A Legend of Zelda fanfiction.
Setting: Ocarina of Time. This story is not connected to any of my others. Also, it's not for the faint-hearted - you have been warned!
Link stoked the fire of his rage with memories.
His eyes scanned the scene. A haze of smoke clung to the air and his throat itched something fierce with every slow breath. Burnt twigs snapped under his boot. Heat soaked through leather and kissed the soles of his feet. Link's eyes stopped.
There. The creek where they used to play. Saria would tease him because he'd be too afraid to wade in too deep. He'd just kick water at her, dodge her clumsy attempt at a tackle, then drag her in himself. He hadn't been afraid at all. She knew that. She laughed every time all the same.
How long had that memory been buried inside his mind? Twenty years? Twenty-five?
It no longer mattered. The creek was still now. A film of thick grey ash tarred its surface.
There. His old tree house. Navi's insistent buzzing had awoken him that day long ago. A meeting with the Great Deku Tree, she'd said, and she herself would be his fairy. The world had offered him infinite possibilities that day and his heart had been near to bursting with excitement.
The day when everything had changed. Irreversibly.
Silly little boy.
A knot tightened in the middle of his chest. The house lay on its side now, half-buried in a mound of blackened cinders.
Link walked in a daze. Moving helped. It reminded him that he was still alive. Wisps of smoke hissed with his every step. He wondered what exactly he was breathing. The charred stench made his head spin and when he spat he saw that his saliva had turned gristly black.
He'd arrived far too late. Hours earlier, his disbelieving eyes had spied the flames smudging the skyline of Hyrule. Sat in his saddle he had run cold fingers through his hair as he watched clouds the colour of blood hovering over the forest. Marking the spot, he'd thought dimly. Driven, he'd pushed his horse into a fierce gallop.
The Lost Woods and Kokiri Village – nothing remained now except a charred, burnt-out husk. His old haunt. His tribe. Link still wore their colours, a tunic of the darkest forest green.
Small fires still smouldered here and there, dying flames flickering. Leaves had withered away on branches sagging heavy with ash. Where once there had been fairy dust floating on the currents of the wind, there now remained a shower of crimson embers. Debris burst underfoot with a wet pop.
Don't get angry.
Link reckoned he should be feeling more than anger. It should have surprised him that he did not. Years and years of witnessed bloodshed had blunted any keen sense of horror that he'd once possessed. Years and years of carnage. He'd caused a fair bit of it himself.
The light in his heart. It was dying.
Don't get angry.
The words were from the Vor Shahal, the Lost Tribe of the Sheikah. He had sought them out in his youth, travelled north and crossed sheets of ice that glinted so fiercely under the glare of the sun that you had to keep your head down to protect yourself from snow blindness.
He had sat at the feet of the Vor Shahal and he had learned. Learned about the true history of the world and how it had come to be, about the nature of reality, about secrets that could only be whispered into the deepest core of a ready and willing heart.
They'd welcomed him like a son and he had left them.
They hadn't been best pleased with that.
He knew this because they still hunted them to this day. But he also knew that the Lost were not responsible for this. They weren't this blunt.
Don't get angry.
Link closed his eyes and let a slow breath whistle free from his lips. The rage deflated like a puncture wound to a waterskin. Emptiness replaced it. He felt weary. Hollow.
Anger takes what it wants at the price of the soul.
The Lost wanted him dead, but he still paid heed to their words. Revenge was too base for the man known by a select few as the Hero of Time. Answers. Answers were what he needed here. Only answers would satisfy the dull ache that had slowly begun to gnaw away at the very centre of his being.
But first he had to bury the dead.
It took him a good few hours. Would have been a fair bit longer if not for the ranger skills he'd picked up from the Lost. There were many other things he'd learnt from them as well. The Vor Shahal had taught him that he lived upon a vast globe of which Hyrule was but a smudge, that each creed and culture of this globe had recorded in their most sacred texts that life was but a crucible, a testing ground not worthy of the heart's attachment, that what you did here would lead you either to the Jade Palaces of Bliss or to the cold depths of the Pit.
Link buried the scorched remains of his oldest friends and knew that whatever the Pit held it couldn't be far worse than this.
