"Keep your shield up! Stay alert!" Link barked, bringing his sword down in a cleaving stroke. His opponent, a steel-clad warrior garbed in the purple and gold livery of the Royal Hylian Knights, fell back from Link's furious onslaught, unable to make a retaliatory counter attack.
"Stay aggressive," Link commanded, advancing fearlessly. "You're giving me the initiative, Colin. You can't win if you're always on the defensive!"
The other knight, Colin, made a feeble attempt to swing back at Link, who easily dodged the blow. With a swift chop, Link brought his gauntleted fist down onto the wooden blade of his enemy and snapped through it completely. Colin stared at his shattered practice sword in amazement.
"You're getting better, Colin," Link said, removing his helmet and allowing some fresh air onto his sweaty face. "But you're still holding back. On the battlefield, you must give it your all, and I expect nothing less, even during practice sessions."
Colin nodded, his youthful face shining with eagerness and awe as he drank in Link's words. The lad was young, not even past his twentieth summer. But then again, the Hylian Knights were still rebuilding their strength, and Link couldn't be especially picky with his recruits. Still, Colin showed promise, and if he continued to grow and train hard, then perhaps he would become a full-fledged knight given a couple years' time.
Link sighed, sheathing his wooden practice blade and offering a respectful handshake to Colin. "That's all for today," he said. "Get back to your quarters and rest up. Tomorrow will be another busy day."
Colin nodded fervently, his head bobbing up and down like an excited puppet. His light blonde hair and shining eyes reminded Link of himself, long ago, when he had been a Knight Errant under the guidance of Sir Shiro. Memories of those days, long past, brought a sudden air of nostalgia to Link, and he paused thoughtfully, staring off into space.
"Sir Link?" Colin asked tentatively. His words brought Link back to reality, and the veteran knight turned to his younger apprentice.
"What is it, Colin?"
"You… your strength is incredible," the younger knight burst out, pointing to the fragments of his wooden practice sword which lay shattered on the training ground. "You smashed it using only your fist!"
Link smiled tiredly, slightly amused at Colin's near-veneration of him. He was only a decade older than the young knight, yet Colin insisted on treating him like a venerable swordmaster. It was kind of flattering, in a way – Link certainly enjoyed being a mentor to developing knights like Colin.
"You've still got a few years to mature," Link assured Colin, picking up the shattered fragments of wood and leading Colin off the practice field. "Don't worry about brute strength – finesse and skill are far more important attributes."
Colin nodded, obviously still impressed with Link's feat of strength. No doubt the young lad would be telling his comrades back in the barracks later that night. Link smiled to himself, noting Colin's energetic and youthful spirit. The young knight represented Hyrule's future – the warriors who would protect their land from tyrants like Ganondorf.
It was a good living, Link told himself. Training and mentoring such eager warriors, and watching them mature into skilled knights. Partly, he saw a little bit of himself in each of them, and he knew that many of them would become great swordsmen, perhaps even surpassing him one day. Link hoped they would, at any rate. It would be evidence that his instruction had left a meaningful impact.
As Link and Colin entered the castle, they were immediately accosted by an armor-clad guard dressed in the gold finery of the queen's Royal Guard. He offered a quick salute to Link, who returned the gesture automatically.
"A letter for you, Sir Hylia," the guard explained, handing Link a small sealed envelope. "Also, Captain Viscen sends his regards, and wishes me to inform you that he will be attending the field exercises tomorrow with your knights."
"Thank you," Link replied, sincerely, staring down at the letter in his hands. The Royal Guard saluted promptly and turned stiffly on his heel, marching back down the hall with parade-ground vigor.
Colin watched the guard go, eyes wide. "Someday, maybe I will be inducted into their ranks as well."
"The Royal Guard only takes veterans," Link said, with a slight smile. "You'll have to serve with distinction as a knight for many years before the queen grants you that honor."
