Well, would you look at that, I'm not dead after all!
I apologise I've been gone for so long, especially to those who were used to seeing regular Heroes updates. I've been piled up with about ten different types of stress for the last few months, and between now and the last Heroes chapter, I've been struggling with several things. My parents have come unbelievably close to separating twice, and though I thought myself unfazable, it really got to me, and I couldn't get into a writing frame of mind for ages.
I'd like to say, for anyone not following my Tweets, that Heroes C35 has been written; it's being beta-read at the time of posting this, and should be back by next week. I'll post it as soon as I have finalised version.
Now, as for this fic. I don't really know where this is going; with all my other stories, I have a tendency to write the ending and work towards it, but for this, I have no idea. I've literally just written this chapter, and I know it's short, but Fly Away Home's short chapters were proving easier to write than the masses I tend to write for Heroes. So, updates will be sporadic at best. I'm sorry it's taken so long to update, but I don't tend to get ideas for it much.
I'll take the opportunity to say thank you to all who reviewed the first chapter (I should have sent you personal replies to all who were registered; if not, then I'm sorry) and also to people who continue to review No Happy Ending. If 'Ron Obvious' reads this (anonymous reviewer), I'd like to say that yes, in some cases Link's suicide can be seen as cowardly, but within the context of the story, he is heartbroken and living an empty life; there is nothing for him, hence why he did it. All of your comments are addressed in the story's context.
Otherwise, here's the next chapter. I won't say enjoy, so tell me what you think.
You have every right never to forgive me for my actions, but I cannot feel remorse. I know what I have to do, and by the time you read this, Goddesses willing, I will be gone.
You and I have spoken at great lengths, and I feel you may at least understand how I have felt. The pain of emptiness has become too great to bear. And though I know my actions will cause great pain to those I am close to, in time I know the wounds will heal. Mine will never close.
I regret I have to put you through this. You have always been much more than a princess to me; I can only think of you with fondest memories as a great friend. You have always been strong, and I have always looked upon Hyrule with comfort, to know that you were the one to lead it out of its deep troubles, and it shines bright as a symbol of hope, that no matter what is sent its way, Hyrule will never fall. And because of this, the land no longer needs me.
As my final parting, with this letter you will find the gift I was once tasked with presenting you, the finest blade crafted by Rusl of Ordon. I am sorry I could not present it in person, and that it is so late, and I hope you understand. A few more of my belongings are with it, to be given as gifts to the people who have shown me unconditional love and support, who became my family when I found no other.
And my final wish, and I beg it honoured, is for my home, my place of solitude and peace, and the source of my isolation… I wish it destroyed. I did not wish to scare the village by doing so myself, should they try and stop me. But please do not look upon it as an act of destruction. Think of it as the goodbye I could not bear to hear.
Forever your friend,
Fresh sniffles broke Zelda's form as she read the note again. The parchment was stained with tears but she knew every word by heart.
They were the final confessions of a shattered soul.
His words were true; she understood him, and why he did it, and she forgave him. A thousand times she had forgiven him, if it would bring him peace.
Clutching the crumpled letter she raised her reddened eyes to her surroundings.
The villagers of Ordon stood around Link's empty house in silence, holding back their tears. Fado, his head heavy, followed a shaking Rusl from the house and climbed slowly, sadly, down the ladder.
Rusl walked over to Bo, who softly caught his friend's shoulder. The two met eyes and Rusl sighed. "All set," he whispered.
Bo sadly nodded. Jaggle, standing at the side with a torch, passed the flame to Bo. The mayor turned to the Princess, who had come to pay her respects, and just as Link had said, say her goodbyes. As their eyes met, a tear rolled from her eyes.
She softly nodded, another sniffle breaking her.
Bo sighed, walking very slowly to the ladder. "Link, our friend, son and brother…" He spoke towards the empty house. "With heavy hearts we honour your last requests as we commend you to the Goddesses. Let your pure heart find you peace now and forever, and let you suffer no more for our short-sightedness." A sob parted from him. "Goodbye, Link."
