Chapter 1: Curse
Some may have heard the tale of a beautiful woman who fell in love with a prince cursed in the form of a beast. Those stories would not be the ones Hylian parents would read to their child before bedtime. Whether mothers worried about the implications of such an intimacy, or fathers simply feared the unknown - most could not fathom the concept of affection for beings they associated terror with.
The reoccurring wars that plagued their lands was a more contributing factor. Their enemies could be regarded as "beasts" may that be because of their generally inhuman race, or by their atrocities. Countless lives were lost under the malice of their foes, driven by an ambiguous thirst for power in a cycle without end. These were the legends passed down through the ages, history taking priority over a seemingly impossible fairy tale.
Families wanted to tell their children something they were comfortable with, something they could foster their hope for. A hero worthy of being retold multiple times; whether as a poor farmer, or a charming prince - he would be the one they all looked up to. He would be the one to slay the dragon, final villain or otherwise. He would be the one to save the princess, and win her heart. This was what everyone wanted to hear, because it was what they were used to.
No one would ever know if the hero truly did win her heart, or why the dragon suffered. The pages would have been tailored to the tradition of the majority. Not to the few, if any, who would be intrigued by controversy, of unlikely friendships and untold romances. As such, these stories were rare, their dusty tomes hidden, and likely forgotten over time… like the very ones within this tale.
Lightning flashed across the night sky, illuminating the outlines of clouds that would have been otherwise impossible to see. Thunder roared in the air, the powerful sounds reverberating behind the walls of shelter within many homes. Even the walls of the mighty Hyrule Castle seemingly trembled with every clap, as if the storm challenged the sturdiness of its structure.
Solemn, grey eyes observed the heavy rain plastering behind a stained glass window that displayed the goddess, Hylia. The artwork featured a woman of questionable age, though resembling closest to that of a youth. Her long hair appeared to drape around her, like a golden veil. The piece could be interpreted as a design of a human woman - if not for the pair of unfurled wings protruding from her back, its feathers as white as her gown. Her eyes were closed, arms wrapped around an exquisite harp.
"Have you ever wondered," said the King of Hyrule absently. "Why is it that every illustration of our goddess shows her alone?"
The only other presence in the room shifted in the shadows behind the throne chair. Had it not been for the stark contrast of her white hair in the darkness, she would have blended within the surrounding. The Sheikah tilted her head in the direction of the window, her long braid swaying in front of her as she did so.
"I… never really thought about it, Your Majesty," she admitted. "Are you referring to Hylia, or the other goddesses?"
"I mean in general, but even just Hylia, who, by all accounts in history, had done much for our lands. How is it that someone who was loved by so many - is always seen by herself?" the king's voice turned mellow. "It's almost… sad, isn't it, Impa?"
Impa had grown used to the king's melancholy demeanor ever since he had lost his wife in the recent war. As a sworn bodyguard and dear friend to the Royal Family, she had taken responsibility to become more involved with the politics of the kingdom, and watch over his child, Princess Zelda.
With their lands still recovering from their last battle, and the pressing matters of rebuilding, Hylia's love life was the last concern in Impa's mind. But for the king's sake, she tried to put more thought into his musing of the day.
"It is my understanding," Impa began. "That it was very rare for anyone to be close to a deity, let alone see them. Hylia's Champion may have been the closest to a goddess, as far as we know. If Hylia had any romantic interest in anyone, the ancient sages would have kept this hidden from the world. And if such a cause was so grave that even Hylia herself would have kept silent about, then she must have had a good reason for keeping it a secret."
The king fell in a thoughtful silence, as the two listened to the thunder rumbling behind their walls. Impa had been about to offer to brew him a cup of his favorite tea, when a sudden knock boomed in the air from the doors of the main entrance.
They both tensed at the sound, before Impa instinctively reached for her waist. She unsheathed a sword that was almost as long as her body frame, its thick blade glinting with silver. Impa walked in front of the king protectively, irritated with the Hylian guards who were supposed to be on duty for the night shift. Why did they not warn them of this visitor?
"Who could possibly be out in a storm like this at this time?" asked the king, bewildered.
Impa leaned the side of her head against the door, her weapon poised and ready. "Who is there?" she demanded.
There was a pause, and a scuffle of footsteps. Impa could detect there was more than one visitor. "It is I," said a crisp, female voice from behind the door.
"The Guardian of Time,” the king breathed, instantly recognizing her voice. "Impa, let her in."
