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FFS, I Believe in You

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Link yawned. The night stars twinkled peacefully at him from above. Warm air drifted lazily over the water of Lake Hylia, tickling at his bangs. The river bubbled and gurgled, only to hit a roar at the waterfall into the lake itself. Everything was quiet. Restful.

Which was good because he was tired as all hell.

Logically, he knew he had to be out here, in the wild. It was just par for the course - that course being defeating Calamity Ganon. Hard ground and exposure to the elements were just something he had to deal with on a daily basis. Still, the fact that it was his definition of ‘normal’ wasn’t much comfort. Deciding that this particular spot was ‘good enough,’ the Champion of Hyrule dropped several planks of wood on the ground. He was close to the path, here, but far enough away from the Bridge to avoid bokoblin scouts. As long as the stalkoblins he’d defeated earlier would do him the courtesy of staying dead , he’d be fine to just pass out right there in the dirt.

Need to make a campfire,’ Link urged himself. His body ached as he moved again, searching his pockets for flint. He stopped after a moment, finding none. With an annoyed grunt, he pulled his bow from his back. One quick draw and shot of a fire arrow later, he had a cheerful blaze crackling before him. He frowned at the makeshift campfire. ‘ Need to stop doing that ,’ he chastised. ‘ ...and buy more arrows.

Link dropped to the ground, too tired and frankly too uncaring to remove any of his gear. He scanned the lake with his Sheikah Slate’s camera, going over the nooks and crannies he had explored earlier in the day. The adventure had resulted in finding nothing but annoyed lizalfos and octoroks waiting to beat him with clubs and rocks. Grumpy, and in pain, Link pulled at his hood, drawing the fabric over his eyes.

I could sleep right here,’ he mused. ‘Could just...fall asleep…for once...

The sound of a splash had him sitting ramrod straight, one hand still clutching his bow and the other reaching for his quiver. His ears twitched, straining to hear if it was just a fish, or yet another lizalfos. His arms protested as he moved to nock an arrow, turning slowly towards the water. The flames flickered on the river’s surface, but he couldn’t spot anything in the dark depths. With care, Link drew his arrow, watching. Waiting for the slightest indication that whatever had made the noise was still there.

Too big to be a fish,’ he rationalized, replaying the splash in his mind. ‘Has to be a lizalfos. Or--

An enormous creature suddenly leapt from the water, holding a silverscale spear that gleamed in the firelight. Link cursed, taking aim quickly and letting his arrow fly. It scraped across the creature’s arm, just as its spear came crashing down to retaliate. Link barely move in time for the blade to miss his vitals, instead tearing through the skin of his own upper arm.

The champion flinched, glaring at the wound. Sloppy dodge. Goddess, he was so tired . His body screamed as he moved back, trying again to draw his bow, only to stop mid-motion.

Sidon, Prince of the Zora, stood in front of him - holding a bloody spear and looking absolutely horrified .

Link!! ” The zora exclaimed, dropping his weapon. “I thought you were a lizalfos! Goddess, I’m sorry! Are you alright?!” The large zora knelt by the hylian, grasping for Link’s arm. “Let me see--”

“It’s fine,” Link blurted out, unthinking. ‘I shot at Sidon,’ he realized, his mind racing. ‘Is he--? Did I--?’

“Thank Hylia, my spear only seems to have grazed you--Hm?” Sidon’s attention was drawn to Link tapping on his arm with his good hand. “What is it?”

“Did I just shoot you?” Link demanded.

“Oh,” Sidon blinked, turning to examine his own arm. “Well, I did feel something. Ah, yes,” he turned his arm towards Link slightly, showing off a small cut on the underside of his shoulder-fins. “Just a scratch!” At Link’s burning stare, he added, “It’s alright - I’m sure I startled you, as well! I certainly didn’t expect you to be at Lake Hylia.”

With a huff, Link turned away from the zora, digging through his pouches. ‘I actually shot him. I shot Sidon.’ He felt like kicking himself. Sidon had to be one of the kindest people he’d met on his journey to stop Calamity Ganon. One he could always count on as an unending fountain of support. Someone who looked up to him. Cared about him.

And he just injured the zora because he’d been too tired to tell the difference between a lizalfos and a bright red shark man.

Pull yourself together,’ he grumbled inwardly, throwing the contents of his packs around the makeshift camp.

Sidon’s eyes widened as Link continued to pull different materials from his belongings. Monster parts, mostly, but also food. Meat skewers. Bokoblin horns. An electro elixir - Was that the same one he gave the champion when they’d met? Was that a claymore?

Link let out a victorious, though frustrated, sigh. He pulled out a small bottle with bright red contents. A hearty elixir. He thrust the concoction at Sidon, nodding at the wound on the zora’s arm.

“That’s for me, is it?” Sidon smiled. “I’m grateful, but isn’t your injury worse than mine?” he gestured to the bloody mess of Link’s sleeve. “You should be the one to drink it.” Link petulantly thrust the elixir at Sidon again, only for the prince to push it back. “Link, you are more injured of the two of us. I insist.”

Of course ,’ Link’s shoulders slumped. The prince would be too concerned about him to take the elixir. Trying to argue with Sidon wasn’t going to get him anywhere - that he knew from experience. He squinted at the elixir in his hand. Surely he didn’t need to drink all of it to heal his arm? The wound wasn’t as bad as that. His eyes flicked to Sidon, who sat patiently, waiting for Link to finally give up and heal himself.

Bracing himself for the taste of hearty lizard and bokoblin guts, Link took a swig of the concoction. Grimacing, he wiped the last traces of the liquid from his mouth with the back of his hand. Half the elixir was left, swishy gently against the glass. As the warm, fuzzy healing effect began to spread through him, Link grabbed one of Sidon’s large, clawed hands. He shoved the remaining elixir into it.

“Take the rest.”

Sidon laughed. “A brilliant solution, my friend. Very well,” he drained the last of the elixir in a single gulp, wincing at the repulsive taste. He held the bottle away, as if it had burned him. “I do hope you don’t rely on these elixirs, Link. They’re not exactly…I’m not certain there’s a word for that particular flavor.”

“They’re disgusting,” Link acknowledged, taking the empty bottle back and throwing it into a pouch.

“To put it mildly,” Sidon agreed, running his tongue against his sharp teeth, wondering if he could scrape the taste off. “I was thinking more along the lines of ‘utterly vile.’” The prince’s gaze fell to the cut from Link’s arrow, watching it curiously as it healed. “They seem to be effective, at least.”

Link grunted in response, shoving his belongings back into their respective containers.

“I must apologize again, Link,” Sidon fretted. “I couldn’t see that it was you. With all that gear you have, it really looked like--! If I had known you were the one setting up camp, I--!”

Link held a hand up to silence his friend, then waved the problem away. With a smirk, he pointed to Sidon’s arm. “We’re even.”

Sidon barked a laugh. “Hardly. A spear to a Hylian does far more damage than an arrow to a Zora.” When Link only shrugged and sat down next to the fire, Sidon frowned. “You’re certain you’re alright?”

Link confirmed with a weary smile. He hoped it was reassuring.

Sidon didn’t seem convinced. “It’s unlike you to aim a shot so poorly at such close range.” He moved to sit himself, plopping down right next to the champion. “You seem tired. Have you slept?”

“For a hundred years,” Link deadpanned.

“I meant recently,” Sidon clarified, an amused smirk on his lips. “Have you been sleeping properly?”

Link stared at the prince, seemingly bewildered. The dark circles present under his eyes answered for him. “Is that something people do?”

“Generally,” Sidon smiled at the champion, though his eyes softened in unsaid sympathy.

“Sounds nice.” Link turned his eyes back to the fire.

“You should rest,” the prince suggested. “You shouldn’t be pushing yourself so hard all the time, my friend. Even if your role is to defeat Calamity Ganon, Hyrule has waited a hundred years. It can stand to wait a few hours for you to sleep!”

The hylian gave a noncommittal grunt, laying his arms on his knees. A hundred years. Link fought to keep a grimace off his face. A hundred years while he was sleeping.

How could he possibly sleep now?

He shut that train of thought down before it got a chance to get started. It didn’t matter now. Saving Zelda was priority. Saving Hyrule, and its inhabitants. Saving his friends. Keeping them safe from Calamity Ganon. The champion’s eyes flicked over to his large companion.

Keeping friends like Sidon safe.

Of course, that was a feat in and of itself, considering the zora prince could be nearly as reckless as Link, at times. Even now, he was geared up for a fight. He wore armor Link had never seen him wear before, not even against Vah Ruta. Normally, it was only the royal regalia, but his friend sat with heavier pauldrons and a half cuirass, like his guards. Looking lower, he could see Sidon even had faulds attached to his regular belt to protect his fins. He was battle-ready.

Raising an eyebrow, Link openly stared at the armor. “What’s that for?”

“Ah! Yes, I haven’t explained myself, have I?” Sidon drew a finger up to his lips in thought. “Where to begin...Well, since you defeated Vah Ruta, the Domain has been at relative peace. Life has resumed its normal routine, except…” His eyes narrowed as he turned his head to the lake. “The lizalfos have all but abandoned the area. It’s a break from their routine, and even our elders can’t fathom why they would do such a thing. After all, our rivalry with them has lasted for thousands of years. For them to abandon the fight without a word is highly out of the ordinary! My father saw fit to send my unit and I to investigate Lake Hylia, where their stronghold is, only...” Sidon’s fins drooped. “We are unsure where the stronghold is exactly.”

Frowning, Link pulled out his Sheikah Slate, flipping through the pictures he took while exploring. ‘I was running all over it today,’ he thought. ‘I didn’t see any stronghold.’ The pictures held nothing out of the ordinary, and the lake was calm now. The water was pitch black, but the surface reflected the sky like a mirror. Nothing moved on it - not a single lizalfos, and certainly not a whole army’s worth.

He didn’t see any other zora, either.

“...your unit?” Link inquired, resting his Slate on his lap.

“Yes, they should have arrived earlier than I,” Sidon nodded. “I would have been with them, but a couple of hylians upstreams required assistance.” At Link’s waiting stare, he elaborated, “They were having trouble with a few octoroks. I disposed of the monsters, and they were surprisingly determined to offer me something as thanks. They wouldn’t let me leave until they found something to give me.” The zora crossed his arms across his chest. “I’m not certain why...I certainly didn’t do it for thanks.”

Link studied the prince before him, decked out in shining silver armor. Brilliant red and white scales glimmered in the light of the campfire. His handsome face studied the flames as he thought, puzzling over the events of that afternoon. Link could almost picture the scene - a victorious Sidon coming to the rescue, with his beautiful features near-dazzling in the last moments of sunset. A confident, winning grin plastered on his face as the water dripped off rippling zora muscle.

I think I know why.’ Link tried to stifle his knowing grin, but Sidon caught it before he’d managed to hide his face.

“Link? What is it?”

The hylian coughed unconvincingly, now determined to change the subject. “I didn’t see other zora,” he gestured to the lake.

“No?” Sidon frowned, turning his own sharp eyes to the water. “They should have arrived hours ago…How long have you been here?” 

“All day.”

“All…? Doing what?” he asked, attention back on Link.  

“Hunting lizalfos,” Link shrugged. “Looking for Shrines.”

“And you saw no one else?” Sidon continued, his expression grim. At the shake of Link’s head, Sidon stood. “They must be here - they couldn’t be anywhere else! Perhaps they found the lizalfos stronghold after all!” He went to pick up his spear, wincing at the blood on the tip. Sidon cleaned the weapon quickly, dipping it into the river. Satisfied that the blood was off his spear, the prince turned to leap into the water. “I must search the lake at once! I’m certain they’re waiting--”

Link’s blood ran cold. Sure, there were few lizalfos lurking in the lake now, and Sidon was a trained warrior. Geared up as he was, he shouldn’t have much trouble with the local monsters.

It was the other creature in the lake that concerned him.

“Wait!” Link was on his feet, grabbing for Sidon’s arm before the zora could jump. The prince stopped, looking down at the hylian with bewilderment. “There’s a -- the -- it’s--” Link shook his head as he fumbled over his words. He paused, taking a moment collect himself. His fingers rubbed at his eyelids, trying vainly to get his brain to focus on speaking when all it wanted was sleep.

“...Link?”

The hylian squinted at the prince with tired eyes. He pointed at a spot in the water, on the far side of the bridge. “Farosh.”

Sidon’s head tilted to the side in confusion. “...What is Farosh?”

“A lightning dragon,” Link summarized. He didn’t miss the way Sidon tensed at the mention of lightning. With the zora people naturally weak to shock arrows, he could only imagine the hell they would face trying to go against a creature that dropped electricity simply by flying around.

“Such a thing exists?” Sidon questioned, his eyes wide. “A lightning...dragon?”

“Lives in the lake,” Link confirmed. “Comes out around midnight.” He pointed at the spot beyond the bridge again, following Farosh’s normal flight path with his finger. “...til morning.”

Sidon’s grip on his spear tightened. “Midnight is…”

“Soon.”

“Hm. I suppose it would be unwise for me to search then. At least, until morning…” He studied the face of his small friend, who stood, slightly swaying, eyeing him with a warning look. The smaller man looked dead on his feet, yet still summoned the energy to prevent the zora from running blindly into danger. ‘So tired and still thinking of protecting others,’ the prince smiled. Still, the issue of his unit’s location had to be addressed. While Link’s concern was touching, he had a duty to his people. He was their prince. Their leader.

“All the more reason I should move quickly,” he decided. “They could be in danger with such a creature lurking!” He moved his arm away, intending to free it from Link’s grasp.

Link stayed put.

Sidon blinked down at the champion who currently held a death grip on his arm. “Uh,” the zora shook his arm a little, and Link stubbornly clung tighter. The little champion proceeded to wrap his own arms around Sidon’s, clamping around the appendage with a defiant glare. Sidon knelt next to the other, sighing. “My friend, I will...I need that arm. Will you please let go?”

“Stay,” Link demanded.

“I cannot simply wait around as my unit is--!”

“I’ll go with you!” the champion pressed, tightening his arms. If shock arrows could kill a zora with ease, then Sidon stood no chance once Farosh showed itself. He knew the dragon’s route. He could keep Sidon out of danger. Just until they found his unit...The champion tried to ignore the burning sensation behind his eyes. They screamed for sleep. He squeezed them shut, pressing his face against Sidon’s scales. ‘Can’t sleep. Not now. Not until I know he’ll be safe.

Sidon startled. “You...Link, you are exhausted. You need to rest!”

Shaking his head, Link further burying his face against the zora’s arm. “I’ll be fine,” he mumbled. “Just don’t…”

Sidon felt the hylian’s fingers dig into his scales. For him, it was only a sensation of pressure, but he was certain the action must hurt for the hylian.

“Farosh…” Link mumbled.

Sidon’s shoulders slumped. He knew he could be stubborn, but Link’s determination was something else entirely. Not to mention the fact that his friend had to be in pain, digging against zora scales like he was. He glanced uneasily at the dark surface of the lake, calm and smooth, like glass. Something must have happened to his fellow zora, that much was for certain. He couldn’t sit idly by as their prince.

But Link…

With his free hand, Sidon pat the hylian’s back, rubbing gently. “...you’ll injure yourself, clinging like that.” Link didn’t budge. He spared a final glance back to the water. No unit. A lightning dragon. Untold numbers of lizalfos in a hidden stronghold.

...Link was right.

A search now would be one of the most bull-headed things he had ever done. Link knew the area far better. It would be wiser to search with the champion. Though it injured his pride as the zora prince, he had to admit he was out of his element here.

“Perhaps…” Sidon started, hand still rubbing Link’s back. “Perhaps, instead, I can keep watch over the camp as you rest? You will be able to sleep, and I will be here to greet my compatriots if...when they turn up.”

Link lifted his head, slightly. Still glaring. His bright blue eyes pierced through the dark of the night, reflecting the flames of the crackling campfire.

Sidon felt his chest squeeze at the imprints of his own scales on Link’s face. They hadn’t cut the champion, thankfully, but there were still obvious marks on the hylian’s soft skin. “...I won’t search the lake. Not until morning,” he reassured his friend. “After you have rested, and are able to join me.”

The fiery glare lessened to a simmering stare of suspicion.

