17. Epilogue: Tally-ho!

"They're waiting for us down there, you know." The queen glanced down the entire length of the grassy hill, saw their companions milling about at its base. Metal glinted off of swords and armour, and she heard the faint touch of voices carry in the air. In the distance, she saw a field of tents snapping in the wind, the temporary home of the people of Castle Town.

"Let them wait, love," Link replied. A gentle breeze tugged at their clothes as they watched the sun slowly descend. They saw Castle Town spread out below them, saw strange steam-chugging cranes looming all over the place, lifting and lowering as they tried to clear the debris.

The queen turned back to the Hero. "So this is you now, then?" she asked. "With the strange speech patterns and everything?"

Anxiety flickered over Link's features. "You don't like it?"

She smiled, eager to soothe his distress. "It'll just take a little getting used to, that's all."

Link smiled as well. "You got used to all my other changes, didn't you?"

"That I did."

He turned to her, eyes wide. "So, are you going to tell me, then?" he asked. "About how came to be here?"

The queen shrugged. "The same way you got here, I suppose," she replied. "Except with me, I was allowed to see what became of our Hyrule. The Triforce – or whatever – left substitutes of us in our place. They both died in battle. Our people buried us – them - with our respective shards of the Triforce. I watched it all, trapped in some sort of magic bubble. Then I was brought here." A sigh whistled through her lips. "I think that means we're meant to stay in this world. Without our friends, our people –"

"But with each other."

Queen Zelda smiled. "But with each other."

Link took her single hand. "There was a portal in Death Mountain. Weird, no? I don't know how it got there, but there it was. Maybe there are others."

"Maybe." She didn't sound too convinced.

"And then what, love?" he said. The breeze ruffled his hair. "You were here in this Hyrule, but you never sought me out?"

"I couldn't," she replied, sadness weighing heavy in her voice. "I just had a vague idea of what was going on, and that I needed to stay close to the witch. Until the time was right, that is." She squeezed his hand. "But look at you. I'm so proud. You decided to be merciful and forgiving for once, didn't you?"

The corner of Link's mouth tugged upward. "Well. Took a lot of convincing. But, yes, I was tired of fighting all the time. Thought I'd give old Ganondorf a chance."

"So you trust him now, then?"

"About as far as I can throw him. With one hand tied behind my back. And a rabid cucco hanging on for dear life to my-"

"Right." The queen nodded sagely. "And…?"

"And he still needs someone to keep an eye on him," Link replied. "He's not completely peachy yet, if you know what I mean. Zelda – the other Zelda – told me some stuff about him that would scare you more than an army of Tingle-worshipping cuccos."

"Ah ha," the queen replied, laughing quietly. "But he's a hero now in this world. Thanks to you. The people think he killed Vaati."

"Funny how that works. He'd done all that good already, but he didn't become a hero until a big whopper of a battle." The merriment left Link's voice as his mouth set in a thin line. "They didn't find the sorcerer's body, did they?"

"No," she replied. "They didn't. He could have hit the moat and died, I suppose."

"He could have. But more than likely, he's going to be back one day, no?"

"Unfortunately." The queen gazed over at the moat. It twinkled under the glare of the sun. "The ice around the castle was still intact. So nothing broke through. No corpse. Nothing."

"Doesn't work all the time, does it?" Link said. "Having mercy. Some dogs just need to be put down. Like Vaati. Like the witch. Only because they'll bite you if you don't."

"Sad," she replied. "And sadly true."

A weary sigh overtook him. "What a world…"

"But don't you give up," the queen said, her voice strengthening. "Like I said: I'm proud of you. You should look at more people that way."

"I'll try."

A wistful look overtook the elder Zelda's face. "A new world. One where I'm not a queen." She let her fingers slip free from Link's and brought her hand to rest flat on her cloaked tunic. "It feels so strange. I don't know what to do with myself."

"How about that," Link said, winking. "A whole new adventure, no?"

"You can talk," she replied. "You were the Prince of the Freelander Emirate once."

The sound of running feet made them turn around. Little Zelda stopped in front of them, panting. Her eyes flicked over to the queen and, as per usual, her face ran through myriad different emotions. The queen smiled at her. After all, it was strange for her, too.

The Kokiri turned to the Hero of Time. "Link," she breathed. "It's the prince. He's requesting your presence."

"Why?" Link replied, eyebrow arched. "Needs his boots lacing, does he?"

Little Zelda folded her arms, frowning in mock-anger. "You know why," she said. "He wants an answer."

Link sighed. "Better get this over and done with, then. Come on." The three of them began their descent down the hill. The Kokiri trotted ahead, whistling a tune. Link tapped her on her shoulder. "What's with you, anyway? You're very chirpy."

