Chapter 4: Past, Present, Future
-Termina: Port Great Bay, The Great Bay and outskirts
-Seven years and five weeks since Ganondorf's defeat
Link was normally a pretty dignified seagoer, but even he had moments- like now- where he simply had to hang his head over the railing of the ship and bid the contents of his stomach farewell and merry journey across the sea. Next to him, Valin wasn't faring much better- their retches chorused together under the incredibly stormy sky, and were the sailors not so busy trying to get the ship to port without busting it to bits on the choppy sea or the rocks below, they would have laughed. As it was, their yells mostly covered up the sound of the two adventurers' vomiting.
"I am never sailing again," grunted Valin, who was the color of a sheet- a greenish sheet, that is- and whose forehead was covered in a fine sheen of cold sweat. Link, who wasn't looking any prettier (underneath his tan, he was quite a lovely shade of puce) nodded his agreement. As the ship roiled over a great swell, Link's stomach roiled with it and he stuck his head over the rails again. Valin sat with his head tilted back, simply breathing in the salty sea air and relishing the feeling of rainwater on his face.
"You know, there have been a number of times in my life where I was absolutely convinced I was going to die," mused Link once he was done vomiting yet again. "I'm pretty sure this takes the shiny golden medal."
"If we reach land alive, we celebrate," stated Valin.
"Deal," agreed Link. The ship heaved, and thus, too, did Valin- this time, it was Link's turn to tilt his head back and breathe as his friend spewed out into the sea. "Perhaps we should go below deck," he thought aloud. "Bread helps, I believe, as will water. Not to mention being dry."
"Speak to me not of food," groaned Valin.
"Nevertheless, we're in the way," replied Link, even as the sailors swung agilely above their heads, seemingly untroubled by the rolling of the ship or the ceaseless pounding of the rain. "And I don't know about you, but there's not much left in my stomach for me to lose."
"I'll agree with you on that count," stated Valin. "Perhaps we should go back down, away from that wobbly horizon... ugh." The earl tried to stand and failed, and, figuring he had little dignity left to lose after his impressive show of regurgitory linguistics, he crawled back down below deck, Link behind him and faring only mildly better.
While Link sat on the floor in their shared cabin, eating bread and drinking water and looking as though he were about to die, Valin crawled about, gathering the small possessions that hadn't made it into their travel bags, or had made it in but had become dislodged in the turbulent travel. Priceless trinkets rolled and bumped about on the wooden floor, as well as bottles, maps, scrolls, and a small ocarina Link had taught himself to play. As it rolled past him, the blonde adventurer picked it up and pressed it to his lips, playing a soothing (albeit shaky) tune in the attempt to calm himself and his companion. He played a simple song he'd found scratched into a cave wall in Termina, a sweet, tender song that had read "Zora's Lullaby" (assuming Link had read the chickenscratch right.) Zora though it may have been, something in the tune calmed him and reminded him of Hyrule, of Zelda.
"I say," chimed Valin sometime later, slipping into the distinctly upper class speech he used when sick or tired, "I do believe we've docked. Link, that tune was just the thing we needed to get through the storm!"
"All I want is to get off this boat," replied the hero from where he leaned against the wall of the cabin, ocarina clutched within his grasp.
"No fretting, chap, we're straight near off this hunk of floating wood. Why, the captain's men ought to be down for us right any minute now."
"You're talking like a frilly."
'Frilly' was Link's verb of choice pertaining to the upper class snobs found in every culture who thought highly of themselves, yet made no contributions to their societies. They walked with their noses in the air, spoke derisively and unnecessarily, and their clothes, more often than not, had so many frills, flounces, and bows as to thoroughly sicken Link. Valin had picked up on his use of the word quick enough, and had been on the receiving end of it more than once when his friend had been grumpy, injured or tired, or even sometimes (as in this case) correct.
