The Lengthening Shadow

By Wm. Jay Carter III (Hero of Geeks)

Chapter III: Of Horses and Ranch-hands

“But, Impa, I can ride Asphodel. You know I can!”

“No. You are too reckless with him. We will take Brynn.”

Zelda and Impa were arguing about riding arrangements. In order to get Link to the ranch they would have to take exactly two horses. One would not carry all three of them, and three horses would mean one horse being led back to the castle, effectively slowing one of them down. The castle stables had a number of fine stallions and mares (Link was sure that all of these came from Lon Lon Ranch), and Link did not mind biding his time looking at all of them in turn. He noticed that each of the stalls had small plates attached to them with the names of the horse and its rider. ‘Bree/Duncan,’ read one plaque. ‘Frock/Franklin,’ said the next. It seemed that Hyrule Castle kept no more horses than it had riders.

Link saw a sandy colored stallion with a rich brown mane and an irregular blaze of white down its nose. Link smiled when he saw the plaque. It said: ‘Geoffrey/Afton.’ Then he saw a dappled gray mare with a mane of white. The plaque said ‘Orda/Colin.’ “Orda,” Link said aloud, testing the name. He had never heard it before.

“No, Link. We can’t take Orda,” said Zelda. “She’s the captain’s.”

“Oh, I was just saying it,” he replied. “What does it mean?”

“You mean you’ve never heard of Orda?” Zelda asked. She came over to Orda’s pen and reached up to the horse’s muzzle. The horse lowered its head to touch the princess’ hand. “She’s a good girl, she is…” said Zelda, rubbing Orda’s nose lovingly. “Orda is named after the Goddess of Time.” When Link looked perplexed she elaborated. “Most Hylians only worship the three Golden Goddesses for whom the Triforce is named; Din—Goddess of Power, Faroe—Goddess of Courage, and Nayru—Goddess of Wisdom. But the Temple of Time was built to honor all of the Goddesses, not just the ones who created Hyrule. There is also a Goddess of Time—Orda. Not many know her name but she is always there, sending us off when we start a quest, expecting us to use our precious time to the fullest, and waiting for us at the close of every journey, expecting us to give an account of what we have done. She is the beginning, and also the ending, of every tale.”

Link felt as if he still had much to learn. He did not have much chance to ponder this, however, as Impa trotted up to them on Brynn, a solid brown mare. She led another horse, a white stallion, by the reins.

“Up you get, young ones,” said Impa. “The Goddess is urging us on.” She tossed the reins of the extra horse to Link. “This is Asphodel, Master Link. He will treat you well if you treat him in kind. Oh, no, child; you will ride with me,” she added, staring at Zelda, who was about to mount Asphodel.

“But Impa, please!”

You may ride him on the way back…” Impa began—Zelda made a little hop and a squeal of giddiness—“…if we leave the ranch in time to get you into bed. Your father will be furious enough with me that I am letting you take your mother’s horse.”

“Oh, yes, Impa, I promise!”

“Then up with me,” Impa said, helping the princess into the saddle in front of her. Link was left trying to climb into the saddle of the white stallion. “You have ridden horses before, I presume, Master Link…”

“Yeah,” said Link, rolling on his stomach over the horse’s back. “They were just a lot smaller then…or I was…bigger,” he said, finally settling into the saddle. He was red-faced from the effort.

“Very well.” Impa now spoke quickly and clearly. “When we arrive we shall make no indication that you are other than yourself before you returned to us from the future. You have received permission from the king to commandeer a horse to speed you on your way to Zora’s Domain to deliver a message to the king of the Zoras. Any other conversation will follow unrelated matters. Reveal nothing about Ganondorf’s presence in Hyrule, and always refer to myself as Mistress Impa and the princess as Her Majesty. Is this understood?”

Yes, ma’am…uh, Mistress Impa.”

Isn’t he cute…?” Zelda mumbled quietly to Impa. Impa just sighed and kicked Brynn into a trot. Link managed to hold on as Asphodel followed them out of the stables.

