Legend of Zelda
Requiem of a Dream
An alternate-universe Zelda fanfiction, post-Twilight Princess
Chapter One: Knight Errant
In the late-afternoon, Hyrule Castle was clothed in burnish golds and thick shadow painted on the white-washed walls by an overcast sky and shy sun. Hundreds of citizens traversing the streets created a murmur of activity beyond the keep's outer curtain wall. Scavenger birds—gulls, crows, pigeons—circled in the air and hopped in scouting parties along the cobblestones, seeking the scraps left behind by wealthy and poor alike. To say it succinctly, Castle Town was a conglomeration of businessmen, nobles, and foreign dignitaries amongst and yet far above and away from the squabbling, thieving peasantry and half-starved animals too lazy to leave for better living outside the "thriving" metropolis' walls.
The Castle Grounds, however, were a completely different story. Only noblemen, businessmen, and foreign dignitaries or castle residents with the proper passes were allowed past well-trained guards at its solid, steel-reinforced gates. Beyond the double doors was a vast complex of manicured gardens, paths, and orchards. Guards posted at every other archway through the maze; each was specially trained to know the Grounds inside and out and had at least two years experience as a castle guardsman.
Within the East Quadrant—surrounded by sparring rings, archery ranges, jousting lanes, and other paraphernalia of the soldier's profession—lay the Knight's Quarters. With over fifty rooms on each of five floors, it housed approximately one hundred Hylian knights, their squires, and nearly one hundred thirty pages with room to spare. Annexed on its north side was a seemingly ancient structure rumored to have been a temple in the time of the Imprisoning War. Whatever purpose it had held previously, however, had been lost to history. Now the knights used it for more earthly purposes, such as the event about to take place.
Outside the Hall's double doors, young Link Kasiri of Eldin paced with long, nervous strides. A lifetime of horseback riding made his gait that of one long accustomed to the shape of a saddle; yet constant training in ground fighting had also negated the bowlegged effect. The end result was a sort of predatorily graceful lope which told passersby he was fit and perfectly capable of using the sword slung across his back. At a mature twenty years old, his body was no longer that of an awkward teenager but a chiseled, lean figure of balanced speed and strength. A man less experienced than him in the ways of combat—and he had seen a great deal of it in his short life—would cower upon first sight of him.
A biting breeze blew up from the southeast, fitfully playing with his long blond locks as the knight-in-training prowled. He paused in his musings for a few moments to turn his sapphire gaze on the setting sun, but no longer before he again moved off on his single-minded path in front of the Hall.
Hyrule, he had decided, needed someone of his talents and philosophy. Strange things had been occurring recently—particularly where the Royal Family was concerned—but no one else seemed to care. The citizenry were none the wiser to any trouble, as none had any direct dealings with the Crown; local sheriffs and lords handled the taxes which were always half-heartedly muttered about. Noblemen particularly enjoyed rumor, and especially rumor about the monarchy, so there was no love lost there. Even the military had turned a blind eye to the clandestine happenings right in their backyard. As long as they got food and lodging, and weren't overly abused in training, they could care less about their commander-in-chief's affairs.
To Link, the last straw had been Her Highness the Crown Princess Zelda's mysterious cloistering. At first he had believed, like everyone else, that the heir truly had fallen ill. But then he had met Sensei Impa and her charge as they snuck through the Castle's most-secret back gate. The sensei hadn't told him much, but what she had said had been enough.
His Royal Majesty King Daphnes, Link concluded, had gone mad. Someone had to do something.
Alas, that would have to wait—though luckily not for much longer. Once he had officially been welcomed into the Knight Order of Hyrule, he could utilize the proper channels to enact an investigation of the king's recent odd behavior. Until then, he could only sit back, polish his blade, and wait.
The soldier halted his feet and his brooding as the gargantuan, ancient doors creaked open. Each leaf was pushed by two pages that appeared to be less than ants compared to the towering wood. A distant thrill of what he thought might have been fear flitted through him, but he easily quashed it; he had conquered his fear of the unknown long ago and didn't plan on letting it come back anytime soon. The maw-like opening into the Hall held no threat to him. It was the men inside, his trainers and tutors of the past decade, which could make or break him.
Falling into the perfect focus of combat which he had perfected, Link mounted the small flight of stairs and passed into the metaphorical belly of the beast.