“You have my word, my friend!” Sidon flashed him his trademark grin. He would have managed the fist pump as well, were he not certain he would end up pulling Link off the ground in doing so. “I will follow your lead on this matter - you know the area and the enemies here better than I.”

His eyes shutting, Link breathed a small sigh of relief. Nodding to Sidon, he released his grip. He flexed his fingers, noting with the strain that he had nicked them on the zora’s scales. Small matter, he decided. Sidon wouldn’t be heading straight into danger now. Little cuts like these would be healed by morning. Sluggishly, he walked back to the spot he had been sitting in by the campfire.

Instead of sitting, however, he unceremoniously collapsed.

Sidon reached out, worried briefly by the fall, until Link shifted. The hylian curled in on himself, his back to the zora, wrapping his cloak tighter and getting more comfortable on the ground. Sidon chuckled at the absurd action, moving to sit next to the exhausted champion.

“Ready for bed then?” he asked. Link grunted in reply, and Sidon held back a laugh. He watched the slow rise and fall of Link’s chest. With all his gear still on, it didn’t look comfortable, but the hylian seemed beyond caring.

Even lying on the arm I injured,’ Sidon marveled. ‘It must be healed, then.


The moon rose higher. After a few minutes of hearing nothing but the crackle and pop of the fire, another noise started up. A terrible noise. Sidon wasn’t sure he had ever heard anything like it. The sound tore through the quiet of the night like a bear’s growl, but it was higher pitched. Even. Repetitive.

It was coming from Link.

More specifically, it seemed to be coming from Link’s nose. Every time the champion breathed in, the noise started up again. Sidon nearly prodded the hylian awake to ask him what the matter was. However, Link still seemed to be breathing perfectly well. He was reluctant to wake the champion, eyeing those dark circles again. Despite the sound, Link didn’t seem to be in any kind of distress. If anything, he looked to be at peace - more tranquil than Sidon had ever seen him.

Every so often, Link would shift, and the noise would stop. But, inevitably, it would start again once the hylian was comfortable. Sidon watched, burning with curiosity.

Hylians are such a strange bunch, ’ he decided. Zora certainly didn’t make noises like that as they slept. ‘ Do all of them make that noise when they sleep? Is it only Link? ’ The innkeeper at Zora’s Domain would likely know. He would make a point to ask her.

Suddenly, the camp lit up with a bright, green light.  

The wind picked up, although Sidon wasn’t certain from which direction it originated. He stood, eyes on the lake. Wary. The water remained quiet, almost undisturbed, except in the spot that Link had indicated earlier.

The prince’s jaw dropped when he spotted the dragon.

This was Farosh. Its body was long, undulating, almost like watching a river leap from the ground to flow into the sky. Brilliant silver scales gleamed green and yellow, crackling with electricity. Balls of lightning fell from the beast, floating gently down to the bridge and water below, only to disperse in bursts of small sparks. The light that Sidon had spotted emanated from the beast itself - pulsing rhythmically across its body as the dragon climbed higher into the air. Its movements were slow, almost lazy, as it drifted over its usual route.

“Goddess above,” Sidon breathed.

Lightning had always been terrifying to him. The threat of the Lynel’s shock arrows. Lizalfos raids on his people. Lightning storms. Pain. Death. Every instance he had seen electricity used before had been terrifying. As Farosh twisted and twirled through the wind, however, dancing among its dreadful power, Sidon found himself entranced.

It was beautiful. Beautiful and enormous . The zora was large among his own people, but he was certain he would barely be the size of the dragon’s head were he to approach it. Seeing it now, he understood why Link had been so concerned. He wouldn’t, nor would any of his people, last a second against a creature like Farosh. If the orbs of electricity falling from the dragon were any indication, the zora wouldn’t be able to even get near , let alone face the monster in battle.

Here, though, at the edge of the lake, he could watch Farosh’s flight safely. Sidon returned to his seat next to the champion, incredulous. The hylian’s gear was lit with the calm glow of the dragon, and the bright light danced over his face, but Link continued to sleep soundly. Undisturbed.

Sidon’s eyes were drawn back to the source of that light.

Link had known about Farosh. Seen this incredible sight before. Multiple times probably, since he seemed to know the creature’s exact flight pattern.

Sidon felt a pang of envy in his chest. Link was able to travel all across Hyrule, meeting so many different people. Finding so many wonderous things. Something like Farosh was normal for the hylian. Meanwhile, Sidon had stayed close to the Domain. Never knowing dragons were real. Never knowing that lightning , something he knew instinctively would spell his end, could be harnessed by such a magnificent being.


He watched Farosh for hours. The sight of the dragon would be etched in his memory forever, he knew. Sidon felt fortunate - fortunate to see such beauty in motion, and fortunate to have met Link in the first place. Without the other, he was certain he would never have seen anything like this.

A short, distressed moan had Sidon snapping his attention back to Link. The hylian was still asleep, but shaking. Shivering. Sidon’s eyes narrowed. Link was fully covered and next to the campfire. He couldn’t be cold.

With extreme care, Sidon pulled the hood of Link’s cloak backward, revealing more of the hylian’s face. His expression was pinched, as though he were in pain. Link’s teeth ground together as he let out another groan.

A nightmare? ’ Sidon wondered, leaning further over to examine his friend.

Beads of sweat were forming on Link’s brow, and he shifted jarringly, a leg kicking out to hit some unseen threat.

The prince reached out, touching Link’s head lightly. He wiped the sweat away with his thumb, pressing only mildly more, smoothing out the knitted muscle.

“It’s alright, Link,” he found himself muttering. “Everything’s alright, my friend. You’re safe.”

As Sidon ran his thumb over Link’s forehead, running gently through the hylian’s hair, Link began to relax again. His tense shoulders eased, and the look of pain faded back into a peaceful slumber. Soon, he was breathing easily again, fast asleep.

Nightmares. No wonder the hylian hadn’t been sleeping. Sidon found himself frowning, in spite of himself. ‘He sees so many wonderous things,’ the zora thought. ‘...but at such a terrible cost.’ Link was able to travel and see creatures like Farosh as an almost daily occurrence. Marvelous adventures daily, with so many places to explore and discover.

Meanwhile, Calamity Ganon raged.

The zora prince considered himself to be at least somewhat brave. He was handy with a spear and a rapier. He could take down octoroks, even if they’d swallowed him whole. With the help of his people, he could fight lizalfos armies and come out victorious. He earned constant praise for his continued defense of the Domain.

Link did it all. Alone.

How many creatures like Farosh has he seen? How many are content to go about peacefully? ’ Sidon wondered. ‘And how many that are the opposite?’ His dear friend had to face horror after horror in his journey. At the end of it all, he had to face Calamity Ganon. Only the Hero wielding the Master Sword stood a chance. The most important duty in the land fell squarely on Link’s shoulders.

Farosh flew higher, disappearing into the clouds above. Sunlight began to peek over the horizon, shining onto Lake Hylia.

It was then that Sidon realized he was still petting Link’s head. The realization came mostly due to Link himself, who leaned into the touch, unconsciously. Sidon took a steadying breath. Come sunrise, they would need to search the lake. There was still no sign of his unit. The zora let his hand rest on the Link’s soft hair, willing the champion to rest as long as he needed.

He would need his help very soon.

Chapter Text

Something smelled good.

Link opened his eyes slowly, noting his hood somehow got dislodged from his head while he slept. The sun was up, though still not high. The campfire had been stoked during the night, and was now crackling cheerily as a hylian bass smoked over it, held in place by a sharpened stick. Multiple bass, actually, on multiple sticks. Link sat up, stomach gurgling with sudden hunger at the smell of cooking fish. He grabbed one of the sticks, mouth watering. No one was around, that he could see. Just delicious-smelling food, practically begging to be eaten. The fish was even descaled already.

He shouldn’t, he knew. He had no idea where the fish came from. Maybe Sidon, but the zora was nowhere to be seen. Still...It was right there. And his stomach was growling at him as if he’d starved himself.

It’s fine if I just eat one, right?’ he rationalized. It might not even be missed.

Ah, screw it, he was the Hero.

Not to mention hungry. He could just catch more bass and replace what he ate. Stomach still urging him on, he leaned over the hot fish to take a bite.

“Oh good, you’re awake!”

The champion looked up, mouth full of bass, at a smiling Sidon. The zora had several more fish gathered up in a net.

‘...When did he get a net?’ Link wondered.

“I see you’ve found breakfast,” Sidon commented, dropping his catch nearby. “I hope it’s to your liking - I’m not used to cooking fish.” He grabbed one of the freshly caught alternatives, proceeding to bite into his own meal.

So Sidon was the one who had left the fish. For Link, specifically. Even went as far as cooking it for him.

Well, the best way to show his gratitude would be eating it all, right? Link dug into the meal without hesitation, getting through three full bass before even starting to slow down.

“I thought hylians tended to eat less than zora,” Sidon commented, having gotten through a large portion of his own batch.

Link swallowed a little too quickly at the statement. He coughed a few times, only to shoot Sidon an annoyed frown before taking another huge bite of fish.

The prince chuckled. “I take it my cooking is at least decent, then?” At the enthusiastic thumbs-up he got from the champion, Sidon’s smile widened.

Picking the last bits of meat from bone, Link looked from side to side, examining the camp. Still no one else here, apart from the two of them. He focused on Sidon, who in turn seemed to be focused primarily on filling his stomach. The zora ate almost mechanically, eating plenty, but with clouded, pensive eyes.

His unit isn’t here,' Link realized. ‘Still.

Eventually, Sidon made eye contact with the champion. His face brightened. “I forgot to mention!” he started, regaining a bit of his usual cheer. “You were right - the lightning dragon appeared while you were asleep!” The zora scritched at his cheek with a claw, smiling awkwardly. “I...I understand now why you were so adamant that I not face it myself.”

Link snorted, a smirk on his lips. He was a bit surprised his friend didn’t seem afraid of Farosh, but at least the lesson had been learned.

“It was amazing, Link!” Sidon gushed, the fins on his arms flapping with excitement. “I’ve never seen anything like it before! The way it flew over the water, and the way it wielded its powers was so...so…!” After a pause, he closed his mouth, only to reopen it, and then close it again.

“At a loss for words?” Link asked, smiling. "You?”

“Ah,” Sidon ducked his head, sheepish. “Yes. It was indescribable. It was an experience I’ll not soon forget! Do you see creatures like that very often? Are there more?” The champion nodded, holding up two fingers as he continued to eat. “Two others?” Sidon’s eyes widened. “They must be incredible. Do they also have lightning powers?”

“Fire and ice,” Link clarified. ‘It’s good he’s excited instead of terrified,’ the hylian thought, ‘but…’ Before Sidon could probe him for more dragon info, Link nodded to the lake. “Any sign of the others?”

It was like he’d poked a hole in an octo balloon. The spark in Sidon’s eyes died, clouding over with concern. His gaze dropped, so Link could only see the crest of his head. “...No. I saw no one else all night.”

Link could have smacked himself. Of course not, they’d be here otherwise. All he did was stab into the open wound. His fingers twitched, wanting to reach out and run his hand over Sidon’s. Comfort him. They were allies. Friends. He must be able to do something to get Sidon energized again.

“They…”

The hylian’s ears perked up. He tried to get a better look at the zora’s face, watching as Sidon balled his clawed hands into determined fists.

“They must be here.” Sidon’s head snapped back up. “The others must be somewhere in this lake, and I must find them!”

Link stared at the other a moment, surprised. ‘...or he’ll just cheer himself up.’ Then, with a small chuckle, he got to his feet. Gathering his gear (and stowing the last cooked bass for later), he stood tall in front of the zora. He still needed to look up, being shorter than Sidon even when the prince was sitting, but he looked no less prepared.

“We will.”

“...Yes,” Sidon confirmed. “We’ll do it together!” There - the spark in Sidon’s eyes was back. Dimmer than when he was talking about dragons, but back nonetheless. He stood, gathering up his now empty net and stowing it with a clip on his belt.

Link observed it with a curious tilt of the head. His eyes flicked back up to Sidon’s, his eyebrow raised in question.

“You’ve never seen my net, have you?” Sidon patted the tool. “I don’t usually carry it around the Domain - It’s for travelling, and battle.”

“You fight with it?” Link asked.

“Yes,” Sidon grinned. “In conjunction with my sword, mostly.” The champion’s eyes widened, the bright blue of his irises sparkling in excited curiosity, and Sidon laughed. “You’ll likely see it in action today, if we end up fighting many lizalfos.”

“You’ll be alright without sleep?” Link inquired, moving to put out the campfire.

“Zora don’t need as much sleep as hylians,” Sidon noted. “I’m sure I’ll be fine.”

Link gave him a dubious look.

“Really, Link, I’m fine!”

The hylian didn’t look entirely convinced, but he let the matter drop.

“Now, I believe we should make our way around the lake and see if we can’t eavesdrop on any of the lizalfos still in the area,” Sidon declared.

Link stared at him. When the zora offered no clarification, he crossed his arms. Eavesdrop? On lizalfos? Link wasn’t sure the gurgling yapping noises were going to offer them much headway on the location of the stronghold.

Sidon was busy looking at the lake, plotting out a route. A tap on his hip alerted him to Link’s confused expression. “Is something the matter?”

“...Eavesdrop?”

“Yes.”

Link continued to stare with the same baffled expression.

Something clicked in Sidon’s mind. “Oh, of course! You don’t speak Lizal. Don’t worry - I’ll translate!”

Translate? Link paused, pondering over his many previous encounters with the lizalfos - even on Death Mountain, the monsters had been quick to fight him, making sharp, loud noises that in no way resembled the language of the realm. They attempted to coordinate with each other, on occasion, but Link couldn’t remember a time when they were able to genuinely succeed. Mostly they just hopped around growling (or maybe it was yelling?) in shock when he would shoot bomb arrows at them from afar. It was funny, usually - the flabbergasted growls. The yaps of anger when he charged into camps to eradicate the lot of them.

...Were they saying things with those noises?

There was a splash as Sidon jumped into the water, and Link shook himself back to the present. Well, he would find out today, at any rate. When Sidon waved at him from the water, Link pointed to himself, and then at the Bridge of Hylia. Sidon could search the water. He could search from above.

“Nonsense, we’ll be able to spot things better with two sets of eyes!” Sidon called. Link frowned at him. “Fine, how about a compromise?” Sidon shrugged amicably. “We’ll search the surface of the lake together, first. Then, if we don’t find anything, I can dive below the surface and you can check the bridge! Come along, now!”

As if you’ll let me argue,’ Link thought, bemused. He rolled his eyes, and then leapt from the edge of the cliff. He hit the water fairly close to Sidon, inwardly hoping he’d splashed the other in doing so. If Sidon was going to take the lead, even after promising it to Link, the hylian was going to be a brat about it.

No such luck - Sidon entirely avoided getting splashed by diving under just as Link hit the water. He grinned at the hero from beneath the surface, grabbing Link and directing him to hold onto his broad shoulders. Sidon resurfaced with the Hylian in tow.

“You won’t have to hold as tight as when we fought Vah Ruta,” the prince explained. “I’ll be swimming much slower this time.”

Link nodded from his spot on Sidon’s back, patting his friend’s head tail. “Whenever you’re ready.”

“Now then, let’s be off!” Sidon kicked off.


They searched the outside edges of the eastern half of the lake first, not finding much of anything. A couple of octoroks, a strange set of rocks that Link told Sidon housed something called a ‘korok.’ The lake was largely clear of anything but fish, thanks to Link’s culling of the monsters the day before.

Link had to admit - having Sidon doing the swimming made navigating the lake much faster. He kept a hand on his bow, wary of any lizalfos that might be camouflaging themselves among the rocky shores. There really wasn’t any sign of a stronghold. At least, not as far as Link could see. ‘I wonder how the zora found out about a stronghold in the first place,’ Link thought. It wasn’t like the zora frequented the lake, unless they were brazen. Like Mei. Link smirked at the memory of finding her gallivanting about the lake, entirely unaware that she was missed in the domain. And now Sidon, too. The more he learned about the zora, the more he liked their odd balance of being proud, yet brash.