Little Zelda grinned. "I'm going home! All of us are – Saria, Mido and me. Well, as soon as they come back from one of the healers, that is. The prince and princess are going to accompany us personally. And you know what? I'm looking forward to it. I don't care that I don't have a fairy. You know why?" She skipped around, walking backward so that she could face them. "Because I have you."

Link's eyes narrowed. "Are you calling me a fairy?"

Be nice. The queen's mental voice carried a hint of her laughter with it.

The Hero cleared his throat. "We'll check in with you. From time to time. Would you like that, love?"

Little Zelda grinned. "I'd love it!" He looked at them both. "So. You can talk to each other in your heads? How's that work, then?"

"It's a long story," the queen replied. "But one I'd be more than happy to tell."

Little Zelda gave her a shy smile. "I'd like that, too."

Midna met them as they reached the foot of the hill. Out of all of them, the princess had given the most from her time to try and comfort the people of Castle Town, walking from one family to the next, speaking soothing words or grinding healing herbs. Link and little Zelda had known she'd had a good heart, but now it seemed she was completely transformed, living only to give help. Of course, that meant that Ganondorf was now all the more enamoured with her. They'd even set the date of the wedding, despite the repairs that needed to be done to both castle and town.

Prince Ganondorf approached them now. He cast a wary eye towards Queen Zelda. Despite the fact that Link and the queen had tried to explain things as much as they could, the prince still seemed a little unsettled by the fact of her royalty. Not that it held any weight here in this Hyrule, but he still seemed rattled nonetheless.

The prince shifted his attention to Link. "So," he said. "What's the word? Are you going to accept or not?"

"To be your new Captain-of-the-Guards? Well," Link stroked his chin, "Oh, go on, then."

Ganondorf grinned. "Excellent!" He slapped the Hero on his shoulder. "And - dare I ask – what name are you going to assign to your troop?"

"Oh, you're going to love this." Link looked around, taking everyone in with his eyes. "All of you are. Here we go. Are we listening? Yes?" He licked his lips, then theatrically held up his hand, bouncing it along in time with each word. "Captain Link and – wait for it, wait for it – Captain Link and the Cucco Revenge Squad. How about that, eh? Eh?"

The prince pursed his lips. "I think we should discuss this further at a later date."

Link glanced around, a hurt expression on his face. "What? What?!"

Don't worry, the queen said in his head. I think it's adorable.

"Your Majesty!" A young page ran toward them, a scroll clutched in his hand "Your Majesty! Urgent news!"

Ganondorf spun on his heel. "What is it, squire?"

The page skidded to a halt, gasping for breath. "We've just…had word…from up in the North. There's some sort of disturbance going…on there. Magical creatures rampaging, strange lights in the sky." His eyes widened. "And the wind…the wind has gone haywire…"

Ganondorf looked up, alarmed. Midna slid to his side and took his hand.

Little Zelda blinked. "Vaati?"

Queen Zelda shrugged in response. "Or someone similar."

"Bad news whoever he is," Midna added.

The prince flicked a glance toward Link. "Captain? If you would?"

The Hero of Time stepped forward, the two Zeldas flanking him, the prince and princess just behind. His forest-green coat billowed in the wind. "What are we waiting for?" he cried, raising his sword to the sky. "Tally-hoooooooooooo!"

Finis

A/N: Wow, I actually finished it. After all those aborted (and now deleted) fics in the past five years, it was nice to get one done again. I think I needed that big break to recharge, to be honest.

I had a number of intentions for this fic. I wanted to mix the tone from 'The Apprentice' and 'Rebel Assassin' with the tone from 'Shadow Lord's Bane' and see if it would work. I wanted to do the whole 'reboot the universe' thing that's so popular in other media at the moment. Most of all, after getting a bit tired of reading fantasy doorstoppers, I wanted to write an epic-type tale that wasn't a bloated thirty-chapter plus story. I'd actually intended it to be twelve chapters and fifty-thousand words, so I sort of went over on that one.

Hope you all enjoyed it! Thank you for reviewing, especially all you repeat reviewers – you know who you are! Please let me know your final thoughts.

And, yes, as some reviewers noticed, the good Doctor was one of the influences for this story.

Hmm…

There's something not quite right…

Something missing…

Something…

Oh yeah!

"Right. This is the last time I write fanfiction. Really. No more. That's it. Over. Finished. Kaput. Gone."

Ah, yes. It wouldn't be a Split Infinitive story without one of those, would it?

(EDIT: That last bit was meant to be joke mocking all the times I said I'd quit. Since people are taking it seriously in their reviews, I had to add this explanation. If a story's worth doing, then I'll do it).

Of course, now that I've set up this new universe, it might be fun to come back and play in it again one day, hmm…?

See ya!

Split