Back To Your Roots
By Queenie Z
Link sighed, resting his head in his hands and in turn resting his elbows on the table. It wasn't that he didn't like being at Telma's Bar on this cold winter afternoon; it was just that he had planned on being in Ordon for his birthday, and thanks to the nonstop snowing that had gone on for the past three days, he wasn't able to leave Castle Town without putting himself and Epona in danger. He also felt bad for letting Ilia and Colin and the rest of the kids down after promising he'd be home soon to celebrate with them - he hated having to break promises - so, naturally, he was feeling a little bit blue.
Luckily, he had friends here in town to try and cheer him up; namely, his friends in Hyrule's secret resistance group, with whom he'd gotten to be quite close over the past two years. In fact, he was pretty sure he was as good as one of them now, often accompanying them on their excursions in an attempt to find his place in the world after fulfilling his role as the hero of legend. The comradery he shared with them was the very reason he was at the bar in the first place - since Link couldn't be home for his birthday like he had planned, the others had offered to celebrate with him instead.
Alas, he had shown up early out of boredom, for there wasn't much else to do when the streets were covered in a foot of snow. Therefore, he and Telma were the only ones there. So Link waited by his lonesome, with Telma occasionally taking a break from her cleaning to talk to him. Draping a cleaning cloth over her shoulder, she walked over to the young hero and leaned on the table.
"Cheer up, Birthday Boy," she teased. "Don't you like my company?"
Link gave her a bashful smile. "Of course I do, Telma. It's just... two people don't exactly make for an exciting party, don't you think?"
"The others will be here soon, sweetie. Don't you worry about that." She cocked her head to the side. "And when they get here, your drinks are on me. Consider it your birthday present."
The boy blinked at her. "You're letting me drink?"
"You're eighteen today, right? I think you're ready to try the grown-up stuff." Telma winked. "Of course, I still have to cut you off if you have too much. It'd be bad publicity if our beloved hero did something stupid in my bar, wouldn't it?"
Link chuckled. "I guess it would. Don't worry, Telma, I'll be good. I promise."
They turned their heads when they heard the door open and shut behind them. The first of the group had arrived, and Shad, carrying a journal, a large envelope, and a roll of paper under his arm, gave a small wave.
"I beg your pardon if I'm running late," he said with a smile.
Link shook his head. "Nuh-uh! It was just Telma and I."
"Oh, good, good." He walked over to the table and sat his things down on top of it. "That means we still have plenty of time to go over everything before they all arrive," he said as he took off his coat.
"Things?" asked Telma curiously, taking Shad's coat and placing it on a coat rack. "You mean those things you just brought, right? I hope you're not planning on boring the poor boy to death on his eighteenth birthday, honey!"
"Not at all." Shad sat down next to Link. "Actually, this is a small project I've been working on for a few months now, and the results are my birthday present to you, Link."
This piqued Link's curiosity. "Huh... really?"
Shad nodded, adjusting his glasses. "My boy, do you remember when I asked about your family?"
"Yeah," replied Link. "And I said I didn't know all that much, except that Father was a fisherman and Mother worked in the stables. They both died before they could tell me about anyone else."
"Well, I did some, shall we say, 'digging around' with Rusl, and - "
Link's eyes went wide. "You found something about my parents?"
"I can do you one better." The scholar reached for the paper and unrolled it, revealing a large family tree, ending with Link and branching backwards. "I was able to trace your family back nearly two hundred years."
Telma leaned in, taking a look at the tree. "I'll be damned," she muttered.
"Shad, that's amazing!" Link ran his finger over the paper. "How did you do all this?"
"That's an excellent question." Shad took the journal and opened it. "You see, I'd always been a bit curious as to your heritage, Link. There are texts that are quite specific in regards to prophecies about the bloodline of the chosen hero," he nodded at Link, "by which I mean you, of course."
"There are? What do they say?"
"I'll get to that, my boy." He glanced back down at his journal. "So, naturally, I was a little disheartened when you hardly knew anything about your own family. Luckily, Rusl knew both of your parents quite well, and he was willing to share a few more details.
"You see, your family actually came to Ordon only ninety years ago. Rusl told me that your mother - who was quite a spunky woman from what I hear - often talked about her grandfather, who retired to Ordon after serving for a short time in the Knights of Hyrule. Yes, she would boast that she had the blood of knights flowing through her veins - and that same blood lives in you, Link."
"So," said Link thoughtfully, "my great-grandfather was a knight?"
