Summary: Zelink AU - Unfinished business in the past comes to haunt the present, a princess trains to be a Sheikah in the Rebellion, and Link finds himself caught in a struggle amongst agents of evil - each wanting to use him for their own purposes. A tale of forgiveness, redemption, love, and inner darkness that proves the absence of war is not the same as peace.
An epic I'm rather excited about. I don't know how often I'll be able to update, but if I get a big response to this I'll make time. 8D Let's see how many of my "A Love Story" readers return, haha! The idea for this mostly came from the fact that I didn't know how to follow up "A Love Story", so I decided to do something starkly different. Enjoy!
WARNING: Rated T for strong violence, sensuality, mild profanity, sequences containing slightly disturbing material, torture, overall darkness
Disclaimer: I don't own Zelda
That was the first thing twelve-year-old Zelda focused on. It was a heavy, oppressing darkness that sucked the air from her lungs. There was a burst of heat against her face and suddenly she was blinded as flames sprang up all around her. The crackling of the fire was deafening in her ears, and she felt fear rush through her body.
As she looked frantically around she laid her eyes on the dark figure of a boy who looked to be a few years older than her. His back was to her but he turned his head in her direction, as if feeling her presence . Zelda could only see one side of his face, but it was enough to show that he was strikingly handsome. Blonde hair blew back from his face, and he gave her an optimistic smile.
"It's going to be okay," he assured, the words seeming to contradict the chaos around him.
Suddenly he and the flames blurred like ripples in the water before vanishing entirely. The heat was gone, leaving Zelda shivering. She heard soft footsteps and whirled around to find a man approaching her. He was covered from head to foot in a gold cloak, only his mouth visible.
"Princess of Destiny," he said in a gentle voice, coming to a stop.
"Yes?" she replied tentatively, her voice seeming to echo in her pointed ears.
Zelda sat bolt upright in her bed, her heart thundering loudly. She looked around her dark bedroom, expecting to see flames, the man in the gold cloak, or the handsome youth that had smiled at her. But her room was empty, a breeze stirring her curtains. Her curving dresser was cast in blue shadow, and the furniture that was set to an area to one side was almost invisible in the dark.
Letting out her breath heavily, Zelda slumped and pushed her hair from her face. She cleared her throat and called out, "Impa?"
There was a pause before the door creaked open, her sheikah guardian peering in with a frown. "Zelda? What on Hyrule are you doing up this late?"
The princess pushed the covers away from her legs, her adrenaline making her wide awake. "I had a dream . . . a nightmare, maybe."
"Maybe?" Impa asked, taking a few steps in.
Zelda's eyes dropped to the back of her hand, seeing the faint glowing outline of a triangle, a gift from the goddesses that she'd been born with. She looked back to the sheikah. "I think the Triforce of Wisdom is trying to tell me something. I think it gave me a vision."
Link forced the shovel deeper into the dirt, the noon sun hot against the back of his neck and causing him to sweat. Putting one foot on top of it to push the blade down further, he dug up more dirt, throwing it into the pile he was creating. He had the sleeves of his green shirt rolled up to his elbows, his skin bronzed from working in the sun for hours a day. He could still hear the cows in the barn from where he'd recently finished his work, leaving a heavy hay scent clinging to him.
Link paused for a moment, glaring up at the sun. Midsummer in Hyrule always got too hot for his tastes, especially when he was doing outdoor labor. He dropped his gaze to Lon Lon Ranch around him, the horses drinking from their water and trotting about on the grass.
Most people would be appalled at the idea of a boy of twelve working for his own living, but it didn't bother Link much. He didn't want to be taken care of, he didn't want to be put in an orphanage, and he most of all didn't want anybody's sympathy. He'd grown tired of adults telling him "I know how you must feel" when in reality they had no idea.
He turned as Malon came up to him, her red hair bright in the sun.
"Yeah?" he asked, leaning on the shovel, gloves binding his hands to protect them from the hard work.
Malon looked sufficiently hurt, "Dad told me you're leaving at the end of this week. Why?"
He shrugged, gazing over at the horses. "I don't like to stay in one place for too long."
"Is something wrong?" she pressed, her blue eyes wide.
"No, nothing is." He offered her a smile. "You and Talon have been very nice to me, but I've been here a year and that's usually how long I stay in one job."
She fiddled with the orange scarf around her neck, looking anywhere but at him. "It's none of my business, but it might do you some good to settle down somewhere. You know, make friends and . . . have people there for you."
"Maybe someday," Link replied. It was an answer he was use to giving.
"Where will you go?"
