Gods of Shadow

By Wm. Jay Carter III (Hero of Geeks)

Chapter VI
The CAPTAIN’S NEW OUTFIT or “Knights to Remember”

Talon heard Geoffrey’s hoofbeats coming half a minute before Afton sped past the wagon. The knight raised his hand in passing salute and then he was over the next ridge, lost behind the tall grass. The cloud of dust drifted away from the road, revealing the sight of Hyrule Castle again, still some distance ahead in the north. The birds were singing from atop the high trees, but other than this and the breeze whistling through the tallgrass, the only other sound was the squeaking of one wobbly wagon wheel.

“I’ll need ta git this wagon fixed up right nice again soon,” said Talon. Saria listened intently. Ruto and Zelda were in the back of the wagon, lost in their own thoughts. “It’s seen quite a bit; I’ve had this here wagon ever since my Pappy gave it ta me back when I started seein’ Mally’s momma. She was a sweet thing. Daphne was her name. We’d go t’the lake down south, see, and we’d have such a picnic as you ain’t never seen. I kep’ it real good an’ fixed up most times—the wagon, that is—but lately I ain’t thought about it. Got a bum wheel right here in front, see.” Saria looked around the edge of the wagon; sure enough there was the left wheel, wobbling a little every turn or so.

“Fix,” said Saria.

“Oh, no, youngin’ I cain’t fix it just now, we got a little function ta git to, you know that.”

Saria’s face brightened. She nestled back into her seat. After a moment or two of watching the road she patted the rancher’s arm.

“What is it, youngin’?” said Talon.

“Daphne,” she said.

“You wanna hear more ‘bout Mal’s momma? Oh, well, she was a right mix o’ everything beautiful in the world, she was. She was a real lively one, though, red hair an’ all. That’s where Mal gits it, see.” Saria nodded emphatically. “I ‘member she’d come over an’ we’d watch the horses t’gether and she’d sing to ‘em. Her voice was right purdy. Mal gits that from her momma too, see.” Talon sniffed, staring off at nothing. “It was a freak sandstorm, what took her… Not straightaway, o’ course, but we was ridin’ past the mountains over yonder an’ the wagon tipped over, see. Daphne hit her head. She never really got better from it…” Then Talon’s focus seemed to return from wherever it had gone. He smiled curtly. “That’s why I’m so glad ta have Malon. Helps me r’member Daphne seein’ as how they was so much alike.” After a moment Talon sniffed again.

In the back of the wagon Zelda sniffed as well. Link had told her once that she reminded him of her mother. It was the kindest thing she had ever heard anyone say about her, and it came just as she had to deal with her mother’s passing. When she noticed Ruto staring at her bucket of water Zelda leaned forward. “Ruto? Are you okay?” she asked quietly.

“My aunt Lutai…” she said, sighing. “They were part of the same clutch, you know; my aunt and my mom. I look at Auntie and think she’s my mom, sometimes. I wish she were here.” Zelda got up from her bench and sat next to Ruto. She put her hand on Ruto’s arm.

“I miss my mom, too,” said Zelda. “Did…did your mom die?”

Ruto nodded her head. “Dad told me what Ganondorf did. How your mom…you know…after what happened. Auntie told me about how Ganondorf did the same thing to my mom. It was a long time ago, right, but Auntie never talked about it. When I found out I went to Lake Hylia for two whole days. I had to be alone…think about her. Dad was worried sick. But now it’s okay—now that I know what happened…to Mom, I mean.”

Zelda had never thought about how far Ganondorf’s evil had spread. Until now she had never considered just how other people had suffered by his hand. “What happened?” she asked quietly. “To your mom, I mean…”

Ruto removed the towel from her head and took in a deep breath. “Auntie said she and my mom were out at the Water Temple one day—the one under Lake Hylia, right? Well, Ganondorf found Mom and started asking about the Zora’s Sapphire. And she said she didn’t have it but the ‘queen’ did, right, trying to throw him off. But then Lutai came out of the temple too and he got his thieves to catch them both. Then Ganondorf says Auntie has to give the stone up or else, ‘cause he thinks Auntie is the queen… So mom tells that rotten man that she was really the queen the whole time but she wouldn’t ever give up the Sapphire. And that’s when his thieves…” Ruto sniffed, fiddling with her webbed hands. She shrugged. “Ganondorf made Auntie promise not to say anything or he’d come back and get me, too. Mom died real soon after that. So Mom saved Auntie by telling Ganondorf the truth. And Auntie protected me by not saying anything for so long.” Ruto stared into her bucket again. “Once Auntie figured keeping it a secret didn’t matter anymore she told me what happened.” She placed one webbed hand on Zelda’s hand. “I sure am sorry about your mom, though. Maybe if Auntie had said something earlier…”

