((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 13: Master Swordsman

The air was cold from the previous night's icy storm, and even in the warming sun of late morning there were still patches of faint frost in the shadows. The two combatants that faced each other with bright eyes did not seem to feel the cold; the younger was already warmed from his previous exhertion and the elder wore thicker clothing. Their breath puffed faintly like dragon's smoke in the coolness, even as the sun on their bodies was almost hot.

Steel hissed softly against steel as the two combatants regarded each other over their gently brushing blades. Two pairs of eyes stared into each other, one set cool, calm, and focused, the other wide, alert, and nervous. They measured each other for several long moments, their gaze unbreaking and almost unsettling in its sapphire-and-ruby intensity. Neither of them flinched or advanced.

Without warning, Lyon moved. With a tight gasp, Link blocked--barely. For an instant, Lyon's brows raised in appreciative surprise, and then he was moving again, his sword whirring dangerously in sharp thrusts and powerful strikes. Link was forced to guard close in to himself, completely on the defensive, while constantly stepping back to avoid Lyon's blows.

I wish I had my shield! Link thought wildly, keeping focus on the fast, intricate movements of the fight. He was already nervous about facing the Duke; now, his own desperation to prove himself in his father's eyes pushed him to new levels. With one last parry, he gathered his muscles and backflipped away, then darted to the left and came in at Lyon again. He was rewarded by a startled murmur from the gathered crowd.

This time, the Duke was forced to the defensive as Link hammered him with powerful blows, nearly bringing sparks from their blades. But Lyon's defense was just as good as his offense, and Link could find no holes to take advantage of. The sharp clashing of their weapons echoed in the silent courtyard; their audience was too awed by the furious pace and deadly prowess of the combatants to cheer or comment. No one spoke, and everyone had moved many paces backward.

Several times, their blades locked as they tested their strength against each other. Link strained, but each time he was forced to concede the contest to Lyon. His father was surprisingly strong, and his quick attacks had already proved he was quite fast to boot. Link could not count on his strength or his speed; he would have to go by skill alone and pray it was enough. That, and a few special techniques he had up his sleeve. Fighting Lyon was like fighting his own dark mirror image again...only worse.

Straight thrust. Side parry. A horizontal forward strike at Lyon's chest, deflected downward. Another parry, this time a vertical block. Link ducked aside of the counterstrike, made an upward slash that nearly scored, and quickly blocked a low quick thrust aimed at his thigh. Everything was terribly fast--much faster than any of the battles Link could remember. He was fighting almost by instinct alone--no time for conscious reaction. Not a single Stalfos, Lizalfos, or Dark Shadow had ever tested him thus--not even the fights with Ganon had pushed him to this limit of speed and skill. This was swordsmanship at its finest art, he realized...and he had far to go before he truly became a master.

Driven to the far side of the courtyard by Lyon's sword, Link realized he was running out of space. Constantly forced to give ground to the Duke's advance, he was quickly losing his running room, and getting uncomfortably close to the wall. He sought escape on a pile of crates, his spectacular backflip up to his perch earning him "Aaaahhhhs" from the crowd and a surprised grin from Lyon. For a moment, Lyon's sword was still, and he regarded the youth above him.

"Well met, young man!" the Duke complimented through his heavy breaths. "I have not had such a challenge in many years. You are quite a formidable opponent."

"Thank you, sir," Link replied, equally breathless. "As are you." He wiped sweat from his brow and quickly contemplated his next course of action. He knew Lyon wouldn't give him long before coming up after him. As he watched the older man retake his ready position, an idea came to mind. He thinks I'm worthy...maybe I can really impress him!

With a single running step, Link launched himself from his refuge, his sword already moving into his strongest direct attack, a sweeping, vicious downslash that had felled many of Ganon's brutish monsters. Lyon met him with a two-handed overhead parry, stopping his blow and throwing sparks from their steel blades. "Don't overcommit yourself," Lyon grunted, easily pushing him back, "to a one-shot attack--unless you're sure of the kill."

