Legend of Zelda: The Golden Pendant
If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.
Chapter 1: Initium
Tanya's eyes flicked about the darkening forest warily. Late November leaves crunched beneath her boots as she carefully picked her way along the deer trail, pausing occasionally to listen. Every nerve was alert to her environment, straining to hear and see what was making those odd sounds.
She estimated it had started up around fifteen minutes ago, as she alighted from her tree stand—a low snuffling and the shuffling of hooved feet. At first she had perked up and readied her compound bow, thinking a deer was nearby. After a few minutes spent analyzing the activity, though, she perplexedly decided it wasn't a deer; it made far too much noise, for one, and the snuffling was more…pig-like.
Venison wouldn't be on the menu tonight.
Tanya didn't stick around much longer after deciding that. Those strange sounds had moved closer in the time she stopped to deliberate. And, if her excellent hearing wasn't deceiving her, there was more than one of…whatever it was, out there.
The hunter moved quickly now, more than eager to get home as soon as possible. She didn't like that she was leaving earlier than usual—sunset was prime hunting time—but prey had been scarce all day, anyway. Besides that, she'd rather not run into the creatures making those noises and definitely following her now.
Stepping into the field adjoining the woodland plot had never felt so good. As soon as she slid her bow into its case and slung that over her back again, she picked up a dog-trot along the path home. To her relief, the sound of hooves on gravel did not follow her down the back road.
Tanya shook her head at herself as she settled into the familiar rhythm of jogging. 'Why would they—whatever 'they' are—be following me? They're probably just some pigs that got loose and strayed from one of the nearby farms.
'So then why do I keep wanting to look over my shoulder every two strides?'
Scowling and increasing her pace, Tanya forcefully dropped those useless thoughts. She concentrated simply on running, reaching for the next stride as the wind sang in her lungs. This was her favorite thing to do after sitting in a cold tree-stand the entirety of a Fall day. Running loosened her muscles and freed her spirit to fly…metaphorically speaking. Sometimes she felt she could do it all day, and had even imagined, when younger, that she was the famous Athenian runner Phidippidies.
Her nostalgic trip into her childhood memories and the physical journey home ended with the sun's light. Tanya gratefully slowed her pace to a relaxed walk up the driveway, forcing her burning lungs to slowly drink in the oxygen it pleaded for. By the time she climbed the stairs to the front porch, the girl had almost completely recovered from the mile-and-a-half run.
Her parents—Amy and Jonathan Grayle—looked up with not a little surprise as she walked into the foyer. Her mother quickly returned to the unfinished meal simmering on the stove; Jonathan set aside the photography journal in his hand temporarily.
"You're back early," he commented as she tapped the dirt off her shoes.
"I didn't see a thing," Tanya explained, squatting to unlace her boots. "Figured I'd cut my losses."
He shuffled some low-quality prints over the tabletop, not looking up at her when he spoke next. "Mat said the prey's not running so well lately. He thinks it's either because of the hard winter we had last year, or the coyotes getting desperate."
Tanya shrugged, abandoning the conversation to retreat to her room. She heard her mother say, "Mary did see a coyote just a few days ago…" before the door shut behind her and muted the sound.
'I don't think it's coyotes, Amy,' she mused, unslinging her quiver and bow from her shoulders. Settling them on their designated pegs in one wall—next to the horn bow she took when riding and her first longbow—the girl shed her excess hunting clothes and settled down with her sketch book.
Before continuing her most-recent drawing, she slowly thumbed through the pages, smiling a little at each favorite she came across. Subject matter varied in a rather amusing fashion that her classmates never failed to point out; one page could be filled with puppies and kittens while the next depicted a battle freeze-frame of epic proportions. At least one swordsman, whose basic characteristics never varied, always appeared in the latter sketches.
She paused a few moments longer than the rest on the most recent page, a half-shaded portrait of one of her favorite characters, before picking up her pencil. The implement carefully traced the heavy line of the jawbone, filling some preliminary shading under the chin, then made some minor corrections to his angled eyebrows. Trading the pencil for a paper stub, she carefully blended the strokes denoting light irises to give them the necessary sheen.
Amy's voice echoed up the stairwell just as Tanya finished darkening the shadows in her subject's blond hair. "Coming!" she shouted back. An expert flick of the wrist closed her sketchbook; after stowing it and her pencils on her bedside table's shelf, the girl hurried out and down the stairs into the kitchen.
