Dec 28, 2021
33 mins read
It seemed slow, at first. People awakening from a long, deep slumber. A shiver of limbs, eyes sliding half-open and staring unfocused at nothing, a clumsy hand pushing a heavy body upward. Slow but steady, all around them, from one doorway to the next, and every single dead eye staring unblinking at them.
Steady and slow and Tasl watched with pride as none of his people broke stride, sprinting through the rising corpses. A foul stench rose with them, beyond the scent of death, a foulness which caught in Tasl’s throat and nose and threatened to make him gag. He ran past a Gerudo woman stumbling to her feet and something inside him wrenched and gibbered when he saw her spine glint through the shreds of her clothes.
The Gerudo reached out a hand and brushed his sleeve but her rotting fingers couldn’t get a grip. Against his will, against every tale of monsters and spirits Tasl had been told growing up, Tasl looked back at her.
And saw her open up her mouth and scream.
Every muscle went cold and stiff in Tasl like he was just a corpse, too. His mind blanked, swept clean by a deep, overwhelming sense of horror. It was like decades ago, when the surviving Knights carried his son’s body home. It was like watching his son be lowered into the ground beside two empty graves. It was like watching the light leave his beloved’s eyes for the last time all over again.
Even as he watched the creature stagger toward him, hands rising and mouth gaping impossibly open, Tasl couldn’t move. Couldn’t breathe. Could only stare in dumb horror at his own death.
Behind the walking corpse, he saw Link stagger, his sharp eyes go blank for a terrifying moment before the young Hylian blinked and shook his head. His steps dragged unsteadily and his hand shook when he raised his sword. The dead Gerudo didn’t notice, all attention on Tasl. Tasl could see the monster’s muscles tense, actually see them contract, and he wanted to scream --
Then Link swung his sword and the Gerudo’s head rolled from its shoulders. The spell shattered. Tasl gasped and his lungs burned and the world rushed back in, bringing in the sharp awareness that he was surrounded by the dead, their hands reaching for him.
Still holding his sword with his left hand, Link grabbed Tasl’s shoulder with his right and shoved him forward. Run, Tasl heard, but Link’s mouth never moved, and gasping, uncaring of the putrid air, Tasl bolted where Dalton and Risau waited in the tunnel.
All around them, dead mouths began to gape open and then they were through the doorway, Dalton’s and Risau’s hands grasping and pulling, and Link pushed them forward into the shadows. There were flickering blue torches and garbled whispers and behind them the echoes of dead screams.
Run, Lior whispered, and Tasl ran.
Run, Amelia whispered, and Tasl’s eyes burned.
Beside him, in the dark, Link’s face was everything like theirs and nothing.
The tunnel curved and the whispers grew and suddenly there was nothing but blinding light. Flickering shadows exploded into agonizing white, and Tasl staggered and felt Link’s hand on his shoulder again. He blinked frantically and saw Dalton’s and Risau’s familiar silhouettes in the bright light but couldn’t make out anything else. Link’s hand tightened on his shoulder and his slender body pressed against Tasl’s back.
“I expected the Hero of Time. I did not expect him to have companions.”
Link exhaled sharply by Tasl’s ear. His hand squeezed, fingers digging into muscle and bone. Did he recognize the voice then? Nothing about it was familiar, just a deep rumble. Tasl squinted against the light but couldn’t see a damned thing. He clutched his sword but it felt more like a lucky talisman in his hands rather than a real weapon.
Sight returned slowly. Tasl remained tense, prepared for an attack, but there was only Link’s hand tight on his shoulder and Link’s soft puffs of air beside him, a little too fast and rough. His companions slowly came into focus, and then inch by inch, the stone floor, sweeping outward, revealing an odd, cold grey, circular room. Tasl tried to brace himself for anything, too aware of his grandson stiff and still beside him.
Dalton hissed in front of him. “King Ganondorf!”
Tasl startled and raised his blade and there, at the far end of the room, sprawled seemingly carelessly in one of the room’s rectangular windows, was the Gerudo King himself. What the hell? Wasn’t he dead? Defeated and gone and Tasl’s lips pulled back from his teeth in an ugly snarl.
During the war, Tasl had never encountered him. Not during the battles, nor following his surrender. Not even at his trial. Still, Tasl didn’t doubt Dalton at all when he took in the sight of the large male Gerudo, the arrogant tilt of his head, the sharpness of gaze as it swept over them. Red and gold silk draped over his large body as Ganondorf stretched out in the window, imperious and relaxed.
