Chapter One: Negotiations
IT HAD BEEN NEARLY TWELVE MOONS since the Return of the Light1, and Hyrule was still recuperating from its troubles. Damages were being repaired, both structural and individual. The ruin of
was under restoration, with Hyrule’s greatest stone masons working round the clock to finish the job. Tidings between the races of Hyrule were slowly returning to normal. Goron tribes were opening commerce with towns other than Kakariko village and the Zora had solved their troubles that they encountered after Queen Rutela’s death2. However, things were not well all over Hyrule. It seemed as if things in Ordon village would never be the same. Hyrule Castle
Or so it seemed to Link.
The atmosphere of the once friendly village had turned tense. Every villager was wary and afraid, and multiple changes had occurred within them.
Jaggle was becoming increasingly serious about his woodcarving business, having carved multiple shields and other such articles even for the knights themselves. Colin had seemingly found his courage, and had begun his lessons in swordplay and equestrian activities taught to him by Link and his father, Rusl, who took on a more fatherly role to him and his year old daughter, Abbigail. Mayor Bo had established stronger relations with Hyrule’s other provinces, and even created alliance systems to ensure greater protection during times of trouble.
But the biggest changes were occurring in Link.
“A-y-y-y-y! Link, you up there?” sounded Fado’s voice from the base of Link’s tree house. Link groaned and rolled over in his bed.
“Li-i-ink! Come on! Those goats ain’t gonna herd themselves3!” Link got out of bed and looked out of the window.
“Fado, what do you want? Take Epona4 and herd ‘em yourself,” Link called back groggily. Lately, all he wanted to do was sleep. Oddly enough, though, on nights when the moon was full, he felt strangely…alive.
“Eh?” Fado called back. Up in the tree house, Link shook his head, dressed and went outside to where Fado was petting Link’s horse, Epona.
“Alright, I’m up! Happy now?” Link said as he descended the ladder. Fado said nothing, only continued with Epona. “Fado? Hey! Are you listening to me?” he continued, waving his arms. After about five minutes, Fado turned and looked at him.
“Yeah?” he said. Link frowned.
“Well?” he replied.
“Come on, Fado! This is the third time this week! The goats don’t need to be put in the barn at five thirty in the morning! What did you do, leave them out all night?” Link half shouted.
“Hey, hey, partner! What’re you tryin’ to do, wake the whole village up? An’ I don’t know nothin’ of what you’re talkin’ about.” Retorted Fado. Link sighed at his response, and then double took.
“You did leave them out all night, didn’t you?!”
Fado laughed. “Ha ha! Yep, I did. Ain’t that funny?” Link shook his head.
“No, Fado, it’s--” he was cut off by the arrival of a third party.
“What’s going on here?”
Link frowned again and made a gesture of dismissal at Fado, then turned to the person who had arrived. It was Rusl’s5 son, Colin.
“What’re you doin’ up this early, partner?” Fado questioned the boy.
“I couldn’t sleep. Abbi’s keeping the whole house up. Dad’s about to snap, I swear. Can’t say I blame him, though,” Colin said, greeting Epona as he spoke by giving her an apple.
“I can relate,” Link laughed. “I guess I’d better get moving. It is my job to herd the goats, even just after sunup….”
Colin walked over to Fado as Link saddled and mounted Epona.
“Did you leave the goats out again, Fado? Mayor Bo sure isn’t going to be happy about this, and I bet Ilia will give you a hard time about laziness and responsibility to boot. You know how she is,” he said. “Well, I’d better just leave you to at it. Oh, and Link,” he continued, “Speaking of Mayor Bo, he wants you to come over later. It seems like he’s got a message or something for you.”
Somewhere in the brief conversation, Fado had left. “Well, I’ll keep that in mind. Thanks, Colin,” Link called as he spurred Epona towards the heart of Ordon.
When he arrived, not a sound was to be heard until a yell broke the silence:
“AY-Y-Y-Y-Y! A GOAT GOT LOOSE!”
Link immediately leapt off Epona and grabbed the charging goat by its horns. Unexpectedly, the goat’s legs ceased moving as soon as its horns came into contact with Link’s hands. It looked at him with apprehensive, frightened eyes. Did it want to tell him something? Making sure there was no one around, or looking out of their curtains, Link changed into his alternate form, the black-and-white wolf6. The goat bleated loudly and tried to run from him.
“Wait! I won’t hurt you!” he barked after it. The goat turned and regarded him with suspicion.
“How do I know that? The Herd Leader said not to trust wolves!” it responded. Wolf Link nearly growled in frustration.
“Look,” he began calmly, walking forward. A dull clinking sound emitted from the black iron manacle around his left fore ankle was al that was heard in the silence. “You have to trust me. I don’t eat goats. The only blood I thirst for is that of the monsters that threaten us all…and maybe a nice spring buck.” He gestured widely with his snout. “This village is my home, too.”
The goat, still suspicious, said “well, okay, but keep away from me! Listen, I tried to run because scary things come up to the pasture at night!” it trembled violently.
“What sort of scary things?” Wolf Link demanded. He jumped up on a rock and lay down to seem less intimidating. If more monsters were invading the village at night again…it was his responsibility to know about it so he could protect his friends.
“Well… these big creatures line a cross between an eagle and a dragon came screeching in out of the mountains. They had these small horned man-like beasts on their backs..,” the goat shuddered again. “They made off with two kids and killed a Billy last night! It was horrible!” Wolf Link gasped, for he knew the identity of the monsters: Carrier Kargaroks.
“What!” he barked indignantly. “That is terrible! Is it any small wonder that Fado wanted me to come so quickly. I’ve definitely got a bone to pick with him. Thanks for the information. I’ll see to it that something gets done. Come, I’ll take you back to the ranch.” Wolf Link jumped off of the rock and led the goat up to the pasture, but immediately as he set paw past the gates, the biggest Billy goat he’d ever seen charged at him with his head lowered and rammed the unsuspecting wolf with his horns!
