She kept going through the horrifying event over and over in her head. She couldn’t help but feel responsible for all of this. If only she had worked harder, prayed harder, listened to her mother’s words. Yet, no matter how hard she wished for another outcome, she would have to live with the reality that her knight was gone, killed in front of her.
Zelda shuddered as she remembered him jumping in front of her, despite being so horribly injured. How he had been fighting so tirelessly to protect her and get her away from the castle, and the horde of corrupted guardians. How he forced himself to stand, even when his side was bleeding, even when he was blinking hard to clear his vision.
How the malice had taken the form of a giant, stabbing through her stubborn knight with a crude blade like it took no effort at all. How Link had gasped, letting a small whimper escape his lips before his limbs went lost their strength, trying so desperately to lift his sword and fight on. How he had lost the fight against himself as his body gave out.
How that awful pink ash had taken his body away as she screamed his name, feeling a golden light escape her very soul.
She had unlocked her holy power, but at what cost? Link was taken from her. Dead. Gone forever.
All she could do was sink to her knees next to a discarded master sword that now lay broken, covered in his blood.
That is how they found her hours later, bloodied and numb, staring into space and crying. The other champions had thankfully survived, fleeing the divine beasts before the malice could corrupt them and use them against her. Urbosa stormed over, holding her tightly and moving her fingers through her hair in an effort to soothe her. Zelda could hear the question in the air.
Why was she alone? Where was Link?
She could barely breathe, barely think. It had happened so fast. He hadn’t stood a chance and it was all her fault for not helping him.
It was Revali who finally asked the dreaded question. Zelda looked up from Urbosa’s embrace to see the rito warrior looking pale, shocked. He was staring at the blood covering the ground, covering her dress and her arms, and had come to the conclusion that no one wanted to hear. The blood was not hers.
Mipha was trembling, tears gathering in those golden eyes.
Daruk was muttering to himself, denying what they all knew to be true. Begging for it not to be true. He couldn’t have lost a brother, he just couldn’t.
She could feel Urbosa tighten her grip on her shoulders, feel Revali’s intense stare. Zelda opened her mouth, and spoke in a trembling, heartbroken voice.
“He protected me”.
Where am I? Where is the princess? I can’t remember…
Your princess left you to die.
What? No, no she wouldn’t. She is so good.
Yet here you are, forgotten and thrown away.
No. No, you are lying!
They made you swear to protect her with your life. And you did.
I- What? I’m… dead?
Not quite. Not yet. It is by my will alone that you still draw breath.
What do you want with me? Who are you?
I am the end of all that has hurt you. I am the purge that will cleanse Hyrule of its oppressive people. I am salvation.
You’re… the Calamity. You’re trying to kill everyone!
And why should I not? Why should the people who force children to fight their wars go free? Why should everyone get to live in luxury, while they force you to fight their battles for them? Why should a country made from arrogance and tyranny be allowed to go on?
You’re wrong! Hyrule isn’t… You can’t decide to massacre an entire country just because…
Because what? Am I wrong? If something is hurting you, should you not remove it? If a wolf is biting your arm, would you not kill it?
If someone is abusing you, should you not fight back?
I… Can’t. That is not for me to decide, I- I don’t…
Dear knight of Hyrule, you who have been used by everyone. You who have been forced to fight since you could barely comprehend life. You who have been chosen by the sword, doomed by that awful tyrant of a goddess. Let go of this false sense of duty. You do not owe them anything.
I don’t know how… I don’t understand this. You are supposed to be the great evil I’m chosen to defeat. The goddess can’t be the one in the wrong, she can’t. If she is then… Then why have I been fighting this entire time? Why am I here?
Why else would I exist?
Your soul is screaming in pain. I do not know why even your beloved princess couldn’t see this.
You’re right… It hurts. It hurts so much. Why didn’t anyone see it? Why did I think I had to bear this all on my own? Why would they let me go on like this?
There is sorrow in your heart.
Why would they do this to me?
You have been wronged for so long, my dear knight. You have been chained and held down, but no longer. If you let me, I shall free you from your curse, your abusive duty. I shall show you the freedom Hyrule deserves. Do you see?
Y-you can do that? Just like that, you can take it all away?
Do you wish for it, little knight?
Yes! Yes, more than anything.
You have been used, but no longer. They don’t care about you, but I do. My poor child. I shall heal you, fill the void in your chest. I shall soothe your soul and heal your scars. I shall end this oppressive devotion.
