Disclaimer and Notes: The Legend of Zelda is the intellectual property of Nintendo. This is a fan work not for profit. After the popularity of The Great Desert, I decided to try another Zelda story in a Western-ish vein. This time, I wanted to do something closer to canon, more in-universe. Takes place after Twilight Princess (which was a game with some Western-ish elements already). Got bored, needed something to write. Let's see if I can take it to a destination.
A Legend of Zelda Fan Fiction by Shadsie
Chapter 1: The Labrynna Purchase
Queen Zelda looked upon the many maps, charts and journals laid out upon the broad table. A pair of birds chirped from a small wicker cage. Several seedling plants rested in tiny pots of soil. Two national heroes sat across from their queen. They had returned from their two-and-a-half-year long expedition five days ago to great clamor. Many officials in the palace had doubted their survival, and, indeed, some of the original party had not returned, but the heads of the project were quite well, meeting with their sovereign. All-in-all, the Shad and Ashei Expedition had been a success.
"The Gerudo have been making quite a place for themselves in the western lands. Far from a lost race, there they are!" Sir Shad babbled. He could barely contain his excitement about all they'd learned. It was he – ever the scholar and eternal student, who had written the volumes of journals that were laid out on the table. It was he who had taken up the samples of the new species and he who had drawn most of the maps. His companion and bride, Ashei, had seen to the practical matters of survival in the wilderness. She was also the one to bring the "winged blue-grizzled bear" that was being kept in Zelda's garden into submission.
The queen of Hyrule listened with fascination. It seemed that the deal she'd made with the queen of Labrynna had not been such a bad deal, after all. Ambi had said that her people had no use for the wilderness between their borders and had ceded it to Zelda for something close to five-rupees an acre if one wanted to calculate the math. Ambi had also said something about the people of Hyrule being a brave people – ones that may succeed where her own people had no interest.
"Yes, yes," Shad continued. "The land is very green and fertile. I have not seen a richer country. However, it is a wilderness, your Highness. The Serenity Valley is the best prospect to start farmer's settlements. It is very wide with much fertile soil for crops and livestock, but much rough country lies between here and there, not to mention the Stone Dagger Pass – the weather on those mountains is even worse than Snowpeak. The land is filled with beasts. We lost five good men to the rigors. One man was shot through the throat by a bulbin."
Zelda looked sad for a moment. "Their names shall be remembered," she said simply.
"They knew the danger," Ashei added. "They were given dignified graves and rites due to good soldiers, even though they were civilians."
"On the whole," Shad spoke up, "Our people will benefit highly from this acquisition. The Labrynna Purchase is perhaps the wisest decision you have ever made for Hyrule."
Queen Zelda's expression took on a faraway look. "I do wish the Hero were around to see it," she sighed.
"We may have found him," Ashei said matter-of-factly. Zelda's long ears perked. "There's all kinds of rumors passed around them Gerudo. They tell tales of a man who lives alone in the forests and mountains. They say he has a horse that can run across the plains for three days nonstop, that he can climb sheer cliff-faces in an instant and control the wind. He's supposed to be a dead-shot with a bow, swift with a sword. They call him the 'Wolf' because it's said he can transform into one. Aside from all that silly stuff, Shad and I think the legends may just match our old friend."
"Link always was a mysterious character," Shad added.
"The missing Hero…" Zelda mused. She tried not to show her excitement over the wolf-transformation part of the rumor. Surely, they did not know the Hero's secret as she had. "Could it be that he was so near us all this time? Why would he not return to us?"
"Freedom," Ashei said simply. "That boy only became the Hero because he wanted to help us all and destiny had bound him to it. You would have made him a man of court. The people would have made him into a god. That nonsense would have chained him. A man of his caliber needs to be free. The wilderness is the natural place for a man with his feral eyes."
Wagon beds creaked as heavy sacks of dry goods were loaded into them. The air was filled with the scent of horse-sweat. Ilia finished checking the hitching on a pair of oxen and the cinch on the saddle of Colin's horse.
She turned to a large man with an open vest and a hairy chest. "The guide you hired had better be reliable, Sam," she said. "Where are we supposed to meet him?"
"Three days out of Ordon," Sam replied, "By Lynel Rock."
"I worry that the journey's going to be rough on the horses…"
"I anticipate we'll lose a few," Sam commented. He withered at the death-glare Ilia gave him. "It's just the facts, little lady. Caravans usually have casualties – if we're lucky, it'll be just a horse or two."
Ilia looked about ready to do violence. Sam couldn't believe he could feel fear from a lightly-built young woman. He towered over her. He thought of stories about wild animals that attacked beasts many times their own size. "Uh…" he recovered, "That's why we have you, right? I was told we wouldn't find a better horse-master in all of Hyrule. The more animals you get to the Valley safely, the more you get paid. Now where is our security man?"
"Hugging his mother," Ilia said, motioning toward the edge of the caravan. Everyone was ready and eager to roll out. Colin parted from his mother's arms, said something to his father and gave something to his little sister. He checked that the sword and shield on his back were buckled securely and vaulted up onto his bay mare.
"Thanks, Ilia," he said. "Are we ready to go?"
"We were waiting for you."
Sam bellowed and soon, many beasts and wagons were on the move. Colin and Ilia looked back upon their village and their friends and family waving, wishing them good luck, and praying for their safety. Most of the caravans heading west started or supplied themselves in Ordon, hence why the path to the Serenity Valley was being called the Ordon Trail. This time, Colin and Ilia had joined up with one.
