Disclaimer and Notes: I do not own the Legend of Zelda and related characters, though I might enjoy owning an army of Moblins someday. Do my bidding, my pretties!
This story is based upon the classic “Legend of Zelda” (aka Hyrule Destiny / Hyrule Fantasy) game, the first in the series in all of its 8-bit, left to the imagination glory. This story, however, has absolutely no connection to the Legend of Zelda animated series or to the comics, as I wanted to take the elements of the game in my own direction and to create something enjoyable for someone who’s never seen those supplemental materials.
Night would approach soon. The boy crouched over a fallen log near the edge of a slope and looked out over the thick forest. The leaves on the trees were painted golden in the rays of sunset and scattered the light. It was lonely out here. The young man’s long ears twitched, listening to birds and insects, alert for anything amiss. Even the snap of the smallest twig could catch his attention. His ears and his senses were so fine-tuned that he could detect danger in his sleep and immediately rouse himself. He only slept deeply when he felt completely safe.
Link brought a piece of thick beef jerky to his mouth and tore off a chunk. He’d bought a bag of the stuff at the last merchant’s den he’d visited. He tested its flavor. It was thick and hurt his jaw to chew, but it wasn’t heavily spiced – a sign that it was genuine. He’d gotten some stuff a while back that had tasted awful and was much too hot – the spice had not masked the greasy, gamey flavor of what Link guessed must have been dog, rat, or even some kind of monster-flesh. The stuff he was eating now tasted richly of beef – he’d have to remember that merchant. He was hard enough to find… holed up in the rock of a mountain only to have his place flushed out with a well-laid explosive.
The whole of southern Hyrule was living in fear right now. All of the inns, shops and personal residences were hidden. People set up bases in rocks, or were ingeniously hidden within the trunks of great trees, behind brush, or had dug their dens beneath the roots of trees. If Link wanted help from anyone, he had to ferret them out. He looked for subtle signs in the mountainsides and in the trees that didn’t look quite natural and then used black powder bombs or fire to uncover secret passages. From what he’d been told by that old Impa woman and by the man who’d given him his first sword, he was going to be the one to restore this land, to take away the fear.
His work was easer now that he’d proven himself to the old swordsman who lived atop the hillside by the great waterfall. Link how had a nice blade of strong steel that shone silver in the sun. He’d first handled a wooden sword – it was the typical training sword of an aspiring knight and was made of hard, honed wood. In Link’s hands, it could do significant damage – particularly to weak enemies, but there were some hardy monsters he’d have to merely beat up and run away from. With sharp steel in his hand he could finish the job.
For a moment, Link wondered how he had gotten himself into this. Actually, he’d wondered this a lot during his journey. Pieces of a holy relic jingled in a pouch on his belt. An old wound in his right leg itched. He was only twelve and he’d been charged with saving a kingdom to which he did not belong and a princess he’d never met. The boy was a traveler, a perpetual wanderer born outside the borders of Hyrule. He’d had no destination and no place he’d cared to return to anytime soon. Some folks asked him if he was a runaway. Some asked if he was an orphan. The young man never gave anyone a straight answer. As far as he was concerned, his past wasn’t anything that anyone needed to know.
He had not even known that he’d wandered into what the world considered the “key kingdom” until he’d sensed an oppressive feeling in the air and began seeing monstrosities. From what he’d heard, Hyrule had been in turmoil for some time. Most of its citizens had moved to the ancient lands in the largely infertile north while the south was robed in a cloak of fear. According to the old woman he’d saved from a group of beasts, Hyrule was lying in wait for a prophesied Hero to save the land and to restore the ancient royal order.
Impa had said that she sensed it in him, the Hero’s Essence – whatever that was. While Link knew well what magic was – for it was the birthright of all who had the pointed ears – he was wary of prophecies and proclamations of destiny. He was sure that the Goddesses did just what they pleased and largely left the world alone for people to decide their own fates. Most evil, he knew, came from what men did to each other – not from magic. Still, he’d accepted the old woman’s mandate. Impa had described her Princess Zelda as being a beautiful girl around Link’s age, but, honestly, Link didn’t care if she looked like a frog. What had happened to her just wasn’t right and he wasn’t going to let it stand. He also saw the way people looked at him. It did not matter that he had not been born here – he had traveled long enough in this country to get to know its people. Hyrule was his country now. These were his people. Still, he wondered at the wisdom of trusting someone like him to really help them – as independent and as skilled in the arts of survival as he was, he was still a child.