“Ay! What’s all the ruckus?” Wolf Link heard Fado shout. “A wolf! Alright, y’all! Back in the barn! How does Link do this again? Right! In the barn, quick!”
For once, the goats actually obeyed Fado’s command, all except the large Billy and the goat Wolf Link had spoken to.
“Hey, wait! Don’t hurt him! He wants to help!” she shouted (or bleated, really). The billy stopped and said:
“What? Are you crazy? He’s a wolf! A wolf! Our natural enemy!”
“No, I told him about the monsters and he wants to protect us,” she explained.
“Why, so he can eat us later?” retorted the Billy. Wolf Link growled angrily deep in his throat.
“You know what? It’s ignorant….Never mind. I have actually been trying to keep them out.”
“Well you’re not doing such a hot job.”
“Okay, I’ll remedy that for you. If you please, could you tell me of some kind of magician that can give me wings and the ability to be in more than one place at once? That won’t be a problem, will it? Come on, I’m doing my best!” Wolf Link barked angrily. It had been difficult, exceedingly so, to return the light to Hyrule and defeat Ganondorf, but things really topped the charts when everyone expected him to be on their beck and call!
The Billy lowered his head and pawed the ground in shame. “Look, I’m sorry. I’ve been under a lot of pressure lately, because of the monsters. Let me put this in your perspective. If I was a wolf like you, I’d be the alpha male, and it’s on my horns to protect the herd. It is the ultimate shame to fail in that endeavour. I don’t know if you know, but it’s pretty hard to see some of your family slaughtered right before your very eyes, and with you having the knowledge that you can’t help them.”
With those words, Wolf Link had a flashback to the day in the Ordon Spring when he’d had to originally leave for
. He knew exactly how it was for the Billy, because he had once stood unarmed and defenceless as Ilia and Colin had been attacked, and then abducted by similar creatures of darkness. Hyrule Castle
“I do know, and it’s not a good feeling, I’ll tell you what. That’s exactly why I have to help you, why you have to trust me and allow me to help you. Even though the darkness is gone, even we animals have to stick together. I want to prevent this form happening ever again or at least to give you a fighting chance. Besides, if any more goats get killed, the humans will be pretty angry and blame us wolves,” he said in dark humour.
Tentatively, the Billy asked him: “so, is there an agreement between us?”
“There is, but I’ll tell you this: it’s a bad day when the predators have to protect the prey. All you have to do is send the hawk, and he’ll find me no matter where I am. Remember to keep safe!” as Wolf Link turned to leave, the goat called for him to wait.
“Your voice, it sounds familiar,” he said.
“In what way?”
Aren’t you that human with the long ears that comes up here on the horse to put us in the barn?” The big black and white wolf hesitated at this comment.
“…yeah, I am. The only reason I approached you like this is so we could talk,” he replied.
“That’s a new one! A sheep in wolf’s clothing!” said the Billy with a slight chuckle. Wolf Link gave a short bark like laugh, and then became himself once more to meet up with Fado.
“Hey, Fado!” he yelled. His friend came running at the sound of his voice.
“What’s the matter, bud? You look like you’ve seen a ghost,” he asked him. Fado shook his head.
“Not a ghost, but a wolf. Big black sucker, too. Did you see him?” Link shook his head no. “Well, y’all can go home, ‘cause I got ‘em in all on my lonesome…if only you’d had been there sooner….” Link shrugged and bade Fado farewell, then made his way back into the village.
Chapter Two: Ordonian Emissary
THE NEXT DAY PROVED NO LESS STRESSFUL for Link than had the last. It seemed his fame as the Hero of Light had earned him the job of exterminating the straggling monster population left over from the Twilight.
“Isn’t that the knights’ job?” he asked Mayor Bo as he paced his kitchen. Link knew from firsthand experience that the knights were a bunch of cowards1, but it seemed ridiculous to him that this task should fall solely upon his shoulders.
“I reckon that it is, but come on, Link. Do you think that most people, who have lost faith entirely in Hyrule’s military, would actually choose them over you? People want a person who gets the job done. Take it from me. Why do you think I asked Rusl to deliver the tribute2 last year? It was because I knew he could do it. Why do you think I let you take Rusl’s place? Because--”
“You knew I could do it,” Link finished, catching on to the Mayor’s point. “There’s one thing I still don’t understand. There are knights out there that are just as capable as I am, and will actually do the job. Why don’t they go in my stead?”
Mayor Bo laughed. “It’s all some scheme the hierarchy has going on. You will do the same work it takes fifty knights to do for half the price. See now? You’re not a liability to the Crown, and it’s all about the value of the almighty Rupee.”
Link sighed. Although it was indeed hard work, fighting monsters again and again had some advantages. For instance, he got to travel across the fields of Hyrule more, and he could gain the satisfaction that the job was getting done right, since sometimes he found himself worried of peoples’ safety. Well, after all, the only way to get things done right is to do it yourself, he thought.
“I just remembered something. Yesterday before I went to fix Fado’s mistake--”
“—did he leave those damned goats out again?”
“Yes. As I was saying, right before I left, Colin said you had a message for me?” asked Link.
“Uh-huh, I did. Do you remember last year…the whole tribute situation?”
“Yeah, why do you ask?”
Did you actually get around to delivering it, because I got a memo two days ago that explained that it is almost time to deliver again, and it reminded me of this,” the portly but strong mayor said, raising an eyebrow. Link’s heart sank in his embarrassment.
“Well, no, I actually didn’t,” he confessed. “But on the plus side, you can tell Rusl and Jaggle that their sword and shield3 helped save the world!” he laughed nervously, however, Mayor Bo did not participate in his mirth.
“I see nothing funny about this, young man,” he said. Nodding, Link responded:
“I know, but you don’t understand! It’s not like I failed on purpose….” Mayor Bo stood up with his arms crossed and nodded.
