The Looming Shadow

By Wm. Jay Carter III (Hero of Geeks)

Chapter II - Tournament of Hyrule

1384 HR

“It has been ten years, Rauru. Ten years to the day.” Colin was kneeling before the altar of the temple. His longsword lay naked across it. Colin lifted his eyes to the gray stone Triforce over the sealed Door of Time.

“There is always hope, Colin,” said Rauru, lighting the candelabrum to one side of the Door. “We cannot give up hope.” He turned to look at the captain, resting the butt of his brass candle-lighter on the marble floor. Somewhere in the cloisters, the monks chanted their afternoon devotionals; the sacred music meandering through the temple, seeking ears to hear it.

The captain did not look away from the symbol of the Goddesses. “Hope,” he said, considering the word. Then he bowed his head and leaned forward, his hand to his breast. After a moment he stood, lifting his sword reverently from the altar and replacing it in its sheath. “Hope for what, I wonder…” he said, watching the cushion on the altar resume its natural shape, pushing out the indentation made by the sword. His eyes flitted over the three empty hollows set into the frame of the altar.

“Hope that they may be found…” said Rauru, tentatively, passing to the other side of the Door. He raised the lighter to the short, wax dripped candles.

“My wife and son are dead, Master Sage. I have known it since the survivors of her guard gave me the report.”

“You were given the report that they could not be found,” Rauru offered, “not that they had perished.” Rauru’s outline was lit from behind by the candlelight; a saintly figure looking all the more divine. A poetic coincidence, thought the captain, whose eyes had followed the sage to where he now stood. The captain arched his neck and ran one gnarled hand over his left shoulder, weary from burdens not entirely physical.

Colin sighed. “How long would you look?” he said finally, throwing his hand vaguely into the air.

“As long as I had to. The Goddess of Time is mysterious, but she reveals all,” said Rauru, reviewing Colin’s bent figure with compassion.

Shadow halved Colin's face as he turned away from the light of the candles. Rauru handed the lighter to one of the attendant monks who carried it ceremonially into the nearest side-chapel. In a moment the recess of Din’s Chapel brightened. Rauru folded his hands before him. “We do not wish for horrors, son,” said Rauru, “but the Goddesses give us too much for us not to be thankful for what we have...”

“And what do we have, Father Rauru of the Temple?” Colin hissed bitterly. “A fine sentiment from one who has no loved ones to lose.” Rauru did not speak, but turned to walk toward the cloisters. Now he was the picture of a martyr, thought Colin. He ran his hand through his stiff, sandy hair. “It was you who chose the cloth, not I, priest!” he called. Rauru stopped rigidly by one of the nave’s many columns, but did not turn. “I have seen death enough,” continued Colin. “I simply refuse to give myself more to mourn than I must. If I allow myself to believe they might still…” He waved at the air, opening his mouth, but no sound came out. A lump formed in his throat and lines of wetness streaked down his harsh face, half in the light of the candles. He ran his hand through his hair again and coughed the lump out of his throat. “I might have to…they…I don’t think I could survive if they died again.” He pressed his finger and thumb to his eyes.

“It is true I have no wife,” Rauru said quietly. “I chose to serve the Goddesses. But their joy is mine, their children mine. I may not have fathered a son; but I know the Goddesses are the source of all that is good—life, joy—and I know what it means to lose those you love.” Nayru’s Chapel brightened, softening the harsh shadow on Colin’s face.

Colin’s jaw hardened. He stooped to recover his shield from beside the altar, slinging it over his shoulder. “What do you know of love?” he said, and walked toward the entrance of the temple, pulling his cloth cowl over his head as he went.

“Master Captain,” called Rauru across the nave. Colin stopped, looking toward the vaulted ceiling. Rauru heard him exhale. “Even when those we love are gone, we can trust the Goddesses to keep them,” said Rauru. “They are not truly lost.” Light bloomed in Faroe’s Chapel.

Colin turned only halfway, not looking at the Sage. “I do not come here to pray for their return, Rauru. I come here to mourn. Can a man not mourn for his loss?”

“You may mourn if you wish, Colin, Captain of the Royal Guard. But your wife and son may not be dead.” Light issued from the final chapel and the monk who bore the brass lighter returned it to Rauru. The monk bowed and stood to one side. “Karin visited here often, if you remember. You were not the only one who loved her. Your son was blessed on this altar. I blessed him myself; you were there. I loved your son, Colin. I have loved every child of the Goddesses that has entered these walls. Who knows but that they might one day be found again.

“I have had enough of false hope, Rauru. I have drunk it in like water in the desert, and still I am parched. I want no more of it. They are never coming back.” Colin ascended the steps at the end of the nave. When the doors of the temple were closed after him the attending monk turned to the Sage. He was only a youth, about fourteen.

