Dec 28, 2021
36 mins read
I tried previously posting this but didn't notice that it cut off roughly halfway through. Thanks to the anon who pointed that out. :) So! Let's try this again. And eventually I'll even read through it, edit it, and post it on AO3.
There were several things Tasl knew, as surely as he knew that the sun would rise: that his only child was dead; that his daughter-in-law was dead; that he himself should be dead.
That his only grandchild died before he held him in his arms.
He said nothing to the new recruits, proud in their shiny new armor, but the memories of those bloody days haunted him still. The shadows of that horrid war stretched long, even as everyone pretended they only saw the sunlight. Attempts to hide from their own grief, he supposed. He hadn’t spoken his son’s name in almost two decades.
The older Knights knew. The shadows never quite faded from their eyes.
“You have work to do,” Impa told him at the end of the war, saving him against all his wishes. “You are not done yet.”
Tasl hated her for that.
It was Impa’s strange logic which led to Tasl being here, two Knights at his side: Dalton, who would soon take over for him as Commander of the Knights of Hyrule, and Sheila, a young Knight with a good set of lungs and swift legs to call for reinforcements as necessary. A dozen more Knights waited in the shadows. An odd gathering, overpowered in both authority and number, but both Impa and Princess Zelda had insisted.
After the traitor Ganondorf’s trial, the King had debated running all of the Gerudo out of Hyrule. Only a select few knew that, as well as the fact that Princess Zelda stepped forward to argue something about Ganondorf alone being twisted, not the Gerudo people. She used information from unexplained sources, with Lady Impa’s support, and eventually the King agreed to an investigation. The innocence of the Gerudo people as a whole emerged, as did two names, supported by Princess Zelda’s unknown source.
The Elders Koume and Kotake. The new leader of the Gerudo people, Nabooru, also supported this, claiming that they had attacked her when she sought to investigate them. She blamed them for twisting the mind of her king.
“In the end, he only desired power, and he seemed to forget why he wanted it in the first place.”
Nabooru led the charge, driving the two from the Fortress. By her report, she attempted to drive them deeper into the desert, beyond some mysterious location and deep into the sands, but the pair fought back. For reasons unknown, the Elders fled to Kakariko of all places. Tasl sent runners to the Fortress and to the castle, both to update them and to ask for more information. There was no evidence in their trail of hesitation or confusion. The pair traveled unerringly to Kakariko, as if shot from a bow.
Why Kakariko? It was an old village, reputed to be the oldest in Hyrule, and out of all the villages in the land, it withstood the war the best. Yet, as Tasl silently led the way to the graveyard at the end of the village, he could still see the signs of battle and carnage.
New buildings, not yet showing the wear of their predecessors. An empty chunk of land where his favorite drinking spot once stood. He remembered drinking there with Lior and Amelia before Amelia found out she was pregnant. Other buildings showed the scars from the blaze which killed Amelia in what should have been a safe place.
Tasl hated this village, and he hated the Gerudo Elders for dragging him here. It was only fitting that their hideout would be in the graveyard.
All around them, the village was as silent as if Death’s shadow extended from the graveyard, its cold fingers reaching for all who escaped it two decades ago. As they crept closer to their destination, Tasl spotted villagers peeking out from their windows, eyes wide and dark with fear. There was something cold here, seething, and Tasl didn’t know if Kotake and Koume brought it or if it had always been there. To their credit, Dalton and Sheila noticed something amiss, as well. They warily checked every corner and shadow, sharp ears twitching as if they could hear the murmur of restless spirits.
Tasl swore he could hear them, angry whispers just out of hearing. He wondered if he listened hard enough, if he could hear Amelia and his grandson’s spirits, too.
Dark clouds loomed above, blocking the sun, but it didn’t matter. Tasl could find his way here in the dead of night. Lior, Amelia, and his grandson’s graves were here, even if the latter two were empty.
The three stopped at the path leading to the graveyard. It was a perfect spot for a trap, whether to trap the Elders or for them to trap the Hylians, Tasl couldn’t say. The graveyard was tucked in a silent corner, surrounded by dirt walls as if its creators dug out a hole just for it. At the entrance of the village, the other warriors waited, for either Sheila’s warning or to stop the pair from escaping.
“I have a --” Dalton began quietly.
“Don’t you dare,” Sheila hissed.