He'd learned two things in those long hours. First was the Gerudo arrow that he'd found lodged deep in a Kokiri chest. The whitewood shaft was now dyed red and it had broken easily in his grip. Chalky grit clung to the arrowhead. It was the striped feathers, though, that had given the game away to Link.
That the Gerudo would be responsible for this massacre was hardly surprising. The Long War had begun mere months after he'd defeated an entity known as Majora in the land of Termina. The Gerudo had flooded in from the desert in their long trailing silk cloaks and their cold iron masks, all grim-faced and silent. They had made no demands. Still hadn't. Not to this day.
Hylian cartographers had reckoned that the Gerudo desert marked the eastern most edge of the world. No one had actually had the stones to do go check, though – why would they? The mapmakers said that there was nothing there but sand, so why waste the time and coin to have a gander?
Their arrogance had been proven quickly wrong. Beyond the desert lay leagues upon leagues of land – farms, villages, cities. Peopled by a myriad races – even Hylians – and all under the heel of the Gerudo. Why the desert bandits were so interested in Hyrule was still a mystery.
And why'd they just razed the Kokiri to the ground was an even bigger one for the Hero of Time.
The second thing Link had learned was that there was one body missing. Painful hope had kindled in his heart and he'd searched and searched just to make sure but, no, it was clear – someone had escaped the slaughter. Someone he knew.
Escaped? Or stolen?
Link turned away. Dimly he wondered where the fairies had fled to. Maybe he'd come back one day and check. It wouldn't be soon.
Movement flickered from above and made Link look up. A wake of vultures circled overhead, voicing their displeasure at being robbed of their feed. Link's gaze turned eastward.
It was time to pay the Gerudo a little visit.
Starlight drizzled the air in Styer Geldman's bed chamber. A clock ticked, puncturing the silence with its rhythmic beats. The Gerudo Chief hardly ever visited his home here in the desert city of Wraith's End. He didn't have any need to. A senior member of the Gerudo army, he spent most of his time on the frontline, leading the charge into Hyrule. As such, he had left his modest little house unguarded.
That was his first mistake.
His second was his vanity. Instead of building for himself a functional dwelling suited to the security needs of a prominent general such as himself, he'd decided to please his own sense of aesthetics.
A towering marble fountain gurgled softly in the gardens outside, built in such a way that the water would always glisten under a full moon. It was designed to draw the eye. It did its job well. Passersby would always notice the fountain, not the cottage itself. It made breaking in all that simpler.
Ivy hung from the whitewashed outer walls of the gable roofed cottage. If you stood in one of the rooms and looked up you wouldn't see the usual flat ceiling, oh no. You'd see wooden beams holding up the pyramid slopes of the roof.
Link stood on one of those beams, statue like in his stillness, and gazed down at the bed chamber. He'd been waiting for hours. Information wasn't cheap in Wraith's End, but it was usually accurate. Heading into the city after his long trek, he had kept his head down and had covered half his face with a dusty rag. Hylians native to the Gerudo city were a familiar sight and, though there was little to tell them apart from Hyrule's Hylians, Link knew he couldn't be too careful. The Gerudo weren't the only ones to be wary off. The Lost were always waiting in the shadows.
Geldman had come home for a rare visit just as Link had discovered. He could hear the Gerudo Chief now as the man shuffled around the rest of the house, heard hot water sizzle into a tub – copper; Link had already searched the cottage earlier in the evening – and, finally, heard Geldman's footsteps as he approached the bed chamber.
Link crouched. A wooden beam creaked in protest, but held firm anyway. Bats wrapped in leathery wings hung from the highest reaches and gazed dolefully with scarlet eyes. There were two doors that led into the chamber; one at the rear and the second, just below, that opened now as Geldman, clad in a woollen gown, entered. Link's heart thudded softly in his chest.
The bed sagged as the Chief sat down. In one hand he held an oil encrusted lamp and in the other a heavy mask stylised in the image of a bull. Metal knocked wood as he set both items down onto a small bedside table. All the Gerudo wore masks, male and female. In another time, another place, there had only been one Gerudo male to a tribe of women. But that man was gone now. That whole world was gone.
