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Homesick

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Life at Zora's domain was peaceful for the most part.

The structure stands above Ruto Lake, just as it had stood for thousands of years, making it isolated enough to prevent most monsters and bandits from accessing it. It had its good and bad sides, obviously: While keeping the peace was the reason their ancestors had built the domain in the depths of Lanayru, some Zoras found it a great shame that their communication with the rest of the world was so poor. No wonder the others races often considered them strange, or too intimidating to approach.

And being a member of the royal family doesn't help. A prince can't easily leave his domain, and it's rather saddening for Sidon.

There is one time when a member of the royal family is encouraged to leave the domain, though. As the Zora tradition goes, every prince or princess  must go on a journey across Hyrule to strengthen their bond with their dear allies, and to expand their knowledge by discovering the many wonders the kingdom has to offer.

As a one hundred and fifteen year old Zora prince, it's something that Sidon had been impatiently waiting for. He had been told traveling a few years after reaching adulthood was for the best, as it allowed him to reach a certain level of maturity that would improve the experience. He feels himself ready by now, and the king's permission for him to leave had been an immense joy to receive. There is still much about Hyrule he has never seen yet, and it leaves his head filled with curiosity for what awaits him outside.

It’s what distracts him now that he stands in his father’s throne room, accompanied with his sister, the future queen Mipha. They listen to Dorephan’s rambles about the tradition, though it’s nothing they don’t already know; Still, he supposes it’s better to humor him if they’re going to be away for so long.

"Do not forget that the culture in the other regions you will see differs greatly from the one you are accustomed to,” the king says, his voice a reassuring echo while Sidon’s mind is already wandering through Hyrule. “It will be important for you to expand your mind, to let yourself be guided by those who know what you do not," he adds, as if he were reciting ancient texts that were passed on over the years. Sidon pretends to listen at this point; He's too thrilled to be able to stop smiling. He had been thinking about his departure for months .

"And remember, the traditions says that you must travel by foot, as swimming through the rivers would prevent you from communicating with our friends of the land, understood?"

They both nod to his words, though Mipha already knows all this. Being much older than Sidon, she had already traveled her way to a few regions the previous year. Her trip had been cut short, unfortunately, due to a few important matters that needed to be taken care of at the domain. Nothing that really matters now, though, and Sidon knows she is just as exalted as he is about seeing what she has yet to discover.

"Have you given a notice to the knights that will accompany you? You have three each, as I have suggested, yes?" Dorephan asks.

Truth be told, that amount feels a little excessive, to him at least. Sidon is a warrior just as much as he is a prince, and he knows he can take care of himself like his older sister. The princess is even a bit taller than him now - who would even want to try and mess with her?

But his father is right, he always is. Almost. While the monsters and thieves have made themselves rare, it's only wiser to be as careful as possible. Besides, it would bring a welcome company.

“Four, actually,” Mipha suddenly pipes up, then gestures to her brother with a graceful hand. “Well, Sidon has four. I will be fine with three guards.”

Sidon pulls his head back in confusion - what? Four ? He had already complained much more than he should’ve about being overprotected, and he certainly hadn’t been the one to request an extra knight. He lets it slide for now - Mipha must have something in mind, and he knows he’ll have to ask her what this is all about.

After a few more minutes of listening to the king, they leave the throne room, setting themselves the task of finding the knights that would join them on their journey. The domain is lively when they step outside and into the thin layer of water that covers the marble floor, and Mipha finally turns to Sidon, the corners of her mouth quirking up.

"Do you know the original meaning of this tradition?" She asks, clasping her hands together and somehow expecting an answer. Sidon shakes his head, his eyes already searching for the knights.

"Princes and Princesses would usually travel in order to find someone to marry," she replies, her smile growing mischievous. "The meaning got lost in time, but is it not something you would like?"

Sidon just shrugs, a careless expression across his features. "I fear I am way too young to consider this," he replies as he turns to her.

"Well, you are an adult," she adds, "It could happen at any time."

