Chapter One: Thieves, Stalkers, and Fairytales
Link had never known failure. In his duties, he in the end was always able to triumph. Failure was not something he allowed to happen. However, he had experienced the bite of it when he had only just begun. When he had realized that he had failed his most crucial mission.
Link sighed, skipping a stone across Lake Hylia. Now 16, he had faced the ugly face of failure long ago. Seven years in fact. However, he could remember it as if it were only the other day.
He had been nine when the King and Queen of Hyrule had called him from freeing a small water demon from Zora's domain. Being summoned had sent shivers down his spine and also made him contemplate on answering his call. The mission given to him didn't help his terror.
Traces had been discovered to the disappearance of Princess Zelda. Without hesitation, Link had accepted the task. He followed the clues, a foolish hope in his heart in finding the princess. He refused to admit defeat when the leads eventually began to fade. A year passed as he tried to find anything related to the princess' disappearance.
Finally, when he had come to the last possible place for a lead, failure slapped him in the face. Link could still remember his shame as he approached the King and Queen, telling them that the leads led to no where.
A Zora's head broke the surface of the lake, wondering what had hit him.
"Sorry," Link called out, the rest of the smooth stones dropping from his hand.
On top of everything, Navi had left. She had left when he was fourteen. Now he had no one to share his thoughts with. Yes, many beings from the different races had befriended him, but when did he get to see them?
I used to have Saria, Link thought to himself. However, as he had grown older, his visits to the forest began to succumb. Now, because of his acquaintances with Ganondorf, Link visited only at night so that no one knew he had come. It was better for them to forget him than be destroyed because of him.
One last stone skipped on the water and he turned his back on the lake. He sighed, pulling his ocarina out. Epona's gentle call echoed over the plains. A beautiful rust-colored mare approached him. She nuzzled his shoulder and a small smile came to his lips. She was nearly human, knowing when he was down. He stroked her muzzle, combing his fingers through her mane. He slid into the saddle and set her towards Kakariko Village.
The sun was setting as Epona stepped onto the field. Link sat there for a moment in its beauty. He sighed and clicked his tongue. She shook her head impatiently, but Link ignored her.
"I want to take my time, alright?" he told her. "It's only a dodongo."
Epona turned her head towards him. He rolled his eyes at her expression. So, she seemed to say. We've got to get there eventually. Link only shook his head with a half smile. He looked ahead, setting his eyes on the dark figure against the horizon. It seemed that they were going in the same direction.
It wasn't long before it grew dark and Link was forced to stop. Off in the distance, he could see a flicker of light. Another camp site. He frowned and lay down. So much for a fire. He'd rather sleep in the dark than attract another being. The way his life was, it could be another spy. He sighed. They were getting old. Couldn't Ganondorf watch him better than using spies? They were obvious to reveal and he could knock them off the second day of their following, if not sooner.
Link put his hands under his head, looking up at the stars. Epona settled down next to him, laying her head by his. He stroked her soft coat.
"Do you suppose their up there?" he asked her quietly. "I guess you wouldn't know. You never knew them."
He felt her warm breath ruffle his bangs. His hat lifted from his head and he scowled when he saw it hanging above him.
"I need it back tomorrow, Epona," he said. He scrunched up his face as it fell on him. He blew on it, not much happening. "Thanks."
Epona nickered and laid her head down. Link took the hat from his face and slowly closed his eyes.
"Did you see his face at all?" Link asked, sitting down on the stone platform.
King Zora shook his head. "No, I saw only a glimpse of his shadow. Others might have seen him though."
"Was there anything I would be able to identify with?"
"He's a very bad swimmer," was all that could be said. "Nearly drowned trying to escape."
If you can't swim, why steal from here? Link wondered. Not that it helps me any in finding the criminal. "Is it alright if I ask around the domain? It seems everyone's been having this problem."
"The same person perhaps?" King Zora asked.
Link sighed. "No idea. Only a few have seen the one breaking into their homes. However, it's been someone different every time. Mostly likely it's a band of thieves."