A fight then, and Tasl didn’t believe for a second that Ganondorf’s empty hands meant he was unarmed. You took them from me, he thought, muscles tensing. You took him from me.
Before Tasl could do more than suck in an angry breath, Link squeezed Tasl’s shoulder and stepped forward. He held his sword in a light grip at his side. His eyes were only for Ganondorf’s, as Ganondorf’s seemed only for him, the Knights recognized and forgotten in one sentence. “I am Link.” As always, his voice was quiet, but in this strange room, it carried like a shout. What was he doing?
Ganondorf inclined his head, a formality in the gesture which scratched Tasl’s already sensitive nerves raw. “Hero of Time,” he murmured, and Tasl’s hackles rose higher with each word spoken. “Chosen of the Goddesses. Will you hear my tale?”
After a quiet moment, Link staring at Ganondorf with his head tilted curiously to one side, Link nodded. The movement held the same formality as the (dead?) Gerudo king’s. From Tasl’s angle, he couldn’t see Link’s face.
Whatever was there won a small, sad smile from Ganondof. Tasl didn’t understand any of this. Where were they? Why was Ganonodrf here? What was Link doing? Why weren’t they attacking this mad creature?
Yet they had followed Link’s lead in his madness so far, and he had not yet led them astray. Tasl gestured sharply toward his Knights, and both nodded back, tense and faces hard. When this devolved into its inevitable battle, they would be ready.
“You have met my mothers, the witches Kotake and Koume.” Ganondorf’s gaze grew distant, and he turned away from Link to stare at the endless blue outside the window. Had they been transported to some high tower then? “Long have they hungered for power. They sought to become the greatest witches in the land, but soon, that wasn’t enough to soothe their greed. They searched the land of Hyrule and beyond and at last encountered a great and terrifying entity whose thirst for power exceeded their own. It was this entity which had revealed the existence of the Triforce and empowered the Civil War which tore apart the land.”
That sounded ridiculous and Tasl almost said so, but Link only nodded, calm and apparently unsurprised by this strange tale. Something relaxed in the set of his shoulders, even as he held onto his sword.
“In the Gerudo tribe, a single male is born once a century, and these men become King. The reason why has been lost in time, although I fear Kotake and Koume played a role in its disappearance, among other legends and magic of old. I was born during the War, my biological mother deceased, and I fear Kotake and Koume had a role in that, too.” Ganondof’s mouth tightened, eyes still distant, and he looked great and tragic like the stories of old, and how Tasl hated him in that moment, how the Gerudo King spoke so mournfully when this man was why his family was dead, why he had lost everyone --
But no. Link still lived, his grandson still lived, and now he stood in front of him and listened to this Gerudo King, quiet and serious.
“My people were dying, and they promised me the power to save them.” Ganondorf’s mouth twisted into something sour and mirthless. “In my pride and greed, I believed them. I believed that I alone could restore greatness to our people.” He raised a hand and held it out, fingers moving like he was rolling a ball on them. “I believed I had power enough to bring Hyrule’s sweet wind to our harsh desert.”
His hand clenched into a tight fist. Tasl tensed, and he saw Dalton’s back straighten. “I was wrong. They desired a weapon for their dark god, and I did not realize how greatly I was used until my people were defeated and I was on my knees about to be executed.” Ganondorf shook his head. “I was a fool. I let them steal my will, twist me into something foul and dark, and now here I rot while my people still suffer in the desert sun and they remain free.”
Turning away from the blue nothing beyond the window, Ganondof stared at Link. It was like the Knights didn’t exist. “They still seek to bring their dark king into this world. They plot and scheme and gather their tools to them, dragging others into their darkness. You must not let them succeed. If they do, all our peoples shall fall.”
Link nodded. When he spoke, Tasl still couldn’t see his face, but his voice was thoughtful, if still laced with steel. “And what about you?”
The corners of Ganondorf’s mouth tilted upward into something faintly mocking. “I remain trapped in this tomb, beyond life and death. I wish I could say this was my punishment for falling for their deceit, but I fear they hold me here for other purposes. Be wary, Hero. They devour all that they touch.”
Link’s free hand clenched into a fist. “They used you,” he said quietly. There was too much in his voice for Tasl to decipher, but there was enough that he wanted to grab his strange grandson and pull him back with them. “I will kill them, and then I will return for you.”