Zelda smiled with half her mouth. “Thanks, Ruto,” she said, “but it wouldn’t have stopped him. And what if Ganondorf had made good on his threat and done something horrible to you?” Zelda stared into the bucket too. It suddenly felt as if her worry had been transferred to the container, mixing with Ruto’s until they became the same, somehow. “No, my mother was protecting me, like Lutai was protecting you. Someone had to stand up to Ganondorf. At least we can say it was our mothers who did. I’m sorry yours is gone, too.”

“Yeah,” said Ruto. “I miss her.” For awhile Zelda and Ruto sat in silence, listening to the creaky wheel of the wagon and the chirping of the birds and staring into the bucket full of their shared sorrow. “Do you wanna know something?” asked Ruto finally.


“My mother really did have the Stone, but she gave it to me that morning. I didn’t know what it was for so she told me that it was an heirloom; that since I was the princess I got to give more than just a scale to the boy I liked. She told me never to give it to anyone except the man I wanted to marry. But it wasn’t really an heirloom, was it? Not really. Mom just wanted me to take real good care of it and she didn’t want me to know what it really was… I think she knew Ganondorf was after it…

“That night Auntie said I would start attending Jabun, the Great Fish and I was never to go beyond the waterfall anymore.” Ruto was quiet again for a time. “I guess I knew Link didn’t really want to marry me. I just really liked him. I had been kept up at the top of the waterfall for so long, and he was so heroic-looking and kept trying to save me…”

“Yeah, he’s good at that,” Zelda sighed. “I think I felt the same way; locked up, that is. I was only ever allowed around the castle and I had to have Impa with me everywhere I went. Link was so nice and brave… Did I ever tell you I had a dream about him?” Ruto’s eyes widened. “Yeah, pretty stupid, right?”

Ruto shook her head. “Dreams aren’t stupid. It’s not following them that’s stupid.”

Zelda smiled in spite of herself. “Hey, Ruto?”


“Are we friends?”

“I think so.”

“Good,” said Zelda. “It’s nice to have someone to talk to, sometimes.” She reached out for Ruto’s hand and their heads met. And Zelda didn’t have one thought for how squishy the other princess was.

It was less than a minute later that Zelda realized the birds were no longer chirping…

* * *

Link guided Epona through the cross-streets and alley-ways of Castle Town. Finally, he reached the street that led from the Temple of Time to the eastern gate of the town’s central courtyard. There he found six knights awaiting him. There was also a boy his age dressed in a simplified version of the knights’ garb.

“Captain,” said one of the knights. “We’ve been expecting you.”

“Good,” said Link, dismounting. “How’s this going to work?”

“Can I take your horse, sir?” said the young boy reaching out for Epona’s reins.

Link recoiled, holding the reins tightly to his chest. “Why?”

The boy looked startled. He bowed. “I’m just the page, sir. Trying to do my duty is all. Your horse don’t have to go to the stables; she can stay with you if you want…”

Link had just barely gotten used to the idea of having Epona for himself; he didn’t want to let her out of his sight. All the same he couldn’t very well take her up to be knighted with him. “Okay, well…you can take my horse, but not to the stables. I want you to take her to the Courtyard so she can see the festival.” He handed Epona’s reins to the page. “Her name is Epona.” Link looked at the page closer. Link couldn’t have said why but he seemed to have an air of adventure about him. “And you can ride her if you want,” said Link.

The boy’s green eyes widened. “Oh, really, sir?”

“Will you take good care of her?”

“Oh, yes sir, I will. I will!” The page smiled revealing a pair of particularly large front teeth. Link thought he looked only a little like a rabbit.

“Very good,” said Link, feeling like the king of Hyrule to make someone so happy with such a small gesture. “What’s your name?”

“Bryon, sir!”

“Then on your way, Bryon. I’ll expect you to report back to me with Epona after the ceremony.”

“Yes, sir!” said Bryon, and he mounted Epona. “You can count on me!” He saluted. Link returned the salute smartly, smiling as Bryon and Epona trotted away.