Impa unset the many locks that protected the castle, nimble fingers working through them with ease, foretelling her years of experience with locks. She was not as familiar with this… Guardian of Time as she felt like she should be. Visits from the sorceress were seldom, and when they did occur, they were arranged in a setting elsewhere, likely somewhere secluded and far from human eyes. Impa sheathed her weapon when she opened the door, but kept her hand close enough to the scabbard… just in case.
The sight before them was not something one would see everyday; a witch, a poe, a Lizalfos, and a… moving bundle in its arms. The lightning flickered behind them in the background, making each of their forms appear somewhat sinister. Impa watched them with guarded eyes, and the king addressed them.
"To what do I owe this pleasure?" he asked, gesturing for the visitors to come inside, and giving a humble bow of his own.
Similarly to the artwork of Hylia, the Guardian of Time did not appear to have a discernible age. She did not look much older than a young adult, and yet, from what Impa knew, she was possibly old enough to have witnessed eras of lifetimes before her. Impa wondered if she had a name other than Guardian of Time but if she did, she never cared to reveal any of this to them yet.
The sorceress tugged down at the hood she had worn during the storm, her lavender hair moist from the rain, but still in an immaculate condition, as if she had frozen it in place. A sliver of her white attire could be seen from the gap in front of her cloak.
When word of the visitors had reached the delayed guards, they cowered under Impa's stern gaze. The news spread to the castle servants, who quickly appeared in the hallway, offering to hang her cloak. "I apologize for the sudden appearance, Your Majesty," she said, returning his bow. “You know I would normally let you know in advance if we are to meet, but this situation was rather sudden."
"Do not worry, dear," said the king, beckoning all of them to the guest area where several plush chairs and couches had been situated in the guest hall. "Let us all sit, and be in a more comfortable environment. Forgive me for not being as gracious of a host as -" he broke off, unmistakable sorrow clouding his expression. "… As my wife was."
She shook her head, politely declining the drinks the servants began to offer her. "My condolences on your loss," she said quietly. "The lands are still healing from the recent war, and there is no telling if we will have even a decade of peace before the next war breaks loose. I'm sure your daughter will be as fine of a ruler as the queen was." There was something almost cynical in her voice when she spoke of the princess, that put Impa on edge. "Hm… how old is she now?"
"Two months," said the king, in a bittersweet tone. "She is all I have left, and she is precious to me. I pray to the goddesses that I will do all that I can to protect her. As I should have been more adamant with -" he trailed off, and sighed. "You must excuse an old man's grieving and rambling. May I inquire what the purpose of this visit entails?"
Impa found herself staring at the bundle in the Lizalfos's arms. What could this possibly be about? If there was indeed a baby there, it was remarkably quiet for being one. Especially in the presence of an eerie, reptilian humanoid. Though now that Impa had observed the creature more closely, she noticed the gold, ornamental rings dangling from either side of its head, like earrings. Either the Lizalfos was a female, or this was a symbol of status that marked them as chiefs - or both, of course.
"As I'm sure you have both suspected," said the Guardian of Time, her violet eyes following Impa's attention. "There is a baby with us. Or rather, I'd say roughly two years of age. This baby is in fact, the reason all of us are here." She turned to the Lizalfos. "You might want to begin."
The Lizalfos looked up at them from where it sat, likely unsettled by sitting on top of velvet, as opposed to rocks. "It wasss a day like no other in the Eldin mountains while I was hunting with my clan," the Lizalfos hissed. "My clan and I spotted what looked like two humansss, a he-human and a she-human. We normally avoid humansss because they can cause us much trouble. Even if they are very tasty."
Impa crossed her arms in her chest, as the Lizalfos continued. "In the she-human's arms, was thisss bundle. The she-human placed it in a cave, then fled with the he-human. We suspected it was the little one's parentsss, but we were not sure. My clan and I ignored the bundle at first, thinking the humansss would return, but they did not. After the sssun began to wane, I finally took the bundle to my clan so that we would decide what to do with it. Later that day, this witch showed up. She instructed me to follow her, and ssso here I am."
The king frowned. "So the baby was abandoned, then?" he deducted. "Why?"
"The boy isn't… entirely human," said the Guardian of Time.