“This area seems deserted,” Sidon suddenly commented. “Perhaps we should move on to the other side of the bridge.” He caught Link’s gaze out of the corner of his eye, waiting for an affirmation. At the responding squeeze on his dorsal fin, he kicked off again, heading for the underside of the Bridge of Hylia.

“...So,” Link started. “...Lizal?”

“The language?” Sidon clarified. Link hummed a response, and Sidon turned his head to look at the hylian. “It’s an old language - Ancient, even. Zora and lizalfos used to share it, ages ago, but when the zora split and established their own kingdom in the sea, we began using the common tongue more often.” He chuckled. “We’ve moved back inland, of course, and Lizal is still a requirement for royal zora. Tradition, and such.”

“That...growling is required?” Link queried.

The prince responded with a curious yapping noise that nearly startled Link into falling off. His grip on Sidon’s head tail slipped down, and he grabbed harder just above the second dorsal fin to stop himself. Sidon laughed, even while flinching at the sudden yank on his head.

“You sound like one!” Link accused, trying to rearrange his footing along Sidon’s spine.

“I’m sorry, Link, I couldn’t resist,” the prince snickered. “Yes, Lizal is a bit like growling to your ears. To a zora, on the other hand, it’s actually quite pleasant.” His arms stretched out as he gestured excitedly. “In fact, it’s known to be far more eloquent! Many of the ancient songs are in Lizal.”

Link squinted at the prince. Sidon seemed to be telling the truth - not just stringing Link along for a bad joke. ‘Then again,’ he mused. ‘He wouldn’t have suggested eavesdropping if Lizal weren’t a real language…

Which meant all the lizalfos he killed weren’t just monsters after all.

Before Link could even begin to process this new information, Sidon sank a bit lower in the water. “There are some lizalfos now - near where that Farosh appeared last night.” His head tail twitched under Link’s hold. “Let’s go see what they’re up to, shall we?”

The yaps of the lizalfos grew louder as the pair approached. There were three - two were green, and one blue. Sidon slowed, moving behind one of the bridge’s broken support beams to hide their presence. The lizalfos were making a ruckus amongst themselves, hitting the water with annoyed slaps as they conversed.

Sidon hummed, curious. Link gave him a light tug on the fin framing his face, reminding him he promised to act as a translator.

“They’re arguing,” he explained.

“About what?” Link watched the group, eyebrows furrowed. They just seemed like normal yappy lizalfos to him. They could be talking about the clear weather for all he could understand.

“Let’s see,” Sidon brought a finger to his lips, concentrating. “I think I can translate well enough, but it won’t be nearly their level…That green one on the left is saying something like,” his voice raised several octaves in pitch, and he took on an angry growl, “This isn’t working! It’s a waste of time!”

Link snorted, and then rapidly stifled his laughter with his hand. The combination of the pitch and growl ended up akin to a screeching, rabid korok. Apparently ‘translating’ to Sidon meant using voices .

“The blue…’You’re just not doing it right!’” Sidon’s voice dropped, lower than his usual tone. It was a pompous voice, coming off like a smooth, pretentious know-it-all.

Link was sure Sidon could hear him trying not to burst out laughing. Damn zora was probably doing this on purpose.

The coy smirk on the zora’s face told Link the answer was most definitely ‘yes.’

“Right-green…’ Well that’s nonsense ,’” Sidon snarled, in an entirely new voice - gravelly, with a somewhat jaded tone.

“No, I’m telling you this isn’t working! Throwing arrows at a dragon?! Really?! ” the high-pitched one retorted.

“Well,” the pretentious blue huffed, “Gerald was able to do it. Gerald . You must just not be throwing hard enough.”

“I throw harder than you!” High-pitch snapped back.

“My grandliz throws harder than you,” Gravelly snorted. A scuffle ensued, and High-pitch leapt at the other two lizalfos in a rage.

“Ah, now it’s just insults to each other’s family lines,” Sidon quipped, his voice normal. He snickered when he felt a slap to his dorsal fin.

“You did that on purpose,” Link chided, laughter still in his words.

“You’re referring to the voices?” Sidon questioned, his eyes wide in feigned surprise. He was the very picture of innocence. “I thought it would be easier than identifying each one as I translated. Besides,” he poked Link gently in the shoulder with a clawed finger. “I don’t hear your laughter very often. I wanted to see if I could elicit the response myself.”

Chuckling, Link pushed at the zora’s head. “You succeeded. Congrats.

Sidon only smiled.

“Is it alright to mess around, though?” Link questioned, eyes on the lizalfos fight again. “We need intel.”

“It isn’t like they’re saying anything of much importance,” Sidon concluded. “Nothing that relates to their base, or my unit.”

“...but why shoot at Farosh?” the champion wondered. He collected scales from the dragon. Sometimes claws and teeth, or a bit of horn. What good would those items do for a lizalfos?

“Not shoot at, throw at,” Sidon corrected. “The verb they used was that they are throwing the arrows, specifically.”

Link’s eyes narrowed. “...That makes less sense.”

“I know, I can’t imagine what they’d hope to accomplish--”

The pair flinched at a loud roar, which silenced the bickering lizalfos immediately. Sidon ducked further behind the bridge’s support beam, casting them completely into the shadows. A new lizalfos appeared at the top of the largest island - black with a red underbelly, and gold, sharp claws. Its armor was covered in deep gashes, and its skin in scars. Link recoiled at the sight of its horn - the normal smooth curve had been broken, and what was left was a jagged, painful-looking spike. It snarled loudly at the trio, perfectly audible in spite of the distance, and the group all yipped back, freezing in fear.

“...That’s their General,” Sidon hissed, his hand moving toward his spear. “General Isolda.”

“That’s what they said?” Link whispered, eyeing the frightened underlings.

“No.” Sidon’s voice was low, and Link could hear an angry growl under his words. “I recognize her.”

As the General yapped at the three, Link could feel Sidon tensing beneath him, fins flaring. The prince was ready to fight. Wanted to fight. Link brushed a hand down Sidon’s head tail, hoping the action would calm the zora, at least a little. They would be better off listening for now, rather than charging straight in.

The trio of lizalfos slowly sank in the water, sheepish in the face of their commanding officer. With a final, impatient growl, the black lizalfos struck the ground with its spear - a zora silverscale spear, Link realized - and then retreated into the depths of the island. The greens and blue began to yip amongst themselves, resuming their swimming around the area with a defeated atmosphere.

Link watched Sidon expectantly, waiting for a translation of the conversation. The zora continued to glare toward the island where Isolda had retreated. His clawed hand was tight around the handle of his spear.

Sidon.” Link shook the zora’s shoulder with his hand.

The prince snapped out of the odd trance, blinking at Link. “Oh, Link, my apologies - They…” He turned to watched the three lizalfos again. “They are supposed to be gathering shock arrows.”

Link’s eyebrows raised. Stockpiling shock arrows would give the lizalfos a decided advantage, but it seemed...out of character, almost, for the race to be thinking ahead like that. He frowned at the spot where Farosh usually appeared.

“Can’t do that using Farosh,” he grumbled. Handy as it would be to have  a limitless supply, he knew from experience that pelting the dragon with arrows would only waste them.

Sidon hummed in response, distracted.

“Was that all?” Link pressed.

“...No.” The prince turned to Link, a grimace on his face. “They do have my unit. Isolda mentioned she would send that group to ‘watch the zora’ in the ‘Temple.’”

“...what temple?” Link never saw any temple in Lake Hylia. None of the rocky shores had little hideaways - at least, none he was able to find. The island Isolda was on had a shrine, he knew, but unless there was a tunnel he somehow missed in there, there was nothing else.

“I don’t know,” Sidon grunted, shooting another glare at the island.

He’s been acting off since Isolda showed up,’ Link frowned. “...You know her.”

Sidon was quiet. He released his grip on his spear, but his claws still flexed, itching to hold it. Itching to fight. “...She’s infamous among the zora for using tactics different from the rest of her kin. Clever strategies that go beyond simply hiding, camouflaging, and waiting for prey.”

A clever lizalfos. Link held back a groan. Just what they needed. Still, Sidon seemed far too riled up. It could be finding out his fellows were being held by the lizalfos, but he was...angry. Angrier than Link could recall ever seeing him before.

He was bitter.

“That’s not all,” Link commented. “You’re not telling me something.”

“...I’ve fought her before,” Sidon admitted. “She’s powerful. Merciless in battle. We…” His hand drifted over the scar on his fin. So close to his face. So close to his eyes. They narrowed, a fire behind the shimmering gold. “We lost many valiant soldiers to her attacks.” Sidon turned to Link again. “She’s was in East Necluda, closer to Lake Floria, the last we heard. It appears she’s finished her business there.”

Link’s gaze dropped to the water. A clever general and an undiscovered temple. “I think it’s time to split up.” He pointed up, at the bridge. “You go low, I’ll go high.”

“...Very well.”

Moving out of range of the swimming lizalfos, Sidon dropped Link off along the shore, close to the northern side of the bridge.

“Do me one favor, Link?”

Link turned, curious stare focused on the zora.

“Be careful, my friend.”

The champion smirked. “Same to you.”

Sidon mirrored the expression, and then disappeared under the water. Less flashy than his normal exits, but they did have to be somewhat stealthy right now.

Link clambered up the rocky cliff to reach the bridge. ‘He’d better not go challenge the general,’ he mused. ‘He knows better.’ Sidon was a trained warrior. He knew how strong Isolda was. Link knew the zora wouldn’t be that brash.

Still, worry clawed at his chest.

He had never seen Sidon so bitter. As Link climbed, he realized - Sidon hadn’t actually told him what happened. Not really. Just a vague mention of having faced her in battle, once. He reached the top of the cliff, swinging himself up to the soft grass. He could ask later, when he wasn’t sneaking onto the biggest bridge in Hyrule. Sidon would tell him if he really pressed for an answer. It was unlike the prince to give such a lackluster answer, though.

If there had been any lizalfos on the bridge before, they were avoiding it now. Link had made a quick sweep of it the day before, and it appeared that the creatures were steering clear of the bridge in the daylight. No need to be targets for any wandering heroes - not when they were trying to make shock arrows in the night.

The whole method screamed of absurdity to him. How many times had he shot at Farosh now? How many times had he missed? Those arrows certainly didn’t transform once they hit the fields of electricity. ‘Where’d they even get that idea? ’ Link frowned, coming across the supply boxes littered in the middle of the bridge.

Well, however they did, they latched onto it.

Each of the supply crates was full of arrows. Link had never seen so many in his life. All just sitting, waiting to be thrown at a lightning dragon and into the lake. With a sigh, he started grabbing all he could carry. No sense in them going to waste, after all. They’d be put to better use in his quiver. And, on the plus side, he wouldn’t have to bug all the shopkeepers in Hyrule for more arrows. At least, not for a week or so.

Looking around, Link was pleased to see that the lizalfos really did all but abandon the bridge. None of their regular equipment was waiting.

At the same time, though, neither were any clues.

He wasn’t sure what he expected to find up here, but to find something would have been nice. A guard with a special key, maybe. One that could let them into wherever this supposed stronghold was.

Maybe it is underwater,’ he mused, leaning over the side of the bridge to look. He pulled out his Sheikah Slate and activated the camera. Zooming in on the group of lizalfos from earlier revealed that they were bickering about something, again. The islands were being patrolled, but no more so than usual. ‘...or maybe the stronghold isn’t in Lake Hylia at all.

He watched the trio for a bit longer. Lizalfos could talk. They fought each other. Insulted each other’s families. Formed strategies. Link felt a pang in his gut with the knowledge. He felt sick. Apprehensive.

...Guilty.

Since exiting the Shrine of Resurrection, he just assumed all the creatures attacking him were dumb monsters of the Calamity. Wild. Feral. To be honest, he never really considered them to be much more than animals.

But they could talk.

Lizalfos had history with the zora, he knew. He knew, but assumed it was just the monster threat facing all of Hyrule. Now he was learning they had a whole system in place. Had one for centuries. Generals. Orders. Strategies. They took hostages.

As the Hero, he was supposed to protect the denizens of Hyrule. He thought he knew which races fell into that category. Which ones got saved. Which ones were just monsters. Servants of Ganon. Now, watching Gravelly laughing at whatever High-pitch had said…

He wasn’t sure.

Link hooked his Slate back onto his belt. It was...disturbing. This knowledge. Knowingly killing beings with thoughts and goals, in a language he couldn’t hope to understand. Only the zora could converse with them, in all likelihood.

But, the zora were his friends, and they hated the lizalfos. Condemned them entirely. Even Sidon, so happy to greet and get to know any stranger that crossed his path, held the lizalfos in contempt. Or at least, he held Isolda in contempt.

Link sighed, pushing himself back from the edge to go look on the other side. ‘It’s useless thinking like this,’ he told himself. ‘They try to spear you the second they see you.’ Or claw at him. Or breath fire, like the ones he ran into while trying to get to Vah Rudania. They revived with every appearance of the blood moon. They were allied to Ganon.

Did he know all this before, a hundred years ago? Had he known then, that the lizalfos used their own language? What about other creatures, like Bokoblins? Did they talk too? Did he fight them anyway?

Did he care?

'They’re monsters,’ he urged himself. ‘No good will come of sympathy for them.’ He sulked on the eastern side of the bridge, watching the water ripple below. ‘They’ve kidnapped friends.’ The knowledge that the lizalfos had a language of their own wasn’t going to change facts. He should be focusing on keeping an eye out for Sidon at this point.

Speaking of, where was Sidon?

The water was dark, and Link couldn’t see any red among the expanse of blue. It didn’t take long to search the bridge, but it shouldn’t take much longer to search underwater. Not unless he found something.

...Or something found Sidon.

Link hopped up onto the parapet of the bridge. Getting a bit higher didn’t allow him to see any deeper, but from here he could jump in if he spotted something suspicious. He scanned the lake, fingers nervously rubbing against the hard stone of the parapet. Out of the corner of his eye, something emerged. Something large.

And red.

Link’s shoulders sagged at the sight of the zora. Sidon looked from side to side, looking wary. Then, he turned to face upward, catching sight of Link. The zora waved up to him - perfectly fine. Totally unharmed. The champion squinted at Sidon’s waving, slowly realizing that the other wasn’t simply saying he was done. He was gesturing for Link to come down and meet him in the water.

Guess he found something after all,’ the champion mused, standing. He leapt off the parapet.

Meanwhile, in the water, Sidon blanched at the sight of Link nonchalantly hopping off the bridge. The distance between the bridge and the water was enormous - could hylians even survive a fall that steep? Even a zora could get injured with a stunt like that! He meant for Link to come down, certainly, but not by just jumping!

Then the champion’s paraglider unfurled.

Sidon sighed. Right. Paraglider. Of course Link wouldn’t jump without it. He waited in the water as Link glided down, landing right next to the zora with a gentle ‘plop.’

Link resurfaced, a grin on his face.

The zora let out an amused huff. “Did you find anything on the bridge?”

“Just arrows. Lots.” Link shrugged.

“Any shock arrows?” The sight of Link shaking his head relaxed the prince somewhat. “Good.” He pointed down, beneath them. “I found an entryway at the very bottom of the lake. There’s a short tunnel to get further in, but a large air pocket - The lizalfos need it to breathe, so you should be fine as well!”

“Their base?”

“It appears so. I could see several lizalfos walking about.” Sidon extended his arm to Link, moving to allow the champion space to grab onto him. “It’s far too deep for you to reach on your own, but I can swim us both down! Are you ready?” Link nodded, swimming closer to grip Sidon’s shoulders. The prince gave one of the hands a quick pat. “Hold on tight.”

Link took a deep breath, filling his lungs just before they dove. Sidon swam fast, and it wasn’t long before the champion began to realize just how deep Lake Hylia truly was. They traveled nearly straight down, and it just kept going. Down and down, and farther still. He could barely see anything. His ears began to hurt from the pressure.

Sidon repositioned himself, and soon they were swimming close to an enormous rock formation. Even down here, Link could see the large, blue crystal at the top of the entryway. There was some sort of design behind it, but it had been rubbed clean after being so long underwater. Moss-covered bars peeked down from the top of the entryway, stuck open.

The entryway itself was dark, and though Sidon had promised an air pocket, Link’s lungs were beginning to burn. Thankfully, the zora moved quickly, bypassing the entrance and immediately heading up.