To kill him? To free him? Link, what are you doing?
Ganondorf didn’t reply immediately. He silently eyed Link. Tasl didn’t understand what was happening, only that he wanted to shove his blade down Ganondorf’s throat. “Perhaps,” he began, then stiffened. He raised his head, like a wolf scenting the wind. “They’re here.”
Tasl’s eyes widened. He stepped towards Link --
Then the world blazed white again.
Tears streamed from Tasl’s eyes and he wavered on his feet, sick and dizzy and heart racing in his chest like a maddened stallion. He reached out blindly for Link but his hand swept over empty air.
Link, he thought, wild and desperate, and then there was laughter. Familiar, hateful, spiraling laughter.
“Oh ho, sister!”
Vision washed in slowly, darkness dancing around him. Tasl blinked, eyes and mind burning, and he recognized that flickering torchlight, ghostly blue all around him.
“Ho oh, sister! We have guests.”
High, fierce laughter, the sound of the damned, above him. Tasl snarled and blinked his eyes, teary lashes clinging together. Damn them and damn Impa for keeping her secrets and damn that dark king and Tasl was ready to damn the Goddesses themselves. Where was his grandson? Where was Dalton and Risau?
Movement and a hard blink and Link’s familiar silhouette backing toward him, head tilted upward. Tasl snapped out his hand and grabbed Link’s shoulder. Tight muscle and solid bone and Tasl squeezed hard once before forcing himself to let go.
The battle wasn’t over yet.
“What is this?” Risau demanded, voice too thin and edged.
I don’t know and I’m sorry and she’s earned a damned promotion after this.
Perhaps his own thoughts were too thin and edged, too, but not even a war had prepared Tasl for this madness.
But it had prepared him to keep his sword steady in his hand even when mind and body wanted to lay still in the dirt. Exhaling sharply, Tasl willed the world into focus.
He immediately regretted it.
Those damned sisters flew in circles above their heads, cackling like fiends, barely visible in the dancing torchlight, but seemingly content to act like vultures. The room itself was large, the ceiling high and dark and Tasl saw no end to its shadows. On the far sides of the room, in terrible parallel to the monstrous room before, were streams of black, splashing water, the sight of them sending chills of foreboding down Tasl’s spine.
Before them… Link didn’t even seem to look at the witches flying above. Neither did Risau, even as Dalton had his new bow aimed unceasingly at them. At the far end of the room, set high on a platform with dark stone steps leading up to it, was a massive tomb. Thrice the height and width of any Hylian and decorated with engravings Tasl couldn’t translate nor did he want to, there was a statue of a slumbering giant. It was too high for Tasl to make out the details, but the sight of it increased the chill in his blood tenfold.
There was no doubt whose body lay in that tomb.
“Thank you, Knights of Hyrule!” The witch’s voice raked over Tasl’s nerves.
“For bringing us our sacrifice!”
“Your reward --”
“-- will be --”
“-- a swift death!”
With another wild laugh and a flare of magic which burned Tasl’s already teary eyes, the witches vanished above them.
“That’s not good,” Dalton said in the sudden quiet.
Risau frowned at him and then turned to Tasl, her sword in a white-knuckled grip in both hands. Her mouth moved, but Tasl heard nothing. At all. Risau’s eyes widened, the whites too clear even in the dim light, and her mouth moved again.
Link switched sword for bow faster than Tasl’s eye could catch. His grandson was shorter than him but in that moment, in the ghostly light in the tomb of a cursed king, he looked larger than life, jaw hard and fair face fearless.
We are standing in the middle of a legend, Tasl realized dizzily. All the tales of the Royal Family and the great deeds of old were alive around them, sorcery and life and death and Fate, the Goddesses’ hands moving, and there was not an ounce of comfort to be found in that realization. He knew the stories and he knew all too well how they could end.
None of it mattered. It didn’t matter that a legend stood before him or another legend rested in its tomb above him. All that mattered was his grandson, his last living relative, was about to fight, and Tasl exhaled a breath he couldn’t hear and raised his sword.
Movement out of the corner of his eye and then there was the bewildering sight of a massive serpent breaking free of the water to their left, waves crashing around its long, dark body, dizzying as Tasl’s mind strained to catch the sounds it knew should exist yet didn’t.
