Zelda Seres Hyrule.
Monarch of the land.
Potentate of the entire kingdom.
No one called her ‘queen’, and certainly not ‘princess’, not since she came to power. And there she was, standing not twenty meters away. There were no divisions, no protective glass or defense screens. There was no army of royal guards between her and the young man staring up at her. Really he was gawking. Link was completely stunned, and for good reason. There existed only a handful of people outside of her usual entourage that actually had the privilege of being this close to the ruler of Hyrule. The legends–to say nothing of her media appearances–did not do her any justice. She was so much more than what he had thought she might be like in person.
The Detective watched as she turned and descended one of the staircases. There was an inherent grace to her every move. The gown she wore spoke of a more gilded age, of the legends he grew up reading about and obsessing over. He could only stare as she approached, parting the shallow sea of people around him. The whole time, her eyes remained locked on him and nothing else. It sapped him of all strength, will, and voice. It was as if she had cast a spell over him. Maybe that was her last line of security, some kind of magic that rendered a newcomer inert. More likely, he was just awestruck.
“Detective Link,” the Potentate said, jarring the young man with the realization that she was speaking directly to him, “It is an honor to have you present among us. My people have been searching for you for quite some time. We had almost given up hope, especially with the most tragic and untimely death of your brother. His passing shook us all. I’m sure you must think most ill of us for letting him come to harm.”
Her voice was gentle yet commanded obedience. There was a subtle melodious quality to it that left Link struggling to pull himself out of his revelry.
“N-n-no,” Link stammered, “No, your grace. I don’t… I don’t hate you or your people for it.”
That was something of a slight inaccuracy. He still held the TSDF responsible.
“I would not begrudge you thinking so. Still, I believe it is only fair that you be made aware of the circumstances surrounding the events leading up to his death.” the Potentate said before she turned and nodded to her First Minister.
Roslin bowed her head and backed away slowly. The rest of the group joined her, likely to tend to other matters of state while Link and Zelda conversed. It left the young man feeling slightly exposed and deeply out of place.
“I… I would appreciate that. Your grace is kind to offer it.” Link said, trying his best to determine how he was meant to speak to someone of such importance.
They never taught royal etiquette back in school. He had checked. It wasn’t out of arrogance but rather curiosity.
“Your brother was part of a team, a select group of highly trained, highly skilled soldiers. Their mission was to recover certain artifacts. I trust the good Lord Yates filled you in on the cult’s efforts to gather these relics?” the Potentate asked.
“Yes, your majesty. He did, but only just-” Link began, but cut himself off.
The Regent’s advice earlier about using only words to sound thoughtful had been terribly prescient. One did not babble or chatter like a fool in the presence of his monarch. The Detective took a brief breath as he tried to rein in his awe. It was necessary he offer his ruler the respect and intelligence she deserved.
When he felt he had settled himself enough, the young man continued.
“He explained about their desire to see Hyrule burned and the destruction of our technology.” Link finished, keeping his answer brief, but carefully thought out.
“They believe we have become decadent, too much to survive. What is worse, they are striving to resurrect a long dead foe,” Zelda said, “You are familiar with the tales of old, yes?”
It didn’t take a scholar to see what was as plain as day. The Detective frowned as he began to take in the bigger picture.
“They want to resurrect Ganondorf, don’t they?” he asked.
Zelda smiled softly and nodded, pleased with his powers of intuition.
“You know your history.” she said gently.
“Well, I know my bedtime stories. We were read so many of the ancient tales when I was very young. But forgive me if I seem a little… ignorant. How do they intend to raise the dead? And after so long, how can there be anything left to raise?” Link asked.
It wasn’t an unreasonable question. The Potentate was kind enough to supply an answer.
“You might be surprised. The relics we have been attempting to gather are shards of an ancient and powerful piece of those legends you were told so much about. They are trying to reassemble the Triforce of Power. With it, they could easily restore its former master.” she explained.