“Link, I understand perfectly. Don’t worry about it anymore. Listen, I’ve got another favour to ask of you. I need you to go to
to be an envoy, or an escort of sorts,” the mayor said to him, handing him a small slip of parchment. “Now, go to this address and tell the proprietor that I sent you.” Castle Town
The young Hylian nodded his understanding and left for home. Once there, he went inside and gathered his items for travel, then mounted Epona and departed for
. Castle Town
square, Link took out the slip of paper. Castle Town
Castle Town South Road, unit 10…how come I know this address?” Link murmured as he walked to it.
Standing outside unit 10, he realized that the unit was Telma’s bar4. Grinning, he pushed open the door. When he set foot in the place, nobody was there except Telma and a figure of about his height in a black cloak.
Link cleared his throat and said, “Have I come at a bad time?” the two people turned to him, a smile on Telma’s face, but the stranger’s cowl hid his/her face from view.
“Not at all, honey! You’ve come at exactly the right time. Are you all set to go?” asked Telma, both for him, and (he assumed) the cloaked figure.
“Absolutely. I’ve even got a double saddle on Epona. I can leave any time you want to…?” Link gestured vaguely to the mysterious person, who merely nodded, picked up a rucksack and proceeded toward the door.
“Thanks for helping out, honey. It’s good to see your handsome face around here again,” she paused and laughed as Link’s face turned a shade of red, “by the way, how’s Ilia been?” Link shrugged, cleared his throat again, and answered:
“Ah…she’s good…we haven’t been spending a lot of time together, actually. Been busy…you know, readjusting and stuff….” He shrugged again.
“Well, tell her I said hello, will you?” Telma asked, and then added with a sight hint of sarcasm, “If you get a chance, that is.”
Link bid her farewell and followed his ‘client’ out the door. Once outside, he turned to him/her. “Where am I supposed to be taking you? To Ordon?” Link frowned. “You know, it’s considered to be rude not to look at a person when they’re talking to you…!” The hooded figure turned to regard him.
“Yes, I know. I am well versed in the arts of courtesy,” he said, but now, Link realised, he was a she.
“S…sorry. D-didn’t mean to be rude myself…,” Link apologised weakly. “Can you at least tell me who you are?” The hooded woman shook her head.
“Not here, it’s too risky.”
Link shrugged and led her out
Castle Town’s . Once there, he called for Epona using the horse call Ilia had made for him5. He helped his passenger onto the saddle, and then vaulted up himself. South Gate
“Hold on,” he bade her as he spurred Epona into a gallop toward his village.
It had been a smooth and swift ride, with no troubles in the fields from any wayward monsters, or bandits. His passenger, Link noted, certainly knew how to ride. He was unaccustomed to having a passenger; however, since the only time he’d ever ridden with someone else was during the horseback battle with Ganondorf, and even then, he didn’t notice, needless to say why.
Link pulled on Epona’s reins to stop her when they reached the clearing in which his house sat. Dismounting, he gave the horse a sweet apple to thank her for a good ride.
“I’m assuming you’ll want to see Mayor Bo, then?” he asked, paused then added, “You know, you’ve still got to tell me who you are. You promised.” Link grinned in spite of the fact that he just realised he could have brought an enemy into his village.
The woman stepped closer to him until they were a hand’s-breadth apart, and then she removed her hood. Link gasped.
It was Princess Zelda.
Link didn’t know what shocked him more, the fact that Hyrule’s leader was in his home town without bringing a score of those useless knights with her, or the fact that she was standing very close to him.
“P-princess…! I…what?” Link trailed off as he looked over Zelda’s shoulder to see Ilia standing at Ordon’s entrance with a strange look on her face. Link stepped around Zelda to approach her, but she ran off in a huff. He placed his gauntleted hands on his hips and frowned, then scratched his head in confusion.
“What just happened?” he asked no one in particular. Deciding he’d find out later, he beckoned for Zelda to follow him.
“Welcome to Ordon village,” he said with a grand gesture as they entered the village. “It’s not much to look at, but it’s a good place to live.” He shrugged and continued walking until they reached the mayor’s house. Mayor Bo seemed to have been watching out his kitchen window, for he opened the door as soon as Link lifted his hand to knock.
“Link!” he exclaimed happily. “Thank you for brining our guest! Come in, come in.” He ushered Link and Zelda into his house. In the kitchen, he poured a glass of goat’s milk for them all.
“Tell me, princess, how are you?” asked Mayor Bo.
“Well, thank you,” she replied. The mayor cleared his throat.
“That’s good to hear. How is the construction going?”
“It is progressing quite well. It should be completed before the fall of next year. In the mean time, I plan to visit many of the people of Hyrule to see how they are faring after the removal of the Twilight,” she said, casting a sideways glance at Link.
“Yes, well, I’m sure they are doing fine. Now, there is still the pressing situation of your lodging while you stay with us here in Ordon. You seem to know Link quite well, would I be wrong in saying that you would stay with him?” The mayor turned to address Link. “Would this be a problem?” The young Hylian looked anxiously from the mayor to Zelda. Bo had put him, possibly unintentionally, but almost certainly into a very difficult situation. How could he refuse this request after it was put so subtly that he was to accept?
“I suppose… I mean, certainly! It’ll be fun…,” he said without a trace of his unease in his voice. Zelda put a hand on his shoulder.
“Thank you, Link. You continue to amaze me with your kindness,” she said, then stood up to leave. “I thank you as well, Mayor Bo. Shall we go?”
“Not just yet, my Lady. I’ve got to talk with the good mayor for a bit.”
“I assume I shall see you later, then?”
“Yes. The door’s unlocked, so make yourself at home. Don’t worry about Epona. She won’t bite.” The princess then smiled and left. Link turned to Mayor Bo. “Mayor Bo…I’ve got to ask you something. Today—” he stopped abruptly, and then whispered, “is Ilia here?”
“Sorry, my boy, she hasn’t come back yet.”
