((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 10: Sheikah Shake-Up
Two weeks passed. Link existed day-to-day, riding with Jared, eating meals with the family at a guest's place of honor, and ducking out of Rishto and Leo's way whenever he saw them coming. It felt cowardly, but it was the best way he knew of to avoid them. Being near them--even standing in the same room--brought chills to his spine from their cold, cordial hatred of him. They were the same; identical sets of gray-blue eyes glared at him with hard contempt and scorn whenever he was near.
Lyon was a secretive, melancholy man who rarely seemed to spend time with either of his sons. Leo obviously didn't care a whit that Lyon paid no heed to him, but poor Jared was starved for attention. He wanted an older man to look up to, to be encouraged by, but he had that in no one, not his brother nor his father. The young Hylian latched on to Link like a lifeline after being left alone to entertain himself for so long, and was overjoyed to have Link as a companion.
Link found himself acclimating to the culture of Leonine Castle. The new wardrobe became comfortable, the accented speech of the Southern Hylians less incomprehensible, and the food much more familiar. Some of the house servants began to lose their suspicious disdain and forced politeness over time, finding Link to be friendly, unassuming, and quite willing to lend a helping hand to any menial in need--whether chopping wood, carrying platters, or sweeping a room.
"You're not like a Sheikah," was a phrase Link heard very often. He wanted to reply, "How many Sheikah have you ever known?" but he never did; he only shrugged and smiled and went on his way.
Lyon remained distant, never once starting a conversation or approaching with any of them. He would respond politely to anyone who addressed him directly, but otherwise he remained aloof from everyone around him--save Rishto, with whom he had many private meetings.
Link often wondered just what those meetings were about.
"Really? You're not kidding? The trees are that big?" Jared's eyes were round with wonder as he sat atop Obsidian, threading his way along the forested path behind Link.
"They live in them," Link explained with a shrug, reining Sturdy around a low-hanging tree limb. "Of course, the Kokiri are small, like children, so they don't need as much space as an adult." He smiled a little to himself, remembering how he'd nearly cracked his head open on the door to his own treehouse home the first time he'd tried to enter it after his seven-year sleep. When he'd returned, everything had seemed so small; not even his own bed would fit him any more.
"Three horses abreast on the normal stumps, eh?" Jared marveled. "Fallen logs such that a man can walk through them upright with his arms unable to touch the arch overhead--that's amazing! And the grand old tree you spoke of is even bigger."
"Yes...until he--it died." Link carefully left out any mention of the recent occurrences in the North; he even hid his own connection with the Kokiri, for that would betray too much about his past and the secret of his heritage. "The Lost Woods is a beautiful, ancient place, full of old legends and fairy magic..." And he missed it very much.
"You sound homesick," Jared observed, leaning forward in Obsidian's saddle.
"I...I miss the North," Link replied simply, hunching his shoulders.
Both youths were riding out on the longest ridgeline just west of Leonine Castle. The forests were old and thick here, causing Jared to remark upon them, which sparked a conversation about the great, ancient woods that surrounded Kokiri Forest in Link's homeland. It was a cloudy, blustery day; there had been thick frost in the morning and now the wind blew with bitter chill. Both Link and Jared had covered their usual comfortable riding attire with thick overcoats and heavy woolen cloaks, which they fought the wind to keep tight about themselves. The horses had long since grown shaggy with their winter coats, but still felt the frigid bite in the wind.
"This is getting to be frightfully cold," Jared said with a shiver, pulling his cloak closer against the chill.
"You must get some heavy winters here," Link responded. "It's hardly past autumn, and it's already brewing up a storm."
"You may be more right than you realize, my friend. When we get out to the head of the ridge we'll be able to see what the wind is bringing us. I wouldn't be surprised if the first storms of winter were about to begin."
Link merely nodded, and continued to lead the way up the hill.