She's right, but the concept had never truly been one of his priorities. He had always believed that his fate would draw itself without him needing to look for it sooner or later, and truth be told, he’s fairly certain that it won’t happen in the near future.

"What about you, then?" He asks in return. If his sister is trying to urge him to find a lover, why isn't she doing so herself?

"I do not need anyone for now,” she replies, examining her own claws with a certain smugness. It's an answer that Sidon expects, and one that has him grinning as a puff of laughter escapes him. Right, they were both more interested by traveling than going on some kind of quest for love. There's no need to worry about this for now, he supposes.

“Oh, and what was that about?” Sidon suddenly asks, straightening himself and frowning at his sister. “I do not believe I asked for a fourth guard, nor was I informed that I would be accompanied by one. Is this your doing?”

Mipha looks away for a moment, her shoulders drooping in resignation. “Perhaps I should apologize,” she begins with a quiet sigh, putting her hands together. “I felt it… necessary. After what happened in the past, I am fearful of what could happen to you during this trip.”

“Mipha…” Sidon wants to be upset. He’s had enough of being babied, of being followed every time he has to even take a single step out of the domain. But can he really blame her for being worried? Can he really feel any type of anger towards her, while she only has good intentions? The past four years, the ones that passed right after his accident on Lanayru promenade had certainly been rough, but… He wonders if he will ever be trusted with his own life once again now.

“Alright,” he mutters, begrudgingly accepting the fact that he would be watched over perhaps more than what is necessary. “Well, who is it? The fourth guard?”

The three others who are to come along with the prince had been designated long ago - those who everyone called ‘the triplets’ out of convenience. The wise captain Bazz, the hotheaded Tottika and the determined Torfeau. The three are skilled warriors and bodyguards, and Sidon's sure they haven't really traveled across Hyrule either - this would be a good opportunity for them too, but he can hardly guess who else is to come with them.

“I’ve picked Link, the Hylian guard,” Mipha replies, pointing to a figure that stands near the city’s gate. “He’s accompanied me last year, on the first half of my trip. He’s very reliable, and knows enough about Hyrule to act as some kind of guide as well,” she adds, her arms falling back to her side.

Sidon’s eyes dart to find Link in the distance. It's always sounded quite unusual to him that someone of another race would be a royal guard in Zora's domain, but he must admit that he had been curious about him ever since he came here a few years ago.

Link is... well, he's mysterious. Despite his Zora disguise, it's easy to tell he's a Hylian - He's short. Really short. Maybe not too short by Hylian standards, but very short by Zora standards.

He has to wonder how and where he acquired his work attire: Link wears what could be described as stealth clothes, all in a pretty pastel blue adorned with glistening fish scales of a darker blue color, sprinkled across the outfit in irregular patterns. On top of that, he wears the usual armor plates that Zora guard usually protected themselves with, and he even has a few pieces of jewelry to go along with the rest.

The most unusual thing about his attire is the hood, though. Shaped like a fish tail to resemble a Zora’s head, it wraps around the back of his head, hiding his hair completely. A mask is attached to it, one he covers his mouth and nose with at all times.

Sidon had heard the man in question was mute. It had never seemed much of a problem, thanks to the sign language that he used and that most Zoras understood. The prince hadn't really talked to him before though, aside from greetings and other formalities, and to be fair, it looked like Link wasn't really trying to approach him either. It's a shame, now that he thinks about it; Sidon was as close as a prince could be to his guards, but he knew almost nothing about the Hylian.

Maybe bringing him along would be a good start.

"Yes, Your Highness?" He hears on the side, and he realizes that he's been staring. Mipha stands next to him in front of the triplet guards: Bazz, Tottika and Torfeau. Three Zoras of around the same height, of a black color, all wearing the same pattern of grey dots on their tails and arms.

It's still extremely hard to tell them apart. Torfeau is a woman, so at least her features are different, but Bazz and Tottika look almost identical. Even after having known them for such a long time, Sidon still finds himself hesitating when he has to name one of them. And they're not making this any easier, with their identical pieces of armor and jewelry... Something tells Sidon they might be doing it on purpose.

