Survivor of the Sheikah
The air was thick with the smell of smoke and blood.
Burnt wood and fragments of stone crunched beneath Impa's boots as she carefully picked her way through what had once been her village. There had been no mercy, here - stone walls had been shattered by bomb blasts, the fire that had ripped through the town scorching the wood black. The few buildings that remained were on the brink of collapse.
Only the windmill had survived unscathed, although its sails had been burnt off. But that was a start - that indicated, at least, that they would be able to draw water.
She stepped over a body. There were a lot of them in the streets.
By the time she reached the well, the grass surrounding the square burnt and dry, Impa was near the brink of despair. Every single house was destroyed, every single one of its inhabitants dead - most of her people's bodies had been charred and burnt, but her practised eye could still see the wounds that marred their bodies.
This had been no tragic accident. This had been a massacre.
She was one of the last, then. She, and the men still on the battlefield, although she suspected that they would not remain long either. Impa, by virtue of her position as the personal guardian of the Queen of Hyrule and her infant daughter, had protection. They did not.
At her feet was a blade, straight and long, the hilt one she would recognise anywhere. She gazed down sightlessly at a moment at the bloodied blade, then gave a scream of frustration, kicking its hilt fiercely, sending it spinning into the side of one of the houses still standing. Ash and soot trickled down, disturbed by the impact.
And, at the edges of hearing and only audible by virtue of the utter lack of sound in the rest of the village, a thin wail split the air.
For just a moment, Impa froze.
And then she was racing to the source of the noise, one of the buildings still standing, her heart pounding so fiercely she was surprised it wasn't visible even through her armour. If anyone had survived... if only one had survived...
The door collapse inwards when she touched it, already burnt to charcoal. But the house was brick - it had weathered the fire a little better. Still covered in soot and ash, still unstable, still burnt out with the bodies of its former inhabitant unrecognisable in the corner, but the stone blocking the hidden passage at the back had prevented the flames reaching its interior. She shoved it aside roughly, barely noticed when it cracked in half, and peered cautiously inside.
The sounds had stopped, now - or, at least, the wailing had. If she listened carefully, she could just hear the sound of soft breathing, a few strained whimpers mixed in to it. And, as her eyes adjusted to the dark, she could see the little black smudge huddling against the furthest wall.
Her breath caught. "Don't be afraid," she whispered, hopefully comfortingly, "My name is Impa. I won't hurt you."
The little black smudge unfurled a little, and she took a step towards him. When it didn't immediately recoil, she crossed the remaining distance, scooping up the child. "It's alright," she murmured, already acutely aware of the fact that she was not good with children, "There, there."
Steeling herself, she reached up to find the child's head, shielding his - or her - eyes from the grisly view he would otherwise see as she ducked back through the remains of their home. A boy, she noted, as soon as they were out in the sunlight, no older than two years old. With some luck, he would have no memory of this day.
The walk back through town was hurried, Impa ensuring to shield the boy's eyes from the view, to not stumble over the torn land. But finally, she reached the relative sanctuary of her home - the outer walls were scorched, but not damaged, and the wards had prevented the invaders from entering. To contrast with the burnt homes outside, the interior was cool and dry.
She sat him on a chair, then busied herself with finding some food for him - the smoke had first risen over five hours ago, he must have been hidden away all that time. No wonder he had been crying. An apple, carefully cut in to slices, and a cup of milk - she set them on the table in front of him, smiling a little as he took a look and carefully got up to kneel on the chair so as to reach.
Miruna and Calin's little boy, she realised, watching him eat. What had his name been? She couldn't recall.
One thing was clear though, Impa decided, watching the boy carefully tip the cup of milk to his mouth to take a sip, he could not stay in Hyrule. The Sheikah were now as good as extinct - given the precise nature of their enemy, and given that her only protection was her status, he would be in danger if he remained. Perhaps she could pass him off as her son - no, she had specifically been asked if she was childless before accepting her role as the Queen's guardian.
There was no way around it - he had to leave.
While he ate, Impa rummaged through her desk for some paper and ink, and considered what to write. Toaru - that was probably the best bet - far enough from Hyrule that he would be protected, but still enough people of Sheikah descent that he would not be raised ignorant of their culture and ways.
His true name is... hmm. She couldn't quite recall.
The book of records for every birth, marriage, and death in the village dating back the past three hundred years was right there on her shelf - she flipped it open, got the boy's real name and date of birth (ah, she knew it had been something like that), and jotted it down.
But he is not to know of this name - it is a relic of an era that has now been inexorably erased from the face of history. The Sheikah are extinct, and in memory of our fallen race, the boy is to be named 'Sheik'.
Almost apologetically, she glanced across at the boy - Sheik, she reminded herself, that was his new name. Sheik had stopped eating now, gazing at the last remaining piece of apple with far too much sadness for a toddler.
"Where's Mama?" he asked childishly in Sheikah, and despite the Hylian guards claiming she didn't have a heart, at that moment, she felt it break.
So she knelt in front of him, dabbing away at the tears in his eyes and on his face, and said, as gently as she could, "Your Mama had to go away and she won't be coming back."
The little boy stared at her, and started to cry anew.
Alright, perhaps she needed to work on her skills for telling overly emotional toddlers that they were now orphans. Sighing to herself, she reached out to pick the boy up, holding him against her in what passed for a hug, patting the back of his head awkwardly. "How about a nap, hmm?" she murmured, and he shook his head fiercely - then yawned.
She chuckled, shifting him so she could walk up the stairs, setting him in her own bed. "Sleep well," she murmured, pulling the blankets up, then heading back down to finish the letter.
And then, she would have another to send, and then... who knew?
By the time he awoke, it was the middle of the night. Impa was busy gathering things together by lamplight - every item of toddler's clothing she could scavenge from the ruined village, blankets, a few books written in Sheikah, and a few other small items. These were bundled together, a child-sized travelling cloak set aside along with an item wrapped in a scrap of cloth.
Heart in her throat, she headed back up the stairs, murmuring soft things to him as they headed back down. And then she picked up the cloak, pack, and the item in the scrap of cloth, and carried him back through the village.
He was silent throughout, as if understanding the importance of their way through. "You're going to go to another place," she murmured to him instead, "Where you can grow up and be safe and happy. It's far away from here, but one day, you will come back."
She hoped. Perhaps things would change for the Sheikah... and perhaps he would remain in Toaru for the rest of his days.
Their rendezvous was at the bottom of the stairs leading down to Hyrule Field. She was a Gerudo woman that Impa was friendly with, an ally able and willing to help guide Sheik to his new home, sitting aside a sturdy desert horse. Once they reached the desert proper, she would swap the horse for a boar, and once they reached Toaru...
Well, then. Sheik's life would begin anew.
"Aw, he's adorable," the Gerudo whispered, smiling a little as Impa set Sheik down on his feet and knelt in front of him.
Impa ignored her for now, all of her attention on the little Sheikah boy standing in front of her. The travelling cloak was set about him, trailing too long but hopefully enough to keep the sand out. The cloth package was unwrapped, its contents - a red metal pendant bearing the Weeping Eye - spilling out in her hand.
"Everyone else is gone, little one," she told him quietly as she lifted the pendant and set the chain around his neck, tucking it beneath his cloak and clothes. "And so you must be the hope of our people."
He gazed wordlessly at her as she kissed him on the forehead then lifted him on to the horse in front of the Gerudo, the pack holding the letter and his meagre belongings tied behind the saddle. And she nodded at her friend, the horse immediately setting off through the field.
"Sheik," she whispered, watching them go, "Survivor of the Sheikah."