For all his speech was indeed 'frilly,' Valin was right- within the next five minutes, a sailor came to their cabin to tell them it was now safe to depart the boat. Sighing with relief, the hero and the earl grabbed their travel bags, slinging them over their shoulders and staggering gratefully from the cabin, up to the deck and then down the gangplank. Never, Link thought as he set foot on land and felt a rush of joy, had he ever been happier to depart the sea. Forgetting himself, he dropped his travel bags and hugged Valin, who was equally euphoric. Within minutes, both the adventurer's horses were also led down the gangplank from the cargo hold, looking about the same that the adventurers felt.
"What to do first? Celebrate, or celebrate?"
"Find an inn with a stable," Link stated, looking around the buzzing port town. "It's stopped raining for now, but I wouldn't be surprised if it started up again."
"Good thought," agreed Valin. "You know, there's that place on the North side of town, run by that lovely purple-haired chit... Kafine. The Singing Pot, I think?"
"The Singing Kettle," corrected Link. "I was actually thinking of that. Kafine's father owes me a favor or two... come on." Without further comment, Link grabbed Epona's bridle and slung his travel bags over her, then led her in the direction of The Singing Kettle. Valin followed, grabbing the bridle of his glossy white stallion Deity. He was a good horse, sturdy and proud, not to mention one of the finest examples of the amazing Romani horses bred in Termina Valin had ever seen. He'd come with the name- he was proud, and there was a certain legend about a particular god simply referred to as "The Fierce Detiy" who battled off evil in times of great strife for Termina. The idea had rather charmed Valin, and so he'd kept Deity close by him- excluding his little desert excursion with Link, when he'd been boarded at a small but trustworthy horse ranch in Holodrum. Right now, though, Deity didn't look very fierce- maybe more wet and distinctly uncomfortable, and also a little seasick, if such a thing was possible for a horse.
"Come on, boy," said Valin, patting Deity's neck fondly as he led him along by the bridle. "Let's get you to a stable that doesn't sway that has fresh oats." The horse whinnied his agreement, tossing his head, and they fell into step behind Link and Epona.
The little party wound its way through the streets of Port Great Bay, which were still crowded despite the gently falling rain. People bustled about their business, cloaks drawn up and heads ducked to avoid wetness. Valin hunched his shoulders and tried to ignore the cold and the damp- only Link walked with his head and shoulders head high, and did Valin not know better he'd have thought that Link didn't realize it was raining. The young earl did know better, though- Link's poise was really just the adventurer trying to pretend like it wasn't an issue.
Really, thought Valin, the man had odd ways of coping with things sometimes.
However, little did Valin know that the pride in Link's bearing was not from attempts to ignore the rain, but attempts to ignore the rapid pounding of his heart. He was in Termina- so, so close to Hyrule, which was one of the last places on the map he wanted to go ever again... in fact, on his top list of places he really did not want to go, it was just beneath a boiling vat of water and just above a pit of bugs. Valin had been right in the desert all those months ago when he'd accused Link of running from his problems, but still. What if Link wanted to run? What if this was the one problem he didn't want to- Goddesses, couldn't- face?
In the back of his mind, he recalled his drunken resolution on the anniversary of Midna's departure to make Zelda fight for him, but by the light of day and without the boost of alcohol, such a thing was a frightening thought. Really, Link thought, Zelda would be better off without him. He'd just make her life complicated- she was a princess, he was a goat herder, and she couldn't afford to be in love with a nobody when her kingdom depended on her...
But he'd promised to go back, he reminded himself sternly, and what kind of hero- no, what kind of man- would he be if he didn't honor that?
He looked up, and saw he'd been so lost in his thoughts that time had escaped him, as it often seemed to; the adventurers stood just outside the inn.
"I'll go take care of the rooms, see what I can't get us for a while," Link said to Valin, and then left his horse's reins in his friend's care and entered the inn.
