((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 8: The Captain's Interrogation

Dinner at Leonine was delicious but short, with little conversation about the table. Link, dressed in his new Southern garb, kept mostly to himself as he sat at an honored place at Jared's right hand. Most interaction was in the form of "Please pass the..." or comments about the weather. Leo was conspicuously not present; evidently his promise to not share a meal with the "tribesman" had been truthful.

Link decided he didn't particularly like the grizzled, iron-eyed man that sat across the table from him, the one that had been introduced as Lyon's Captain of the Guard, Rishto. The Captain ate his food with deliberate slowness, and spent much of his time glaring at Link. Link felt decidedly uncomfortable under the older man's piercing gaze; Rishto seemed to posess a sharp mind and was obviously hard at work trying to figure Link out.

The meal was late, anyway, so when Link excused himself and all but fled from the hard, cold eyes of Captain Rishto, no one thought anything of it when he made his way back to the room he'd first awakened in. He'd also changed into his new clothes there before dinner; a loose white shirt with a forest green vest, black pants, and high, glossy black boots. With the new garb, he could have passed for a native, if not for his red eyes. He changed into his borrowed nightclothes and was preparing to go to sleep when there was a tentative knock at the door.

Link paused just before reaching the candle. "Yes?"

"Link? It's me, Jared."

"Come in."

The younger boy hesitantly pushed the door open, stepped inside, and closed it. He slowly walked over and sat beside Link on the bed. "Look, Link, I'm sorry for how my brother behaved today. He's...not good with strangers and...he hates Sheikah. Almost more than my father. They...ah...killed our mother...a long time ago."

"It's not your fault. Don't apologize," Link told him. "I can't blame anyone for that. It's my own stupid fault..." He trailed off before he could say too much. They killed Jared's mother...thank the Golden Powers he doesn't hate me, too. I wish I had that blasted eye-changing stone!

"Whatever did you do?" Jared asked. "You didn't ask to be born a half-breed--oh, I'm sorry!"

Link shrugged with a half smile. "Don't worry, don't worry. I guess I'd better get used to it." Hm. "Half-breed." First time anyone's called me that. Funny--it stings more than I thought it would; more than "halfling." Maybe it's just me.

"I...just wanted to say I'm sorry."

Link managed a soft smile for the lad. "Well, you've said it three times now. Do you think that's enough?"

Jared chuckled ruefully. "I guess so...but only if you think so."

"All right, I think so. I've forgiven you," Link announced mock-ceremoniously. "You may now continue your existence guilt free..." His voice grew ominous. "...for now..."

Jared leaned over giggling, trying to keep his laughter inaudible to the butlers in the hall.

"Just wait until next time!" Link continued in his whispered "pompous judge" imitation. "A single slip of the tongue, and down you shall go!"

"You sound just like old Hanswort, the bailiff!" Jared chortled. "That man has such airs, and he's always snooting about with his frilly coat and velvet cap!"

They both smothered laughter in their hands, Link feeling absurdly like a ten-year-old again, hiding with a sibling from prying parents to stay up and play. So this is what I missed, he thought, watching Jared wipe mirthful tears from his blue eyes. Growing up without a brother... The thought struck him clearly as he focused for the first time on his relationship to Jared. He's my brother, he realized, wondering why that patent fact hadn't occurred so blatantly to him before now. My little brother.

It didn't matter much to him that Jared was only his half-brother; Jared was a friendly, courageous, intelligent boy. Link did not mind at all being blood related to someone like him. Now Leo, on the other hand... Link suppressed a shudder. His other half-brother was not so pleasant to be around.

"You'd better be off," Link reminded the younger boy. "Your father might worry about me warping your fragile young mind or something like that."

"He doesn't worry about me," Jared said with a shrug, rising off the bed. "In fact, he's the one who told me to come out to the stable and keep an eye on you--" The boy broke off, realizing how that had sounded. "I'm sorry! Gah, here I go again..."

"I know," Link sighed. Oh, yeah, the terrible Sheikah horse-thief loose in the stables. "I know. It's okay. Good night, Jared."

Jared gazed at him for a time. "Good night, Link," he said softly before slipping out the door.

Link puffed out the candle and laid back, pulling his quilts up. What is it about red eyes that makes all the difference? Are the actions of a few Sheikah used to taint the people's perceptions about the entire race? Does everyone in Leonine hate Sheikah? And if they do, where does that leave me?