He usually lets them speak first. At least their voices sound different.

"Are you ready to leave the domain tomorrow?" Mipha asks, staring down at the triplets.

"Of course!" They reply in unison, something they can barely refrain from doing at this point. Bazz grimaces at the act before putting back on his formal attitude. "It was seemingly decided that Link was to give us a few precisions about our destinations before we left. Should we meet up with him later today?”

Sidon has to refrain himself from tilting his head in incertitude; He hadn’t been told about that either. Well, he supposes it wouldn’t hurt.

“Yes, that’s right,” Sidon nods to them, keeping a completely unbothered attitude. “I still have a few matters to attend to, but I will see you in the meeting room this afternoon so we can study the map with more care.”

“Understood, Your Highness,” they say together again, and Sidon is sure that he’s caught a glimpse of Torfeau elbowing Tottika in the ribs.

With a salute to the triplets and his sister, Sidon walks away, his feet carrying him across the domain until he reaches the gate. He finds Link standing in front of one of the luminous stone pillars, watching in front of himself as he briefly fidgets with one of the forefins of his hood. Sidon watches him for a moment, studying the attire the best he can; Does it allow the Hylian to swim like Zoras? Or is it designed for him to blend in their society?

"Good morning, Link," Sidon muses as he walks behind him. Link's body slightly jumps in surprise, and he instantly straightens himself upon realizing who the voice belongs to. He turns to face him completely, bowing respectfully in greeting.

"Oh- Forgive me for frightening you," the prince instantly brings a hand up in apology, offering him a reassuring smile. “Link, you were assigned to be one of my… bodyguards for the Hyrule tour, am I correct?”

Link nods to him, his face remaining completely unreadable. Well, the mask certainly doesn’t help; He supposes Link doesn’t like to show himself that much to others.

“Perfect,” Sidon replies, putting his hands together behind his back. “My sister - Lady Mipha mentioned to me that your knowledge of Hyrule is very reliable.”

Sidon expects another nod, but Link seems too modest to simply leave it at that.

I know of some places you could visit, Your Highness, he signs, and Sidon finds himself at a brief loss at the sudden change of language. He can get used to it, he thinks to himself. I could be helpful if you would like to know about other cultures beforehand, if that is what you wish.

"Yes - I have read a few books about them, but I do believe it would still be helpful to have someone to guide us," he replies sheepishly, rubbing a hand against his neck, the silver of his bracelet and necklace clicking together. "In that case, I would be happy to have you at my side during my journey. I have told the triplets to join me in the meeting room soon to plan a few things ahead. Will you join us?"

Link nods, his grip on his spear loosening as the tension seems to leave him. It's certainly unusual to witness a Hylian wielding a silverscale spear, a traditional Zora weapon, but Sidon will have to admit that it suits him. It’s much taller than him, but he seems to carry it with ease, and Sidon at least knows that Link is skilled with it in combat.

"Perfect!" Sidon exclaims, waving as he turns back. "I will see you in a few hours, then. I will send another guard to replace you while you go and make your preparations,” he adds, to which Link replies with a polite bow of his head.

Sidon is still unsure of how he should read him. While the triplets were quite approachable and expressive, Link seems a little tougher. He takes his leave for now, deciding that he’ll just have to try and understand a bit better in the few days to come.

The prince isn’t quite done with his own preparations. He soon finds himself in his chamber, in front of a highly protected bag to pack his belongings in.  Zoras don't wear clothes, so at least that's one thing he doesn't have to worry about. If he needs them for any reason, it would be wiser to buy ones he finds on the way - if he finds anything his size, that is. Being a Zora prince was not always easy.

He owns different sets of jewelry, though, some of them fancier than the others. He takes a few just in case, placing them carefully in boxes that would hide them well. He watches the books on his shelf: Perhaps he should bring some, if he ever gets bored at night. His body would often reject sleep, for some reason. The amount he usually got seemed to be enough for him, but finding himself awake when no one else is can be quite dull.

