"Alright you lot! Stand to and get some rest!" Called the sergeant watching over the column of marching peasants; despite being garbed in farmers clothes they seemed to have taken the march better than the actual soldiers and took their seats gracefully in small parties, moving as close as they could to one another and rubbing against each others' bodies wherever they could. Occasionally they exchanged gentle bites, like puppies and rumbled at each other soothingly.
"Tch, damned wolves," the sergeant muttered, hefting his pike and shaking his head. "They're creepier than the damned Gerudos."
"Anything of note to report soldier," asked a black armor clad knight*, striding up behind the sergeant who jumped to attention.
"No sir! They're settling in nicely."
The knight turned his head to observe the peasants, nodding approvingly, "very good. His Majesty wants all in preparation for the Gerudos and their allies. We'll show those desert scum what it means to face Hyrule."
"Yes sir," the sergeant said dutifully.
"Don't discount them," a third man said quietly as he joined them, standing besides the towering knight as he eyed the assembled farmers. "They've never come out of their desert to face us like this. It is entirely possible that we are missing something important."
"Pah," mocked the knight, "you Sheikah are so bound to the shadows you can't stand in the light without jumping at the first sign of your own shadow."
"Perhaps," Sheik said in quiet response as he watched the farmers milling about and socializing. He sighed heavily but remained silent on the sight before him, he had his opinions, and they were his to keep.
"Bunch of high and mighty arse holes if you ask me," muttered Davos sullenly, looking up at the trio above them. "Just because they beat our ancestors to the brink of extinction doesn't give them the right to make us their lap dogs."
"What can you do," responded Farva, she stretched out languidly on her side and closed her eyes, "there aren't enough of us to make a difference."
Davos' lips rippled revealing sharpened teeth, "I'd love to get my jaws into their collective throat, that's something I can do."
"And then they'd slaughter our families, pushing us even closer to extinction;" she said closing her eyes. "Honestly, do you ever think before you speak?"
"Thinking is for those that can afford the luxury," Davos said dubiously, looking over at their companion with a wink. "You've got plenty of time to think eh Link?"
Link smiled, yes he did have time to think, time to think of everyone back home in the Kokiri Forest. That wasn't exactly the best thing ever though as it gave him time to worry about everyone back home as well, and what would happen if the Wolfos failed in their duties.
Farva leaned against him and nipped at his neck affectionately; "you thinking of Illia again?"
He smiled, "I can't hide it can I?"
"Well you've only known each other since you were pups," she said with a chuckle, "besides you always get this distant look in your eyes when you're thinking of her."
"I hope she never has to do this," Link murmured, looking out at the other Wolfos that were of fighting age.
"She'll have to, s'long as the Hylians have us under their boot." Davos said coolly.
Farva's eyes twitched and she pounced on him, snarling as she pushed him into the grass in a brief tussle. "Show some sympathy you big dog, this is his first time."
"Okay okay, let me up already, I didn't mean nothin' by it," Davos said, Farva let him up and he looked over at Link. "Sorry mate, I ain't trying to scare you or anything."
Link shook his head, brushing his golden hair out of his face, "its alright, I knew I'd have to do this eventually. After all we are bound to the Hylian Royal Family."
"And a pox on the lot of them too," asserted Davos.
Link, Farva and several others within earshot nodded agreement.
"This isn't right!" Zelda protested.
"This isn't about what is right Zelda, this is about survival," her Father roared, finally losing his temper with his daughter's headstrong tone. "They once hunted Humans until we Hylians came and drove them into the forests and made them swear their allegiance to us or face extinction. This is their duty."
"Just like the Shiekah?" She asked venomously.
Behind her, Impa cleared her throat pointedly, "we swore our allegiance of our own free will your Highness."
"That doesn't change that it is still servitude." She said, rounding on her father again," the War of the Wolf was two thousand years ago Father! How can you hold these peaceful people to their ancestor's sins?"
