Disclaimer: Nintendo owns The Legend of Zelda. I may not agree with their making a Timeline official and public, and I may even like alternate chronologies I've come up with better, but it is not for me to say.
Notes: This was inspired by the "officially-official" Timeline that rumor has it is a part of the Japanese "Hyrule Historia" book. Specifically, this was inspired by the "third branch" that it seems fans didn't see coming – namely the "Hero of Time is Defeated" branch. This story is a speculation on events surrounding that and will no doubt be "jossed" as soon as Nintendo creates a game dealing with the Great Sealing War, if they ever do.
Less emotive and detailed than most of my fan fictions, this piece is more like a chronicle, or even like a sketch of a story. I wanted to get the idea out. I may come back to this and flesh it out more if I get positive feedback enough to know that people would be interested in seeing a more detailed version. For now, enjoy. Or don't.
The Hero fell.
The Hero fell and Princess Zelda watched it happen. In recalling it later, she was surprised at how little she felt. It had felt like watching a play, or like a dream – one of those nightmares where the inner voice of the Goddess Nayru told her that she could not act but simply must observe.
The adversary was no longer Ganondorf the man, but Ganon the beast. The perverse creature, twisted by the Triforce of Power and the man's own will, wielded twin swords that were each as tall as Zelda's champion. Link fought well, ducking, dodging and laying wounds into Ganon's tender tail. One broad sweep of one of those enormous blades sent the boy over the wall of fire.
"Link!" Zelda called, running to him. He stood and staggered, blood dripping from a sizeable gash in his chest. His fairy companion hovered close to his head, piping words of encouragement.
"Z-Zelda…" Link choked. He reached out for her with one hand after dropping his shield, while the other trailed his sword in the dirt. He looked at her with wide eyes before falling on his stomach with a dull thump. His body shivered and he tried to pull himself back up. Zelda watched his eyes close gently, as if he were fighting something he could no longer stave off, finally to succumb to sudden sleep.
The earth rumbled below them. Zelda watched as a golden light rose from Link's left hand – the one that still held the Master Sword. The princess recognized a shard of the Triforce as the light coalesced into a brilliant golden triangle a few feet above Link's prone form. Ganon, some distance away, took notice and roared in delight. The circle of fire fell.
The Triforce of Courage spun in the air and shattered, becoming as grains of sand. The grains scattered off to parts unknown in an instant. Ganon roared. He started charging toward Zelda, his massive hooves making the earth shake.
Zelda tried to rouse Link. "Get up, please!" she begged.
Navi the fairy flapped an inch in front of her nose. "He's…. he's dead…" she announced.
Zelda found one of her hands rifling through the fallen Hero's pockets until she found the Ocarina of Time. She stood, bent down and picked up the Master Sword, grasping it out of the boy's still-warm fingers. She could touch the hilt, but the sword was heavy in her hands. She knew that she could not effectively wield the blade. She watched Ganon coming.
RUN! MOVE NOW! HE'S COMING!
She thought it was her mind screaming before she realized it was Navi. Zelda pumped her legs, holding the Master Sword clumsily. She did not know where to run to until she saw a bridge of light that had not been there before on one shore of Ganon's island above the lava, past the remains of the broken Tower. To the young woman's astonishment, there was a horse there, pawing the ground as if waiting for her.
"That's Epona," Navi informed. "She's Link's horse. I think she wants to help. You do know how to ride a horse, don't you?"
"Yes," Zelda nodded. "I'm surprised she isn't spooking and fleeing."
"She's Link's horse," Navi repeated, as if it explained the animal's strange behavior.
Zelda slipped the Master Sword into a belt on the saddle and climbed on. She was thankful that Ganon was lumbering-slow in his current form but she could swear she felt his breath at her back. The mare took off in a full gallop. Zelda clung to the saddle tight. Epona cleared the bridge. Her hooves clattered over the cobblestones of what used to be Castle Town. The ReDeads moaned, but made no move to harm the horse or Zelda. Soon, they were out in the field.
She did not know where Epona was taking her and she did not care. She could still feel the Sages. They echoed from the spirit-world that they were with her. Zelda knew, however, that her kingdom had fallen. There was no place for her to go that Ganon would not find her. It would be no use to even become Sheik again. Exile, perhaps, was an option, but where would she and her remaining people go that the reach of that monster would not find? The Evil King had designs not just on Hyrule, but the world. Hyrule was the key-kingdom, the land that kept the Ancient Evil at bay. It had been resurrected in Ganondorf. If Hyrule fell, so would the world.
And today, Hyrule had fallen.
The horse halted at the steps leading into Kakariko Village. Zelda took Link's sword and made her way up into the little town. The townspeople gathered to see her.
"Princess Zelda?" one man asked.
"Your dress is tattered and you're covered in blood!" one woman shouted. "What has happened to you? Are you hurt?"
A few people bowed to her. Navi flitted around her head.