“-- bad feeling about this,” Dalton finished. He always seemed the young, spritely Knight from their first meeting whenever Tasl looked at him, but right then he seemed old, jaw too sharp, eyes too wise and wary.
Tasl didn’t like any of this.
“Stay alert,” was all he said, and they started forward.
They saw the wooden sign -- Graveyard written simply and pointedly on it -- at the same time as they heard the voices. Tasl tightened his grip on the hilt of his sword. The cold breeze carried the scent of freshly turned gravedirt.
“Do not underestimate them,” Impa had advised. “They are deadlier than you know.”
For all his time working closely with Impa and the Royal Family, still the Sheikah kept secrets from him. This was one of those times Tasl resented her for it.
Sheila glanced at Tasl. A heavy horn rested on her hip. From that horn, Sheila could draw a mighty bellow, one loud enough to reach up Death Mountain. It would also alert the two Gerudo. Tasl shook his head. Wait.
For all the warnings, it was tempting to dismiss the pair as simply old women who didn’t know when to die. Yet Tasl swore he heard those silent voices rise as they drew closer to the twins.
Danger danger danger danger danger
They would give the twins one chance to turn themselves over for a trial, like was done with their King. If they refused to do so, Sheila would sound the horn and they would take the pair by force. Easy enough.
Tasl’s fingers ached on his sword’s hilt.
As they entered the graveyard, Tasl’s gaze drew first to the three graves on the far end: Lior, Amelia, and his unnamed grandson, positioned close to the Royal Family’s Tomb. The baby’s grave was an unexpected boon by his gracious king. Usually people who weren’t servants of the Royal Family would be buried farther away, but the King allowed the grave to be placed by his parents.
But that wasn’t of import right now. Tasl followed Dalton’s gaze to a small ledge above the graveyard, something he hadn’t noticed before. Kotake and Koume huddled over something, hissing to each other, looking so old that it made Tasl’s bones ache. How old were they? Far too old to travel as quickly as they had.
Tasl caught a single word -- “temple” -- before he raised his chin and his sword. “Elders Kotake and Koume! By order of the King and the order of Lady Nabooru of the Gerudo, you are hereby ordered to surrender yourselves for trial!”
Silence but for a soft breeze and the hint of dead whispers. The pair stopped whatever they were doing. In unison, their heads swiveled on their necks, and there was something unnatural in their eyes as they stared at Tasl. Dalton and Sheila didn’t seem to exist to them.
“Such impertinence, sister…”
“Indeed, Koume! So rude.”
Those strange eyes stared unblinking at Tasl. A cold hand gripped the base of his spine.
“Not even the one we were expecting!”
“No, no, not the right one indeed!”
Tasl couldn’t tell the pair apart. Their voices echoed, too sharp for this quiet place, jarring like discordant song notes.
Then the pair smiled.
Sheila slammed the horn to her mouth and blasted a call to the other warriors. Tasl didn’t reprimand her. Without the pair doing anything but speaking and smiling, Tasl felt the situation spiraling out of his control.
“We can do this without violence,” he called, but Kotake and Koume ignored him.
“Not the right one --”
“Not the right one at all --”
“But of the right bloodline.”
Those terrifying smiles grew. As Tasl watched, wide-eyed, the pair rose in the air, previously unseen broomsticks supporting them. In that moment, Tasl believed every tale Nabooru told of them, every warning Impa gave.
The pair was flying. By the Goddesses, the Gerudo were flying.
Dalton cocked an arrow, mouth a hard line. The pair still didn’t look at him, eyes fixed on Tasl.
“Yes,” one said, voice sickeningly gleeful. “The right bloodline. Look, Kotake!”
“Yes, yes!” the other one, surely Kotake, laughed. “They even look similar!”
“Perhaps then --”
The color drained from Tasl’s face. His gaze flicked to the empty grave of his grandson. Even as every instinct screamed at him to stop, Tasl stepped forward. “What bloodline?” he demanded. Behind him, Dalton hissed something, but Tasl ignored him. Again, desperately, Sheila blew the horn. “What do you know?”
The pair laughed, wild and spiraling and bone chilling. “Grandfather! Grandfather!” they called, and to Tasl’s growing horror, they began to spiral in the air on their broomsticks, hovering over that strange ledge. “Indeed! Indeed!”
He heard the sound of warriors charging behind him, but he couldn’t look away from the pair. They stopped in mid-air, everything about them unnatural, the air teeming with magic. They smiled, baring their teeth, and the hair rose on Tasl’s arms.
