"Well, I'm a bit ashamed to give my gift now," Alfon said, as Link's mother bandaged his bleeding hand. His act of self-sacrifice had looked worse than it really was; the cut across his palm was long, but barely deeper than a parchment cut. "It's not very important compared to all that," Alfon added.
Ceily leaned forward, pretend-whispering. "He's lying, Link; he's quite proud of what he made for you. He was up all night working on it."
"Ceily…" her father chastised with a mock frown.
"It's the truth," she retorted.
"I would love to have what you made for me, Uncle," Link said.
A grin broke out on Alfon's face. "Alright," he quickly conceded. He reached into his bag again and pulled out a shield, presenting it Link with false modesty. "It's not much, but it might help you."
Link took the shield from him and examined it. It had been carefully constructed—despite the rushed nature of the job—from thin sheets of wood steamed into a slight curve and glued together in a press. It was painted bright blue and was trimmed out along the edges in shiny tin nailed in with tiny nails. On the front of the shield there was, at the top center, a Triforce made from sheet brass that was polished until it shined like gold. Below that was painted a stylized bird of crimson—its wings spread from edge to edge.
"Supposedly there was a shield once upon a time that went with the sword," Alfon explained, "but it has been lost. I suspect, if it was made of wood, it rotted long ago. Or maybe it went through a different line of the family and disappeared—I don't know. But there's a picture of it in our genealogy book, so I made one to match it."
Link looked up at him. "What genealogy book?"
Alfon went back to his sack and pulled out one last thing: a fat, leather-backed tome. It looked ancient; some of the pages were sticking out a little, as if they were tearing out, and the cover was scratched and the color worn completely off of it in places. It had a brass clasp on the covers.
"This is our family's history back as far as we know it," Alfon said, laying the book on the table. Everyone gathered closer, all trying to see it at the same time.
Alfon unfastened the clasp and carefully opened it. "There are some pages missing here at the front," he said, indicating the inside of the spine where there were only a few shreds of parchment to indicate that there were once pages there. "But here we can see that Lyastra, our great-grandmother many, many times over, married the King of Hyrule," he said, pointing to the first name on the first page. "Thousands of years ago, the Knights of Hyrule—and their families—intermarried with the royal family frequently."
Zelda leaned closer. "I recognize those names," she said, sounding surprised. "They were my ancestors."
"Not too shabby for some fishermen, eh, Your Highness?" Alfon said with a smug smile. Then he pointed to the next name on the list. "Next the line descends through one of their younger sons, Prince Hanor. His son is listed as a duke, but you must remember that all of these men are Knights, even if they have other titles."
He flipped through the book a little farther, then pointed out another name partway down the page. Now, however, the names had little portraits sketched beside them. "This is Laertes," Alfon said. "He was the last man in our family to be dubbed a knight and was one of the last men to be hunted down and killed during the Great War.
"But he had children before he died. Here is his son Stephas. Notice that it's written "farmer" under his name. There, my lovelies, is where our family lost their nobility; with no more knights and the kingdom ravished by war, that was all that was left for us to do."
"When did we become fishermen, Uncle Alfon?" Alons asked, peering at the book curiously.
He flipped a couple of pages forward. "Here," he said, pointing to a man by the name of Skylar. "He is listed as a fisherman—the first in the family." He flipped through the remaining pages—a hundred or more. "Almost everyone else—with a few exceptions—was a fisherman. There are a few armor and sword makers, a few more farmers, a merchant or two, a scholar, and…." He thumbed through the remainder of the book until he found what he was looking for. He opened the book wide and pointed to the small painted portrait of a young man. "We have had a number of heroes in our family. This was the last one. And, incidentally, he was the last Hylian born into the family, as far as I'm aware."
Everyone leaned closer. "Was his name really Link?" Meghan asked, shocked.
Zelda glanced at Link, then looked back at the picture. "He even resembles you."
"He does," Tatiana said, surprised. "I had no idea 'Link' was a family name."
Alfon smiled. "I put a little bug in Mars's ear when he told me that the two of you hadn't decided on a name. But even I could not have expected that Link would actually be foretold to be the next Hero of Hyrule. Sometimes I wonder if his destiny would have turned out differently if I had suggested a different name."
"I don't think it works that way," Link said, studying the face of his ancestor; it did resemble him. "The stars determine a person's fortune; they don't change depending on someone's name."
"Well, I suppose you're right. Perhaps it was fate that you should take up the name as well as the sword."
Link leafed through the book, looking at the pictures and names. Sometimes the line descended through women, but it mostly went from father to son. Some of the men were large and dark like Alfon and Link's father; some were fairer and blonde, like Link and his sister. Ever so many generations, however, there was a Link listed who also bore the title "hero."
Link flipped to the last page of the book and was startled to see that his own name and picture had been put into it—despite the fact that the sword and book both had passed from his grandfather to Alfon, who was the older son.
Alfon put his hand on Link's back. "You are the next in the line," he said quietly.
Link gently closed the ancient book. "Well, I suppose I must succeed; I would hate for you to have to erase me from the family tree."
Alfon laughed heartily, filling the house with the sound. "As long as you know what's important!" he said.
"Link, is something wrong?" his brother asked, looking at him. "You're red in the face."
Tatiana reached out and took him by the chin, gently turning his face from side to side, examining it. "I think you got too much sun today," she declared. She glanced at Zelda. "Oh, Your Highness, you're looking even worse!"
She made both of them sit on the bench at the table while she hurried to make up a lotion.