"Why aren't you a Royal Guard?" Colin demanded. "You saved Hyrule from the usurper-king! And, isn't it true that you and the queen…"
"I am needed with the Hylian Knights," Link interrupted quickly, before Colin could finish his sentence. "Although, every knight has a duty to protect the throne. It is an honor to serve the queen."
Colin nodded once more, before taking his leave of Link, heading off down the west wing towards the barracks. Link watched him go, before turning back to the letter. He frowned: it was sealed shut with the official stamp of the queen, and the neat ink letters written on the front indicated that its contents were only to be expressly viewed by Link.
He cast a surreptitious glance around him, before tearing open the letter quickly. His heart beat faster as he recognized the familiar writing, and he felt unusually excited.
The letter was short, only a single sentence in length:
Meet me in the courtyard, tonight, after my meeting with the Terminian delegation is over.
He took a deep breath, folded the letter carefully, and headed off to his quarters to wash up and change.
During the last few years of Zelda's reign, all of Hyrule had undergone a miraculous transformation, and the Castle Courtyard was no exception. Hundreds of new plants, flowers, and trees had been planted in the courtyard, which gave it the outside appearance of a small forest. Of course, this made it difficult for guards and envoys to locate the Princess when she retreated to her private gardens, which was the reason why the courtyard had become the default place for Link to meet her. The difficulty of navigating the maze of plants, and the secrecy afforded by the foliage, made it a perfect meeting point, especially at night.
Even with the sun down and the stars twinkling high in the sky, Link had no trouble picking his way through the dense undergrowth. The entire Courtyard was familiar to him, as he had treaded the cobblestone paths innumerable times the past few years. At first, the Courtyard had been a regular place for he and Zelda to meet, but as Hyrule began to blossom once more into a golden land, their meetings became more and more infrequent. Her duty to the Hylian people overrode personal desires, and the reconstruction of the Hylian Knights required Link's presence more than he would have liked.
He hadn't seen Zelda in several days – she had been kept busy by the Terminian envoy that was negotiating some new trade agreement with Hyrule. It all made Link's head swim – he was a simple soldier, a knight, and that suited him perfectly. He figured that the complex administrative decisions required in leading a country were best left to Zelda and her cabinet of advisors. Still, he missed feeling her presence every day, and often felt pangs of jealousy when foreign princes and powerful lords would dance with her at balls and revel in her beauty. Although, Link reminded himself sternly, he had no cause for jealousy. He knew and trusted Zelda more than anyone else, and her business was not his to question.
As the moon rose high in the sky, casting odd shadows on the grassy turf, Link's feet automatically carried him beneath the swaying branches of a stout-limbed Deku oak. The tree was familiar to Link – he could trace the gnarled lines of age on its bark, feel the tough skin of its branches and hear it whisper softly in the night. The tree was familiar with him, because it was under this very oak that he and Zelda had nearly kissed, so long ago. When Ganondorf was still in power, before Hyrule had achieved its sovereignty. Those times seemed so long ago, like distant memories from some past life.
And underneath the familiar tree was the familiar form of another person. A woman, slim and beautiful, clad in only a light dress. Her golden hair flowed gently in the night breeze and her skin shone in the pale moonlight. She seemed almost like an otherworldly apparition, too beautiful and ethereal to be of this world, but as Link touched her warm hand, she turned and smiled.
"Link," Zelda murmured softly, her lips curving into a smile. "How are you?"
"Fine," Link replied, rather awkwardly, as he sat down next to her. Before, years ago, they would always meet in their garden, greeting each other with secret kisses and anxious giggles. But as time and duty had matured them, they had become more and more reserved, and now Link found their almost formal greeting rather disappointing. Duty, the rigid restraints of Castle life, had ensnared both of them – there was little room for passion or excitement. It grieved Link, more than he let on to anyone else.
Zelda seemed to know his thoughts – indeed, she probably felt the rigors of Castle life even more than he. Her hands played absentmindedly with his own, intertwining her fingers with his. She rested her head on his shoulder, and he automatically moved closer, his body providing a bulwark against the cold night air.