“And he will do our work for us.”
“Oh, yes, oh yes!”
They laughed and Dalton swore, firing his arrow. In a blaze of magic, the pair vanished, and Dalton’s arrow flew harmlessly where the left twin’s eye had been.
The warriors burst into the graveyard, but Tasl bade them no mind, nor heard Dalton’s worried voice. He distantly heard Sheila talking in a high, rushed voice to the warriors but didn’t turn and look. He stumbled forward instead, skull heavy on his shoulders, blood like ice in his veins.
Shaking, Tasl fell to his knees before his grandson’s empty grave.
Beloved Son and Grandson was all it said.
The King was old and fading. All expected him to die by the end of the year. Princess Zelda ruled in all but name, and there were already whispers -- quiet but building -- that she was far better than he ever was.
He sat on his throne now, his once impressive bulk now slumped and heavy. His rheumy eyes stared above the crowd gathered before him. Princess Zelda sat beside him, back straight and regal. As always, Lady Impa stood at her shoulder. The pair watched Tasl pace, watched him growl at any Knight who dared to approach him.
“They talked about my bloodline,” Tasl said. For the third or fourth time, he wasn’t sure. “They talked about my grandson.” He turned to look at the princess, hands raised and pleading. “Amelia’s body and my grandson’s body were never found. What if my grandson is alive? Has been alive, all this time?”
Sheila clutched her horn to her chest, watching him, mouth pinched and fingers white on the horn. Dalton stood between Tasl and the princess, gaze beseeching as he looked between them.
“It has to be a trap, milady.” Dalton glanced at Tasl, face pale, before looking at Princess Zelda again. “He was clearly in charge. They looked for a weakness and found it.”
“They were talking about something,” Tasl argued, and he could see their faces, clear as day in his mind. Amelia, arguing against being sent away. Lior, arguing that she was due soon and Kakariko was safe. Both Tasl and Lior were in their armor, Tasl to protect the Royal Family, Lior to protect the area around the castle.
The next time he saw Lior, Lior was dead on the battlefield.
“Madness,” Dalton countered. “They were clearly insane.”
Princess Zelda held up a hand, stopping further conversation. She turned to Tasl. There was a strange light in her eyes. “Tasl, why do you think this is your grandson? What happened to him?”
Tasl swallowed, feeling like someone was grabbing his throat. “If he’s alive, he would be about your age, your highness. His mother --” Amelia “--was sent to Kakariko at the end of the war. I received notice that she gave birth there.” He swallowed again but there was no saliva, only aching dryness. “There was an attack on Kakariko. Most of the village was burned. Her body and the body of my grandson were never found.”
Princess Zelda nodded, face thoughtful. Lady Impa leaned over and whispered something in her ear. Another nod, a purse of royal lips.
“The parents,” she said carefully, “were they blond and blue-eyed like you?”
A strange question, one that made Dalton pause in confusion, but Tasl nodded, nonetheless. The princess and Lady Impa glanced at each other. “And Kotake and Koume spoke specifically of your bloodline,” Princess Zelda mused aloud. “Specifically spoke of younger kin.”
She was leading to something. For the first time in twenty years, hope flared in Tasl’s chest. “Yes.”
Princess Zelda frowned and steepled her fingers. The room was silent. “Sir Dalton is correct. This could be a trick played on you, or possibly even a trap…” Another glance at Lady Impa. “However. There is a man I know my age. Blond, blue-eyed.” She met Tasl’s gaze. “Eyes your shade. I’ve known him since we were children. He knows nothing of his father, but he had been told that his mother carried him away from the war to safety. After being assured of sanctuary, she passed, and my friend was raised with only his name. She died before she could give her own name or any identifying information.”
Tasl’s heart pounded like a drum. Ignoring etiquette, he took a shaky step forward. “Your Highness, what is his name?”
Princess Zelda’s face softened. “Link.”
Risau, a lower ranking Knight, startled. She glanced at Tasl, opened her mouth, and snapped it shut again. For the first time since the meeting was called, Princess Zelda smiled. “Yes, Sir Risau: that Link.”
“That Link?” Tasl echoed, studying the young knight’s face, as well as the strange flush growing there. This was the first time he had heard of this Link, and he wanted to hear everything.