"The Gerudo no doubt," King Zora growled. "They have always desired our fine jewels."
Link shook his head. "It's not them. No, most of the robbers have been identified as men. Only twice was a woman seen."
King Zora nodded as Link stood. He thanked the king, heading for the nearest Zora.
However, the answers were all the same: 'The cloak hid his face, it was too dark', 'I didn't see him at all', and 'There was a thief here?'
Frustration welled up in Link. He couldn't spend much longer in the beautiful sanctuary. The Gorons would pound him into an oblivion if he didn't reach Death Mountain soon.
"Link! You can't forget your fiancé!"
Great. Link moaned, his body slumping. This really wasn't the time. How come she couldn't get it? All he needed was the stone! There was no engagement!
"Hello…Princess Ruto," Link said with difficulty, turning to meet her eyes. It took immense will power not to draw his sword. Maybe he could suddenly yell there was a minion behind her and run for his life.
"Were you planning on visiting and not saying hello?" she asked, grinning seductively.
"Princess, I really can't talk about this now," Link said. "I've got to find out who's been stealing from the domain. Did you see him?"
"No," she yawned. "But really, who cares about that? You never come and see me, Link! It almost makes me think you don't want to be engaged!"
I don't! Link bit his tongue, tasting the blood in his mouth.
"I need to find the band of robbers," was substituted. "And the Gorons need my help. Do you know of anyone who saw the thief robbing here?"
"No," she said, examining her fins. "Why does it matter?"
Salvation saved Link as Ruto's name was called by the king. The moment she turned her head, Link disappeared. He'd come back and question the others as soon as Ruto died.
"Where ever we're going, that's where he's going," Link muttered.
Once again a fire was in the distance. He knew it was no spy from Ganondorf and saw no reason to bother the other traveler. However, Link was curious at who he was. It was rare to see a fire in the distance every night.
"Hey, stop that!" Link exclaimed, reaching for his hat in Epona's mouth. He let out a frustrated sigh. "Fine. What do you think? A fire, or no fire? I'm not sure if we should."
Epona dropped the hat on his head. Link took that as an answer. Soon a fire blazed in front of them…
"Stop following me."
Link froze, feeling the cold metal of the dagger. Epona got to her feet and reared, her feet kicking out. Link instantly put his hand out and she quieted. The white of her eyes glared at his attacker.
I knew the fire was a bad idea, he thought bitterly. He lashed out, grabbing his attacker's arm and throwing her over his shoulder. Link was surprised to see the person land on her feet, a bow now in hand. An arrow was fitted and pointed right at his heart. Well, that went well.
"I'm not following you," Link said calmly.
"Don't give me that," the shadow snapped. "You've been following me for the past three days."
"No, my destination may only lead to that conclusion," Link reasoned.
"What's your 'destination'?" she demanded.
Link looked at the figure. A cloak hid any features she may have. Another spy no doubt. However, something told him that it wasn't so.
"What is your destination?" she repeated sharply.
"Death Mountain," Link answered.
"Right. I would believe that because?" she asked.
"Why wouldn't you?" Link retorted. "Why would I lie? It would only give me an arrow in the heart."
"You seem pretty calm about it."
"You don't know how many times a weapon has been aimed at my heart. It's become a custom I guess."
"…What's your name?" the woman asked. Her voice held curiosity.
"Link," he answered. He watched with amusement as the bow and arrow were dropped.
"You should have said that sooner," she said coolly.
Link smirked. His fame did have its advantages. It just saved his skin. Link nodded.
"And who might you be?" he asked. "It's only fair."
She shrugged. A hand pulled the hood down to show long golden hair tied nearly on top of her head. Beautiful features gleamed past the battered cloak and blue eyes pierced his every thought.
"Sorry, the name's Reena," she said airily, not meaning it in the slightest. In fact, it seemed as though she thought he should be apologizing! "I'm used to being followed."