"I saw you training today," she whispered, voice low and quiet. She sounded tired, exhausted even.
"Colin," Link said automatically, holding her close to him and closing his eyes. "He's a fine lad, although a bit overeager. But he's trainable, definitely trainable."
Zelda sighed, shifting against Link. "He's a bit young, isn't he?"
"The Knights are short on manpower as it is," Link replied, "and besides, it's traditional Hylian custom for the nobles to send their sons to be trained as knights as soon as possible. When I was twelve…"
"Yes, Aleron sent you off to the Castle barracks," Zelda finished. "And then carted you off to Termina, to train with Sir Shiro."
She fell silent, and he did as well, the courtyard feeling oddly empty, as if there was a void of air between them. Link swallowed, took a breath. He could hear her slow, rhythmic breathing, as if she was in danger of falling asleep.
"How was your meeting with the Terminians?" Link asked, since they had nothing else to discuss.
"Boring," Zelda yawned, closing her eyes and resting her head in Link's lap. "But, all things considered, it went well. We should have some new trade routes opening up soon. The merchants living on our western borders should be happy about that."
Link's fingers idly ran through her strands of silken hair, reveling in their softness against his calloused fingers. Times like this, when he and Zelda were alone together, were rare. And even now, they were always preoccupied or worried about one issue or another.
Hyrule was in a Golden Age: the people had rebounded spectacularly from Ganondorf's reign, and the country was quickly becoming a preeminent power amongst the other nations of the world. The people were, for the most part, happy, and life was better than ever.
But for Link and Zelda, the benefits Hyrule was reaping came at a steep price. The burden of leadership had been passed to them, and it was slowly suffocating them.
"Do you remember," Zelda whispered, eyes still closed, "when… long ago… we first sat under this tree?"
"I do," Link said, a small grin splitting his weary face. "Fondly. You tried to kiss me."
Her cheeks flushed ever so lightly, and Link stroked her cheek gently. "It was during Ganondorf's gala, wasn't it?"
"Yeah," Zelda murmured. "Those were terrible times."
"But yet, I sometimes miss…"
"Link," she said, warningly.
"I'm just saying. We were more free then, weren't we? All the danger and anxiety… it was kind of exciting, wasn't it?"
"You're forgetting how terrible his reign was," Zelda reprimanded lightly. "Although, Link, I do know what you're trying to say."
Link sighed, resting his head against the Deku-oak. Even Ganondorf, once such a prominent figure in his mind, was little more than a vague memory now. The usurper-king, once the most powerful man in Hyrule, had been put to death a year ago. Link had seen with his own eyes Ganondorf's execution.
It had been a chilling affair – to see the tyrant led up to the execution podium in chains and rags, the former-king now little more than a beggar. And yet, Link would never forget the burning fire that still raged in Ganondorf's eyes, even as he was led to his death in the Arbiter's Grounds, the infamous Hylian prison located deep in the desert wastelands. How ironic, that Ganondorf had died where his ancestors had sprung from.
And before his death, Ganondorf had looked Link right in the eye. The Gerudo's face was ravaged from his long imprisonment within the Arbiter's Grounds, but Ganondorf remained as fierce and malevolent as ever.
He had said nothing as he was tied down and the executioner was summoned, but Link never forgot the Gerudo king's last act of defiance.
He had sneered at Link, his lips curled into a scornful smile, even as the executioner's axe had descended and severed the usurper-king's head clean off. The memory of that grotesque image, that burning expression forever plastered on the decapitated and bloody head of Hyrule's most infamous tyrant, never left Link's mind.
Sometimes, the knight would wake up at night in a cold sweat, and imagine that Ganondorf was still, somehow, alive. But that was preposterous – the usurper-king, and his chief servant Vaati, had both been executed in front of Link's eyes. He had made sure of it, had wanted to ensure that his father's murderers had paid the price.