Wordlessly, Link frantically tried to correct his error, ducking the counterswing and trying to get his sword back up to ready position. Desperate, he ducked and rolled under another arcing swing, coming up on one knee with his sword stretched low behind him in a stance that any familiar with him would recognize. No time for a prolonged charge--Link let go in a spin all the energy he could muster, his sword glowing blue-white as a pulsing wave of energy flashed out in a whirl of power.

Link had perhaps a tenth of a moment to suddenly realize he had just released a potentially deadly attack in a panic--when he saw Lyon parry the wave with his own glowing blue-white sword in guard position. A pulsing field of energy had risen around his sword, around his person, and Link's chaotic wave washed against and flowed around the shield, leaving the Duke untouched.

As Lyon came at him again, his eyes frigid and frightening, Link hurriedly pulled his blade up, awkwardly blocking the Duke's first counterstrike. The second knocked his sword wide, throwing him off balance. The third sent Captain Armand's fine blade skidding across the ground, and with an almost inaudible hiss of air, the Duke's blade was stopping him cold before he could run for his sword.

Panting, eyes wide, Link stared at the focused expression on his father's face, his heart thrumming like a frightened bird's. Unnoticeably trembling, he tried to hold perfectly still as the cold edge of Lyon's blade brushed his throat.

"Where did you learn such an attack?" Lyon asked breathlessly, his eyes hard.

Link gulped air and hoarsely replied. "I've known...since I was a child, sir. I was told it could be done...so I did it."

Lyon gazed at him for a minute. "You mastered this attack on your own?"

"Pretty much. But after this fight, 'mastered' isn't the word I'd use."

Lyon raised an eyebrow at that. Then he suddenly smiled warmly, lowering his sword. "Well met. Well met again, boy!" He clapped a strong hand on Link's shoulder, startling the daylights out of the younger warrior. "Well fought!"

Trying hard to keep his mouth from falling open, Link stared at the Duke, marveling at the warmth and strength in his father's firm grip. "Th-thank you, Your Excellency."

When they saw that the spectacle was over, the castle folk and the soldiers began to drift away, milling back to their duties. With a nudge to his shoulder, Lyon encouraged Link to walk with him as they headed back to the Great Hall. Bryant stopped near them for a moment to reclaim his weapon and congratulate Link before hurrying off to his duties as well.

"You have the general idea of the Shining Sword Attack," Lyon commented as they strolled toward the Hall doors. "It was powerfully executed--and I don't believe I've ever seen it used in quite that way before. If I had not been prepared, that wave would have knocked me clean off of my feet!"

"So...you know the method too?" Link asked, almost shyly.

"I do," Lyon replied. "It takes a rare warrior to be able to use the Shining Sword. Some say it is a blood-power, but so few have the ability to use their energy in such a way that it has never been proven. I have trained my son Jared in the use of the Shining Sword Attack, but Leo has no aptitude for it."

Link gulped, hoping he hadn't given himself away by using the energy. If it was a blood-power, as Lyon said--an ability passed down through families--it could have been an obvious sign. "I wouldn't have expected that Jared--" Link began, before realizing what he was saying. "Oh...I'm sorry."

Lyon chuckled. "Don't worry. I'm well aware that Jared has little taste for weapons and fighting. He is a kind-hearted boy; he would be a good man to rule my region in a time of peace...such as we all hope will come someday. But now the times are full of conflict and bloodshed, and Jared is far too gentle to command a kingdom in years like these." He sighed, speaking almost as an afterthought. "I would that my son were such a warrior as you..."

Link felt his cheeks heat as he tried to hide his startled response to Lyon's unknowing compliment. The Duke's words brought him high honor--above Jared, above even Leo, the firstborn. Lyon wished that he had a son like Link. The youth's heart ached once again, just as it had when Jared wanted for him as a brother. How I wish I could tell them...! "I'm not much of a warrior, sir. Just lucky."

Lyon smiled, almost seeming to fall back to his melancholy mood. "You sell yourself short, young man. You matched me quite well, and I have not faced your like since my youth." At the doors the the Hall, he stopped, taking Link by the shoulder once again. "I would like to cross swords with you again, young Link," he said gently. "If it be agreeable to you, I would like to keep myself sharp against an opponent such as you--and I would be more than willing to help you reach higher levels of achievement as well. You are a fine, strong youth; your skill is wonderful and you have truly awesome potential. Would you consent to be my training partner, and to let me be your tutor?"