They breached the water, coming into the air pocket. Link gasped, though he attempted to keep his desperate gulps of air quiet - lizalfos should be all over. Sidon brought him to the edge of the water, onto a small platform.

Link pulled himself out of the water with care, trying not to make too much noise. He crouched low to the ground and got his first look at the lizalfos stronghold.

As he took in the structure of the base, the champion felt sick. There was a pressure in the air here - familiar, and unwelcome. His insides felt like ice. It took him a moment to place the feeling crawling along his skin.

Dread.  

Chapter Text

Link hated this place. Despised it. Detested it.

He couldn’t explain why he did, exactly, but the feeling was strong. The place was familiar, but not in the way the rest of Hyrule was - that was a half-forgotten memory of having walked the same fields a hundred years ago. This feeling was different. He stood on cold, wet stone, surrounded by water. There were traps. He wasn’t sure how he knew the traps were waiting, but the knowledge clawed at him. Something deep, ancient, wanted to scream at being in this place.

“Link... Link!”  Sidon hissed.

The champion snapped out of his trance, turning his head to the zora in question.

“Now isn’t the time to daydream, my friend!” Sidon whispered. “Do you see that pillar?”

Link looked at the center of the room again. A tall, stone pillar stood in the center of the water. There was a platform wrapping around it, offering a space for lizalfos patrols to walk. A steel door - new, and clearly brought in from elsewhere - sat in the very center of the pillar wall. Above the door was a faded target.

“I saw lizalfos entering and exiting that door,” Sidon explained, keeping his voice low. “At least five. We’ll have to be careful.”

The pair pressed themselves into the shadows as a guard exited the pillar. A simple green lizalfos - It looked briefly from side-to-side, before walking along the platform.  A yap from across the room greeted it when it reached the northern end of the hall.

More lizalfos where we can’t see,’ Link frowned. There was another door, to the west, but embedded in the door frame was a large set of chains. A heavy lock bound them together, sealing it shut. To the east, Link could see a corridor, but what lay beyond it was a mystery.

“There are likely more rooms underwater,” Sidon observed, pulling himself out of the water to crouch behind Link. “Although I’m not sure we’ll reach them easily.”

You can,” Link nudged the prince. “Just swim.”

“And leave you to the lizalfos?”

“Distraction,” the champion smirked.

The prince eyed his companion warily. “...You have a plan?”

“Sure,” Link stood, pulling his bow from his back. “Shock ‘em.”

“...Don’t you mean ‘surprise?’” Sidon muttered, still hidden while the hylian moved forward a few paces. “Wait -- Link, come back!

Link stood at the edge of the water, bow ready and a hand at his quiver. He waited. The lizalfos guard ambled around the corner, close to completing his circle around the central pillar.

What are you doing?!”  Sidon hissed. The champion shot him a cocky, almost playful smile, before drawing an arrow and firing it at the guard.

The guard shrieked, convulsing with jolts of electricity.

As Link jumped into the water to make his way to the platform, Sidon bit back a groan. ‘He didn’t mean ‘surprise.’ He literally meant to shock them with shock arrows.’ The zora shuffled closer to the water, just as Link was clambering out of it. He watched as the hylian pulled out his claymore, rearing back and smashing the guard with the blade. The lizalfos flew back several feet, crashing into the far wall. It recovered with an angry growl, to which Link responded with a casual wave. The little champion ran to the other end of the hall, to the north, drawing more angry growling and snarls as he began to shoot whatever he saw.

“Well, that’s a...tactic,” Sidon muttered, a smirk on his own lips. More lizalfos erupted from the water, heading to the northern side, beyond the pillar. He waited a moment longer, allowing Link to draw their attention away. Then, he dived.

The water was mild, though a bit cooler than the lake outside. Sidon breathed deeply, smelling for any scent he could find that was not lizalfos. Surprisingly, the water was fresh - there had to be other ways for the water to move, rather than sitting around and growing algae.

The temple was indeed huge, seeing it from under the water. Navigating it without some idea of where his unit was located was going to be a hassle.

‘No, wait,’ Sidon maneuvered himself lower in the water. There. The scent of fellow zora. They were close. In the water. ‘Why are they being held underwater? ’ The prince dropped lower to follow the scent. Lizalfos could only remained submerged for so long. Zora had the advantage in the water. He expected they would be held outside it.

The middle pillar was cracked, further down, and Sidon swam closer to investigate. There was a large opening here. Poking his head inside, the prince saw no sign of zora or lizalfos - only dragon statues, and some nasty-looking spikes. A distorted yapping from above the waterline caught his attention - A pair of lizalfos were looking around, probably trying to discern what was happening outside. One moved to the doorway, and exited the room.

It flew back in moments later, thrown into its companion.

Sidon grinned, spotting the flash of Link’s claymore peeking inside the door. The hylian had this area handled. He swam back into the main area to continue his search.

The scent grew stronger as he continued to descend. Spear at the ready, he swam to the west. There was a corridor at the very bottom, where the smell of zora was the strongest. He made his way through the winding passage with care.

Sidon entered the chamber, finding a tall torch in the center of the room, as well as two other torches on either side of the far wall. An airtight chest sat to his left. Beyond the torches was a door. It was broken - the stone used to build it in a pile of rubble on the floor. Bars blocked the entryway in the door’s stead.

Behind those bars, was Bazz.

“Prince Sidon!” the other zora called, his face lighting up with a relieved smile. Then, he grew concerned. “Sire, what are you doing here?!”

“What? The prince?!” Gaddison’s pale-scaled face appeared from behind Bazz, her eyes wide. Catching sight of Sidon, she exclaimed, “What are you doing here?!”

“Here to rescue you lot, of course!” Sidon huffed. “Are the others with you?”

“Yes!” called a third zora. “Tottika reporting for duty - Ailbhe and Junayd are here as well.” Tottika clambered on top of Bazz. The shouts of the remaining two could be heard from behind him.

“I want to see Prince Sidon!”

“Sire, it’s dangerous here!

“You shouldn’t be mounting a rescue mission by yourself, my prince,” Bazz chastised.

Sidon regarded the soldier with a withering look. “I’m not alone - Link is distracting the lizalfos in the main room.” He crossed his arms, frowning at the group. “I’m more than capable of rescuing my fellows.”

“Oh, Link’s here too?” Gaddison perked up. “That’s fine, then.”

“Is that the thanks I get?” Sidon asked. “‘Oh, it’s fine if Link is here?’ How did all of you get captured in the first place? Link didn’t even see you in the lake!”

Bazz bowed his head, ashamed. “...It was General Isolda, sire.”

“Yes,” Sidon grunted. “I saw her.”

“Prince--”

“No, nevermind,” Sidon waved the matter aside. “It doesn’t matter how you got here. We’ll discuss that after we get you all out.” He swam closer, wrapping a hand around one of the bars. He tugged. They didn’t budge in the slightest. “...These are quite sturdy. Sturdier than most lizalfos construction.”

“Old Sheikah technology, we believe,” Gaddison observed. “Or ancient magic.”

“The lizalfos open them by lighting the torches,” Bazz offered, gesturing to the center of the room.

Sidon’s eyes narrowed. That was curious construction. “They light the torches underwater?”

“They lower the water level first,” Bazz explained. He pointed upward. “There’s a mechanism on the top floor, I think. They always swim up before the water comes down.”

“I see,” Sidon looked up, seeing nothing but more water and more ledges. ‘More corridors? ’ he corrected himself. ‘How big is this temple? ’ With a determined nod to Bazz, he pushed off from the floor. “I’ll be back!”

“Be careful, sire!”

Of course I’ll be careful, ’ Sidon inwardly grumbled. ‘I’m not a child.

He knew they meant well. Just worrying for their prince. Still, it seemed that being one of the best archers and having fought with Link against Vah Ruta didn’t dull the coddling. He could handle this, and yet still… He knew his people held him in high esteem - they said as much. Praised his abilities as a warrior. Constantly. There was a fan club, for Hylia’s sake.

But sometimes…Sometimes he wondered what they truly felt about him. About their prince. About how he managed. About how he would rule.

About Sidon, heir apparent.

Sidon stopped his ascent, coming just shy of the top ledge. With a deep breath, he shut his eyes. ‘That kind of thinking isn’t helpful at the moment,’ he reminded himself. ‘You may fret about such things later.’ He took another breath. Eased his tensed shoulders back down. Breathe. Relax. This wasn’t the time to let those kinds of thoughts in.

Now, it is time to focus.

The prince opened his eyes, and propelled himself upward. Not enough to fully breach the water - just enough to see what was on this ledge.

It was a room, not a corridor. There was yet another door on the far wall, unbarred. Unlocked, in all likelihood. A solitary green lizalfos stood close by, next to a set of drums. On the wall above it was the Hylian Royal Crest.

Perhaps this place is of Sheikah design after all,’ Sidon mused, watching the lizalfos closely. It held a small mallet in its claws, and was beating the air - just short of actually hitting the drums. Sidon studied them. There were four, arranged like the cardinal directions of a compass, though the lizalfos was only miming a pattern of three: east, north, west. East, north, west. It mimed over and over, like it was trying to memorize the action.

Sidon reached for his net. It was only one foe. This lizalfos might know something. At any rate, it knew what to do with the drums. Could prove useful. He began to swing the net, gathering momentum. At that moment, the lizalfos’ head perked up. It turned, likely having felt Sidon’s eyes on it.

Too late, though.

The net flew from Sidon’s hand, wrapping completely around the lizalfos, who flailed, tripped, and fell to the ground with an angry yelp. Sidon hopped out of the water, a triumphant grin on his face.

The lizalfos snarled upon seeing him - no words, just an angry animal-like growl.

Sidon moved past it, to the door on the far wall, with spear in hand. He opened the door, expecting more enemies inside, or at least some monsters.

Nothing.

The far room was empty, save for supply crates. Sidon leaned forward to examine the doorframe - at the top was a set of small, circular holes - spaces for bars, just like its counterpart below.

Opening the door doesn’t activate them,’ Sidon observed. ‘Perhaps they activate when something enters the room? ...Wait.’ The prince turned his head to look at the lizalfos he had netted. ‘That gives me an idea.’

The lizalfos raged, writhing in the net, but only managing to get itself even more stuck. Sidon faced to his captive with a smile. He casually walked over, picking up the squirming foe, and brought it over to the door.

“Apologies, but I’d like to test a theory, if you don’t mind.” He grabbed either side of his net, thrusting the bundle toward the empty room. The lizalfos tumbled out of the net, rolling into the room with an annoyed yap. Sidon flapped his net in the air as though he were airing out a dusty rug, and then slung it over his shoulder. Shut the door.

He waited.

Sure enough, he could hear bars dropping out of the door frame, sliding into the floor. Sidon opened the door again, and the bars stayed where they were.

“Interesting,” the prince mumbled as he tapped the metal. The lizalfos was trapped in the room, and from what Sidon could see, had no way out. It hissed at the zora.

A satisfied smile on his face, Sidon folded his net back up, clipping it it onto his belt. He moved back to the drums. The royal crest was a bright gold, shining in the dim, dilapidated temple. Sidon’s head tilted as he studied it.

Only the triangles…? ’ He was used to the full crest - a bird’s body, with wings stretched beneath the holy triangles. This was missing the bird. He couldn’t recall ever seeing the mark depicted so minimally before. ‘...This place must be quite old.

Regardless, he knew the pattern for the drum. At least, in theory. He tapped them in order - east, north, west. They reverberated pleasantly. He eyed the water level.

...Nothing.

Frowning, Sidon brought a finger to his chin. “I’m sure that was the correct pattern…” He raised his hand to cup his mouth, calling to the lizalfos he imprisoned. “That was the pattern to lower the water lever you were miming, wasn’t it? Is there some other trick to it?”

The lizalfos was quiet.

Sidon hummed. “Perhaps he doesn’t understand Hylian.” His Lizal wasn’t quite as polished as he would like, but it was worth a shot. He cleared his throat, growling lightly to test it. Moving closer to the trapped lizalfos, he waved to get its attention.

My friend! ” he yapped. “How to move the water?”

The lizalfos growled back. Not words, as far as Sidon recognized. Still just regular growling.

The zora grinned amicably. “Please?

The lizalfos shuffled in its spot, turning to face the back wall. It sat with an annoyed grunt.

No answer, then. “Well,” Sidon sighed, “I suppose that’s fair.” He did toss the poor guy into the next room. After ambushing it. And now it was stuck - barred in their supply closet.

In retrospect, Sidon wasn’t sure why he thought asking the lizalfos would work.

He was sure he had the pattern right, though - why didn’t the water level change? Did he need to hit the drums with the mallet, as opposed to his hand? The mallet was in the other room with his irritated captive.

He could break through the door frame. Steal the mallet. Honestly, he could simply kill the lizalfos - they were sworn enemies, after all. That idea didn’t sit well with him, though. He’d fought lizalfos before. Killed them before.

That was on the battlefield.

Yes, this was their base. Yes, they had captured his companions. But this lizalfos, grumpy and unhelpful as it was, had only been here for its duty. It wasn’t actively hurting anyone. Just doing its job. Maintaining the water level.

What a dull job it must be,’ Sidon mused, crossing his arms over his chest. He watched the lizalfos’ unmoving form beyond the bars, a bit forlorn.

The lizalfos turned its head, sticking its multi-color tongue out in Sidon’s direction.

Ah, ’ Sidon caught himself. ‘...Sympathizing with the enemy.’ His gaze returned to the drums, and he let out an amused huff. ‘...No wonder my soldiers worry over me.

This was ridiculous. Link was good at puzzles, wasn’t he? Maybe he should have been the one to explore.

Maybe he needed to hit the drums harder? He did so, beating the drums with his full hand rather than tapping with his fingers. East. North. West.

There was a loud thud as a mechanism clicked, and then sound of water draining. Sidon walked back over to the water, seeing the level drop rapidly. He placed his hands on his hips, admiring his handiwork. The water was fully drained within seconds, leaving only damp stone.

And a steep drop.

It’s not nearly as bad as Shatterback Point,’ Sidon thought, leaning over the edge to gauge the distance. He had plenty of practice with long falls, though he was usually landing in water in those cases. He’d leapt off a guard tower when he met Link. This drop was likely a similar distance. Bracing himself, he waved a quick goodbye to the imprisoned lizalfos, who actively ignored him. Sidon hopped off the ledge with a quick flip.

The landing was hard, but he managed to handle it with little more than a pained flinch. He straightened up, grinning in the direction of his fellow zora.

“You did it, sire!” Bazz praised.

“Now all that’s left is to light--” Sidon paused, staring at the center torch.

It was already lit.

“That’s normal,” Gaddison commented. “It lights automatically. Not sure how, though.”

“Curious,” Sidon gestured to the torch. “This temple is full of odd mechanics.” He glanced around the room - the other two torches were still unlit, and he didn’t see another way to light them.

“There are extra torches to light the others, inside that chest,” Bazz pointed behind Sidon, to the chest sitting against the wall. The prince opened it without difficulty, finding plenty of torches, and even flint.

“That’s certainly..." Sidon's head tilted slightly, regarding the items with suspicion. "...convenient.” He lifted one of the small torches out of the chest.

“I think they find it too much of a bother to store them elsewhere,” Tottika chuckled from behind Bazz’s shoulder. “Isolda came through and yelled at guards all over the temple earlier. I don’t know what she said, but it seemed like she wanted them to move that chest.”

“Then we shall thank the lizalfos for procrastinating!” Sidon cheered. He lit the other two torches, and the bars penning in the zora shot back up into their door frame. His unit clambered out excitedly, managing a hasty bow to Sidon before standing at attention. The prince nodded to them. “They took your weapons, I would assume.”

“Yes, sire,” Ailbhe confirmed, readjusting her armor over her white scales.

“Should we look for them?” Junayd asked, popping up from behind Ailbhe. “I’m not even sure where to start…”

“You could probably camouflage like the lizalfos,” Tottika smirked, poking Junayd’s shoulder. “Your scales match the walls.”

“Unless we happen upon your weapons by chance, it would be better to prioritize leaving,” Sidon waved a clawed hand at the winding passage. “I don’t want to get caught in here when Isolda returns. Although,” he frowned, “Now that the water is drained, reaching the exit may prove difficult.”