He shook his head. "I dunno. I was thinking about going further out into the country. Small towns are more likely to hire kids my age."
"Well, if something ever goes wrong," she said, "you can always come back to your room here. Dad and I will let you stay as long as you like, and you don't have to work for us."
Link sighed. In other words, she wanted them to be like his family, which was not what he wanted. But he also would feel guilty if he stayed in someone's house, having them spend money on him while he did nothing in return. That wasn't the way he'd been raised. "Thanks, Malon, but I like to move about."
A smile tugged at her mouth. "You're a free spirit, Link, I understand. I just worry about you."
He grinned. "Don't, I'll be fine."
" 'Kay," she let out her breath. "I'll leave you to your work, then. Lunch is in an hour."
He watched her walk off, smiling. Malon was a nice girl; he would miss her. He vowed to come back and visit often. Sticking the shovel roughly into the dirt again, he let his mind wander. Excitement stirred in him, the kind he always felt when he was about to head off to somewhere new. His parents had always told him that he was a natural born adventurer. They had loved to travel, too, and had gone all throughout Hyrule. Of course, that had been before they'd been killed.
Link shoved away at the memory that kept him up at night quite often, but it persisted in showing him the images he'd wished he'd never seen. He and his parents walking through the streets of Castle Town at night. Two men coming from the shadows and killing them swiftly before taking their money, his mother's jewelry, and the dagger his father always carried. The men gave him a look before racing off into the night, leaving him to cry at their corpses. That had been four years ago.
Link dug the shovel forcefully into the ground, disgusted by what humans could do to each other. He had been working at odd jobs ever since, paying his way and staying at places to avoid being stuck into an orphanage. Soon he'd be old enough to buy his own place, and it was something he'd been saving for for a very long time.
Humming to himself, he continued his work, focusing on where he'd go at the end of the week.
Impa headed down the halls of Hyrule Castle, walking through the patches of sunlight that came through the windows. She glanced out, seeing a view of the green gardens that were spotted with vibrantly colored flowers.
Impa had a muscular frame for a woman, her black and blue leather clothes making it apparent. Her hair was white, but it was obvious in her face that she was only in her thirties. She had full lips and strong cheekbones.
Impa was a sheikah, one of the Shadow Folk, a tribe of warriors who guarded the royal family and were taught to enhance their human abilities to gain an advantage in combat. The sheikah were masters of stealth. Most began training when they were children, and it was a course that took fifteen to twenty years to master.
Upon completing her training, Impa's first assignment had been to be Princess Zelda's personal body guard. However, the girl's mother had died when she was very young, and Impa couldn't help but try to fill that role. She had become somewhat of a nanny for Zelda, and they were very close.
The sheikah stopped at the princess's door, knocking.
"Come in!" Zelda's voice sounded.
Impa opened the door, stepping inside. Zelda was lying on her bed amidst a sea of large books. Some were stacked, others were open, and one was directly in front of the princess, who was skimming the pages as she turned them.
"Zelda . . ." Impa trailed off, not even knowing what to ask.
The girl flashed her a smile. "These are all my legends, myths, and history books. I took them all down from my shelf." She scrunched her nose. "Some of these are really dusty."
Impa sighed, leaning against the doorframe. "What are you doing with them?"
"I'm trying to see if I can find anything in here that relates to my vision."
The sheikah shook her head, smiling. Zelda had been born with the Triforce of Wisdom, foretelling that she would have an important future. Zelda always spent much time reading from those books. She wanted to be well-educated in the history and legends of Hyrule, because she felt that it might be useful for whatever future awaited her.
"Here it is!" Zelda smiled, stabbing her finger down on one page. "The legend of the Hero."
"What makes you think your vision had to do with that one?" the woman questioned.
"Because the guy in my dream had blonde hair and blue eyes, and the Hero is always depicted with blonde hair and blue eyes."
Impa stood up from the door. "That's great, but I have to go. I'm going with the carriage to pick up our milk from Lon Lon Ranch. You stay with-"
"I want to come!" the princess piped, hopping off the bed and causing one heavy book to fall off with a loud thud. She proceeded to pull on her shoes.
"But . . . you haven't come in forever. You said it was boring."
"It is," Zelda nodded, "but I want to be on the lookout for the guy from my vision."
Impa shook her head, seeing how enthusiastic the princess was about unraveling her dream. Still, she took it seriously. If Zelda believed she'd been given a prophecy, she could very well be correct. "Alright, what does he look like?"
"He was about sixteen or seventeen. Like I said, blonde and blue, and he was good-looking. There was also a man in a gold cloak, but I think he'd be easy to spot."