The serpent opened its mouth, baring fangs as long as Tasl’s sword, and every motion indicated it screeched at them but he couldn’t hear it. An arrow hit it under its eye and its massive head jerked back, mouth moving soundlessly. The monster was terrifying but the silence was worse, and Tasl wanted to shout out orders but knew those sounds would be lost, too.
Never before had he realized how much he relied on sound. The monster splashed in the water and Link and Dalton were firing at it and Risau was shouting something and it was impossible to keep track of everyone with anything resembling ease. Tasl looked up to see if the witches were still there but there was only darkness. The eerie silence swallowed their telltale laughter like it swallowed everything else.
Tasl yanked out his bow, but before he could fire, the creature threw its head back, jaw gaping wide, and then ducked into the water. Enemy gone, Tasl turned to Link, but his grandson was already running toward the opposite side of the room, switching out his bow for his sword. When the creature exploded from the water on that side of the room, Link was waiting, slashing and hacking at it like a madman. The creature’s mouth opened again, fangs flashing, and it took a moment for Tasl to realize it was screaming.
When it lunged at Link, there was no sound to signal the change from screaming to biting. Link rolled to the side, black water cresting over him and the ground. Arrows struck the creature’s neck as Link resumed striking at its head, not seeming to notice the water dripping off him.
Tasl knew he should be fighting. He should be killing this monster, protecting his people, protecting his grandson. Yet it was so easy to stand back and watch Link in action, each motion quick and deadly and raising more questions than answers. Tasl had spent his life surrounded by warriors but nothing compared to this.
How could normal warriors compare to the Hero of legend, after all?
The thought was both dizzying and nauseating and it was what prompted Tasl to raise his bow and start firing. This wasn’t some strange mythical warrior. This was his grandson, the baby he never got to hold all grown up.
Get away from him, he thought and felt a savage glee when the creature threw its head back in a silent scream again.
When it dived back into the water, Link hurried away from the water’s edge. This time he jogged to the center of the room and gestured for the others to join him. Dalton and Risau followed without hesitation and it was another sight for Tasl to stop and drink in, another piece of a puzzle, right with the strange bit about the Zora princess and what Link was doing in the forest.
We’re going to survive this, Tasl thought, jogging to join them, and then I want us to sit down and I want to know you.
Dalton’s gaze was on the original stretch of water, but Risau looked at both, mouth tight. Tasl glanced at Link and saw him doing the same. No clear pattern then. Not like Tasl expected one by this point.
Silence. Nothing but silence. Tasl grit his teeth.
A flurry of motion, water rushing and a sleek body rising in the air. Link charged forward and, to Tasl’s surprise, Risau was at his heels, her own sword in the air. Tasl spared a quick look at Dalton to see the man looking unsurprised, just grim, an arrow flying from his bow.
Here, in the midst of legends, Tasl watched his people and grandson in action and raised his own bow, biting the inside of his cheek to keep from smiling. If they didn’t die in this unnatural tomb, everyone was going to get a promotion. Or… whatever people in Link’s position got.
The monster writhed under the onslaught before baring its fangs and lunging toward Dalton and Tasl. They dived in opposite directions, Tasl’s old body hitting the ground harder than he liked. They would get promotions. He was going to retire, Impa be damned.
The serpent twisted over the ground, eyes blazing and teeth too damned large in Tasl’s opinion, and Tasl bared his own teeth back and fired an arrow between its eyes. In response, the creature opened its mouth wider, either screaming or about to swallow Tasl whole.
So of course that was the moment Tasl’s insane grandson leaped onto its back, ran up to the top of its skull, and drove his sword downward.
Upon further reflection, neither that nor the sudden explosion of light and sound really should have been a surprise to Tasl.
He staggered back, eyes burning, head pounding, a rising whine in his ears. Cocking his bow, he strained his teary eyes.
The first thing he saw was the creature’s body disintegrating into the air like so much dust. The second thing was Link picking up something from where the creature’s body had been and pocketing it. The third was an opening appearing in the steps directly beneath the large tomb, leading into darkness.
So of course that was where his grandson was trotting.
Link didn’t get this from his side of the family, Tasl thought, sighing and following behind him. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Dalton and Risau shrug at each other and follow.
“Hey, Sir Dalton?”
“By now you can just call me Dalton. What is it?”
“Nothing. I just wanted to hear something, that’s all.”
“I can sing for you, if you want.”
