[Link/Zelda; PG] Where Your Road Leads Character/Series: Link/Zelda; The Legend of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild Rating: PG Notes: Written under the assumption that the final picture memory is the last thing you get before going to the castle. Also, I have not gotten farther than that, SO DON'T YOU DARE SPOIL ME. Title: Where Your Road Leads Author:yuuo Word Count: 3341 Summary:Things had gone so very, very wrong.
Things had gone so very, very wrong.
Zelda's power that she'd never been able to awake had failed them, a fact that called many things into question, but Link wasn't interested in asking them until he was sure they were safe. 'Safe' would probably be relative, with the Calamity taking control of everything in the four corners of Hyrule. But there had to be some place they could lay low until they'd come up with another plan. Zelda could do the questioning then, and he knew she would. He'd listen for awhile, then he'd start riding her case to start trying to come up with answers to questions that would matter more at the moment.
Link had decided the Lost Woods would be their best hope, a place that anyone who didn't know it would get lost in, and a place where they- and the Sword -could rest and heal. Its power was dimming in his head.
It was raining, and the paths were muddy and slick under their feet. If Hylia had written this tragedy that was playing out, she was a mistress of grim settings that were overused and should be relagated to the dumpster bin of drama for a few millenia or so. He almost wondered if it rained every time the Champions and Princesses that came before them fought Ganon, or if it was just for their failure.
Another question he might ask later, though nobody would be able to answer it.
Zelda was just barely keeping up with Link, and if their lives weren't in danger, he'd feel bad for how he was practically dragging her across the countryside in a torn and dirty- and getting increasingly so -holy gown.
Her startled yell came a half heartbeat before her hand slipped out of his. He skidded to a stop and turned back, glancing briefly for signs of Guardians before focusing fully on Zelda.
She didn't give him a chance to even ask if she was hurt before she spoke the question he hadn't wanted to think about- what had gone wrong? Everyone was dead, the Guardians and the Divine Beasts had turned.
And of course, she blamed herself.
Link knelt down in front of her, and held her quietly, letting her wail out her grief. It wouldn't be the last time she did, nor the last time he'd hold her through her tears, and his instincts said he shouldn't let her at all until they were safe in the Deku Tree's clearing, but the only thing he'd ever been able to tell her 'no' to was her demands to let her take care of herself.
The weather was working against them, and while the rain may mask Zelda's crying to organic threats, the Guardians didn't seem to care what sounds their prey were or weren't making. Hopefully, the ground was wet enough that it'd be impossible for them to mask their heavy, mechanical footsteps.
They couldn't risk staying there anymore. Zelda would have to set aside her emotional troubles and pay attention again to their more immediate ones.
"Zelda," he said softly. "Stop now."
She lifted her head, face marred with smoke and mud and wetness from both the rain and her crying. "Stop? Stop? Everybody's dead and you wan-"
He put his hand over her mouth, shushing her. "I know. We'll mourn them later. But we're doing nobody any good by staying here this close to the castle. You can cry more later. Right now, we gotta run. Did you hurt yourself?"
For all her occasional tantrums over having him as a sometimes unwanted shadow, she'd always yielded when he actually had to do his job and made the calls. She shook her head and wobbled to her feet. "No, I'm not. I can't run in these shoes, though." She wrestled with her shoes- one of the straps on one had broken, that must've been what caused her fall. "Okay, let's go."
He took her hand again. He'd rather carry her on his back- even with the added weight, he'd be able to run faster than she could, but he needed access to his weapons too much. So he took her hand and began running again, forcing himself to not run at full speed so she could keep up.
They didn't even make it to the Military Camp. Guardians had beaten them to the Woodland territory.
The Guardians were far enough away that even they couldn't see Link and Zelda- their view range was far, but not as far as the two Hylians.
"Now what?" Zelda asked quietly, gripping Link's hand tightly. "We can't possibly outrun that many to get to the forest."
No, they couldn't. They could trek for days up the mountain to try to skirt around the line of Guardians and might never make it around them. And even without her ridiculous shoes, Zelda wasn't that great at climbing.
"Do we know who's left?" he asked, already inching back away from the distant patrol.
Zelda looked around and behind them as if whoever there was might materialize behind them. "Impa had left to get Robbie and Purah. They should be in Kakariko."
Link didn't give her the chance to say the heavy 'if they're still alive' statement that was on both of their lips. "Then we'll head that way, try meet up with them. If we don't find them in time, we'll head up to the Great Plateau ourselves and hope they catch up."
"The Great Plate- the Temple of Time," Zelda said, cutting off her own question. "Of course, the last holy place in Hyrule."
One corner of his lips twitched in dry amusement. "And you thought I wasn't listening when you read to yourself out loud all these years."
"Well, I hope you listened enough to know that the Plateau is an impossible climb."
"Which is why the Guardians won't be able to get up there," he said, turning and half-dragging her along behind him. "And impossible for you, maybe."