Having grown up among the Koroki—where everything was a matter of serious play—Link knew how to pretend to be something he wasn’t, especially when it meant everyone else could have fun playing along. Just now, Link was enjoying this chance to try on his adult-ness again as a captain.

“Is the captain ready then, sir?” said one of the knights.

Link turned. “Yes, thank you. Now I’ll need to know all of your names, too.” Link took in the sight of the six knights. They wore chain-mail shirts and tough leather boots with spurs on both heels. From their shoulders hung long tunics of white with red birds emblazoned on them. Each bird had a Triforce symbol instead of a head, representing the three Goddesses. Around their waists were cinched wide belts of leather from which hung long rapiers like the one Link had seen Afton use. Finally, on each of their backs was a Hylian shield after the modern style. From what Link could tell they were all well cared for.

As he could not distinguish any of the knights apart, Link addressed the knight closest to him. “What is your name, sir?”

“My name is Franklin, sir,” said the knight. “And you don’t have to call us ‘sir;’ you can just call us by name. Sir.” Franklin seemed to be a little older than Afton. Now that Link looked closer he saw that Franklin had thick sideburns and a long straight nose.

“Thank you, Franklin. It’s a pleasure serving Hyrule with you.”

“And you, sir,” said Franklin, nodding once.

The next knight was clean-shaven with ears that stuck out from his head a little. “And you, what is your name, s…son?” Link realized that he must have sounded ridiculous calling this knight ‘son’ but he could think of no other way to avoid saying ‘sir’ again. The knights, in any case, did not let on that they had noticed.

“Hinton, sir.” The knight simply stood still with his hands behind his back. Almost immediately Link wanted to move on. He could not think of anything to say after calling Hinton ‘son.’

“And you?” Link said to the next knight.

“Hansen, sir; a pleasure.” Hansen reached forward and offered his hand. Link gripped it confidently. Judging from his handshake Link could tell that Hansen could have crushed his hand, but did not. He also seemed quite excited at the attention Link was giving him, passing though it was.

“Thank you, Hansen. Good to have you.” Link resisted the impulse to flex his hand until he had it behind his back.

The next knight did not appear big so much as dense. His sideburns poofed from his cheeks and connected over his lip in a thick brownish-red mustache. “Name’s Duncan, sir,” said the knight in a thick accent. He bowed. Link could not place where the accent was from but noticed that the man had round ears, unlike the pointed ears common to the people of Hylia.

“Duncan, where are you from?” said Link, curious.

“Koholint, Captain; a far-off island of the sea. My father and I came t’Hyrule after our ship was wrecked and we’ve lived here ever since.”

Link remembered Afton saying something about going across the sea on one of his missions. He wondered if he had ever been to Koholint. “I’ll have to hear about your homeland sometime, Duncan.”

“I’ll look forward to it, sir.” Link noticed a certain quality in Duncan’s manner; like the adventuresome air he noticed around Bryon. He made a note to speak to Duncan as soon as he had the chance.

Then Link turned to the final two knights. If there were few differences between any of the knights before, now he was seeing double; these knights were identical in every way. Both had green eyes and red hair and had the attitude of parrots for attentiveness. Their heads were tilted just marginally to one side; one to the left, the other to the right. If Link had had less sense he might have laughed, the sight was so comical.

“Grin,” “and Gron,” they said. “A pleasure to make your acquaintance.” Link’s sense of manners strained against its limits. He almost had to laugh.

“It’s…it’s very nice to meet you. Both of you,” he added, smiling and nodding his head. He wasn’t sure what it took to become a knight, but Link was almost sure that these two had barely passed. “Shall we then?” said Link.

“We are still a knight short, Captain,” said Gron. “The Lieutenant has not yet…” But just then the sound of hooves on stone echoed through the alleys and a horse and rider emerged. It was Geoffrey and Afton. Geoffrey’s hooves slid against the cobblestone as Afton pulled back hard on the reins. They stopped just feet from where Link stood.

“I apologize for my tardiness, Captain,” Afton said, dismounting. He clapped Geoffrey on his flank. “Get on!” he called. Geoffrey trotted away—to the stable, Link assumed. Afton saluted, fighting to control his heavy breathing.

Link nodded. “Apology accepted, Lieutenant. Don’t let it happen again.” He winked. Afton smiled wearily. Link waited until Afton had stood up straight again. “Are we all ready, then?”

“Aye, sir,” said Franklin. “Just lead us into the Courtyard and stand in the middle of the bottom stair of the North Gate. We’ll take it from there. What with recent events, the Tournament’s been canceled until next year so all that’s left is the ceremony.”