Link still remembered it, though. As did a handful of others. The only person who should have remembered but didn't was Princess Zelda.
Link blinked away the thoughts. Now wasn't the time to be distracted.
Styer Geldman pulled himself onto a mattress filled with wool and laid his head back to rest. Link leapt from the beam, liquid smooth and graceful as a bird. Pulling his short bow free from his back, he rode the current of the air, and then landed in a soft crouch. The Gerudo Chief bolted upright but it was too late – Link already had a feathered arrow ready at the notch. He pulled the waxed string back with a creak.
"I ask the questions," said Link. "And you answer. Otherwise, I don't even want to hear you breathe. Understand?"
Starlight speckled Geldman's fear clad face. Link watched the man's throat, saw the adam's apple bob up and down. Fear was a good motivator.
The clock ticked.
"Who ordered the torching of the Kokiri village?"
Geldman was quick. "I don't know what you're talking about."
"Who ordered the torching?" Link's voice remained eerily calm. "And where is the Sage of Forest?"
"The what?" Styer moved, ever so slightly, his hand twitching towards the small table, but Link was quicker. He cracked a boot into the oak bed frame, watched as Geldman froze in panic from the sudden movement. No words were necessary, the message was clear: Do not try my patience.
The Gerudo's lip curled. "What makes you think I know anything?"
Link tensed. Something wasn't right here. The Gerudo shouldn't still be fighting back. Had he been just an ordinary man beset with terror Geldman would have spilled his soul by now. But he was a Gerudo warrior. Either he'd answer Link's questions or he'd stay in defiant silence, waiting for the end.
Link's lacquered bow caught the burnt orange gleam of the Gerudo Chief's lamp. This time when Link spoke his voice had a sharp edge to it. "Answer me. Who gave the order?"
"What would you do if you found him, eh?" Geldman snarled. "Skin him alive and pour boiling oil over him? Haven't you heard? That's what other Hylian generals do to their prisoners of war. Rob a warrior of his very dignity." Thick emotion flooded into his voice. "I heard your people even watch and applaud."
Link didn't rise to the bait. Truth rang clear in the taunt but Link wasn't cowed. He wasn't a Hylian general. He was the Hero of Time. Closing his left eye, Link aimed the steel arrowhead directly at the Gerudo's head.
The Chief wasn't finished. "What if I were to tell you that the torching was necessary?"
Link blinked. He opened his mouth to reply, then froze as a triumphant flush fell over Geldman's face.
Ice pricked the back of Link's neck.
Bow still trained on the Gerudo Chief's head, Link shifted his weight slightly to catch a glimpse of whoever now held him by the point of a sword.
"Don't move another inch." A Gerudo woman's copper eyes pinned him with a level gaze. Link gazed back. High cheekbones, tanned skin and a thin face. She was young. Some dim recess of Link's brain acknowledged the simple fact of her serene beauty. Propriety demanded he now drop his gaze. Propriety had no place here.
"Lower the bow."
The Gerudo Chief hissed. "Just slay him now. I'm not important. Rid us of this pestilence."
The lines around the woman's eyes grew taut. "I said lower the bow."
"Deadlock," Link replied. Blood trickled past his collar and then down his back. "I lower the bow, I lose the advantage." His fingers trembled. He could feel the string bite into his skin.
"You can't keep holding the draw like that."
Leaden muscles in Link's arms nodded vigorously in agreement. They could give at any moment. The arrow would fly from the string, slam straight through the Chief's skull, through the soft membrane beneath, and then lodge itself in the far wall. That'd be a damn shame. He hated wasting arrows.
"Just watch me," he said.
A smile ghosted over the woman's lips. "It doesn't look like either of us have an advantage." Her voice had lost some of its chill. Link read her in that moment. A conclusion locked in his mind. The woman sniffed. "Negotiate, then."
"Don't be a fool," the Chief spat. "He's Hylian. He's not to be trusted."
Link's attention stayed with the woman. "And with whom am I negotiating?"
"My name is Vela. You, of course, are Link. Ranger, Hylian warrior and general all-around nuisance."