Link was one of the names discussed by his son and Amelia. When Amelia sent notice of his grandson’s birth, she also mentioned that she was stalling off naming him until Lior could be with her. If this was truly his grandson, then it seemed that Amelia refused to let him go unnamed.
Tasl’s vision blurred.
Risau nodded, smiling sheepishly. She looked at Princess Zelda for permission before speaking. “Yes. I’ve… interacted with him. He. Well.” Risau scratched her head. “He likes to visit Princess Zelda in her garden. He’s been doing it for ten years or so. He’s. Ah. Quite talented at sneaking past us to visit her. Even after official permission was granted so he could visit her without sneaking.”
Wait. Tasl had heard Risau, as well as several guards, mention him. Tasl narrowed his eyes at Risau. Indeed, Risau had referenced him several times as a wild dog that she was trying to befriend and take home.
As if knowing what Tasl was thinking, Risau’s flush deepened. “He, ah. He likes my wife’s apple pie.”
There were some soft murmurs and coughs from the gathered Knights. Tasl couldn’t help but wonder how many had been feeding his grandson over the years.
His grandson. Surely this must be why the Goddesses kept him alive all these years. This Link had to be Lior’s son.
“Link travels extensively,” Princess Zelda continued, her face growing serious again. “Fortunately, he is currently in Hyrule now, but as I’m sure several of your knights could tell you, he is quick and clever and dislikes anything which can be construed as a cage. Take Sir Risau with you, and I’ll write you a letter, as well. He is quiet, but do not mistake that for a lack of intelligence.”
She paused and looked back at Lady Impa. When Princess Zelda nodded, Lady Impa strode forward. Even after all these years, her scowl was intimidating. “He recently visited Princess Ruto of the Zora, and she indicated that he went south from there toward the forest. Link is a kind friend and ally but a fierce warrior. Do nothing to indicate you wish to fight him. You will not win.”
Tasl started. Silence fell again behind him.
“Link was also responsible for aiding Lady Nabooru after she was attacked, and he has spent the years bringing us a great deal of information, including the threat King Ganondorf posed.”
Several Knights murmured. Tasl tensed. That explained the witches’ familiarity with Link.
“Be wary,” Lady Impa continued. “Return with Link here but otherwise follow his lead. He has dealt with the pair before and knows what to expect of their magic. I’ll investigate Link’s last known location.”
With that, she faded back into the shadows behind the thrones. Tasl could never get used to that.
“You leave at dawn,” Princess Zelda said, taking up where Lady Impa left off with no indication that the Sheikah’s disappearance was concerning. “Lord Tasl, take Sir Risau and choose a third. I’ll have the letter for Link ready for you before you go.” She inclined her head. “Everyone is dismissed.”
Throughout the meeting, the King never said a word.
At dawn, Tasl, Dalton, and Risau set out. Risau held Princess Zelda’s letter, as the only one who knew Link and had the best chance of giving it to him. Tasl took the lead, unable to stop thinking of Princess Zelda’s and Lady Impa’s final words to them.
They rode toward the rising sun, at first at a gallop but slowing when they were deeper within Hyrule Field. If Kotake and Koume chose to surprise them, Tasl preferred to have his horse reasonably fresh.
Lady Impa marked on the map where she expected them to find Link. The map was tucked in Tasl’s tunic, close to his heart. If they didn’t find Link there, Lady Impa advised them to travel to LonLon Ranch and wait.
“Do not go further into the forest to find him. You will not survive.”
So how would Link survive? Tasl wondered, but the time for such questions was gone. With any luck, he would have all his answers and more after he found Link.
Found his grandson. Found Lior’s son.
Dalton lasted longer than Tasl expected. At approximately the two hour mark, he broke. “Commander… Do you really think that this Link could be your grandson?”
Tasl stared straight ahead. There was a stream which led to Zora’s Domain and was close to the edges of the forest. They would head there first to take care of the horses and follow the stream before taking a more direct route to the forest.
“Princess Zelda said that they had believed him to be the son of Knights,” he said eventually. There was only the sound of the breeze around them, rustling the short grass. “From what she described, his age and appearance match. Even his name is one which they discussed.”
Tasl fell silent, Rhiann warm and solid under him. The large mare cantered straight and true, unbothered by the Hylian nonsense around her.
His question unanswered, Dalton turned to Risau. “You know this Link. What can you tell us about him?”