A sick twisting formed in the pit of Link’s stomach. He was suddenly finding himself plunging headlong into one of his bedtime stories. It wasn’t just the idea that this evil from the fairy tales he cherished as a child could come back. There was something else that was bothering him.
“So, if we can keep them from getting all of the shards, they can’t resurrect him. Using the Triforce of Power… which is only one of three pieces.” he said slowly, choosing his words carefully so he would not sound entirely pedestrian.
The regal lady nodded, sensing he was zeroing in on where this was leading.
“Correct. Only one of three. The other two are safely in the protection of the kingdom. I have the Triforce of Wisdom,” she said as she lifted her left hand to show a mark eerily similar to his that was visible through the sheer fabric of her glove, “While I carry it, no other may use its power. And the Triforce of Courage… it was thought to have been missing, lost to the ages. But now we know better.”
Zelda turned to peer over at Minister Roslin. As if the very business-oriented woman could read the Potentate’s mind, she stepped within acceptable range and held out her hand, turning over the necklace to the cloaked lady.
“You’re telling me all this time, Colin had the Triforce of Courage!?” Link asked in shock, trying his best to not raise his voice inappropriately.
The regal woman ran her fingers over the smooth pendent that reflected how the full Triforce should appear.
“Yes and no,” she explained, “He possessed its physicality but not its power. It had to be activated from its long sleep. You successfully did exactly that during your skirmish with the wizard you bested. From what I understand, this wasn’t actually Colin’s, it was yours. He had discovered that there were several items in his belongings that were in fact yours. It was not until he was among us that he realized the necklace was one of those items. He suspected the orphanage–or perhaps those who collected the both of you from your dire situations and placed you in foster care–accidentally mixed up your possessions. He intended to tell you and give you the necklace as its rightful owner. I think it is only fair that it remain in the hands of he who is meant to possess it.”
She reached out, letting the pendent dangle from her hand, waiting for the officer to take it. It practically floated there, gleaming in the light of the hall. Link tentatively reached out and cupped his hand under it. The necklace was lowered into his palm as the lady turned her hand over, resting it atop his as the other rose to hold his in place from underneath.
“He who is meant to possess it.” Link echoed.
The knot tightened further. He was sure of where this was heading. The five-year-old version of him was leaping about and screaming for joy. The adult side of him felt like he was falling and somehow being crushed at the same time.
“Yes. You bear a piece of the sacred gift the goddesses left behind. You are descended from the Hylian Knights of old,” Zelda said, “You are the Hero of Hyrule, Hylia’s Champion.”
Link saw it coming. He knew how it would fall on his shoulders like an entire building’s weight of responsibility. He even knew it would stir up unpleasant feelings about losing his brother. And yet, when the words were finally said, he felt as though he had been punched in the stomach. When the lady’s hands pulled away, he peered down at the necklace, perplexed by it.
“Why do I have a birthmark on my hand if the Triforce is in this necklace?” he asked.
“It is an abstract concept. It is and yet it isn’t. It resides within you and yet this necklace is how it manifests itself. It is thought that one of your ancestors mastered use of the Triforce of Courage to such an extent he could actually remove it from his body and conceal it. Knowing that would be too dangerous, he likely created this necklace as a sort of key, the other half of the whole. Without it, you would not have been able to make use of the Triforce’s power. Even now, it still harbors an energy unlike any we have recorded.” the potentate said.
“Energy,” the Detective thought back to the moment last night where he snapped, recalling images that were still cloudy but now he could make out a few subtle details, “I suppose this is where you ask something of me that you are going to call horribly unfair.”
His candor brought a smile to the Potentate’s lips. He knew his history quite well.
“The cycle continues I suppose,” she said, “And yes, it is terribly unfair. You’ve lost so much, been pulled away from your life, and now, here you stand before a woman you’ve never met and scarcely even seen who is asking you to take up a cause you may not even believe in.”