Link’s shoulders relaxed marginally; he wouldn’t have to fight all of Hyrule’s best swordsmen after all. But then, he was a little disappointed; it would have been a marvelous challenge. “Alright, then, gents, let’s give them something to see. Long formation!” he called instinctively. And as quickly as he had said it the knights were in two lines of three with Afton in the rear. Link was reminded of when he and his other three selves would make formations when they were fighting. He took up his place at the front of the line. Each of the knights drew their rapiers and held them under their chins.

The procession of knights weaved through the backstreets of Hyrule’s Castle Town, the steel of their spurs clinking, the weight of their boots falling loudly as they marched in rhythm toward the town’s central courtyard. As Link stepped in time with the others he felt it was a shame he had never had the chance to fight in the Hylian Tournament; he had been looking forward to it, even if he was a little daunted by the idea. Then Link remembered that he was marching with trained knights, well versed in the formations he had become accustomed to recently with his other selves. A thin smile curved up one of his cheeks; he had an idea.

“Be ready, men!” Link called over the clinking of spurs. “I think we’re going to give them more than a little something to see. Now, has anybody got a spare sword…?”

* * *

Anxiously, the crowds awaited the arrival of the captain and the knights who accompanied him. In the center of the courtyard was a grand fountain whose waters leaped up toward the cloudless sky. Perched in its center was the stylized figure of a large stone bird with three triangles in place of its head. The townspeople were busy about every second of festivity, some of them listening to the minstrels on one end of the courtyard, others haggling with the street vendors over the prices of souvenirs. Every shop door was wide open and the cafés were bustling, the waiters constantly running back and forth between the tables like industrious ants. Even the soldiers stationed at every gate grew restless with anticipation, tapping their spears on the ground as they awaited the ceremony’s starting signal.

Suddenly, the soldiers at the eastern gate lifted their trumpets and let forth a military fanfare. Then the sound of clinking spurs and heavy boots came from the courtyard's eastern gate. Presently a procession of knights emerged from the gate led by Link, looking very serious and grown-up. The minstrels lowered their instruments, the hagglers quieted, and the crowds erupted as the knights and their leader marched around the courtyard, making a wide arc around the central fountain. The townspeople gave way before the procession, clearing a circular course for the knights to march in. Then, when the knights reached the eastern gate again the green-clad boy raised the rapier in his hand and immediately the knights stopped, their swords held stiffly beneath their chins. The effect hushed the crowd with a sense of expectancy. Every child, every mother, every man was quiet.

Then Link started shouting in rhythm. The knights took up the shout, marching in place with perfect synchronization. In another moment one of the minstrels with a drum—nobody cared who—took up the beat as well. “Double long!” shouted Link, and the next moment the knights were in two straight lines of four. “Revolve,” called Link in time, and the two lines interwove, the knights in one line passing first in front of, then behind, the knights of the other. Some in the crowd whooped; impressed at the feat. “Cross,” shouted Link, and the knights formed a large diamond, three knights to a side. “Harch!” cried Link, and the diamond began moving along its circular course around the fountain.

Other instruments joined the rogue drummer and soon the knights were accompanied by a troupe of minstrels all playing in time, adding layer after layer of music to the sight. The crowd cheered their approval. Shouts flew from the crowds; chants of encouragement and endorsement. Link smiled and turned in place, still marching with his men. Then he shouted something the crowd could not understand and the knights folded inward, forming two smaller diamonds connected by a single knight in the center. Link shouted another command and the double-diamond spun in place; still marching, still moving in perfect synchronization.

And how the masses cheered! Hollers from young and old positively leaped from the townspeople; the patrons in the café stood up and clapped, the vendors set down their wares and stomped their feet in time and the clients emerged from the shops to watch the spectacle of the new captain and his marching knights.

And then, at the height of the uproar, Link shouted a final command and all at once the knights broke apart into improvised melee; a form of organized chaos. One knight turned on another, thrusting his rapier; the other parried, swinging back at the first only to be deflected by a third knight. Thrust, deflect, parry! Roll, twirl, dodge and swipe! The knights sparred elegantly, the eight of them flying about the fountain’s rim, until the people were taking in each moment with bated breath. The battle ranged from one end of the courtyard to the other, some knights up on the lip of the fountain, others stepping lightly up and down the stairs of the north gate; and when a knight was finally struck a blow he sheathed his weapon and knelt where he was.

