There is a phrase that I have heard the bards use. ‘Every story is a song’, they say. I wonder if mine sounds as terrible as I imagine.
King Rhoam’s Diary, Entry #514
The rain against Hyrule Castle filled its halls with the rhythmic patter of water on stone. The storm had lasted well into the night and gave no sign of waning. Summer's End. That was what the singers called it: when the wind turned cold, and the rains grew long and thin, heralding the oncoming Autumn. Once, not so long ago, such a storm might have been a threat, eroding what remained of Hyrule. But no longer, Zelda thought as she listened to the rain.
Where it has once been torn open, once revealing the full breadth of the skies above, the roof of the Hyrule Castle Library had been repaired. The damaged books had been removed and refurbished, reshelved; the floors had been polished, the stone and carpet replaced where it had broken or rotted away. It was a ruin no more.
The library is healing, Zelda mused, idly running a hand along a row of books on their shelf. Perhaps healing was the wrong word, but it would have to do. The castle is healing. The kingdom is healing. This was what she told herself in moments of doubt; what she had to believe. Things were always improving. Zelda had seen it with her own eyes: the way the new Castle Town seemed to grow each day, the way the flowers bloomed stronger, the way the roads became busier. Her advisors too brought news each day of change, always change. Everything was new and once again with colour. Blinding colour. How could she ask for it to soften, to slow? How could she admit that the kindling of fear within her sometimes grew into a wildfire, like those that sometimes tore through Faron and Gerudo in the high Summer?
There had never been a Queen as young as she; there had not been a Queen in almost one hundred and twenty years. One hundred and twenty years! Yet here she was at the helm, trying to steer her Kingdom back to the prosperity she was sure it deserved. Or at the very least, to steer it away from ruin. Yet Zelda knew that Hyrule was more enduring than it seemed. The Great Calamity had not destroyed it, Ganon had not destroyed it, even a civil war had not destroyed it; the Kingdom was strong enough to endure. But am I strong enough? Zelda wondered. She found the book she wanted; a full journal hidden in a private study and sat herself down at one of the desks in the Library's cavernous central space.
At least one person believed with certainty that she would succeed. Her Knight-Captain, Link, with his well-levelled words and gentle hands, and a face so familiar she could fall into it. He was not her Consort, and he was not always with her - the call of duty often sending him to the far-flung corners of the word - but Zelda knew that she and Link were bound to one another by fate. What they had endured together was unfathomable now, and what he had done for her, the sacrifices he had made…
It had begun on a late-Summer morning when they had vanquished Calamity Ganon from Hyrule Castle. And in the year that followed, she and Link had worked tirelessly to unite Hyrule once more, though some upstart Gerudo bandit had made it his prerogative to stand in their way wherever he could. She and Link had fought and bled and wept during that monstrous year, stamping out the chaos in Hyrule for what Zelda hoped was once and for all. And they had found each other along the way, returning to Hyrule Castle together, where Zelda, at last, took her throne, and Link took his place at the helm of the Order of Hyrulean Knights.
And still, even after all of that, Link could never quite understand Zelda's own hardship. He may have led, but he did not rule, as she did.
And so, when there was no known precedent for her troubles or no word of advice that could calm her, Zelda sought peace in the Library, to find the last resource that she could rely on for some guidance.
The Writings of King Rhoam Bosphoramus Hyrule.
This was where she had come during Summer's End, to light a lantern and find her father's words. Rhoam was the only king she had never known, the only model on which to base herself. The records of the rest had been lost, and Zelda's memory was not strong enough to recall those particular lessons from her youth. After just over a year on the throne, however, Zelda did not quite feel like her father's analogue. She was Queen, not King, and the Hyrule she saw from the ramparts of her Castle was irrevocably changed from his. One hundred and three years had passed since the Calamity. How could anything be the same?
Zelda pried open the heavy journal. She had read it through twice, maybe three times. What she wouldn't give now to speak to her father; to give him her forgiveness, to ask for his council. As she flipped through the pages, passing an eye over the now familiar stories, she noticed a small slip of paper tucked into the lip of one of the pages and was surprised to have missed it. What could this be?
The script was distinct from the rest that filled the journal, neater. Zelda traced her finger over the ink, and tried to imagine the hand that wrote it, reading the note aloud,
"'Fill these pages well, Rhoam. As well as fate deigns to allow.'"
A note left for her father. But by whom? She looked at the companion opposite her, a young man wearing a comfortable cotton tunic and a pair of thick gloves, haunched over the very same desk. He was surrounded by metal parts and tools of all kind, his Sheikah Slate giving off a low light and a gentle hum beside him. Link, joining her in her late-night research, happily tinkered away at something he had built for himself.
"Who do you think wrote it?" she asked him. His head perked up, eyes meeting hers, open and clear.
"Wrote what? I'll admit I wasn't listening," he said without pretence.
"Of course not," Zelda said, expertly hiding her amused smile. She passed the paper across the desk. "I found this in his diary, just then. I don't know who wrote it."
Link put down his tools and focused on the note. After a moment he concluded, "Not your father, perhaps?"
"Astute as always," Zelda retrieved the note to place it back in the diary.