It had been just over seven years since the end of the Twilight Crisis – or Twilight Invasion, as it was alternately called. After the Hero of legend and the Goddess' choosing had risen up, restored Hyrule to order and defeated an ancient evil, the kingdom had entered into an unprecedented era of peace. The children of Ordon had grown up. Ilia and Colin, in particular, had wanted to strike out and make lives for themselves outside of Ordon. Colin was only eighteen now, but had gained a reputation as a swordsman of some skill – having trained under his father. Ilia had become known as one of the best horse-trainers in Hyrule. Ilia had been hired by the trail boss of this caravan to take care of its animals. Colin had been hired on as security against beasts and boar-riders. They each had their own reasons for agreeing to it, though.
For Colin, perhaps it was the sheer adventure. He wanted to see the world beyond Ordon's borders. He'd been to Eldin province and to Lanayru, but he wanted to go farther, to see more. Ever since events in his life in the days of Twilight, he'd developed an adventuring itch. Perhaps it was because he'd wanted to be like his idol – the Hero who had come back to the village briefly after the Twilight ordeal was over and had taught him to ride, only to ride off to parts unknown and vanish.
Ilia wanted land of her own – her own ranch the likes of which she could never have in Ordon. She also had something of an adventurer's itch, but for her it was mostly a feeling she had that if she searched with courage and an open heart, that she would find a beautiful mare she once knew and her handsome rider, a long-gone best friend whom she missed every day.
Everyone in the caravan had dreams. There was the Taylor Family and the Flake Family – folks who would never be able to afford their own land in Hyrule, but could have their own properties in the west if they only made it there to take it. There was Dinah, a dancing girl who was their traveling entertainment but who was probably really running from the law. There were some folks who knew that new lands meant escape from discrimination. Some were after business opportunities. Some just liked the idea of creating a new world. A new land and new lives awaited them all.
Heading toward the border of Hyrule-proper and the beginning of the Purchase was largely uneventful. The ten-wagon caravan rolled past the imaginary line separating their home country from the utter wilderness with ease. It was, indeed, three days out of Ordon when they came to Lynel Rock. The evening mist was thick as the caravan made camp.
The trail boss and the horse-master rode outside of the clustered wagons, searching for the "reliable wilderness guide" that had been hired to help them through the untamed country.
"So, where is he?" Ilia asked skeptically. "Maybe he just took your money and ran."
"I didn't pay him yet," Sam replied, "I ain't that stupid. I just made a pact with him. They say that this one never breaks a promise."
"You can't be sure of that," Ilia groused. "I hope we can get through it without him. I don't trust crazy mountain-men. He's probably forgotten about you and is off on his own business."
"The guy I hired is the one folk call Wolf. They say he's led several caravans to the Valley safe and sound. Heroics are something of a hobby of his, they say. And he's really pricey, but doesn't take his payment until the destination is reached."
Ilia felt her horse's muscles quiver beneath the saddle. The animal's ears perked and her head darted to a line of trees. "Easy, Jimmy, easy." At once, Sam's steed and hers whinnied, which stirred noise from the horses within earshot back at the camp.
Out of the woods, bathed in the deepening golden light of sunset was a rider on a horse. The rider was scruffy, clothed in leather and furry hides. The horse… it had been years, but Ilia would know that horse anywhere.
"Epona?" she whispered. She took a long look at the face of the rider. To her surprise, it was clean-shaven, or very much a face that had never known a beard on someone too old not to grow one. The man's hair was scruffy, the nose a little crooked, scars on the cheeks, but those eyes – even during the time during the Twilight Invasion when she had lost her memories, the image of those eyes had stayed with her.
She was filled with many emotions in that moment. She did not know whether to be insane with joy or filled with fury. Relief for his life, or anger that he'd never even bothered to write home. What had he been doing all these years? All of Hyrule had been looking for their Hero and here he was, running around in no man's land.
"Link!" she yelled. It was a yell, a scold; nonetheless, she dismounted her horse and ran to him.
"I-Ilia?" the surprised man said. He slipped off his mare.
Ilia, tears streaming down her face, squeezed him, buried her face in his chest, then reached up and touched his face. "It's really you, isn't it?"
And she punched him, square in the chest.
"What was that for?" the young man coughed.
She punched for him again, but he dodged. "For leaving….without saying goodbye!" she sobbed, "without writing…without letting anybody know where you were! Father told me he was sure you were dead. Dead! Why did you leave? All of Hyrule wants to know where you are."
"Wait a minute, little lady," Sam asked, "Just what is going on here? You know our guide?"
"Yeah," Link said, looking down and away. "We were… childhood friends."
"More than that," Ilia said, regaining her composure. "I mean, not more than that… for us, but…" she shook her head, "Link…"
Realization dawned in Sam's eyes. "Link. THE Link? As in the Hero of Twilight who just up and disappeared?"
"Don't tell anyone, okay?" Link asked. "I was… rather growing fond of my life out here."
"It's not fair," Ilia moaned. "Why did you just disappear?"
"I wanted to be free," Link said.
"I didn't recognize that scruffy mess riding Epona at first, but I'd know that mare anywhere."
Link offered Ilia another hug, which she accepted, and smiled.
The trail winds ever onward…