Awed, Link could only gape at him for a few moments, ruby eyes wide. He couldn't believe what his ears were telling him; Lyon--his own father--wanted him as a sparring partner and student. He was so surprised that it took a few moments for his voice to engage. "Ah...uh...yes!" he managed to croak. "I...I would be honored, sir!"

Lyon smiled one last time. "Thank you, Link. Will I see you for lunch today?"

"Yes sir!"

Patting his shoulder, Lyon stepped in the door. "Good. We'll talk later, then." With that, the Duke was gone, leaving Link standing outside the massive oaken doors. For several minutes, the half-Sheikah youth just stood there, blinking dazedly at nothing. Then he shook himself out of his stupor and swallowed to moisten his throat.

He...he thinks I'm good... he thought wildly. He told me I'm good! He's pleased with our match! Barely containing his excitement, Link headed toward the doors as well, going to look for Jared. I can't believe it. He wants me to be his training partner! He even wants to teach me more! I just can't believe it...my father is proud of me!

He couldn't keep the eager, laughing grin off his face as he dashed inside to seek out his younger brother.

* * * * *

Meanwhile, on a balcony above the courtyard, Leo was still hidden in the shadows from which he had observed the fight. Leaning heavily against the pillar behind him, he rubbed his forehead dazedly, looking very pale indeed.

He was still staring at the place where Link and Lyon had fought, seeing the scorch-marks on the stone wall near where Link had unleashed his attack--and he'd had a fine vantage point to witness the aftermath. Near the wave, Lyon's energy shield had saved him and only the stones had been marred. Much further back, where the distance robbed the pulsing whirl of its power, the audience had merely felt a strong, heated gust of wind push at their hair and clothing. Still, it was next to unbelievable that a mere Sheikah halfling could possess such power, and the fact that he had held his own so long against Lyon was almost frightening.

This isn't good, he thought worriedly. This is not good at all. I had no idea he was that good of a swordsman. I'd better tell the Captain about this. That half-breed could ruin everything. And as skilled as he is...

His steps quick and deliberate, Leo hurried into the castle, going directly to Captain Rishto's office.

* * * * *

Far away, in the Sheikah encampment, Zelda made her way to the rear of Chieftain Imrek's tent, toward her and Impa's private quarters. Inside the warm "room," she sat down near the pile of backpacks that still held much of their belongings. A gentle smile on her face, she leaned close to the packs.

"Navi. Navi, come out."

"Zelda?" squeaked a small, empty voice.

"Good news, Navi--Link's alive and well!"

With a blinding flash of blue, the tiny fairy leaped into the air, hovering at Zelda's nose. "Wow, really? Oh, I'm so happy! Where is he? Can I see him? Are you sure he's okay?"

Zelda grinned suddenly. Navi had been unhappy for weeks, unseen by anyone, moping her days away hiding in the packs, barely eating anything but breadcrumbs. Zelda had tried her best to cheer the disconsolate fairy, but Navi would not come out. Now, knowing her best friend was safe, she had come to life again. "Slow down, Navi!" Zelda cautioned with a laugh. "He's alright. He's in a castle across the river, many miles from here. He found his father and he's staying there now, learning more about his roots. He's perfectly safe, but he needs a few things from us."

"Great! Great!" Navi sparkled excitedly. "Let's go visit him!"

"Slow down, little one," said the princess. "It's not that easy. We're with the Sheikah, remember?"

"Oh..." The fairy's enthusiasm melted somewhat. "But...?"

"Don't worry; the others and I came up with a plan. We're going to see Link as soon as possible--as soon as we can get the supplies we need--and we're going to need your help with this too."

"Anything!" Navi promised. "I'll do anything I can for you!"

"That's good." Zelda held out her hand, allowing the delicate fairy to land and settle. "Now listen closely, Navi. This is our plan..."

To Be Continued...