A new year, a new story! I've returned to my traditional take on Zelda, this time focusing on the connection between Link and Zelda, and the possible connection between the most recent Zelda games. I know of the timeline theory, but this story makes much more sense to me, so please forgive any liberties I've taken. I wanted to be as close to the universe as possible, but for the sake of creativity I also flipped some things around.
Also, this being my first attempt at a multi-chapter for the Zelda universe, I bid any readers understanding in that my updates might be slow but nevertheless satisfactory. Any one who has followed my Aladdin work would know this well. :)
And remember, secrets don't make friends, but reviews do!
The first time Zelda, Princess of Hyrule, had ever traveled beyond her castle, the journey was marked for religious purpose and sacred duty.
The pilgrimage was scheduled for a period of more than one week, mostly to cover the distance necessary to reach the sacred shrine in one piece. Her belongings had been packed, her food prepared, and her horse equipped but there was an aching in the Princess's heart that could not be reconciled. The task had been set by her council, not by her, nor even by her advisors and it took more than one mind to persuade her to make the trip in the first place. Because although she was the princess and priestess of her kingdom, she did not want to leave.
Her place—nay, her purpose—lay with her people, especially during the reformation of the kingdom, especially when she could be of greatest use during her rule. But as the council glanced sideways at each other under plastered, twisted lips, the princess knew that her argument was poorly contended. A small part of her know that she did not belong, in the immediate aftermath of Ganondorf's defeat, within the palace walls when the people could not and would not forgive the ignorance and irrational inefficiency of her rule thus far. She had abandoned her people to the forces of twilight, they said, and although Zelda knew deep down that her role in this affair was hardly guilty, her duty demanded some type of repentance for her failure.
She was granted an escort which she refused, insisting instead on the necessity of the passage as a period for contemplation and prayer. How could she do such with twenty men talking and cooking and snoring near her? The council answered her question with another: then how will the princess protect herself? Zelda recalled laughing at this point, even though laughter speared her throat. She had pierced Ganondorf himself with the tips of her light-arrows, bravely battling his strength atop horseback as moblins attacked from all sides. She could handle a few kargornacks.
It was still morning when she left but she expected to see a larger crowd of townspeople bustling about their daily tasks, coupled with the new assignments her council had appointed for the revival and renewal of the city center. There were but a few people on the streets, and as she led her horse down the steep slope from the palace, its metal shoes clinking sharply against the cobblestone, she thought the city looked like the forgotten ghost-town of Kakariko. She silently shivered against a spurt of cool air that mingled with the light perspiration on her forehead.
Next she passed the high stone archways that stood sentry before the town with their risen flanks and carved emblems. There were more villagers in the field now than in the town, as they worked to rebuild the high stone fences that squeezed life into the city. The chore was long and the day promised heat and they worked diligently to avoid more work when the sun would not be as forgiving. Zelda waved at these villagers, who squinted and shielded their eyes in the bright sunlight, not really seeing her as she failed to recognize each of them. A stranger among her own people, her people nameless faces in a sea of summer. Disappointment set in on both sides, for the people expected a different rider at her approach and she expected a different reaction from those whose welfare was her life. She slowly put her hand down.
The sun parted from the high mountaintops and rose into the air, proud and haughty before the light wind so that the day was warm and cool all at once. But it was also silent. The Princess preferred this, just as she preferred the sunlight, just as she preferred the laborious trek through the fields and then the forests and then the ruins to sitting at her desk and reading everything while noting nothing.
Too long had she been locked up in that damn castle, looking out from her tower window and seeing her world, her kingdom, diminish into darkness and then recover with light. Even after the defeat of the evil lord Ganon, Zelda had been forced back into the castle to meet with her council, to prepare the city for the restoration that would commence immediately. She was not granted access to her people, and not once was she allowed to walk around the city herself, surveying the damage. This order came from both the council and the goddesses themselves, whose whispers the princess could hear with her long ears. And although she would have preferred to seen to the city herself, Zelda was silently, and shamefully, glad that she would not have to see the worst of the damage: she was not sure her heart could handle it.