He decides he will hold onto his lightscale broadsword. He's sure Mipha will bring her trident with her - one never knows what threat can await them. Even if he had guards, he still has to be able to defend himself. And he knows how to; He’s had enough training for it. In the end, it’s almost like he’s one of his own bodyguards as well.

He gather necessary bathing products, as well as a few elixirs he can find around his room. He does find a few scarves in his closet - they'll be useful if the air starts to grow cold. He's heard of the mountains of Hebra: They're the coldest in Hyrule, and he's not a fan of that particular weather, honestly. But he had to see everything he could, right?

He had been to mount Lanayru before. It's not too far from the domain, so at least it allowed him to see something other than his home. Naydra, the legendary dragon had made her home into the mountain, and he had been... 'lucky' enough to see her on his journey to the mount. Not that the circumstances had been the most enjoyable.

He had been to the neighbor regions of Akkala, Necluda and central Hyrule before - they're nice to visit, from what he remembers. Necluda had a few small welcoming villages, and Akkala was gorgeous, though the weather there was never too kind. Too stormy for Sidon's liking, but perhaps he’s just picky. And the fields of Hyrule were... empty, for the most part.

Well, those three regions would be out of the way now, he supposes. There were many more things he needed to see, and the enthusiasm of sharing it with company warms his heart.

If... the company is so kind as to treat him as a friend, rather than their prince, that is.

It's an expectation that he had been told multiple times was ridiculous, unrealistic. While the triplets (and any of the other guards, really) had been there for him in tough times or had joked around with him, there's always a thin layer of formality between them that Sidon can't manage to tear, no matter how hard he tries. Is it so silly to want the people he sees every day to feel more like... friends, instead of guards?

And what should he expects from a Hylian guard he knows nothing of?

For now, he pushes the thoughts back in a corner of his mind. Perhaps it really was silly. For now, he'll focus on trying to communicate with him effectively enough. That would be a start, since he had never really had a conversation with him.

But Sidon must admit - he is very curious, and he wonders what hides beneath the hood and mask.

*

The sun shines bright in the early hours of the afternoon, and Sidon finds himself sitting in the meeting room with his four bodyguards: Link, Bazz, Tottika and Torfeau. It's amusing how much Link stands out, but after all, the other three were practically clones.

A map rests onto the table before them. Link is the center of attention at this point - he's the one who marks the recommended destinations, not a single word in his hands before his task is done. He first points to a region south to Lanayru named Faron.

Faron is our first destination, and it should be an easy start, Link signs, it gets rather warm, but the lakes and the sea should be pleasant for all of us. There is an inn near Lake Floria where we can stay, and we can visit the fishermen village, Lurelin.

The four Zoras watch attentively as Link gives his brief explanations. There seems to be much more he wants to say, though perhaps he wants to keep certain things for the others to discover. He then points to a region to the southwest of the map that has the others gulping.

The Gerudo region will be more difficult to handle, he begins, the air is constantly dry over there, and it never rains. We should be fine with heat-resistant elixirs, though, he adds, his finger then pointing to a small structure in the middle of the desert. As you all know, most of us won’t be able to enter Gerudo Town. They only let women in.

“Perhaps I could go there while I’m off-duty,” Torfeau whispers, though she’s made it so anyone could hear it. She looks at Link with eyes full of wonder. “This has been one of my dreams for quite a while."

Tottika can’t help but snort at her words, but Link doesn’t seem to pay it any mind.

...We can stop at Kara Kara Bazaar, though, he adds, switching back to the main subject.

The place seems to be an oasis, from what Sidon can see on the map. At least he'll be able to swim in there. He's allowed to float around at least, right?

Link soon slides his finger up the map, pointing now to Tabantha and Hebra altogether.

These two will be interesting. It can get rather cold, but there are always warm clothes that we can buy. Plus, the Rito village is very welcoming, I’m sure you will love it. We shouldn't be wandering too far into the mountains, though; Some monsters still hide in there, and the cold can be harmful.

Sidon nods to his words, as focused on Link's face as he is on the map. The Hylian guard doesn't need to know this, though. He seems to love what he is talking about, and watching the glimmer in his eyes as he signs is comforting. Sidon knows he's in good company.