Risau bit her bottom lip, hands tight on the reins. While Dalton and Tasl could trace their Knight lineage back generations, Risau was a guard who had previously been promoted to Knighthood by Princess Zelda. Something about Risau impressed her, and Tasl was not one to argue with his princess, even if he didn’t quite see it. Risau was a slender, dark-haired Hylian, a family woman more than a dedicated Knight, and she had two adopted children waiting at home with her wife, who sold pies and other goods at the Market. If she hadn’t been promoted, Tasl thought she would have lived her life forever content as a simple guard.
Perhaps an attempt to rekindle their numbers. The war had been brutal on the Knights. Almost all of the old bloods had been wiped out. Dalton and Tasl both had almost been killed at the very end of the war, when they mistakenly assumed they would be safe.
Still, Risau’s voice was clear when she spoke. “Link’s quiet. So quiet that I thought he was mute for a while. Since he was a tiny thing, he would sneak past all of the gardens, and sometimes I didn’t even know he was there until I went to check on the princess and found them having a picnic.” She smiled wistfully. “As serious as could be, too. He always reminded me of a mini adult.” Shaking her head with a small laugh, she added, “He was always armed like one, too.”
She paused, face thoughtful. As Tasl mused over his description, Dalton asked, “The way you and Princess Zelda describe him… Where are his guardians? You’ve known him since he was a child. Have you ever met them?”
Risau hummed, glancing at both Tasl and Dalton before looking ahead again. In the far distance, the stream could be seen. “I… I don’t believe he has any. He always seemed a little wild to me. He would sneak in, visit the princess, and then go wherever he pleased.” Another quick look at Tasl. “It’s why we -- my family and the other guards’, I mean -- tried to help out. Beth and I even discussed adopting him, but he always proved too wild for that. The best I could do was convince him to come over for dinner and pie sometimes.”
Dalton’s line of questioning faltered and stopped. Tasl’s hands tightened painfully on his reins until Rhiann snorted at him. “Princess Zelda spoke of a sanctuary for him, not guardians or parents.”
Had his grandson been alone all this time? A much beloved son of Knights, abandoned to travel alone?
Tasl decided then: even if this Link didn’t turn out to be his blood, it wouldn’t matter. Princess Zelda believed him to be the son of Knights, and Knights didn’t abandon their own.
“He’s a good boy -- ah, man -- though,” Risau said quickly. “Beth adores him. Once one of the town boys broke our fence and the cuccos escaped. He rounded all of them up while I fixed the fence and brought them home. He’s always been so helpful.”
Tasl forced a smile, trying to imagine this youth in his mind and failing. “We will meet him soon enough.”
Blond, blue-eyed, quiet… He knew so little. Was he like Amelia? Lior? Neither?
Dalton and Risau resumed talking quietly while Tasl fell into his thoughts. He was older, and he planned on preparing Dalton for his promotion so he could quietly retire. The thought of retirement had proven as dull as the thought of continuing as a Knight, but if he found Link…
Perhaps retirement would prove a new adventure.
When they reached the stream, they paused long enough to water the horses and stretch their legs. Tasl’s old bones protested the long hours of riding he put them through this week. With a reminder that he was almost done, Tasl hauled himself back into the saddle and continued on.
They moved at a good rate, but they wouldn’t reach the spot on the map until the next day around lunchtime. Tasl both hoped that Link would still be there and wondered what he was doing at some random spot in the forest.
Throughout the journey, they kept a sharp eye out for anything unusual, but nothing appeared. They startled a lone doe at the stream and spotted a sleeping peahat in the distance. Otherwise, it remained silent, concerningly so.
Tasl held the map in his hands, holding onto Rhiann with his thighs, and was looking for a good place to stop for the night when something splashed in the stream. Risau gasped and Dalton yanked out his bow faster than Tasl’s eyes could catch. From the stream, a voice yelped. “Don’t shoot! Don’t shoot!”
Lowering his map, Tasl stared for a breath at the startled Zora in the water. The Zora held themself steady in the stream, unbothered by the current, blue hands held high. Tasl made a quick motion for Dalton to put away his damned bow before nodding at the Zora. “Our apologies, friend. You startled us.”
The Zora frowned at them but lowered their hands. “I am Mikau, a servant of Princess Ruto. She received word that you were searching for Link.”
Mikau’s words reminded Tasl of something he had somehow, impossibly, overlooked: how by the Goddesses was his grandson friends with two princesses?