"Not just a knight," answered Shad, "but a knight from a long and prestigious line of knights. And, luckily for us, the knights keep excellent records of their numbers." He took the envelope, opened it, and carefully laid a series of pictographs down on the table, each one yellower and older than the last. "I took the liberty of tracking your ancestors down in the archives - I think you'll find the results quite exciting." He then proceeded to cross-examine the figures in the pictographs - group pictures taken of entire divisions - with notes from his journal, listing off their names and ranks along with any other information he had on them.
"Your great-grandfather Gerard was relieved of duty after only a few short years due to losing his arm. However, your great-great-grandfather, Lieutenant Hadyn, was well known and respected for his archery skills. His mother Lorraine was one of the very few recorded female infantrymen. Her father Linus was given a Lieutenant ranking post-humously after saving three of his comrades at the cost of his life..."
He went on like this, keeping Link and Telma enraptured, until he finally reached the last pictograph.
"...And this gentleman right here," he said, "was particularly intriguing to me."
Link took a close look at the pictograph. It was four men, all wearing similar armor - armor that the young hero could have sworn he saw before - all of whom appeared to be high-ranking knights. The man Shad was pointing to was a little shorter than the others, yet his form was particularly intimidating. Though the picture was quite faint from age, he could still make out the slightest signs of a scar over the man's right eye. He seemed sullen, as though he carried some sort of great, heavy burden on his shoulders. It was like Shad said - there was something different about this man, something familiar yet enigmatic, something Link couldn't quite put his finger on.
"Go on," the boy urged, still looking intently at the faded photo of his ancestor.
"Well, first of all, coincidentally, he shares your name. Captain Link was one of the four leading commanders of his day; the youngest, according to his records. It seems that the Princess of his time was directly responsible for his quick rise in rank. That, and his impeccable swordsmanship." Shad leaned forward. "Now, here's where things begin to get mysterious - there are records of his service, yet no records of his birth, death, or any preceding kin exist. He simply appeared out of nowhere, accomplished a great deal for his age, then disappeared without a trace, leaving only his children behind. He was the last of your ancestors I was able to trace."
Telma 'hmmm'ed in interest. "He sounds so much like our Link," she mused, "accomplishing so much despite being so young... I guess it's no surprise that they're related!"
"Indeed. Now," Shad picked up his journal again, "back to the subject of prophecies. The Mark of Courage, unbounded by time, flows through noble warriors' veins, until by virtue of birth, a Hero is chosen once again." He looked back up. "If we assume that the Hero in this particular passage is you, Link, then it all comes together. The 'noble warriors' are the line of knights you descend from, and the 'Mark of Courage' could either be the concept of courage itself or something more literal."
"What about that birthmark of his? The one on his left hand?" Telma rubbed her chin. "It's a 'mark', although I don't know about the 'courage' bit."
Link rubbed the back of his left hand. "Maybe..." He knew the mark meant he was the chosen hero, so it was likely that it was the "Mark of Courage" mentioned in the prophecy. So that mark, the hero's mark, had come from his ancestors, and that meant -
His eyes opened wide in realization. He knew that man! He quickly grabbed the oldest pictograph and looked it over again. The armor, the scar on his eye, the "Mark of Courage" that passed through his line - it could only be him, the phantom who had appeared to him in the form of a golden wolf; the shade of the hero before him!
He ran a hand through his hair, overwhelmed by the realization that he had been a descendent of the noble ghost who had taught him so much. That he had shared his destiny, his mark, and even his name - it was so unbelievable, yet it all made so much sense now. He had been born to a family blessed by the Gods, one where courage lived in their very bones. It was all rather humbling to think about.
"Link?" asked Shad, noticing the boy's stupor. "Link, are you quite all right?"
"Huh?" Link snapped out of his reverie. "Oh... sorry, I was just thinking about all this." He looked back at the pictograph of Captain Link. "...Do you think I could keep this, Shad?"
"Of course. It's your birthday present - you can keep whatever you like."
The new hero smiled at the picture of the old hero. Now he had a face and a name he could properly thank - now he had some family he could feel connected to. And that alone made Shad's present all the more special.
"Thank you, Shad," he said with a big smile. "You didn't have to do all this."
"Oh, no need to thank me. It was the least I could do in return for your companionship." Shad patted Link's shoulder. "Happy birthday, my friend. I'm sure your ancestors are all very proud of you."
Link nodded, his gloomy wintery birthday now brightened considerably by his friend's thoughtfulness. Now all they had to do was wait for the others, and the real fun would begin.