“Good. Today when I brought Lady Zelda to Ordon, Ilia was there…when I turned to speak to her, she gave me this strange look…it was almost reproachful, then she ran away. Why do you think that was?” Bo frowned.
“Well, she has been acting very strange lately. I don’t know why, but I’m wondering if it has anything to do with her memory loss….” He trailed off weakly then shrugged. Link sighed; feeling defeated for some reason, and then went home.
Mayor Bo knew exactly why Ilia would act so strangely around Zelda. It would be simply put. She knew that Zelda was regarded as the most beautiful woman in Hyrule, admired romantically by all the young men. In short, she felt inferior to her, and assumed that the princess hat too, captured Link’s attention….
“Well, what do you think?” Link asked his guest in regards to his home’s décor.
“It’s very nice. I think it reflects your true nature,” she responded, giving him a slight nod, and then smiled at a picture on the wall of him and Ilia at Link’s tenth birthday. “Is this her? Your friend that had been subjected to severe memory loss?” Link stepped over to the wall on which the picture was mounted.
“Uh, yeah, that’s Ilia. I remember that day as if it were yesterday….Jaggle, the woodcarver took that pictograph just at the right time, too. I’ll never forget that day when she shoved that cake in my face.” Link smiled warmly at the memory. “Took me a long time to get it out of my nostrils, though. I think it was worth it just to see everyone laugh, since her mother had died not long before….Listen! Do you want something to eat? I can make a pretty good soup! One might even say it’s superb6….” Zelda agreed to have the soup.
When it was finished cooking, and they sat quietly eating, Zelda asked him what the ingredients were. Link scratched at his stubbly beard that he was desperately trying to grow.
“Well, there’s greengill, Ordon catfish, goat cheese, and Ordon pumpkin. It’s a recipe I learned from a yeti in
, only he used reekfish,” picking out each element as he spoke. Snowpeak Mountain
When they had cleaned out the whole pot of soup, Link gave Zelda a tour of the village, introducing everyone as they met. Of all Ordon’s residents, Beth seemed to idolize her the most.
“You’re so lucky!” the thirteen year old girl squealed. Cocking her head slightly, Zelda replied:
“You didn’t have to grow up with goats!” Both Link and Zelda laughed at this, Link especially since he knew just how sincere Beth actually was. As they continued their trek around the village, night had fallen.
“Now that’s everyone, except for the mayor, but you’ve already met him. I think you should meet Ilia, though. I’m pretty sure you’ll get along great with her,” Link said, a smile coming unbidden to his lips. It faded as quickly as it had come, however, as he remembered what had transpired earlier that day….
Link knocked on the door of Mayor Bo’s house, and the aging man opened it with a grand gesture, evidently trying to be a good leader.
“Ah, I expected you two to be back! Come in, please. What can I do for you?” he said, ushering them inside.
Sitting down on one of the kitchen chairs, Link asked, “Is Ilia here? I’d like to introduce her to Zelda here.” Bo shuffled his feet ant turned his gaze to the floor.
“Heh? Ilia? Sorry, my boy, she’s not yet returned. I think she went to Fado’s place to help him with somethin’….” Link nodded, and when he got up to leave, something on the upper floor landing caught his eye. The mayor noticed the shift of the young Hylian’s eyes.
“Oh, that’s just Ilia’s cat. He’s a real rascal. I’ll see you tomorrow, son,” blurted Mayor Bo as he shut the door behind them.
“That’s a shame…well, I guess we’ll have to hold true and come back tomorrow,” Zelda said, her voice laced with disappointment. In the dark, Link scowled. Was she completely unobservant?
The Mayor had lied to them.
For one point of evidence, they were jus at Fado’s house: Ilia had not been there.
For a second, Link saw her on the stairs: she’d been there the whole time.
For a third, Mayor Bo was a horrible liar: he could be easily seen through. I mean, come on! A cat? Who does he think he’s dealing with? Link thought irritably.
Why had he lied?
Chapter Three: Faster Than a Speeding Arrow
“GOOD MORNING, PRINCESS!” Link said as he came back into his house to find a warmer jerkin. He had woken up earlier that morning to help Jaggle, Rusl and Fado build a new fence around the winter crops up in the pasture, it had incidentally been broken by the goats. They had also nearly destroyed the barn doors as well.
“I take it you were up early today?” she asked as she brushed her hair in the reflection of a cleaver hanging on the wall. She was wearing an old tunic and breeches of his that he had outgrown, but they were a bit too baggy on her.
“Yeah, I was. It’s those god-forsaken goats again; they’ve gone and broken the fences up at the ranch!” he explained, frustrated. “Now where is that infernal coat?!” he was quickly becoming angry, now rifling through trunks and drawers, throwing random items around. Out of the corner of his eye, Link saw Zelda duck as one of his Clawshots1 barely missed her head.
“Be careful!” she yelled.
“Sorry! Aha! I found it. Better clean this mess up before I go back out: I may not have the strength to do it when I get back. Did you know it’s snowing out? I don’t know why Jaggle doesn’t wait to fix the fences until spring; we’re taking the goats to market next week. We found some excellent buyers in
and in Kakariko. Maybe the money we get from selling will keep us through the winter,” Link explained as he pulled the coat over his head and picked up his things. Castle Town
“Wait, can I come with you?” asked Zelda when Link pulled on his boots once more.
“Yeah, sure, but I don’t know how interesting watching a bunch of guys build a fence will be, but hey! It’s your party,” he replied, shrugging. Zelda grabbed her black cloak from the coat rack beside the door and followed him outside and up to the ranch.
“Hey, guys! Mind if I brought a guest?” Link called as he ran up to the worksite.
“Not at all, just make sure that they don’t get in the way, eh?” grunted Jaggle as he pounded a new fencepost into the ground. And so, Fado, Jaggle, Link, and Rusl began working on the fences until the snow became so thick in the air that they couldn’t see.
