Back To A Life Once Lived
By Queenie Z
He found himself running, limping breathlessly as his heavy armor weighed him down. He stumbled through the moonlit fields of Hyrule, occasionally stopping to catch himself on a tree. He hadn't the faintest idea what he was doing - why was he running? Why was he wearing armor? More importantly, why did he feel like his whole body was on fire? He was experiencing something that felt so alien yet so incredibly familiar at the same time; something that terrified him to his core.
He tried to make himself stop; to force himself to rest and gather his bearings. But his body wouldn't listen to him. He was forced against his will to keep going, running until the trees around him grew thicker and denser, all the while trying and failing to silence the voice in his head that wasn't his. Or was it his?
I have to go home, he heard it echo over and over, I have to go home...! But where was home? Ordon? Or was it somewhere else, a home he had in an age long past? He had no idea where he was going, yet in a bizarre contradiction, he knew exactly where he was going; the forests of Hyrule, a village from a childhood he had long since forgotten about. The other him, the him whose life he was re-experiencing, wanted desperately to return there; to leave behind his life as the Hero and the unbearable secrets he had kept for years. Yet the him from the present had a feeling that he would never make it.
He slipped on a patch of forest moss, landing face first in the mud. For a long moment, he didn't move, then he finally gathered the strength to lift himself to his knees. With an angry roar, he removed his helmet and threw it to the ground before wiping away the filth. He looked around, the vision from his single eye clouded from fever, and the him that was in control finally realized that he was undeniably lost.
Gripped with terror and shortness of breath, he crawled pathetically over to a nearby boulder and sat limply against it. There, his lifted a pair of shaking hands to his face, screaming incoherently. Yet the present him knew exactly what those screams were; they were screams of anguish, of suffering, of loneliness for a friend he had lost long ago... of regret for ever answering the call of destiny in the first place. They were curses hurled at the Gods for their cruelty; curses hurled at himself for leaving behind so much and accomplishing so little for his country. They were the rawest emotions of the forgotten Hero of Time.
As the sickness slowly robbed the past Hero's senses and took his last breaths of life, the present Hero wanted so desperately to tell him that his suffering been worth it - that this wasn't the end of his legacy. He woke up before he could.
Link shot his eyes open, his face drenched and his breathing heavy. He took a moment to remember where he was - he was in his bed, in his house, in his tiny home village. He wasn't dying like in his dream; he was safe. He couldn't, however, say the same for his ancestor.
Sitting up slowly, he took a long, hard look at the old helmet on the floor by his bed. Then, he reached down and took it gingerly in his hands. He understood everything now. That dream was no dream, but a dying memory of a life he had forgotten. He wasn't simply Captain Link's descendent - he was him, in a sense. He was his successor not only in blood, but also in spirit and destiny.
And now... he was the only one in the whole world who truly knew the dead Hero's pain and regret.
"I'm sorry," he muttered, placing his forehead upon the helmet's cold, rusted steel. "I'm so sorry."
Link had promised to give his ancestor the memorial he had never received from his fellow knights, but his dream - or rather, his flashback - had only strengthened his resolve to make it happen. And, thanks to Queen Zelda, it finally did.
Captain Link of the Knights of Hyrule was finally remembered on a chilly morning in early spring, over two centuries after his disappearance and death. Because they had no body to bury in the military graveyard behind Hyrule Castle, the old helmet given to Link by the Skull Kid was immortalized instead, resting in a glass case on a simple slab of granite next to the graves of the men he had called comrades in life. On the granite slab was a gold placard with a short eulogy and the crest of the Knights. The queen had originally suggested something more ornate, something that suited a Legendary Hero, but Link had a feeling that the Captain would have preferred a simpler monument instead; indeed, a humble memorial was far more fitting for a man who had sacrificed so much for his country.
After he was given a traditional knight's farewell, the few who had gathered for the service dispersed. Everyone, that is, except for Link, who remained by the small monument for quite some time. He knelt before the granite and traced his fingertips over the letters etched in the gold plate: In memory of Captain Link of the Fourth Infantry Unit, whose hand had courage and whose heart had love. May his deeds be remembered and may his spirit rest in peace. He smiled as he read the word "courage" - hadn't the captain's ghost once told him that a sword wielded no strength unless the hand that held it had courage? Link found it fitting and strangely moving to hear that phrase applied to the very man who first said it. He slid his fingers down to the crest, pausing on the sacred mark of the Triforce, and lowered his head.
"I hope this is enough," he muttered to the ground. "It's the least I could do - you never did let me thank you for everything." He shut his eyes and smiled. "Hey, if you've moved on... could you tell mother and father I said hi?"
"I'm sure he will, Link."
Link startled out of his reverie and stood, facing the visitor and gulping bashfully. "Y-Your Majesty! I thought you'd left...!"
Queen Zelda giggled at his reaction. "I didn't mean to startle you. I apologize." She looked down at a bouquet of white lilies in her arms. "I had these prepared for you to pay your respects with."
"You didn't have to do that..."
She shook her head. "I know how important putting the captain to rest has been for you. He was so much more than simply family - he was another link in the great chain that is bound to Hyrule's destiny. Finding him must have been like finding yourself again." She held the flowers out to him. "So take them. If it will put your heart at ease, pray for him - pray for yourself, and pray for the Heroes who will come after you."
The young Hero's face softened into an expression of melancholy, and he took the flowers from Zelda. After a moment of silence, he spoke. "He told me he had regrets," he said sadly, "but I had no idea just how much he regretted. Everything I've been through - it's nothing compared to his pain."
"We all must sacrifice so much in the battle against evil," said Zelda, reaching out to place a gentle hand on Link's shoulder. "But I believe he's happy now. His regrets were laid to rest through you, and the Gods have surely rewarded him well for his deeds." She smiled warmly. "I'm sure he looks down upon you with great pride, along with your mother and father and everyone who came before you."
Link didn't respond - he simply shut his eyes, allowing his emotions to overflow. Tears he had held back for so long finally leaked, causing Zelda to wipe them away in concern.
"Oh, Link, please don't cry..."
"It's okay," he replied. He opened his eyes again, trying his best to grin. "You're absolutely right. He has to be happy now - I'm sure of it."
The queen nodded. "I'll stay by your side and pray with you, if you want me to."
"I'd like that, Your Majesty."
He laid the flowers at the base of the monument. Then, together with Zelda, he prayed.