Coming around the head of the ridge, the youths discovered that the wind was much fiercer outside the cover of the trees. One of the Daneed's tributaries flowed in the ravine/valley between their ridge and the next, down the stony mountainside, mixing turbulent rapids with thundering falls. The side of the ridge they now stood upon was rocky and steep, not forested and gentle like the lee side.
"It's quite a blow coming up!" Jared shouted over the wind and the water. He pointed westward over Obsidian's flaring mane. "Look at those clouds! We should head back!"
"Right!" Link agreed. The leading edge of the ominous clouds had already overpassed them, with the mightiest, thickest ones still traveling slowly forward; in the distance they dumped their payload on the mountains to the west. He turned Sturdy to follow Jared back around the ridge and down to the castle when movement caught his eye--movement on the far, forested hillside on the other side of the noisy river below. Thunder began to crack, and in a moment he recognized the shapes hurrying through the trees as those of horses. Shading his eyes from the wind, he struggled to make out any riders or people as the animals passed through a clearing on the hillside. He saw no one, and concluded it must be a wild horse herd.
He was about to turn away when he spotted a flash of red. His wind-stung eyes widened when he recognized, distantly, a familiar white-maned mare following the wild horses on their march towards shelter. "Epona!" he breathed. He looked up the trail to his half-brother. "Jared! Wait!"
"What is it?" The younger boy halted his mount and turned in the saddle.
"Look there on the hillside!" Link pointed straight out to the distant ridge. "See the red one? It's my horse!"
Jared squinted through the biting wind. "Well, I'll be--! Are you sure it's yours?" he called over the rushing noise.
A boom of thunder drowned out Link's reply, and Jared's stallion fidgeted nervously on the rocky trail. "We've got to go, Link!" Jared shouted. "It's going to be impossible to see in a few minutes, once that gets here!"
"I have to call her!" Link yelled back. Putting two fingers to his mouth, he blew a three-note falling scale twice, as loud as he could--the first bars to Epona's Song, and her trained call. "Epona!" he shouted, then trilled the song again. He kicked himself for not having brought the Forest Ocarina that Saria had given him.
The mare on the distant hillside paused, ears pricked, as though she'd heard something, but the wind and the thunder worked against Link, drowning out his voice and pushing his whistle back on him, not towards her. Finally, with a shake of her head, the red horse continued on, vanishing into the trees with the others.
"Epona..." Link swallowed the lump in his throat. This storm! She can't hear me from so far away! If only I'd had my ocarina! he thought, then gradually realized that Jared was calling to him.
"We have to go, Link! That storm is almost here!"
With one last look back, Link spurred Sturdy after Obsidian, and the two youths galloped back down the ridgeline. Jared looked supremely worried; what was most likely to come out of that cloud was freezing rain or sleet, neither of which made for safe riding conditions, especially as far out as they were. They'd be caught in the leading edge of the storm if they were unable to hurry back in time.
The first storm of winter had begun.
Freezing rain poured from the sky as Link and Jared approached the front gates of Leonine Castle. Their cloaks quicky became encrusted with it, and it stuck to the horses' hides and formed a silvery sheen on the landscape around them. Most of the ice shattered into fragments as the wind blew the trees into a whipping frenzy.
"Make way!" Jared shouted as the pair approached the gates. They had to rein to a stop before the barred doorway, Jared shaking his fist at the sentries hiding away from the storm in their niches and in the towers. "Open the gates! Make way!"
Indistinguishable shouts sounded from the towers above the gates, and slowly the iron porticullus raised and the huge doors swung outward. Jared and Link hurried in, running their horses all the way to the stable before dismounting. Stablehands scurried to take the blowing animals and warm them up.
"I say, young lordship," the elderly Stablemaster Diggins said, approaching Jared. "I heard there was some commotion at the big house--something about a prisoner. I'm sure your father wants to be assured you're alright."
"Yes," Jared agreed. "Can you handle the horses?"