Grin took a tap to the shoulder, Hansen to the arm. Franklin dodged a blow to the head but was struck on the thigh. Three knights were kneeling, five knights were fighting; and the action continued. Afton and Gron were locked in combat. Duncan drew Link away from his attack on Hinton; the latter was teetering on the edge of the fountain, about to fall in. Duncan pulled Hinton back by the collar of his mail, pressing his attack more firmly against the captain. With an annoyed look at Duncan, Hinton shuffled into step with Gron. After disarming the parroty red-haired man with a tap on the wrist, Hinton then turned to Afton. Gron was down and the four knights remained.

Link rolled to one side, then the other, narrowly avoiding the swipes of the dense Duncan. Afton was faring only slightly better, having parried his opponent’s sword to one side just far enough to admit a tap to Hinton’s side, just under his arm. At that moment Link hopped backward on one foot and flipped away from Duncan. This drew the dense knight closer to Link where he could attack on his own terms. Then Link raised the rapier in his hand and leaped at Duncan, swinging so close to the knight that Duncan threw back his arms, opening his defenses wide. Link feinted to one side and spun the other way, slapping the knight’s chained belly with the flat of his blade. Duncan knelt with marked surprise. The crowd erupted in cheers.

“Hooray for the Hero!” they called. “Three cheers for Link, the Captain of Hyrule!”And the people began jeering and taunting competitively. “Get him Afton!” “Yeah, give him the tip of your sword.” “You can take him, Link!” said a younger boy. “Yeah, flog him Captain!” shouted a familiar voice. When Link turned he saw that it was Bryon atop Epona. They were near the edge of the crowd on one side of the eastern gate. Bryon waved. Link raised his rapier into the air and bowed. The crowd near the eastern gate roared with approval.

Link bowed again, waving his sword in the air. But the clapping and cheering quickly died down and Link realized gradually that the crowd’s focus was being pulled away. At first he thought that something might have happened to Afton but the Lieutenant was staring toward the North Gate as well. Link turned, nearly the last to realize that Daphnes Hyrule had joined them—and that the king was the only one left clapping.

“Bravo! Bravo, my dear Captain,” said the king. The trumpeters on either side of the North Gate lifted their horns and blasted a regal fanfare. The king clapped his hands to his ears and then waved at them frantically to stop. “I’m here! I’m here already! You’ll make me deaf with that racket…” he grumbled. They lowered their horns abashedly.

Link smiled broadly and looked at Afton. When Link saw that he was kneeling he suddenly flushed red and followed suit, feeling ashamed at not knowing yet another Hylian custom he felt he should have.

“Rise,” said the king. Link remained bowed. He didn’t want to assume the king meant for him to stand after he had already not kneeled when he was supposed to—he might have been speaking to one of the other knights and Link dared not look up. The king cleared his throat. “Come forward,” he said; a little louder this time. When Link did not rise the king stepped down from the North Gate and approached Link. “Oh, leave off, Captain; you’re supposed to be coming to me not the other way around…” There were hushed laughs from the crowd—it was all part of the show as far as they knew.

Link glanced up. His ears turned red. “Oh, right,” he whispered, feeling very much a child again. Link followed the king to the steps.

“Did you plan on breaking tradition, Captain, or does this just come naturally to you?” said the king.

Link opened his mouth to speak but no words came out. He tried frantically to come up with a reason, but finally he was at a loss.

The king noticed his consternation. “Because, you know, I think I rather enjoyed the show. What do you say we do it again next year for the Tournament? It would fit much better in a more competitive setting, don’t you think?”

“You mean you’re not mad?” said Link looking up at the king. They had reached the steps.

“Oh, goodness, no. You shall know if I become angry, Captain, and it most likely won’t be with you. Now, I think your men would be grateful to repose from their penitence.”

Link’s eyebrows came together. “ ‘Reprose from…’ Sorry, what?”

“Your knights might like to stand up…” explained the king.

“Oh, yeah.” Link felt a little better now. “On your feet, men!” he shouted, and seven knights stood; one of them directly next to the king on the steps. The king looked at the knight with mild interest; it was Grin, looking particularly parroty. Grin noticed he was higher on the steps than the king and quickly corrected this oversight by descending the staircase backward, never turning away from his king, bowing all the way.

“Line formation!” Link called, and the knights assembled in front of the lowest step. “Sorry for the delay, your Majesty. Shall we?”