Keeping that thought off his face and from his voice, Tasl nodded. “Yes. It’s important we find him. I am Tasl, Commander of the Knights of Hyrule. These are my fellow Knights, Sir Dalton and Sir Risau.”
From the corner of his eye, he saw the pair offer short bows. Fortunately, Dalton had returned his bow to its place. It would seem that the younger Knight was more on edge than Tasl expected.
“How do you do,” Mikau returned with an absent courtesy. “He told Princess Ruto that he planned on visiting a friend in the Kokiri Forest. If you head to the entrance and wait, you should find him there.”
A friend? In the forest? His confusion growing, Tasl angled his map for Mikau to see. He pointed at the spot Lady Impa marked. “Here?”
He hadn’t even known there was an entrance to the forest. All Hylians knew to avoid that place. Whoever went in never returned… except for Link, apparently.
Everything was growing stranger and stranger.
Mikau angled out of the water enough to point at another place on Tasl’s map, close to where Lady Impa had marked. Tasl obligingly added his own mark to the map. Closer than the last place and at the edge of the forest. They still wouldn’t reach it by nightfall, but sooner than originally hoped.
Then Mikau spoke again, sending Tasl’s thoughts into a spiral. “Also, please tell Link that while he is no longer engaged to Princess Ruto, the princess still expects more regular visits. She feels neglected.”
While Tasl gaped at him, Mikau winked at the Knights and backflipped into the water, vanishing into the stream. The trio of Knights stared silently where Mikau had been.
“Did he say engaged?” Dalton asked eventually.
Tasl blinked and shook his head. “Probably just a Zora joke. Let us continue.”
Probably a joke. Probably. Right?
Tasl tactfully ignored the small, choked noises from Risau and nudged Rhiann forward. Where they would need to part from the stream to head for the forest seemed like a good place to stop for the night. That spot also marked on Tasl’s map, he led the way forward.
And tried very hard not to think about this supposed engagement.
The trio camped soon after sunset, being careful to choose a camping spot where Stalchildren weren’t likely to appear. At dawn they headed out for the spot marked on the map. The field was quiet on the way to the forest entrance.
For all his eagerness to meet Link, Tasl couldn’t shake the feeling of eyes watching him. A primal dread cut through his excitement.
Finally reaching the forest didn’t help. Just like Mikau said, there was a small path leading into the forest. Birds sang and small things rustled in the grass, perfectly serene and ordinary, if the feeling of being watched hadn’t dramatically intensified. Tasl bid Dalton and Risau to stop at the entrance, and he watched the pair do so gladly, Dalton’s hand never straying far from his bow.
Underneath the birdsong, Tasl swore he heard soft voices, like children whispering. He swung off Rhiann and looked around, but he saw nothing but bright green leaves and the strangely worn path. He saw a white bird flutter off a branch close to his head and fly into the woods but no other animals.
It took him a moment to realize he had never seen a white bird like that one before.
Chilled, Tasl nonetheless bid the others to make a small camp at the border of the forest. “If he comes this way, he’ll have no choice but to see us.”
Risau immediately set to work with more speed than grace, her dark eyes flitting from her work to the forest and back again. Dalton didn’t bother with such subtleties. With his hand resting on his horse’s saddle, he stared into the forest. “How is Link able to freely enter this accursed forest?”
Dalton wasn’t the only one who wanted to know. “We’ll find out soon,” was all Tasl said.
They arrived immediately prior to lunchtime, so everyone pulled out food while they waited. To Tasl’s amusement, Risau set out a fourth place, complete with a slice of apple pie. Dalton paused where he was eating simple bread and cheese and eyed the small slice. “Is there anymore where that came from?”
Risau’s expression remained bland while she munched on a far more flavorful piece of bread than what Tasl and Dalton were eating. “My wife would kill me if anyone had some before Link, Sir.”
Tasl coughed to hide his laugh. Dalton only sighed.
His cheese and bread clogging in his throat, Tasl gave up eating and eyed the path. As such, he heard the soft clip of hooves first. He snapped his hand up, and the other two quieted.
At the same time, the hooves quieted. The birds sang on, undisturbed. Beyond Tasl’s sight, a child laughed, a high, wild sound. Tasl waited. He listened for the hoofbeats again.