"At your service, Your Majesty," Link smiled, ignoring the taunt. He raised the contraption in his hands to his face, peering at it with one eye shut and his tongue caught between his teeth. Thinking, always thinking, unable to rest. Closing Rhoam's journal, Zelda finally allowed herself to focus on what Link was working on and saw that it was a weapon.
"Careful where you aim that thing, you know I couldn't block it if I tried," she cautioned, examining the crossbow in detail. It was a new model, something he'd been working on for some time, judging by the intricacy of the mechanisms. Unloaded, she saw, but powerful if it were.
Link listened to her regardless, placing the weapon back down on the table. "You never know," he nodded towards the journal. "That might be thick enough, and you just might be fast enough. I've seen you training with your Battlemaster."
"Teba is a fine teacher," Zelda said. "And I won't be defenceless,"
"No...you won't." A moment hung between them, but Link did not pursue the topic further. "Zel…" he said softly. "This is the third night in a row. I don't mind sitting here with you - I like sitting here with you. But it's almost midnight and-"
"And I'm chasing a ghost. I know."
"A year ago...your powers…the Beasts..." He searched for the right way to broach the subject. "Have you considered reclaiming the power? So that you can...look back, the way we once did?"
Zelda looked down at her right hand - the plain hand that it was. A year ago, it had contained an unfathomable level of power. The Sealing Power that her father had so often spoken of was so muchmore. Those three triangles; they were a weapon, a shield, a key and lock. A curse. A damned curse.
"It is as you said, some memories must be left to rest," Zelda explained. "And...some things must be left to rest."
There was an unspoken understanding. The Beasts. Silent upon their plateaus, purpose spent. Zelda pushed the thought from her mind.
Link reached across the table, placing his hand over hers. "If it helps, you know I'm here."
"It always helps to have you here," she smiled at him, running a thumb over his skin. Zelda tucked the paper into her pocket. "I'm going to find the bard," she said. "He might know more."
"Of your father?"
"Of all of them. The Champions, the Beasts. The Untold Story of Rhoam Bosphoramus Hyrule. If anyone knows anything of Hyrule's legends, it's Kass."
One hundred and twenty years earlier
Chief Advisor Voswann was the most impassioned he had ever been, his wrinkled face turning red, "My Queen, we implore you; this prosperity cannot last forever. Contingencies must be made. Think of your child!"
Instinctively, the Queen moved her hand to her stomach, feeling the warmth blossom on her skin. She had not been listening in earnest. Listening was difficult these days, when her mind preferred instead to wander when her back strained, and her feet ached in her slippers.
The Advisor spoke again, "If we may have your attention, Your Majesty-"
The Queen met his eyes, the first she had moved in minutes, and the entire room stiffened. She studied the faces before her. Men, young and old, in their noble clothes, with thin smiles and thinly veiled contempt - her advisors.
Officially, Hyrule was a matriarchy - as it always had been - but still Queen Zelda found her life filled to its very brim with men. Advisors and servants, high and low, every day she awoke to hear men's voices and men's words, all with their own views on her Kingdom and how it should be run.
The child was a girl, this the Queen knew. A little Princess, perhaps another Zelda, to give purpose to the toil in which she lived. The babe was not far off now, and admittedly, she had taken a toll on the Queen's health. This was the reason for the meeting that her advisors had called; for once it was Zelda and not her Kingdom, that concerned them. It was a familiar occurrence to find Voswann, and the rest of her advisors crowded into her study, lined up around her desk like a class of schoolboys, giving their counsel one by one. Men's voices; men's ideas.
"Continue, Voswann," the Queen instructed. She threaded a finger around the end of her long golden braid, and for a moment caught the eye of a silver-haired Sheikah standing towards the back of the small crowd, leaning casually, arms crossed. He smirked when their eyes met. Zelda looked back to Voswann, summoning her sweetest smile, "I was listening, I assure you."
Chief Advisor Voswann swallowed, straightened and cleared his throat before speaking. He was a gangly old man, with a vicious hooked nose and skin tougher than leather, but he had served the family for many decades and was much kinder and well-meaning than his exterior suggested.
"All we ask, Your Highness, is that you turn your focus inwards and consider your well-being, for this brief but incredibly important moment."
"What would have me do?" Queen Zelda demanded. She was not fond of discussing such a personal matter with what felt like half the nobles at Court. "I have the best care in the Kingdom, and the Castle is the safest place for me."
One of the elder advisors raised a hand, the doctor. Chief Apocethary, as the Court had titled him. "We do not mean any disrespect, but you must accept your ailing health. Thrice you have fainted in the past week, and your appetite is low; I have instructed you to take bed rest, and you refuse."
Zelda opened her mouth to protest, but Voswann spoke first, "What Apocethary Willem means is that Hyrule needs a strong ruler."
The advisors nodded, mumbling agreements, Willem adding, "And a healthy one."
Zelda narrowed her eyes, studying their faces. "What are you saying?"
Voswann stepped forward, seating himself in the small armoire opposite her desk, meeting her eye to eye. He spoke as gently as he could, "If you were to… if something were to happen to you. At any time, for any reason, while the child is still young-"
"Then my husband would be regent, Voswann," Zelda interjected. Already their plan was taking shape in her mind, though she could not believe it, asserting, "He would be Prince Consort, as he is now. Though let us hope it does not come to that."