"Because they swore an oath to serve the Royal House of Hyrule for so long as its heirs draw breath, that is their oath and their duty and I will hear nothing more of this; especially on the eve of battle!"
Zelda made to protest again, but Impa's firm hand coaxed her away from her father's stern gaze. She accepted her defeat, knowing full well that when the Red Lion was in this kind of mood, nothing would shake him from it.
"It isn't right," she murmured as they left the King's tent.
"That does not mean that it will not be Princess." Impa said impassively.
Zelda smiled sadly, "I imagine you think I'm nothing like my mother. I'm always told she was far more lady-like."
"You actually share a great many traits with her actually; she was far less tame before she bore you."
Zelda sighed, spying Sheik approaching her father's tent; he paused to bow to her. "Your Highness."
Impa nodded approvingly at the manner in which her son greeted Zelda, though she didn't let it go beyond a slight inclination of her head.
"Have you seen the Wolfos?" Zelda asked quietly.
"Yes Highness, they are at the front of the battle line."
Zelda sighed, "my father intends to use them as the first line, his shock troops. Impa this is wrong, they're just simple farmers!"
"You underestimate them your Highness," Impa said impassively. "They are far more than mere farmers, once they scent blood; you will see their true forms."
"I don't care about their true form, they are people, and they deserve the same freedom that I enjoy. That freedom shouldn't be purchased at the cost of their lives!"
"Again Highness, once you see them in battle, you will understand why they are feared and even mistreated;" Impa said, ever patient with her young ward.
"Forgive me your Highness," Sheik said, his head still bowed. "I must report to your Father the King."
Zelda nodded and watched as Sheik disappeared into the Red Lion's tent, shaking her head as she went to her own tent, Impa following silently behind her.
"You, serving girl, what are you doing here?"
Malon pulled the jug away from the prying hands of the sergeant, "I'm taking milk to the soldiers."
"Then you're in the wrong place missy, these ain't soldiers, they're wolves," the sergeant said, making another grab for the jug but missing as Malon moved out of the way. He tried again, but a heavy hand set on his shoulder.
"Are you troubling one of my girls?" Rumbled Talon** darkly.
The sergeant nearly shat himself as he looked at the massive form that was Malon's father, his eyes blazing warningly as he eyed the smaller man dangerously, behind him on the horse drawn wagon Romani cheered him on.
"That's right, show him Dad!"
Cremia shook her head, despairing fondly over her family. "Honestly, I can't believe this."
She slid off the buckboard and approached the guard with a friendly smile on her face, "I'm sorry, but we were told to bring the Wolfos something to eat, I hope it isn't too much hassle sir."
The sergeant melted beneath her warm smile, "y-yes ma'am, just be careful, they're unruly and dangerous."
"I'm sure," she said sweetly, flashing him a beautiful smile. "We'll be fine though, I promise."
"W-well carry on then, I have other things to attend to," he said as he seemed to float off on a cloud.
Romani crossed her arms sullenly, "that wasn't any fun I wanted Dad to set his clock."
Malon shook her head and made her way into the settled farmers, she knew full well what she was walking into but she refused to see them as monsters. Those that looked at her, for most paid her no mind, did so warily. She could understand their nervousness; after all she looked Hylian, even if she was only half. She set the jug down and uncorked it, taking the deep ladle from the side of the jug.
"Would anyone care for milk?"
The gathered farmers exchanged glances, like she was daft, before a boy that couldn't have been any older than she was stood up and approached her.
"I'll have some," she was surprised to hear how gentle his voice sounded. It was hard to imagine him as anything even resembling a monster.
"Here you are," she finally managed, looking away from his beautiful eyes. She dipped the ladle into the jug and handed it to him. He took it gingerly and tipped the contents of the ladle into his mouth sighing contentedly.
"That's delicious," he said with a smile that made her heart jump. "You must have some amazing stock."
