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For Who Could Ever Learn to Love

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Once upon a time, a great evil, sealed away for many thousands of years, awoke to threaten a magical kingdom.

The kingdom was not without hope, for it had prepared for the evil’s return. Champions came from the four corners of the kingdom to oppose the evil, led by a beautiful princess who was said to be blessed with the power of a goddess, and the princess’s appointed knight, chosen to wield the legendary blade of light.

Though the evil was strong, the knight and the four Champions — aided by ancient, powerful machines — were able to contain its wrath. The princess awakened her divine power, and sealed the evil once more. But their triumph was not without loss.

Sensing its doom, the evil power lashed out with the last of its strength, and stole the knight from them. The blade of light was left masterless on the field of battle.

For a full year, the princess and the Champions searched the length and breadth of the kingdom for the knight, but could find no sign of him. On the anniversary of their greatest triumph and deepest loss, the princess and the Champions gathered to lay the blade of light to rest with the guardians of the forest, in the hope that the knight would one day return to reclaim it.

And so, the years passed.

 

About ten of them, to be precise.

 


 

There is a monster that lives atop Ploymus Mountain, to the east of Zora’s Domain.

It hasn’t always been there. But it’s been there long enough to have become a fact of life for the Zora. Prince Sidon can remember the day that Bazz and the others — all having hit their first growth spurts well before him, on account of being several years older, and therefore having left him behind — came back to the Domain in a panic, babbling about a beast. The guards who went to investigate returned with more dignity, but with grave faces and noticeably shaking hands.

A Lynel.

Golden-maned, equipped with a sword the size of a full-grown Zora and, more concerning, a quiver full of shock arrows. It was a miracle, the guards said, that they were able to escape with their lives once it noticed them. Several of them had close shaves; shock arrows practically grazing them as they fled down the mountain trail.

King Dorephan decreed Ploymus Mountain off-limits for the time being, placing a guard to watch the base of the mountain trail day and night. They would hope the beast moved on soon, and be wary should it choose to approach the Domain. But as time wore on, it became clear the beast had no intention of leaving.

Nor, though, did it stray closer to the Domain. It seemed content enough to remain on the mountain, and so the King’s decree stands.

Prince Sidon is currently breaking that decree.

Of course, that won’t be a problem once he kills the Lynel. He’s fairly certain that his father can’t possibly be upset about this minor bit of rule-breaking, once he returns to the Domain with the beast’s head. No, certainly not. Mipha may scold him for taking such a risk, but surely his father will be nothing but proud of him — finally proud of him — for ridding the Domain of the threat.

His confidence propels him through acquiring weapons from the armory, up the falls to Toto Lake and across Upland Zorana, neatly avoiding the guard on the east bridge.

His confidence wavers, however, when he finally sets eyes on the Lynel.

It’s a large beast; larger than Sidon had been expecting. Though the Zora do not ride horses, Sidon had, during his preparations, made a point of venturing across Toto Lake and into Akkala, where the road is frequented by Hylians on horseback. The texts in the library described and depicted Lynels as having the lower body of a horse, with a torso much like that of a Hylian, and cat-like, snarling faces.

Hylians on horseback were frequently as tall as Sidon, sometimes even taller, and so he had prepared himself for the fact that the Lynel would exceed his own height somewhat.

It does.

It must be at least a full head-and-a-half taller than himself — possibly even more; he can’t be certain from a distance. And it’s not only tall, it’s also simply massive; the Hylians’ horses are oddly delicate things, with their spindle-thin legs, but the Lynel’s limbs are as thick as the stout pine trees on the mountain.

Most of its body is a dark brown, shot through with stripes and splashes of yellow-gold. Its Hylian-like torso is muscular, though not as bulky as Sidon had expected based on the few illustrations he’d been able to find. (Perhaps the artists had simply exaggerated; Lynels are known to possess amazing strength, after all.) The equine portions of the Lynel are unarmored and unclothed, except for what appears to be a set of leather leg wraps around each of its shins; a glance shows that its forearms are similarly adorned. Unlike any Hylian Sidon has ever met, the Lynel covers its chest with just leather straps and a small metal plate over its heart. Its only other armor is a skirt-like fauld that protects the area that would be its groin, if it were a two-legged creature.