* * *

Once Link had accustomed himself to riding in his unfamiliar size, the trip to the ranch was as pleasant as Link remembered, having traveled it with Epona more than once—more so, in fact, because the fields of Hyrule had not yet been desecrated by the power of Ganon as they had been in the future. Link took in the distinct scent of grass, trees and fresh evening air, and savored the golden-pink light of the setting sun over the low eastern mountains. He remembered the smell of loose soil as they passed clusters of peahats, shifting their blade-like roots in the dirt in nervous response to the horses’ passing. Things were as he remembered them, and it felt like too long ago that he had never even known this place…once, long ago, he thought he was just another Koroki child without a fairy.

He had learned so much on his travels through Hyrule, and through time. He had learned of his true Hylian heritage, and what it meant to have a real friend; a constant companion to teach him what he needed to know; to watch out for him, and warn him if danger was near; to guide his hand in battle, and comfort him if he was weary. As Link gazed at the setting sun, he thought he saw the bright orb flash blue just before winking out. Ever since leaving the Koroki Forest, he had always had Navi with him, and now she was gone. He knew that if he were lost, Navi would search in every tree, under every bush and deep inside every dungeon until she found him. He resolved to find her as soon as he could…as soon as he could get a horse.

And then, as a warm northerly breeze blew out to them from the ranch, Link heard the call of another friend on the wind. A familiar neigh reached his pointed ears and he kicked his mount into a gallop. “Epona!” he called out.

Impa and Zelda were close behind when Link reached the ranch’s entrance. He grabbed the rope of the bell that hung from the archway as he passed, letting it clang haphazardly. As the track came into view, he squinted in the waning light to find the young foal. Just as Brynn stopped behind Asphodel, Link had already dismounted and was running toward the fence of the track. Zelda dismounted as well, ignoring her nursemaid’s reminders about her bedtime, and joined Link on the fence. In the middle of the horse-pen, grazing next to her dam, was Epona.

Link tried for all he was worth to whistle the song that Malon had taught him (what seemed like) so long ago. When he could not whistle he tried to hum, but it was still not loud enough for the song to carry to the middle of the pen. He cursed himself for not asking for an ocarina before he left the castle…then he remembered that Zelda must still have the Ocarina of Time. She had yet to give it to his other self. Then a light came out of the front door of the house and he knew he would have to speak quickly.

“Zelda, listen,” he began. At that moment she looked as if he were the only interesting thing she had ever seen. “You have to give me the Ocarina of Time.” Then her face changed from interest to disbelief.

“Give you the Ocarina?” Zelda hand came up to the lump hanging from her neck. “I can’t…my mother gave…”

Link could see the figure of Talon approaching with a lantern. “Not now, later. Tomorrow, when my other self gets to the city gate, you’ll throw the Ocarina to me. I’ll need it to get the Master Sword.”

“But…” Zelda hesitated. Talon was talking to Impa, now. She had just finished lashing the horses to a post. “But Rauru said he didn’t want you to get in. I know I said I wanted you to get the other stones so we could get the Triforce before that Evil Man in my dream, but…” Talon and Impa were walking toward them. “But what if it doesn’t work?”

“Quiet. They’re here,” said Link.

Talon raised his lantern high so he could see the two children. He was a medium-sized man with a larger-than-medium-sized belly. His tasseled night-cap came down to his thick bushy eyebrows. He ran one of his plump fingers under his black mustached nose as he peered at the lit faces before him with droopy eyes.

“Well!” said Talon, “if this ain’t a pleasant surprise! I heard the bell; if I’d a-known that you’d be comin’, Yer Majesty, I’d a-gotten Mally up outta bed.”

“Hello Talon,” said Zelda. “How’s the ranch.”

“Oh, jes’ fine,” said Talon. “And how’s my best chicken hunter, eh?” Talon gave Link a playful nudge with his elbow. “Come back to marry my daughter after all, did’ja?” Link’s face burned hot as he noticed Zelda glare at him disapprovingly. Link looked away. He wished for a sudden breeze to blow out the lantern. “Oh, don’t worry Zelly. I already told him she’s not his type.” Now it was Zelda’s turn to be embarrassed. Thankfully, Impa cut in.

“Master Rancher, as I explained, our young friend here is on a mission from the king to visit Zora’s Domain tomorrow, and he will need a place for the night and a means of transport. Will you allow him a horse for his journey?”