“I’m sure the lizalfos have noticed that Link isn’t the only intruder,” Bazz observed. “They’ll want to investigate--”

Another thud reverberated through the temple, and suddenly Sidon’s feet were engulfed in water. The level rose rapidly, and the zora were soon completely submerged.

“What was that you were saying, Bazz?” Ailbhe laughed, but her voice quivered with nerves. “The lizalfos have surely noticed?”

“They reset the water level…” Junayd muttered.

“Let’s go,” Sidon pressed. “Link should still be in the main room. We’ll regroup and leave.”

“And if they give chase, sire?” Bazz inquired, his expression dark.

Sidon pumped his fist, grinning broadly at his unit. “Why Bazz, I’m surprised at you! As if they could catch us in the water!” Each of the zora smiled a bit, relaxing ever so slightly. Sidon pushed off against the floor, swimming back through the passage to the main room. His unit followed suit, falling in behind him.

Once out by the pillar again, they discovered the lizalfos had reset the water to the highest level again. Sidon smiled. That made life much easier. Now he only had to find Link.

Looking upward, he could see multiple bodies of lizalfos. Bodies that would soon vanish in a puff of smoke, thanks to Ganon’s magic. The water was full of blood, and the smell of it was almost overwhelming as they moved upward. He never liked the scent of lizalfos blood, but there was something else mixed with it. Faint. It was a familiar scent - one that reminded him of Vah Ruta, for some reason. Fighting the Divine Beast with Link. Sidon halted his ascent, eyes widening in recognition.

It was Link’s blood.

Bazz swam up to the prince, a worried frown on his face. “Sire--?” He didn’t get a chance to finish. Sidon was already off - swimming full-speed to the surface.

Link’s hurt.’ Sidon swam harder. He could hear the shouts of his unit behind him, but he didn’t care. Not right now. Link was stuck in the middle of the fray - he was hurt.

Or worse.

Sidon breached the water with his spear in hand, surprising a number of lizalfos along the northern wall. The momentum he gained from swimming launched him into the air, well above the enemy.

The spear was thrown, and impaled one of the green lizalfos in the leg. It, and its companions, shrieked with surprise, scrambling to direct their own gear at their newest foe. The green fell to the ground, unable to remove the spear. Sidon landed on the platform, near another of those odd dragon statues with a target mark under its mouth. He growled, yanking his net from his belt.

The lizalfos nearest him charged with its spear, only to have its weapon caught in Sidon’s net and pulled out of its hands. Sidon leapt at the creature, grabbing it by the arm and flinging it at the dragon statue. It smashed against the stone, leaving large cracks before falling heavily to the floor.

Another pair of lizalfos jumped on Sidon from behind, and he fell to the floor, their claws scratching at his scales. Sidon rolled, dislodging the green one and knocking the wind out of the other, a blue. He pushed himself quickly to his feet, drawing his rapier. A quick thrust, just as the blue lizalfos managed to find its legs - it snarled in pain as the blade pierced through its shoulder. Its companion hissed.

Where is Link?!’ Sidon thought desperately, parrying a spear directed at his stomach. It glanced off his breastplate with a sharp screech. There was no sign of the hylian, other than the scattered lizalfos horns and claws left behind from his skirmish. Sidon flung his net again, distracting the green lizalfos long enough for him to stab it. The blue yapped at him, and charged forward, reaching up to scratch at his eyes. Sidon punched it in the side of the head before it could, and it fell to the ground.

Then there were zora - Ailbhe and Gaddison burst from the water, swiping weapons from the fallen lizalfos and finishing them off. The green that Sidon had stabbed in the shoulder was only up for a moment before getting stabbed again. This time, it was impaled on its own spear. Gaddison kicked the creature off the edge of the blade. She nodded to Sidon.

The prince returned the nod, and then looked around - there weren’t many lizalfos left, so where was his friend? Where had Link gone?

An angry gurgle alerted him to another blue lizalfos across the water, standing on the platform of the main pillar. It crowed a rallying cry, shaking a heavy claymore.

Link’s claymore.

Sidon felt his insides go cold. This one had fought Link. Had taken Link’s sword. Had probably hurt Link to get that sword.

This one would die.

Sidon hunched low, a snarl on his lips. The blue lizalfos leapt over the water, claymore high above its head. Sidon charged forward, tackling it. The pair crashed onto the ground, and the lizalfos squirmed in Sidon’s grasp. One of its flailing claws caught the prince’s cheek, and Sidon hissed. Unable to get a decent angle with his rapier, Sidon bared his sharp teeth with an enraged growl.

He clamped down on the creature’s neck, piercing and crushing its windpipe.

The lizalfos struggled a moment, but then went limp, and Sidon relaxed his jaw. Blood dripped from his mouth, and he moved the dead lizalfos out from underneath him. Grip still tight on the hilt of his sword, Sidon’s eyes flicked up, searching for more enemies.

Link was staring at him from across the water.

Link! ” Sidon exclaimed, overcome with relief. “You’re alright! I smelled your blood in the water and I thought the worst…” he trailed off, noticing the champion’s lack of a reaction. The hylian was standing, mostly uninjured aside from a large, bleeding gash on his arm. He was wet, and the water dripped off him steadily, but he didn’t seem to notice. Link was entirely motionless, holding eye contact with Sidon. His eyes were wide. Surprised.

“...Link?”

The champion pointed at his eyes. Still wide. Still locked on Sidon’s.

Eyes? My eyes…? ... Oh.’ Sidon knew what Link must be staring at now. His pupils, normally slits among his gold irises, would dilate at the smell of blood. The smell that had overwhelmed him in the water. The taste on his tongue. Sidon didn’t want to check his reflection in the water - he already knew what he’d find.

Pitch-black eyes.

Not to mention the blood. He was covered in it. Could still taste it on his teeth.

“Prince!” Bazz surfaced, followed soon after by the rest of Sidon’s unit. “Are you alright? Link is--” he stopped, catching the champion’s eye. Link waved at him. “Ah, you found each other. Link was fighting on the opposite side of the pillar.”

Sidon hastily wiped his mouth with the back side of his hand, smearing his scales with more red. That hand continued to hover in front of his face after, hiding the sight of his bloody teeth. “...You lost your claymore,” he commented, gesturing weakly at the champion.

Link shrugged, and then pointed at the dead lizalfos. “Bastard knocked me down. Stole my sword.”

“Are you alright, Link?” Gaddison asked. “Your arm is bleeding.”

“Looks worse than it is,” Link waved off the comment.

The lizalfos next to Sidon puffed into a small cloud of dark smoke. It disappeared, leaving a horn, a couple of claws, and Link’s claymore. Sidon picked up the sword, and then hopped into the water.

“We should depart,” the prince declared. While he swam over to Link, he kept his eyes down, or on his fellow zora - they were used to the dilated pupils. Link, on the other hand…Link hadn’t seen them before. They were eerie, he knew, especially to hylians. Nevermind the fact that Link saw him clamping down on a lizalfos’ neck with his teeth - not exactly princely behavior. He held the claymore aloft for Link to take from him, still avoiding looking up at the champion. The sword lifted out of Sidon’s sight as Link retrieved it. Then, the champion hopped into the water himself, calloused hands grabbing onto Sidon’s shoulders.

“We’ll follow your lead, your highness,” Bazz nodded to the prince.

Sidon nodded back, tentatively patting Link’s hand with his own, to direct him to hold tighter.

Link squeezed Sidon’s shoulder briefly, before securing his grip.

“Move out!” Sidon called, leading the group to the exit of the temple.


 The sun was setting over the river. The group stopped about halfway back to the Domain, to rest. Sidon stood, looking downriver, under the pretense of making sure they weren’t followed.

In actuality, he was panicking.

Link still hasn’t mentioned what happened,’ he fretted, his mind racing. ‘Did it shock him too much? He’s fought alongside zora whose eyes dilate before, hasn’t he? Didn’t Mipha’s do the same? ’ His eyes, back to normal now, narrowed. ‘If he had, that was likely a hundred years ago. He wouldn’t remember.’  He shifted from one foot to another, antsy. Link was usually fairly quiet, but not one word about Sidon’s eyes? Or the blood on his teeth? He expected some sort of comment, but without any input, he had no idea how Link felt about seeing Sidon in that state. It scared hylians to see him like that, generally.

...What if it scared Link?

Sidon didn’t want that. He didn’t want his dearest friend to be afraid of him. He would never hurt Link. Never. Surely the champion knew. His head turned, and he watched the others setting up camp. Link seemed fine with the others - smacking a piece of flint with his claymore to set a bundle of wood ablaze. Smirking at the off-hand comments. At ease, it seemed.

The prince sighed.

Sidon couldn’t forget the look on Link’s face when they’d spotted each other. The shock. The wordless confusion. Whether that translated to actual fear… He didn’t know. He couldn’t know.

Not unless he asked Link about it.

Sidon shut his eyes. He took a long, deep breath. ‘...Worrying like this won’t solve anything. Only action will. ’ His eyes opened again, and strode purposefully over to the campfire.

“Ah, your highness,” Bazz smiled at the prince as he approached. “I take it we weren’t followed?”

“No,” Sidon confirmed. “All is well.” He caught Link’s eye. The champion’s head tilted in question, but before Sidon could speak, Bazz piped up again.

“You’ll want our report, then, I expect.”

The prince’s attention shifted to his soldiers. Yes. Their report. Why his unit was captured so easily. What the lizalfos were up to. General Isolda’s return to Lanaryu.

His nerves were eating him up on the inside, desperate to get things sorted with Link, but...This was more important. Duty before pleasure. Or before panic. Whichever. Just don’t think about Link being disappointed, or frightened, or wanting nothing to do with him ever again.

...Actually, no, there was no way he could focus on duty right now.

“I would like your report, but not just yet.” Sidon turned to the champion, who was fiddling with his Sheikah Slate. “...Link.”

The hylian looked up. Curious. Questioning.

Sidon didn’t see fear in the champion’s expression, but the other did have a habit of deadpanning. He could be damn near unreadable at times. Sidon swallowed, still nervous. “May I speak with you for a moment?”

Link glanced at the other zora, who looked just as confused. He gestured for Sidon to lead the way.

Sidon could hear the others muttering as he led Link away from the camp, but he paid it no mind. It wasn’t their opinion he was worried about at the moment, it was Link’s. He stopped close to the river, behind a tree. It wasn’t much privacy, but it would do.

Link joined him. He gazed up at the prince with a raised eyebrow.

Sidon could feel his heart pounding. What did Link think of him right now? “I...I wanted to discuss what happened,” he started. When Link continued to look confused, he added, “My appearance, in the temple.”

Link continued to stare at him, the issue still not apparent. “...You mean...your eyes?”

“Yes.” Sidon’s gaze dropped to the ground. “I’m sure it was...Hylians have been quite alarmed at seeing me in that state, in the past. My eyes - Well, they dilate drastically when I smell blood, and there was a lot of it.” He fidgeted with his bracelets, running his claws over the intricate designs. Too much energy. Too nervous. “I smelled your blood in the water, and I -- I couldn’t bear to think you’d been hurt! And then I saw that lizalfos with your sword and I…I panicked.” He looked back up at the champion, indicating the gash on Link’s forearm. “It had hurt you, and taken your sword, and I wasn’t there to help you -- I ended up acting on instinct rather than proper form, and I know I look frightening when I fight that way, but I hate to think that I could have scared you , since I--!!”

Link burst out laughing.

Sidon stopped. Stared. The laughing continued. The hylian had his hand over his mouth, trying to stifle the laughter, but to no avail. When he managed stop cracking up, to get it down to a chuckle, Link looked up at the zora with a grin on his face.

“You...You find it funny? ” Sidon questioned. That wasn’t the reaction he was expecting. It was probably the farthest thing from what he was expecting.

Scared? ” Link managed to choke out. “Of you?

“But…” Sidon knelt down. He couldn’t be eye-level with the champion, but like this he could at least see Link’s face better. Still no apparent fear, but... “Your expression when you saw me was--”

Surprise,” Link laughed again. “Didn’t know your eyes did that.”

“So...You’re not frightened of me,” Sidon concluded. “Even after seeing me fighting like...”

“How could I be?” Link asked. “You’re…” The hylian gestured up and down, at the entirety of the prince. “You’re you.”

Tense muscles relaxed at the words. Link didn’t even consider him a threat, let alone something to fear. Sidon let out an amused huff. “That’s...That is a relief.” He smiled at the champion, nerves starting to settle. “I truly only wanted to help - to protect you somehow. Although,” he smiled self-consciously. “That is a difficult endeavor, at times.”

Link’s eyes blinked in surprise, and Sidon immediately regretted his words. What was he thinking? Link was the champion, the Hero of Hyrule! He was the one who did the protecting, not the one who was protected.

Sidon wanted to protect him, though. At least, wanted to watch out for him. Have his back. The prince felt his stomach clench with discomfort. What if he had insulted Link? Was saying that he wanted to protect the champion implying that he didn’t believe Link could handle things? He fidgeted again, looking off to the side.

Link wasn’t saying anything. This was awkward. He messed up. He should apologize - clarify his intent--

Small, hylian hands were suddenly cupping Sidon’s face, turning his head. The champion forced the zora to make eye contact. Sidon’s breath caught in his throat at the sight.

Link had the most heart-warming, gorgeous grin on his face that Sidon had ever seen.

Sidon stared. Wanted to keep staring. He wanted this image ingrained in his memory forever.  Link smiling. Happy. Golden wisps of hair framing that wonderful face - that smile. Those beautiful blue eyes sparkling in the setting sun. Goddess Hylia, he could get lost in those eyes. Link was smiling like this because of him.

Sidon felt this had be the best moment of his life.

Then Link stood on the tips of his toes, reaching his arms around Sidon’s neck to pull the zora in for a hug. As he settled in the prince’s arms, Sidon corrected himself.

This was the best moment of his life.

“...Thank you,” Link mumbled, his head nestled on Sidon’s shoulder.

The zora wrapped his arms around the champion, leaning his face against Link’s soft hair. He gave the hylian a light squeeze. “...I’m more than happy to assist you, in any way I can.”

Link pulled back, still smiling. His cheeks were tinged red, as were the tips of his ears.  

Sidon couldn’t, for the life of him, remember what that red tinge meant.

He knew the rush of blood to the cheeks happened among Link’s kind. Quite often, in fact. He knew it was normal. What it signified, however...Was it good? Link was still smiling, so it had to be good, right? The champion was looking him over, fondly. He looked pleased.

Then Link frowned.

“You’re hurt,” Link observed, running his thumb across the small cut on Sidon’s cheek.

“Only a minor scratch!” Sidon chirped. “It’s nothing serious. One of the lizalfos nicked me with its claw.”

Link’s pointed ears twitched downward as he grimaced. “...that asshole.”

“I’m fine,” Sidon reassured the champion. “Really.”

“...Fine,” Link sighed, giving the prince’s cheek a final, affectionate pat before letting go. He glanced back to the camp, and then smirked. “...We should get back.”

“We should?” Sidon leaned over so he could see past the tree. Bazz was watching them, looking impatient. “Ah...I suppose we have been talking for a while. They likely want to give me their report so they can get some sleep.”

Link flashed another quick grin, and then led the way back to camp.

“Alright, Bazz,” Sidon gestured to the other zora, moving to sit next to the campfire. “If you would.”  

Link plopped down next to the prince, curious eyes focused on the rest of the unit.

Bazz cleared his throat. “When you decided to stay behind and take care of those octoroks, we forged ahead to Lake Hylia. I expect Link was traversing the other side at the time, since we didn’t see each other.”

The champion nodded.

“There weren’t many lizalfos about the area,” Bazz continued, “So we took to searching in the water. That was when we came upon the temple--”

“And you entered without me?” Sidon chastised. “Into an enemy’s den?

Bazz looked for a moment as though he were about to protest, but held his tongue.

...ignoring the fact that we did the same thing, without backup, ’ Link bit the inside of his cheek so he wouldn’t smile. He glanced at Sidon. The prince didn’t notice, still too annoyed at his unit.

“We were only trying to be thorough, sire!” Ailbhe protested. “Since there weren’t many monsters in the area, and the temple is so deep, we assumed there wouldn’t be anyone there.”