The Lynel’s most striking feature, though, is its mane — the same shining gold as its stripes, but full and thick, ruffling in the breeze and catching on its pale ivory horns. Its braided tail is the same brilliant gold; its face and the feathering just above its dark hooves are both the color of rich cream. The whole effect gives the beast an almost ethereal quality as the sunlight hits it.

The few books Sidon had been able to find that included any information about Lynels were clear that golden Lynels were by far the most dangerous, though they were scant on other details. The illustrations had made it look like such a creature would be all over gold, not brown with golden stripes, but he chalks that up to the artists’ exaggerations as well. Regardless of whether it matches the descriptions exactly, it certainly does not match the description of any other type of Lynel.

Still, he’s come this far already, and by his next hatching day, he’ll be the same age that Mipha was when she was chosen as Vah Ruta’s Champion. But unlike his sister, Sidon will have nothing particularly noteworthy to his name. Mipha is a hero to the entirety of Hyrule; Sidon surely has it in him to be at least a hero to his own people. To return with the head of a golden Lynel — now that will be worthy of a place in the great histories of the Zora!

Sidon takes a deep breath to steel his nerves, then grips his borrowed silverscale spear tightly and vaults up onto the open plateau.

 


 

Sidon hits the grass hard enough to knock the wind out of his lungs, the silverscale spear slipping from his hand. He tries desperately to reach for it, but an enormous black hoof pounds into the ground between his fingers and the shaft, and Sidon pulls back before he loses a hand. Not that it will make a difference, he realizes, as he tries to get to his feet and finds the task impossible, as the Lynel is standing over him, the blade of its enormous sword so close to Sidon’s face that his vision blurs when he tries to focus on it. He’s going to be too dead to worry about having hands, soon.

The deadly blade swings away from him, the Lynel pulling back to strike, and Sidon’s thoughts race between a probably-futile hope that it won’t hurt too much; wishing there was some way to apologize to Mipha; to his father. He shuts his eyes tightly and waits for the whistle of air splitting around the cutting edge of the Lynel’s sword.

A hand closes around his chest.

There is air moving, but it’s moving around him as he’s lifted, and there is sound, but it’s the Lynel’s hooves thumping against the ground, and Sidon opens his eyes just in time to catch a glimpse of the Lynel snorting as it tosses him off the side of Ploymus Mountain.

Sidon bounces off the rocks, then tumbles a fair distance, completely out of control, until he finally rolls to a stop. The Lynel had tossed him off the edge of its plateau, but along the side where the mountain trail winds up; he’s rolled only as far as the bend where the path curves toward Lulu Lake.

Perhaps the Lynel … forgot which side of the mountain it was? Sidon has no explanation.

He’s bruised and battered and more than a little shaken, but alive. He should thank Hylia for his good fortune, but he takes the moment to curse his own foolishness instead. He had been mad, to think he stood a chance against the beast. Perhaps it had taken pity on him? But Sidon has never heard of such a thing happening before.

Hoping that the sentry on the bridge wasn’t in a position to see his inelegant tumble, Sidon picks himself up and limps back to Toto Lake to tend to his hurts before slinking back to the Domain, resolved to never speak of this experience to anyone.

 


 

Sidon should stop thinking about it.

He should put it entirely out of his head, chalk the entire experience up to his own foolish, stubborn pride, and simply be thankful that he’s alive to do so.

But he can’t.

He’s very certain that not a single text he had consulted, prior to his attempt to kill the beast, ever mentioned a Lynel leaving its opponent alive. Very few texts (and the reports of the guards who had first investigated this particular Lynel; a fact Sidon rolls around in his mind many times) describe close escapes, but those were generally people who had accidentally wandered too close to a Lynel’s territory, spotted the beast before it spotted them, and been quick enough to flee.

There is only one way to survive a fight with a Lynel: kill it, before it can kill you. Or so it was believed.

Maybe this Lynel is defective???