“Better head in, lads! Can’t even see where y’all are!” yelled Fado over the howling wind. Link could see the dark shapes that were his friends running towards the village, and the silhouette of Zelda remaining still. Since he could barely see his own hand in front of his face, Link transformed into the wolf, thinking he could rely on its keen eyesight. He barked and wagged his bushy tail to indicate that she should follow him. He figured that it would be easier for her to see him in his wolf form, since his fur was black.
Unfortunately, his plan failed miserably. Wolf Link’s winter fur coat was so thick and fluffy that the snowflakes stuck to it, rendering him white within a few minutes. Giving up, Link returned to his human form and brought out his lantern.
“Hold on to my arm!” he called out to Zelda. When she linked her arm with his, they began their blind trek through the raging snowstorm back into the village. I took them so long that when they finally reached the creek, the snow had degraded into a light flurry.
“The only place,” Link said spitting snow out of his mouth, “that there is more snow than on the ground is in my mouth and in my hair!” He shook his head vigorously, than climbed onto the porch of Mayor Bo’s house and sat down and removed his boots, tipped them upside down, releasing a tiny avalanche.
“Perhaps you were mistaken,” Zelda said, laughing as he put a hand in one of the boots and stuck a wriggling finger out of a particularly large hole. He slipped them back on and ran home with the princess struggling to keep up.
“Damned boots. I ought to throw them into the fire,” Link growled as he dropped down into the cellar to find strips of leather so that he could try to repair them.
“Why don’t you just buy a new pair?” asked Zelda from the mouth of the dark pit-like room.
“I’ve got no money!” he called back. Link climbed back up the ladder and threw the boots violently into a bin, knocking it over.
“Well don’t do that! I’ll tell you what. Why don’t I give you some money, and then you can go to Kakariko village and buy a new pair,” suggested Zelda, retrieving the boots and the waste bin. She walked over to her rucksack, handing Link his worn out boots on the way. Digging through the bag, she recovered an orange Rupee2 and handed it to him. “Now, I don’t know how much they cost, but bring back the change if there is any, okay?” Link looked from her to the rupee and back again.
“I can’t accept this,” he told her. “It’s not right. I should be able to pay for my own boots, but, aw, damn! This is so humiliating! Good gods, Zelda! I am not a charity case! Ah, sorry. I didn’t mean to fly off like that.” Link shrugged sheepishly. Now it was the princess’s turn to scowl in anger.
“Link, don’t be ridiculous! You need those boots, and if you want, you can pay me back for them—”
“—yeah, but it’ll only take me a hundred years to do so--”
“Link! Enough!” She finally said, ending the argument. Link sighed in his defeat.
“Alright, fine. You win! I’ll be back in awhile, so just, oh, I don’t know. Help yourself to some lunch and don’t steal anything,” he said, laughing at his own joke. Link pulled on his worn out boots and ran outside to the mayor’s house, and then knocked on the door. It was Ilia who opened the door.
“Oh! Link….” She said, squinting at her feet as if something had suddenly appeared there.
“Yeah…hi, is your dad here?” he asked.
“No, sorry, he’s not. He went to see the Gorons3 about something.” In response, Link cursed under his breath.
“Ah, whatever. Listen, I’m going to Kakariko to buy some new boots,” he said, gesturing at his hole-filled feet. “I was going to ask if he needed for me to pick up something for him, but I see that’s not necessary. Do you need anything?”
“No, but thanks for asking,” she replied with a small smile. Even that small gesture made Link’s heart leap into his throat with his guilt. She must think I’m ignoring her, he thought. Swallowing it back into place, he asked:
“Ah, say, Ilia, how’ve you been lately? Been okay?” Ilia hesitated.
“I’m good,” she said, wondering where he was going with this. Link cleared his throat.
“Want to go for a walk later? Maybe go have dinner?” he asked. Ilia hesitated, fully weighing her options.
“Will her highness be joining us?” she asked, with a hint of malice in her voice. So that’s why she’s been so elusive! She doesn’t like Zelda! But why? Link cleared his throat again.
“Ah…you know what? No, she won’t. Maybe we’ll go to
or something….If you want, that is,” he said with a slight grin. Castle Town
Link nodded and scratched his head, and then took out the horse call, shrugged and said:
“I know Epona’s not far away, but since you went to all that trouble to make this for me, why don’t I use it?” Link said, and then blew on the whistle. A few seconds later, they heard Epona’s hoof beats as the roan horse raced toward them. Swinging into the saddle, Link said “see you later!” using Midna’s catch phrase. He pulled on the reins, causing Epona to rear, and then spurred her to trot away. He raised his arm in acknowledgement when Ilia bade him farewell.
As Ilia watched Link and Epona leave the village, a light snow began to fall. Sighing, she went back inside and up to her room to write in her journal.
November 23—Year of the Eagle: Two weeks until my birthday eighteen years ago (Year of the Horse)
A very odd day today was. There was lots of snowfall beginning this morning, heavy at lunch then petering out around one o’clock. So heavy, in fact, that Rusl, Jaggle, Fado, and Link had to stop working on the smashed fences. Father went to Kakariko, but didn’t tell me why. I shall have to inquire about that.
Stranger still, has been Link’s behaviour. He’s been a lot more…stoic since he got back from his adventure. I wonder what made him so. He is caught up in only the goddesses know what. Actually, he’s been employed by the Crown to slay monsters. Has he been enlisted to go to war in another realm? I should ask him at supper tonight.
Two days ago, Lady Zelda of
(now destroyed) came to stay for a few days in Ordon. Father insisted it was a good idea, but I doubt it. Does she have ulterior motives to her visit, besides her being homeless…? How does she know Link so well? It matters not, for now. I shall have to accept that he is merely helping out a friend, or his employer, really. Hyrule Castle
Beth and Talo have been becoming more and more irritable with us all, too. What has gotten into everyone?
Ilia put down her quill and sighed.