“Oh, yeah, yeah. No problem at all, Miss Impa. Anything fer the king.” Talon’s head bobbed long after he had finished talking. Then the sound of small feet on packed sod came from somewhere inside the horse-pen and soon a red-haired girl of Zelda’s age came running into the lantern light.

Zelly! I’m so glad t’see you!” said the girl. Talon rolled his eyes and buried his face in his hand.

“Mal!” responded Zelda, swinging her legs over the fence elegantly and landing on the other side. The friends embraced.

“What’re you doin’ here?” said Malon.

“Oh, nothing,” responded Zelda. Link suddenly felt as if he had never existed.

D’you wanna take Brynn around before we hit the sack? We could sleep under the stars tonight, right Poppa?” Malon turned eagerly to her abashed father. Talon was peeking at them through his fingers.

Zelda looked up at her nursemaid. Impa’s face was inscrutable. “Actually, Mal…I really should get going. I’ll come to visit soon, okay?”

“Aw, but Zelly, cain’t you just stay the night?”

“No, I really have to go,” Zelda admitted regretfully.

“Oh, alright. Well, I’ll have to show you what I bin doin’ with Hossel when you come next; he trots right nice, now.”

“Sure,” said Zelda happily, and the friends embraced again.

“Okay, now, Missy,” Talon said, wagging a thick finger at his daughter, “you git up in bed afore I’m after you with a horse-whip!”

Oh, Poppa,” Malon sighed, shaking her head. “I’ll let you talk to Miss Impa if you want.” She leaned over the fence to kiss her father on the cheek. “G’night, Miss Impa,” she said, and ducked between the rails of the fence before running back to the house, her red braid swinging behind her. Talon’s face might have outmatched his daughter’s hair in color.

“I believe that we must regrettably take our leave of you as well, Master Rancher. Come Your Majesty.” Zelda obeyed, avoiding Link entirely. When she and Impa were out of the lantern light Talon watched Link peer into the darkness after them.

“You, uh…you wantinter git fixed up fer bed, then?” asked Talon.

Link looked at the rancher suspiciously. “Wasn’t Malon already supposed to be in bed?”

Talon just nodded, a regretful look on his face. He clicked his tongue. “That Miss Impa’s a right strict woman, ain’t she?” he said.

“Yep.” Link sighed. “Do you suppose they all grow up to be like that?”

“One thing you learn bein’ a rancher, son. They never grow how you raise ‘em. They grow how they want, and you jes’ have to live with it.”

* * *

When Zelda and Impa had passed the ranch’s outer gate they paused together.
Facing their hands inward, small red lights grew in front of each of them; little hovering fires. These flames provided enough light to see the road by, and allowed Impa and Zelda to maintain sight of one another. Asphodel and Brynn walked instinctively without their riders having to direct them.

“I am very proud of you, you know,” said Impa as they started on the road back to the castle. “You made the choice to leave on your own. That is a sign of maturity.”

“Well,” said Zelda. “I did want to ride Asphodel.”

“Yes, but you could have stayed…”

Zelda looked straight forward. “What was there to stay for?”

“There was Mistress Malon. And did you not meet well with Master Link?”

Zelda sighed. “No, Impa, I suppose I didn’t.” They passed some moments in silence. “He asked me to give him the Ocarina tomorrow.” She looked discouraged.

Impa’s voice remained unweighted. “And will you?”

“Well…no. Why should I? Rauru said he didn’t want Link to get in.” Impa remained quiet for some time. “Do you think I should give it to him, Impa?”

“That is your choice, child. I cannot make it for you.”

Zelda was pensive, then: “Rauru said that a sword in the hands of the right person saved the daughters of Hyrule. You told Rauru that you thought Link was that kind of person didn’t you?”

“Do you believe Master Link is the forest-child from your dream?”


“And do you feel that he will part the clouds of darkness that threaten the land?”

Zelda thought longer about this, then: “I believe I should give the Ocarina to him. I believe the Goddesses sent him to us.”

“Then it seems you have made your decision,” Impa said.

Zelda looked at her nursemaid with fondness. “Thank you Impa,” Zelda said.

“Whatever for, child? I told you nothing.”

“For letting me choose for myself.”

Impa smiled. “You are wise, young one. I am very proud of you.” And as the spires of the castle loomed sharp against the gritty blue night, two little fires found their way among the darkness.

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