Sidon closes yet another tome, and sighs.

 


 

His curiosity will be the end of him, Sidon knows, and he reminds himself of that fact as he swims up the waterfall to Toto Lake once more, only ten days or so since his last venture here.

This time, he is, if not more prepared, certainly differently prepared. He pats his belt pouch to ensure that the two vials inside remain intact. One hasty elixir, and one sneaky elixir, both the strongest formulations he could acquire off a traveling merchant who had come to trade at the Domain. They cost him quite a bit, and he’d had to be careful about making his purchase, to avoid questions about why he would need such things. He has still brought along a silverscale spear, and a silver longsword strapped to his back — just in case — but this time, his purpose is not combat.

This time, his purpose is reconnaissance.

There are a number of large, rocky outcroppings at the top of Ploymus Mountain; one quite close to the top of the trail. Sidon makes use of it — the back of the rock is quite close to the edge of the mountain, so it’s unlikely the beast will bother to cross behind. Sidon positions himself there, then carefully scales the side of the rock. It’s not particularly large, but climbing is not something that comes naturally to the Zora; it takes him a few tries to find crevices in the surface that will allow him purchase, and a comfortable position that will allow him to see over the edge.

More than once, Sidon is absolutely sure that the Lynel has spotted him. Even across the plateau, far enough away that he can barely make out the shape of its face, let alone see its eyes, there’s a power to its gaze that has Sidon ducking down for long minutes until he feels it’s safe to risk another glance over the rocks.

Still, Sidon perseveres. If he is unable to kill the Lynel, at the very least he may be able to add something to their knowledge of its habits; surely that would be a worthy contribution to their people?

The Lynel seems particularly active today.

Well.

All right, Sidon doesn’t know much about its normal habits, but it seems different than he’d expected.

The texts all note that it’s usual for a Lynel to spend the day patrolling its territory; that a Lynel’s primary concerns seem to be eating and defending its home, wherever it decides that is. This Lynel does seem to have a route it prefers to take around the plateau, but it’s more aggressive in its actions than any of the texts described. It stomps its hooves hard enough to shake the ground, roaring as if to challenge the sky itself (Sidon has heard its roars from the Domain, as all the Zora have, but he doesn’t recall ever hearing so many in a single day). A very stupid or very unlucky goat climbs up the far side of the mountain at one point, and doesn’t get far before the Lynel’s fire has roasted it, the beast devouring the meat right off the bone.

Toward the later part of the day, the Lynel begins to look his way more often, and Sidon’s nerves get the better of him. Saving the hasty elixir in case his first plan doesn’t work and he needs to make a quick escape, he downs the sneaky elixir in one gulp. The taste is revolting — the merchant had told him exactly which parts of a Hinox had gone into its creation, and Sidon promptly blocked the knowledge from his memory for reasons of self-preservation (that is, to avoid immediately regurgitating the elixir and thereby giving his position away to an angry Lynel) — but he forces it down. He feels something, and hopes it’s the elixir taking effect.

At first, Sidon thinks it hasn’t worked at all. Maybe he’d gagged too loudly? Because only a few moments later, the Lynel turns and heads directly for his hiding place; something it hasn’t done the entire time Sidon has been watching it.

Sidon feels nauseous with what is probably fear, but could also just be his stomach rejecting the elixir.

There’s a fleeting moment, as the Lynel passes by another rock formation, that its vision of the edge of the plateau is obscured, and Sidon takes the split-second opportunity to slip over the edge of the cliff, clinging to the nearly-sheer rock but (hopefully) out of sight. He’ll still be in quite a lot of trouble if the Lynel turns in just the right way, but… it doesn’t.

The Lynel comes around the rock that Sidon has been hiding behind all day, sniffing the air and peering at the spot where he’d been. But rather than looking over the side of the mountain where Sidon is clinging, it turns its head toward the mountain path, then sort of slumps, its broad shoulders curving downward like a racked bow. The Lynel turns toward Shatterback Point, and Sidon would swear the noise it made was a sigh, if it wasn’t for how the grass ignited under its fiery breath.