Inside, the dying sunlight that streamed through the cathedral's tall windows was supplemented by candle-laden chandeliers floating high overhead. Beneath the fixtures was set an expansive, U-shaped table of dark wood long enough to seat the entire contingent of knights. At the moment, though, only a fifth of the elite warriors' total number were present—the highest-ranking officers, all noblemen and with over fifteen years of service. Link struggled to retain his aloof, professional demeanor at the sight of them; he should have known only the best would judge him, being the son of their Captain and heir to the Kasiri legacy.
"Welcome, Squire Kasiri," the Knight Captain greeted from the head of the table.
Link put a fist over his heart and bowed his head briefly—the traditional squire-to-mentor salute. "Thank you, Sir Captain."
Dwayne Kasiri, an older man in his mid forties, inclined his head of dark hair. To either side, the knights along the far half of the table copied the motion before following their leader and quietly seating themselves. Link remained standing, watching them apprehensively as Dwayne shuffled parchment around in preparation for his questioning. He knew what was written on them; they were records of every official mission in which he'd partaken. What he didn't know was what his father would see in them—and he was the only one with access to those records at the moment. He could easily present the facts either as they were or with his own twist, for good or ill, and sway the knights to his point of view.
What made Link nervous was that he couldn't even anticipate which side his father would take. The simple concept of it bothered him as nothing else ever had; fathers and sons were supposed to be close, not at each other's throats. More and more recently, however, just the opposite had been the case. Where once Dwayne had taught his only son with enthusiasm, there were times now when he subtly worked against Link.
For Hyrule's sake, Link hoped this wouldn't be one of those times.
The Golden Goddesses must have heard his prayer. Throughout the questioning, the knights scrutinized him carefully but without any overt hostility. Link answered honestly and confidently, his military bearing remaining perfectly intact the whole time. Only his father seemed to differ from the others; even at the distance he was from Link, the squire could see his brow slightly crease and a frown tug at his lips. The man's dark eyes contemplated his son with a calculating edge so faint Link nearly missed it in his concentration on the knights' questions.
At last, not long after the sun disappeared and left only twilight behind, silence descended in the Hall. The Knight Captain slowly rose, both hands resting lightly on the table and parchments before him.
"Knights of the Order." His deep voice reverberated with an ominous musical ring in the cathedral. "Squire Link Kasiri of Eldin, son of Dwayne, has been trained a decade under your tutelage. He has been tried, he has been tested, and he has learned to follow your Creed of Honor through peace and adversity. Today he has been tested once more, and his character and record examined. Now, how say you—do you welcome him as one of you in reward for his efforts; or has he been found wanting, and will remain where he is until another day?"
The first knight seated at the end on Link's left—whom he recognized as Sir Zeriah, his archery mentor—stood first. The elder man cleared his throat, then said, "Long has it been since I laid eyes on a finer young lad. He will be an invaluable contribution to our honorable ranks." He turned to Link, a tiny smile on his weathered features. "I vote 'aye'."
Relief slowly seeped into Link's limbs as, one by one, the other elite joined Sir Zeriah. Without fail each commended him for outstanding character and unparalleled examples of valor. Only his training allowed him to keep a neutral expression on his face and his knees from buckling. Knighthood, his single request out of life, was so close he could almost touch it.
Finally, only one of the twenty one remained. There was no tie to break, nor was the count close, but the Knight Captain's opinion held far greater weight than any of the other knights'. Blue eyes met brown from across the room, and suddenly nothing mattered except father and son. What could have been an eternity passed as the elder Kasiri studied the younger, who unwaveringly held the gaze.
'Please, Father,' he pleaded soundlessly, almost hoping Dwayne would hear him. 'I have cared for you more deeply than anything else in this world. Please don't turn me away now that I have come so far in your footsteps. I simply wish to make you proud. Please, Father…'
Turning away from Link, Dwayne slowly looked around at his twenty captains, the elite of his force, the foundation of their Order. Returning his gaze to Link, the knight nodded to him and then to his men. As one they drew their swords and held them one-handed before their faces, a line of shining steel pointing toward the rafters. Their Captain swung a specially-made portion of the wood open, a gate leading to the empty space inside the table, and strode toward Link.
As his father approached, Link saluted once more. The man nodded and returned the salute. "Kneel, Squire."
He quickly obeyed, not looking up as he dropped to one knee. The ring of steel and the sliding of Link's blade from its scabbard announced Dwayne's activity.
"Squire Link Kasiri of Eldin, son of Dwayne, do you swear to uphold the laws and advise the monarchy of the kingdom of Hyrule with all the wisdom which you have gathered and will obtain?"
"I so swear by the Wisdom of Nayru."
"Do you swear to lift up the weak and impoverished and to teach them to help themselves, no matter who they may be and no matter their past, with all the courage in your heart?"