“...silence isn’t that bad after all. Sir.”
Ahead of them, Link looked over his shoulder at them, what could have been a smile playing on his mouth. Then he darted into the tunnel.
“What, Sir? No bad feeling this time?”
“It never went away the first time.”
Tasl huffed, half in response to Dalton’s comment and half just to hear the noise, and followed his grandson. He had imagined something like this before, on the rare occasion he allowed himself to think of his lost family. He imagined retiring and playing with his grandson while his son and daughter-in-law trained to take more responsibility over the Knights of Hyrule. He had dreamed of his son taking his place while he taught his grandson the proper way to use the sword, unlike his son’s more random methods and his daughter-in-law’s experimental attacks. He imagined his grandson waving his first wooden sword while Tasl jogged obligingly behind him, a partner in play and making sure the boy didn’t run into trouble.
The parallel to that old dream struck Tasl as hilarious as he followed his grandson. Or perhaps the insanity was at last breaking him. Both possibilities proved acceptable.
The tunnel under the tomb wound in a strange, circular pattern. To Tasl’s displeasure, he thought they were moving downward, although he couldn’t be sure. His sense of direction was long gone. He had no idea how close they were to the forest or the castle. He supposed at this point it didn’t matter. He followed his grandson and his Knights followed him and he pretended he couldn’t hear the walls whispering around them.
The scent of decay and damp hung heavily in the air around them like a funeral shroud. Tasl swallowed when he realized that was all the tunnel and its endless rooms were: a mass grave for the witches’ victims.
It won’t be mine, he thought viciously, his sword heavy in his hands. He looked at Link’s back, his grandson’s tunic and hair still dripping. It won’t be ours.
Finally, the light increased and Link’s steps slowed. Tasl exhaled and for a moment he was back in the middle of the war, Hyrule Field around him, the scent of blood heavy in the air. The feeling of finality pressed down on him then, the knowledge that either his death was upon him or the end of the war. Approaching that light, Tasl felt that same pressure.
“All I want,” Dalton breathed behind him, “is to shoot one of them in the eye.”
Tasl bit back a sigh when Risau quietly but vehemently agreed.
Link paused by the doorway, and Tasl looked over his shoulder into the room beyond. It wasn’t quite what he was expecting. It was a large circular room lit by golden torches. The floor was a pale stone, covered in what looked like sand. Tasl scowled and looked around the room but nothing offered any clues as to how sand could be here or where the twins were. The room looked empty: just stone and sand and fire. He couldn’t see any other doorways or signs of life.
“...please don’t say it.”
Tasl ignored them and turned toward Link. He looked unsurprised by the room, studying it like he could see something Tasl couldn’t. Perhaps he could.
“This is a trap,” Tasl said quietly.
Link nodded, mouth tight. “They have the ability to combine into something called Twinrova. The best way to fight is with something called the Mirror Shield, but that is with Nabooru at the Fortress. They’re weak to each other’s attacks so parry them if possible.”
“Any other advice?” Dalton asked, moving toward the other side of the door. He held his bow in his hands, one arrow already nocked.
Link glanced at him. His voice remained deadly serious. “Shoot them in the eye.”
As Dalton coughed out a laugh, Link stepped forward. He held his sword in front of him, hands steady on the hilt, gaze roaming the room. Tasl walked several feet behind him, just in case the sisters tried to get multiple targets with one attack. Something niggled at him as he looked around the room, seeing nothing but stone and flickering torches. He glanced up at the ceiling, noting its high arch but seeing nothing else special about it. Where were they?
His gaze trailed back to his grandson. Link had moved to the center of the room, frowning and looking around. Tasl couldn’t help but think that his grandson didn’t look particularly heroic right then: he just looked like a drowned rat, his wet blond hair clinging to his face.
Heroic… wait, what had the sisters said about Link?
The puzzle piece clicked into place. Tasl swore and lunged forward. “Link, come here!”
To Link’s credit, he didn’t hesitate, but it didn’t matter. He had only taken one step before fire flared around him, trapping him in a circle in the middle of the room. There was shouting behind Tasl, but he didn’t care. “Link!” he shouted.
Link stared at him with wide eyes. Above them, the air crackled and familiar laughter erupted. “Ah, sister, we have him!”
“We have him at last!”
Snarling, Tasl looked up and glared at the witches, circling above them on their damned broomsticks. Neither seemed to notice him, still cackling.