Zelda took the Master Sword and struck it into the ground, breathing heavily. She fell to her knees. "The Hero…" she began, "The Hero of Time fell. I was there. I saw it happen."
"Link's dead?" one young boy asked.
Zelda nodded. She let tears fall down her dirty cheeks. "I am sorry… I failed you all," she sobbed, "I can no longer be your princess, your queen. I don't deserve the honor. This. Is. All. My. Fault."
She felt a hand on her back. It was Impa's. The Sages appeared as motes of light and took solid form in the center of the village.
"No, your grace," Impa intoned. "The boy wasn't strong enough."
"He was!" Zelda shot back. "He fulfilled the prophecy perfectly and you know it! He awakened every Sage, you included! He just… he just…." She turned to the people gathered around her. "I suggest you prepare to leave for other lands, Labrynna, Holodrum…. Across the sea… if you don't want to become servants of Ganondorf. I think that's the only recourse left. Save yourselves. The dream of Hyrule is done."
"A new Hero will rise up!" a young woman said, "At least that's what the Book of Mudora says! All we have to do is find him!"
Zelda shook her head. She stared up at the sword with the sunlight gleaming off the edges. It still had a little blood on the blade – whether it was Ganon's or Link's she did not know. It was then that it hit her. She was living a nightmare before, but now she realized that she had watched Link – her Link – die. He wasn't just the Chosen Hero to her. Memories came to her of their meeting in the garden, how sweet, polite and dumbfounded he was – and of her following him around as Sheik. Feelings for him had begun to build. He was a noble soul, easy to fall in love with. Now he was gone, cut through the heart… and still he'd tried to fight.
He'd fought well, too. Maybe he was ashamed of her for telling her people to flee, to give up Hyrule without a fight. Her concern, however, was protecting her people. A kingdom wasn't land, after all, it was people. Zelda questioned the wisdom of the Goddesses – which was unlike her to do. The great tasks – they were too much for one man – and Link was a boy, a child's soul in an adult body. He had the purity of a child – which spurred him to complete the tasks without question just to help her (she sobbed again, an utter wail this time). He was only one person in the end, one boy.
Impa picked her up and lead her to her old home. "You need to rest, your highness," she said. All the former princess of Hyrule could do was to sob into her caretaker's side.
That night, drums could be heard all around Kakariko Village. They did not come from the village, but all around in the fields, echoing into the dark.
While the Hylians gathered in the village were mourning, the beasts were celebrating. Viscren, ex-Commander of the Royal Guard, knew the village would not be attacked this night. The monsters were busy exulting in their victory.
"Do you suppose they're readying?" Gondo – an ex guard under Vicren's command asked.
"No," Viscren said, "They're beasts. They're happy at the moment because their master is happy and that's all they really know. They're probably doing something more primal."
"A celebration feast. They're probably roasting what's left of our Hero over a spit or something."
"Eaugh! How can you think like that?" Gondo exclaimed. "I feel I'm going to be sick!"
"Do you have any idea what moblins eat?" Viscren said, "I've seen them eat their own and it's said they like our taste even more. We won't get a body to bury, I can guarantee that. The good news is that we have some time to prepare. The monsters are distracted. They think they've done away with their greatest foe, but they didn't' count on us."
"Gondo, my friend," Viscren said slapping him on the back, "While I hate to go against the wishes of our fair Lady Zelda, I think we'd honor our Hero of Time if we fought for our land. If one boy can take on the world like he did, why are we huddled together like scared animals?"
"What's that glow?"
Two tiny, golden glowing motes appeared before the two men. They stared at the grains of light for a moment before feeling something rush into them as the grains vanished into their chests.
"Well, that was different," Viscren said.
"Hey, didn't Lady Zelda say something about the Triforce of Courage shattering into grains of sand and disappearing?" Gondo ventured. "I think….."
"We've been found worthy…" Viscren finished. "Look at the sky, Gondo."
The night sky was filled with glowing golden streaks hurtling across the sky like a mass meteor shower. The lights fell over Kakariko Village, Zora's Domain, the Death Mountain area, LonLon Ranch and the southern forests.
At LonLon Ranch, there was a young woman who did not yet know the fate of the friend she called "Fairyboy," but who knew that, no matter what happened, she was going to fight for what's hers and protect her beloved animals. There was a man who, upon learning the fate of the young man who broke the curse that had held sway over his mind, determined himself to fight in that boy's name. There was a man there who knew he was in no condition to fight, but could provide nourishment in the form of milk and eggs to the people who would defend the land.
In the Goron City, there was a young chieftain's son who would fight in the memory of the person he was named after. He would aid his father in rallying his people.
In the desert, the thieves decided that for the free life that they desired, they must set their deadly skills to the one they once called king. They had a Sage on their side now.