There was a small, tidy reception area on the bottom floor, as well as a tavern. Link moved first to the reception area, though his body yearned for a pint of ale and some good, hearty meat. That could come later, though- after he'd gotten himself and his friend a place to stay, not before. He stepped up to the desk, boots thudding on the stone floors, and smiled charmingly at the young woman who looked up expectantly from what she was doing.
"Can I help you, sir?" She was rather pretty, Link decided- cascading violet locks, eyes like wet ink, a tender little mouth... but she was no Zelda.
"Yes," Link said, leaning onto the counter a little. "Are there any rooms free? I'd like to rent one... two, if possible."
"Yes sir, we have several rooms free. What size are you looking for?"
"Smallest but nicest... feather beds, if any have them. If we'll have to share for that, make it a big room."
"Alright, and how long were you looking to stay here?"
"About a month. We also have horses we'll need to board in your stable."
"Alright," murmured the woman, looking down at the thick tome filled with occupancies, though a small crease had formed between her brows. After flipping through a few pages, she looked up with a smile. "That should be just fine, sir. Two small rooms with featherbeds for three months, with stable and fodder for animals. Under what names would you like this signed?"
This was the part he'd been waiting for, though he never would have admitted it to anyone. "Sign them under Link, if you would," he said, and had Valin been there, he would have detected the slightest bit of relish in the adventurer's voice. The woman's eyes went wide.
"Link? The Link?"
"The one and only," Link replied with a smile. The woman began to smile as well.
"I'm Kafine's sister, Anjulina. I heard about what you did for us, and really, thank you so much. We'll board your horses for free, and your breakfasts will be on us each morning, sir, out of thanks. We'll also give you these rooms at a discounted rate- say, forty rupees a week for the pair of them?"
"That would be wonderful, Anjulina," Link told her warmly. "Also, my companion's name is Valin, so he doesn't have to go everywhere attached to me. Thank you so much for taking care of us."
Anjulina looked nearly frantic with pleasure, dark eyes wide and thrilled. "Of course, sir. Take your horses on around to the stable and we'll see they're well taken care of."
"Of course. Thank you, Anjulina." Link smiled and (for the fun of it) winked at Anjulina, took the keys she handed him, then turned and went outside, where Valin and the horses waited in the pouring rain.
"Did you get it?" Valin asked, looking thoroughly soaked and thoroughly in need of a thorough drying and a thorough meal.
"Got it. Forty a week for two small rooms with featherbeds, free breakfast, and free board for the horses."
Valin whistled low in his throat. "You must've pulled off some feat."
At this, Link grinned. "Let's just say they owe me a favor or two."
The men took their horses around to the back of the inn, where the stable was, and handed the bridles over to a stableboy who took charge of the horses with reverence. From the looks of the other horses in the stalls, most were pack horses, the kind used to haul caravans, which was unsurprising; The Singing Kettle was in a part of town that, while it wasn't poor, wasn't the sort of place men with very fine horses indeed would go.
The two adventurers slung their saddle bags (and just plain bags) over their shoulders and ventured indoors, where they took a back staircase that ran between the kitchen and the tavern up into where the rooms were located. Quickly, they found their rooms (right across the hall from each other) and each went his own way. Link changed quickly into dry town clothes, shaved, and combed his hair, while Valin (presumably) did the same. As the adventurer locked his precious things in the small chest that was bolted to the floor and provided for such things, a knock resounded at the door.
"Hang on," said the adventurer, even as he tucked a dagger into his boot. When he went to the door, it was Valin, looking clean and happy.
"What now?" Valin asked with a grin as Link grabbed his wallet and ducked out of the room, locking the door behind him. "Celebrate or celebrate?"
"Celebrate," replied Link nonchalantly, and, eagerness for food and drink putting an extra bounce in their steps, the two adventurers proceeded down to the Tavern.
-Hyrule: The Grand Arena, Hyrule Castle
-Seven years and eight weeks since Ganondorf's defeat
The Queen of Hyrule neatly executed a backflip and pressed the tip of her sword to her opponent's neck.
