((LEGAL STUFF: Link, Zelda, Impa, and the other game-based characters are property and copyrights of Nintendo. No infringement intended. No profit made--these stories are purely for reader enjoyment. The new characters introduced here are mine, purely fictional--do not use them without my permission! Any similarities to events and persons in reality or other peoples' stories are purely coincidental. Thank you for your patience.))
The Legend of Zelda: Journey to the Past
by Becky Tailweaver
Chapter 5: River Rescue
Link caught hold of Epona's bridle rope as he went in after his horse. The raging water caught and dragged him, pulling him under and throwing him up. Hand over hand, he pulled himself to Epona, barely avoiding the panicked mare's thrashing legs. Clinging to her soaked mane, he tried to calm her, but she was fearfully and determinedly swimming forward, wherever the river might take them, in search of the shore.
The river buffeted him and Epona, forcing them over boulders and slamming them into logs. The blackness of the storm made it impossible to see the obstacles and brace or avoid them, so they suffered the full brunt of the abuse. Choking on the water that barely allowed him breath, Link managed to hang on to Epona's mane and rope until something with the force of the Megaton Hammer struck him in the shoulder, breaking his hold.
Caught against the object, Link felt the rope still in his hand jerk taut, strain, and he was pulled back into the flow. He struggled to the surface, coughing, trying to pull himself to Epona's side again. The rope felt strangely slack, and when he found the other end, it was frayed and snapped. "Epona!" he managed to choke before the water sucked him under again.
* * * * *
Impa kept a firm hold on her gelding's mane, swimming alongside the horse, heading for the bank. Zelda could barely be seen through the rain during the intermittent flashes of lightning, forging for the shore clinging to her own mare.
Impa felt her horse trip and catch footing on the riverbed, finally in shallow enough water to stand. She let Cloud drag her to shore, soon catching up to her sworn ward. "Are you all right?" she asked the princess.
"I'm fine. Where's Link?" Zelda replied, raising her voice to be heard over the wind.
"I'm going to find out." The Sheikah handed Cloud's reins to Zelda and turned back to search the river.
Navi, relinquishing her place clinging to Zelda's hair, zipped out over the water, her blue-white glow lighting the churning waves. Loudly squeaking her anguish in the fairy tongue, she streaked from place to place, upstream, downstream, searching constantly. "I can't find him!" she cried, coming to flit about Zelda's head. "I can't see him anywhere! Oh, Link!" The fairy lapsed back into shrill utterances in her own language, beside herself with sadness and fear.
Impa was at nearly the same state, though she tried not to show it. However, Zelda could read her grief in every movement made. Pelting downstream on foot, the Sheikah frantically searched the waters, but no sign of the Hero could be found. At last, she gave up, soaked and muddy, bruised and scratched.
Even through the rain, Zelda could see the tears on her mentor's face, and could almost feel her agony as she fell to her knees beside the river. "Link...oh, Link..." she moaned, then lost herself, using her native tongue. "[My son...]"
* * * * *
Link began to be aware of certain sensations: The light, fine drizzle of rain on his face; the grayish light of a cloudy morning shining through his eyelids; the sharpness of the rocks against his back and the ripple of water against his legs; the coolness of the breeze; the clomp-scritch of shod horse hoofbeats on loose rock; the scratch-grind of booted feet on stone; the voices...
Link found himself unable to do more than stir and groan as the voices came into focus. "...ye oot o' yer mind, lad? He's Sheikah. Yer father'd break th' willa switch o'er yer backsoide." The voice was a man's, but rough, older, lanced with a thick brogue.
"Come on, Bryant. He's harmless. The poor chap can't even raise his head." That voice was male, though younger and smoother, with a proper, lilting accent.
"But he's Sheikah, lad!"
Link felt kind but firm fingers pull his turban and mask away from his face, still unable to move.
"Look at this, Bryant. Look at his face. He's no more Sheikah than I am. He must be a traveler in disguise. We're obligated to help our fellow Hylians, right?"
"As ye say, lad, but..."