"I so swear by the Courage of Farore."
"Do you swear to battle the enemies of your country and your Creed with all the power which your blade, your arm, and your mind may possess, until you have no strength left to continue life?"
"I so swear by the Power of Din."
As the pair recited the ancient oath, something began to tug at Link's senses. He licked his lips nervously, trying to pinpoint what was disturbing the solemn ambience. His forehead creased in concentration, his mind divided between formulating the ritual responses and naming his sense of unease. His left hand twitched subconsciously, tingling with a warm, itchy sensation he couldn't move to get rid of.
The flat of his blade's light touch on his left shoulder instantly identified the reason for his anxiety. A little-known fact about his blade, an heirloom of the Kasiri family, was that it was enchanted to locate and warn its wielder about other enchantments or residual magic. The warm steel was its way of telling that strong magic was near; the only exceptions to its senses were those of the family lineage.
But at the moment the source of its agitation was none other than Knight Captain Dwayne Kasiri.
Something was definitely wrong. Link tensed, muscles ready for action, as Dwayne moved the blade to his right shoulder and continued the ritual. "With the blessings of Din, Nayru, and Farore, we welcome thee as one of our own—Sir Link Kasiri of Eldin, Knight of the Golden Wolf."
He had a second's warning. A spike of heat from his sword gave away Dwayne's strike just in time for him to throw himself backward and out of range. The steel passed within a hair's breadth of his throat, so close he could feel its movement.
Immediately his mind went into combat mode, penning up the whirling thoughts and angry exclamations of shock. Link didn't so much ignore the gasp of surprise from the knights as much as he simply didn't hear it. He quickly jumped to his feet and reflexively disarmed the off-balance captain, snatching his sword up as soon as it left Dwayne's hand. The two knights backed away as their compatriots looked at each other in astonishment, none sure of what exactly they were witnessing.
Link dutifully sheathed his weapon and raised his hands in a gesture of peace. His father didn't seem to agree, however, and drew his own blade. The man's formerly brown eyes flickered red for an instant.
A distant voice he decided was his subconscious commented, "Well that's screwed up." He didn't pay attention to it at the time; he had bigger problems to contend with.
"Arrest this traitor!" Dwayne thundered, pointing at him with his sword. Link could feel the warning from his own weapon through its metal case. "He has kidnapped the Princess!"
"This is really screwed up!" his little voice squeaked as the bewildered knights nonetheless surged toward him.
Link glanced side to side, took a step toward them, then turned and ran for his life.
The warrior slammed into the double doors at full speed, his muscles straining against what had taken two strong teenagers to open. After an interminable moment where he feared it wouldn't budge, though, it began to scrape outward. As soon as it was wide enough he slipped through and bolted across the Grounds toward the stable. The shouts of pursuing knights echoed after him.
His feet moved of their own accord as he flew across the courtyard, dodging late-afternoon squires and pages practicing on the lush grass. As he ran, ignoring the protests and exclamations of "Watch where you're going!", his mind raced along a different track. One word consistently looped through his mind—though it was more feeling than word.
Link felt betrayed beyond words. His world was crumbling into nothing just as he reached out to grab his prize. His own father had just tried to kill him and then accused him of kidnapping the Princess. The king had gone mad and locked up his own daughter. He simply couldn't understand it; both Dwayne and the King had been his role models. Sure Dwayne had done some odd things before, but never on this scale—and never to Link.
There were other things about recent events which he knew might give him clues as to what was going on, but those would have to wait. He had to leave the castle now—go far away and let this matter cool down some. The keep was a bomb about to go off, and the town was within its blast radius. Link couldn't stay here without being imprisoned or having his head separated from his body.
A familiar whinny pulled him out of the murky depths of his thoughts. Azael, Link's dark chestnut gelding, poked his head over the stall door as Link entered. His ears pricked curiously at his master, his dark eyes warm and intelligent in the torchlit stable.
"Hey, boy," the Hylian greeted absently, ruffling the horse's forelock fondly. He then ducked into the tack room, returning shortly with his saddle and bridle. "We're going for a little ride. How's that sound?"
The horse whickered in agreement, tossing his head excitedly.
Ten minutes later, he and Azael were easily cantering through the castle's northern entrance. The guards didn't give them a second glance. Apparently word hadn't yet reached the walls just yet—a fact with which Link was perfectly content at the moment.
It was one of lesser reasons among many why he had chosen the North Gate. Another was that, because it backed against Zora's River, the Town had been unable to spread that far. That meant less congestion for him to ride through and fewer people to note his passing.