Impa nodded. "Come on, then, the carriage is waiting."
Zelda followed her guardian down the halls of the castle, smoothing out her blue dress. She hoped she'd at least be able to get a handle on what her vision meant by the end of the day. Darkness and fire weren't good signs, but she tried to ignore those. After all, the young man in her dream had assured her that everything would be okay. Growing up knowing she had a significant role to play had also taught her how to deal well with stress. More than likely, she assumed something bad would happen that she would have to set right. It was her destiny, and she couldn't be frightened.
Aside from the way the young man had looked in her dream, resembling the Hero of Legend, there was also another reason why she'd turned to that story. The cloaked man had called her the "Princess of Destiny". Legend said that the Hero and the Princess of Destiny defeated a great evil. The exact nature of the evil wasn't specified, but it did offer some clues to help narrow it down.
There were a few books over demons and evils, and Zelda often spent her time trying to connect them with Hyrule's history and myths. She had a few theories about what the evil was that the Hero would encounter, and each made her a bit nervous.
She sighed, letting her anxiety slip away. It was no use to be worried now. She wanted to focus on only one thing at a time. The first: find this "Hero".
Link leaned the shovel against one side of the barn, pulling off his gloves to hook them over the top. It was almost time for lunch and he figured he should clean up a bit before eating. Lon Lon Ranch was filled with the sounds of horses' hooves, chicken clucks, and the sound of Link's own boots as he made his way toward the red house.
Suddenly Malon came from the front door, smiling at him. "Link! Can you get a crate from the barn? The royal carriage is here."
Nodding, Link jogged into the shade of the barn, picking up a wooden crate. The animals sounded at his presence, their stench clogging the area. He went back out into the sunlight to see the white carriage had pulled just inside the ranch. He took a few steps to it, stopping with the crate in his arms. Talon, the ranch owner and Malon's father, would use it to transport some products.
Malon hurried up to the carriage, putting on her most polite face. "Welcome to Lon Lon Ranch! My father will be out shortly to – Oh, Princess Zelda." She dropped into a courtesy. "It's a pleasure to see you here."
Link watched as a few workers from the castle hopped out of the carriage, followed by the princess. His eyes widened. He'd never seen the princess in person, and was amazed at how pretty she was. Her blonde hair blew out in the breeze, her light blue eyes sparkling with an inner energy. She looked over the house and at the barn before looking over at Link. She froze, her jaw dropping.
"How are you today, Princess?" Malon asked, keeping her manners in check.
"Fine," Zelda replied vacantly, not taking her eyes from Link. She slowly walked toward him, her shocked expression turning into one of disbelief and scrutiny. Link felt his own awe melt and confusion take its place as she walked right up to him.
"Princess," he said, nodding his head.
She stood there, her eyes narrowed in concentration. It looked as if she was deeply studying his face, and that made him feel self-conscious. He opened his mouth to ask her if she needed anything, when her hand came up and gripped his chin, turning his face to the side.
"What on Hyrule are you doing?!" he gasped, yanking his face free.
"What's your name?" she asked, taking a step back.
"Link," he answered, glad to have her out of his personal space. "Can I help you with something?"
"Link," she repeated, looking out over the ranch. "I guess you're working here?"
"What's your work schedule?"
He frowned, irritated at her invasive questions. "I'm working and living here, but I'm leaving at the end of the week."
Zelda looked like she wanted to say something, but thought better of it. She smiled. "It's nice to meet you, Link. I'm Zelda."
"Hi," he responded hesitantly. He inclined his head toward Talon. "Well, I'm gonna go help him."
Zelda watched as he walked off, her mind spinning. She turned and ran over to Impa, tugging her away from the group and into the shadow of the barn. "Impa! That boy right there, he's the one from my dream!"
Impa looked to where she was pointing, seeing a blonde haired boy handing a crate to Talon and conversing with the ranch owner. "Him? But he looks your age."
"I know, but it is him." Zelda sighed, running her fingers through her hair. "Maybe I saw him in the future?" She chewed on her lip, thinking as she watched Link leave the crate with Talon and head over to where the horses were, seeming to just want to not get in anybody's way. She took a breath. "I'm going to go talk to him."
She headed out into the open part of Lon Lon Ranch, the sun warming her skin. There was a black fence that ran around the horse corral, consisting of three horizontal bars with a vertical bar every few feet. Link stood on the lowest bar, his elbows resting on the top one as he watched the horses gallop about. Their coats of gold, brown, and black shimmered in the sun, their hooves stirring up puffs of dirt with each step. Tails flicked away at persistent insects.