She yelped as he spun them one eighty degrees, but immediately caught her footing and was sprinting as close to his side as she could. "What are you planning on doing, carrying me up there?"
"If I have to," he said.
"You'll be exhausted by then," she protested.
"Then we'd better hope we meet up with one of our friends," he said. "One of them can carry you."
"They'll have to," she said firmly, although her winded breathing took the edge off that tone. "You'll be too tired to do it. Are you sure you'll be able to get even yourself up?"
That was a good question, and one he didn't want to answer honestly. He might not be able to. The Great Plateau was a long way away, and he'd been fighting hard for hours at that point.
"I don't have a choice," he said, as close to being truthful as he could. "It's that or die at this point."
His grim words silenced any further protests.
"Mind if I rest here a bit?"
Impa paused in getting back up on her cushion. "Hm? Oh, no, not at all."
While she got herself settled, Link sank down to the ground gratefully, leaning against the wall under the picture that he'd never noticed on Impa's wall before. Looking at that picture made him feel like someone was walking over his grave, but then, walking through that area the first time had given him that feeling too. And he somehow had a feeling that whatever he wasn't remembering about that place would make his friends- what few were left -very unhappy with him for using that phrase.
"You look like you could use more rest than that," Impa said.
Link pried open an eye that he hadn't realized had shut and looked at her. "Yeah, but I've been asleep the last hundred years. I figure I'll see what normal sleep is like again after the Calamity's stopped and Zelda's free."
Impa clucked her tongue at him. "You'll get killed again if you don't care for yourself," she scolded. "Get some sleep."
Link returned her tongue clucking with a rude snort. "If I say 'I'll sleep when I'm dead', would you throw something at me?"
"If I can't find something to throw that's hard enough in easy reach, I'll have Paya find something for me," she snapped. "You're a fool to even say such a thing to an old woman who helped bury you once already."
The shame made him flush scarlet. "Sorry," he said. He closed his eyes again, this time actually paying attention to doing so. "I know you're not going to tell me, because nobody tells me anything, but why does that picture look different from the others?"
"How do you mean?"
"The others are old," he said. "Everything looks like it did a hundred years ago in them. This one looks like it did when I first went through there. Why is this one different?"
Impa didn't answer immediately, and that told him all he needed to know. He didn't even have to wait for her to say, "you'll understand when you get there," before he knew that was exactly what she'd say.
He heaved a sigh. "Nobody likes giving me a straight answer. You just have me running around the countryside, hoping I'll remember if I just see enough things I should recognize. All it's doing is giving me a neverending case of deja vu."
"Has it really been that hard?" Impa asked. "Not even with the pictures to help?"
Link opened his eyes, staring up at the ceiling. "They help," he said after a moment of thought. "And there were things in the other Champions' homes that made me remember some about them. There's a lot of holes still. It's like I have my life in a few flashes, unconnected scenes that I can only piece together by feeling. It's getting really irritating."
Impa's quiet chuckle was the last reaction he expected. But, even with the few memories he had unlocking a slew of feelings and thoughts that made him certain that despite not remembering what she looked like as a younger woman, he knew her well, she was still a hundred years older than he'd last seen her, and that time would change her. While a younger Impa may not have had that reaction, an older Impa would. "You used to say that about the princess."
He lifted his head and looked at her. "Which part?"
"The really irritating part."
He made that rude noise again and rested his head back against the wall and closed his eyes. "Most of what she wanted me to remember, it seemed a lot like she resented my presence."
"You know why that is by now, don't you?"
Another sigh. "Yeah, I know." He rubbed at the back of his right hand, the mark there itching beneath his glove. "She always felt like a failure." A faint smile tugged at his lips. "She was an irritating pain in the ass to keep up with, sometimes. I know her father drove her to it, but sometimes... Goddess love her, sometimes."
"So did you, once upon a time."
It was Link's turn to not answer, unable to. 'Once upon a time'? More like 'never stopped'. Even if he had nothing else to go on, nothing else ever came back, her voice in his head was all he'd needed. He couldn't remember squat, but he knew that voice and loved her, even without a name for her. Even without a name for himself.
But for as familiar as Impa was, she'd proven just a moment ago that the years had changed her, and he didn't feel as comfortable letting his heart spill out onto her floor in front of her as he might've in the old days. Besides, he needed to hold onto that. He couldn't go to pieces just yet, he had to save Zelda.
Some part of him felt there was something wrong with that thought, but he couldn't place his finger on what.
"You said this was the last picture?"
Impa took his refusal to comment on her statement with the grace he'd come to expect from her. "It is. It was the last thing she did before she went back to the castle alone."
Link opened his eyes and pushed himself to his feet. "I'll sleep after I find out what I'm missing there then," he said. "I'm not going to be able to until I know."
"Is that what's been driving you without sleep so far?" Impa asked with a single raised eyebrow.
He gave her a grin. "What, you think I ever rest when there's work to be done?"