"Defeated," she proclaimed loudly, and, the Prince Vagan noticed she didn't even seem out of breath, whereas he was panting. Where had the woman learned to fight?
"I cede my defeat," Vagan responded wryly, taking a step back and holding up his hands. Then, to show he meant no ill will, he bowed to her, then smiled charmingly. The spectators clapped, and Zelda did a quick curtsy to her people, then held out her gloved hand to Vagan.
"Truly, highness, your skills are without compare," Vagan complimented her as he shook her hand. "It is a wonder that the best swordsman in a country should be its queen."
"As I feel it should be," Zelda replied with a sweet smile. "After the great catastrophe that befell my people so many years ago, I feel that a ruler is not apt to protect her people if she is not apt to protect herself, as I was unable to."
"Well spoken," stated Vagan amiably. "Well spoken indeed."
He paused for a moment to run a discreet eye over the Queen's form. She truly was a force to reckon with, he thought to himself- for all that her skin was creamy and pale or her golden brown hair had been pulled into an immaculate bun for the occasion, she moved with efficiency and deadly grace. She'd bested him, and though she wore trousers and a tunic, he had no doubt that she could do it again in formal wear. Indeed, it seemed almost as though she hadn't even broken a sweat! He wondered who had trained her so thoroughly in swordsmanship, and then shivered- it was not swordsmanship the Queen was apt at, but all forms of combat.
As the Queen moved to be congratulated by her friends (the Queen's Maid, Malon Lolonaa, and the Queen's Assistant, Tetra Oceani) Vagan couldn't help but nod to himself approvingly. One thing was for certain, the Prince thought to himself. Whoever could beat that hellcat would more than earn the crown of the country.
-Termina: Stock Pot Inn, Clock Town
-Seven years and three months since Ganondorf's defeat
"Did I ever tell you about the time I nearly died?" Link asked Valin as he gazed out above the rooftops at the distant white-capped peaks of Snowhead.
"Which one?" Valin asked vaguely as he scoped out the women walking on the streets below. The two adventurers were sitting on the rooftop of the Stock Pot Inn; one was, apparently, reminiscing, whilst the other was lamenting the length of time it had been since he'd had a woman in his bed.
"Just after I first left Hyrule, on Snowhead, not long after I'd crossed to it from Snowpeak."
"Mmmmm... nope," replied Valin, admiring one particularly leggy woman walking past. One great thing about Termina, he thought to himself, was how so many of the women wore shorter dresses. It was wonderful.
"I got caught out in a blizzard. I ran into a wall and hit my head and fell unconscious. Luckily, the wall I hit was a cabin, and the owner heard the noise and was able to come out and rescue me."
"That was lucky," commented Valin, turning his gaze from the street to Link. "Too lucky, almost."
"I know," replied Link, eyes now cast skyward to where the moon glimmered far above. "I've been much more cautious since then."
Valin, having seen Link execute far more than his fair share of insane stunts, wisely refrained from comment and instead looked back to the street and the women that walked up and down it. They were quiet for a while, and Valin began to mentally score each woman he saw in terms of body, walk, dress, and (of course) whether or not she was single, that he could tell.
"Sometimes I've thought it wouldn't be so terrible if I died," mused Link, and this caused Valin's attention to snap up from the redhead he was contemplating. His eyes narrowed on his friend in concern, and he sat up.
"What makes you think that?"
Link sighed and laid back on the roof, head pillowed on his arms, which were crossed behind him. "I don't know," he sighed, closing his eyes. Then, after a moment: "well, actually, I do know. I grew up in Hyrule- the people there meant everything to me. But after the war, so much changed, and I couldn't stay..." Link was quiet a while longer, and Valin was considering whether or not he should go back to woman-watching when Link spoke again. "All of the conquests I've made in my adventures have been in the spirit of Hyrule. I am a Hylian. But I can't go back there- I left because there was too much pain in that country for me to bear. I don't want to go back," he emphasized. "But I promised someone I would, and as much as it kills me..."
