((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 6: Father's Pride

Impa and Zelda followed their Sheikah guide into the tribe's well-hidden encampment as the sun moved below the western horizon, marking the end of their second day in the company of the Sheikah scouting party. Idon, eldest son of the Chieftain and thus the "Crown Prince" of his people, had been leading a scouting/raiding group along the river looking for any siezable supplies that might help his half-starving people. His discovery of Impa and her diminutive companion had short-circuited his trip, as he had turned his men right around and escorted his youngest sister to their present "home."

The group left their horses at the edge of the encampment with some handlers. The tribe was stationed among some low, wind-eroded sandstone boulders several miles from the river. Their sand-colored tents matched the hues of the rocks perfectly, and everyone was silent in their work. Even the children played very quietly, and the whole "village" was filled with an air of tension. No woodsmoke could be smelled, no flags were displayed. It was as if the entire encampment were in hiding.

Their honor guard departed at the edges of the camp, presumably to return to their sentry posts. Idon, however, led the two women on, deeper into the camp, to the large central tent pitched between two of the biggest boulders. Inside, it was warmly lit with oil lamps and a small wood-burning iron heater. The Barrens were cold at night as winter approached.

At the head of the tent sat a tall, strong-built, imposing man, with red eyes and hair that had once been white but was shading to silver. At his side sat four other men, all white-haired, ranging in age from thirty to forty, by appearance. Other important members of the tribe sat in a semicircle on either side.

Idon stopped before the Sheikah chief. "[Headman Nightfall, I bring guests from afar. I think you may know one of them.]" The Sheikah gave a wry smile.

Impa stood forward, tears in her eyes. "[Father.]"

"[Twilight?]" Imrek rose slowly in disbelief. "[My child...]"

They embraced, father and daughter, separated for seventeen years. The four other Sheikah men pressed close, murmuring, gathering in the group hug of a reunited family. The other tribesmen muttered in astonishment. Zelda stood back, surprised, realizing that the four white-haired men were her many brothers that Impa had briefly spoken of in the past. Idon leaned over to her, already having given his greetings.

"[They are glad to see her,]" he commented.

"[You have a gift for understatement, Sunrise,]" Zelda replied.

"[She was baby sister to us all,]" Idon said. "[She was a child of light and happiness, despite her name. She brought joy to my father, she being his youngest child and only daughter.]"

"[You are named Sunrise, the eldest, and she is Twilight, the youngest. Are the others named for times of day as well?]"

Idon laughed. "[You are sharp, little fellow. I am Sunrise; next is Morningstar, then Noonsun, then Daylight, then Sunset. Father thought that Sunset would be the last, but Mother surprised him with a daughter. However...]" The Sheikah's face grew sad. "[...Mother died birthing her. Her name is Twilight for more than one reason.]"

"[I see.]"

Suddenly Impa was calling her over. "[This is my greatest friend and companion, Shadow,]" she announced to her family, putting a companionary hand on Zelda's shoulder. She lowered her voice to speak to her circle of family. "[Father, if you would send the others out...I have important things to tell you.]"

Imrek nodded, no questions asked, then waved his hand at the attending tribesmen. "[Begone, my friends. It is time for only my family.]"

Obediently, the others left.

"[Come, come, my child,]" Imrek said warmly, leading them through a flap in the rear and into a cozy, smaller area of the tent. It was furnished with low cushions and buffalo pelts, lit with the same oil lamps. "[Sit; my home is yours, daughter, you and your friend.]"

They sat, Zelda, Impa, and the Sheikah family, comfortably arrayed on the furs and pillows. All but Impa, Zelda, and Idon had removed their outer clothes and wore soft wool robes suitable for relaxing indoors. All but Zelda had removed their turbans and masks. "Sheik" still bore "his" disguise.

Impa leaned forward to face her father and brothers. "[Father, I know the first thing you want to know is where I've been these past seventeen years, why I left, and why I stayed away so long.]"

"[Indeed,]" Imrek replied.

"[I've been living in the north, in Central Hyrule,]" Impa began. "[I took on a life-oath with the King of Hyrule, and have been serving him since he saved my life.]"

"[So you've been a Hylian's lackey the past seventeen years?]" one of her brothers asked.

Impa glared sharply. "[I'm honor-bound, Morningstar, and the family of the King has been as my family.]"