Secondly, it was the fastest way into the Snowpeak Range; few dared climb the frosty peaks, including knights. Even if Dwayne did decide to follow him, the chances of them finding him were much less than the chances of getting lost in the attempt.
But, of course, everything depended on him having a good lead on any pursuit. So the knight-errant continued without pause through the night, riding steadily north toward the cold, distant mountains.
Three days later, Link was rethinking the logic that had urged him into the dangerous, snowy wastes of Hyrule's northern mountain range. Or, more correctly, he was cursing himself for thinking he would only have to hide for a few days at most.
The morning after his escape, he had stopped in a small village situated at the base of the pass which led to Peak Province for supplies and to hide Azael. Horses couldn't survive in the rough peaks without considerable preparation, which he had neither the time nor money to commission. Even a full-fledged knight's horse would have had difficulty, and Azael wasn't even that—simply a favorite squire's mount. So the equine stayed behind until Link could come back for him.
Which brought him to another thought that had gotten him into this mess. He had assumed the pursuit would be half-hearted at best, and that what knights did follow wouldn't bother waiting for him or even be recalled once things settled down back at the castle. With this in mind, he had only requisitioned—and paid the generous villagers for—enough food to hold him over for less than a week.
Link hadn't counted on walking smack dab into the middle of an early winter blizzard.
At least he had listened to some advice from his common sense and scraped together some cold-weather gear. Now he blessed Sir Kiel for all those days spent in the foothills of these same mountains, learning to survive in the frost and ice of the frozen crags. Instead of wasting his energy trudging on through the swirling snow and howling winds, he had dug down into the thick powder like the wolf he had been named for at his ill-fated knighting. The makeshift den had captured his heat and sheltered him from the wind, creating a perfect snow-cave for him to hide in.
All he had left to do was wait.
It was the opportune chance for his thoughts to fester, though—something which could be dangerous in the snow-laden mountains. If he lost any anchor to reality here, he could become delusional and loose his sanity for good; he'd be as dead as if Dwayne had managed to decapitate him.
So he patiently waited out the storm by meditating, sorting through what knowledge he had of the strange occurrences which had driven him here in the first place.
Obviously, he concluded, there was dark magic at work. Whether it originated with the king or Dwayne, though, he wasn't quite sure. His father had been showing signs of odd behavior for some time, but Daphnes' acts of almost overt tyranny indicated a much stronger force at work around the monarchy.
There was the fateful encounter in the Hall, though. Dwayne's eyes had shifted to red for a second—did that give away a manifestation of any kind, or was it simply a side effect of some similar magic? As much as he wrestled with the dilemma, Link couldn't find an answer.
He did wonder where Impa and her charge had fled, though. The warrior suspected that they could be hiding somewhere in this mountain range just as he was. Its vast, unexplored reaches were the perfect place to disappear from the common knowledge…if you knew how to survive. Vaguely he wondered if he might run into them.
Finally, long after his thoughts had trickled into nothing and he was demoted to sleeping much of the time, the sun rose. The unfiltered light was painful after the darkness of the blizzard, but Link welcomed it; he had been sitting in one place for too long. He had refrained from eating more than he had to, but even then his supplies were getting dangerously low. He needed to set up a more-permanent camp—and fast—before the next storm inevitably snowed him in.
It took him all of five minutes to dig out, and then Link was on his way again.
An eerie silence blanketed the mountainside. Once and a while he heard the faint cry of a snow hawk echoed back to him from cliff to cliff, but that was all. It made his footsteps crunching through the ice-coated snow sound out of place, as if he was desecrating a sanctuary. Uneasy with that thought, he determinedly put it out of his mind and continued to trudge onward and upward.
Link quickly lost track of time. Already he was unsure due to the blizzard whether he had spent three or four days in the mountains, but now he really had no clue. Though he was conscious of the danger that presented, there was nothing he could do about it.
So were his circumstances when he stumbled into the wolf pack.
They seemed to simply appear out of the snow, prowling as lightly as birds across the loose powder under-paw. They made Link feel inept and clumsy when compared to their lithe movements. He stood perfectly still as they surrounded him, a ring of white pelts only distinguishable from the landscape and each other by their varied eye colors. Maybe if he didn't bother them they would decide he was no fun and go away; they didn't seem to be starving, which meant they wouldn't make a meal out of him unless they had to. Even if they did want to eat him, once they were in range his sword could easily change their minds.
His blood ran cold when a familiar voice ordered the canines to stand down.
His trackers had found him.