"A weak title. An unofficial title, if anything else. We propose," The Chief Advisor passed an askance glance to the rest of the men behind him. "Zelda, we propose elevating your husband to King. Not King Consort. Just King."
"King Rhoam!?" the Queen burst out laughing, and the room twittered in response. "My apologies, but you all know my husband."
"He will not outrank you; you will be evenly matched," Voswann explained. "This is simply-"
"A contingency. I heard what you said."
"And perhaps, the title will persuade him to…" the Chief Advisor cleared his throat once more. "Be a little more present."
The Queen looked down at her belly once more and felt the child stir. Her head throbbed with the warnings of a headache; her blood felt thick in her skull. It was too much, too serious a decision to make now.
Voswann's voice lilted through her haze, bringing her back to the study. "If nothing happens," he said, "your child will have two brave parents who rule together. And if...if something does, then your child will be safe, their claim unthreatened."
Zelda stood, ignoring the gnawing pain in both her feet as she did. Behind her desk,, standing where her own mother once stood, the Queen felt strong. "I would discuss this with my husband first. Where is he now?"
The advisors all shared a tense look. At last, it was the Sheikah who spoke, earning him a scowl from the rest of them. "The training yard, Your Majesty, with the Knights."
"Of course," the Queen sighed. "Go then, all of you. You are dismissed. I will find my husband."
Trading low whispers and looks of worry, the advisors filed out of the room.
"Not you, Malachi," Zelda added, and the Sheikah advisor halted. He bowed as she approached.
"My Queen," he grinned, his voice smoother than warm honey. Zelda could not help but smile back.
"You are returning home soon?" she asked.
"On the morrow, as it happens."
"Speak to Elder Soklee, if you could. Tell her we will visit when the child is here."
Again Malachi bowed low. "Of course, my Queen. And may I say how grateful I am to be in your service. As I predicted, a new regime-"
"Of course, of course," Zelda said, unnerved, ushering him from the room so that she could be alone at last. Her headache was in full force now. Zelda braced herself against the wall until the pain lessened, and then went to find her husband.
In the southern reaches of Hyrule, the warriors of the old Lurelin tradition prefer spears. Some claim that their ancestors infiltrated Gerudo ranks, and brought the skills of the Gerudo warrior women to Faron. Others claim their tradition as fishermen, necessitating that the Lurelin warriors are as agile as their prey in order to find a meal. Whatever the truth- whatever the legend- it meant now that Prince Consort Rhoam of Hyrule was far outmatched by his southern sparring opponent, the Knight Otra of Old Lurelin, a spear-wielder of the finest calibre.
"At least use a sword," Rhoam complained. "How am I meant to come near you when you're wielding that thing?"
Rhoam had lost count of the number of times Sir Otra had landed a blow with his sparring spear. His body ached where the bruises were now forming, and his skin stung where it had been broken. But here, in the rain, with his blood as hot as his clothes were soaked and nothing to think on but the next swing of his sword, Rhoam was content.
All the Knights of Hyrule had gathered to watch the friendly sparring match – all four of them. Rhoam knew them each by name; Micah of Hateno, Nico of Rauru Village, Theo of Akkala and of course, Otra himself. The order had become small, as of late.
Otra spun his spear between his hands. "Perhaps you could try not running directly into the spear, for a start," he teased, garnering chuckles from the other knights. "Strength isn't enough. You need wits. However many you might have."
The jape spurred Rhoam into a charge, his sword raised and shield gripped tight. Otra stepped as though dancing, as though he knew Rhoam's moves before even he did; quicker than seemed possible, the southerner dodged Rhoam's careless strike, pivoted on his heel, and landed a cracking thwack across Rhoam's back with the length of the spear. Rhoam flew forward, toppling onto the muddy ground of the training yard. The Knights cheered as their Prince Consort landed hard on his stomach, his sword lost. When Rhoam looked up, Otra was towering over him, the blunted point of his weapon held to Rhoam's neck. His face was kept deadly still, almost vengeful. Were the Knight's spear sharp, Rhoam would be a dead man.
"I could charge you with treason," Rhoam said, diffusing the tension. Otra flung his head back and laughed.
"For knocking the Prince on his ass?" he said as Rhoam collected himself. "Are you going to report me to the Queen?"
"Might do. Not that she'd listen to me."
The spear wielder eyed the Castle behind them. "Weren't you called in for a meeting? With the Queen?"
Rhoam shrugged. "Yes, but I doubt I was needed. They don't care what I do."
Otra found Rhoam's sword in the mud and handed it to him. "What that must be like for you. All the fame, and all the privileges–"
"With none of the responsibility," Rhoam grinned. "I don't envy Zelda, trust me."
Otra patted Rhoam on the back. "I doubt she envies you," he said. "At least, not with that sword technique of yours."
"Right – and was your father Battlemaster to Hyrule?" Rhoam jeered.
"No, but he was a better fighter than you. I can read you like a book, Rhoam. Use your wits, or you'll land on your ass every time."
There was a shift in the yard, and Otra caught sight of something behind Rhoam, dropping immediately to his knees. The rest of the Knights had done the same, and when Rhoam turned, there she was.