"[Continue, Twilight,]" Imrek pressed gently.

"[With my friend's permission, there is something for you to know that is for the knowledge of my family only.]" Impa gestured to Zelda, taking a certain red magic stone from a carefully sealed pouch.

Zelda nodded, leaning forward so Impa could pass the stone over her forehead and activate the magical reversal. She removed her turban and mask, undoing the tight bun that hid her long, pale-blond locks from view. She shook out her long hair and opened her now-blue eyes.

The Sheikah had already half-started from their chairs. "[What trickery is this?]" Idon exclaimed, startled to discover that the "little fellow" he'd spoken to was actually a young woman.

"[This is Zelda,]" Impa explained, "[daughter of King Sardon of Hyrule, heir to his throne. She is coming with me on a mission of honor. My life-oath to her mother extends to her after the death of her parents at the hands of an evil man.]"

Imrek sat back, appeased. "[What is this mission of honor you spoke of, my child? What could be so important as to risk the life of your oath-bearer by bringing her on such a perilous journey?]"

Impa held her breath, gathering her strength to continue her confession. Once she felt steady enough to speak, she looked directly at her family. "[Father...I have a son.]"

All of them drew back in surprise, exclamations of astonishment issuing from them. Zelda knew that Impa had been declared a warrior, not a wife, by her tribe, and that she wasn't supposed to have children.

Imrek had said nothing during the entire exchange, only sat very still, staring straight at Impa. She looked almost desperate, as if begging forgiveness with her silent gaze.

"[Is this the reason you have come?]" her father asked slowly, softly.

"[And the reason I fled,]" Impa replied. "[The dishonor I suffered at the hands of the rogue Lyon resulted in fruit. I have been in Central Hyrule a little more than seventeen years to hide my dishonor. But my son wanted to know of his roots, so we came. And...]" She seemed to swallow hard. "[And I've lost him. He fell into the river with the last great storm; we searched, but the water carried him away, and...]" A single tear found its way down her cheek. "[And...I cannot find him, Father. I can't find my son.]"

Imrek regarded her, his penetrating ruby eyes watching as his daughter strove not to weep before him. His disbelief seemed apparent by his stern, focused gaze. "[Lost in the river, you say? And your search yielded nothing?]"

Zelda cleared her throat lightly. "[We tried, sir, but...]"

Imrek bowed his head, eyes closed, thinking. After several minutes he looked up again. "[Sunrise. Recall the tribesmen. Have them prepare to search the length and breadth of the River Haucha. The rest of you, go. Your sister and I shall have words.]"

Obediently, the brothers rose and filed out, not questioning their father's command. Zelda stood as well and began to wind up her disguise again, passing the ruby stone over her own eyes to restore the red color. She looked to Impa questioningly and received a nod in return, so she reluctantly followed the brothers out.

Impa turned clear eyes to her father, ready and expecting whatever stern reprimand he decided to give. But his face was kind and gently smiling, and what he said surprised her.

"[My child, you are home. Come to me, and tell your dear old Papa all that's happened to you.]"

Tears welled behind her eyes as his gentle tone reminded her of all the times she had run to her beloved father for comfort and support. It had been a long time...far too long since she'd felt her father's warm embrace, his firm hand on her shoulder to reassure her. With a grateful smile, Impa moved forward and sat on the warm buffalo hide at the feet of her father. And she told him everything.

* * * * *

Link leaned further back against the soft haystack and sighed. He liked the stables here; they were clean and well-kept, full of horsey-type noises and smells--like manure, molasses, and fresh hay. Soothing sounds and scents that helped relax him. A mother dove had a little nest on a rafter just at the edge of his line of sight, and she regarded him with one shiny black eye. It was dim in the hayloft where he sat, but not too dark. A good hiding place.

Hiding? Link sighed again, this time in exasperation with himself. Yes, he had to admit he was hiding. The rest of the interview with Duke Lyon was a muggy blur in his memory; he had barely heard the man over the pounding in his ears, and there had been such a rush of icy cold through his veins that he thought his legs wouldn't support him. His mouth had filled with cotton and his tongue had gone numb, and all he'd managed to do was mumble his way through the pleasantries and give by-habit, rote answers to whatever Lyon asked him.