The feeling of being watched strengthened. For the first time, Tasl questioned his plan of waiting on the path. His excitement about meeting Link outweighed his usual planning. He glanced at Risau and jerked his head toward the woods.
Risau coughed and nodded. “Link!” she called. “I have a letter from Princess Zelda for you. I brought you some of my wife’s pie to eat while you read it.”
Silence. Tasl knew, with an old warrior’s confidence, that Link wasn’t just watching them right then but was armed.
Risau looked awkward but calm as she dug out Princess Zelda’s letter. Tasl tensed, ears sharp. The motion could be construed as threatening, but Risau seemed oblivious as she whipped out the letter. Tasl looked at Dalton, waiting for him to pull out his damned bow again, but Dalton looked oddly calm, too. He looked around, eyes bright with curiosity.
Then the hoofbeats started up again. Tasl expected to see a horse, but instead a slender, blond Hylian appeared. Tasl saw him and knew. This boy was Lior’s son. The poor boy had Lior’s nose: delicate and sharp.
Everything about the boy was sharp. Tasl drank in the sight of him. Short, but both Amelia and Lior were short. The boy stood no chance. Sharp, pale face and sharp, bright blue eyes. A delicate chin and ears so sharp there was no doubt of his old Hylian blood.
He was beautiful.
“This is Sir Tasl, Commander of the Knights of Hyrule,” Risau continued, oblivious. “This is Sir Dalton, a fellow Knight.”
Dalton nodded, still strangely cheerful. “How do you do?”
That prompted Tasl himself to nod. At last, Link’s tense shoulders relaxed, his hands settling at his sides. He nodded back and stepped closer. Only then did the source of the hoofbeats appear, a lovely horse following Link. The horse snorted at them, and Link automatically reached back and rubbed its nose.
Tasl still couldn’t speak. Dalton came to the rescue. “Beautiful horse. What’s his name?”
Link’s face softened. He walked closer to where Risau’s pie waited. “Epona,” he said quietly. His grandson’s voice. For the first time, Tasl heard his grandson’s voice. It was too soft and the word too short for Tasl to make anything from it, but he drank in the three syllables, anyway.
Dalton nodded, still smiling. “Ah, a she, not a he. Sorry about that.”
While Link was distracted by Dalton, Tasl took in the rest of Link. The green clothes were unfamiliar, but the rest of the picture fit a traveling warrior: worn boots, an older looking bow, a sword sheathed on his back. He walked like a warrior, seemingly relaxed with soft steps. It explained why Tasl only heard the horse.
“Here’s the letter,” Risau said, drawing Tasl from his thoughts. She handed Link the letter and waved at the pie. “Eat! You look skinnier than last time I saw you.”
Link hesitated, glancing at Tasl. Tasl forced a smile, but Link’s expression remained doubtful. Still, at Risau’s urging, he sat down close to the pie and started reading the letter.
His grandson was right there. Close enough to touch. His first sighting of his grandson, not a baby he could hold in his arms but a grown warrior. Tasl’s heart hurt.
“Now that Link is here,” Dalton said, smiling hopefully at Risau, “how about that pie?”
Risau laughed. “He hasn’t even taken a bite yet!”
They were acting normally. Tasl wasn’t and Link noticed. Tasl took a bite of his cheese, barely tasting it. “Princess Zelda didn’t clarify what was in the letter, but if you have any questions, just let us know.”
Those blue eyes flicked Tasl’s way, and Tasl helplessly fell silent again.
With a thoughtful frown, Link folded the letter and stuck it in one of his bags. Despite Risau’s subtle gestures at the pie, Link ignored it to stare at Tasl. Tasl’s palms grew sweaty; his mouth was dry. What was in the letter?
“You met with Kotake and Koume.” Not the question Tasl hoped for. His heart dropped. Yet, he heard his grandson’s voice, enough to pick up small details. He couldn’t recognize the accent, and Link’s voice was soft. It didn’t sound like anything Tasl remembered of Lior or Amelia. It was still sweet.
“I did,” Tasl said evenly.
Link cocked his head and waited. After several long, awkward moments, Tasl realized he was waiting for the story. He had been told that Link was the quiet type.
He hadn’t been this nervous since his own Lillian told him she was pregnant. Tasl sucked in a breath and began, starting with the initial investigation about King Ganondorf. Link frowned when Ganondorf was mentioned but said nothing. When Tasl reached the part about Lady Nabooru, Link nodded knowingly, and Tasl wondered about Link’s own role in this mess. Tasl faltered when the story reached Kakariko graveyard, and Link’s long ears twitched.