Her mother was just setting a bowl of potatoes on the table when Tanya came into view. Jonathan gently pushed his pictures to one side as the women sat for dinner. As usual, the first few bites were taken in silence except for the clink and scrape of glasses and silverware, respectively.
Jonathan was the first to break the silence. "Have you seen any coyotes on your hunts lately, Tanya?"
The girl paused and lowered her fork back to her plate, the morsel on it uneaten. After a moment of thought, she frowned and said, "No, not really… Come to think of it, I haven't seen many animals—predator or prey—at all this season."
Her father and mother exchanged glances, but Tanya was staring at her plate so missed the looks. Those hoofbeats she'd heard when leaving the woods today… She was sure they had something to do with the forest animals' unusual timidity.
"John…" she started slowly. The hesitance in her voice turned both her parents' gazes to her. "Have you…ever heard something that makes…" She frowned in confusion, trying to find the words to describe the noise she'd heard earlier. "It's…like a—a snuffing sound, like a dog sniffing around, but louder and…rougher?"
"Hm…" He leaned back in his chair, crossing one arm over his chest and resting his chin in the cup of his other hand thoughtfully. "Can you relate it to an animal you already know?"
Her food almost forgotten, Tanya closed her eyes to dredge up the memory of that sound. Her brow creased deeply as she thought. "It was…almost like a pig, I guess," she said, opening her eyes again with no little confusion still in them. "And a really big one."
He sighed and drummed his fingers on the table. "The only thing I can think of that comes close is a wild boar. But coniferous forest and mountains aren't where they normally roam, and most populations that live further down the mountain have, I'm sure, been killed off since civilization came out here to stay."
The ambiance grew quiet again, each of the family members left to their own thoughts. Tanya pushed a forkful of corn kernels around her plate absently, no longer hungry. Something incredibly strange was going on in the woods near her home, but she had no idea what. It bothered her beyond belief.
At last, when it seemed the silence would become unbearable, Amy cleared her throat. "Tanya, we're going to be away all day tomorrow."
She leaned back against her chair and settled confused green eyes on her mother. The woman continued, "There's a convention coming to Denver tomorrow, and John and I wanted to put up some photography there."
"We know you're not as…enthusiastic as we are about photography," John added. "And you're plenty old enough to take care of yourself for a day."
Tanya resisted the urge to raise an eyebrow at them, instead loosely crossing her arms. "You're going to let me stay here?" she asked in a clarifying tone.
"As long as you don't cross the property boundaries if you go riding," her father said, also crossing his arms.
She subdued the full grin growing on her face. When the property boundaries encompassed thirty acres, it wasn't that hard to stay on the property. "No problem."
Tanya had been riding by herself for almost as long as she could remember, and been given permission to ride whenever she wanted since she was thirteen. She had never had an accident—though there had been some close calls—and enjoyed the solitude it offered when she was troubled.
Today's ride hadn't given her the latter yet.
Katara had pranced anxiously beneath her the moment they left the stable area, chewing on the bit and flicking her ears erratically. Not wanting to lose control, Tanya decided to delay the usual gallop she liked to have as soon as they were on the trail, instead keeping the dark roan to a high-stepping trot.
Some five minutes into the woods, the rider reined in her horse. Both paused and stood still, listening, the back and forth movement of the mare's ears the only sign of life from the pair. Tanya glanced warily around the forest, straining to hear the odd snuffling that had caused her to stop.
The same sound she'd heard yesterday.
After a time of restless waiting, Katara grew impatient and pawed the dirt trail. Tanya pulled the horse's head up to stop her and patted the dark-haired neck soothingly, despite her own growing unease. "Easy, Kat." She turned the mount so they were facing the opposite direct—toward home. "C'mon; let's go back."
Katara squealed suddenly, shying to one side and half-rearing in fright. Tanya yelled and tried to throw her weight forward to bring the mare down on all fours, but found herself rolling off her steed's side. She hit the ground hard, jarring the breath from her. Only instinct saved her from Katara's flailing hooves, as she rolled away and scrambled to her feet.
Her pulse pounded in her ears as the girl quickly surveyed the trail, which had exploded into action and sound. Huge boar-like creatures as tall as Katara had crashed from the undergrowth onto the path, wielding spears as long as Tanya was tall. Three stood around the crazed horse, trying to control it, while two others approached her from each side.