Impa returned his rude noise with the practice only someone who'd lived as long as she had could manage. "You never did," she said. "I see some things don't change. Go on, go to that spot. There's a stable near it, I order you to rest there after that."
"Yes, Wise One," he said, the old name tumbling from his lips without a thought. "Any other orders?"
"Yes," she said with a stern look, a look that softened into a gentle smile. "Protect her, Champion. Like the heroes of old. Like the man who loves her."
He returned the smile. "I always have, I'm not going to stop now."
Like before, the Guardians had beat them to their destination. They were outside of Kakariko when they finally couldn't run away anymore. There were so many, it was as if every one in the area had gone on an instant hunt-and-destroy mission for them specifically. As if the Calamity somehow knew where they were going.
Whether that was true or not was, as ever, a thought for another time.
There'd been an overwhelming number of them, and the more he destroyed, the more seemed to keep coming. But their dead fellows gave hiding spots, however temporary.
Those wouldn't be enough, though. The Sword's voice was down to a faint whisper. He was bleeding out, and it was a question of if he'd even make it to Kakariko, even without any further troubles, at that point. Something inside was bleeding and pooling into his chest. He could feel it in his lungs.
He prayed to Hylia that she'd give him this one last thing, just one last thing- let Zelda survive this. Somehow. Anyhow. It no longer mattered if he didn't, as long as she did.
The mechanical sound of a Guardian's legs came closer, and its stone foot slammed down on the dead one that Link and Zelda were hiding behind. Link pushed Zelda back behind him, holding his sword with a trembling arm.
Just one last thing. Please.
"Forget about me, I'll be fine!"
Even if Link could believe that, he couldn't leave her. No matter what, he'd never leave her behind. He held his ground, readying his shield to deflect the Guardian's inevitable attack back at it. Maybe, just maybe, he'd have the strength to do that. Purah and Robbie should be there any minute, if he could just hold this last one off, they could get there and get Zelda out of there before any more Guardians could get to her.
The Guardian's site tracked on him, and its energy beam hummed and charged.
Link didn't register Zelda moving in front of him. The mark on the back of his hand that the Sword had put there burned and the Sword cried in loud tones of jubilation in his head as Zelda's power sprang to life, blinded him with its light. The ancient sounds of the heroes and princesses that had come before them sang through his blood in harmony with hers, and for a brief second, he felt he might survive, that Hylia had breathed life back into him.
Then he felt nothing.
Link fell more than sat down as his legs gave out under him. He stared at the littering of dead Guardians around him, the sky no longer overcast and raining, but clear and gold with the onset of evening. The chirping of birds sounded unnatural and jarring to his ears.
"You remember," her voice whispered.
It felt like he'd never breathe again, hit by the shock of the memory, and the soft pressure of her voice in his head. He strained his chest to unclench and let in air, and swallowed to keep down the nausea that had hit. He felt his jaw tremble, and he tightened it, teeth grinding together. "You idiot," he whispered, pressing the palms of his hands to his eyes. "All that time, you didn't tell me? I could've- I could've helped you before it got that far if I'd known."
Maybe. But everything he remembered up to that point told him that she likely hadn't realized. Her father had them working to play out their ancient roles so hard, that Zelda had never been allowed to see anything else. Their humanity had been erased from the story for her.
He dropped his hands, his eyes stinging and wet. The thought crossed his mind again that if this was all somehow some grand play that Hylia was writing, she needed to find new cliches. 'The power of love.' For crying out loud.
The back of his hand itched again, and he yanked off his glove and rubbed at the mark. It looked like nothing more than a scar, it didn't glow the way he'd seen on Zelda's hand. But it was there, and it was his, and now it was hers, too. The stories'd had it all wrong all along. It wasn't a chosen champion and a princess, it was just a man and a woman who were inexorably tied together. That was what the goddess blessed. They were all idiots, to think the goddess would play by their romanticized roles, like it was anyone's story but hers.
He stood, pocketing his glove and brushing off the back of his pants. He had a stop to make before he could go to the stable for some rest. One last thing to do before his final night of sleep. Before he went to the castle to help Zelda.
It occurred to him, as he crested the hill and looked across the field to the malice-covered castle, what it'd been that had bothered him about the thought that he had to 'save' Zelda.
There was no more saving. She didn't need saving.
She needed help. Her power had blossomed, and she would stand as his equal in this last fight. As his partner.
The Sword hummed in his mind as he drew it, the mark on his hand lit up like a low-burning candle. In the distance, a brilliant flash of gold light answered the call from within the castle, before dimming again.
"Let me get one last good sleep," he said quietly, unsure if she would hear him or not. "I'll see you in the morning. And every morning after that."
He felt the warmth of her smile. He gave her one in return, hoped that it would reach her, and turned back to the stable. In the morning, he'd march to the castle and help his partner finish the job they'd started a century ago.
While it was Hylia he said his prayers to before bed, it was Zelda in his thoughts as he drifted off to sleep.