She was dressed in her usual navy and gold, but she wore her hood drawn to keep the rain from her face, and her cloak was held over the swell of her belly – Zelda, the Queen, his wife. She stood at the entrance to the training yard, waiting patiently. Rhoam feared how much she may have seen.
"Speaking of using your wits," he heard Otra whisper.
Queen Zelda appraised her husband's muddy form and sighed. "Clean yourself up, and meet me in my study. We have something to discuss."
"We can't talk here?" Rhoam asked. Her gaze disarmed him in ways that even Otra could not. He was frozen in place.
The Queen sauntered through the training yard towards him, her long dress dragging in the mud. She was shorter than him by a head, but was, without a doubt, the grander of the pair. "It is a sensitive matter."
Rhoam was loathed to hear the answer, but could not stop himself. "What is it?"
The Queen wrung her hands, worrying the end of her long braid. She seemed as unwilling as he was. "You," she answered.
King. King. You will be King.
Rhoam sat with his head in his hands, flung forward in his chair, hand clutching his scalp. The pain was how he knew it was real; he was pinching his skin, harder, harder, but still, he did not wake. His wife was speaking, but her words had turned to muffled bursts of noise, like a drumming in his skull.
King, she had called him. She had said it over and over. You will be King.
All Rhoam had said was no. No no no no. And once or twice, why?
He and Zelda had convened in their private drawing room, far from the prying eyes of the court. Rhoam was not fond of meeting in studies like this one, austere, with high walls and thick curtains. It made him think of his boyhood, of being called up to his father's own study in the Hyrule Garrison to be reprimanded for some mischief or misunderstanding. A brawl here and there with one of the boys, a late night escapade to a nearby town to pose as commoners. His father had never understood. You are not a commoner, Rhoam. You cannot keep acting out like this.
No, he could not. He was the furthest thing from a commoner now - and somehow he was about to go even further.
"Rhoam, listen to me-" Zelda began, when suddenly she groaned, a hand to her stomach and another at her back. Rhoam snapped to attention then, as Zelda stumbled into a chair and sat down with another huff. His own troubles were forgotten then.
"Are you okay?" he said, rushing to her side. "Are you in pain?"
"It's just the child," the Queen said, gritting her teeth against the pain. "She is lively today. Probably the stress."
Rubbing circles on his wife's back, Rhoam sat dutifully at her side until the pain passed. "You still think it's a girl?"
"Almost certain. I can feel the power...fading," the Queen ran her fingers over her right hand. "It is hers now. I feel, somehow, that she might need it more than I."
In her voice, Rhoam sensed a certainty that uneased him. Zelda had always been in control, but this - there was something higher than her behind this.
"If I accept, will anything change?" he asked.
"You mean, will you need to do any less than you do now?" The Queen sneered, her bitterness so present that it was palatable. "Nothing will change unless we both will it."
"But if all your advisors support the idea, then what choice is there?"
Zelda frowned, standing again to shuffle some papers on her desk. "There is always a choice," she finally said.
"Is there?" Rhoam pressed.
"I don't want this any more than you do," Zelda sighed. "To be told I am not enough. To be told my Kingdom isn't safe unless a man is with me at the helm-"
"Well I happen to know about feeling inadequate," Rhoam snapped. "So maybe we'd make a good partnership!"
"Rhoam-" The Queen moved forward, a hand reaching out placate him, but he turned away. He felt a knot tightening in his stomach, the frustration of a beaten dog. Zelda's advisors had always told him he could do as he pleased, but he knew that privately they laughed at him. The Useless Husband, they said. The Ball and Chain.
"Rhoam, the advisors will understand if you don't feel capable. They even expect it," The Queen said, and he understood.
"You were hoping I would say no, weren't you?" he said. "You think as little of me as they do," The Queen recoiled, and Rhoam knew his words had struck true. It spurred on his decision; "Well, you know what, I'll do it."
"We need to think about this!" Zelda protested, but Rhoam could not be bothered.
"The decision is made. I'll even tell Voswann myself." He extended an arm to her. "Shall we?"
They gathered in the throne room; they gathered in the streets. From every corner of Hyrule, from every town, the people came to watch. All knew the legend - from the nobles to the lowest of commoners - that the Royal family had ties with the gods of their world. And when one is raised to the highest office, there is a moment when the divine crosses the threshold to meet with the living, when fate and legend are laid bare before the throne.
King Rhoam of Hyrule, first of his name, was coronated in a grand ceremony in Hyrule Cathedral, an austere old structure that sat on the southern banks of Hylia River. He wore the heavy cloak, carried the ceremonial sword, and walked with head held high to claim the throne beside his wife. Zelda did not smile, but even so, she spoke with a force that exceeded her, so that the entire court, and perhaps the Kingdom too, could hear.
"One monarch is not enough; we live in an era of prosperity. We must ascend, together!" she said, and the cathedral was filled with cheers.
Then came Chief Advisor Voswann, with Rhoam's crown in hand. It was a simple ornament; wrought in gold, with the wings of the Royal crest on each side and a deep red ruby at the forefront. Zelda had chosen the design. It is bold, yet unassuming, she had teased, just like you. With his age-worn hands shaking and a smile on his old face, Voswann feebly lowered the crown over Rhoam's head.
And so it was. He was King. The Court cheered. Long may he reign, Rhoam thought wryly.