She nodded proudly, "only the very best can be found on our ranch. Would you like some more?"
He nodded and returned the ladle, "please?"
She served him again, watching him quietly, how could someone like this be a bloodthirsty monster? It made no sense, but then again, what did she know? She was just a horse breeder and cowhand, maybe this sweet boyishness was a trap; but it just didn't sit right with her mind.
"I'm Malon," she said as she took the ladle back from him.
He looked at her curiously for a moment before giving her that smile again, "Link," he frowned then and looked at her as if studying a parchment. "You aren't afraid of me?"
She shook her head, smiling at him warmly; "you don't seem dangerous."
The smile reappeared and he opened his mouth again, "hey Link! If you're going to hit on the milk maid why don't you ask her sister over here and we can have us a party?" Called out another farmer from the small group Link had left.
He flushed and turned to go, "sorry," he murmured as he went back to his companions.
She wanted to speak with him further, but she couldn't, others were coming forwards now and asking for ladlefuls of the rich milk, most of them were just as polite, some were even wary, eying her pointed ears cautiously as they asked for their share. Her father joined her, bringing with him two barrels of salted pork, chicken, and beef; she looked up at him wondering if he'd seen the same gentleness in the Wolfos once before and that was why he insisted on feeding them whenever they were called out to fight for Hyrule.
That evening the farmers lay sprawled on the grass, huddled together for warmth sleeping soundly, whenever one of their guards got too close however, eyes would flick open and heads would rise, watching the passerby until they'd moved away. Zelda watched all this quietly, marveling at the unity they showed, no single member of the hundreds of farmers was left out in the cold. They all curled around each other in a prone huddle that ensured warmth for all. If only other species could mimic their sense of unity she thought sadly. She made her way downwards towards the group, careful to skirt the guards as they circled the mass of sleeping bodies, Sheik and Impa followed as shadows watching carefully for any threats. Neither liked this escapade of the Princess' but what could they do? Once she had an idea in her head, she would never let it go.
Zelda and her escorts slipped past the guards soundlessly and found themselves face to face with a multitude of raised heads, all human in appearance though their eyes glowed red, green and yellow in the dim light cast by the moon. There was a long pause in which Zelda did not move, simply staring at the faces as they gazed at her, their expressions truly did resemble the impassive gaze of wolves she realized, it was eerie in a majestic way.
Finally one of them spoke, though she did not see who, "what do you want Hylian?"
She took a deep breath, "I wished to thank you, and give my apologies and deepest regrets that your people are forced into this role."
There was a low rumble and she saw more bodies shifting as more pairs of green, red, and yellow lit eyes appeared and gazed towards her in the silvery night.
"What do you care for us Hylian?" Another voice rumbled.
"For that matter, why should we care for your thanks or apologies?" Chimed in yet another voice, this one obviously feminine though no less threatening in its growl; each time they spoke, Zelda felt as if she wanted to run. Was this what they were truly and why they were feared she wondered, the sheer terror of facing their gaze and hearing their voices rumble?
She steeled herself, "I am the Princess Zelda, heir to the throne of Hyrule and the Royal House of Hyrule."
That changed their mood drastically and in the moonlit night she saw something that sent shivers down her spine as several of the farmers changed their shapes, what had been human in appearance were suddenly large wolves, wolves larger than any she had ever seen, they were easily the size of a small horse. They fanned out in a semi-circle around her before sitting and eying, she felt Impa touch her shoulder warningly as the glowing eyes gazed at the trio that had trespassed into their slumber.
After what seemed like minutes of silence but could only have been mere seconds, one spoke. "The House of Hyrule is apologizing to us?" The growl was gone now; instead it was a soft query that seemed to flow on the breeze.
"No, I, as heir to the House of Hyrule, am expressing my regrets over what has been done to your people. My father the Red Lion does not share this."