Eldin will be a problem, Link signs again after pointing around the volcano to the northeast. We most likely won't be able to go to Goron city. It’s surrounded with lakes of lava, and it might be brutal to put it like this, but we would die. We can go to the hot springs around Death Mountain though, and watch it from afar.

There was no real use in going back to the regions Sidon had already visited, and with that, Link has gone around the whole map of Hyrule. It seems easy when he puts it this way, but... Sidon's sure the journey will be very, very long. It's nothing that will discourage him, though.

We have to travel by foot, Link continues, But renting a few horses will be necessary, to at least carry our luggage for us. And they will be very welcome if one of us gets injured.

"One question, Link," Sidon begins, looking directly at him. "How will we recognize thieves?"

His words are followed by a silence that seems to drag on. The clan of thieves that people called the Yiga was known to be merciless, and while their numbers seem to be growing mysteriously low as of late, they still have to be careful.

Most of them disguise themselves as travelers, Link signs in reply. But… If that can reassure you, I have learned to tell them apart from experience. If I see one of them, I will know.

Sidon thinks for a second. He carries a lot of precious ornaments with him, and he knows it's likely that the thieves will be after those. He certainly hopes to avoid meeting any of them, though.

There will be times when we will have to set up camp, Link starts once again. I suggest that us guards take turns standing watch when that happens, what do you think?

The triplets all nod at the same time, something that feels rather off-putting. Once all is said and done, Link holds up the wide map, rolling it to finally hand it to the prince.

You can keep it with you, Your Highness, Link signs after Sidon takes the map in his hands. If you wish to reflect on our destinations. Should anything bother you, feel free to reach out for me, and I will change our course if needed.

"Thank you very much, Link," he replies. "I will place my trust in you for now. You seem to know very much about what you are planning."

Link shrugs lightly in response, a slight twitch of his cheeks that indicates a smile beneath his mask. Finally, something that Sidon can see.

They all leave the meeting room eventually, and Sidon spots Mipha in the corner of his eye. She seems to be leaving the other room, accompanied with three guards as well: Rivan, Dunma and Gaddison.

"I take it you have finished planning your journey?" Mipha asks with a smile, the three guards giving a salute to Sidon.

"Link here suggested many places that we could visit," he replies, "What about you?"

"I am only finishing the trip I have already started. I will start directly with Eldin and then proceed to explore Tabantha and Hebra. Perhaps we will cross paths?"

"I should hope so," Sidon replies with a bright smile. He had heard of the other regions from Mipha when she came back from her first trip, and he remembers how envious he had been back then. To think that he will get to experience it soon... It's something that has his heart fluttering with enthusiasm.

As they all leave the palace, the guards go back to their duty for the rest of the day. Sidon finishes his preparations, checking his luggage many times for things he could have forgotten.

*

The domain has gone quiet at night, but Sidon once again finds himself wide awake. As he floats into his pool, he realizes the room isn't dark enough for him to sleep peacefully - there isn't much he can do about the luminous stones that shine bright on the cliffs outside his window and through his curtain, though.

If he's true to himself, he'll admit he’s nervous about leaving the domain. He had been outside before, but this time he'll be on the other side of Hyrule. While he couldn't be more excited, it's still something that has the worry pooling in the pit of his stomach. What if he's needed at the domain in an unexpected turn of events?

He knows his father would want him to bury these worries far away, though. After all, the king is in still good enough shape, and he's not the ruler for nothing.

His mind is also filled with pictures as his imagination takes over, visualizations of what the unknown to him would look like, smell like, taste like. He's sure the many different regions have a wide variety of meals he has never tried before, and that's another thing he can't wait to see for himself.

Usually, he wouldn't mind being awake at this time. But he has to walk for a while tomorrow, and he's more used to swimming, honestly - he needs to be well-rested, but the anticipation of the trip has his body pushing sleep away insistently.

He'll close his eyes for now. Perhaps rest will come in time, and hopefully it will be enough for him to feel full of energy in the morning.