No solution readily presented itself, even as he pondered the slats of moonlight shining in his window. I should just pack up tomorrow and leave...try and see if I can find Epona. Maybe she's okay; maybe she could hear my song. I should just go. I do wish... I wish I could tell Jared, at least...maybe. He might understand. Little brother, would you understand me...?

Link turned his head sharply to one side, pressing his face against the soft linen of his pillow. No; don't ruin his life. Jared's such an innocent boy...he doesn't need such a scandal laid on his conscience. Lyon has a happy family here, and an estate to run...he doesn't need half-breed bastard sons showing up on his doorstep and wrecking his reputation. What did I expect to find here? Welcome? A home? My home is in Central Hyrule--what stupid idea posessed me to come here? Lyon doesn't know or care about me, and it should stay that way. He's such a melancholy man...I don't think he'd even notice if I left. I wouldn't matter to him anyway. Against his will, a tear slid to the pillow, making a tiny wet spot. I wish things had been different. If my eyes...if my mother hadn't been...then, just maybe...

The words came out before he even realized he'd said them aloud. "Father...I wish..." His voice failed but the words continued without sound, a tiny whisper in the night.

"...I wish you would know me..."

* * * * *

Impa and Zelda slept near each other in the tent of Impa's family. They were given soft, warm buffalo hides to bed in and cover with. Feeling warm and safe, they prepared for sleep, bedded comfortably. Impa sighed, home at last.

Zelda turned over to face in Impa's direction. "The people here are wonderful," she whispered in Hylian, gazing blindly throught the darkness.

"That they are." There was a rustle of hides as Impa shifted her weight.

"Link was really worried about fitting in."

"I don't think he needs to be concerned."

"I know." There was a silence for a long time. "Do you think we'll ever find him?"

"I hope so, Zelda. I hope so."

* * * * *

The morning was cool, brisk, and fresh, and Link greeted it feeling much more calm and collected, rested and refreshed after the stressful events of the day before. In fact, he was able to face the staring, whispering cooks in the kitchen with a cheery smile and a bright "Good morning!" as he claimed the simple breakfast of an apple, bread, and milk. The head cook seemed itching to turn him away hungry, but word had spread like wildfire about young Jared's Sheikah houseguest, so they didn't dare refuse him. But they could still hate him.

Link carried his meal outside to the top of the battlements of the great wall that surrounded the castle, outbuildings, gardens, and courtyard. He ignored the puzzled, suspicious looks from the watchmen. A cold, steady breeze raised goosebumps and ruffled his clothing as he perched on the stone rim, breathing deep the autumn air and giving a brief shiver as he noticed the gray clouds overhead, through which peeked only a few golden sunbeams.

He bit into the shiny green apple, marveling briefly at its firm, tart flesh, quite different from the soft, sweet red apples in his own country. Its spicy flavor curled his tongue, and he took up a more comfortable position on the rim of the battlements, turning to face outward and survey the countryside.

"Wow! What a view!" Link breathed, munching on the wheaty bread. Leonine Castle sat at the end of a great ridge, the foothills below and the greater mountains behind. Made of the same thick gray stone as the nearby giant boulders, the castle was almost a massive stone outcropping itself. He could see so far; through the foothills were the plains, the Daneed/Haucha River a silver thread passing across the fields. It was wonderful where he was, sitting atop the wall, breathing the fresh fall air, enjoying the view and the peace.

"A beautiful vista, is it not?"

The voice made Link start around, a thrill running through him as the quick motion upset his balance; thus startled, he had nearly teetered off the edge. "C-Captain Rishto!" He quickly dismounted from the stone rim, uncomfortable so near the precipice with Rishto around. "Um...yes, it is quite impressive."

"The Duke's ancestors carved this place out of the stone of that mountain. They carried it here brick by brick," Rishto said conversationally, resting his elbows against the battlement and leaning on the stone. He didn't once glance at Link, but took in the scenery below. "It took years of work, and many men. Skilled craftsmen and strong builders, such as can only be found here in the rugged land of the Great Plain. Not like you Sheikah, living out in the Barrens in nothing more than rough tents." The man's voice remained pleasant and even, but the jibe was obvious.

"I wouldn't know," Link responded darkly, leaning one elbow against the battlement. "I've never lived there."

"Really, now." Rishto suddenly turned his gaze to Link. "You--a halfling Sheikah--you mean to tell me you never once set foot inside a Sheikah camp? Not even as a child?"

"Maybe...before I was born. My mother went north before she had me," Link replied shortly, not feeling like speaking to Rishto and not liking where the conversation was going.

"Ah, yes, your mother..." Rishto turned about to lean backwards against the stone. "Tell me about her."