As for Captain Zant, the former commander was still wallowing in the dank confines of the Arbiter's Grounds, awaiting a judgment that would likely never come to pass. He would waste away in solitude, until the long years and poor conditions of the prison finally took their toll.
Link shivered, and forced his mind away from such memories. Ganondorf's reign was long gone, even if the ghosts of the past continued to haunt him. He would have to remain strong, to rebuild Hyrule into a new, glorious future. After all, what were the needs of one, compared to the needs of the many?
The knight sighed, closing his eyes, and suddenly felt decades older than he really was. He wasn't even close to thirty, and yet, he felt aged and stretched. There had to be more to this – there was another reason he had chosen to fight and topple Ganondorf, something else he had dedicated his life to. The benefit of Hyrule was all well and good, but as selfish as it sounded, Link had fought Ganondorf for the sake of one person.
He looked down at her, marveling at her beauty, compassion, and wisdom. He still loved her, after all these years – still loved her more than life itself. And he knew, deep within his heart, that she reciprocated those feelings. He bent down and kissed her forehead, enjoying the feel of her soft skin against his lips. She stirred, feebly, and cracked an eye open.
"I'm sorry, love. I dozed off. It's been a long day."
"That's alright," Link muttered. "Get some sleep. I'll stay here with you."
"No," she said, sitting up and turning to face him. Her face was only inches away from his, and her blue eyes shone in the darkness like beacons. She was examining his face with worry, her fingers delicately tracing his cheeks.
"Something's wrong, Link," she murmured, finally. "Something's changed between us."
He shrugged. "We're needed by Hyrule, now. The needs of the people… should be our only concern."
"Link," Zelda said, watching him carefully. "We have our duty and our responsibilities. But we have a duty to each other, too. All those years we spent together – those long weeks in our secret war against Ganondorf – those have to count for something, right?"
"I know what you feel, Link," she whispered, softly. "I feel it too. Sometimes, I wake up in the morning, and I regret taking the throne of Hyrule. It would be nice to have a simpler life, without the responsibility or exhaustion."
"Do you regret taking the throne?" Link asked, holding her tightly to him. She slowly shook her head, her golden hair swaying as she moved her head.
"No, Link. Because, when I see all the differences we've made to this land, I know it's all worth it. We've made Hyrule better – we've made the people happier – and that means so much to me."
"I'm glad," Link replied, after a second. "If you're happy – that means the most to me."
"I'd be happier if we spent more time together," she confessed, pressing herself closer to him to ward off the night chill. "You spend too much time with your knights."
"And you with your advisors," he returned, partly in jest, partly in irritation.
Zelda sighed. "This is what I mean, Link. We've changed. And… it doesn't have to be this way."
"What do you mean?"
"Why must we sacrifice our desires for the sake of Hyrule? There's nothing that says we must be miserable to make the people happy."
Link remained silent, his hands roaming over her back. Her dress was light, and he could feel the heat of her body through the thin silk. She moved closer to him, her lips nearly touching his nose.
"I love you, Link. Always. I will never forget all you've done for Hyrule… for me."
He smiled suddenly, feeling oddly more lighthearted. I love you. Those simple words – those three simple worlds. They hadn't said that to each other for weeks. But the simple truth and power in that single phrase… Link's heart began to beat faster.
"I love you too, Zelda," he replied, as her lips brushed against his cheek. "And I will always be here for you. That's what it means to love you."
She pushed herself against him, her hands resting on his chest as her lips roved unashamedly over his cheeks, neck, lips. Link returned her advances enthusiastically, his eager lips easily claiming hers as they fell onto the ground.
She giggled in surprise as they landed on the soft earth, and Link laughed too. Why was this so funny? Why was it so… enticing? A simple kiss, a brief bout of passion – and he felt so rejuvenated! They had missed this, somehow, during the last few years. They had forgotten what it was like to love, to truly love. Not just to proclaim the words emptily, but to really mean it.