Meanwhile, Link and Epona were racing across the bridge that spanned the gaping mouth of Kakariko Gorge when suddenly, as if out of nowhere; no less than ten Bublin Riders4 sped toward him. Though he had done it before, Link decided not to fight them as he was sorely outnumbered. In a cry of panic, Link yelled:
“Epona! Try to go faster, or we’ll get killed! Good gods in the Sacred Realm5! Where did they come from?” Not knowing (or caring) whether or not the horse understood him, Link jabbed his heels into Epona’s sides. “Go, go, go!” the roan horse could not go any faster, for she was already taxed to her limit: her breathing was laboured; and there was foam dribbling from the sides of her mouth.
They were not yet in the middle of the
field6 when fiery arrows began to rain down upon them, igniting the grass at the horse’s feet, causing her to whinny in terror. However, Epona did not break her vigil and kept running until Link yanked on the reins to stop her. Bridgeof Eldin
“Whoa!” He cried, and then dismounted, but as he did so, part of his tunic became caught in the reins, and it tore along with his skin, leaving a bloody gash in his arm. Link gasped in shock and cold as the wind bit into his wound.
Even though they had begun their attack, the Bublin Riders were still a good quarter mile from Link and Epona. The young Hylian hero allowed his faithful steed to catch her breath, and when she had, he slapped the horse on the hindquarters. The horse reared and galloped back toward Ordon, leaving Link alone in Hyrule Field.
“Mighty gods,” he murmured, “grant me power to run wild this day.” Then, something new happened. Wolf Link’s thick black fur was golden, and he was much, much larger than before, a head or taller than Hyrule’s largest draft horse. Two long, sharp fangs curled over his bottom jaw, and the scimitar-like claws glowed with an eerie light.
Eyes narrowed dangerously, Sacred Wolf Link opened his massive heavy set jaws and roared. The roar got its intended effect: the Bulbo squealed in terror, dislodging their riders. However, in their fear, they ran clear over the side of the gorge, their terrified squeals echoing across the canyon walls. The Bublin kept running toward him on their short stubby legs, waving their clubs and bows threateningly. They were having immense trouble scuttling through the deep snowdrifts, but Sacred Wolf Link had no trouble, his giant paws, long lupine legs and tail helping him keep his balance over the icy ground as he loped toward them.
With a guttural growl, the giant golden wolf clawed his way through the monsters’ ranks. He opened his jaws and crushed a Bublin’s skull between his fangs, its green blood staining his fur. That had better come clean, he thought disgustedly. The Divine Beast7 tore his claws through the rest, the scene an explosion of fur, teeth, claws, monster blood and flesh. When the fight was over, Link became himself once more. Standing in the middle of the carnage, his energy spent, he looked to the sunset. I’ll never make it home before dark. I’ll just stay at the Elde Inn until morning, to give Epona a fair length rest, he thought, sighing. He shrugged, and then ran toward Kakariko village.
Nearly three hours had passed since Link had left for Kakariko when Ilia heard the whinny of a horse outside. She bolted down the stairs and threw open the front door to see Epona thrashing about, with at least five arrows imbedded in her flanks and a piece of bloody fabric stuck in the reins.
“Epona! Calm down, you’re safe now,” she said soothingly, brushing the panicked horse’s mane with her fingers. The horse’s eyes were rolling madly in her fear. It must be the scent of blood, Ilia thought as she removed the cloth from the reins. She walked Epona back to Link’s clearing and removed the saddle. The powerful warhorse lay down in the grass and was calm her breathing even and steady. Ilia knelt down beside Epona and pulled out the arrows which, thankfully, were not barbed.
“Everything’s alright, my sweet horse8. You’re okay now,” she told the mare as she looked at the cloth in her hand, realising it was a piece of Link’s jerkin. “But Link isn’t, is he?” and with that, Ilia began to cry in earnest, fully believing that her best friend was dead.
“Looks like you’ve been through a rough patch, lad,” said the cobbler to Link as he handed him a new pair of tough, but soft soled leather boots.
“Yeah…those monsters just rushed me out of nowhere. Nearly killed my horse,” he replied as he gave the man a purple Rupee.
“Take care, now,” the man said as Link left his shop. As soon as he shut the door behind him, a voice called out to him from across the thoroughfare.
“Good gods, Link!” it yelled. Link looked up from his receipt to discover that the voice belonged to Renado9.
“Hey, Renado! How have you been?” he said as he walked over to meet the shaman.
“I am well, but you look like a mess! What happened to you?” asked Renado, gesturing to the bloody holes in Link’s overcoat
“Ah, just monsters in Hyrule Field,” he explained. Renado clicked his tongue and shook his head. The two men walked to the Sanctuary10, wherein the 45-year-old shaman gave Link a needle, thread and a patch to repair his jerkin. When he finished sewing, he asked:
“Is there a horse in Kakariko?” Renado shook his head.
“I’m afraid not…where is Epona?”
“I sent her home after the monsters attacked….I hope she made it.”
“I am quite sure that she did. If you wish, I will send a hawk to Telma to ask her if you can borrow Black Diamond11, her horse,” offered Renado.
“Thanks! That would be great,” Link said happily. There was a chance he’d make it home before tomorrow after all.
A while later, the hawk returned with Telma’s reply.
“‘Hey, honey,’” Renado began to read aloud, “‘sure thing I’ll let you borrow Black Diamond. I’ll be over with the wagon tomorrow morning first thing.’” The shaman looked at him. “That okay, Link?” The young Hylian nodded hesitantly.
Chapter Four: You’re Dead to Me
ZELDA RUSHED TO THE WINDOW AS SOON AS SHE heard the horse’s whinny and a young woman’s anguished cry.
Throwing open the shutters, she squinted against the bright moonlight light glinting off the freshly fallen snow against the dark backdrop of the night sky. Once her eyes had adjusted, she scanned the ground outside. Scarring the new layer of snow were deep hoof prints.
Judging that something was amiss, Zelda threw on her cloak and went outside. There, near Epona’s natural stable (a small alcove between the cliff face and Link’s house), kneeling in the snow clutching a bloody cloth was Ilia.