Impa was safe in one of the secret mountain caverns. Link was out here in the wilds, searching for the fifth of the ancient labyrinths. Was he killing evil creatures or holy creatures? Link did not know. The old temples had been overrun with the minions of Ganon – clearly evil or at least mindless – and some merely magical shadows and spells. The guardians of the Triforce pieces, however, may have been once-good or neutral creatures set in place by Hyrule’s royalty to keep Ganon’s claws at bay. The Demon King’s minions stayed out of the rooms the guardians were in and Link would watch them cringe in the corridors as the greater beasts would roar.
Beasts they were, though. Link did not enjoy fighting certain monsters face to face. The undead creatures – the Stalfos and Gibdos - disturbed him deeply. He knew that they were probably conjured of pure magic at best and already dead at worst, but he hated the thought that in severing spines and running his sword through leathered, dusty flesh, that he was desecrating the remains of common dead people, or even the remains of once-noble knights. He wondered; if he died upon this quest if his body would be made into one of those monsters. The thought chilled his bones.
He hated fighting Moblins, too. They were ugly creatures – huge, fat and with faces that made them look like they’d been the result of an unholy coupling between a dog and a wild boar, but there was something vaguely human in the way they carried themselves. When Link got a good look at a Moblin’s eyes, the eyes always looked so sad. What made him feel even more squeamish about the matter of battling them was the fact that he’d met a few in caves beneath burnt-out brush that spoke with him peaceably and gave him money. The ones that did this for him never explained why they did it. Link assumed that there must have been a divide in Ganon’s ranks and a few of the beasts wanted to see their master fall. Whether this was because they wanted to live free and wild or whether they were hoping to fill in the gap left by a dead tyrant was anyone’s guess. When he did fight them, he remembered that it was him or they and that he had many good people counting on him. He tried to think of them as nothing but monsters. It was always harder to do that if he’d just visited one of the helpful ones in hiding.
Link, the child and one-man army, crouched; chasing the dried meat he’d eaten with a fresh apple he’d picked this morning drawn out of his food bag. He liked fresh fruit, but missed fresh meat. He could have hunted this morning, but the day was warm enough for him not to have a campfire to cook with and he didn’t like to build any unless he absolutely had to, for fear of attracting enemies. He could sometimes stand eating certain kinds of fish raw, but not meat.
He heard the rustle of a branch moving behind him. Instantly, the boy took the sword off his back and was ready to fight. Sure enough, the thunder of Moblin-feet came crashing through the undergrowth. Link focused his energy, feeling his own natural magic coursing up from his toes up through his torso and into his left arm. A bolt of light shot through his sword and slammed into one of the beasts, which fell to the forest floor heavily.
Link had once met a strange hermit who lived by the sea. After losing a few gambling matches to him, they’d formed a friendship. Ferdinand had showed Link an invention he was in the process of perfecting. It was, in the man’s words, a “portable canon,” and he’d taken to calling it a “side-arm.” It was a long metal tube with a chamber that was supposed to make use of black explosive powder to send a small piece of metal shooting out of it at high speed. Ferdinand couldn’t quite get it to work correctly – the black powder kept misfiring. He swore he’d get it to work someday and that it would replace the bow. Link had told him that such a thing would never catch on in a world where people could send their magical essences into their swords. Ferdinand had replied that there needed to be something as strong as his invention in the world for people without pointed ears and inherent magic to protect themselves.
Link kept firing and another Moblin fell. He scrambled through the forest, dodging thrown spears. One caught his shield at an angle, shearing it off his right arm. Its sharp head sliced into his skin and muscle. He cried out and found that he’d lost his ability to fight at a distance as he could not work enough magic into his sword to fire bolts when he was in pain. He just couldn’t concentrate. A Moblin warrior dove for him, its slathering maw aimed for his throat. He swept the steel blade across its face and its dark, fowl-smelling blood spattered his cheek. He tried to scramble away and as he moved, he sheathed his sword and reached for his bow.
Link did not see the Moblin that slid in behind him. He felt a crack on his skull – a pain as sharp as the whetted steel of his sword – and saw darkness and multicolored stars. Strangely, he did not fall into complete darkness. Although the world was a fog, he was aware, dimly, of his legs crumpling beneath him, of curling over his middle, and of the unique, smooth feel of leather being strapped over his wrists.
The remaining Moblins uttered a victory-yell as they wrenched him to his feet. Link could feel wet dribbles prickling down the skin of his arm and moist fabric clinging to it. Link caught a brief glimpse of his arm and flinched. He was in pain before, but now it felt like it was on fire. He was going to get sick if the blood didn’t stop flowing. Agony shot through it as the strap over his wrists was pulled forward. A big, blue-gray skinned Moblin held the other end of it. Link looked up at its angry features.
Why wasn’t he dead yet?