Link couldn't move to resist when strong hands lifted him from the river, carrying him away from the cold water. He could barely stir as he was placed on horseback and a thick, leather-shirted form mounted up behind him, steadying him. Unwillingly, as the horses began their bouncing movement, he felt himself drawn back into the blackness he'd just so recently left.
* * * * *
Impa seemed numb as she and Zelda rode into the River Barrens with the light of day. Zelda had not said anything to her since their loss of Link, but she could tell that the Sheikah woman was heartbroken, though doing her best not to show it--she still felt honor-bound to protect the princess first.
Poor little Navi had barely made a sound, but Zelda could still hear her quietly crying beneath her turban. The tiny fairy was still distraught from losing her best friend.
Ahead of her, Impa reined her horse to a halt. Zelda came up beside. "What is it...?"
Impa raised a hand sharply. "We are already discovered," she whispered. Raising her voice, she called out in Sheikah. "[Come out! We mean no harm.]"
Zelda gasped when no less than a dozen figures seemed to melt out of the landscape, up from the ground and out from behind seemingly impossible bushes and rocks. They drew into a close circle around the two riders.
Impa seemed to be searching the masked faces. Pausing her gaze over one man, whose silver-white hair peeked from beneath his turban, she smiled grimly. "[I greet you, Sunrise,]" she said. "[Perhaps you recognize me?]"
The white-haired stranger held up a hand to his men. "[And why should I?]" His voice was rugged and low.
"[I am Twilight, youngest and only daughter of Chieftain Nightfall.]" She pulled her turban completely off and made sure her mask was well away from her face.
The man named Idon drew back his own mask, revealing a time-worn, weather-lined, leather-tanned face, set with bright ruby eyes and crowned with the same white hair as Impa's. "[I greet you, Twilight.]" He smiled. "[I welcome you home, little sister.]"
* * * * *
When Link awoke again he had no idea how much time had passed. Suddenly, remembering the events of the raft and river, he frantically struggled upright, tossing blankets about and startling the room's other occupant.
"Hey! Hey, settle down!"
Link, recognizing the youthful, accented voice, managed to stop moving long enough to clear his head and his vision. He lay in a bed in a room that was ornate but functional. Coming towards him was a sight that made him blink in surprise.
A young man, perhaps fifteen, was crossing the room quickly, his boots clumping on the floor. What made Link stare was his slightly too-long, golden blond hair, his handsome, angular face, and striking blue eyes. It was a face that reminded him spookily of a mirror.
The young man came up beside him but then drew to a halt with a sudden intake of breath when they made eye contact. "Sweet Golden Power!" he hissed. "Of all the fools in the land--! Bryant was right. You are Sheikah!" He turned to hurry away.
"Wait!" Link pawed his way out of the bed, dressed only in a white nightrobe. "Wait, please!"
The youth turned to him. "You--you speak the King's Hylian!" he breathed, almost surprised. "Oddly, but well. And your face..." He cocked his head. "You are a puzzle, aren't you?"
Link relaxed a notch. This boy was fearful of him but curious, his naivete making him eager despite the obvious taboo of associating with Sheikah. "Can you tell me what happened? I fell off a raft...lost my horse..."
"We pulled you off the riverbank, out like a light," the young man responded. He looked at Link sharply, his gaze calculating. "Are you Sheikah?"
"No," Link answered quickly, then shrugged self-consciously. "Well, I'm half Sheikah, anyway."
The youth's face lit a little. "Oh, really! That's quite an odd--ah, never mind. I'll see that you get your clothes and gear back."
"Thank you," Link said. "I really appreciate you helping me out back there."
"No trouble at all, my friend," the young man replied. "Though there might be a spot of it once my father finds out what I've brought in. He has no love for the Sheikah, that's for sure."
"They've been raiding, stealing, killing, and plundering our country for about seventeen years now," the youth responded. "They've come to be known as savages and killers. I've met some." He shuddered. "And it's not an experience I'd like to repeat--no offense, though."
"None taken," Link said. "I wasn't raised among the Sheikah and I don't know all that much about them." It was only a half-truth, Link reasoned to himself; Impa hadn't taught him too much.