The Lizalfos pulled down the blanket slightly with its claw. There was a pudgy head with small, blond tuffs of hair - appearing very human to all of them so far. It wasn't until his face was revealed that they were alarmed. He had the features of a human; eyes, nose, mouth - but that wasn't what stood out. It was the black markings around his eyes, looking like a mix between an upside down triangle, and a tear.
"Leaving a baby behind because of some markings?" the king said skeptically. "Markings that could very well be war paint, for all I know. Even Impa has red war paint on her face, and no one is terrified of her." He hesitated. "Well, except in battle of course."
Impa's lips barely twitched in a smile, but she was too immersed in the conversation regarding the baby to acknowledge the king's compliment.
The sorceress twiddled her staff idly. "The more important factor in all of this isn't so much his appearance, or even what he is. It is the fact that he is cursed. And it is because of this that I am here."
"You had another vision, then," said the king. It wasn't really a question or statement.
Impa had heard of these 'visions' before. The Guardian of Time was considered the family seer, in a way, due to her having the ability of seeing glimpses of the future. When she saw something she deemed important enough, she would warn them. The visions she warned them about would often come true if they did not take action to prevent them from doing so. Impa suspected the witch knew far more however, as she was able to see memories of past eras that not even historical books were able to record.
"In the era wherein the Hero of Time had to go seven years forward in time," the Guardian of Time started off, and Impa could detect a certain fondness in her tone. "One of the temples, known at the time as the Fire Temple, held a legendary beast. The illustrations in your books sometimes depict him as a flaming serpent… others thought him to have wings, and show him more as a dragon. This beast was known as Volvagia."
The Lizalfos gave a hiss of pride. "Volvagia, the king of all reptilian beasts. We ssstill honor him today."
The witch continued, unfazed by the interruption. "It was said that the Demon King paid Volvagia a visit, long before the Hero of Time even arrived at the Fire Temple. The evil man requested Volvagia's service to him, but the beast refused, wanting nothing to do with humans and their wars. Furious, the Demon King used his powers to bend Volvagia's will under his command."
Having been educated in the history of past eras, none of this information was particularly new to Impa and the king, but they listened on anyway. Hearing this from the sorceress was quite different than having read them from a book.
"What no one knew however," she said, pointing her staff in the direction of the baby. "Was that the Demon King had placed a curse on the beast; that one day, a child would be born that was both man and dragon. He would have the ability to use Volvagia's powers, and have the same functions of a human. But you know what the real evil from this curse is?"
She suddenly appeared to be drawing magic from her staff, and though Impa felt an increasing discomfort at this, the king made no move to stop her.
"The curse is that at some point in this boy's life, he is destined to be controlled by the Demon King, just as Volvagia had been," said the Guardian of Time. "It is my assumption that the Demon King's intention for having him being human at all could be relevant to having a servant that would… camouflage within society. Perhaps he seeks a minion who is able to understand humans, and find exploits to use against them, rather like a spy."
A long silence followed forth, as they tried to digest her words. "So," Impa clarified. "In other words, you suspect this is the cursed child the Demon King spoke of. What makes you certain it's him, and not someone else? What makes you say this is to happen in this era, even?"
"The curse described the child as having these exact black markings as he does," said the Guardian of Time simply. "As for why I say it's in this era, it's because I have seen it. I have seen fire consume these very lands, bodies of men, women, and children die among vast armies of monsters." She turned toward the king. "I have seen the silhouette of a princess, barely of age to rule - fight to protect your land, and… well, are you sure you want to hear the rest? It is not my wish for you to lose sleep over this for the rest of your years."
Color drained from the king's face at her words, and Impa observed as the magic that seeped from her staff take the form of an orb, which was now floating above the witch's palm. "This is my recollection of the vision," said the Guardian of Time, directing the orb toward Impa. "Take it. I know the king is in grieving, so if he cannot bear to see what's inside, I know you will."
Impa caught the orb, and glanced at the old man questioningly, but he did not give any indication of wanting to see it. “But how could one being bring so much destruction to this world?" the king muttered. "I do not doubt he could grow to be powerful, but surely, it cannot outmatch that of the Demon King's? It's not as if he obtains the… relic."
The witch’s eyes darkened. "I believe something to consider too is the fact that the Demon King will rise again, and another war will undoubtably follow, though I've had no vision yet as to when or how. This boy however, will surely be involved with his return."
"What would you have us do with the abomination, Your Highness? I could… dispose of him now, if that is your wish."