At the feast that followed, Voswann brought a thick tome before Rhoam's table. He expected it to be some dreary history of Hyrule, retelling the fairy tales he had heard in his childhood, but Rhoam found instead that it was a journal. The pages were blank, and the paper thick, perfect for writing, and the binding was leather was so tough that Rhoam thought it could last well after he was gone.
"Every King needs a memoir; I gave your wife a similar journal upon her ascension," Voswann explained as Rhoam flipped through the many pages.
"I never used mine," The Queen laughed. "I doubt Rhoam will either."
"I might," Rhoam protested feebly, though he knew Zelda was right. What had he done so far that would even warrant entry? Becoming King? That hadn't exactly been his decision.
In the weeks that followed, as the time for the baby to come drew ever closer, changes began to permeate the Castle in response to their new monarch. The Queen was busy as ever, refusing to rest even with Apothecary Willem at her heels each morning urging her to do so. From overheard conversations and discussions at the many meetings he was now forced to attend, Rhoam determined that Zelda had commissioned a new fleet of Hylian ships, and was planning on establishing a ferry between Faron coast in the south and Akkala. More often than not, however, those meetings ended with either Chief Advisor Voswann or Zelda herself shaking Rhoam awake.
"It's not my fault if I drift off," he had argued after one particularly tedious meeting. "Why do these meetings need to be so long?"
Zelda was incredulous, "Do you have any idea how much work we do here?"
While the Queen filled her time with managing the Kingdom, Rhoam spent it being dragged to and fro, and so the journal Voswann had gifted him sat forgotten, until one sun-filled morning, when the Queen woke to great pain.
Not a few hours later, they held their daughter in their arms. A tiny, fragile, little Princess, with a tuft of angel blonde hair on her head. When she was handed to Rhoam, the babe opened her eyes, and he saw that they were as deep and bright as emeralds. Just like Zelda. The babe clasped a tiny hand around one of Rhoam's fingers and promptly went back to sleep.
"Have you chosen a name?" asked one of the midwives.
"Zelda," Rhoam said immediately. "She is her mother's daughter. She must be Zelda."
The woman bowed and returned to aid Apothecary Willem, who was busily attending to the Queen. She was awake and unharmed but exhausted by the ordeal. "Bring her to me," the Queen rasped. "Zelda...let me see her."
Rhoam took one last look at his daughter before returning to his wife's side. Little Zelda had not stirred. She was...so still. At peace. He wondered for a moment who she would become and sensed then - an inclination rather than a revelation - that she was the most important thing he had ever held. That she deserved better than him, and that she was worth recording if nothing else.
At the earliest opportunity, Rhoam found his journal again and scribbled a few lines into the pages.
Today, as the sun rose and a new day was born, my daughter, too, joined this sweet world. In keeping with the traditions of the royal family, I have decided to name her...Zelda. I am not a man accustomed to frivolous musings but now seems as good a time as any to begin my royal memorandum.
Princess Zelda's first royal tour was set to occur before she was even one month old. The Royal Family - the reluctant Rhoam, the exhausted Zelda and their oft sleeping daughter - were soon bundled into a carriage and set off on the Eastern Road towards Necluda.
Zelda had informed Rhoam that it was a royal tradition stretching back supposedly thousands of years for each Hylian heir to be brought before the Sheikah upon their birth. Even so, her advisors practically begged the Queen to forego such a trip. They upturned their noses at the very mention of the Sheikah and only relented when Zelda agreed to bring no less than two of the Hylian Knights as an escort. The Royal Advisors in Zelda's employ seemed to Rhoam to be more akin to naysayers than actual advisors. Almost everything she suggested had to be thoroughly argued, even traditions it appeared.
The journey towards Kakariko Village, the Sheikah's hidden stronghold, was slow and dreary. It rained almost around the clock, with a storm or two sometimes lighting up the sky, and the Eastern Road was so uneven that their little carriage felt at times like a small ship against the rolling sea. Rhoam did not envy Otra and Theo, the two Knights who had been made to accompany them, though he heard few complaints. Surprisingly, however, little Zelda had slept peacefully throughout their entire journey thus far, in stark contrast to her mother. She sat opposite him in the carriage, their daughter cradled in her arms, and as they neared the edge of Hyrule Field, her fretting grew more and more constant.
"Are you okay? You seem stressed," Rhoam asked.
At first, Zelda did not answer, instead staring long and hard out of the carriage window. She was often tight-lipped around him, and now seemed conflicted to even speak.
"Just one of my advisors," she said at last. "I had to dismiss him. The Sheikah. He was unpopular. And now his own people…" She paused and, seeing Rhoam's look of confusion, sighed. "Nevermind. I know you dislike politics."
Rhoam did not pursue any further, though he was hurt by her rebuff. He could not recall the exact advisor that Zelda spoke of and knew that there was little he could say to soothe her. Abandoning the book that he had been half-heartedly trying to read, Rhoam pulled back the curtain of his carriage window and peered out at the landscape beyond. The rain was oppressive now, and he could see no further than a few feet from the carriage. Otra rode beside the wagon, his helm worn closed to keep the rain from his eyes.
There was a sudden groan beneath them, and the carriage shuddered to a halt, lurching to the side. Rhoam shot out a hand to steady his wife and child, though the babe did not stir.