“Clearly, we assumed wrong,” Tottika pouted. “We ran right into General Isolda.”

“We thought she’d attempt to execute us on the spot, but they only imprisoned us,” Bazz explained.

“...That’s peculiar,” Sidon commented. Well, Isolda herself was peculiar, from what he recalled of her. The general must have figured something out upon seeing the zora unit enter the temple. The prince wracked his brain. In that instance, enemy soldiers suddenly stumbling upon their stronghold, unsuspectingly - no, completely unknowingly. The zora would have been immediately caught off-guard once inside the temple. They would have clearly had no knowledge of the base. “...Did she assume you were scouts?”

“I believe that was the case, sire,” Bazz nodded. “She likely assumed there would be more zora on the way, or that we would be missed. She’s dealt with zora before - she knows we travel in groups.”

“Hm, and if more were on the way, they could use you as hostages…” Sidon frowned.

Gaddison nodded solemnly. “Link’s efforts have reduced the number of lizalfos in the area - The survivors seemed to be grouping up in the temple, but there aren’t enough to fight our army.”

“And they were traveling in pairs, rather than solo,” quipped Ailbhe. “Except for Isolda.”

“Sticking together, stockpiling arrows, taking captives…” Sidon grimaced. He didn’t like the sound of it. The actions sounded too much like a plan in the making - not the lizalfos’ simple stratagems of sitting around and waiting for prey. It was too different. Too active. “...They are unquestionably preparing for battle,” Sidon decided. “It is only a matter of when, and where.”

“Perhaps a hylian outpost?” Tottika theorized. “They could get more supplies from the hylians. More land.”

“The Domain is always at the highest risk, though,” Bazz interjected. “There’s nothing the lizalfos would love more than to obliterate the zora.”

“Would they dare be that bold?” Gaddison laughed. “They know our army is stronger than theirs. They wouldn’t win a battle in our home.”

“Not unless they held some sort of advantage.” Sidon’s eyes narrowed. The lizalfos didn’t have that yet, but… “The element of surprise, perhaps?”

“...Shock arrows,” Link muttered.

All eyes locked on the champion. The zora shifted nervously, casting worried glances at one another.

“They…” Ailbhe wrapped her arms around herself. “They have shock arrows? More than normal?”

“They are attempting to make them, but they have yet to succeed.” Sidon crossed his arms over his chest. Throwing arrows at a dragon may not be the way to make shock arrows, but there was no doubt the lizalfos were trying. If they were trying, they might try multiple methods.

If they tried other methods, they may eventually find one that worked.

The prince grimaced. “...This does not bode well. We must inform the King.”

“What will you do, champion?” Gaddison inquired, turning to Link.

Link, not expecting the question, rubbed the back of his head awkwardly. He frowned, eyes flicking upward to meet Sidon’s.

“You still have Divine Beasts to subdue, do you not?” Sidon asked.

“...Yeah.” Link brought out his Sheikah Slate again, pulling up the map. “In Rito Village. Gerudo Town.”

“Both are quite distant,” Sidon observed. Link was quiet, studying what he had gathered of the world map. It was still incomplete, but it was enough to see that the trip to either area would be a long journey.

“I believe the zora can handle this matter while Link faces the Divine Beasts, my prince,” Bazz stated.

“I agree,” Gaddison nodded. “This is a zora problem. The champion has helped us enough.”

Sidon spotted Link flinch slightly, but a determined stare replaced any expression the hylian held previously. The prince wanted to address it, but Link was already getting to his feet.

“I should go, then,” the hylian muttered, slinging his Slate back onto his belt.

“Thank you for your help, Link!” Tottika beamed. The rest of the unit echoed his thanks, and Link smiled politely at them.

Sidon placed a hand on Link’s shoulder. “You’ve been a great help, as always. We will confer with my father regarding the lizalfos, so don’t worry!”

“Yes, please focus on saving the world,” Gaddison laughed.

“Speaking of,” Bazz smiled, “That was quite a happy coincidence you were still in Lanaryu to help us - I figured you would be halfway across Hyrule by now!”

“True, not many people can say they’ve been saved by the Hero while he’s journeying,” Ailbhe quipped. “I bet some of the others will be jealous.”

Sidon scoffed. “I don’t know about that.” He turned to Link. “You seem to quite enjoy helping everyone you come across! It’s admirable.”

The hylian stared at the prince for a moment, before responding with a small smile of his own. He shrugged, as though the feat was of no consequence.

Sidon was taken aback. The smile on the champion’s face now was almost...sad. In spite of all the zora’s praise. And then, it was gone, right back to stony determination. Something was bothering Link, the prince knew, but he was about to depart. Checking to see if all his gear was in place. Already taking steps to leave the camp.

Link turned, briefly, to wave at the group. The unit waved back.

“Farewell, champion!”

“Good luck!”

“Link,” Sidon got up, catching up to the hylian quickly. He took the champion’s hand before Link could get too far. Link stared back up at him, his face blank. The amusement from earlier was gone, and Sidon couldn't fathom why. The questions burned in him. What was wrong? Why was the hylian frowning now? What had changed him so suddenly?

He couldn’t figure out what was bothering the other this quickly, and Link was already set to leave. Tugging on Sidon's grip. Uncomfortable. Impatient. 

Well, he could still offer the champion some support. At the very least.

Sidon grinned, striking a confident pose. “Whatever you pursue, I have no doubt you’ll be victorious! Should you need a break, you are always welcome back at the Domain - whenever you like.”

Link nodded, smiling softly at the prince.

Sidon squeezed Link’s hand, gently. “Be careful. And come back soon, won’t you?” He beamed. “I always look forward to your company.”

At that, Link’s cheeks started to resemble Sidon’s own scales again.

The champion hastily patted the prince’s hand, face burning red. He nodded once more to Sidon, and then ran off - back into the wild. Link disappeared downriver, in a blaze of blue light.

“...That was an odd exit,” Bazz noted.

“...yes,” Sidon agreed. He turned back to his companions. “...Do any of you recall what a hylian’s face turning red means?”

The soldiers all looked at each other, perplexed. Gaddison shook her head. Bazz shrugged.

Sidon sighed. Well, it was too late now. He would just have to ask Link about the phenomenon later.

That, and about whatever had distressed the champion so much.

Chapter Text

The prince of the zora stood tall at the edge of the balcony, surveying the plaza below. The children ran around the memorial statue of his sister, laughing and playing without a care. The sun was shining, and the air was warm. The Domain was peaceful.

Sidon should be pleased, he knew. It was a lovely day, and their efforts against the lizalfos had been going off without a hitch. King Dorephan agreed to send more soldiers around Lanaryu - to cull whatever lizalfos they could find. Sidon’s unit alone had taken out a great number of the creatures around the Domain.

The lizalfos were running scared, now that the zora were on the offensive. Plans were laid to protect the Domain. Orders issued. Lake Hylia was still a long way from being secured, but it seemed to only be a matter of time before they could send their army into the temple hidden in the lake’s depths. By all accounts, the prince’s efforts in the past couple of weeks were incredibly successful.

Meanwhile, he couldn’t stop worrying about whether Link was successful.

It was to the point that he was barely even sleeping. Sidon stood with his arms behind his back, one hand gripping his opposite wrist, and his eyes squinting against the bright sunlight. ‘Link should have made it to Rito Village or Gerudo Town by now.’ He squeezed his bracelet. He had a vague idea of what the Divine Beasts were in those locations. A bird. A camel. Both as large and powerful as the zora’s own elephant, Vah Ruta. Both incredibly dangerous, and posing a gargantuan threat to Hyrule’s denizens. He ran his fingers over the designs of his bracelet mindlessly, over and over. ‘He can manage,’ he told himself. ‘Link will be victorious.’ He was confident.

Yet still he fretted, having not heard anything from, or even about the champion in well over a week.

A scout had sent word, what felt now like ages ago, that they saw Link heading northwest. Sidon couldn’t imagine why - both Rito Village and Gerudo Town were about as far west as one could possibly travel in Hyrule. Gerudo Town was southwest of Lanaryu.  If Link were heading further north, he would end up going toward Hyrule Castle. Toward Ganon. Toward the Calamity itself, and countless guardians patrolling the fields.

He couldn’t be going straight to Ganon, could he?

The thought gnawed at Sidon, resulting in several nights of tossing and turning. Eventually, he gave up and took brisk walks instead - patrols around the Domain in the hopes that he would simply exhaust himself. The worry persisted. Link was powerful, but was he ready for a battle that harrowing? It seemed out of character. The hylian was brash, at times, but he wouldn’t rush into a such an important battle without preparing.

Not after he failed the first time.

No, there must be some other reason Link was travelling further north than he should. Like, he found someone who needed help in that area, or something. Just running an out-of-the-way errand before continuing on to the Divine Beasts. That would make more sense.  

Granted, the hylian had a knack for not making sense. Link’s hurried departure still plagued the prince’s thoughts. Such a rush to leave. To get away from the camp.

But why?

The champion had been clearly discomforted by something during the conversation with his unit. That much was certain. Sidon just couldn’t pinpoint what that something was.

Nothing to do with the temple,’ he reasoned, ‘or the events that transpired there.'  They’d discussed that. Link was fine with what happened in the temple - with seeing Sidon practically feral. Link was pleased when Sidon mentioned he wanted to protect the hylian.

The image of Link’s grinning face flashed in his mind. The delight in Link’s eyes. The way Link’s taught muscles finally relaxed when he wrapped his arms around the zora. The hum of the hylian’s voice, echoing pleasantly in Sidon’s ears.

“Thank you.”

Sidon found himself smiling.

He probably looked foolish, standing at the edge of a balcony and smiling at the air. He couldn’t help himself. His thoughts kept flicking back to Link’s laughter. His bravery. His kindness. The utterly snarky attitude he revealed at times, meshing all too well with Sidon’s own sense of humor. The way Link fought so well, almost effortlessly, while taking down foes larger even than Sidon himself. The skill, and the sass, and the kind-hearted soul that wanted nothing more than to aid those in need.

A shout from below brought Sidon back to the present. One of the children had jumped on their friend, and they giggled at their game. Sidon shook his  head.

He couldn’t focus lately, and the lack of sleep wasn’t helping. Even with so much to do with the lizalfos, his thoughts kept getting drawn back to Link. While thinking about the hylian wasn’t necessarily something he disliked, the happy memories had the tendency to develop into concern for Link’s present circumstances. Fighting Divine Beasts. His destiny to fight Calamity Ganon. Worry about some unknown thing that caused the champion to nearly run away from the zora.

I need a distraction.

Sidon set off to the staircase leading down to the plaza. Instead of descending, however, he dived off them, into the water below.

I could check the barracks,’ he mused. ‘See how the soldiers are faring today.’ He dived deeper, heading for one of several small cave openings. They all looked mostly the same, but decorative diamonds and luminous stones designated the main points of each path. Navigating the passageways in the Domain was simple, for a zora who lived here his entire life.

Link hasn’t seen these tunnels,’ Sidon realized. ‘He hasn’t even seen the inner palace.’ The champion would likely want to explore the Domain more, if he were able. ‘There was once armor that allowed hylians to breathe underwater….I wonder…

Sidon stopped himself. He’d only just started trying to stop thinking about Link. Yet, here he was. Thinking about how his current situation would apply to Link.

He reached the barracks, somewhat disgruntled at his inability to focus. Sidon swam into the main area - a spacious cavern, where the walls were decorated with silver and lit with more luminous stones. Snake-like patterning, in the likeness of the ancient spirit of Lanaryu, wrapped around archways that led further inside the barracks. Sidon looked around, seeing a few guards milling about, Junayd among them - resting after their most recent trip to find lizalfos. They saluted at him, and he nodded in return.

“So, wait, how much am I putting you down for?” Bazz’s voice drifted in from the next room.

Sidon made his way over to it, landing on the cool stone beneath him before walking under the arch to his right. It led to another common room. Bazz stood at a stone bar counter, with a slate in his hand. Ailbhe was swimming next to him, leaning over his shoulder with a conspiratorial grin.

“50 rupees!” Ailbhe chirped.

“That’s for after Link defeats Calamity Ganon, right?” Bazz clarified, scribbling on his slate.

“Yeah, a month after.”

“What’s this, then?” Sidon inquired, striding into the room.

The pair startled, and Bazz nearly dropped his slate.

“Sire!” Ailbhe landed on the floor, saluting. “Please excuse me! I’m, uh, I’m late!” With a quick bow to Sidon, she kicked off, swimming past and exiting the barracks entirely. Bazz watched after her, looking betrayed.

Sidon tilted his head at the remaining soldier, a smirk on his lips. “What, pray tell, was that about?” He’d caught them in the middle of something they weren’t supposed to be doing, that was certain. Bazz’s guilt was as plain as the sag of his shoulders.

“It’s...Um.” Bazz’s eyes flicked back and forth between his slate and Sidon.

“What do you have there, Bazz?” Sidon asked, stepping closer. “Ailbhe mentioned rupees.”

“It’s a…It’s a lunch pool!” Bazz laughed, a bit too quickly. “We were only organizing what to prepare for this week, my prince!”

Sidon regarded the soldier with suspicion. “Really.”

“Yes, sire!”

“Then what was that comment about ‘after Link defeats Calamity Ganon,’ Bazz?”

The soldier wilted. “That’s, um. It’s…”

Sidon crossed his arms. “It’s obvious you’re lying to me. Do cease with the charade.”

“...My apologies, Prince Sidon,” Bazz sighed.

“Tell me straight, now,” Sidon ordered. “What in Hylia’s name were you two discussing? What is that slate for?”

“It’s…” Bazz winced. “It’s a betting pool.”

Sidon huffed. It was fine for the soldiers to have their little games every so often - it was good for morale. However, the secrecy was not something he cared for.

“A betting pool for what. Specifically,” Sidon asked, his voice flat.

Bazz looked as though he wished he were anywhere but here. His eyes darted around the room for help. Upon finding none, he resigned himself.

“...For when you’ll confess your feelings to Link, your highness.”

The statement gave Sidon pause. “...My what?”

“Your, uh, romantic feelings,” Bazz elaborated. “Sir.”

The prince goggled at the other zora. “My what?

“With all due respect, my prince, it’s quite plain to the rest of us!” Bazz pressed. “You dote on the champion, and we’ve all noticed you’re quite fond of him.”

“I am fond of Link,” Sidon confirmed, “But that is…”

Bazz was smiling at him. Knowingly. “Sire, you spend far more time with him than anyone else, when he’s here. You pay more attention to him. Not to mention you know him better than anyone else.”

“Yes,” Sidon agreed, but there was an exasperated edge to his voice. “Because we are friends.”

“Sire, you defended him from Muzu. You blatantly defied the wishes of the elders by welcoming Link into the Domain.”

“We needed him to fight Vah Ruta!” Sidon exclaimed. “Or did you forget we couldn’t fight the beast on our own?”

Bazz continued to smirk. “...I believe in ordinary circumstances, you would have gotten backup before rescuing us in the temple, rather than simply pairing up with Link.”

“We work well together, as a team!”

“You don’t normally dote on your teammates, sire,” Bazz argued. “Not the way you do for Link.”

“That’s only…” Sidon’s jaw snapped shut with irritation. Arguing was getting him nowhere. Of course he treated Link differently than his unit. ‘Link is my dearest friend,’ he thought. ‘It’s only natural for me to dote on him.’ It didn’t mean he fancied Link. It was only natural to worry over the champion’s fate. To want to see him again. To want Link to visit. To want to spend time together, and show him the Domain. Sidon would have to go out of his way to find a method for Link to explore properly, but that was only par for the course - Link was a hylian. He needed special gear to navigate the waters like a zora. Sidon would provide, because...because that’s what friends do. It was natural for him to do things like...like watch over Link while he slept. Make breakfast in the morning, even though zora didn’t tend to eat fish cooked…

...Wait.’

It was natural for him to want Link to laugh. To want to see that gorgeous grin again. That grin meant for Sidon, alone. To hold the champion in his arms again. To feel that soft, hylian hair under his fingertips as he caressed Link’s head, the champion’s precious voice murmuring words of affection - to lean into Link’s hand when he ran his fingers over Sidon’s cheek. To gaze into those eyes, so full of fondness, and deeper and bluer than all the water in Zora’s Domain and Lake Hylia combined. To lean in, to pull Link close and press against those soft, hylian lips...