Another hiss flew from the bed. "You let him look upon you and now give him your name?"
Vela's eyes flicked to the Chief. "Shut up."
The Chief's eyes blazed in response. A muscle twitched in his cheek. He held his tongue.
Link loosened his grip. Just a tad, mind. He'd read Vela right. "What is it you want to tell me?"
Vela's eyebrow arched. "What makes you think I want to talk?"
"I'd be dead already if you didn't."
She smiled now. "Don't kill Geldman," she said. "Give me your word. Warrior to warrior."
"You have it."
The Chief slapped the bed in frustration. "His word is worthless!"
Vela ignored him. She lifted her sword. "And you have mine."
Link released the string. The arrow whispered through the air, metal point glinting. It slid through the empty space in the Gerudo Chief's right sleeve then cracked into the wall behind. Geldman's eyes bulged as he watched the feathered tail vibrate back to solidity. Realisation dawned. He was pinned. Oh, he probably knew that he could tear his sleeve off, or just slip out of his gown, but both actions would take too long. Link would be upon him in a heartbeat.
The Hero of Time lowered his bow then half-turned to regard the Gerudo woman. She had withdrawn her weapon first. That struck at something deep within Link's soul, something primal and vibrant. Chivalry wasn't dead just yet. The light still flickered in some people's hearts.
She knew it, too. They held each other's eyes for a moment. Something passed between them. Trust. The recognition of a kindred spirit.
Vela drew a breath. "I give you a warning," she said. "Your people have stories, legends of how the world came into being. We have our own, and they speak of the end, the manner in which all will fall into oblivion."
Link's ears pricked up. Respect the old stories, the Lost had taught him. Respect them, even if others mock, because some of them are built on the bedrock of truth. Realising that Vela was waiting for him to respond, he said, "I'm listening."
Relief flooded her face. "The Sorrow is coming, Link. It bleeds through the Great Void, a hole in the very world. We know the Void. We've seen it. I couldn't tell you where, though. It's always moving. Shifting from place to place. And always, always, getting bigger."
Link heard the Chief muttering under his breath. Clearly Geldman hadn't been expecting this. Metal clinked as Link turned back to Vela. "Go on."
"All things must end and the Sorrow's only purpose is to end the world. It would come only twice. If thwarted the first time it would only return at the time when no living thing with a soul would be there to oppose it." Her breath had quickened, her eyes sparkling. Link could tell that she wanted to be rid of her burden and the words fell from her lips in a flurry. "This is the Sorrow's first approach. It can only be stopped by one thing. Our legends speak of the Sturrmstaer. What that is known only to a select few. I believe that your princess is one of them." She stopped to swallow. "Tell her. Tell your princess."
I believe, Vela had said, not 'we'. Link realised then that she was working on her own. He came to a quick decision.
"I'm free to go?" he asked.
Vela held out her palms. "I gave you my word."
"And I gave you mine," he replied. Lead filled his voice. "But I said nothing about taking hostages." Steel slid from the scabbard hanging at his waist. He pointed the sword at Geldman. The Gerudo snarled, fury contorting the muscles in his face. Link kept his face blank. "He's coming with me."
Link turned back to Vela. Understanding shone in her eyes. Understanding…and gratitude. If Link had left her alone with the Gerudo, then the Chief would have slain her for treachery.
She kept her face level. "It appears my hands are tied."
"I told you!" Geldman almost choked on his words. The bed rocked with each tug his scrabbling fingers gave the arrow. "I told you Hylians couldn't be trusted!"
Link bowed his head. "Sitti."
It was an old word. One used by a more chivalrous age. My lady.
Vela's eyes shone. She knew it, too. Suddenly, as though she'd just made a snap decision, Vela leaned forward, her voice low. Link craned his neck to listen. "Information," she said. "About the Kokiri. About the Sage. Go to Tanner Drow's."
They each saw something new in the mirror of the other's eyes just then. Respect.
With a curt nod, Link slid away to bind his hostage. Respect was one thing, foolishness was another. Go to the princess. Go to Tanner Drow's. He wasn't going to do either. At least, not yet.
He had an old friend to drop in on first.