"She's fine, she's fine," Zelda said. "What was that?"
Rhoam looked out the window once more. The carriage was slanted towards the left, seemingly sunk into the mud. There was shouting between the Knights and the driver.
"I'll go find out," Rhoam said, unlatching the handle of the carriage door.
"No, don't. It's raining," Zelda protested, studying the scene beyond the window - though little could be seen.
"What could possibly be out there?" Rhoam quipped. He pushed open the door and stepped out into the rain, landing on the mud with a hard squelch.
"Welcome, Your Majesty," Sir Otra said wryly. He was squatting down by the side of the carriage. "Wheel's stuck, but the mud is too soft to move the carriage. The wheel won't turn."
"We can start digging now," Sir Theo suggested, but Otra shook his head.
"We can, but the Queen and the Princess are in the carriage. It'd be easier without them inside, and I won't make them stand in the rain."
"Oh, but we must," Theo pouted. "I guess we can't all be given a crown."
"We aren't royalty," Otra said, giving Theo a disapproving look. Rhoam watched the exchange with bewilderment. Did even the Knights dislike him now?
A blistering rumble of thunder tore through the air, and a tree in the far distance was set alight. From the commotion of a flock of bird took flight, and Rhoam could make out the faint shape of a wild horse fleeing towards them, spooked by the noise. The Knights continued to argue over what to do, but Rhoam was not hearing them. The horse was drawing closer, and with every step its size grew, its long mane flowing in the wind. On its back seemed to be a rider, he realised, carrying an enormous blade and a broad shield. But then Rhoam saw that the mane was blood red and that it belonged to the rider, and not the horse.
He felt himself seise; from fear, or anticipation, he wasn't sure. The rain poured down, but the thunder was replaced by the thundering of hooves and the drumming of his heart. The word burst from him.
Otra and Theo moved in unison, understanding the threat immediately. The beast had seen them and was closing in with unearthly speed - charging directly towards the carriage where Rhoam's wife and child waited.
"We need to move the wheelhouse!" Theo cried.
"There's no time," Otra said, drawing his spear. Calmly, he moved to face the Lynel, and after a moment's hesitation, Theo followed suit. Rhoam looked from the carriage to the beast and back again. I will not be left out of this.
He held out his hand, gesturing to Otra's spare sword, and the southerner gave it willingly. The Lynel was in range now and slowed to size them up.
"We need to spread out," Theo said. "They breathe fire. We need to direct it away from the carriage!"
Rhoam nodded to Theo, and the group split up; Theo circled around north, with Otra and Rhoam heading south. As he ran, Rhoam saw that the Lynel carried a bronze shield, as well as a long spear.
"Goddess be damned," he called to Otra. "Another spear wielder."
"Remember what I said-" Otra began, but Rhoam's attention was drawn away by the Lynel. It had reared, mouth wide as it inhaled, and a moment later, great bursts of fire were hurtling towards them across the field. Rhoam ducked and dived, running for the beast. He could hear Otra shouting, wait, Rhoam, stop, but he didn't care. He had never fought a Lynel, and could not quell his excitement.
Drawing Otra's short sword, Rhoam rolled under another ball of fire, landing on his feet to face the creature. He raised his sword, ready to attack, only to catch a heft of the Lynel's shield with his chest. He was thrown prostrate, tumbling through the mud, with a consuming pain filling his chest and the sound of hooves against the ground all around him. He gaped and gasped, fighting to breathe let alone stand, but managed to haul himself up to his feet. When he looked back towards the Lynel, Otra had intercepted it and was a beast in his own right with his spear. They were toe to toe, dancing back and forth on the mud, the metal of their spears singing with each strike.
There was a whip-like whoosh through the air, and the Lynel was struck in the neck by a thin arrow. Both Rhoam and Otra looked; across the way, Theo had loosed a single arrow on the Lynel. Its attention was on the Akkalan then, its spear and shield stowed. It charged towards him, but Theo managed to dodge, lining up another shot as the Lynel passed. With a suddenness that was almost unfathomable, the creature spun, reared, and crashed down on top of the Akkalan. Theo went down without a shout, the breastplate of his armour caving in with a terrible crunch.
"Theo!" Otra screamed, and Rhoam felt winded once more. They stood and stared, helpless and hopeless, as the Lynel roared down at the Akkalan, rearing once more.
Fighting through his shock, Rhoam's mind moved into action. The fight suddenly felt familiar. He recalled Otra's voice, taunting him. Use your wits. However many you have.
Rhoam looked back to the carriage - to where his wife and child sat defenselessly. Otra was readying himself to charge at the beast, his spear drawn, wiping the mud from his face.
"Wait!" Rhoam cried, unsure what his next words would be. Use your wits, he heard again. Why did it all seem so familiar? A charging beast? A spear wielder? And then he knew.
Rhoam stumbled forward, managing to reach his friend, grasping him by the shoulder before he made his charge. "Otra! Wait! I know what to do!"
The southerner stopped, though he did not draw his attention from the Lynel. It had stood once more, and was turning its attention back to them, and then to the carriage.
"Draw it here!" Rhoam instructed. "Strike it as it passes and then move! Do as Theo did, but move out of the way!"