Link closed his fingers around the necklace and let his eyes shut slowly. It felt like he was holding a piece of Colin’s memory in his hand, and it didn’t even belong to his brother. A quiet sigh escaped him as he lifted the necklace up and slipped it over his head.
“You don’t even have to ask. If I’m part of the line you believe I am, I don’t have any choice. My very blood won’t let me decline.” the Detective said with a tone of resignation.
The Potentate furrowed her brow just ever so softly. It hurt Link to see it. The expression created a flaw in what was no doubt meant to be a meticulously crafted countenance of poise and composure, and he had been the cause.
“Of course you have a choice,” Zelda said, “If you wish to go home and help your brother’s fiancée through her grief, we would do our best to carry on without you. I will not order or beg for you to join us. I only humbly request it.”
The Detective shook his head, offering a good-natured smile.
“When I say I don’t have a choice, I mean I personally don’t see a choice. I fantasized about this sort of thing my entire childhood. There is absolutely no way I could ever let myself say no.” he said.
The Potentate smiled that same soft smile. Seeing the damage Link felt he had caused suddenly and miraculously repaired, he felt as though he were standing in the sun. He had made his monarch happy. It had been a practiced smile, the same one he had seen in media appearances and photographs. There wasn’t anything about her that wasn’t measured. But seeing it here, like this felt markedly different.
“Very well. The people of Hyrule thank you, Detective. And I thank you as well.” Zelda said.
With that, she offered him a graceful curtsey and turned to leave, climbing the stairs once more. Roslin turned to him with a slight grin, her hands on her hips.
“Not bad. You impressed her. Welcome to the Tri-State Defense Force. If you make it through basic training, I’m sure you’ll shoot up the ranks fast and get moved to special ops. For now, you’d better report to the barracks. They’re already expecting you.” the Minister said.
She turned about on her heel again. It seemed to be one of her preferred actions, likely because it seemed to emphasize a sense of efficiency of movement. Efficiency–after all–was something she was all about. Link moved to follow closely behind as he had been instructed to through embarrassment earlier.
“Already expecting me? That was fast.” Link said.
“Not really fast exactly. I just went on ahead and told them to expect you before you arrived.” Roslin replied.
“But… how did you know I’d say yes?” Link asked, bemusedly.
Roslin smirked as she barked orders at those massed around her, the group carrying them out by passing on the messages given to their various departments.
“A woman’s intuition you could say. Like you mentioned, you’re part of the hero’s line. Your blood won’t let you decline.” she said.
Yates gave the officer a knowing nod as they left the hall. It clicked in Link’s mind that he had told the Regent about the mark on his hand before they ever left Faron, and they took the course of action as granted. It annoyed Link just a bit, mostly because it suggested his life and his decisions were not his own. The lady with the scanner from before tagged along close to him, taking more measurements and information as they walked at the same brisk pace as before.
“Have him assigned to the next training group ready to begin. The sooner we can get him through boot camp the sooner we can put him to work,” Roslin said, then turned to gaze at Link once more after passing several more doors, “From this point on, I’m in your chain of command. I say it. You do it. You’ll have more dealings with me soon. Keep in mind that I speak for the Potentate in her absence. When you talk to me, you’re talking to her. Got it?”
The Detective nodded, bowing slightly as he took the clarification quite seriously.
“Yes your grace. I understand.” he said.
There was no insult meant by the use of such an honorific, but it forced Roslin to roll her eyes all the same.
“Not what I mean. If you have to call me anything, it’s either ma’am or sir. Now-” she said and looked to the young lady obsessing over his structure, “Natasha, see to it he is delivered to the barracks before his first training session begins without him. And… make sure he’s appropriately attired. I doubt a police uniform would offer him much protection from what they have in store for him.”
Roslin’s aide nodded and gripped Link by the arm, tugging him along.
“This way please, sir.” the young lady now identified as Natasha said.