He staggered along as his captor lead him. Its compatriots grumbled and barked around him. The creatures had been slinging deadly spears at him – why did they capture him alive? Did they have some kind of purpose for him? Were they taking him to Ganon alive? Maybe they were just taking him back to their nest to divide as food amongst themselves. They were evil creatures, so maybe they wanted to torture him for a little while instead of killing him outright. He could feel his sheathed sword on his back. At least they were too dumb to take that. If he could just wriggle out of these bonds…
Then the other Moblins came. They came crashing over a rise, whooping and hollering. They threw their spears at Link’s captors, who responded in kind. Link felt himself being yanked around in the chaos and being dragged on his belly over the ground. He caught glimpses of the battle. The Moblins fought each other viciously. They impaled one another with spears and slashed at each other with daggers. They even tore into each other with their bare teeth and claws like enraged dogs or warring lions. Link scrambled to his feet, but when he attempted to loose himself from his bonds and grab his sword, he found the leather strap in the clawed hand of a golden-skinned Moblin with a red mane. “You come with us,” it grunted at him.
The new group of Moblins triumphed over the first, but Link found himself in the same predicament as before. This new group was made up of both blue Moblins and the rarer, golden-reddish kind. As he picked his way around the carcasses of dead Moblins, Link wondered what this was all about. He’d never known Moblins to fight each other before. Perhaps this was a skirmish over prey… food…him.
Darkness had settled over the land when Link’s escort had stopped at a clearing in the deep woods. Three Moblins sat around a campfire and the war-party grunted greetings to them and sat down upon logs and rocks. The beast that held Link’s bonds jerked him forward to a large, flat-topped boulder. “Sit,” it ordered.
Confused, Link obeyed. He felt the warmth of the campfire sink into his tired muscles. His captor grunted toward the largest Moblin in the camp – one of the ones that had not been in the war party. “Madra!”
He turned back to Link, still holding his bonds tightly. “You hurt. Madra fix you up. Good healer, she. Peace now. We not hurt you.”
Link squeaked in confusion. Madra shambled over. As the captor loosed the leather strap, Madra yanked Link’s right arm out straight, hard. He squirmed and cried out. Madra gripped his left wrist and pushed his hand down flat against the top of the boulder.
“You were thinking of reaching for your sword,” the female, surprisingly articulate voice said. “I saw your fingers twitch. I am my tribe’s healer and I want to help you. As a healer, I also know very well how to make things worse. Be good and stay still.”
Utterly surprised, Link held his arm out and let Madra examine it. She slathered something cool and strange over the wound, a gel or poultice of an origin Link could not tell. She brought out a needle and thread and with surprising delicacy, began to stitch the torn skin. Link flinched, but endured. He’d learned to endure pain much better than most children his age. His secret was not to look at wounds if he could help it. He turned his gaze away from Madra’s work and stared into the fire.
“I didn’t know there were female Moblins,” Link said slowly.
“We are rare,” Madra replied. “We lead the tribes we are in. Males are more obedient, which is why Ganon prefers to make them.”
“Why are you helping me?” Link asked.
“The Low Mountain Tribe was going to take you to Ganon,” Madra answered. “They wanted you alive. Ganon has heard of you, knows your description. The Low Mountain Tribe wanted to take you as a gift to him so that he might drink your blood. It is said that the blood of the Chosen Hero is very powerful.”
Link shivered. “So you want me alive so you can make me a gift and you want me nice and fresh?”
Tribe – us… We do not serve Ganon anymore.” High Mountain
“Huh?” Link choked. “Are you like… well…I’ve met a few helpful Moblins, but I thought they were wild cards. Is it that you are hoping I win so you can fill in the gap?”
“No,” Madra said gently as she wound a strip of cloth around Link’s arm. “The High Mountain Tribe has no use for power. We just want to live in peace in the forest like regular animals.”
“I don’t understand,” Link said, wincing as he let his wounded arm fall to his side, taking it into his lap. He noticed Madra’s watchful gaze and made no move to grab his sword. “I really don’t understand at all. Didn’t Ganon create you all? Why would you betray him?”
Another Moblin spoke up from across the fire. “Ganon is cruel,” he said simply. “We are sick of pain.”
“We are…” Madra began, “becoming ‘independent.’ You might say that we are….growing souls. We are not all magic-spawn, child. Those of us who came out female… we all have sons – and some of us daughters. I want a better future for my sons than war-fodder for Ganon. We want… to be free.”