Would you let me?
Yes. Take it from me. Take the chains from my wrists, and let me fly. Let me show them the errors of their ways.
“Set me free”.
Zelda and the champions made it to the castle, hoping to catch the Calamity unaware. The plan was to move quickly, giving the beast no chance to gather its strength after killing their hero. With heavy hearts and hollow chests, the five made it past the patrolling guardians undetected. She could feel death in the air, all those people murdered in the blink of an eye. They never stood a chance, never had any warning or time to get out unharmed. Only a few who lived in the fields had managed to flee to the outskirts of Hyrule. Zelda and her champions had made it past Lon Lon Ranch, now burning and reduced to rubble. Made it past the military outposts, husks of empty buildings greeting them, and bodies littering the roads. Zelda could feel her determination rise with each body she saw. Memorised them all, their faces, or their clothing if there were no faces to be seen. Revali and Daruk had tried to shield her from the sight, but she had insisted on seeing the destruction she had failed to prevent.
For every single person killed, she saw his face. Link. A person she failed more than any other. A person she had wronged for so long.
They had finally become friends.
How was it fair to take him away from her?
She felt her body move numbly behind Urbosa, leading them all up the cobblestone road. The air was filled with malice particles, bathing everything in ash and a pink glow. The smell of burned flesh reached her, making her grit her teeth and move faster. She wanted this over with, wanted to destroy the Calamity for taking away so much. There was something ugly twisting her heart. A hatred burning brightly and hotly within her very soul. The divine powers had become hers, at the cost of her friend’s life, and now they were growing, promising a swift end to whomever she unleashed it on first. Zelda longed to see the face of the Calamity as she crushed it under her light.
They had reached the entrance of the sanctum, where she could sense a concentration of evil, when they heard it.
A voice rarely heard, but so very welcome to her ears, like a song in the gloom.
“You will go no further”.
She feels her heart leap with hope, yet something feels so very dreadfully wrong.
He shows himself in the entrance, blocking their way. Her knight, sworn to protect her and all of Hyrule. His ruined tunic revealed angry pink markings, slowly creeping over his skin. His eyes are vibrant, glowing blue in the dim light. He reeks of malice.
Daruk jumped in front of them all, fully prepared to protect them, yet he hesitates. This is a sworn brother, someone very close to him. Zelda felt a stab in her heart as she realised for the first time that Daruk and Link had a stronger relationship than she could ever hope to have with her knight.
She heard it in the tremble in Daruk’s voice as he asked Link what he is doing, how he is alive.
Link scoffed, glaring at them as he let the malice overtake him completely, transforming his once lightly tanned skin a sick pink, his golden hair turning a bright red, flowing behind him. His body was covered in broken pieces of ancient armor and in a show of grotesque power, two extra arms stretch from his torso with a terrible crackling sound. He flicked his hands and glowing blue weapons appeared, sizzling with heat. Ancient weapons.
“I am Swordblight, knight of Calamity. You will not enter these walls,” he hissed, rising into the air and holding the glowing swords and spear threateningly at them.
He was no longer her knight.
Zelda had no idea what to do. She tried to think over the horrible sounds of her champions losing the fight. How could this have happened? How could her knight, one sworn to protect all of Hyrule let himself be corrupted by the Calamity? Did his vows mean nothing to him? Did he hate her that much? She couldn’t think, couldn’t find an answer that made sense. As Mipha came crashing backwards past her, grunting in pain, Zelda made a choice. She would make a stand here, refusing to be as helpless as she had been her entire life.
Daruk and Urbosa were trying to force him back, but Swordblight was too quick and he easily evaded them. Revali’s arrows did nothing to stop him from moving towards the princess. It did not matter. She stood completely still and stared him in the eyes with a determined glare.
“Why are you doing this? How could you let the enemy use you? How could you even think of helping it, when it will destroy everything? How dare you forsake your duty to the kingdom?!” she screamed, anger, frustration, and pain strengthening her voice. If she could just reach him, try to invoke his sense of honor and duty to snap him out of the Calamity’s control, then maybe they could win this.
Yet the Swordblight answered her with just as much anger, and with a passion she had never heard from Link before.
“Why shouldn’t I? Why shouldn’t this horrible place be burned to the ground?” his voice boomed, startling her. He flew at her, but was stopped by Daruk’s Protection, saving her from his spear. “You oppressive masters, who force us under your control! Why shouldn’t we destroy you? Why should we let your evil reign continue?”