She was surprisingly strong for her size, the designer frames on her glasses masking the body of an urban warrior. She must have been using those ‘Thirty Minute Bo’ exercise videos that were all the rage. Without any real reason to resist–or ability for that matter–the Detective was dragged along through the castle’s environs. A lift dropped them down into the very bowels of the foundation. It was where they kept the barracks for new recruits. There they would have easy access to the training grounds. The usual downtime that came with riding a lift created a not small degree of awkwardness, and Link was dreadful at small talk.
“So… First Minister Roslin. She’s a pretty intense lady huh?” he asked.
Natasha adjusted her glasses before continuing to tap away on the device she had been taking his measurements with.
“What you saw is just the tip of the iceberg. Just wait until your first official op,” the lady said then fell silent for a moment before looking up at him, “Don’t move.”
“Why? What’s going to ha-” Link tried to ask.
He was cut off quite suddenly by a restriction field, pinning him in place and turning opaque. He yelped in surprise as he felt something moving across his skin. It was his clothes! They were practically torn from his body! In seconds, he was almost completely unclothed under the energy field. Blessedly, his undergarments were left intact. A similar sensation came forth only in the other direction, as if he was being covered up again. The whole experience was terribly disconcerting. Perhaps if he had known it was coming, he would have been less disturbed.
When the field finally dropped, roughly a quarter of a minute had passed. His Faron Police uniform was gone, replaced by a more form fitting, more durable, more official one-piece garment. It wasn’t terribly flattering Link thought. It was however proof that he was officially part of the Tri-State Defense Force. Not even a full twenty-four hours had passed since the incident in Faron, and he was already neck deep in the thick of an adventure he had not bargained for.
“Was that really necessary!?” he shouted.
“All new recruits must wear standard issue uniforms, and we didn’t have time for you to go collect it from the Quartermaster. This was the most efficient method, which is good because training starts very shortly. That will hold up better during your training, keep you from getting too hot or cold, and it has a location tracker so you don’t get lost.” Natasha explained.
“A little warning would have been nice!” Link complained quite loudly.
Again Natasha turned to gaze at the officer, this time over her thin glasses.
“I said don’t move.” she said in all earnestness.
The rest of the ride in the lift was spent in silence.
The barracks stretched out before the young Detective. They looked about like he expected; very spartan, only a few meager possessions permitted aside from the typical military issued gear, and meticulously pristine. The beds didn’t look terribly comfortable but Link had grown up on the cheapest mattresses money could buy. As he entered, the voice of a drill sergeant reached his ears. It was loud, harsh, and abusive. Just like every stereotype he’d ever heard.
“Well you maggots managed to get the place clean but you did a piss-poor job doing it! Every morning you will make this room spotless! You will do it before formation! And if you are late to formation because you’re cleaning, you will end up doing laps until your legs fall off! Do you get me!?” the loud man bellowed.
A resounding ‘Sir, yes sir!’ filled the room as if made by some hellish choir. Link wasn’t looking forward to this. His expression of disdain was plainly visible as the Sergeant turned at the sight of the two newcomers. He glared and marched his way over to the pair of them. Immediately the Detective corrected his faux pas with a neutral expression and zero eye contact, keeping quiet as the hurricane blew in.
“What the absolute hell do you two think you’re doing in my barracks! This is a military facility! Not a public library you can just waltz into whenever you damn well feel like it! You will do an about face and get out of here on the double, you sorry excuses for servants of the crown! I have got soldiers to make out of these miserable excuses for Hylians!” he shouted.
“Sergeant!” the young lady roared right back.
It shocked both men, Link more than the drill instructor. Her sudden outburst silenced the large, imposing fellow in an instant. She possessed a quiet strength of will bubbling just below the surface. That was probably why Roslin had selected her.
“Ma’am.” the Sergeant said in a much more receptive tone.