"You don't say!" The young man appeared very interested, but shook himself. "I say, we haven't even had proper introductions, and already we're talking like friends! My name's Jared." He shook Link's hand heartily.
"I'm Link. I come from the north, actually."
"Fascinating! So that explains your odd speech. You'll have to tell me--" A knock on the door interrupted Jared's sentence. "Ah! That'll be your things, just up from being dried. Don't worry, we didn't paw through your belongings." He opened the door and took a satchel from someone outside. Closing the door, he turned to Link, who pounced on the bundle.
"My bow! My knife!" Everything was there, even the things that had been on his belt. His clothes had been washed and dried.
"I'll wait right outside your door," Jared said, stepping out. "If you'll dress, I'll see you to the main hall shortly."
It was only five minutes until Link opened the door, feeling confident once again, dressed and with his equipment back on his belt and his bow back over his shoulder. Jared greeted him and led him down the ornate hallway and to some stairs.
"What is this place?" Link asked as they walked.
"This is my family home," Jared replied. "Leonine Castle, it's called. Quite a grand place, I'm told, if you're not used to it. I live here with my father and my older brother Leo. We're just north of the Daneed River. I hear the Sheikah call it 'Haucha'."
"How long was I asleep?" Link asked.
"You slept for the rest of the day while Bryant and I rode home with you. Then you've been here for a night and a day. It's just after sunset, now."
"I know how disorienting that is," Jared commented. "Leo and I were sparring in the courtyard with wooden swords--back when we were ten and twelve--and he knocked me a good one in the temple. Put me out for two days." He laughed at the memory. "Leo's my brother. I think he's about your age, but much taller."
Link gave a half-smile. Jared, just about fifteen, was only a scant inch shorter than he was. Part of his Sheikah heritage meant being short, slim, and wiry. Never quite as tall as his pure Hylian peers. "Is your father the ruler here?"
"I guess you could call him that," Jared responded, looking thoughtful. "He's what you'd call in the north a lord, or a baron. Down here he's known as the Duke. Here we are!"
An orderly at the door pulled himself to attention as the two youths passed through the high, arched doorway and entered a grand and rustic hall, at one end a massive fireplace and at the other a long, oaken table. The flagstone floor was covered by soft, intricately woven rugs, and the walls were decorated with swords and trophies of the hunt. A few suits of armor stood in corners.
The orderly announced them. "His young Lordship Jared of Leonine and..." He glanced down his nose at Link, looking disdainful. "...and companion."
From the far side of the room, at a desk near the fireplace, a golden-haired head rose from the papers being studied. A tall, well-built man rose from his chair, his face care-worn with lines marking him in his late thirties. His golden-blond hair was just slightly too long, slightly rebellious, matching in color his short, trim beard. His face was angular, his eyes blue, and his whole countenance hauntingly familiar.
"My son," he greeted with a glance at his boy, his voice deep, kindly, a trifle firm, and bearing the same accent that marked his son's. "So; this is the Sheikah man my son brought in from the riverside."
Link etched a deep bow, feeling profoundly respectful of this man, yet at the same time oddly afraid. The remarkable resemblance between the lord and his son was amazing, and yet the strangely familiar faces they bore made him ill-at-ease. "Your Lordship, er, Your Excellency..." He cleared his throat, unsure of how to proceed. "I, uh, thank you for your generosity, sir."
The man smiled, something oddly melancholy about him. "You have the eyes of a Sheikah, my boy, yet you do not have the face of one. Something about you says 'Hylian'. If I'm not mistaken, you're a halfling, are you not?"
Link was taken by surprise by the term. "I...suppose you could say that, sir. My name is Link. I'm from the north."
The man nodded. "I'm pleased to meet you. As the proprietor of these lands, I welcome you to my home. I am Duke Lyon of Leonine."
Link felt all the air forced out of his lungs in a single whoosh, struggling to control the iron fist about his ribs. The sensation caused his heart to pound through his chest as he stared at the tall man, barely able to hide his shock, his legs growing weak beneath him.
To Be Continued...