“We have our sacrifice.”
No, they didn’t.
Tasl didn’t remember switching from sword to bow but the next thing he was aware of was his fingers releasing the string and an arrow aiming for one ugly eye. The witch shrieked and they separated, both of them flying to opposite ends of the room. In unison, they began to fly clockwise around the small group. Magic crackled in the air, making Tasl’s hair stand on end, and he was getting sick of it.
“We only need him for our great lord’s revival. We don’t need all of you.”
“But how generous of you to sacrifice yourselves for his cause!”
The sisters glowed and Tasl flinched back. He refused to release his bow so settled on ducking his head, shoulders tense, as more damned magic lit the room.
“With my flame, I will burn them to the bone!”
“With my frost, I will freeze them to -- Eeeee!”
The witch shrieked and Tasl’s blinked his abused eyes and looked up. The sisters had transformed, one’s hair on fire and blazing above her head, the other’s ghostly white, the cold visibly radiating from it. The ice one was flailing in mid-air, an arrow in her shoulder. The last remnants of fire on its shaft died as Tasl watched, only for another arrow to strike her.
Link, Tasl realized, watching his grandson shoot through the fire holding him at the witch.
“Dalton, Risau!” he shouted, moving closer to the flames. “Focus on the fire witch!”
After that, everything went to hell.
Their only bit of leeway was that it took the witches a moment to charge their attacks and their hesitance to aim for Link. Tasl kept the circle of fire between himself and the ice witch, aiming his arrows so they went through the flames. Unfortunately, he needed to take his time, making each shot count, too aware of his dwindling supply.
The witches’ strikes were equally slow but hit much harder. Tasl heard Dalton yelp in pain but couldn’t see much beyond ice spreading in his peripheral vision. Risau shouted something but there was only the roar of flames and the shriek of ice shattering on the ground. He managed a quick look at Link’s face, flushed and sweaty with the heat of the flames but still focused.
Tasl didn’t see the strike which hit him.
He saw his grandson’s face, the familiar blue of his eyes even brighter against the red flush of his face, and then he was on the ground and Risau was screaming. He laid on the ground, dazed, left arm burning, and tried to bring his old eyes to focus again.
Link? Where was Link? Where was his grandson?
There was shouting and noise but Tasl couldn’t make out any of it. His ears rang and his heart beat too loudly. No matter how hard he blinked, he couldn’t clear the shadows from his vision.
Somewhere in the distance, there was high, mocking laughter. Someone screamed.
Come on, Father, his son whispered. You aren’t done yet. Show them how it’s done.
Always a bossy little thing. Tasl groaned and tried to push himself to his knees. His arm shrieked in agony.
You’re almost done. Come on.
Time to finish this and go home.
His good arm shook as Tasl tried to push himself up. Spots danced in his eyes. Panting, a cold sweat breaking out over his skin, Tasl forced himself to his knees.
It was like Link described. Instead of two witches, there was now one, strangely young looking and beautiful. Tasl couldn’t remember what Link had called her and it didn’t matter: what mattered was that she was curled into herself, pretty features tight with pain and rage. He couldn’t see Dalton but he saw Risau, using his trick from earlier to use the fire of Link’s prison against them. As for Link…
Link stood with his bow and arrow still in his hands, body centered on the witch but wide eyes staring at Tasl. He looked afraid. In the short time Tasl had known him, he couldn't remember Link looking afraid.
Come on, Father.
His bow and arrows were in front of him, his arrows encased in the same ice which struck Tasl. As if from a distance, Tasl saw his hands reach out and grab his bow and one of the arrows. When he nocked the arrow and pulled it back, he swore he could smell his wife’s perfume.
Show them what the Knights of Hyrule can do.
The witch screamed.
Then there was only darkness.
Kakariko Village’s graveyard was bright and sunny: a direct contrast to the tunnels winding under Hyrule. Beyond the graveyard’s entrance, the chatter of villagers remained muffled but active, a reminder of life out of sight. His right arm in a sling, Dalton stood silently at the entrance. His face hard and forbidding and his back straight, he encouraged wanderers to keep going without ever saying a word. Tall and proud, he looked every inch the new leader of the Knights of Hyrule. His armor gleamed in the sunlight.