He loved her, loved his Zelda more than anything, and he knew that was the ultimate truth. He would never let her go, never let anything harm her, and so as long as he lived, he swore to the Goddesses that he would do anything for her.
As she kissed him, her golden locks falling onto his face, he laughed again, a booming, pure sound of mirth. She smiled broadly at him, her eyes twinkling, and she bent over him in a rather seductive pose.
He liked it, very much.
"This is what we've been missing," Link concluded, as Zelda attacked him with another wave of kisses. "We haven't had a – good – romp – for awhile… ahh!"
He sighed in pleasure, kissing her lovingly, and she gasped slightly as his fingers toyed with the fabric of her dress, his lips brushing the nape of her neck.
"I'm glad the courtyard is so secluded," Zelda giggled, as he continued to kiss her. "Although, I suppose, no one would really be surprised."
"Yeah, half of the knights seem to think I'll propose to you any day now," Link laughed. Zelda stopped, looking at him with wide eyes.
"Hmm, marriage, Link? Or at least, a courtship?"
Link sat back up, the smile slipping off of his face as he looked at her seriously. "Well, my lady, I still need the ring. And of course, the proper knightly courtship usually lasts a couple months before the marriage itself…"
"But you would?" Zelda asked breathlessly. "Marry me?"
"Zelda," Link said softly, taking her hands in his. "Isn't it obvious? You're the only one for me. You always have been. In fact, if you don't mind the makeshift ring…"
He tore a piece of grass from the ground and deftly folded it into a circle, tying the ends together to form a loose ring. He presented it to her, delighting in the amazed look on Zelda's face as she held out a shaking finger.
"It's not gold or diamonds," Link said, as he placed the grass ring on her finger, "but it'll do until I find a better substitute tomorrow morning. Zelda… I've loved you for too long, and I daresay we need a bit of a break from running the country. Will you marry me?"
She grinned, her face alight in wonder and amazement, and she threw her arms around Link in excitement.
"Link! Of… of course I will! What took you so long?"
"I wanted to make sure the timing was perfect," he whispered, hugging her tightly and kissing her. "I'm sorry about the ring, though."
"Oh, Link, it's perfect," Zelda sighed, drawing away and grinning at him like a loon. He returned her smile, laughing, and hugged her again, drawing her close to him once more. He hugged her tightly, as if he never intended on letting go, and he kissed her repeatedly.
"No time for a traditional courtship," Link declared, as she examined the grass ring on her finger in amazement. "We need to get away, right now. You've been working too hard, and I'm sure Viscen can take care of the Knights for a month."
"But, where will we go, Link? And when?"
"Right now," Link grinned. "We leave the castle in the middle of the night. We'll leave a note, and take some supplies and provisions. I'm sure Rauru and the other Elders will be able to run the country for awhile. How much damage could they possibly do?"
"Leaving Hyrule in the middle of the night? How irresponsible!"
"Come on, Zelda," Link wheedled, gazing at her with wide eyes. "No one can deny that you need the break. Just you, and me… it'll be perfect, my love. What do you say?"
She frowned at him, as if regarding him as an irresponsible child, before breaking out into a wide grin.
"Alright, Sir Link, you've won me over," she laughed, finally. He grinned, taking her into his arms and twirling her around like a doll.
"Now, the only question is – where do we go?" Link asked, as they danced together beneath the shadow of the Deku-oak. "Somewhere outside of Hyrule, or at least far away from the castle."
"I know," Zelda said. "Termina's Great Bay. You promised to take me there, long ago. Remember? When you first returned from Termina!"
"That's right," Link replied, amazed that she had remembered such a small detail from so long ago. "I did promise to take you to Great Bay. It would be perfect for our little getaway!"
"How beautiful," Zelda said dreamily, already imagining the sandy beaches, lonely islands, and rolling waves.