"Link," Valin said, clapping his fellow adventurer and closest friend in the world firmly on the shoulder, "I'm Hylian, and I left because I was disgusted with the whole system. The war happened because the Queen couldn't rule- she was inexperienced and was blocked at every decision she tried to make by her council, and that only got worse after the war ended. But I'm going back because I want to help change the country. You can do that, too. Hyrule may be rebuilt, but it certainly isn't healed. This is our opportunity to right the wrongs in the government and in the lives of the people."
"Mmm," replied Link apathetically. After a moment of contemplation, he cracked his eyes and looked over at Valin. "What do you mean about the whole 'corrupt system' thing?"
"You didn't hear about it? I thought everyone involved in the war had, not to mention that it came out only a little more than three years after the war ended."
"What was it?" Link asked, now openly curious. He pushed himself up on his elbows and looked over at Valin with a questioning gaze, though there was something hard behind his eyes. "I wasn't part of the war, and I left not long after it ended."
Valin, wisely, chose not to argue and claim that Link was obviously the hero of the country. "Well, for a very long time, the power of the monarchy was offset by a council of the richest and thus most powerful men in Hyrule- dukes, earls, and the like. They're supposed to represent local interests of the areas they hail from, but so many of them turn up their noses at the social problems within their holdings that they're pretty much ineffective. This last session of dukes has been the worst- always bickering and arguing, and never over anything important. The Queen tried to rouse arms to fight against Zant's invasion, but they argued until it was too late. After the war, they all blamed the Queen for what had happened, and tried to take her power from her. She tried to compromise for about three years before she snapped and reclaimed what was rightfully hers and took the power back from the council."
"I see," murmured Link. In truth, he'd known about the council- a bit. He'd heard Zelda complaining from time to time, and on more than one occasion she'd found him at odd hours of the day, politely requested for him to help her with her weapons training, and proceeded to unleash all her fury in combat. He hadn't suspected the depth of the problem, though.
"I'd left Hyrule and was far away by the time I got the news about what the Queen had done. It's brilliant, really- she has the council meet without her, and they present their decisions to her when they've agreed upon them, which is rarely, so she doesn't waste time- and if she dislikes a course of action they've proposed, she vetoes it. To address local problems, she allowed people to come to the castle with their complaints. Too many people flooded in, though, so she had the people take their problems to the mayors, and if the mayors couldn't get those problems resolved they would be sent to the Queen herself."
"And she has direct control over the army?" Link asked curiously, recalling the boisterous, belligerent soldiers who would question orders and rank.
"She got them whipped into shape, I've heard, though I don't know how. Hyrule still has its problems, but... I'm ashamed of leaving the country like I did. Deserting, to be a little more accurate. So now I want to go back. I think I can help," Valin added dreamily. Glancing at Link sideways out of the corners of his eyes, he added a merry, "and so, I believe, can you."
"Me?" Link asked skeptically. "I'm just one man. What can just one man do?"
"Lots," replied Valin. "You heard that it was really just one man who saved Hyrule and ended the war, right?"
Aha! Link had gone tense.
"I'd heard rumors, but dismissed them as impossible," Link replied airily. "I've seen and done a lot and I know that no man can do something like that by himself."
Was there something behind his voice? Regret? Sorrow? Valin couldn't tell, but he was curious, and damn it, he intended to find out! But not today... he'd pushed Link enough already, he decided, and thus he went back to scoping out the women.
"I think I'm going to go find me a lady tonight," Valin proposed, lecherous gaze tailing a voluptuous brunette down the street. "It's been too long. You should get one too, Link."
"Maybe," Link replied ambiguously. He'd shut his eyes again and laid back on the roof. Valin briefly glanced over at his friend and then sighed. There were many layers, it seemed, to the man, and he could only guess at what laid beneath the adventure roughened surface.
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