(In fairness, the Lynel itself seemed surprised by that, quickly stomping out the flames with its forehooves, and Sidon catches himself before he lets out a laugh that would surely get him killed.)

The Lynel heads up the trail toward the peak of the mountain at a pace that seems less like a walk than a trudge, and Sidon does something extremely stupid.

He can still feel what he’s fairly certain are the effects of the sneaky elixir, and there are plenty of places to duck out of sight along the way, so he follows the Lynel. He follows it up the path, until it passes the lone pine tree at the very top. Sidon doesn’t dare go any further than the edge of the last outcropping — there’s no cover after a certain point — and holds his breath, hoping that the Lynel doesn’t plan to simply turn around and go back the way it had come.

It doesn’t.

The Lynel simply flops, its legs collapsing under it and its belly hitting the rock with a smack that Sidon thinks must have been painful, but the Lynel doesn’t so much as flinch. It lowers its upper half as well, its chest down to the ground and its furry head resting against its folded forearms. The way it’s positioned, its arms are nearly at the edge of the Point, and it must have a perfect view of the Domain.

The sun is setting, the orange light settling in the Lynel’s mane and setting it ablaze. It lets out another sound like a sigh, ribs expanding slowly and then contracting all at once, and though Sidon thinks there may have been another gout of flame there, this time the fire expands over open air and bare rock and damages nothing. The Lynel’s tail lashes against the ground, and up against its haunches, not in any particular rhythm.

For all the world, Sidon would say that the Lynel looks … unhappy. Perhaps even miserable. Do Lynels get depressed? None of the books in the library mentioned anything about Lynels getting depressed, but then, they didn’t say anything about Lynels accidentally setting the grass on fire, so whoever had done the research for those books seems to have missed a few things.

(Or, as previously thought, this particular Lynel is defective somehow, but none of the books had mentioned that as a possibility either.)

Sidon slips away before his sneaky elixir wears off; just in time, too, as the strange feeling of it fades just as he comes into view of Toto Lake.

 


 

Sidon deduces several things from his adventure.

First, the Lynel had clearly known where he was.

Sidon is certain he hadn’t given himself away just as he drank the elixir, but the timing is suspect. The elixir is meant to dampen all trace of the user — cloak them in shadow, mask their scent and the sounds they make. It was just after he drank it that the Lynel had come to investigate; had come directly to the spot where Sidon had been hiding. It must have known he was there; possibly it had known he was there the entire afternoon, and came looking only when it couldn’t sense his presence anymore. That’s the first thing.

So. Given that Sidon was apparently not as stealthy as he believed himself to be, that meant everything it had done, the Lynel had done knowing that he was watching. But what exactly had it done? Nothing in particular, except perhaps roasting the poor goat, though Sidon is willing to allow that the Lynel may just have been hungry. If it weren’t for the constant threat of death, Sidon would have had rather a boring afternoon, watching the Lynel stomping about the place and doing all of that aggressive posturing—

Sidon pauses, mid-thought.

Posturing.

That’s what it was. Why the Lynel seemed so much more aggressive in its patrolling of its territory than Sidon’s books had led him to believe it would be.

The Lynel knew he was there, and so the Lynel was … putting on a show? Displaying itself as a threat?

But if its goal was to run him off, its reaction to finding him gone should have been triumph, or at the very least satisfaction. Instead, it accidentally set some grass on fire and retreated to Shatterback Point to — pout?

The pieces click together slowly, because the conclusion is utterly ridiculous. But it’s the only one Sidon can come up with that makes any real sense, no matter how outlandish it seems.

The Lynel knew he was there. The Lynel had postured and displayed its strength, roared its challenges. The Lynel had looked for him when he seemed to have gone. The Lynel went to mope at the top of the mountain, staring down at the Domain.

Had it… wanted him to come challenge it? Had it been waiting for him to jump out with his spear? Had Sidon disappointed it by not doing so?

Sidon slips into his sleeping pool that night and allows himself to sink fully under the surface of the warm water, contemplating the absurdity of it, and also how, no matter how outlandish it seems, it also feels correct.