She kept telling herself she should run—move—anything to get away from them—but her mind seemed to have shut down momentarily, and her legs did nothing to obey her commands. The one on her left stepped one pace within reach of that amazingly sharp spearhead…
Tanya leapt back, eyes wide, as a light bay horse plowed past her. The monster fell to the ground, howling in pain and clutching a slice in its shoulder. Her head swiveled to the right as its fellow gurgled and tumbled backward, its throat open to the air.
As the horse wheeled to make a second pass, this time at Katara's tormentors, Tanya could finally see its rider. The hood of his dark cloak had fallen back onto his shoulders, revealing a head of messy blond hair. He held a long silver blade in his left hand, now darkened with blood, and her expert eye caught sight of a quiver of arrows slung on his shoulder.
That was about all she could make out in the flurry of the fight and the short time she had to watch him. Katara came charging up to her, eyes rolling in fear as she escaped the boars that had encircled her. Taking a moment to calm the panicky mare, Tanya climbed back into the saddle and spun the mare to face down the path again.
Their unnamed rescuer took another slice at a monster attempting to poke him with its lance, wheeling his own mount around. "Follow me!"
Tanya didn't need to be told twice; following him was a better bet than staying here. Nevertheless, the sense of unease she'd felt—now something a little less than panic—never dwindled, even with the explosion of adrenaline now surging through her.
No sane person would be doing this. No normal person would have been attacked by other-worldly creatures and thrown into wild flight after an armed stranger.
Realizing this, it only took her a few more seconds to make up her mind. Tanya swerved off the main trail onto the first side path she came across, one which she knew would take her to another trail leading straight to her house. It was the only place that came to mind as safe enough for her to escape the situation entirely.
Entering the clearing around the house, however, proved her horribly wrong.
Tanya reined in Katara so sharply that the mare snorted in protest, but she hardly heard it. The sight of five enormous, armored creatures she vaguely recognized paralyzed her momentarily. As the first of the seven-foot-tall behemoths turned to face her, Katara reacted for her and wheeled back into the safety of the trees.
By the time they reached the main trail again, Tanya had regained her wits enough to squash the flames of true panic threatening to ignite in her chest. She pulled her horse to a stop again when the mounted warrior who had rescued her crashed through the brush along the path to her left.
One last slice felled the monster chasing him, and he scanned the area before settling his gaze on her.
Under the piercing blue eyes, Tanya could hardly think. "T-the house…"
He simply nodded and trotted his horse toward her. "I knew they'd have it surrounded." He paused a yard or two in front of her. "I told you to stay with me for a reason."
Regaining her composure, she scowled at his reprimanding tone. She opened her mouth to snarl a retort only to be interrupted by the ear-splitting bellow of a strange horn.
The rider snapped out what sounded like a curse word and spun his mare toward a pencil-thin track through the trees in front of Tanya. "No time to talk; we have to get them off our tails before I can properly explain." He cast a backward glance over his shoulder. "And this time try to stay with me."
Despite the urge to howl in frustration and anger, Tanya gritted her teeth and kicked Katara after the mysterious rider.
A/N: ...How many times have I done this, now? *counts* Ohright. 3? No, 4... Ah, well. What does it matter? There's some trivia for you, new readers, now go have fun and read the rest that's posted to-date (6/30/11). Don't kill me if/when you hit a cliffhanger, though, because summer is about to get no-writing-possible-busy shortly, and new stuff isn't likely to be posted until end of July.
Old readers! Welcome back, and please do take the time to read through the chapters again, because some stuff has changed pretty dramatically and it crosses ALL the current chapters. O_O No joke. (Though the first two chapters have the most-in fact, they're TOTALLY rewritten, as you can tell by this chappie...)
So, how did this re-re-editing come about? Please give a round of applause to a friend who goes by the name of Rosey for all the hours she spent listening to me rant about the plot and character relationships and other loopholes and quirks about this story that were causing me grief...and then going beyond that to give suggestions and be the overall best sounding board a writer could ask for. So I dedicate this whole dad-gummed thing to Rosey: Thank-you-Thank-you-Thank-you-Thank-you-Thank-you *gasps* Thank You! (And, just for you: -flying-leap-pounce-tackle-glomp-huggle-hugs- =D)