Link nodded, "It's alright. Like I said, I'm used to being attacked at different times."
"Right," she said. With that her hood took her face away. She turned on her heel and disappeared into the night. Epona snorted angrily and lay next to Link.
"Well…what do you think?" he asked her. She snorted again, his hat falling to the ground. He laughed. "I felt the same way."
He leaned against her body, putting another log on the fire. He watched the flames flicker. That had been the oddest introduction he had ever gone through. He kept awake, not comfortable with her still out there. For all he knew, that Reena could come back and kill him in his sleep. The Master Sword soon rested on his knee.
Link winced as he made his way down the mountain.
"Damn dodongos," he muttered angrily. A black burn took his whole shoulder and nearly half of his arm. "Why fire? Why?"
At least he was near Malon. She'd have something for him. Despite the night, he kept walking. Day time was worse walking through villages. He was always bombarded with admirers. He walked behind a row of houses, stopping curiously. A familiar shape quietly took out a glass window and crept inside. Link raised an eyebrow and waited under the window. Not much longer the shadow jumped in front of him, freezing.
"What are you doing?" Link asked, nearly crying out in pain as his hand grasped his burned arm.
"What are you doing?" Reena demanded. "You were going to Death Mountain."
"I did," Link said, narrowing his eyes at her. "Thief."
"Liar," Reena shot.
"I can prove I went to Death Mountain," Link responded.
"Let's see it," Reena challenged, shifting her small sack of goods.
Link brought his arm forward. She eyed the burn.
"Never run into dodongos," Link advised, returning his arm to his side. "It could prove fatal, or, at the very least, painful."
"Usually one doesn't go chasing after them," Reena smirked.
"I wasn't," Link said, getting annoyed. "It crept into Goron City and they called me to get it out."
Reena shrugged, wanting to get going. She needed to get back before the others started wondering.
"Back to my first question," Link said. "What were you doing?"
"I was having afternoon tea," Reena retorted. "What did it look like I was doing?"
"…Stealing?" Link asked. "Why?"
"None of your business," Reena snapped. "Go ahead and try to turn me in."
Reena turned her back on him, knowing she was better off disappearing. She waited to hear his footsteps behind her. She smirked. She'd be gone from his sight before he knew what happened.
Not a sound could be heard. Reena dared a look behind her to see Link the one who had disappeared. She felt uneasy. How come he let her go? Wasn't he the 'hero' of this place?
Reena walked past the Gerudo guards with a nod, her encounter with Link still running through her head. She came to the fortress, coming to Nabooru's room. Inside, she heard talking.
"So, what did you do now, kid?" Nabooru snickered.
"Dodongo," a man answered. "The Goron's didn't want me to hurt it. Let me tell you, I was ready to kill them. I swear, if I went to even strike it they'd flip."
Reena's mouth dropped. What was wrong with him? She burst in, the bag crashing to the floor. She clenched her fists, ignoring the looks she was receiving.
"What are you doing here?" she shouted. "Stop following me!"
"…What is going on?" Nabooru demanded, turning to Link.
Reena glared at Link and ran off, her cloak swishing around her feet. Link stood there in complete shock. Nabooru tapped her foot impatiently, waiting for an explanation.
"What did she mean by that?" Nabooru asked, eyeing him.
"Okay, don't blame that on me!" Link exclaimed. He quickly told her his encounters with Reena.
"Stalker," Nabooru muttered.
"What?" Link cried. It's not my fault! I thought I would be gone before she got here! It's not my fault I keep running into her!"
"To her it seems you're following her," Nabooru explained, eyeing him.
"But I'm not!" Link said desperately. "I came to find out if she was a Gerudo or not!"
"All I can say is don't run into her again," Nabooru advised, going over to the bag of loot Reena had dropped. She took it and examined the pieces. She nodded in satisfaction.
"Is she good?" Link asked.
One of our best," Nabooru answered, lifting an elegant necklace laced with diamonds from the bag. "This is from the castle. Nice touch. What's this? Reena, you and your obsession with fairytale books!"