“Certainly, Captain, but you will not need the sword,” the king indicated the rapier Link was still holding. “I am knighting you, if you remember—that is, unless you were intending to break tradition yet again…”

Link had forgotten the sword was still in his hand. “Just a second, your Majesty,” he said, and ran over to Afton who was standing on the end of the line.

“Here, Afton,” said Link, offering him the rapier by the handle. “It sure was lucky you brought two swords, or I wouldn’t have had one to fight with.”

“Luck had nothing to do with it, Captain,” said Afton, taking the weapon. He sheathed it next to his other rapier, both hanging from his belt on the same side. “After you snapped the first one I have thought it wiser to carry two at all times.”

Link smiled, remembering the occasion. It was right after he had met the Lieutenant. Afton was helping him choose a sword and shield from the armory and they promptly began sparring playfully. Link had pushed Afton so far that he had to use two rapiers just to keep up. The spar ended, however, when Link rolled over Afton’s own rapier, snapping the blade off near the hilt. “Yeah, sorry,” said Link, wincing. “Was it any good after you got it fixed?”

“You tell me; you’ve been fighting with it.”

Link raised his eyebrows. “This is the one I broke? Wow. The smith must be really good.”

“I should hope so. Now get going, everybody’s waiting.” Indeed everybody was waiting. The crowd had been silent for some time and Link could see people in the back poking their heads up to see what was happening.

“Oh, right.” Link joined the king on the top step of the North Gate.

Finally, the king raised his hand to the crowds and smiled. They clapped, happy that things were underway again.

“Thanks, your Majesty,” said Link, “I’m still getting used to things.”

“All is well, Captain. Just remember—you do not serve me; we are both servants of Hyrule, as is the princess Zelda. The people of Hyrule have expectations and we should always honor them.”

“Yes, your Majesty.”

“Very well. Let us begin.” The king left one hand high in the air and the people quieted. “Beloved people of Hyrule,” he called. The crowds shouted a short ‘hey!’ “Soldiers, knights…” they stood at attention. “And honored Hero…” the king turned to Link. He stood as straight as he could, stiff as a tree. “I welcome you to this momentous occasion.” ‘Hey!’ the crowds shouted again. “Today we appoint a new captain of Hyrule!” The townspeople cheered, throwing their hands into the air and hollering their acceptance. “Our Hero has been through many trials, passed through horrific dangers and undergone daunting challenges. But he has risen to these challenges with courage, determination and uncanny skill. Our kingdom was spared the rule of a wicked tyrant and the enemies of this land have learned to fear the Hero of the Hylia!” ‘Hey!’

“While his age and stature may suggest a child to some, I know the courage in his heart to be that of a man who is fiercely loyal to his home and those he loves. And now, though he needs not our endorsement to be the courageous, determined, loyal man that he is, we offer our gratitude to the Hero for those deeds he has already done in the service of Hyrule.” And if the townspeople had erupted before, now they positively exploded. Link could not see one person in the crowd who was not clapping; the waiters, merchants, minstrels, knights and soldiers; the mothers, fathers, children and grandparents all joined with the king in honoring the boy who had saved their land.

Link peered out into the masses, trying to find someone he might know. There was Afton, of course, but where were Zelda, Malon, Talon, Saria and Ruto? There were others in the crowd he had seen before—he thought he spotted a small cluster of girls that he recognized from the previous night—but none that he knew well. At that moment a kind of loneliness crept under his skin, making him feel as if he were not truly there. His mouth twitched to one side, wishing he could be wherever his friends were. Nevertheless, he thought of the people he served and bowed for them, trying to smile.

“In light of these actions on behalf of Hyrule,” said the king finally, “I hereby grant to you, Link of the Hylia, to be known among us as a knight of Hyrule of the highest esteem!” A soldier presented the king with his sword. “Kneel, Link of the Hylia.” Link knelt, his face burning hot. If being knighted the evening before was momentous, being knighted ceremonially with so many people watching seemed to alter the universe! The king laid the sword on his shoulder and then promptly removed it. “Rise, Sir Link, knight of Hyrule and Captain of the Royal Guard!”

Link could almost feel the weight of responsibility descend on his shoulders. When he rose it was like bearing up a huge stone pillar. But somehow he regained his feet and looked out into the crowd. There were the faces of Hyrule, moving in a sea of bodies; there were their hands, blurring as they waved like so many blades of grass in an endless field. To Link there was no sound, no conception of time. It was as if his life had come to the most important thing that he could ever do, and now he was finished. Anything else that ever happened to him could only pale in comparison to this moment.