Link was not about to tell this man who his mother was, nor that he was the Sheikah Chieftain's grandson, so he remained silent.

"I know for a fact no Sheikah woman marries without tribal permission," Rishto went on. "I'm also fairly certain that most Sheikah women aren't willing to seek a man of another race as a partner. I've actually never met a Sheikah half-breed, nor even heard of there being one born in the last two decades since the war began. That makes you something of an anomaly. So, then, about your mother: I'm curious. What kind of woman was she? Tell me--was she raped?"

Link looked away from him, frowning fiercely.

Rishto's voice suddenly turned cold and mocking. "Or did she offer herself to a Hylian like a common prostitute?"

Link jumped up from the wall, face flushing hot, hands fisted tight at his sides. Rigid as a taut bowstring, he glared with gritted teeth, jaw so tight he couldn't speak. He could only stand glaring at Rishto, trembling with shame and anger.

Rishto rose from his resting place as well. "So that's how it is. Your mother took a Hylian lover. And probably fled her tribe in disgrace when she conceived. So what does that make you? Outcast? Mongrel?" He came close to Link, his face hard. "Hated by Hylian and Sheikah alike. No home anywhere. So you come here, preying on the mercies of the Duke's youngest, looking to beg a place for the winter. Then what happens in the spring? You grab anything of value within reach and move on again."

"You..." Link managed to grit out. "Haven't you listened to anything I've said? I'm not a thief!"

"You're a Sheikah. It's the same thing."

Link came within a hair of actually hitting him. "You know nothing about me!" he asserted, his voice raised nearly to a shout.

Rishto remained unmoved. "You're right. But I will." He stepped even closer, backing Link against the wall. "I'll figure you out, Sheikah boy. I'll learn everything--who you are, why you're here--and when I do..."

Link swallowed hard, glaring, but unable to speak.

Rishto's face could have been cut from stone. "When I do, half-breed, you'll wish your mother had never broken Sheikah law." His expression turned mocking and ironic. "Until then...enjoy your stay."

With that, the Captain of the Lion's Guard turned on his heel and strode away without a glance backward.

Link whirled to lean heavily against the battlements, quivering with anger. He remained there, resting his elbows against the cold stone, trying to cool his flaming emotions. He inhaled deeply, taking what seemed like the first clean breath since Rishto had arrived. His knees trembled beneath him, and his heart beat a loud rhythm in his chest.

How he hated that man! He didn't think it was possible for him to dislike someone so much in the space of two days. He had made an enemy here--and it was someone for whom the feeling was mutual.

He thumped his fist against the stone, teeth gritted. Impossible as it seemed, Rishto had managed to insult, shame, enrage, and frighten him, all within a single conversation.

The morning was spoiled. Link savagely knocked what was left of his apple off the battlement, then gulped down his mug of milk to ease his dry throat. Leaving the mug sitting on the edge of the battlement, he stalked off, still hot with anger, in the direction of the stables, hoping to somehow calm himself.

* * * * *

Jared was quite surprised when he came upon Link grooming horses in the stable once more. It seemed the Sheikah liked the animals. Happy to share a hobby with his guest, he stepped up behind Link to open a conversation but paused when he observed the half-Sheikah's hard, short curry strokes and cold, focused eyes. "I say, is something the matter?"

When Link jumped around, he came close to knocking Jared over--and he would have, if the youth hadn't leaped back out of the stall by sheer instinct. The horse spooked, and all of them stood staring for a minute, getting their bearings.

Link's shoulders slumped when he realized who it was. "Jared..." he sighed. "I'm sorry. I'm a little jumpy this morning."

"I daresay you're a bit tense, my friend," Jared observed cautiously. "Did something upset you this morning?"

Link turned back to continue brushing the horse. "A little something," he admitted. "But it doesn't matter."

Jared could quite easily tell that Link wasn't going to say anything more about his troubles, so he decided a change of subject might help his companion. "Ah, Link...do you like horses?"

Link paused, and suddenly turned to him with a grin. "Do I? Are you kidding? I love horses." His bright smile reminded Jared of someone familiar, he couldn't quite recall who.

"Then would you like to go for a bit of a ride?" Jared offered. "I could show you about the countryside, get your mind off whatever's bothering you--the outdoors is very good for that. We've got to get in what fun we can; winter's nearly here and we'll be cooped up in the castle for a very long time."

"Your father would actually let me ride?" Link asked incredulously.

Jared shrugged imperiously. "It isn't any of his business what I do with my guests." Now it was his turn to grin. "Come along and let's go to the tackroom."

To Be Continued...