“What happened to you?” Zelda said, crouching beside her. Ilia turned her tear stained face to the princess.
“N-nothing,” she sniffed. Ilia held out the cloth to her. Zelda took it with a shocked expression on her face.
“This isn’t your blood, then?” she asked the distraught girl. Ilia shook her head.
“It’s Link’s. Zelda…I think he’s dead.”
The princess gasped.
“How…?” she whispered.
“He was attacked!” Ilia replied, and then burst into tears anew. Zelda put a comforting hand on her shoulder. As she leaned over to pick up a broken arrow, a vision1 came to her.
She saw a roan horse and its rider desperately trying to flee from a large herd of Bublin Riders. They were not doing well in their endeavour. Numerous arrows were biting into the horse’s hindquarters. The rider suddenly yanked on the reins to stop the horse as an arrow sunk into his shoulder. He slid off the horse and clutched at his arm as he did so. With the last of his strength, he slapped the horse, which ran immediately, then fell with an anguished moan.
When Zelda came out of her trance, Ilia was regarding her with concern.
“Are you okay?” she asked. Zelda nodded weakly.
“…I think you are right about Link….” Ilia then wailed heartbrokenly, and Zelda knew somehow that the girl’s cries would ring in her ears forevermore.
The next morning, Link woke to the sound of a Cucco’s2 squawking nearby. Rubbing the sleep from his eyes, he looked at the window sill on which the Cucco sat.
“Thanks for the wakeup call,” he told it. He was about to say ‘what demon in the Dark World3 sent you’ to it when
Luda, Renado’s young daughter came in.
“Good morning, Link,” she said happily.
“Is it really?” Link replied, yawning and stretching out his stiff muscles. He was in immense pain after the previous evening’s fight.
“I suppose not, since I can see you’re not feeling well. Father told me about your battle. And, oh--!” she gasped as she caught sight of the numerous small wounds peppering Link’s arms and chest. He noticed this reaction and scratched at one that had all but disappeared.
“Aah, don’t worry, I’m not diseased,” he said with a small laugh. Outside the Elde Inn, Link heard the snort of a horse. “Telma must be here. Guess I’d better get going, eh? Check out my new boots. Aren’t they a pair of beauties? Too bad they were so expensive….” Link sat on a bench that was in the room and pulled on his tunic, jerkin and boots. He belted on his sword, SunFire4, and then looked around for his shield.
“Oh, Link, you left this in the kitchen last night. I thought I’d bring it up to you,” said
Ludaas she handed him the shield embossed with the Hylian Eagle. Link took the shield and scraped off a bit of cheese from it: he’d used it as a plate at dinner. “Have a safe trip home.”
Luda, I’ll try,” he replied as he walked out the door into the thoroughfare. Outside, Link walked over to Black Diamond and patted him on his long cheek.
“Hey fella,” he murmured to the horse, who nickered softly back. From near Barnes’ Bombs, Telma spotted him and called out as she ran toward the horse and cart.
“Rise and shine, honey!” she said, shaking his hand. “Get in the wagon and let’s go!” following her instructions, Link clambered into the wagon and closed his eyes as Telma cracked the reins and Black Diamond lurched forward.
Some time later, Link told Telma to let him off at the entrance of Faron Woods5.
“Thanks for the ride, Telma. I’ll see you around OK?” he said, waving goodbye.
“You’d better,” she told him in reply, then cracked the reins again and rode away. Sighing, Link headed for home on four paws.
Ilia had not caught one wink of sleep last night. When she closed her eyes, horrible thoughts crept into her head. At first, they were pleasant memories of the past…but they always ended up with Link lying in the middle of Hyrule Field with a sword through his chest.
“I can’t believe you’re gone….If you are in the Sacred Realm, do you know how much I miss you?” Ilia whispered to a fairly recent pictograph of Link, tears blurring her eyesight.
“I’m sure he does, dear. Don’t you weep for him…he’ll never rest if you do,” said her father as he ascended the stairs to her room.
“I can’t seem to stop, father! You know what it’s like…to lose someone you know and love…have loved for years….” Bo enveloped his daughter in a bear hug.
“I do, sweetheart. I do.”
When Wolf Link arrived home, Epona leapt forward and picked him up by the scruff of his neck with her teeth.
“Eh! Watch it! Epona put me down!” Wolf Link barked.
“If that’s what you want!” Epona said through a mouthful of his fur, tossing her head. The wolf went flying and slammed into a nearby tree.
“Ow!” He yelped. “What was that for?” Epona snorted and stomped.
“You,” she said, “are a fool. Do you have any idea how much trouble you have caused with your little escapade yesterday? Have you any clue that Ilia now wholeheartedly believes that you are dead?”
“Yes, and she spent her whole night weeping.”
“You need to set things right, and now!”
“I do?” He cringed as Epona reared. “Wait! I’m just joking! Of course I’ll do something.” Link became himself once more and moved toward his house, but turned back when Epona nudged him with her nose.
“OK, OK, I’m going!”
“Ilia…you have to come out of your room! It helps no one that you are depressed, I know, but…you need to get on with your life,” Bo called from downstairs. Ilia knew that he spoke the truth, but she lacked the willpower to even lift her head.
“I know, father, but I can’t….”she trailed off as she thought of how she would ruin her own life by giving up and succumbing to her grief. She had to be strong like him. Her father had not dissolved into tears every time he’d thought of her dead mother. ‘Think of the good times!’ he would always tell her. Somehow, though, this was different.
“Ilia, I have to go to Kakariko for a Province Officials meeting. Are you going to be okay here by yourself?” Her father asked.
“I should be,” she replied in a low voice.
“Be good,” he said as he left. A few minutes later, Ilia heard shouting outside, her father’s deep voice and someone else’s yell that sounded a lot like Link’s.