He was beating at Daruk with a terrifying show of strength, desperately trying to break the shield keeping her alive. His voice grew in volume, sounding like a furious storm.
“Why should I let you live, when you only bring pain and despair?” he screamed, his voice breaking and trembling in anger and sorrow. “I was a tool! That is all you ever saw me as. He was right about you, about all of you!”
She had heard Link speak of his troubles before, but never as openly or as passionate as this. He had barely even managed to speak to her, telling her that everyone’s expectations were so large that he didn’t feel he could even use his own voice anymore. That he kept silent out of a sense of duty, to bear every burden laid on his shoulders.
She never realised that he had no one to help him stay upright, no one to simply wish for his safety or happiness. Never had anyone asked him if he was alright, or come to his defence, refusing to let a teenager die for them. Link had never understood why it made him feel so bad, because this is how Hyrule had been. He came from a long line of knights, had been taught discipline and obeying orders without question. Had been forced into the role of obedient dog from childhood, and Hyrule and all its people had never seen anything wrong with that.
Forced to lose himself in title and duty. Forced to stay silent, given a weight he could barely carry and call it a blessing and a gift. She never understood how badly broken he had been until that moment, watching as Daruk struggled to keep his righteous wrath contained, Urbosa moving to attack from behind. Mipha raising herself up on trembling feet and readying her spear. Revali diving down from the skies, firing a volley of arrows. All of them attacking him as one. In this moment, she found herself wondering.
How old was he?
She had never asked, never bothered to confirm his age. She had just assumed that he was old enough to die for her, as a knight should. Yet when she thought about it now, she could remember little moments where he seemed younger than her. Memories of Link staring longingly at a festival, feet tapping rapidly to keep himself contained and remain by her side. The way his eyes would light up at the mere mention of food. How bright colors seemed to add a small smile on his face. How his face would twitch in jealousy as he watched other children play and have no worries in their life. So very unlike his own.
Swordblight had pushed the champions off of himself and leapt towards her to attack her, likely he planned to run her through with his spear. It felt as though time had slowed down. She could see the terrified look on Urbosa’s face, the disbelief in Mipha’s. The shock in Daruk’s, and the desperation in Revali’s.
She could see the hatred in her former knight’s eyes, burning brightly as he stared into her own emerald orbs. But the worst was the pain she saw there. Pain that couldn’t be understood. How his eyes looked so confused, almost like a child’s.
Zelda made a decision, and raised her hand in front of her, channelling all her power and the might of the gods. Swordblight was stunned by a golden light, allowing the champions to pierce his body. He was screaming, writhing in pain and clawing at them wildly before he fell to the ground, malice flowing wildly across his skin. Mipha ran to him, breaking Zelda out of her divine trance. The small zora girl held his head and begged him to breathe, to hang on. The former knight was trembling weakly, gasping desperately and clawing weakly at the ground under him. The princess felt her feet moving, running to his side. The zora princess looked up at her, tears in her eyes once more. Would she have to see her love die a second time? No, Zelda decided. She would not let that happen. Gently, she placed her hands on his chest, concentrating a bright light in her palms. Swordblight flinched and shuddered, but soon he lay still and he was Link once more. Weak, damaged, and in great pain.
He looked so small. So fragile. Words that were never usually associated with the one chosen by the blade that seals the darkness. He opened his eyes and looked up at Mipha. There was a flicker of something in those vibrant blue before he closed them again, frowning and grunting softly.
“Please, hold on. Don’t let go,” Mipha begged, brushing the hair out of his face and letting her tears fall down her cheeks. Zelda could feel dread settling in her stomach. He was too weak to make it. His breath came slower and weaker. Daruk had moved in closer, but stayed behind the group, likely afraid he would injure Link further if he were to hold his sworn brother. Zelda could feel Urbosa stand next to her, a comforting presence.
“Link…” she whispered, afraid that her voice would snuff out the light that was left in him. He opened his eyes slowly, and with great effort, he moved his head to look at her. He looked so very tired, yet he tried so hard to look at her like he used to. Like the obedient knight he had once been.
Then, he opened his mouth and whispered. Zelda could barely hear him, leaning down to catch his words.
“...orry… couldn’t... “ he managed. Link looked so desperate, and for the first time, she could see his despair. Nothing could have prepared her for his last request.