Of course, the graveyard would be just another place for him. He had no idea that his father was buried there or --
By the Goddesses, Link’s own grave was there.
“Then…” Tasl exhaled through his teeth. Dalton and Risau watched the two of them, eyes so wide he expected them to roll out of their heads. Link’s own expression remained calm, if attentive. “We met the Elders. They weren’t what we expected.”
Link grimaced. Again, Tasl wondered about his experiences with them.
“They reacted oddly to me,” he continued slowly. “They showed no fear of the Knights of Hyrule. I offered them the chance to surrender peacefully, but they ignored me. They seemed… fixated on me.”
Link’s eyes narrowed, his frown deepening. Still, nothing was said.
“They started flying in the air, talking to each other,” Tasl said, and it was mindboggling that part was the easiest part to discuss. “We were unable to capture them before they fled with magic.” Another deep, slow breath. “They talked about me and my bloodline.” He was talking around it and he knew it. Somewhere, Lior and Lillian both were laughing at him. “They talked about my younger kin, which I thought was impossible. I believed all of my family killed at the end of the civil war.”
No reaction from Link. Tasl forced himself on. “They spoke of my bloodline. Of my grandson.” Still nothing. Tasl clenched his fists. “Princess Zelda and Lady Impa believe they were talking about you.”
Now at last Link responded. He startled so hard he almost fell backward. Tasl reached out to steady him, and Link flinched away. Tasl’s heart broke. Wide-eyed, Link leaped to his feet and stared at him.
Before Tasl could do anything, try to make it better, Link’s sharp ears perked up and his face hardened. All three Knights stiffened when Link pulled out his sword, but Link wasn’t looking at them.
He was looking up.
“Oh ho ho! Look, Koume!”
“Oh ho ho! I see, Kotake!”
The pair floated at the forest entrance, malevolent glee twisting their faces. “We were right --”
“Oh so right.”
“Such a good grandfather!”
“Leading us right --”
The twins turned their dark grins onto Tasl. His blood chilled.
Ice water flooded Tasl’s veins. Oh, by the Goddesses. These monsters hadn’t fled in Kakariko. The reinforcements meant nothing to them. They saw Tasl, recognized his connection to Link, and without Tasl ever realizing it, followed him to their actual target: Tasl’s grandson.
Oh by the Goddesses, his grandson. Tasl was a fool. He was an old, senile fool and damn Lady Impa. Tasl should have surrendered his sword and shield years ago.
The twins laughed at the expression on Tasl’s face, their dark glee a malicious cloud around him. Unable to take it, Tasl looked at his grandson, wondering if he would be looking back. The first time meeting his grandfather and Tasl led Link’s enemies right to him.
Yet there was no disgust or scorn on Link’s face. Link wasn’t even looking at him, gaze fixed on the pair hovering above them. No fear or intimidation darkened his features, either. His grandson looked fierce and determined and Tasl wished he could say he saw his son and daughter-in-law in Link’s face but there was only Link, switching his sword for his bow.
Grief and guilt a storm in his chest, Tasl shifted closer to Link. No matter what happened, he would defend him. Even if it took his last traitorous breath.
Those dark grins never wavered. They flicked from him to Link, ignoring the other Knights. One of them spoke, but Tasl couldn’t tell them apart. “Foolish child, interfering above your station.”
“Oh, ho! Thinks himself above his betters!”
Expression hard, Link switched his sword for his bow with a frightening fluidity. Out of the corner of his eye, Tasl saw Dalton do the same, but Dalton’s arrow didn’t suddenly explode with flame at its tip. The Elders only laughed.
“Ho ho! Time for little boys to learn their place!”
Link’s fingers twitched and the muscles in his arm flexed. In that heartbeat before he released the magical arrow, though, the ground shuddered under him. Yelping, Link lost his balance, the flaming arrow flying above the left twin’s head.
Beneath them, the earth cracked with a sound like thunder, primal fear sparking through Tasl. Dalton shouted and Risau screamed and then the ground beneath them was abruptly gone like it had never been. Link yelped, surprisingly high, sounding more startled than afraid but another punch to Tasl’s bruised gut.
The Elders’ laughter followed Tasl down and then there was only silence.