“Why? Why did you have to die?” she sobbed. Ilia quieted a little when she heard the front door open and close. Her father must have been worried about her and returned. Past her grief, she felt hunger gnaw at her belly, so she went downstairs to find something to eat and to see who had come in.
She saw no one, but then she knew her despair was getting to her for she could smell the faint aroma of the forest, the scent that seemed to always cling to his skin….Ilia threw her sandwich to the floor and threw her head into her hands.
Ilia heard footsteps behind her and felt a hand on her shoulder, but did not shake it off. If someone wanted to strangle her…then so be it. She could then walk with the ones she’d lost--her mother and Link--forever. Whoever had been there crouched down beside her, grunting as he did so.
“Are you okay?” he asked. Ilia immediately sat up. The voice she’d so longed to hear was speaking to her. She was almost afraid to look beside her in case she saw a ghost.
Mayor Bo had lectured him outside about how distraught Ilia was, but seeing her like this was ridiculous! She looked like a ReDead6.
“Are you okay?” he asked. Hesitantly, Ilia turned and looked at him.
“Link…?” she whispered. He smiled and nodded.
“Yeah,” he replied. Despite his infallible instinct, Link did not even throw up his hands to defend himself when Ilia dove at him. The two tumbled onto the floor, a tangled mass of arms and legs. In her elation, his best friend had wrapped her arms around him so tightly; Link thought his eyes would come out of their sockets.
“Ilia get off me!” sounded Link’s muffled cry.
“Oh! Sorry, Link,” she apologised as she helped him up. “What happened to you? I thought you were…dead.” The young Hylian brushed himself off and shook his head.
“Nah, I’m just a little holey, get it, holey? I got stuck with more arrows than Uli’s pincushion gets pierced with sewing needles! See?” he said and pulled his shirt open a little to show her his numerous pinprick like wounds. Ilia sucked in her breath through her teeth and tentatively reached out and touched one of the small abrasions.
“How much did it hurt?” she asked as she felt his ribs for breaks. Her emerald green eyes scanned his face for signs of his pain.
“On impact it hurt like it was raining stones. Fiery stones, mind you. After, it hurt a little when I moved, but it doesn’t feel too bad now. I’m glad to see that Epona is okay. I sent her home so that she wouldn’t get killed, I’m also happy that she made it back. For a minute, I truly believed the monsters would catch up with her. Listen, Ilia,” Link paused. “I’m sorry I sort of bailed on you last night. As you can see, I was kind of distracted.” Ilia shook her head and smiled sadly.
“Don’t worry about it. There’s always time for that on another day. I’m just glad that you are okay,” she told him as the two embraced.
“I’m glad of that too. However, I think….,”Link began. Ilia pulled away and looked up at him.
“What do you think?” she asked.
“I think that ‘another day’ should be this evening. How does that sound to you?” he finished, smiling. Ilia stepped back and walked to the other side of the well worn wooden table, putting as much distance between herself and Link as tactfully possible.
“I’m not so sure of that,” she said quietly. Link’s smile faded and was replaced by a frown.
“Why not? I mean, I can understand if you are busy, or want to rest….”
“it’s not that, it’s just…it seems to me that every time we decide to be together, something terrible happens that disrupts our plans,” Ilia explained.
“So what are you saying?” Link asked uncertainly. He was afraid that she was going to say something that was going to confirm his fear that she felt that too much had changed, and that the awkwardness that seemed to lurk around would be too much to overcome. He was afraid that she would shun him.
“I’m saying that maybe this is as far as we get, you know, just saying ‘hi’ if our paths happen to cross. Do you think that it is fated that we remain at arm’s length?” Link looked at her with surprise. Although this was exactly what he had been expecting, he was still shocked. Maybe the same forces that chose him and made him a hero were intervening in other aspect of his life, too. No, that can’t be, Link thought. The gods have ruined my life enough. They aren’t so callous that they’d destroy this for me too.
“Ah…no, Ilia, I don’t think that’s true at all. The gods won’t care about us, we’re the same as ants to an eagle…we don’t matter,” Link said, taking into account that he could have died multiple times trying to fight back the Twilight—he was just a tool for the gods to house their power in and to make sure the sacred land of Hyrule remained safe. Ilia smiled at him.
“Do you really think that, or are you just trying to placate me? Anyway, if you can be so optimistic, I can be too,” she said, walking back over to him. Link took her hands in his.
“I don’t think that’s optimism on my part, really. I could simply be naïve,” he replied, chuckling.
“Well, okay, then, Mr. Naïve. I’ll have dinner with you, but on one condition,” she said.
“You’re not to leave Ordon this time. I’m going to have to keep a watchful eye on you. If necessary, I’ll put a leash on you and tie you up outside like a dog,” Ilia said with a laugh. Link laughed nervously. Ouch, close to home.
His hand on the door handle, Link waved and left for home. Once he arrived, he transformed into the wolf.
“Well, did you rectify your problem?” said a voice from behind him.
“First of all, it wasn’t my problem. How was I to know that she thought I was dead? But, if it makes you happy, I did, and on top of that, we made plans for dinner,” Wolf Link said to Epona. The horse made a strange gesture that he took for a shrug.
“And where may I ask will the two of you be going, or rather, where will I be taking you?” she asked.
“Of that, I’m not completely sure. There’s a place in
that I’ve walked by before,” the wolf said. Epona snorted. Castle Town
“And then what? Are you going to even consider informing her of your alter ego?”
“I…I don’t know, Epona! I’m afraid to tell her, or anyone! She’ll think I’m some kind of sorcerer, or a mutant freak, or even a deranged monster! Besides, she may even think I’ve been able to do it for my whole life, since I’m a Hylian and magic comes naturally to us, and then she’ll wonder what else I’ve been hiding from her!” the large black wolf barked in despair. He’d never considered the notion of telling anyone of his ability, least of all Ilia…. Little did he know that now, someone did know. At the time he’d transformed, he didn’t see Colin returning from Faron Woods….
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