Bo reached up and brushed the torch at the walls of the house; the dry wood caught fast, beginning to smoulder and burn. As soon as both sides were alight, Bo pushed the torch into the old home, allowing the flames to begin consuming it.
He stepped back, tears flowing. Not as bad as the poor boy's funeral, where Bo had, for the first time since the loss of his wife, cried openly, like Rusl. Both regarded Link as their son, and though Bo respected Link viewing Rusl more as his adoptive father, it didn't quell the love he held for the bright, happy young man.
The one who hadn't been seen in three years.
But Bo was determined to remember Link only as that happy, carefree youth whose innocence and heart were stolen from him. How the Goddesses could subject their chosen Hero to such torment after he gave up everything in their name, Bo struggled to understand, but their mysterious ways were unquestionable, and every night since, Bo, together with his heartbroken daughter, had prayed for Link's soul.
It had humbled so many, to know what Link had done in the name of the land. His funeral was attended by so many, of every race and class. It united them, how one simple farm-hand had saved them all, regardless of their status and their creed. It had been a beautiful service, with heart-wrenching speeches by all those who knew they were close to Link. Though no speech came close to the few words spoken slowly by Rusl; his love for the boy as nothing short of his own kin broke his voice, but his words were moving and profound. And as the last to speak, he had turned to watch as the congregation filed past the casket, placed their hands upon it and bade their Hero goodbye, his tears flowing freely. When he was the last, he had walked so slowly to it, placed both hands upon the wood and bade his goodbye in silence. To the Princess, nothing was more moving.
Rusl's eyes sparkled with tears at the memory, reflecting the flames of the burning house. He and Fado had volunteered to honour Link's request, clearing the house of anything dangerous along with his gifts, and leaving all of Link's other possessions in place. It truly was a way of saying goodbye; Link would never return. The tree had been his hiding place, his way of coping with his differences, and Rusl would not will that on another. It was Link's place, and his alone, and Rusl respected that above all else.
Fado watched the wood burn, distantly aware of the precautions they had taken, from felling the nearby trees to ensuring Link's bombs were now in the care of their maker. The wood roared as it fell apart, slowly but safely, and as the smoke rose into the darkening sky, the fires slowly faded, leaving behind nothing but ash and charred chunks of oak.
The gathered villagers remained in silence as the Sun set, each praying for their missing son and brother. Almost everyone allowed their tears to fall; the Princess had been able to grieve for longer, and was able to rein in her tears. Instead she looked upon the remains of the Hero's home with utmost respect, silently wishing him goodbye.
The children, still young, but able to understand, stood silently and still at their parents' side. Colin held his father's hand, both feeling comfort in the gesture. Adoptive or not, Link was his brother, and his father's son. A part of their family was gone, but Link had taught him to be strong. They had each other, and they would keep it that way.
As the night drew in, the gathered villagers filed silently to their homes. Rusl and his family were the last to leave; Colin gently led his father away from the remains. As he took his father's hand between both his own, his sleeve drooped slightly from how he had covered his hand. Only one person noticed before he replaced the sleeve, the only outsider present.
Princess Zelda was about to leave herself when she found herself willed to watch Rusl's family depart. She saw with respect how the young Colin had stayed strong for his family, supporting his grieving father despite no doubt missing his brother terribly. As Uli came with them carrying their youngest child, Zelda noticed Colin's sleeve slip. Just an inch, but it was all she needed.
The black lines on Colin's hand were well-defined and impossible to mistake. Though she knew how much the young boy looked up to Link, with what she had seen at the service, how the Triforce mark on Link's hand had gone, she made the connection.
Zelda watched in silence as the family departed before herself returning to her escort. The royal guards opened the carriage door and helped her inside, and the royal procession made their way steadily back to the town.
Within the carriage, the Princess sat in silence, utterly lost in thought. She did not rouse until they reached the castle, desperate to understand…
What does all this mean?
The villagers are all still grieving for Link, which is why this doesn't really develop much.
What will Zelda discover about the Triforce and the way it chooses its bearers? Is Colin doomed like Link? Only time will tell.
Cheers for reading!