Link rolled his eyes. Thieves. He said a quick goodbye and left Nabooru to examine the stolen goods. Women. They always jumped to the wrong conclusion. He quickly left the fortress. A few of the Gerudo eyed him and he laughed to himself. He had been informed by Nabooru that some had taken a liking in him. He sat against the stone arches outside the fortress. His arm couldn't go any longer without some kind of protection. He called Epona and waited for the mare, a laugh erupting as she warily walked across the bridge.
"You sure take your time, don't you?" Link said, stroking her muzzle when she reached him. She snorted. Link gave her a pat and took a long bandage from her saddle pack. He slowly wrapped his wound, wishing he hadn't waited so long.
"It's not going to do much good just wrapping it," a voice yelled from above.
"I know that, Reena," Link said hotly.
"Don't get mad at me," Reena shot at him. "You're the one that's stalking me!"
"I'm not stalking you!" Link cried angrily.
"Right," Reena glared. "Then why were you here?"
"Because, number one: I am friends with Nabooru, and two: I wanted to see if you were a Gerudo."
"You could have asked me," Reena said coldly.
"Oh, like you would have told me! That's a laugh!" Link said, rolling his eyes.
Reena thought for a moment as she lay on top of the arches. That was true. She wouldn't have told him. Still, that didn't give him a right to stalk her.
"Why are you Nabooru's friend?" Reena asked, eyeing him. How could a man be allowed into the fortress? "It's never happened before."
"Because I helped her out when I was a kid," Link answered, closing his eyes as he tightly bound his arm. He definitely should have done this earlier.
"What did you do?"
"I got a ruby the size of my head from the Spirit Temple," Link answered, his head hitting against the arch.
"Wait… that was you?" Reena demanded.
"Yes," Link answered.
"I knew you look familiar," Reena said. She let out a disgusted sigh. "She sent you instead of me."
Link winced. She was irritated…again.
"Well, I nearly died so don't feel like you missed out on something," Link told her grimly.
"So, I'm a Gerudo at least!" Reena said bitterly.
"She probably didn't want you dying and could careless if I died," Link pointed out.
Reena jumped down from her perch, landing next to Link. He tried not to stare, but it was hard. She wore the same garb as the Gerudo even though she was Hylian. Being sixteen, his mind easily became sidetracked. He tore his eyes away before she noticed.
"You should treat that," she said stiffly. She pulled a vial from her shirt, keeling next to him. "Take it off."
"Sure, wait till after I'm done," Link muttered, doing as he was told. She glared at him and examined the wound. She opened the vial and looked at him for a moment.
"It's going to hurt," she warned.
Link nodded, closing his eyes. He felt the liquid slide down his arm. It burned his skin and he wondered if she was trying to burn the burn off. If that was even possible. However, he kept his mouth shut. He felt her quickly wrap his arm and Link opened his eyes, taking a deep breath.
"I'm surprised you didn't scream," she said.
"I'm not sure whether to take that as an insult or a compliment," Link said, eyeing her. "But thanks either way."
"Don't get used to it," Reena said impatiently, handing the vial to him. "Apply this every day until the burn is gone."
She stood along with Link. He put the vial in Epona's saddle bag. He disregarded the look she was giving him. The mare turned her head to Reena, eyeing her. Reena laughed and stroked the mare's head.
"Don't trust me, eh?" Reena asked. "Can't blame you."
Link smirked, "Nabooru's got your book. Didn't know you were into fairytales."
Reena went a shade deep red. She glowered and walked away. Link rolled his eyes. What a charmer, he thought. Shock filled him when she called back.
"Don't stalk me!"
"Don't worry," Link answered. "Thanks again."
"Just get going," Reena's voice answered crossly. Link smirked and clicked his tongue.
Reena walked back to the arch, watching them make their way across the bridge. The sixteen year old tucked a rebellious strand of hair behind her ear and turned back.