Link had frozen at the word "prisoner," his mind suddenly filled with memories of the four Sheikah scouts in their little encampment he'd seen two weeks ago. Jared didn't wait for him to snap out of it, but grabbed him by the arm and hauled him to the door of the stable. "Come on!" the boy urged.
Link broke out of his stupor, pulling free of Jared and sprinting across the courtyard towards the main hall, keeping his cloak close about him. He bolted in the heavy front doors, shedding cloak and riding gear as he went, Jared close behind him. Tearing down the hall, he nearly ran into the crowd of onlookers choking the Great Hall's entryway. The voices were loud and echoing, shouting over one another.
"We found this spy trailing his young lordship's riding party from the valley to the western ridge!" Rishto's harsh voice bellowed. "No doubt to kill him--the Duke's very son!"
The crowd's din increased at this statement. Jared and Link pushed their way to the fore, coming out to a tableau so shocking Link made a startled noise aloud.
A beaten, bloodied Sheikah man knealt in chains between two guards, his shimmering white hair stained red in places from his wounds. Though defeated, he was defiant, and his bright-ruby eyes still smoldering with danger.
Lyon, Rishto, and Leo stood at the head of the Great Hall, the Sheikah forced to kneel before them. Lyon looked as Link had never seen him--bold, tall, his face stern and his eyes bright and focused. Rishto and Leo simply looked angry and smug.
"What is this?" Link asked amid the din.
"They've caught a Sheikah!" Jared replied, clinging to Link's arm as if to a lifeline in nervousness. "I can't believe my father had our rides followed!"
Link recognized the man as one of the ones he'd seen before, but the man's identity shocked him. Idek! Oh, no!
The two youths stood behind the Sheikah, so he could not see them, but Lyon's eyes found them out of the crowd. Link saw Lyon's deep blue eyes focus on him, and a softening of compassion entered into that gaze.
"Cease this babble!" Lyon commanded, and the hall fell silent with a startling hush. "I would not force my son's guest to see his tribesman executed. The deed shall wait until tomorrow."
"Father--!" Leo stuttered.
"Silence." Lyon waved a hand, gesturing the crowd to disperse. "Take the prisoner to the dungeon. And the rest of you, begone! My Hall is not a circus!"
As the crowd began to flow out, the Sheikah prisoner was dragged away. He never saw Link, who remained frozen in the crowd that milled around him.
Lyon, done passing judgement, turned to spot his son standing with Link. "Jared?"
The youth stepped forward nervously. "Yes, sir?"
"Take your friend riding tomorrow, early."
"That is a command."
Jared glanced from his father to the Sheikah and then to Link. He knew the storm would make no difference to his father. "Yes, sir."
Link stared after Idek even after he was long gone. He could not believe what had come to pass; it had happened so fast. Idek was simply to be killed--and just because he was a Sheikah and therefore automatically a murderer and a spy.
"I am so sorry you had to witness that," Lyon said beside him, startling him. "Please, go with Jared tomorrow, and when you return everything shall be as it was again."
Link stared at his father through eyes that were trapped in a color they were not meant to be--and knew that Lyon looked back at red eyes that would always bring him hatred. "But...sir, I...I would always know," Link managed to say, his voice barely cracking.
Lyon sighed. With a faint nod, he turned away and went back to his conversation with Rishto.
Later that evening, Jared and Link met over hot cider in their bedclothes. They sat in Jared's room before the small, crackling fireplace, the windows shut tight against the storm that raged outside. Though the curtains were drawn, the echoes of the wind's howls still penetrated the halls, making the whole castle moan eerily.
Link was quiet, withdrawn, and depressed, while Jared was pensive, anxious, and upset--mainly because of Link's mood. "It's the way it's always been," Jared said again, repeating it as if to reassure himself as well. "We catch them, they die; they catch us, we die. It's a war."
"But what if he wasn't a spy?" Link asked. "What if he was just out riding, like us?"
"That's impossible," Jared responded. "This side of the river belongs to us--they know that."
"Diggins said that the cropland valleys on this side used to belong to the Sheikah, before your father was Duke."
