't deserve anything special. Just like he said. So I think we leave these…goat herders and get back to what really matters."

Fado looked like he was halfway between getting ready to shout or simply punch Urik without warning. However, Link softly placed a hand on his friend's in a comforting gesture and nodded to both men as they turned to leave.

"Thank you for the warning…we will be sure to keep close eye on our livestock and village."

Ril was pleasant enough to wave as he exited, but all they got was an irritated grunt from Urik as he walked towards the dead feline. Wordlessly he hoisted the carcass up and slung it over his shoulder before heading out the barn doors to leave both Fado and Link to clean up their dead goats. Just as they began moving broken boards and other debris, Fado huffed and spoke bitterly. "And who do they think they are? They are the damn fools."

Link said nothing, but he was silently thankful for Fado's support on the matter. As much as he was undeserving of the verbal down talking, Link wasn't all that upset over the fact the man was so blatantly rude. Though it was still a pleasant thing to know that even though things had changed so much, he could still rely on the people of this village. Ordon was a place he could always return to no matter how lengthy of a time he'd spent away. They viewed him as friend and family and Link felt the same strong bond towards them.

Sighing, he began the messy process of cleaning up blood as Fado looked over the still alive goats which were all a bit more at ease now that the feline was gone. It was needless to say that any goat that had a wound of any sort would have to be quarantined and carefully watched for signs of illness. The scarce few that had a few questionable cuts were all moved to a pen while the presumably healthy ones were placed in a separate one.

"You know Link. We're going to have to check the ones that got out and make sure they ain't going to die. Want to grab Epona and do that while I start on a shelter to keep the healthy ones out of this death trap?"

"Sure…I do hope that we don't lose any more to predators or this strange virus."

"One can only hope."

Nodding in agreement, Link would turn and leave, grabbing Epona's reins once back outside and climbing up onto her back. Directing her towards the one of the nearest goats, Link glanced off towards the surrounding woodland. Perhaps he'd keep watch tonight…just to be on the safe side. If there truly was an infection spreading among the animals, it would only be a matter of time before some of the wildlife started showing odd behavior. And then what? From the sounds of it these infected beasts would attack humans. Maybe the illness itself couldn't kill a human…but claws and fangs sure would. Link would be certain to discuss this with the Mayor and Rusl soon as he was finished here.

Spurring Epona into a steady trot, he began to gather the small herd, half thinking on what Ril had said about the virus as he did so. Perhaps there was really not much to fret over on the matter and the problem would solve itself as time went by. That and it seemed like smart enough people were looking into the issue. So there was no need for him to meddle in their affairs. For the time being at least. For some reason or other, trouble had a strange way of finding Link as of late. And though the entirety of the Twilight matter was now resolved, that didn't guarantee that other things wouldn't creep up.

But for now…he had his hands full. The goats were important to the village and the village was important to him. So he'd worry on one thing at a time. First things first... he had an outside pen to help build before nightfall. And with him keeping guard, it was possible Link could see a non-wounded creature with the illness stalking around. That way maybe he could learn a thing or two on his own before either warding it off or having to kill it. Either way, it never hurt anyone to at least observe, right?