“This is Detective Link from the Faron Police Force. He has been recruited into the TSDF. He’s been assigned to you for basic training. You will begin his processing effective immediately. His progress is your primary concern.” Natasha explained.
“Oh has he now!?” the seasoned veteran asked as he glared harshly at the shorter woman, “I don’t give a damn where he’s from or why he’s here! You do not bring new recruits into my barracks after we have begun! You stick him in with the next group! I do not take-“
“Minister Roslin gave the order to have him placed in your care.” the young lady said, cutting the large man off.
Her ability to silence the Sergeant was uncanny. She knew exactly what to say and exactly when to say it. It was probably an ability she had cultivated over a few years. Likely, it was undermining the instructor’s authority with the new recruits, but at least the order had come from Roslin herself. That would help him maintain his own little ‘monarchy’ as he liked to think of it. The Sergeant paused, looking over the new addition to his unit, appearing unimpressed as was typical.
“Minister Roslin said so huh? What’s so special about this runt?” he asked.
Natasha simply smiled a crooked little smile and let fly with what Link probably would have kept on a need to know basis.
“He’s the hero.” she said.
With that, she turned about, not unlike the Minister herself, and left. It was just Link and the Sergeant now, with an audience of new recruits ready to bear witness to his first, and likely most potent dressing-down. Just like every army movie he had ever seen, the Detective postured himself like the other soldiers, somewhat out of fear. His chin was lifted and his gaze was never locked on the superior officer in front of him.
“Hero huh?” the Sergeant asked quietly, “You don’t look like much of one. You got a name, soldier?”
“Sir, Link, Detective first class Faron Police, sir.” the young man replied, sounding audibly nervous.
“Do I look stupid to you son!?” the Sergeant shouted, waiting a moment for the younger man to answer, “Do I!?”
“Sir, no sir!” Link shouted.
“Then why in the name of Din, Nayru, and Farore are you spittin’ out garbage your girlfriend just told me!? Your last name, soldier!” the Sergeant ordered.
The young man swallowed and his gaze wavered. The answer would no doubt get him in even more trouble.
“Sir, I… I don’t have a last name, sir.”
“You don’t have a last name!?” the Sergeant shouted in a tone of mocking disdain, “Is that some sort of joke!? Do I look like I’m laughing, soldier!? You have five seconds to give me your last name or I swear you will be doing push-ups until the sun goes down! Do you get me!?”
“Sir, yes sir! I’m not joking, sir! I don’t have a last name, sir!” Link cried out, hoping he might actually convince the red-faced man.
At least he had the ‘sir sandwich’ part down. He didn’t even need to get a lecture about it. The Sergeant frowned as his face began to shift from a lighter shade of red to a deeper cherry hue.
“You’re telling me if I pull up your file from central archives that I will find no last name attached to your ugly photo?” the large, burly fellow shouted, “Is that what you’re saying you little sack of moblin puke!?”
“Sir, yes sir!” Link answered.
As if the unusual nature of the young man’s name infuriated the trainer, he marched over to a nearby desk and collected a data pad from the almost barren surface. As the other recruits dared to steal glances at either Link or their commanding officer, the Sergeant began slamming his fingers into the screen to pull up the desired information. He waved it in front of Link’s uniform, scanning the badge over the left side of his chest and waited for his file to pull up. When it did, he paused and read over it carefully. When he was satisfied, he looked back at the Detective, still quite unhappy.
“Well! Looks like we’ve got a soldier with no name! Do you think that makes you special!?” the Sergeant shouted.
“Sir, no sir!” Link answered.
“Looks like we got us a certified genius! Givin’ me all the right answers! Because you are absolutely one hundred percent right, it doesn’t! I don’t give a damn if the goddesses themselves came down right now and told me point blank you are the son of the Hero of Time himself! You will get no special treatment! You will crawl through the muck and the slime just like every other soldier in Her Majesty’s Army! Do you get me!?” the Sergeant screamed, only centimeters away from the young man’s face.