Dwayne stepped out from behind a snow-covered boulder a short ways ahead of and to Link's left. Five other knights revealed themselves from their hiding places all along the cliff-bound pass in which he had been travelling. All wore high-collared cloaks and scarves which concealed goat-skin tunics, the perfect mountain gear for true knights. It made him self-conscious of his beaten cowhide cape and tattered green tunic; he looked more like the felon Dwayne accused him of being than a proud young knight.
Their Captain lazily applauded his son as he plowed through the snow toward him. "Bravo, Link, bravo. I must say, your efforts certainly have been entertaining and quite informative to watch—but your time is up."
Link's lips formed a predatory snarl and he narrowed his eyes. "I'm not giving up. I'd rather die than go back to the castle just yet."
A cruel smile grew on Dwayne's countenance. "Who said anything about going back? I'd much rather take you up on that offer of your head."
His son returned it with a challenging grin and drew his sword. "Come and get it then."
Dwayne scowled and waved his hand. His knights ran heavily through the thick snow toward him, but Link wasn't going to wait for them. He spun and threw a hidden knife straight through the eye of a wolf behind him, then ran toward the gap its corpse made. Its neighbors lunged for him at a command from the Knight Captain, but Link simply ran his sword through one and smashed the other back with a gauntleted fist.
He scrabbled up a nearby slope, hands reaching desperately for holds on the icy rocks, as the rest of the canines turned on him. Fangs grazed against his boot as he flailed around; a lucky kick rewarded him with a pained yelp that was replaced by angry snarling from the wolf's comrades. A human shout warned him of the knights' arrival, and he doubled his efforts to put distance between them. He had to avoid any ranged attacks from the Hylians, or he would be as good as gone in this frigid environment. Of all his mistakes, not purchasing any medical equipment had been his most stupid.
Under normal circumstances, he would not have attempted climbing this cliff-face; it had the fewest holds of any he had ever encountered, and on top of that it was covered in ice. Climbing with a sword in one hand, approximately four wolves and seven knights looking for his blood standing beneath him, made it even more difficult. Therefore, what could have been a fatal slip didn't surprise him—
But the hand that caught his did.
At first he didn't question it. His mind and body were working in overdrive trying to get away from Dwayne's men. The added help was simply a faster way out, of which he took quick advantage. Only once he was on flat ground did Link turn to thank his mysterious rescuer—but when he realized who it was, he couldn't speak.
The Shekiah sensei didn't smile or even notice his shock, simply retrieved a set of needle-thin blades from a pouch on her thigh. "Run," was all Impa said before melting into the shadows of an overhang two feet behind her.
As soon as he regained his senses, Link did just that.
A/N: And so the epic quest begins! What the heck is up with the wonderful Knight Captain, and why was the Princess imprisoned? That, my friends, remains to be seen...
Now, a little background here (no, no spoilers--sorry). I have to admit, my lovely muse Gwen handed me this plot (or, half of it at least...) on a silver platter--in a dream. Yeah, it sounds cliche, I know. But it was perfect, and I couldn't resist putting it to paper--er, keyboard. This is, however, not its entirely original form, as I had to clean up a few odd points that only my crazy subconscious (and Gwen) could come up with when left to their own devices, as well as fill in a few gaps between the original scenes Gwen gave me. (Names were also a bit of an issue, haha. =P) It still promises to be awesomely-epic, though, so prepare to hold on for a crazy ride! =D
Also, this is the only-ever dream I've ever had the feeling I could do this with--so consider yourselves lucky! lol j/k Though you might consider it lucky that I've got half of the story figured out already, so hopefully updates will come regularly... But we know how that goes.
Yes, those of you bursting to ask the question: this is post-Twilight Princess. Though I think by now it's obvious how completely different it is from the canon game, haha. This is long after Twilight Princess, is pretty much all I'll say at the moment--long enough that the guards are no longer (entirely) cowardly, and the Knights have an established presence in the country. As for anything Twilight Princess related that may end up in here...well, I'll leave that up to your imagination at the moment, tehe. ;D
By the way, so everyone's on the same page: dashes like this (—) when by themselves will serve as single-day time jumps; FF dividers (the big long gray ones) will mean a slightly longer time jump and/or PoV switch; and specialized breaks (like .oO—Oo.) will be considerable time lapses. (Be forewarned, these are more...guidelines than rules, if ye catch me drift. ;)) Speaking of which, although I'm taking a primarily separate 3Per PoV, there's a bit of an omniscient (look it up) feel to the narration in some places, too--just to warn you.
Until next chappie--chau!