Jared shrugged. "They have the whole Barrens to live and farm on. They control far more territory than we do."
"Why would they call it the Barrens unless it was barren, useless land that nobody else wanted?" Link asked. "Don't be ignorant on purpose, Jared. You know that the Sheikah are being treated unfairly."
Jared knew, and that was what stung--so he attacked in return. "Sheikah, Sheikah, Sheikah! Why are you so Sheikah all of a sudden?"
"I'm not all of a sudden," Link answered, a bit coldly. He drained his mug and stood, his face now slightly above the light from the fireplace so his features were oddly shadowed. "I always have been. Look at my eyes, Jared. Did you forget I'm Sheikah as well?"
Jared could only meet the ruby gaze for a second before looking down. For an instant, he shuddered; the red eyes reflected the golden glow of the flames in a way that made them seem on fire themselves. Or maybe the fire in his eyes was real.
Link set down his mug. "I can't take sides in this war. I'd be a hypocrite if I did. But I can't stand by and watch both of my peoples slaughter each other only for the sake of hatred." He strode towards the door.
Behind him, Jared stood up. "What are you going to do?" he asked softly.
Link paused, halfway across the room. "I don't know."
"Link...please don't do something stupid. I don't want to see you killed because you did something to cause my father to..."
"I can't do anything right now. I don't want you to be involved." Link smiled reassuringly at his half-brother. "Don't worry. I have no intention of doing anything stupid."
"Good. I was worried about you for a minute." Jared breathed a sigh of relief and smiled at him. "I've really enjoyed having you here with me. It's much better than trying to have fun with Leo."
Link shrugged at the compliment. "Thanks."
"In fact, I think this is the first time I've actually gotten to see what it's like to have a brother."
Link nearly choked, frozen for one moment with the fear that Jared had somehow, impossibly, discovered his secret.
"A real brother," Jared continued innocently. "You know, not a stuck-up blowhard like Leo. He's so self-important he doesn't have time for rides or games. And he's quite mean at times. Not like you. You're a lot more fun--you're nice, and you like to go riding, exploring, and have fun. Sometimes...I wish you were really my brother, not Leo."
Link relaxed infintesmally; Jared was only speaking figuratively--and in ignorance. At the same time, his heart went out to the boy. Oh, Jared...if only you knew! I am your brother! I can't believe...you would actually want me to be in your family! Me--the half-Sheikah bastard! Words could not describe how that knowlege warmed Link's heart. Jared was willing to accept him--even to the point of brotherhood, to the point of imagining it were real. It is real! Jared, how I wish I could tell you...
"It's good that we get along," was all he managed to say. Though Jared's thoughts had made his heart glad, another part of him shrunk in despair that this kind-hearted boy would never truly know to whom he had spoken those words. "Well...g'night. I'll see you early in the morning for the ride. Storm or no storm, I want to be out of here tomorrow."
"I understand. Good night, Link."
Rishto watched from the stairway as Link departed from Jared's room and headed down the hall and around the corner to his own. Suspicion that had begun to tingle earlier suddenly arose in him--the half-breed had been as white as a sheet at the sight of the Sheikah captive. Was it possible he knew the man? Was there more connection there than he'd guessed at first? Better safe than sorry. He waved at the butler who stood halfway down the stairs from him; the man was one of his loyals.
"Tell Skur to send one of his guards to watch the half-breed's door tonight," Rishto ordered softly. "I smell a rat. That boy might be up to something."
"Aye, right away, sir." The butler hustled off downstairs.
Rishto continued to watch the hallway where Link had gone, stroking his goatee and wondering just what Link might be planning, if anything at all. The boy was a snake, he decided, all coiled up and hiding, uncertain of the threats around him; he might be venomous or he might not--Rishto had no way to tell--and either way, he could still bite. He was dangerous.
Rishto knew from experience that if you weren't sure, it was always best to kill the snake quickly.
To Be Continued...