“Father Rauru?” he said.

“Yes, Tobias?”

“Will we stay for the tournament today?”

“I think not. The captain has seen more of me than he pleases. I will let him alone to his thoughts. Besides, I have attended the tournament more often than I care to, I think.” They passed under the archway that led into the auxiliary hall.


“Yes, Tobias,” said Rauru, not unkindly.

“Do you really believe the captain's wife and son are still alive?"

Rauru paused at the alcove in the hallway. Set in the alcove was a wooden cabinet flanked by two lit candelabra. “Karin was always a determined young woman. She would hold on, even when things seemed impossible. If it was not so, she may not have married the captain.” Rauru smiled, reminiscing. He snuffed the candle-lighter. Then his face straightened as he gazed at the wisping smoke. “My heart does not wish to believe she is dead.” He soberly set the lighter inside the wooden cabinet and unbuttoned his red velvet mantle. He hung it on one of two hooks within the cabinet.

“And the boy?” said Tobias, removing his orange mantle.

“Oh, yes, Colin’s son is alive. I am certain.”

“But how can you be, Father?” said Tobias, hanging his mantle next to his master’s. Tobias’ expression was one of genuine interest.

“Because,” said Rauru, “when I blessed him the candles lit themselves.”

* * *

As Colin passed through the doors of the temple he took in both the even light of a cloudy noonday and the crisp, chilly air of a melting winter. He pulled his steel helmet firmly over his head and buckled the clasp below his chin. The doors of the temple closed behind him gently and he paused, staring at the cobbles of the temple yard. An armoured form stood beside the large stone planter to one side of the entrance doors.

“Captain,” said the young knight, flattening his hand as he touched his longest finger to his brow.

Afton,” Colin replied, returning the salute briskly. Colin pulled his gloves from under his belt and slid his hands into them, fitting his fingers tightly into the leather.

“The captain is sufficiently prepared?” Afton asked, looking at the sky, the steps and the horizon before turning to the Captain. Colin nodded, but continued to clench one hand absentmindedly. After a moment Afton spoke again, his tone softer. “Permission to speak, sir?” When Colin did not answer Afton continued. “We come here every year, sir.”

“Yes. And?” said Colin, quietly, straightening his tunic.

“And every year you come out of those doors more upset than when you went in.”

“I'm not upset, Afton.”

“Then what do you call it, sir?”

Colin considered the knight for a moment. “Afton, how long have you been my second lieutenant?”

“Six years, sir. And proudly.” Afton stood straighter.

“In all that time have you known me to punish a man who did not deserve it?”

“No, sir.”

Colin stepped closer to the young knight. He chose his words; “I do not…Rauru means no harm, but…I won't avoid the temple just to avoid him. I need to mourn, Afton. I need to remember them. We need to remember them.”

Afton bowed his head. “I do remember my sister, Colin, Faroe keep her…”

“Oh, now you sound like the priest…” said Colin over him.

“…but I don't blame anyone for losing her.”

“Care for a walk, lieutenant?” asked Colin abruptly.

“Certainly, sir,” Afton replied, swallowing his words. He fell into step behind the captain. They marched away from the temple’s main doors, over the tightly set cobblestone path, and out of the grounds through the open iron wrought gate. Just outside the gate six other knights waited, standing in formation.

“Same as usual, men,” said Colin. “Let's give them a good show.” He drew his longsword and rested the flat of the blade against his shoulder casually. The six knights fell in behind Colin, marching in two rows with rapiers held beneath their chins, blades toward the sky. Afton followed suit, tucking the hilt of his rapier under his chin, and fell back to march point. 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.

Anxiously, the crowds awaited the arrival of the captain, their king and queen. In the center of the courtyard was a grand fountain whose waters leaped up toward the clouded sky. Perched in its center was the stylized figure of a large stone owl with three triangles in place of its head. Some townspeople were sitting at the tables of the street café. Others were leaning out over the ledges of their stone balconies. Still others were huddled in groups near the shop awnings of the marketplace buying festive treats from the vendors, listening to the music of street performers, watching the jugglers, or chasing their restless children around the circular courtyard. But most of the citizens of Hyrule were gathered behind the coloured ropes that had been tied to the poles marking the boudaries of the parade. Even the soldiers, stationed at every gate, grew restless with waiting, their spears leaning lazily on their shoulders.

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 Colin, the Captain of the Royal Guard. The jugglers paused, the singers quieted, and the crowds hushed as the knights marched up to the shallow steps before the great northern gate, forming staggered ranks with military precision. Colin stood on the lowest step, his longsword resting on his shoulder, while four of the knights stood a step above him (with Afton on the end), and the remaining three took up positions on the third step. Every knight stood at attention, their white tunics splayed with red birds, rapiers under their chins, looking like statues of the valiant heroes of old.