Zelda could see beyond the ring of wolves, more of the farmers, some in their wolf forms, others still human, all of them watching intently and whispering to each other as the conversation was relayed through the group. She realized then too, that the guards had noticed the shift in mood and were searching the moonlight for the cause of the disturbance. She had to finish this before it endangered anyone's life. Other than her own that was.
"I am here to make a pledge to your people," she said steadily, despite the nervousness she felt at the imposing gaze of the wolves arrayed around her. "When I take the throne, you, and your people will all be freed from your bonds to the Royal House of Hyrule, you have my word."
What followed was more frightening than the low murmuring rumbles that had come before; it was pure, dead silence. There wasn't even the sound of breath being drawn other than her own. It was as if the entire company had become as stone, Zelda wondered if perhaps she had gone too far this time, been too reckless. Then a single wolf stepped forwards, as it drew close she saw that it bore numerous scars on its white coat and was missing its left eye.
"I have served in the service of the Royal family for a long time, why would you wish to free us now?"
She swallowed, never letting her gaze leave her examiner, a female she thought if the timbre of the voice was correct.
"Because it is unjust and cruel to ask you to defend our freedoms when we give you none in return, to blame you for what happened two millennia ago. It is time for things to change."
Zelda didn't know it, but she was face to face with the matriarch of the remaining Wolfos, the alpha female for what remained of the decimated population, and this female had heard a great deal in her many years, but this was new. She stretched out her nose, sniffing the air for signs of deceit or dishonesty. Sheik pulled his blade out and the white wolf turned to look at him dangerous, her fangs bared in a silent snarl. Impa put a hand on her son's arm, lowering his blade. Zelda reached out her hand, the silken gloves she normally wore were absent and her bare hand touched the moistened nose of the massive wolf before her.
After a long moment of consideration, the wolf withdrew and rumbled thoughtfully. "I believe you, Princess of Hyrule. I only hope that you believe yourself when the time comes."
With that the matriarch turned away and returned to the rest of the pack, shifting seamlessly back into her human form as the others joined her. Zelda watched in awe as the shifted forms twisted and moved and she was left to view the same mass of curled together farmers; leaving herself and her escorts alone in the open. This time, no glowing eyes watched their movements.
"Who goes there?" A voice called, the words sounded like a thunderclap and Zelda jumped in surprise.
"We need to leave your Highness, now." Impa said urgently as the guards began moving towards them.
Zelda nodded and let Sheik and Impa whisk her away into the night without as much as a trace, leaving the guards searching the silvery night for ghosts and shades as the Wolfos returned to their watchful slumber.
Author's Note: To be honest, this story has captivated me so much that I am abandoning my rule of two and making it a threesome. It was inspired by the song Forsaken by Within Temptation; for those that are wondering, yes, if I listen to a song long enough my mind will come up with all kinds of things. Also for those interested, the species I am currently using comprise the following: the Wolfos which are humanoids that can turn into wolves (I'm using the enemy from the games just for the sake of simplicity…and also it just seems fun), the Hylians, an elf-like people who now rule most of Hyrule (Zelda and her father are Hylians, they're distinguishing features are slightly slit eyes and pointed ears they also live longer than humans), Humans, who make up most of the population, the Gerudo who are technically humans just desert bred with darker skin, they are considered barbaric and have been confined to the deserts beyond the mountains of Hyrule. The Shiekah of which little is known other than they serve the Royal House of Hyrule, beyond that and their prowess as warriors and spies no one knows anything of their origins. I intend for the Zora to make an appearance, possibly the Gorons, and I have the Goblins of course who are based predominantly on those obnoxious enemies from Twilight Princess (the ones riding the big pigs around).
*The dismounted knights are modeled after the Iron Knuckles and Darknuts from the various Legend of Zelda games while the mounted knights (they'll appear later) are modeled after the Magic the Gathering card titled Knight of the Dawn
**Yes, I did change Talon's character to be a might bit more threatening, more like a surly ranch owner than the lummox he normally is, so sue me.