He floats in the middle of his pool, thinking about the Lynel’s dejected flop.

Sidon clearly does not have the good sense Hylia gave a trout, because he finds himself wanting to make the Lynel feel better.

Ridiculous. Absolutely ridiculous.

 


 

He checks that his hasty elixir is unharmed, and purchases a hearty elixir in the hope that he may be able to reach it in time, if his plan does not go as … planned.

Not that it’s much of a “plan,” really, given that it consists of precisely one step: Challenge the Lynel.

Again.

All right, there are really two steps, but step two is simply Don’t Die, and it’s the step Sidon has the least control over.

It’s a good five days since Sidon’s Lynel scouting expedition, and he spent far more of them than was reasonable wondering whether the Lynel was lonely. Either he’s right in his guesses about this Lynel, in which case he should survive this encounter, or he’s gone completely insane and the Lynel will finish him off before he can cement his reputation as Mad Prince Sidon. Of course, Sidon would prefer the first option.

If he were hunting it for real, Sidon would wait until he had an opportunity to strike the Lynel from behind; the advantage of surprise is not to be given up lightly. But his hope rests on the Lynel recognizing him, and that means giving up on stealth. Sidon does stay out of direct sight for a moment, just until he can spot the beast, but as soon as it turns so that it couldn’t possibly miss him, Sidon leaps out from the cover of the rocks, bringing his spear to bear, and charges forward, letting out a battle cry as he goes.

He’s got far enough to go that the Lynel has time to react, and react it does. For a moment it simply freezes where it stands, and then Sidon sees its jaw drop open slightly, its eyes widen in surprise. They’re a shocking shade of blue, a clear cerulean that reminds Sidon of Mipha’s precious Champion’s scarf, standing out in contrast to the milk-and-honey of its face and horns and golden mane.

Then those bright eyes narrow as the Lynel draws its terrifyingly large, wickedly curved sword, rearing up with a roar as it turns to meet Sidon’s charge head-on.

Sidon pours all of his focus into the fight; not that he hadn’t before, of course, but this time he’s not trying to strike a killing blow, and it changes the feeling of the battle considerably. He dodges the Lynel’s sword, swinging his spear around to quickly jab at the Lynel’s side, but doesn’t dig as deeply into the flesh as he could.

After the first two such exchanges, he’s not quick enough to dodge and the flat of the Lynel’s sword impacts just above his hip, hurling him backwards across the plateau to land in one of the shallow pools of water that dot the area. It takes him a moment to pull himself up, and in that moment Sidon realizes that this could be it — the Lynel has shock arrows; Sidon has seen them sticking out of the trees along the trail and around the edges of the plateau. One shot into the water here, and Sidon would certainly be done for.

But the shock doesn’t come, and when he gets to his feet and turns to face the Lynel once more, it’s… waiting. Sword still held ready, its hooves lifting and stomping back down but not moving from its general position until Sidon gets up and readies his spear.

He was right!

The Lynel could have cut him in half with that blow, or fried him to a crisp with a single arrow, or even simply stomped him to death with its hooves when he was still recovering from his tumble.

The Lynel charges as soon as Sidon displays his readiness, its teeth bared in what could be a threat or could be a grin, and Sidon can’t help but grin back as he dashes forward to meet it.

 


 

Sidon loses, of course.

And yet, despite his various aches and pains, and the fact that the Lynel had stolen the silver longsword off his back before dumping him off the side of the mountain again, Sidon is elated.

This fight had lasted much longer than the first, and Sidon isn’t conceited enough to think that he managed to improve his own skills so much in such a short amount of time. This time, the Lynel had been … not playing, exactly. More like guiding; slowing down just enough that Sidon could tell whether to block or parry or dodge. The fact that he’s once again a mass of bruises is a testament to the fact that he had made plenty of mistakes, but despite those mistakes he’s alive, and mostly unharmed, and moreover, it had been fun.

Sidon can’t stop smiling the whole way back to Toto Lake. Mipha gives him a searching look at supper that night, but he assures her that he simply had a good day, and she’s content to leave it at that.