Zelda stopped next to him, clasping her hands behind her back. He glanced down at her, giving a small smile before looking back to the horses.
"How old are you, Link?"
He inwardly sighed. Why was she so interested? "Twelve."
"That's neat, I'm twelve, too!" There was a moment of silence, and she dug her toe into the grass awkwardly. "So . . . are you related to Talon?"
"No," he replied, looking down at her. "They're just letting me live here while I work for them."
"Oh, that's nice."
"Do you have any siblings?"
She paused, before venturing, "What about your parents?"
"Oh." She gazed at him sympathetically. "I'm sorry. My mother died when I was little, so I know how you must feel."
Link hung his head, looking down at his boots. There was that line again. He straightened, pushing himself up and turning around so he could sit on the highest bar, his back now to the horses. He stared down at her, his face cast in shadow. "Why are you asking me all these questions?"
Zelda shrugged. "I just want to know more about you." A smile pulled at her mouth. "I think you're special."
He laughed. "Special? I've never heard that one before, but thank you."
The princess grinned, resting her arms on the fence. She felt the tension melt between them, a more relaxed atmosphere coming.
"I've never seen you come with the carriage before," Link said.
"I thought I'd get some fresh air," she answered. "Hyrule is pretty this time of year."
He nodded. "It is."
"When I get back to the castle I have to go to my painting lessons." She sighed dramatically. "They're trying to make me into an artist, but they'd have a better chance with a blind person."
Link laughed, rocking on his perch. "It's the same with me. I have no artistic talent."
She grinned darkly, punching one fist into her other palm. "I'm more of a hands-on person."
He raised an eyebrow. "Very princess-like behavior."
"Impa's always telling me to act more like a young lady in public," Zelda replied. "But I can't help myself."
Link hopped down, landing lightly on his feet. The princess took note of this, registering his agility and balance. He wasn't particularly big or thick, but maybe that would work to his advantage, if he was, indeed, the Hero of Legend. He could be fast, rather than strong.
"I think it's kind of neat," Link stated. "You're not what I expected, but I like you."
Zelda smiled brightly. "I like you, too. I hope we'll be great friends."
He returned the smile. "Me too."
"Zelda!" Impa's voice sounded, calling the attention of the two. "We're leaving."
"Be right there!" the princess responded. She looked back at Link, waving. "Well, I'll see you."
He nodded. "You too."
Turning lightly on her heel, Zelda bounded back to the sheikah to return home. Link watched her go, leaning back against the fence. The carriage rattled out of the ranch, the stomping of hooves fading into silence. He was slightly taken aback by Zelda's persistent questions, and her blatant disregard for personal space, but there was something about her that he found quite likeable. She was pretty, certainly, but she had this energy in her eyes that was infectious. He smiled to himself, the breeze moving strands of hair in front of his face.
"C'mon, Link, the food is ready!" Malon called, peering from the doorway.
Pushing himself off of the fence, Link headed toward the house.
Zelda sat on a stone bench in one of the castle's many gardens, a book in her hands. Greenery was all around her, occasionally interrupted by a patch of flowers or fruit. The scent of the dirt and plants filled her nose, and she could hear birds in the branches. She had her hand heavily down on the book, keeping the fluttering pages in place, but her mind was elsewhere.
Link was the young man from her dream, of that she was absolutely certain. But why had he been older? She guessed she must have seen him speaking to her years from now, and although it relieved her anxiety, it also disappointed her. Did that mean she'd have to wait years until she encountered her destiny?
Sighing, she put the book down on the bench, standing up to stretch her legs. She walked along the stone path, planning on just doing a quick square around the garden. She looked at the bushes and trees as she passed, branches stretching out over her to cast her in shade. She bent down and plucked a purple iris, smelling its scent and smiling.
The gardens that filled the courtyards of Hyrule Castle had no parallel. Flowers were rainbows that rose over seas of lush green. Small and perfectly smooth stone were set in the rich dirt. Red ferns were open to the sunlight, and large bushes were perfectly shaped. A stream or two ran through the gardens, sparkling and bubbling.
As she went around a curve, a large tree blanketing the area in shadow, a man stepped from behind the trunk and into her path. She gasped, dropping the flower and taking a step back. But her shock quickly vanished as she was faced with the man in the gold cloak. The hem of it stirred across the ground in the breeze, his mouth set into a hard line. She couldn't see his eyes, but felt him looking at her.
"Princess of Destiny," he said in a gentle voice.
"Yes?" she replied tentatively, her own voice sounding stronger than she felt.