But somehow time kept moving, somehow the sound returned to his ears and the fields of waving hands sped up again and he was just Link, one Hylian among many to whom amazing and unfathomable things had happened. How could anyone possibly have known what he would become? How could he or anyone have expected him to end up here, cheered on by the whole of the Hylian race?

The king handed his sword back to the attending soldier, who took it away. “And as signs of the appreciation of the people of Hyrule, I present you with these tokens…” the king said. Link’s eyes widened with giddiness; the soldier returned bearing a shield and sheathed sword. “First, as a sign of the duty which you bear as a knight of Hyrule, the Shield of Hyrule; may it protect you well, and may you always care for it as you care for the people of Hyrule.” Link took the shield gingerly in his hands. It bore the familiar symbol of the Hylian royal crest—the winged bird with a Triforce instead of a head—but the decorative motifs had been innovated and its size was modified so it could serve both a young man of Link’s size and an average-sized adult. “In honor of this gift to you all Hylian knights will be issued new shields with this design.” Link beamed as he slung the shield on his back. It was light as a feather compared to any other shield he had ever owned.

“And second,” said the king, holding out the sheathed sword, “a new blade for the Hero: wielder of the Four Sword and savior of Hyrule.” Link gripped the sword by the handle and pulled it from its sheath in awed silence. It was an exact replica of the Four Sword, from the balanced blade to the sweeping edge that was just as good at slashing as thrusting—it even bore a clear green gem in the pommel that sparkled in the bright midday. It was almost as if someone knew his preference for swords, Link thought. He slipped Afton a wry glance. Afton’s eyes shifted innocently, turning around to face the crowd again. Link smiled and removed his shield. He strapped the sword-belt over his shoulder, resting the sword and sheath in the middle of his back. Then he slung the shield to his back again. Finally, feeling bold, Link turned and drew his sword, thrusting it high in the air. The people clapped and cheered their approval.

“And now,” called the king, raising his hands. Link replaced his sword in its sheath. When the clapping had quieted down the king continued. “Now there must be somewhat said concerning the previous Captain of Hyrule.”

Link’s skin went cold. He did not expect the king to mention his father. “Your Majesty, I…”

“Don’t worry, son,” said the king quietly. “I won’t tell them.” Link thought he saw the king’s eyes become unfocused for a moment—as if he were remembering some small but important detail—but as quickly as the look appeared the king smiled. “I… There is something I must say…” he smiled again, a trail of wetness leaking down his cheek. “Excuse me, if you will.” And he pulled a handkerchief from his sleeve, dabbing his cheek dry. Then the king turned again to the townspeople.

The king inhaled a deep breath. “Some time ago Lord Ganondorf the Traitor entered our domains.” Faces straightened, short breaths were taken, and the sadness of recent events returned, clouding over the multitude with the memory like a dark cloud over the midday sun. Link bowed his head reverently. “In the face of the treaty made by his father in exchange for his life, Lord Ganondorf swore fealty to the Hylian royal family and then betrayed that fealty by attacking the princess and entering one of the most sacred places in Hyrule, the Temple of Time. He was prevented by the Sages of Hyrule, our queen and her protector; Colin, the Captain of the Royal Guard.” The king wadded the handkerchief in his hand and unfolded it compulsively. “Colin died in the service of his country,” the king continued. “He died in the service of the royal family. He died protecting my…my beloved wife.” Tears began to flow freely down the king’s face. “Colin died at the hand of the Lord Ganondorf. Then—and only then—after the captain had perished…was the queen…was the queen’s life compromised. She, too, died at the hand of the Villain. I…” The king thrust the wadded handkerchief into each eye before continuing. “I was unable to do anything to st-…to stop him…from doing so. I was lamentably incapacitated by a stroke of poison or magic, at the hand of the dastard himself as he swore to me his fealty.

“In any case,” the king continued, “I am the only one among the Sages and the royal family who did not put himself between that evil man and Hyrule. I—the man that vowed to honor Zethra above any other and care for her as I would care for myself…” He thrust his fist into his chest. “I—even the king of Hyrule—could not save its queen.” Silence pervaded the multitude. “Furthermore, the man in whose hands I placed the queen’s life—even Colin, son of Nathan; my brother in deed if not by birth—gave his life in her defense.” Even the wind was still, as if it too were awed by the grim events of that unnaturally dark night so many days ago. And then the king stood tall and somber, his voice no longer wavering, but loud and firm: “Let none say of the Captain that his sacrifice has gone unnoticed; that his life was of no worth. Indeed, would my life were taken in his stead that my wife and friend might have lived—but here am I and they are not.