‘...Oh.

Link was beautiful. Kind. Clever. He held a strength unparalleled, and a heart of gold. The way he moved - the way he spoke - Sidon could never get enough, always waiting for word of the champion, or for the shrine in the middle of the Domain to pulse blue to signal Link’s arrival. Even waiting close to the shrine in the plaza, on the off-chance that Link would visit. Waiting for the champion to show, and to tell the prince of his latest adventure. The hylian never ceased to impress, either, through the various, numerous feats of his own. Sidon found himself enraptured by the tales of the champion’s travels. Link was, quite simply, amazing.

Link was amazing, and Sidon had fallen for him.

Hard.

“...My prince?” Bazz questioned.

“...You said it was ‘quite plain’ to the rest of you,” Sidon stated.

“Well, yes, sire. Uh...Are you alright?”

Sidon was quiet, ignoring the look of concern his soldier was giving him now. He stared numbly over Bazz’s shoulder.

‘...I’m in love with Link.

That would explain why he couldn’t stop thinking about the champion. The more he mused, the more things started to make sense. The gnawing worry about Link’s duty. The irrational desire to protect the Hero of Hyrule. The pain and sheer outrage  he felt when he thought Link was badly wounded, when he wasn’t there to help. The constant wish to see the champion again, and to spend time with him. Wanting to show off the Domain to Link, even if it meant figuring out a means for the hylian to breathe underwater. The pieces began to fall into place, and then Sidon realized something else.

His gaze snapped back to Bazz, a wry smirk on his lips.

“...Sire?”

“So, am I to understand that you lot have been running a betting pool...” his smirk widened, showing off his bright, sharp teeth. “...about my love life?

Bazz blanched, waving his hands rapidly in a panic. “It’s all in good fun, my prince, I swear it! We mean no disrespect!”

Sidon responded with a heavy sigh. It wasn’t as though his unit was wrong, after all. Only that they had figured out Sidon’s feelings long before he did so himself. The prince lifted his hand to his face, pinching the bit of his crest between his eyes.

“...Bazz.”

The other zora looked up dolefully. “...yes, sire?”

“It’s a bit unbecoming to be running this wager about your prince, don’t you think?” Sidon asked. “What if Muzu catches on to what you’re doing?”

“Oh...well--”

Sidon held up a hand to quiet the other. “No, never mind. I don’t wish to hear any more. I want plausible deniability, in case the elders deem it unseemly.”

The soldier smiled, relieved. “You’re alright with it, then?”

“...I’ll admit, I’m curious to know what the winning bet will be, as I’m not certain when I will be able to tell Link myself.” He waved the matter aside. “You haven’t heard anything while scouting, have you?”

Bazz shook his head. “Not a thing, sire.”

Sidon hummed, disappointed.

“Oh,” Bazz tapped against his slate, remembering something. “Have you deduced the meaning of a hylian’s face going red?” Bazz inquired.

“I did ask Muzu,” Sidon admitted, “since the elders interacted with hylians more often in the past. It’s called ‘blushing,’ apparently. He asked why I needed to know, so I told him it concerned Link...”

“And?”

Sidon grimaced. “He laughed.”

Muzu did?” Bazz nearly laughed himself.

“Yes. And then he walked away.” Sidon still didn’t know whether the blushing was good or bad. It happened to Link when he was both happy and distressed, so it was all the more confusing. “He wasn’t very helpful.”

Bazz looked over the slate in his hand. “...Perhaps Kodah would know? She’s dealt with Hylians more often than the rest of us, running that inn of hers. Plus, she knew Link as a child, didn’t she?”

Sidon blinked. Of course. Kodah. The one he wanted to ask regarding the noise Link made when he slept. She’d been a childhood friend of the champion’s, a hundred years ago. If anyone in the Domain could figure out his behavior, it would be her. “Bazz!” Sidon grabbed the soldier’s free hand with both of his own. “That’s brilliant! I had meant to speak with her anyway!” Letting go of Bazz, he pushed off the floor, swimming quickly to the exit of the barracks. “Thank you, my friend!”

“You’re welcome, sire!” the soldier called.

Junayd poked his head into the side room, eyeing Bazz curiously. “...Did he just figure it out?”

“I think so,” Bazz laughed.

Junayd aimed a contemplative gaze at the exit, where Sidon had just vanished. With a grin, he turned back to Bazz.

“Can I change my wager?”


 

Sidon found the innkeeper standing just outside her Seabed Inn. Kodah bowed as he approached.

“Your highness, it’s a pleasure to see you!”

“Hello, Kodah!” Sidon greeted. “I was wondering if I could ask you a few things regarding hylians.”

“Hylians? Well, I know a few basics...I’d be happy to tell you what I know of them.” Kodah directed a hand toward the inn’s entrance. “Please, come in!”

Sidon followed her inside. Kodah’s husband stood behind the front desk, and he jumped in surprise upon seeing the prince.

“Prince Sidon! What brings you here, sire?”

“He has some questions about hylians,” Kodah quipped, leading Sidon over to a comfortable-looking chair. “Do sit down! Kayden, could you make some tea?” Her husband nodded, jogging off to a room in the back. The prince thanked her, taking a seat. Kodah beamed. “So, what kind of questions did you need answering?”

“Mostly concerning hylian behaviors,” Sidon clarified. “Blushing, and the like.” He could simply tell Kodah about Link, he reasoned, but after finding out about the betting pool...Sidon thought better of it. He may have already, accidentally, broadcasted his affection for Link to the entire Domain at this point, if his soldiers were any indication. Still, he didn’t have to do it on purpose. At least, not yet. If the elders got word of it, he wasn’t sure how they would react. Knowing how begrudging they were to accept Link as a hero, he figured he should at least try to tread carefully.

He could work with general information for now.

“Blushing, huh?” Kodah brought a hand to her cheek, looking away in thought. “Blushing was always pretty confusing...It can mean a number of things.” Recalling something, she giggled. “Though, in my experience, it usually it happens when a hylian gets embarrassed.”

Sidon nodded to her, but worry clawed at his gut. Link was embarrassed? What for? That first blush - the one that led to the champion hugging Sidon - didn’t seem like it meant embarrassment. Link had seemed too happy for something like that. The second blush, in front of the unit…

That may have been embarrassment.

It would explain Link’s hasty departure. The way he avoided looking at the zora just before he ran off. But what could have embarrassed him? Surely not Sidon’s invitation to the Domain?

Sidon frowned, puzzled. “...What else can it mean? Apart from embarrassment.”

“Well, I’ve seen it happen when they get cold,” Kodah explained. “Or out of breath. Their faces turn red quite often, actually,” she laughed.

Neither of those applied to Link’s case.

“Anything else?”

Kodah crossed her arms, looking perplexed. As she thought, Kayden returned with a tray. On it were three cups of steaming hot tea. He offered the tray to Sidon, who gratefully accepted a cup. The chair he sat in would be perfect for a nap, comfy as it was. He brought the tea to his lips, taking a small sip of the hot drink. It was still nearly scalding, but he hoped the caffeine could help keep him awake.

“Doesn’t blushing happen when a hylian gets flustered in general?” Kayden asked, offering a cup to Kodah. “I remember Link’s face going red when you would tease him.”

“Oh, yeah, you’re right!” Kodah smiled at the memory. “It happened when he got really pleased, too, sometimes - when he got compliments.”

That sounds more like what happened,’ Sidon thought, blowing gently on his tea to cool it. Blushing from being pleased would explain the first blush. He stared into the dark liquid. Blushing could mean any number of things, it seemed. Positive and negative. He wasn’t sure he was interpreting Link’s correctly. At all. The phenomenon was more complex than he anticipated.

Then again, so was Link.

“Does that help, sire?” Kodah asked, cradling her cup.

“Hm?” Sidon’s head snapped up. “Oh. Yes, thank you.”

“Anything else you’d like to ask, or was information about blushing all you needed?” Kodah smiled.

“Well…” Sidon began, thinking back to Lake Hylia. There was that peculiar noise Link made in his sleep. He forgot to ask Muzu about that one, with the blushing being at the forefront of his mind. “They...Hylians sometimes make an odd noise when they sleep, correct?” He took another sip of his drink.

Kodah stared at the prince in confusion for a brief moment. Then, a knowing grin stretched across her cheeks. “That is called ‘snoring,’ your highness, and it is perfectly normal.” Her smile turned sly. “This is about Link, isn’t it?”

Sidon choked on his tea, erupting into a coughing fit. He held his cup away, trying to avoid spilling it on the inn floor. “You--How did you--?”

“I had my suspicions,” Kodah giggled, “but it was the snoring that did it. Linny snores like a bear.”

Sidon coughed again, clearing his throat. “...That he does.”

“So you got him blushing as well, then?” Kodah asked, eyes alight with mischievous glee.

“...Yes.” Sidon took a slightly more careful sip of his tea.

“But you aren’t sure what the blushing meant,” Kayden concluded.

“Linny’s always been hard to read,” Kodah commented. “Even for other hylians. I remember them griping about how hard it was to know what he was thinking.” She leaned against the front desk, crossing one ankle over the other. “May I ask what happened?”

Sidon paused, debating whether he should disclose exactly what happened. The first time had been private - partially hidden behind foliage, and Link’s expression then was likely only meant for him. Blushing triggered by pleasure.

His heart pounded at the thought.

The second was public, in front of his unit. And it confused him far more than the first. That would be fine to discuss.

“I told him to come back to visit the Domain,” Sidon explained, “just as I always do. He blushed and ran off.”

Kayden exchanged a look with his wife. “...What did you tell him, exactly, sire?”

Sidon frowned. “Just as I said: To come back to the Domain, and that I always look forward to his company.”

Aha!” Kayden exclaimed. “That’s probably it!”

“It is?” Sidon questioned. “I always tell him something to that effect - this is the first time it’s resulted in such an odd response.”

“What do you mean, dear?” Kodah asked.

“Kodah, it doesn’t sound familiar?” Kayden laughed. “Running away after words of affection?”

“Oh!” Kodah pointed at him. “It sounds just like what you would do!”

“...I believe I’m missing some key information, here,” Sidon interrupted.

“Kayden used to get flustered and run off when I was sweet to him,” Kodah explained with a laugh. “Because he was absolutely enamored with me.”

“Still am,” Kayden smiled into his tea.

It took the prince a moment to process. “...Are you implying Link is…?”

“He does spend a lot of time with you when he visits,” Kodah noted, sly grin back on her face.

“He also greets you first, out of everyone in the Domain, doesn’t he?” Kayden asked.

That may be because I make sure I’m the first person he sees,’ Sidon realized. The pair waited for Sidon to answer, and Sidon inwardly sighed at their expressions. Same smirks as Bazz. He resisted the urge to bury his face in his hands. Was he the last one to figure these things out? In retrospect, it was pretty obvious how he felt. Link, though…

“You two seem certain that he isn’t simply being friendly.”

“Linny always goes out of his way for his friends,” Kodah admitted. “You, though. My prince, he goes much farther than usual, I assure you.”

The innkeepers each seemed convinced. Sidon still was unsure of Link’s stance, but...He knew his own. He had strong feelings for the champion, so he was certain they would have to discuss it at some point. It wasn’t something he wanted to put aside - knowing his feelings made him all the more determined to act. The inaction would only heighten his nerves. He was already having trouble focusing on anything but the champion. Waiting would make it worse. He would have to find some time to pull Link aside, to talk it over. He could find out Link’s feelings then.

In the meantime, he had a lot to process.

Deciding he would rather do that processing in private, Sidon placed his cup of tea neatly on a side table. “Well, this has certainly been an enlightening conversation.”

“I hope we were of help, your highness!” Kodah giggled again.

Sidon smiled at her as he stood. “Yes, thank you for your expertise on...” The smile became a smirk. “Hylians.”


 

Well, he certainly knew more than he did this morning. Sidon pondered over the knowledge - Link ran off because he was embarrassed. Because Sidon had shown him affection. That much could check out, if it weren’t for one niggling detail.

Link’s attitude changed before that.

It changed before the blush, even. Right around when Sidon’s unit mentioned Link should be fighting the Divine Beasts. It was the champion’s duty. A fact of his life. Yet, somehow, Link had been discomforted by the reminder. Something was bothering the champion, and likely it had to do with the Divine Beasts. Sidon could ponder over it, questioning as much as he wanted, but...

The prince frowned as he walked out into the plaza. ‘I’ll just have to resign myself to asking Link himself.’ Should he ask about the Divine Beasts first? Figure out what was wrong?

That would be best, he decided. He could help Link with whatever it was, or at least try. Then he could tell the champion about the feelings he was harboring.

And maybe then, he could actually get some sleep.

A small zora child skidded to a halt in front of the prince. They didn’t stop quite fast enough, colliding into Sidon’s leg with a tiny ‘oof.’

“My apologies, little one!” Sidon knelt, helping the child, a girl, to their feet. “I wasn’t watching where I was going - are you alright?”

“Yes, prince!” she chirped, all the more exuberant. “Sorry for running into you!” She turned, spotting her friend about to give chase. With a delighted squeal, she ran off - her friend close behind. Sidon chuckled. The pair continued their play, skipping around Mipha’s statue.

Sidon’s eyes were drawn to the statue, alight with shimmering silver in the shining sun. He walked, slowly, to the front of the memorial, until he stood face-to-face with the larger-than-life depiction of his sister. Mipha’s likeness stared down at him, looking regal as ever, lightscale trident in hand.

Sidon felt a pang of guilt in his chest.

Mipha had loved Link. Now, a hundred years after her death, Sidon pined for the very same hylian.

We have absurdly similar taste, sister,’ Sidon thought.

The guilt settled in his stomach, heavy and bitter.

...Do I have any right to have feelings for him?’ His sister knew Link, back then. Was a childhood friend, just like Kodah. Healed Link’s wounds. Served as a champion, alongside the hylian she loved.

Crafted zora armor for Link.

What had Sidon done for the champion? Fought Vah Ruta with him. Taken out some lizalfos. Nothing so grand as crafting perfectly tailored magic armor, made from his own scales.

Link lost his memory. That was a fact. He no longer remembered his shared past with the zora princess. Link himself had told Sidon that he only remembered bits and pieces - nothing concrete. But if, one day, Link did remember, fully…

Would he choose Mipha?

Even now, Link wore that zora armor to aid his travels. It served as a constant reminder of Mipha. Of her love. How could Sidon hope to compete with a memory?

...Did he want to?

This is...disrespectful,’ he thought. ‘Isn’t it? To want the same man my sister once did.’ His fingers brushed against the gem in his bracelet. ‘Mipha would resent me for it…

She was gone. She was never coming back. But she had loved Link, and how could he want to court the champion? Knowing his sister once held Link so dear? She couldn’t even tell him her feelings, now.

Sidon had done it for her.

He managed to look up again, taking in the expert carving of her face. It wasn’t dispassionate, in spite of being stone. It calmed him, on his worst nights. Those quiet nights fueled by insomnia. Anxiety. Loneliness. He came here over the course of the past weeks, hoping her image would ease his worries.

Now, that once comforting stare looked somber, and crestfallen.

Sidon felt his chest tighten. It was hard to breathe now, looking at Mipha. ‘How can I possibly confess romantic feelings to Link?’ he wondered. ‘How could I do that to you, sister?’ It didn’t matter that his soldiers were making bets on when he would confess. Didn’t matter if the innkeepers were convinced that Link harbored feelings for him, as well.

How could he dishonor his sister’s memory, pursuing the man she loved?

He had been the one to give Link the armor Mipha made. Found it stashed among her things, ages ago. Kept it safe, knowing it contained her most treasured feelings for the hylian. Hand-delivered it to her beloved.

Sidon cursed himself. His feelings. How could he be so presumptuous? He had looked at that zora armor dozens - no, hundreds of times in the past. Wondering about Mipha. Wondering about what could have been, between her and her dear hylian. She finished that armor - that glorious blue armor that matched Link’s eyes - and then…

She never gave it to Link.