As soon as she was out of sight from the castle, Zelda wanted to fling herself off her high horse and roll upon in those tendrils, to absorb the warmth of the sun through her skin and stain her dress natural green. But she held her head up high instead and let the animal follow the designated trail that led south; she had no time for frivolous behavior when her people required satisfaction.
It was not entirely her fault that her kingdom had been plunged into Twilight, but really there was no other set of shoulders upon which the blame would fit so nicely. She had been the ruler at the time, yes, but she had just lost her brother and her father to the worst disease ever to incapacitate the land of Hyrule. And through her mourning she had been forced to ascend the throne, to learn all the laws and proceedings and disciplines of court that she had only witnessed from afar, no one in the court or the council ever imagining that the young princess would ever take the crown. So she was unprepared, both mentally and emotionally, from the disastrous events that would next occur.
Zelda sighed at that, and with great wisdom and some courage she allowed her thoughts to travel over the recent events of the last year, from the sudden attack on her kingdom, to her regretful surrender, to her despondent imprisonment, to her meeting with Midna and the wild beast who would be hero.
She self consciously rubbed her right hand over which, emblazoned in gold, rested the sacred symbol of the Triforce of Wisdom. It was this marking on her hand that saved her in the world of Twilight, allowing her to retain her human figure and with it her intellect and perseverance as princess. She still did not understand why the goddesses had chosen her, of all people, to hold the piece, so celestial and divine was its reason, when there were surely others graced with more forbearance and more aspiration for the greatness that wisdom, as a necessity, grants. But then perhaps that was the point; perhaps only those who would be borne to greatness, who achieve greatness by having it thrust upon them, were meant to bear a piece of the triangle.
She thought of the others who had been delivered this emblem, blessed by the goddesses, and why their fate should be so intermingled as to go on and on forever. Zelda felt this knowledge had always rested within her being, newly awoken by the events of late that served to sanctify her judgment and validate her purpose. Why the goddesses should grant the Triforce of Power to Gandondorf was obviously apparent in his quenchless thirst for power and control. This was the way of the world: that so evil a man might obtain and wield power that is beyond his control, complacently sanctioned, so that there would always be fear and darkness so long as there was hope and light.
The Chosen Hero offered her more of a reason to reflect, because she had doubted his very existence until he was delivered to her by the Twilight Princess. Link was subject to the rule of the goddesses, had been since before his birth, since the formation of the kingdom itself hundreds of years ago. This was something that Zelda did not question because it was something that she had known better than her father or brother, better than the rest of the council put together. Ever since she was little and could hear the whispers of the goddesses when no one else could or would—she knew that there would be another like her, forced to endure the same trials, obligated to serve the goddesses just as she had. His role had been painted in the stars, foretold by the goddesses, and witnessed by the princess.
But what would be his purpose now that a great evil had finally be vanquished, in this lifetime at least, and now that he had lost his innocence, his complicity, and his closest friend? Zelda decided that she would pray for him as much as she prayed for her kingdom, that the goddesses might release him for the ever torturous, ever fateful game of duty which promised deliverance without ever promising when.
The Princess rode throughout the day, hardly stopping but to let her horse drink greedily from the river banks. Twice she thought she espied a group of moblins stalking the outer plains of the valley, but the sun's heat proved to be playing tricks. When she did stop for water, she took the opportunity to cleanse her face and rub her tired eyes before continuing the trek southward. She would travel from Lanayru Province, named for her guardian spirit Nayru, to Faron Province and then back again, with only her horse and her heart knowing the way.
The moon was high into the sky before the sun grew weary of its eternal duty and descended for the day. Hyrule Field in the twilight forced Zelda's heart to race and her head to pound, but she journeyed on, her wisdom assuring her when her courage could not. She was not afraid of what the night might bring; the night was merely the absence of the sun and the moon had never been her enemy. What she feared, truly, was something never to be named, something never to be experienced by her descendents just as it was foreign feeling to her ancestors. But Zelda would always find unease when two worlds, seemingly opposite but certainly parallel, would intersect for the briefest time. She felt loneliest at twilight.