Impa nearly jumped at the voice; cold and inhumane, the poe finally speaking up for the first time. She had almost forgotten the ghost was there, hovering next to the chair, for it did not sit. Its words left a dark atmosphere lingering in the air, and the king sat up, appearing uncomfortable and lost in thought. Even the Lizalfos looked uneasy.
"My visions are not always so concrete," said the Guardian of Time. "I see them based on logical decisions and actions. But when logical becomes emotional, my visions become more obscure, and unpredictable. This was why we were not able to save everyone based off my visions, particularly the one closest to you." She watched as the king looked away, and continued. "But we were able to save hundreds of men that contributed to being the deciding factor on you winning the previous war. Curses on the other hand, are not easily reversible, and this is why I'm determined about the results from this one. The curse on this boy will happen. I would suggest being careful with your decisions, Your Majesty."
The king paced about the room, regal robes swerving behind him. "Many foes were slain by us throughout the wars," he said wearily. "Our hands are not clean, so I will not pretend to be righteous, when we have taken many lives, as our enemies have. However, he is but a baby. We do not need to start killing children."
What sounded like an unsatisfactory drawl came from the poe, and Impa found herself disliking the creature more and more.
"You said the boy's mind will be taken over by the Demon King at some point in his life," the king repeated. "But you are not certain of when, correct?"
The Guardian of Time nodded. "If I had to venture a guess, I'd say the Demon King would want him old enough to be able to take care of himself. I doubt he plans on possessing him as a child, but you never know."
A whimper could be heard from the bundle, the baby burying its head against the Lizalfo's chest, as if he had understood what they said, and was afraid. The king sighed. "It is cruel to be condemned to such a fate, especially if they have no choice in the matter. The boy will be spared. I cannot speak for his future, but as of the moment, he is to be taken to the human tribe nearest to your clan," he said, addressing the Lizalfos. "I will provide a note with my signature to avoid any conflicts."
"The boy will be raised among humans first," the king said decisively. "If this option doesn't work out, he will then be sent to live among the Lizalfos, and hone his skills from his dragon side. From my understanding however, it will not be a simple process for you to accept him?"
The Lizalfos licked its lips with a forked tongue. "The little one must prove his worth to be accepted among my clan. For thiss, I agree with you it would be a better idea for him to live with the humansss first. He'll have to grow a little, and become stronger, before he is ready for the trialsss we provide for him. Since he is dragon at all, that is the only reason we would even consider giving him the honor of the trialsss in the first place."
"Then it is settled," responded the king, concluding their meeting.
When the storm had calmed, and the visitors had left, Impa and the king were alone once more, the two walking together in silence. Impa already knew what he was thinking before he even said it, but she let him ask anyway. "Did I… did I make the right decision, Impa? Or am I opening our world to more danger?"
The cackling of the flames from the torches as they walked down the corridor was all that could be heard.
"I think that whatever danger is to befall Hyrule appears to be inevitable, regardless of the boy's role in this," said Impa after awhile. "Either way, we must be prepared and vigilant for what is to come."
“And the orb with the witch’s vision?”
“I stored it away for safe-keeping.”
They reached the princess's room, both quietly stepping inside. Impa rested a hand on the rail of the finely carved cradle. A rare smile reached her lips at the sight of the sleeping baby girl. "But you know what I think?" Impa whispered back at the king, who watched his daughter with adoration.
"If our queen had been here, she would have made the same decision as you," Impa stated. "Though you are all rulers hardened by the war, there is a gentleness inside your family that the world often seems to lack. It is both a strength and a weakness, but it is there. You may not know it yet, but your decisions now are also setting an example for Princess Zelda."
The king stroked along the side of the blonde curls gently, careful not to wake her up. He did not have much time left to live in this life. This wasn't only implied from the Guardian of Time’s vision, but he could feel his body slowly deteriorating. And if what the witch said was true - barely of age to rule and fight to protect your land - then his time may be shorter than he had anticipated. Impa would play a larger role in raising Zelda, but this did not surprise him.
What would his daughter be like, as a ruler? Would everything be too much responsibility for her to handle? What concerned him above all was that the coming of the Demon King's return, whenever that would be, indicated that it would happen while Zelda was still alive.
And for this, he considered keeping his eyes open for the Spirit of the Hero. After all, he may just be what they will need for what was to come. The hero of legends, that would slay the dragon, and thwart that which was evil. How simple this sounded, when he thought of it that way. But would reality unfold like that of those tales?