Link looked up to Madra with sad eyes. He hadn’t noticed before, but now that the firelight hit her, he saw her enormous, baggy, limp breasts. Her chest was like that of a very old woman set upon a frame like a swine. She was one of the golden-skinned Moblins. Her eyes sparkled with intelligence and with something he’d never bothered to look for in a Moblin before – a soul.
“You speak like you’re smart,” Link said. “Most Moblins I’ve encountered only grunt or speak in short sentences.”
“Ganon needed generals, but he made a mistake when he gifted some of us with intelligence. Those of us who are able to think deeply tend to turn against him and help young heroes.”
“Thank you,” Link said with a shy smile.
“Food!” one of the party announced. Link watched as the big blue bruiser drew something from a lumpy bag he carried. He had been one of the war-party. Link recognized a bright scar across his face. He tossed something onto the fire. It steamed and hissed. It crackled with a smell like frying bacon and the skin on it began to darken and peel away from it. Link realized, to his horror, that it was arm of a slain Moblin.
They’d scavenged the battlefield dead.
The scarred one reached into the fire with a long iron fork and pulled cooked flesh from the bones. “Guest first,” he said as he proffered the wad of meat to Link. Link held up his hand and turned away. The intoxicating scent of roasted meat filled his nostrils – it smelled delicious, like rich roasted beef wrapped in crackling bacon. The boy promptly doubled over behind his sitting-rock and got sick all over the ground.
“What is wrong?” another of the war-party asked. “Madra will help him?”
“Sick-feeling from blood loss?” Madra asked as Link regained his composure.
“You…eat your own kind?” Link managed to squeak out pathetically.
“It is not good for you?” Madra asked innocently.
“No, no, no!” Link insisted. “I… I don’t eat Moblin, anyway, but yes, it is very, very bad to eat your own kind. How can you do that?”
“This one was not of our tribe,” the scarred one said.
“It’s still one of your own kind!” Link said with a hiccup of illness.
“Meat is meat,” Madra said. “Fresh flesh is hard to come by. Why let free meat go to waste?”
Link curled up on the rock. He sat up and grabbed his knees, mindful of his wounded arm. “Humans don’t do things that way. At least, we’re not supposed to.”
“We are not human,” Madra said gently. “Sometimes humans kill and just leave the bodies there. Waste. Why is that better?”
Link thought about it for a moment and thought it best not to answer. “I…I’m not hungry right now,” he finally said.
He watched the party grunt, talk and feast. He kept gulping down the last little bit of stuff left in his stomach. The Moblins, despite what they were eating, appeared to be very peaceful and personable with one another. Link tried to convince himself that it was “just their way” and remembered the many kinds of animals in the world that had no qualms about cannibalism. He decided that he should be grateful that some Moblins were “growing souls” as Madra had put it, even though it was clear that they’d retained many beastly traits. One could not fault an animal for acting like an animal, he supposed.
“Bring peace to the land,” Madra said, addressing him after a long while. “We are sick of fighting they that were once our brothers.”
Link looked down, suddenly ashamed. “I’ve killed many Moblins,” he said softly.
“I have, too,” the matriarch replied. “Do not worry about it. I’ve killed humans, too – before I decided to take the free path. Those of my species that must fall are those that are destined to - those that have chosen destruction and those incapable of making any other choice. You do what you must to survive. Maybe when peace comes, we will all be free.”
Link sighed. “I hope I don’t wind up hurting you someday.”
“You will have no reason to attack me or my tribe if we do not attack you first. You have no more reason to camp with us unless you want to.”
Link hopped off his rock. “I think I will go now. I need to keep moving – and I have a shield to replace.”
“Your arm should hold for a while,” Madra said. “There is a fairy spring near, by the rock that looks like a Lynel. My people cannot approach it, but we’ve seen its light. Fairies heal humans, do they not?”
“Yes, they do,” Link said with a nod and a smile.
“They can help you better than I could, then.”
“You helped!” Link chimed enthusiastically. “Don’t think you didn’t. I might have bled to death if you hadn’t wrapped me up – and if your tribe hadn’t rescued me, I’d be on my way to Ganon’s dinner table.”
“My tribe will never try to harm you,” Madra said. “We will fight with you if necessary, but for now, we are free. Your journey is your own.”
“An old swordsman once told me that a warrior’s way is always lonely. I will do what I must and I will get strong enough to defeat Ganon. Now I have the freedom of even more people to fight for.”
“You have a nice smile.” Madra said, trying to muster one of her own over her thick fangs and drooping jowls. “Remember that not all monsters are monsters.”
As the sun began to rise, Link walked off into the forest off to find the fifth ancient temple, a shop with a fair price on a shield, or perhaps, a friendly Moblin from another free tribe hiding in cave somewhere, waiting to give him some money. Whatever came first.