Once night had truly fallen, Zelda trusted her nerves to find some quiet place for some peace before resuming her path the next day. She located a small crop of trees, settled next to fallen ruins that might have once been a great wall or perhaps a statue, all of which appeared securely concealed. She hopped off the horse and tethered it to the nearby tree. Assembling her things beneath the branches, Zelda brushed and fed her steed before retiring for the night, without any form of sustenance for herself. It would be another day and another night before she even reached the outcrop of the forest glen, but there was no rush in her step. It was a journey of penitence, of atonement, of realization and she had to pray diligently and reflect inwardly before she would even be ready to visit the temple. On the morrow she would eat, and then pray again before shouldering her things back onto the saddle and urging her horse forward just another day's ride.
She could not build a fire or else risk exposure and so comforted herself against the cool night by gathering her woolen cloak tightly about herself. Sitting against the trunk of the tree, Zelda scanned her darkening horizon to discern any ill-meaning scoundrels or vicious predators that might try to carry off her or her horse. But the vicinity was empty and with a small smile directed at the animal, which whinnied in concurrence, she closed her eyes briefly for some quiet relaxation.
She awoke some time later to the sound of a battle drum and the distinctive clash of swords echoing on the other side of the ravine. In her stupor, she let the sound beat in time with her heartbeat before recalling her location and her situation. Her nostrils flared and her eyes opened wide to search for the source of the noise, but the darkness hindered her normally piercing gaze. The warmth of her horse behind her gave her some comfort, though she felt it shudder soundlessly.
Suddenly she sensed a strange scent, as if the trees had lent their fragrance to the summer's wind. But Zelda could see neither goblins nor swordsmen with which to match both the scent and the sound. Her long ears, poised for hearing the whispers of the goddesses, pin-pointed the location of the noise as hidden beyond the sprawling cliffs on her right. Deciding that fleeing was the best option, she quickly mounted her mare and led it around the trees, away from the noise, and into safety. She saw nothing in the darkness.
Her alarm remained heightened even hours after the near skirmish, and despite her calming reason she could not dissipate the pounding of her pulse. Though the night remained, and she realized that she had truly received minimal sleep, the princess could not wisely stop lest she endanger herself further. Although she had worn armor since childhood, a remnant of harsher times when queens and kings could be slaughtered in their beds and princesses and princes learned to rely on no one, she knew that such protection was ornamental at best. Her normal attire did little to aid her in battle, which was why she had adopted a more practical dress for the journey: a loose riding habit, equipped with long boots and leather gauntlets, and a leather breast plate to obstruct some attacks. Ceremonial shoulder guards had been outfitted as well, although this only served to mark her as nobility.
Zelda rode throughout the night and into the early dawn, where the rise of the sun forced her to take a break for the benefit of herself as well as her mount. She napped on the edge of a natural pond that had nearly dried up in the constant heat of summer, but her horse seemed satisfied. It was not a member of the royal stables for nothing.
The second day seemed as uneventful as the first, although this time Zelda did recognize some members of her kingdom. A small band of Gorons led a wagon of goods from the Eldin Province into what the princess assumed was the Castle Town. They seemed to be taking the long road ahead, preferring it for the lesser amounts of enemies, no doubt. When Zelda rode past their caravan, more than fifty yards away still, the small tribe appeared to tense at the unfamiliar presence. It was not until Zelda raised her arm in a gesture of peace, the sunlight glinting off the gold of the Triforce on her hand, that the Gorons calmed and gestured also in goodwill.
"Be careful, lady! These paths are more dangerous than they look!"
Zelda grinned. "Do not worry, friend. I am also more dangerous than I appear!" She heard the Gorons laugh heartily, their giant bellies and shoulders shaking even more in the summer heat, and she waved to them goodbye once she passed.