“My people, I do not say these things to excuse myself, nor do I wish to draw your minds unnecessarily on dark matters, but rather I beg your forgiveness as your king for not doing my duty to you, my people. I will never again permit sickness, nor fear, nor danger, nor any other thing to prevent me from standing between Hyrule and any evil that would do it harm. And I would also beg forgiveness of the Captain—Faroe rest him—that I was unable to protect Karin, his wife, passed these eleven years. I would plead his forgiveness for not being able to do for his wife what he has done for mine.” Then the king turned and faced Link directly. Link raised his head. The king’s face was red and his eyes were puffy. “Do you understand the request which the king would beg of his departed friend, if he could?” Wetness welled into his eyes and poured freely down his cheeks into the thickness of his mature beard. “I am so sorry,” the king whispered.

Link’s face strained against itself. He willed himself to maintain composure—commanded, demanded of himself that he not show emotion. But when he inhaled deeply he discovered that he still had tears to cry for his parents. He nodded slowly and the next moment all traces of restraint were replaced by compassion; tearful, cleansing, heart-filling compassion. It was as if a void Link never knew existed had suddenly been filled with something he never knew he always wanted. “Yes,” he said, shivering with emotion. “I forgive you.”

And Daphnes Hyrule knelt, wrapping his arms around the boy. “Thank you, Link,” he said. “Thank you.”

* * *

The Mask Keeper emerged from the hidden doorway next to his bag of masks. The stone doors closed shut behind him. When he stood he realized he was in a small chapel, having entered just behind the altar. In the chapel were two candelabra identical to the one on the other side of the door. In addition to these there were another two resting on the altar. None of the candles were lit, and yet a soft, living candlelight flickered on the walls.

On the wall above the hidden doorway was a tall painting of a great tree before which a woman stood with arms stretched upward. The Mask Keeper backed away from the altar to better observe the painting’s subject. The woman wore a crown and belt of leaves and there were red berries in her green hair. Surrounding her was a gathering of every conceivable animal in Hyrule—bulby peahats, rat-like bombchus, spidery tektites, and the animal-like baba plants—as well as common animals—cats, dogs, hawks, goats and the like. The plaque on the frame of the painting read Faroe: Goddess of Courage. The salesman knew about the three goddesses of Hyrule; nearly always were they represented together. He reasoned there must be two other paintings nearby.

A door shut somewhere inside the temple. The salesman turned, quickly hiding his tall figure behind the adjacent column. He slowly inched around the column into the nave to see what might be there, but there was no one in sight.

Directly across the nave of the temple was another side chapel, which was curiously illuminated by unlit candles as well. Over the altar was the second painting, this one depicting a throne upon which a blue-gowned woman sat, straight and beautiful, the folds of her dress flowing from her knees like water. Surrounding her was a circle of stars and directly above her head was a depiction of the various phases of the moon. Nayru, Goddess of Wisdom read the plaque below.

Poking his head into the nave the salesman saw another side chapel next to Nayru’s. There must surely be one next to Faroe’s chapel, he thought, if symmetry held true. He returned to pick up his bag of masks, slinging it over his shoulder again. Checking once more to be certain the nave was clear he stepped out of Faroe’s chapel.

Now the Mask Keeper could see the whole of the nave: to his right was a long, broad staircase leading up to a pair of large doors. These must lead outside. At the bottom of the staircase and directly before him was a circular seal set into the floor. It bore a symbol the Mask Keeper had seen elsewhere, though he could not say what it meant. A red plush carpet led from the seal to the other end of the nave. There was a large altar over which hovered three large colored gems. In the wall behind the altar was an enormous peaked archway and beyond this was a staircase leading up into another room.

As the Mask Keeper walked down the nave he saw that the other two side chapels (for there were four total, as he had guessed) also had altars and paintings. The painting in the chapel next to Faroe’s depicted a red-haired Din, who was sculpting the mountains with bare, slender arms. Under her feet was cracked, stony ground and out of the cracks leaked molten rock. Behind her head was the sun, like a halo, in all its brilliance.

But if the three women in these paintings were the three Goddesses of Hyrule then what, wondered the Mask Salesman, was in the final chapel?

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