“Let it end,” he whimpered, moving his hand to grab hers, even if the movement caused him agony. “Please… make it stop”.
She could feel his hand go limp, saw his eyes close and he was gone, lost to purgatory.
Mipha let out a shrill cry, holding Link’s other hand to her face as she let the world know how much they had lost.
Behind them, Zelda could hear Daruk punch the ground in fury, feel Revali’s disbelieving stare. She could see Urbosa’s hand grabbing hers, holding both her hand as well as her lost knight’s, and feel the rumble of her deep voice.
“There is still something we can do,” the Gerudo champion spoke, strong as ever. Zelda looked into her surrogate mother’s eyes, the emerald orbs were steadfast and filled with hope. “He is not lost yet, little bird”.
Mipha had gone silent next to her, Revali and Daruk moved closer.
“The Shrine of Resurrection” she breathed, stunned.
They could still make this right.
She could make this right. Own her mistakes and on behalf of the royal family, free the one person who had been betrayed by everyone. She felt something behind her. The Sword. The Sword who had chosen Link as its master. It was glowing, an ethereal voice accompanying it.
Give him back his life. Give my master his freedom.
She was not about to deny a request from the blade that seals the darkness.
What Zelda had not accounted for, was Revali offering to carry Link to the shrine. There was something in his expression, something that twisted his arrogance and self confidence.
She nodded and gave him the Sheikah slate so he could give to Purah and Robbie when he reached them. They would know how to operate the shrine.
The Rito Confidence let Daruk tie their tragic hero to his back, and flew off faster than Zelda had ever seen him fly. There was a determined look in his eyes as he took off, assuring the princess that he would make it in time to save Link. She didn’t feel a shred of doubt. Revali was many things, but incapable was not one of them.
She was proven right when she saw him return, landing with an assurance that could only mean they had made it. The look in his eyes and the way his feathers ruffled only proved he had been successful. Finally something was going the right way.
The princess of Hyrule looks at each of her champions, all staring back at her with a burning desire to end this. For the sake of Hyrule, and its people. For the sake of their families and their tribes. For their fallen hero, who deserved a better land to return to.
“For Hyrule”, she spoke, voice strong and burning with anger.
“For Hyrule!” the four champions echoed, and together they charged the sanctum.
The story was carried on the winds across all of Hyrule. The story of the tragic hero who gave his entire being to their princess before he was taken by malice. How he was sent to a healing slumber beneath the earth, becoming one with nature. People were whispering about the sleeping hero that may yet join their lives. They vow to save him, bless his soul, for he gave everything for them and all they did was take until there was nothing left but pain and suffering for him. Every person who survived the Calamity knew this story, and they passed it down through generations so they may never place such burdens on a child’s shoulders ever again.
They hope that one day, the sleeping youth will awaken, and join life once more. That one day, he may live life like he should, free and happy.
One day, a boy wanders into Kakariko village. He looked like he had been living in the wilderness for a long time. His body toned and skin a light tan, obviously a hunter. He spoke very little, yet he smiled openly and happily as the children came to greet him. His hair was a deep red color, and his eyes a vibrant blue, reflecting the pure sky. He was wearing rags and skins of animals to keep warm, something the mothers of the village didn’t approve of. Such a handsome boy should be wearing proper clothing, they decided, as they beckoned him over to the communal baths. The boy seemed surprised by their hospitality, but he accepted new clothing gratefully, burrowing his face into the soft cotton with a content smile. By the time he had washed and dressed, he had the entire village charmed.
An old woman hears the commotion, curious as she sets out on her morning walk. Her emerald eyes settle on the source of the villagers fascination and she gasps.
She could see something the others couldn’t. The aura of light coming from this hunter, the weight of his soul. It's him, she knows. She smiled and beckoned him over. There was no recognition in his eyes, but that doesn't sadden her.
He deserved happiness, and she would ensure he gets it. Even if it takes her last breath. The old woman swore to grant him that much.
In the name of the old gods and the traditions of the koroks, with nature magic mixed with her divine gold, she blessed him and granted him a name, for he had forgotten his.
"You will hereby be known as Link, Child of the Wilds. May all who meet you feel this blessing and greet you as a friend. For you belong not to a single place, as all of the land is your home. May your travels be filled with happiness and fortune".
The boy, Link, smiled at her. Such a gorgeous smile he had.
The blessing took hold of his soul, binding him to the wilderness.
Yes, Zelda thought. This will suffice.