Finally, Otra broke his attention from the beast. "I-I don't understand."
"Just trust me!"
Rhoam could hardly believe the words that came to mind. On the other side of the field, the Lynel was advancing on the carriage. "Because I am your King."
Otra could argue no more. He drew his bow and loosed an arrow towards the Lynel to attract its attention. It struck the beast in the side and indeed had the intended effect; the Lynel turned, roared, and began charging towards them. Rhoam positioned himself some way behind Otra, in line with the beast. His chest had stopped hurting. Goddess preserve us, he thought to himself as the beast drew ever closer.
Otra waited until the last possible moment, and as instructed, Otra dodged the barrelling Lynel, whipping his bow around to strike the beast as it passed. As before, the Lynel reared, but Otra leapt backwards out of its reach.
Heart pounding in his bruised chest, Rhoam surged forward. He leapt as high as he could, landing on the Lynel's back, his free hand diving into its mane to steady himself. The Lynel bucked furiously, thrashing its head to try and free itself, but Rhoam held on and with all of his strength, drove his sword into the Lynel's neck. A strangled, gurgling sound came from the creature, and Rhoam was bucked off as its thrashed in pain. Soon, however, it fell limp and collapsed with an enormous thud. Gathering himself up, Rhoam realised the rain had stopped. When he stood, the first things his eyes met were Zelda's, as she burst from the carriage and gazed at him in shock.
The rest of the journey passed in silence. The Queen had sent Otra back to Hyrule with Theo's body, as they were only half a day's ride from Kakariko. If anything else comes for us, we know the King is not defenceless, she had said. The incident darkened her mood even further, but when Rhoam tried to talk to her, or to place a gentle hand on her shoulder, she turned away.
Rhoam remembered clearly the first time he had been to Kakariko. It was a village almost entirely shielded. A dark and sombre place, but peaceful too. Before his marriage to Zelda, he had never seen it before - had never even known of its existence.
"The Sheikah and the Hyrulean Royals have a long, long history," Zelda had told him during their first visit. "They are not well understood in Hyrule, but we keep faith with them."
Perhaps they would be better understood if they did not lock themselves away, Rhoam could not help but think. The isolation of the place haunted him. Zelda seemed to like it, however, greeting the people readily as they entered the village. Two little girls, both with white hair, ran up to her on their approach. The two children clambered to see the baby swaddled in the Queen's arms. The little princess slept, blissfully unaware of the previous upheaval to her journey.
"Can we see her? Can we see her?" they chimed in unison.
"Impa, Purah!" the Queen beamed, looking to the elder and then the younger child. "Where is your mother? We've come to show her the little Princess."
Once the girls had been given a look at the Princess, they led them to a central house high up on stilts, where Elder Soklee was waiting for them.
"Revered Elder Soklee, we present to you our daughter - Princess Zelda of Hyrule," the Queen said, laying the babe at the Elder's feet.
Soklee was only a decade older than Rhoam, he remembered. She was the youngest leader of Kakariko Village, having taken the reigns ten years ago at just thirty-five years old. The same age as I am.
The elder took Zelda into her arms and sat back on her dais before an ancient looking tapestry, one of the many that told of the legends of old Hyrule.
The elder ran a finger along the babe's tiny arm, and the Princess stirred. "Ah, there you are," Soklee grinned. "She will be strong. Like her mother. Stubborn too. Like her father."
Zelda stifled a small laugh, though Rhoam was not impressed. Elder Soklee sensed the tension, adding, "Perhaps, resolute is a better term."
The Queen changed the topic. "Does her name carry your blessing? It is traditional."
"Tradition is a thing to be cherished, Your Majesty," Soklee responded. She looked to Rhoam. "Change is what undoes us."
"That reminds me, Soklee," Zelda said. "My Sheikah Ambassador-"
At once, the Elder's disposition soured. "He is gone. He is not your ambassador any longer, nor is he anyone's."
Politics. Rhoam decided this was the best time to excuse himself. He went down to the pond at the centre of the village, to where a newly carved Goddess statue sat. He recalled then his promise to himself to be better. Strangely, it had not faded. There was a determination now. He could apply himself; the fight with the Lynel showed that.
After an hour's quarter turn, Zelda emerged from the house with the Princess back in her arms. She met Rhoam by the fountain, as the babe began to stir and squal.
"Hush...hush…" the Queen whispered. "It's just the Goddess; she needs to meet you too."
At the sound of her mother's voice, the baby calmed and was soon dozing once again.
"You're a natural with her," Rhoam said. "Though, she is strangely well-behaved."
"She's a Princess," The Queen smiled. "And she's all I've ever wanted. Someone to share my burden with. Someone to love completely."
And I am not that someone. The thought brought Rhoam sorrow, and he realised then that he was tired of not being enough, of being laughed at, of being useless.
"That attack was unprecedented," Zelda said suddenly. "A Lynel, this close to Kakariko? It's an omen, just like the ones that Mala-that my advisors spoke of."
"An omen of what?"
"I do not know. But, I was thinking, on the way here that-"
"Four, rather, three is not enough," Rhoam said, a note of sadness in his voice. He sensed that, for once, he and his Queen agreed, and when she nodded he knew he was right.