At the far end of the graveyard, Link sat cross-legged in the grass. Risau sat beside him, her shoulder bumping his. Link didn’t look at her. The line of graves in front of him held his attention, always overlooked before in favor of the graveyard’s other mysteries. He didn’t look at his own grave. He didn’t look away from his family’s names.
On Link’s other side, Tasl sighed. His left arm was in a sling in an annoying twin to Dalton’s injury: his ice and Dalton’s fire. It was humiliating. Two senior Knights limping home while Link -- technically a civilian -- and the young Knight Risau returned with only minor injuries. It would have been a complete embarrassment if not for the outrageous story which accompanied them.
A nice, if slightly embarrassing, ending to a long career. Now it was time to say good-bye.
Link studied the graves like they were a puzzle he could solve. Perhaps he thought it was. Risau’s gaze strayed again and again to Link’s own small, empty grave. Link’s tombstone was nameless and vague. Haunting, even as Link seemed to ignore it in favor of his parents’. Tasl had no idea what Link was thinking but could guess Risau’s thoughts.
“I’ve discussed it with Princess Zelda,” Tasl said quietly, nodding at Link’s grave. Even the words chilled him, aided by Link’s near murder and Link’s reported plans. “The tombstone will be removed but the grave itself will stay in case…” Even with Link warm and alive beside him, Tasl couldn’t finish the sentence. He cleared his throat. “The tombstone is no longer appropriate --” nameless with the wrong date and for an infant instead of an adult warrior “ -- and everything else can be addressed later..”
Link made a soft noise in the back of his throat, the first noise he had made in at least fifteen minutes. Tasl had no idea what Link had been thinking the entire time, but at least now he had time to learn about his grandson and find out.
They had a later. They had a future. It didn’t stop being amazing.
“Her grave is still empty,” Link said quietly. “I went back to the forest but they don’t know where her body is anymore. That’s not…” Link lowered his eyes. “That’s not how things work in the forest.”
He sounded lost and confused, and Tasl silently wrapped his good arm around Link’s shoulders. Link allowed it, a balm to Tasl’s wounded soul and an impossibility not long ago. Something so simple so many other grandparents in Hyrule took for granted.
“She’s at peace,” Tasl said. He kept his voice confident and strong and made himself believe the words even as he said them. He knew all about the rumors of the fey forest. “All she wanted was to save her child, and she succeeded. Even if you couldn’t find her body, you being alive and healthy is enough for her.”
Link tilted his head and looked at him, as fey as that forest but with familiar blue eyes and a familiar nose and hair the same shade as his own. Tasl’s heart swelled just looking at him.
His grandson liked apple pie and LonLon milk and fried fish and salad with a variety of greens. He liked the color green and smiled, bewildered and bright, when Tasl showed him his green blankets in his bedroom in Tasl’s home. Tasl was slowly but surely learning, and...
“I have so many stories to tell you about them both,” Tasl said softly. On Link’s other side, Risau looked away from them and stared hard at the graves. Her pointed ears gave her away, though. “Whenever you are in Hyrule and want to put down your sword, my home is your home. It’ll always be open to you.”
As always when Tasl brought it up, Link flushed and ducked his head. He still looked confused, but Tasl could work on that. He had years to make up for.
“I don’t know how long this will take,” Link warned, voice still quiet.
Tasl smiled and squeezed Link’s -- his grandson’s -- shoulders again. He couldn’t remember smiling this much in years. “I’ve waited this long. I don’t mind waiting some more.”
Even if he hated Link’s self-imposed quest: hunting down information regarding the witches’ strange master and how to free Ganondorf from his stranger prison. Tasl had no idea why this quest meant so much to Link, but it was all right. He hoped that when he gave Link information about his family, Link could give his own information back, including his bewildering relation with the Gerudo. How did that even happen? Weren’t men forbidden from their Fortress?
It didn’t matter. Link wasn’t heading out yet, and Tasl planned on enjoying the beginning of his retirement with his grandson. Both his retirement and spending time with his grandson were long overdue.
Risau bumped Link’s other shoulder. “Don’t forget the Knights of Hyrule are here to help you, too. You’re the son and grandson of Knights: we’re here if you need us.”
Link’s smile was small but warm. Tasl beamed and turned back to his family’s graves.
There were several things Tasl knew, as surely as he knew the sun would rise: that his only child was dead, that his daughter-in-law was dead…
“I’ve been meaning to ask. What is this about an engagement to Princess Ruto?”
...and that his grandson looked exactly like his son when he blushed.