Morning had come to wake him up with the first rays of its sunlight, and he lets out a yawn as his head leaves the surface of the water. He doesn't remember when he'd fallen asleep, but at least his body had been kind enough as to let him find enough rest for-

Oh, today is the day.

He had almost forgotten this, and the enthusiasm is back as soon as his eyes open. As they adjust to the light, he takes note of his luggage around the room - everything seems to be ready, and he hopes he isn't late, at least.

As he's about to leave the water, a knock can be heard on his door.

"Your Highness," Sidon hears through it. He easily recognizes Torfeau's voice. "Forgive my intrusion, but we are to leave in an hour."

"I will be there soon," he replies, swimming out of his cistern and walking on the marbled tiles of his room. He lets the water cling to his skin for now as he scrambles to his nightstand to gather his ornaments. "How long have you been waiting?"

"We already had to push back our departure of an hour because you would not wake up," she replies, and Sidon can hear the joking tone in her voice. He sighs in faked annoyance, carefully putting his bracelets around his wrists.

"Do not lie. I will join you all as soon as possible."

After he readies himself for the day, he finds the map of Hyrule sitting on his desk and unrolls it, noting the many marks Link had made onto it. Most of them are circles indicating the different places they will be sleeping at, and crosses that Sidon assumes are dangerous places they should not venture into.

There are... a lot of crosses, now that he gets to look at it up close. He knew Hyrule had a few monsters roaming around it, but he never expected that so many places would be considered dangerous. Or are they crossed out for another reason...?

A particular place in Faron piques Sidon's interest. A place named "Riola Spring" is circled several times with insistence, but nothing of importance seems to be situated in the area. It seems difficult to access by foot, but Sidon could definitely go there by ascending the waterfalls. Perhaps he should ask Link about it first - there must be an explanation to it.

He quickly takes his bags with him, taking one last look around his room. He most likely wouldn't be able to sleep in a pool of water for quite a while, and while it wasn't entirely necessary, he still found it more comfortable than a bed. Well, it will depend on where they stay, he supposes.

He finally closes the door behind himself, a strange feeling of guilt lingering into the back of his mind for a few moments before he heads to the throne room.

"I see you are both ready," He hears his father say as soon as he steps into the large room. Mipha is already there, looking to her brother with a gentle smile. "It will certainly feel different here without you two around. You will send me letters, yes?"

"Of course," Sidon replies to accompany Mipha as she nods. From what he can see where he stands, the guards all seem to be waiting at the entrance of the palace.

"Sidon, I have heard Link will be one of your bodyguards," Dorephan starts again, his voice strangely quiet as it catches the prince's attention. Sidon nods to the words, a hint of confusion across his features.

Dorephan hums, the pink skin beneath his brow wrinkling. “I believe you’ve made a good choice. He will be very helpful, though… He tends to be quite reckless during fights, against monsters or others. If that is to happen, I trust you to remind him of his duty."

While Sidon doesn’t know much about the Hylian, he’s seen him fight a few times - it’s true that he might be a bit more… brutal towards enemies, than the rest of the royal guard. He’ll have to keep an eye on him.

As they say their goodbyes to their father, Sidon and Mipha finally leave the throne room. The sun shines brightly outside, and it's almost like the world is greeting them, waiting for them to come to see its wonders. The light feels warm onto Sidon's face, and he takes one look around as the guards salute the two.

"Where do we start, Link?" Sidon asks, looking down to the shorter man with a soft smile.

First, we should go to a stable, Link signs, There is one just at the end of Zora river. Then it’s highly possible that we will need to set up camp near Nabi Lake further to the south.

Link looks to him, his eyes waiting for some sort of approval that Sidon is quick to give. He looks on his map, noting the location of Nabi Lake - It's a rather wide one, perhaps he would be able to swim inside.

In any case, his enthusiasm has his heart fluttering, his eyes opening wide to take in the sight of the horizon.

And with that, they set foot outside of the domain, looking back at the structure one last time before they begin their journey.