By the time Zelda reached the farthest region of the province, the twilight set upon her again, stripping her heart of faith and hope. Astride her horse, Zelda silently prayed to the goddesses for the further wisdom and necessary valor to settle her nerves and show her the way. Her ears piqued at their voices, strained as they fluttered from the heavens above, and suddenly Zelda felt no fear. When she opened her eyes, night had descended once again.
She quickly located the best place for rest—in a sheltered cavern near the western part of the field—and unpacked her horse, tended to it by brushing its coat and letting it some water and provisions, and then prepared dinner for herself. It was a quick meal, not altogether very appetizing, but then a princess had never been taught how to cook her own food, only to eat it with refinement, as if for a show. She realized she had not eaten since yesterday morning and her stomach rumbled in aggravated anticipation for the sparse dinner.
Her horse seemed unperturbed by the events of the day, and immediately sauntered to the other side of the cave; it nibbled on the treats it had been given. Zelda sighed at the sudden lack of companionship, the cold of the hard rocks unsettling her. The fire she had built would slowly dwindle and die out, leaving only lifeless embers in its place.
And for a moment, Zelda had the fiercest desire to tend to that fire, to keep its flames alive and sparking in the somber moonlight, and she placed no less than four logs atop its healthy hearth. She pulled her fingers back just in time to avoid the sudden spurt of life, and with this crackling she recognized the strange scent from before. And then she knew and so she waited.
The group of moblins came clumsily in the moonlight, and the princess wondered at their inability for stealth when they clearly meant to remain unseen. But then they were at a disadvantaged; although Zelda could not see through stone, she could see through the darkness, and she counted their forces at less than fifteen even before they shone in the firelight.
By then she was ready. Her sword clenched tightly in her fist, she sprang up from her seat suddenly, frightening the younger moblins as they gave screeching, throaty cries and fell back. They tripped on the other moblins and for a moment not one of them appeared to have the strength to face her, tall and formidable as she looked in the barest traces of light. They saw first her sharp ears, and then her sharp eyes, and realized that they had made a mistake in provoking her. Zelda tensed, raising the sword in front of her and bending her knees in instinctual pose. But with a cry from the back, from the largest moblin, they all issued grunts of strength and pushed forward all at once while Zelda waited behind the throws of the flames.
When they were nearly on her, she sprang to the side, pushing herself forward with the curve of the mountain until she was behind them and they behind her. The monsters turned in surprise when they realized she was gone and then turned round to face her in the now open field. She struck down one with the hilt of her sword, knocking it unconscious, as others swung their blades fiercely, and others still pointed their arrows toward her heart. She deftly dodged to the side, knocking through the enemies with vigorous defense.
Caught up in the whirlwind of the battle, she did not notice arrows pierce the chests and foreheads of the most vicious monsters; nor did she see the near misses she faced when the monsters that had been closest to tearing her flesh had suddenly fallen with a screaming cry of pain. She chased those monsters who did not want to die off with the brandish of her sword, until there was but one moblin left. It faced her, with its back to the fire, and as Zelda advanced it did not see nor sense the flame licking its backside. It only realized this when Zelda's eyes grew wide at the sight of the fire nearly engulfing its entire back, and then the moblin gave a agonizing roar and ran off into the darkness, the spurts of red and orange on its back marking its progress down the mountain.
Zelda turned about, counting the numbers on the ground to ensure that none had been missed. But as she did so, she realized that her sword had not slain any of the beasts, and yet there was the unmistakable sign of blood pooling onto the earth. She slowly backed up to the mountainside, stepping smoothly over the fire, with her sword still drawn. She looked into the darkness and saw him.
He came up from the shadows as if they birthed him, draping his figure in dark patches of faded and forgotten colors, like a war hero decorated. His hands were dirtied with sweat and blood, traces of it still lingering on his blade. With his horse beside him, he made a haunting figure and yet there was a familiarity in his stance that shook the fear from Zelda's heart. He revealed himself slowly, as if not wishing to frighten her, and when she became acclimated to his presence, he spoke softly, his voice warm and velvety.
"Are you all right?"
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