Then the two soldiers on either side of the north gate took up trumpets and blew a regal fanfare. Moments later the huge wooden doors of the northern gate swung inward and another set of trumpets echoed from somewhere beyond. The crowds lifted up cheers and whoops as the procession emerged. The first soldier to come out from between the doors was the ensign, holding aloft the flag of the royal family; a white ground with the red owl emblazoned on it, the head replaced by three triangles. After him came a vanguard of six soldiers, the two in front blowing their trumpets while the rest marched in step carrying straight spears and tall rectangular shields. Then the crowds of townspeople cheered louder to see their king emerge from between the doors. Daphnes wore his red coat, white breeches and high golden crown. He laughed joyfully in answer to the cheers of his people, lagging behind the soldiers as they made their way out of the gate and around to the other side of the great fountain. Flanking the king on four sides were the Darknaughts, heavily armored and highly trained knights of Hyrule; bodyguards of the king outside the castle walls. In addition to his rapier and shield, each Darknaught bore a heavy weapon; one a single-bladed axe, one a mace, one a thick-bladed scimitar, and the last a wide, double-edged sword.

So impenetrable was the armour of the Darknaughts and so immovable their bulk that they were thought of as extensions of the castle walls themselves. Unless a Darknaught was given cause to move they remained motionless and so the people regarded them as little more than obstacles to be avoided. If any person gave a Darknaught cause to move, however, a Darknaught's wrath commanded instant dread and respect. The Darknaughts were so called for their reputation that any evil—any dark designs that threatened their king—would come to naught so long as one of them stood. They were willing to give all, even their lives, to protect their king. It was for this reason that the king never had aught to fear so long as his guard was nearby.

Once the Darknaughts had escorted Daphnes to a chair waiting for him on the top step, they took up positions before him on the steps of the north gate. Then the soldiers flanking the north gate blew a new, solemn fanfare. Immediately the call was answered by another pair of trumpeters preceding four more soldiers. Behind these came four lean but knot-muscled men bearing a litter on their shoulders. Each of them was wrapped in frayed white clothes and wore light gray, soft-leather boots and forearm-sleeves. The ears of each Sheik bore small golden hoops and their heads and faces were swathed in strips of white fabric. Each Sheik bore a tattered flap of cloth over his chest bearing a single red eye with a tear below it; the symbol of the Sheikah people.

The Sheiks were the most disciplined and skilled of the Sheikah, who had vowed since the days of the War of the Golden Land to protect the daughters of the Hylian Royal Family. They excelled at stealth, surprise and intrigue, and it was said that the red eyes of a Sheik glowed like embers. The people mostly regarded them with fear and unease, for it was said that a Sheik could look into your soul and force you to face your deepest truths. They protected the queen out of duty, and a Sheik was known to treat all with the honor they deserved. It was for this reason that they bore the queen's litter, which they presently set on the top step of the north gate opposite the king's throne. Two of the Sheiks tied back the curtains of the litter to reveal the queen, Zethra, kneeling on her seat. She was clothed in her purple vest, white gown and golden belt and circlet. From her belt hung the apron of her station, bearing the red owl of the Hylian Royal Family. On her lap lay a small blue ocarina. When all was arranged, the Sheiks sat before the litter on the steps—each with back erect, limbs deceptively relaxed, their red eyes scanning the crowd, daring any to meet their gaze.

The king stood, quieting the cheering crowds. “Welcome! I bid you welcome to this, the Tournament of Hyrule!” he called out. The people cheered again. A line of men to one side of the north gate raised wooden practice swords high in the air and shouted, throwing their arms and waving at others in the crowd. “These,” called the king, indicating the line of men, “are the valiant few who are best in Hyrule with the sword! Today we shall see if any of these may best our own Captain!” Many in the crowd hollered taunts; some of the men whipped their swords around in anticipation. The Captain remained stone-faced, relaxed and unmoving. The crowd started chanting, calling for the tournament to begin.

“Yes, yes, at length,” said the king, “but all in it’s proper time. First, to the ceremony!” As the people looked anxiously toward their king, he raised a hand to his chest. Grasping a stone amulet that hung there, the king bowed his head theatrically. After a moment he raised it again and called out “The Sages have been summoned! Let us welcome the Sages of Hyrule!” And as the people cheered again, colored lights began swirling around in the air among the wisps of the gray sky.

The first to descend was a streak of green, landing in the courtyard in a bubbling mass of olive light that materialized into Aako, leaping and laughing, spinning and skipping in the air. He wore little brown shoes that laced up his feet, a green tunic with a brown cloth belt with a red tassel, and a short apron. On his head was a cap that looked like a large curled leaf and in his hand was a viola which he played as he danced. The people clapped and laughed with him and the children in the crowd stomped their little feet and jumped to the song of the Koroki Sage.