All of the Sages returned to their homes to stir up their people. There would be no more hiding under threats hoping for a Hero to come. The time to fight for themselves was now. Even the gentle Kokiri of the southern forests determined themselves to fight. They could not leave their forest, but they could defend it from invading monsters and they could craft fine weapons from materials the forest provided. They became the finest of arrow-smiths.
The people of Hyrule became the new bearers of Courage.
That is how the Sealing War began.
Zelda became the people's queen, although she lived like them – in hiding, exile and in poor villages that scrapped to defend themselves. She fought alongside her people and learned how to use a sword, though not the Master Sword. The holy blade remained in her keeping – for it was bonded to the soul of the Hero and no other could wield it. It served as inspiration for the people, as well as songs played upon the Ocarina of Time by her soft lips and deft fingers.
The war dragged on for many years and created many heroes. There was Mido the Great – a Kokiri child who slew a thousand keese with a slingshot and a hundred moblins with a bow. There was Neeru of the Desert who cut down dragons. There was Eko, a boy from Kakariko Village who grew up to beat back poes and shadow-spirits with nothing more than a large stick.
Then there was the story some of the Hylian Knights had of breaking through the lines of an impossible charge when they saw a riderless horse break out ahead of them. Some of the warriors could have sworn it was old Epona, acting as though she had a rider when she didn't even have a saddle on to be empty. They followed her and gained the victory in that battle. Some men and women swore they saw the transparent figure of the Hero of Time riding her. In fact, Impa was sure that's what she saw.
As the war to seal away evil wore on, however, the casualties were heavy. Almost all the members of the old order of Hylian Knights were slain, including the husband that Lady Zelda had chosen. It took much fighting and pain to beat back the ever growing monsters' country that Hyrule had become. Even areas that were liberated stayed so for only a short while before being overtaken again. Everyone involved wished that the Hero of Time had been successful those long years ago, for if he had, Hyrule would not have been filled with such blood and grief.
Lady Zelda's steps were wobbly as she made her way down one of the halls of what had been Ganon's Palace. The Master Sword was heavy in her hands but she carried it for this most auspicious occasion.
Ganondorf kneeled before her in chains. He knelt upon the dias where his throne used to be – a man with bestial features. The chains he was bound in were formed from spirit, created from the strength of the Sages and the courage of the people. Zelda was very old. Her hair was gray and her hands were wrinkled. Her sons stood beside her ready to catch her should she fall. Ganondorf laughed.
"I wouldn't laugh if I were you," she told him bluntly. "You're the one in chains. Hyrule is ready to seal you once and for all."
Ganondorf laughed again. "You know that the final blow can only be struck by that sword you hold and that sword can only be wielded by the Hero. I killed him decades ago. I fed him to my loyal servants. There's not even bones left of that one."
"You may have struck him down, but his life inspired my people. In a way, he's become more powerful in death than he was in life."
"Even so, you cannot wield his sword."
Zelda could not hold the sacred sword straight. Ganondorf chortled. Zelda narrowed her eyes. "I will find a way," she said.
A figure appeared before her – like smoke at first. It became more solid, but remained translucent. Ganondorf's eyes widened. Zelda gasped. No one else in the room made any sign of having seen what she was seeing, not even the Sages. It seemed that even Navi, who floated by Sage of the Forest Saria, had not seen the figure.
"Let me help," the figure said.
The ghost nodded. He was dressed the same as he was the day he died, but was without wounds.
"You're dead! You're dead!" Ganondorf howled. The Sages and the warriors of Hyrule looked at him like he'd lost his mind. To them, he was screaming at the air.
"Yeah, I am, thanks," Link replied. "Can't find peace until you're gone. Zelda, hold out the sword."
Dumbfounded, Zelda obeyed. Link ran his incorporeal hands along the blade. "Fi," he said, "Fi…I need you to do something for me, okay? I cannot hold you right now, but the King of Evil needs to be sealed away. Can you trust Zelda for me, just for a few minutes? Let her use you. Let her use you this once, then you can go back to sleep, okay?"
Link stepped back. "It's okay now. You can strike. Strike true."
"You know the sword-soul's name?"
"Of course, why wouldn't I?"
"I'll be able to move on," Link's spirit said with a smile. He began to fade. "I'll be waiting for you in another life."
He was gone.
Zelda held up the Master Sword. With a mighty strike, she thrust it through Ganondorf's heart. The old warlock howled and spat curses as a white light enveloped him. He vanished from sight. The people in the throne room cheered and Zelda breathed a sigh of relief.
When she walked to the remains of the Temple of Time to put the Master Sword in its rightful place, she saw the Triforce before her, in whole. Her piece of Wisdom had joined Power and Courage streaked back from all corners of Hyrule to reassemble. The old queen reached out and touched it. She knew that she could not bring Link back or reverse Time, but her other wishes were granted and the Triforce went back into the Sacred Realm.
Truly, however, her wishes for Hyrule had been granted by the people's courage.
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