"And we'll have it all to ourselves," he said, with a wink. "It'll be fantastic, Zelda. I promise you that."
"This is so impulsive," she giggled, as he drew her close once again and showered her with fervent kisses. "I really think I should notify some of my advisors… what an awful surprise for them to discover that the queen has gone missing for a month in Termina! And how will they run the country…"
"Zelda," Link said, stopping and fixing her a semi-stern glare. "You worry too much."
He kissed her, deeply, passionately, and full of all the love and ardor that he had bottled up inside of him for so many years. There was no doubt at all in his mind – this was so right. They were young, in love, and now, engaged! And an entire month together on the sandy beaches of Great Bay beckoned enticingly. Link grinned, and Zelda laughed, her voice sounding so pure and clean.
They had saved Hyrule, and that was alright for Link. But what mattered most to him was that they still had each other. Even during the dark years of Ganondorf's reign, they had held onto each other, and that bond would forever link them together. Of that, Link was sure.
What mattered was that he had her. That she was his princess, his love, his Zelda. And he would never, ever, let her go, no matter what.
"I love you, so much, Zelda," Link whispered, kissing her again. She returned his advances willingly, her sweet lips so soft and gentle on his bare skin.
"So, Great Bay it is?" she murmured, her voice a low purr. He nodded, an incredible wave of happiness flooding his mind like a drug. He hadn't felt this excited, this young, in months. Years, even.
Zelda was right. Hyrule needed them, and their duty to the country and its people would last until they died.
But that didn't mean they couldn't enjoy life at the same time. After all, it wasn't as if duty and love were mutually exclusive.
When it came to loving a princess, Link surmised, those two were one and the same.
"A vigilante is just a man lost in the scramble for his own gratification. He can be destroyed, or locked up. But if you make yourself more than just a man, if you devote yourself to an ideal, and if they can't stop you, you become something else entirely... A legend."
Well, my second multi-chaptered work has finally come to an end! Let's review the stats:
204 pages on Microsoft Word
5 months of work
Countless hours to write
I'm proud to say that Legend is officially finished, and I hope that you are happy with the finished product. The best part about writing is entertaining other people, and I'm certain I've done that with this story.
I love multi-chaptered stories, but the amount of work, preparation, and thought involved in writing them is often daunting. When I wrote my first fanfic, A Legend Trapped in Time, I completely ran out of steam for it and abandoned it after only two chapters. About a year later, when I got back into writing fanfiction, I was determined to write only stories that I was confident I could finish. Thus, for Legend, I had already written the first ten chapters before I posted it here. With half the work already done, I would be less likely to abandon the story halfway through, and it helped create a steady update schedule that I thought worked well.
Inevitably, there are a few people who compare Legend with my other multi-chaptered story, Old Legends Die Hard. To me, this is an unfair comparison; the latter work is nearly twice as long, and thus has much more room to flesh out the characters and plot. I think that Old Legends Die Hard has more of an "epic" feel than Legend, but I believe my technical writing has improved greatly in writing Legend. Regardless of their differences, writing both stories was a labor of love, and I am quite proud of the finished works.
Finally, I have one last note to make: to all my reviewers, readers, and supporters, THANK YOU! I cannot say it enough! Thanks for all the kind words, the constructive criticism, the input and the comments. You guys are awesome, and I truly appreciate your support and encouragement! Thank you, thank you, thank you!
Well, that about wraps up my ending notes for Legend. I'm off to university this Fall, so I'm not sure when my next update will be. I've already got plenty of ideas churning in my mind, and some pages already written for a new multi-chaptered story, but actually publishing it may be awhile yet. Actually, I've got like five half-finished short stories saved on my hard drive – maybe I should finish those first before starting another chaptered fanfic?
Regardless, thank you once again for reading Legend, and I hope you had as much fun reading it as I did writing it!
*Yes, the ending quote was from Batman Begins. It fits well, though, which is why I included it.