“Sir, yes sir!” Link answered.
“Good! You are no longer a Detective in the Faron Police! You are a Private in the Tri-State Defense Force! Do you know our motto!?” the drill instructor shouted.
That was something he was all too familiar with. Colin had spouted it so many times before being picked up by the force he knew it by heart.
“Sir, yes sir!” the new Private replied.
Just as he was about to recite it, the drill sergeant cut him off, leaning in even closer. Flecks of saliva hit Link’s cheek and he fought hard to not flinch. The man’s breath was quite potent.
“Courage to act! Wisdom to lead! Power to enforce! Every member of the TSDF is expected to show the same balance in all three!” he shouted, then stepped away, his voice lowering to a dull roar, “I heard about the little stunt in Faron last night. Didn’t think it came from a stick like you. You faced the bastard. That took courage. I’m having a hard time believing you’ve got the other two. What in all of Hyrule makes you think you’ve got what it takes to be under my command?”
Link raced to find an adequate answer. He couldn’t conjure up anything save one simple thought. He honestly didn’t think it would amount to much to anyone else, but it mattered to him.
“Sir, because my brother taught me everything I know about fighting for what’s right, sir.” the Private answered.
“Your brother?” the Sergeant asked, “Doesn’t exactly sound like an expert on the subject, hero. Your brother got a name?”
“Sir, yes sir. His name was Colin, sir.” Link said.
Silence claimed the Sergeant. He stared harshly at the young recruit while the other soldiers began to whisper inaudibly behind him. It had more of an impact than Link expected. Was Colin really that well known? Should he have kept that detail to himself? Natasha had burned his anonymity with the ‘He’s the hero’ comment, but that could have been explained away as being picked on. Admitting that Colin was his brother carried serious weight, apparently. There would be no explaining that away. Eventually, the Sergeant slowly turned back around to look at his men to silence their chatter.
“Did I say any of you maggots could talk!?” he roared.
They all snapped back to attention, silencing themselves. The older man turned back around and moved back in close to his new recruit, not nearly as uncomfortably close as before, but certainly close enough to size him up.
Link kept utterly silent. He had not been spoken to, and he had nothing to add. Once again, Yates’ advice to be thoughtful in his words was ringing away in his head. Hopefully he could pull that off. The Sergeant had done a fairly good job of rattling him.
“Colin was your brother,” the older man said and watched carefully, gauging the Private’s reaction, “That’s good enough for me. However, as I said, you are not in Faron anymore. You are a soldier in service to Her Majesty, Potentate Zelda, and all her subjects. That will not end until she personally releases you or you end up a smear on the battlefield. Get into formation, Private.”
“Sir, thank you sir.” Link said and broke his posture.
He moved swiftly to the first empty bunk nearest the rest of the troops. It was an eclectic mix of all sorts. At least he didn’t stand out too much–other than the whole hero business he suddenly found shoved onto him. He could all at once feel the stares of the other recruits on him. It made his skin crawl. There would be questions, possibly even scorn and ridicule. He suddenly felt like he was back in high school all over again.
The drill sergeant moved back down the aisle towards his trainees, looking them over. He took his time, pointing out flaws in one or another’s posture, uniform, or even their hair. It was all very textbook military intimidation tactics to drum out those who didn’t belong and drill into those who did a sense of obedience and respect.
“Alright ladies… break’s over! Outside! Move!” he barked.
In a flash, the group was out the large doors headed for the training grounds. Link ran right along with them, aiming for the middle of the pack. He didn’t want to be up front because he didn’t know where to go, nor did he want to appear as if he was taking the lead. And he certainly didn’t want to lag back to the rear. There would be plenty of chances for him to fall behind. He wasn’t necessarily out of shape, but he was sure he wasn’t up to the standards of the TSDF training program.
He began to wonder how Colin handled basic training, and it made him ache all over again.