Lyon had seemed brusque at first, but after it was established that Link was not really connected to the Sheikah other than by his mother's blood, he had been more pleasant. Link had gotten the impression that this man harbored great dislike for the Sheikah, especially by the way he seemed to spit the name out whenever he said it. Link had slowly grown more and more fearful and distressed when he recalled what kind of clothes he was wearing, his appearance, and his bloodline. It became impossible for him to gather the wits to tell the Duke his true reason for coming to the South, so when they were excused he'd followed Jared dumbly out of the hall, then asked to be excused for some air. Jared had shown him to the door and he'd stumbled outside. After finding the inviting door of the stables, he'd ducked inside and tried to find a place to think.

Link sighed again and ran a hand through his hair, then paused, pulling a few of the golden locks forward in his fingers to look at them. Bright yellow-blond, like fine, soft wires spun of gold, it flashed when he was in the sun and glittered dully when he was in dim light. Just like Jared's; just like that of the noble Duke who still sat within the great hall. To say nothing of the rest of his features.

Why didn't I make some sort of connection the moment I saw Jared? Link wondered to himself, feeling tired and withdrawn. Or when I saw his resemblance to Lyon? The two of them, father and son; they look so much alike it's uncanny--and I look so much like them it's just plain creepy. So much the same...and yet we're perfect strangers. I came all this way, left everything I knew, lost Epona, Zelda, and everyone...just to wash up on my father's doorstep and find out that he hates me...before he even knows who I am. I found him without even trying; somehow I thought it'd be harder to find him. And when I did...I thought we'd have some kind of...bond, or something. Trevor and Kelvin used to talk about their dads... Maybe...what if he's not...?

Breifly, Link wondered if some other man named Lyon was truly his sire, but an image of the Duke's all-too-identical features flashed through his mind and laid any doubts to rest. If that whole Time snafu had chucked me ahead twenty years instead of seven, that would be me, he marveled. Then another thought struck him. Why didn't Lyon and Jared recognize me? Shouldn't they have noticed how much I look like them?

"Wait just a minute..." he mumbled. "The eyes." Link smacked himself on the forehead and groaned. I should have caught a clue the moment Jared shied away from me! The Sheikah are their mortal enemies. Lyon can't see a son in a red-eyed man--he won't see me. It'll never enter his mind--the idea that a Sheikah could be his--

Link leaned suddenly up from the haystack to sit cross-legged, his elbows resting on his knees as his hands drew into fists. "I can't tell them," he whispered. What would happen if a red-eyed youth stood before Duke Lyon and claimed to be his son? Pure disaster, he was sure. The Sheikah were hated and feared here--and right now he was as good as one of them. No one would believe him--worse, they would scorn and revile him worse than they had already. He'd seen the disguised glances, the haughty disdain, the muffled whispering as he'd gone with Jared through the halls. He knew of whom they were thinking, and what they were probably thinking of him. Lyon--the leader of these people, at war with the Sheikah--who hated the Sheikah more than anything, would probably kill him the moment the words, "You're my father," were out of his mouth.

I can't tell him--I can't tell anyone--not while I'm stuck like this... Oh, Impa, where could you be? I've found my father and I want to tell him who I am, but I can't because...because of who you are. I'm so confused. How could a man who hates Sheikah so much have cared anything for you? He left you--and me--so he obviously doesn't care at all for Sheikah. Or half-breeds.

Link's fists tighened as he fought back the sudden and unmanly tears that welled hot in his eyes. He was uncertain of how to proceed--this was different than anything he'd ever tried to tackle. Here he wasn't the Hero; there was no great enemy to fight. To everyone here, he was just an ordinary youth--and a half-Sheikah youth, at that. He felt trapped and alone, wishing fervently he'd never, ever come on this stupid journey. Why did I come here? Zelda told me it wasn't a good idea. I should've heeded her. Impa... Impa, you warned me...you knew this would happen. I should've listened to you. I'm so lost...I wish you were here. I need you...Mother...

Link no longer fought the tears that slowly trickled down his cheeks. He rested his face in his hands and softly cried, no longer caring how unmanly or foolish he appeared. It was still too soon after the Temple of Time for him to be fully--emotionally--an adult. After all...somewhere deep down inside his heart...wasn't he still just a ten-year-old little boy?

To Be Continued...