The next to fall was a shot of blue, materializing into Lutai, dressed in a magnificent netted gown of lavender with a red apron over her chest, a circlet of fishbone gracing her finned brow. She played her small fishbone harp. The ladies in the crowd all chattered about her fashion and soon they were too occupied to notice the large blob of red that formed the bulky mass of Gor Darmon, swathed like a wrestler, red tribal markings tracing his huge arms. He stomped and beat on his chest and drums, causing the ground to vibrate. The people were delighted every time the ground shook and laughter broke out when Davis, the large man running the shooting gallery, promptly fell over, visibly rattled.

A yellow light came from the sky and for a moment it was as if the sun had emerged from behind the clouds and fallen to Castle Town’s courtyard. The truth was swiftly revealed, however, as Rauru emerged from the yellow light wearing a golden belt over a white robe embroidered with golden thread. The a double-reeded horn hooted between his whiskered lips, calling the raucousness of the crowds to a lull, finally hushing even the children as they heard his melancholy tune. The Captain stared at the ground, as stone-faced as ever. When Rauru finished, the entranced crowds clapped at the performance, the Sages bowing in response.

“Thank you for welcoming the esteemed Sages with such enthusiasm,” called Daphnes from the top of the stairs. The people were attentive. “We recognize the absence of our loved friend Mudora, Sage of Shadow and former representative of the Sheikah people, passed these many years ago, Nayru keep him. We respectfully acknowledge the Sheiks of Kakariko as ambassadors to Hyrule.” The four lean men surrounding the queen’s litter bowed in unison, each placing their palms together. The king continued. “We also recognize the absence of the Sage of Spirit, as there have been none to come forward from the Gerudo since the time that the Traitor was discovered. As such we recognize Zethra, the Queen of Hyrule as the Seventh Sage, filling this vacancy in council since those dark times. Thus constituted, we shall begin the opening of the tournament.” From a loop on his belt the king pulled a baton made of ivory, carved and traced with curling shapes. As he raised it in the air, the Sages lifted their instruments to the ready. The queen lifted the ocarina from her lap and pressed it to her lips…

But instead of a song, a distant boom was heard over the crowd. Low and resonant, some whispered that it was an attack; others said it was the canon of some distant ship. Then another boom came; unmistakably from the south, toward the fields of Hyrule. It sounded like a great fist knocking on the outer gates of the city. The Darknaughts brandished their heavy weapons, while the Sheiks peered through the crowds toward the southern gate. The soldiers shuffled their feet and looked around nervously; the ensign gripped his flagpole with unease. The crowds grew restless, shifting like cattle in a branding pen. In moments, the mood had gone from festive to fearful.

The captain looked up to the king, who nodded. Colin stepped out into the courtyard toward the eastern gate. “Horse!” he called, and in moments one of the pages had brought him his dappled gray. Then Colin mounted and was gone through the southern gate.

Time passed uneasily, feeling much longer than it was, but in minutes Colin had returned. He dismounted at the base of the steps and approached the king, unobstructed by the Darknaughts.

“There is a Gerudo at the southern gate, my Liege,” Colin said.

“A Gerudo?” the king replied with obvious surprise. “Has she come to…?”

“It isn't a she, my Liege,” said the captain quickly.

Daphnes’ face straightened, comprehending. “By the Goddesses…what does he want?”

“He says he wishes to enter the gates of Hyrule to swear fealty to her king.”

The king tucked the baton back into his belt and signaled to the Sages. Faster than they had come, they were gone, streaks of coloured light whipping back into the gray late-winter sky. Then Daphnes looked to his wife. Zethra raised her head and narrowed her eyes, considering. She met the gaze of one of her Sheiks, who stared, unblinking directly into her eyes. He seemed to be fed somehow by her looking at him; into him. Then the Sheik stood, took the Ocarina from her, and disappeared in a puff of smoke that caused the crowd to jump. Zethra nodded to her husband.

Satisfied, the king turned back to Colin. “Let him in,” he said.

* * *

“Impa will help you keep it safe, my love. And pay your dreams no mind. Goodnight,” said the king. “Sleep well.”

After her father closed the door—when the curtains of Zelda’s bed-chamber had been drawn and all but her nursemaid had left—the young princess of Hyrule turned the clay instrument over in her hands. This was the legendary ocarina that had sealed the Door of Time, she marveled. Tucking it under her pillow, she spoke to her nursemaid.

“Impa, what if I dream about the clouds again?”

A tall, youthful woman with white hair stepped from the shadows. From her neck hung the symbol of an eye with a single tear. “Do not worry, young one. Your father will come to trust your premonitions.” Impa sat on the edge of the princess’ bed. “Come; let me sing you a lullaby.”



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