"Three," she echoed wistfully. "Three Knights for an entire Kingdom, and Lynels roaming so close to settlements. If something were to happen - like that legend from all those years ago - we would be massacred. We need more."
"Otra could lead them," Rhoam suggested. "Create a new order."
"No - Otra will need to train them. You will lead them."
Rhoam blinked at her, unsure if she was serious or merely taunting him. "...me?" he said, lips quivering. "My father was Battlemaster a decade ago but-"
The Queen's conviction told him that she was indeed serious. "And you will have your own Battlemaster, but you must oversee the new order."
"I wouldn't know anything about leading, surely there is some other protocol for-"
"I don't care what protocol says!" the Queen hissed, and once more Rhoam felt rendered small. "You cannot ignore your responsibilities any longer, Rhoam. We have a daughter now, and so you will lead."
Rhoam looked down at baby Zelda. She was awake now, emerald eyes gazing up at them idly, but had not been disturbed by their argument.
"You're right," he breathed. "We do have a daughter," He ran a hand across the top of the babe's head. "A daughter I want to protect."
The Queen leaned in close, her head resting against Rhoam's chest. "She deserves us at our best."
"Then she will always have you," Rhoam said meekly. "It's me she needs to worry about. The lazy, layabout father."
"Lazy, layabout King, you mean," Zelda teased.
"Ah - so I am not completely worthless," Rhoam chuckled. "Well, if the Goddess is good, little Zelda will favour her mother."
Zelda moved away, her face shadowed, seeming somehow regretful. "Rhoam...listen, I know we haven't always gotten along but...I...I want us to be a family, for her sake."
"Then we can at least try," Rhoam said. "Starting now. I will lead the new Knights, just as you suggested."
"Thank you. It will help me feel safe if nothing else. Are you worried about what happened?"
"Very much so. But if I have you two, then everything will be fine."
Rhoam placed an arm around her, and the family huddled together by the Goddess statue as a light afternoon shower broke through the clouds above.
"Everything will be fine," Zelda repeated to their daughter, and under the silent eyes of the Goddess statue, Rhoam almost believed that to be true.
One Hundred and Twenty Years Later
The bard was where Zelda had expected him to be - in the dining hall, surrounded by patrons, accordion in hand as he sang songs of Hyrule, both old and new. Cooks and servants, soldiers and retainers all crowded around the singer to listen. When they saw that Zelda had entered the hall, they all turned to bow. Zelda thanked them with a small nod before bidding them rise. Modesty had left her; once she would have laughed off their reverence, but now she understood its importance. I cannot be both Queen and commoner. She was not, no matter how much she would have prefered it, one of them.
Zelda handed Kass the note, and he studied it thoroughly; Fill these pages well, Rhoam. As well as fate deigns to allow. Ultimately, however, he admitted to having no idea who could have written it. "Beyond the obvious theories of course; an advisor perhaps?"
"But surely your teacher spoke of the court," Zelda pressed. "Perhaps he might have talked about Rhoam's journal."
Kass shrugged. "Perhaps, but Lexo was very private about his life at court, as I'm sure you can understand."
Zelda did not need him to clarify; Lexo had been a Shiekah poet and bard, and Kass' teacher after the Calamity. But Zelda had known him before, as she had known the other Sheikah. Their presence at court had been a point of contention for as long as Zelda could remember.
Kass however, did have one suggestion. "Perhaps you need to uncover more than just Rhoam's journal. It has significant gaps, does it not?
"Indeed. There is a six-year gap between the first and second entry," Zelda answered. She had dated the entries herself and found that they spanned at least seventeen years.
"I wonder what spurred him on to begin writing again. What was his second entry, if I may ask?"
Zelda knew without even needing to check. "The day my mother died."
"I see," Kass frowned. "My apologies, and my condolences."
Zelda held up the note again. She forced herself to slow - to consider. Fill these pages well, Rhoam. Who else would call her father by his real name? Who else would have access to his journal?And more importantly, what else could be so important to him, that he had recorded nothing else in six years, but the loss of the Queen?
"My mother wrote this," Zelda said, with full clarity. "She was the start of it all. After she died, he wrote every day."
"I'd wager there are more mysteries to be unravelled from that book, no?" the bard said. "A history of your father's reign would be an incredible resource."
What an idea - pulling together a memoir of the Hyrule that existed before the Calamity. There was so much that Zelda had forgotten, and so much that she had not seen, or had not been old enough to understand. Her father's journal was just the start. As she pondered, Kass had begun to play a song; it was newer than the others, a little more mournful and nostalgic. The Champion's Ballad. Their faces flashed before her; Goron vigilience, Gerudo spirit, Rito confidence, Zora grace.
The Champions had their diaries. They had their own stories, just like her father. So much had been hidden from her, when Zelda was just a child. She could regain it, somehow.
"Are you still feeling anxious?" Kass asked her, sensing her thoughts. "For your Kingdom?"
"More than anything," Zelda admitted, but it was without sorrow. The idea the bard had given her was a kindling to a greater flame. It was the purpose she had been looking for. "But I know my father felt the same. I know they all did. Who better to guide us than them?"
Zelda nodded, now resolute on the path ahead. "If they had a story to tell, I will find it." She departed the Dining Hall to return to the Library, ready to begin regardless of the time, and knew she would not sleep that night.