"Oh, Link, I forgot to tell you…" his mother said, as she started to rub the cool balm on his increasingly-hot face, "the men made good progress with the boat today. They got all the supplies loaded on it that you'll need. They still have some work to do with the rigging, though—something about setting it up so it's easier for one person to control. And I have to put together a medicine kit for you. This won't be the last day the two of you get burned; you're both so fair, the sun and wind will peel the skin off your faces unless you doctor yourselves."
"Yet another thing to look forward to," Link said with a wry smile.
"Once the men get the boat rigged, they'll take you out and show you how to sail it."
"We need to leave soon," Link said, growing more serious. "I worry that soldiers will come here soon looking for us. And while I certainly don't want to be caught, neither do I want the family put into peril because of me."
"Because of us," Zelda corrected. "And he's right—your family must not be implicated with us."
Tatiana brushed aside their concern with a wave of her hand. "This is bigger than any one person—or even a family. We will make what sacrifices are necessary for the survival of this kingdom."
"We are with you both," Alfon agreed. "We may not be able to bear this burden for you, but that doesn't mean we can't make our own contributions to the cause. No matter what comes during these dark times, we are family; we will always stick together."
Zelda blinked back tears. "Thank you all so very much," she said, looking at everyone.
"You have no cause to thank us, Your Highness," Tatiana said, as if she was surprised Zelda would even offer. "We are your subjects; you have every right to expect this and more from us."
"I don't feel that I deserve your loyalty because I haven't yet earned it, nor do I have the means to reward it. But one day, if by the gods' blessing, everything turns out well for us, I will see to it that the title of nobility is restored to you."
Alfon knelt beside the princess, then everyone else followed his lead and knelt, too. "Your Highness is generous," he said, "but we don't do this because we expect payment."
"I know," she replied. "That is why I want to reward you. It is clear to me that your family has lost none of their nobility—only their title. And a title is easy enough for me to give—or it will be one day."
Link was standing outside the house, looking down the dark road through the woods that led to Kakariko Village. The wind was blowing as if a storm was moving in. He had an uneasy feeling.
Suddenly Master Ryu was beside him. "Link, you must go. They are coming for you."
Link jerked upright, listening for any noise out of the ordinary. But he heard nothing but the princess's slow, deep breathing.
He shook her awake gently. "Your Highness?" he whispered.
"Mm?" she muttered, rolling over a little and cracking one eye open.
"I just dreamed that Master Ryu was here and he told me to get out; they're coming for us."
That woke Zelda up, and she sat bolt-upright in bed. "Do you think it's real?" she whispered.
"Yes, I think so," he said, pushing back the covers and getting out of the bed. "If it's not, it won't hurt us to leave the house for a while, just to be safe."
He started to reach for his clothes when a noise stopped him. He and Zelda both turned towards the sound, which was coming from outside. It was faint at first, but it steadily grew louder. Having grown up in a castle, they didn't have to be told what the noise was: it was the sound of armored men marching in formation.
"Get your stuff," Link hissed, grabbing up an armload of clothes, boots, and weapons.
Zelda barely had time to gather up all her things when there was a hard, impatient knock on the door. "Open up in the name of Nagadii, Lord Protector of Hyrule!"
Zelda and Link both froze. There was no going out the front door!
Link glanced around, trying to think of a plan. There would be too many of them to take on himself, and the first place they would think to look would be the cellar. There was no other way out and nowhere else to to hide.
And then his eyes lit upon the large window in the loft. It was nearly as tall as the wall, so it would be easy to go through. And when Link looked out of it, all he could see was a dense sea fog.
A moment later, Link's mother came hurrying out of her bedroom, glancing anxiously up at the loft. Link hurried to the railing and leaned over it, whispering, "Throw me a bag."
The guards knocked on the door again. "Open up. We come in the name of Nagadii, Lord Protector of Hyrule."
Tatiana ignored them; instead, she used their noise to cover up the sounds of her searching. Within moments, she had a large canvas sack in her hand. Link reached out and she tossed it up to him.
"Give us one minute," Link whispered.
She nodded. "I'm sorry, sirs," she called out in a loud voice. "Give me just a moment to put something on."
"I will, sirs, if you will but let me put on something first. You caught me and the children abed; we're in nothing but our nightclothes."
Even as she spoke, Meghan was hastily helping her mother pull on a tunic. Upstairs, Link was stuffing his and Zelda's clothing and weapons into the sack. He was finished packing at the same moment Tatiana finished dressing.
He leaned over the railing again, looking down at his mother's and sister's and brother's anxious faces which were looking up at him.
"I love you all," he whispered.
"May the gods protect you," Tatiana whispered in return.
Link hastily saluted them, then hurried to the loft window. He carefully opened it, even as his mother's footsteps slowly moved across the downstairs floor.
Link handed Zelda the bag. Hold onto that, he told her. I'm going to fly you down.
Zelda nodded and slipped the bag's strap over her head and shoulder so that it hung across her body.
Link opened the window and transformed. But he hesitated to grab Zelda; she was wearing only a linen nightgown, and he feared he could not carry her by it alone.
He awkwardly hopped onto her shoulders—the low ceiling making it difficult on both of them. You're going to have to reach up and hold onto me, he warned her. I can't carry you by your clothes alone.
He gathered up as much material as he dared in his claws, and Zelda reached up grasping him firmly by the legs.
He heard his mother opening the front door, and with a silent prayer to the gods, he pitched forward into the dark, foggy night, dragging Princess Zelda with him.