Sidon mulled over his sister’s inaction. ‘...but she finished it.’ The armor was perfect - complete in every way.

Which was...odd.

The prince’s eyes narrowed. ‘Mipha left to journey with the other champions...how long before she died?’ He couldn’t remember. He was too young, then. Old enough to know her feelings, and to understand that she was a champion, but…

That armor needed to be tailored perfectly, and it was. It needed to be complete in order for the magic to work, and it was. But Mipha became a champion, and wouldn’t have had time to make such meticulously detailed armor. Not while she was travelling with the others. Not while protecting Princess Zelda. And then…

She died fighting Waterblight Ganon.

When did she finish…?’ Sidon wracked his brain. He was so young then - he only remembered vague snippets of her working on the gift. He couldn’t place when she had finished it, but it had to be before she became a champion.

‘...She finished the armor, but then she…She withheld it?’

Why in Hylia’s name would she have kept that armor hidden away? And after all the work she put into it! Sidon’s hands clenched into fists. If it had been him, he would have marched that armor to Hyrule Castle and presented it to Link the second it was done. Why did Mipha withhold it? Did she change her mind? Did her feelings for Link change?

Did she...not love Link anymore?

What happened back then? He’d been convinced Mipha had finished the armor with every intent to give it to Link, but then...Why hadn’t she? What if he was making it all up?

But if Mipha had given up on Link...He wouldn’t be disrespecting her by pursuing him.

Sidon rubbed at his eyes, irritably. He was far too tired for this. He couldn’t remember.

But he knew someone who did.

Sidon strode to the steps leading up from the plaza, and headed straight for the throne room. His father would know. King Dorephan would remember why Mipha would have held onto the zora armor. Why she didn’t confess to Link herself.

As he approached, Gruve halted him.

“I’m sorry, sire,” the soldier started, “but the king is in a meeting.”

“Ah, yes…” Sidon stopped, looking up to the entrance with a small frown. “Do you have any idea how long it will take?”

“No, sire. Is it urgent?”

Sidon paused, contemplating. The king was likely having a meeting regarding the lizalfos scourge, and consulting the elders. Something a tad more important than his feelings.

“...No, Gruve. I can wait.”

The prince set off toward the Reservoir. It would be quiet there. He could mull over everything until his father’s time freed up. Over Link. Over Mipha.

If it turned out the king was too busy today, he could sleep on it, and make a well-rested decision in the morning.


 

The prince glared daggers at the ceiling of his bedroom with bloodshot eyes. He grimaced.

“...I suppose I’m not sleeping tonight, either.”


 

Sidon said he could wait, but waiting over a day to speak with his father was vexing.

Sidon stood in front of the throne room, once again, now swaying slightly on his feet. Casting a furtive glance to make sure Gruve wasn’t watching him, Sidon rubbed sleep from his eyes. Or rather, lack of sleep. The stars gleamed at him from above, and the blanket of night enveloped the Domain.

Sidon tried very hard not to yawn.

He didn’t get any sleep, once again, being far too busy fretting over new feelings and old memories. That stroll around the Reservoir ended up haunting his thoughts all night - thoughts of Vah Ruta. Of Link’s fate. Of Mipha’s spirit, still piloting her dear Divine Beast.

Still working to help her beloved.

Meanwhile Sidon stalked through the Domain, trying in vain to find somewhere that didn’t remind him of his sister, or the champion.

Zora don’t need as much sleep as hylians,’ Sidon repeated to himself, recalling his claim to Link. While that was true, the amount was probably only off by a few hours, at most. ‘Ugh. I shouldn’t have lied. Now I’m the one who’s exhausted.’ At the time it made sense - he wanted to rescue his unit, first and foremost. Now that he’d pulled yet another all-nighter, this time fueled by a racing, anxious heart, he felt awful.

‘I suppose it’s karma.

Tottika exited the throne room, saluting to the prince. “Sire, the king will see you now.”

Sidon nodded to him, and entered.

The throne room was one of the few places where Sidon still felt small. He towered over his citizens, but in here, the walls were spread wide. The ceiling vaulted high above, to accommodate the size of the King. Sidon felt miniscule in comparison.

“Ah, Sidon,” King Dorephan greeted him, a wide smile stretching across his face. “I apologize for the delay.”

“Think nothing of it, Father,” Sidon smiled back. “I know you’re quite busy.”

“Now, what is it that you wished to speak about?” the king questioned. “I was told it wasn’t urgent, but you look…” He hummed. “Distressed, to say the least.”

Sidon frowned, realizing he must look as tired as he felt. Hard to stay bright and bushy-tailed when your mind was awake all night, obsessing over guilty feelings.

“I wished to ask about Mipha,” Sidon declared.

Dorephan smile vanished, replaced with a look of concern. “...Mipha?”

“Specifically, why she didn’t give Link the zora armor herself. I...I can’t seem to remember.”

“Ahhh,” the king nodded. He tapped his chin with a finger. “Yes. I do recall her wavering on that decision.”

Why?” Sidon demanded. “Why would she delay in giving him the armor? She completed it before she became champion, didn’t she?”

“You are correct,” Dorephan nodded again. “She did complete the armor beforehand, but she was ever the shy girl. She was reluctant to admit her feelings to anyone, save for you and I.” The king laughed. “Let alone Link himself! Mipha was a valiant warrior in battle, but when it came to addressing her emotions, she was far less courageous. It wouldn’t surprise me if she never gave Link any indication of her feelings.”

“So...she was simply too shy to give him the armor?” Sidon asked, his heart falling. So her feelings didn’t change. She loved Link, but lacked the confidence to follow through. He could believe that, but… “If she truly loved Link so much, why would she hesitate?”

Dorephan regarded Sidon with curiosity. He gestured to the space next to him. “Come closer, son.”

Sidon walked over, sluggishly. Each step drove home how little rest he got the night before. He stopped next to his father, who placed his large hand across Sidon’s shoulders. Sidon was grateful for it. The touch was comforting, and it helped to support him so he didn’t have to stand entirely on his own.

“Now, Sidon,” the king began. His voice was soft, and low. “Tell me - why would Mipha’s decision distress you so?”

Sidon couldn’t look up. His head felt too heavy. Not to mention he felt his lip quivering. He cursed his insomnia. He couldn’t even control his emotions properly, tired as he was. He bit his lip from the inside, attempting to hold it still between his teeth.

“Sidon.”

“...I wish to court Link,” the prince admitted.

“Why, that’s wonderful news!” Dorephan laughed. “And here I thought you’d be dancing around each other another decade before one of you realized.”

“Before I--? Am I truly the last to know these things?!” Sidon snapped. At his father’s alarmed expression, the prince held a hand to his face. “...My apologies, Father.”

The king pat Sidon’s back gently. “This should be a happy occasion. Whatever is the matter?”

“Aren’t I...Am I not dishonoring Mipha?” Sidon asked, his throat tight. “Falling for the man she held so dear?”

The king’s face sobered. “...I see. That’s how you think of it?”

“She wanted to marry him, Father,” Sidon stressed. “She made him zora armor with her own scales. How could I dare to pursue Link, knowing how much she cared for him? Wouldn’t she resent me? She’d hate me for it if she were she still here, wouldn’t she?”

Dorephan contemplated the outburst for a moment. At length, he let out a small sigh. “Sidon, you do a disservice to your sister, but not by having feelings for Link.”

The prince felt as though he’d been doused with ice water. The chill settled in his bones. ‘I’ve already done a disservice…?’ He searched his father’s expression for an answer. There was disappointment, plain as the moon in the night sky overhead. Sidon’s insides twisted.

“I...I don’t understand.”

“You cannot let the specter of your sister dictate your course in life, Sidon.” The king let go of Sidon’s shoulders, moving his hand to grip Sidon’s own. “As much as it pains us all...Mipha is gone. We can sit here and speculate all we like, regarding how she would act were she still here.” He ran his thumb over Sidon’s hands. “But the fact remains that she is no longer with us.”

“That’s the point, Father!” Sidon protested. “Mipha isn’t here, and how can I disrespect her memory, her feelings--”

Sidon.” The king’s voice rumbled, silencing the prince. “There is no way for us to know how she would feel. We can guess, based on how she was in life, but that’s all. Only guesses. We can never know, fully, what she would do, were she to find out you also fell for the hylian champion.”

Sidon looked away, but his hands gripped at his father’s fingers.

“There is one thing I know for certain,” the king continued. “A simple fact, and one that you seem to have forgotten in all your worrying.”

The prince’s eyes flicked to his father, and away again.

“Above all, she loved you, Sidon.”

Sidon squeezed the king’s hand tighter, his chest aching.

“You disrespect her memory by thinking she could ever, truly hate you. Or resent you, for anything. She adored you - her precious little brother.”

Sidon squeezed his eyes shut at the memory of Mipha’s smile. His big sister, always doting. Always happy to spend time with him, even when her duties as champion of the zora cut down on that time. She’d chastise him when he acted too rowdy for a prince, but always with a spark of amusement in her eyes. Heal his wounds whenever he was hurt.

His precious elder sister.

“...Mipha’s chance was stolen from her,” the king murmured. “By her own hesitance, and then by the Calamity.” He leaned down, and tilted Sidon’s head up, to look at him. “While it is considerate to want to honor her memory…”

The king smiled, though it was strained. In his eyes Sidon could see heartache - pain a thousandfold. He could see himself, reflected in his father’s eyes. He looked exhausted. Weary. Miserable. The king’s eyes mirrored that pain. Amplified it.

“I have no desire to see my son lose his chance, as well.” Dorephan sighed again, this time heavily - Sidon could hear a hundred years of hurt in that rush of air. “...It pains me, to see you thinking that you do not deserve happiness because you want to protect your memory of Mipha.”

Dorephan brushed affectionately along Sidon’s crest, and Sidon leaned to it, reaching to grasp his father’s hand once more.

“Then…” Sidon started, swallowing. His throat was tight - too tight to speak clearly. “You don’t believe I would be taking...that which was Mipha’s?” he asked. “Should Link reciprocate my feelings?”

“I do not,” the king responded, his voice firm. “Link is his own person. Whether he chooses you, or Mipha’s memory, or even someone else entirely...That choice is his own decision. You may only make your choice known to him.”

Sidon nodded, eyes downcast. Link would made his own choices. Still, it was well-known at this point that Mipha had loved the champion. Muzu never could keep his mouth shut, and with Link running around in the zora armor...It was likely the whole of Zora’s Domain knew of her affection.

Which meant they knew he fell for his sister’s beloved.

“What else, Sidon?” the king inquired. “I can see you are still troubled.”

“What of the people, Father?” Sidon asked. “I’m the crown prince. The zora look to me to lead them one day.” He placed a hand over his chest, running his claws over the soft material of his cravat. “I can’t know what they would think of me - falling for the same man as my sister…”

“They likely already know, with how you’ve been acting since you met the champion!” Dorephan chuckled. “Knowing you, Sidon, I would think you would have spoken to some of them by now.”

The teasing smirks of his soldier and the innkeepers sprung to mind. “...I have.”

“And?” Dorephan smiled. “How did they react?”

Sidon frowned. “The innkeepers believe Link returns my feelings.” Then he grimaced. “My unit has a wager going for when I’ll confess.”

Dorephan’s voice boomed with a hearty guffaw. “Sidon, my dear son, don’t you see? You are far too hard on yourself.” At Sidon’s continued frown, the king chuckled, gently. “I do not believe you need to worry so. If you are truly that concerned, simply follow the zora courting rituals - Give him some token of your affection, and the like. I doubt any of our people could find fault with you, then.”

Sidon took a breath, though it was unsteady. He could try and find something to give to Link. Court the hylian through the proper form. Doing so would calm the worst-case scenarios. Even the elders, so strong in their hate for hylians, would see Sidon doing things according to their precious traditions. Their opinions could be changed, if he did it right.

Although, there was still one opinion he wasn’t sure about yet.

“You...You sound as though you approve of the courtship, Father,” Sidon spoke tentatively, the words uncertain. “...Does that mean I have your approval?”

“Of course.” Dorephan’s hand was at Sidon’s shoulders again, giving the prince’s back a strong pat. “Link is a marvelous man, and a hero to our people. Plus, it gladdens my heart to see you with him - you light up the Domain with that grin of yours.”

“You’re really fine with this?” Sidon pressed again.

“My wish, dear son,” the king smiled, “is for you to be happy - to find joy in your life, and to live it to the fullest. If Link is the one who brings you that joy...Then I would advise you to pursue him.”

Sidon felt like he could breathe again. His father’s approval. The king’s wish to see him happy came from the bias of fatherhood, Sidon knew, but a small part of him still ached. That wish for Sidon, for him to live, was punctuated all the more by Mipha’s absence.

“...I’ve been selfish, Father,” Sidon muttered. Mipha was gone, and to not live his life - to not take chances at happiness…She protected the Domain until her final breath. Kept them safe. Kept him safe. If he were to hide away now, to fear his own feelings and refuse to live, worrying that it may upset someone who could never return...

Her sacrifice would be in vain.

“...You’re right.” He stood taller, eyes alight with renewed determination. “All I can do is tell Link. I will take my chance.”

Dorephan grinned broadly at his son. “I am glad to hear it. Now, off with you. You still look exhausted.” He gave Sidon’s back one final pat. “Go and get some sleep, my son.”

Sidon mirrored the grin. He dismissed himself, exiting the throne room.

I should go to bed,’ he told himself. He felt lighter now. Less panicked. Still, his mind continued to race - thinking now of a way he could go about actually telling Link how he felt.

There was always the tradition of a token, which would appease the elders at least. He could find something to give to Link as a physical proof of his affection for the champion.

Zora armor was out, of course.

That gift was usually reserved for princesses, anyway. Sidon walked down the steps, heading once more toward the Reservoir.  ‘There has to be something else I could give him,’ he thought. ‘Something useful? Or maybe just decorative.

The biggest problem, he felt, was that Link was an adventurer.

There were plenty of plain things he could give, that would help. Weapons. Gear. Nothing that really accented how special Link was. Plus, he already had Mipha’s Lightscale Trident. Link’s travels brought him all over the map, so the hylian ended up finding the rarest of things all on his own. Nearly extinct flowers. Ancient technology. Star fragments.

Sidon wasn’t sure he even had anything that Link couldn’t find on his own.

As he ascended the steps to the Reservoir, he mulled over the treasures of the Domain. He could always try to make something, but he wasn’t like Mipha - he wouldn’t know the first thing about designing a gift with his own hands. Reaching the top of the stairs, he looked out to the dark water before him. Shatterback Point towered above, reaching to the sky where the moon encroached on midnight.

Perhaps I could give him something of mine,’ Sidon pondered, running his hand over his cravat. It would be a personal gift, yes. Intimate. But was that enough?

As his fingers ran over the insignia of the zora royal family, he stopped. The Zora’s Sapphire was another definitive token, like the zora armor. Precious stones, and one of the most treasured possessions of his race. The original was lost, having disappeared long ago. Something to do with the princess Ruto, if Sidon recalled his history correctly.

...I bet Link could find that sapphire, if I told him I needed it,’ Sidon smirked. It would defeat the purpose of getting Link the gift himself, but Hylia knew the champion had incredible luck with that sort of thing. ‘Maybe a coral earring?’ Sidon crossed his arms over his chest, shutting his tired eyes against the cool breeze coming off the water. ‘That’s supposed to be wonderful for fishing...Wait, no. Link catches fish with his bare hands.’ An earring that served as a fishhook would be useless to the champion. ‘What does Link like?

Food was the first thing that came to mind. Link always loved food.

Sidon groaned in annoyance. That wasn’t good enough at all! This was hard. He’d rather just tell Link, without having to bother with something like a token, but his father was right - his people couldn’t complain if he went about this ‘properly,’ and he would much prefer if they all supported him. He had to make a show as the crown prince. It would have to be something grander than a meal.

He squinted against the wind, which had picked up suddenly. He was too tired. He couldn’t think of anything right now. And, there wasn’t any rush, really. Sidon breathed deep again, willing his nerves to calm. ‘There’s no sense fretting over it now. Link isn’t even back yet, and there are other things to worry about.

Link was off on the other side of Hyrule, fighting Divine Beasts. Although Sidon yearned for the hylian to return, he knew he would have to wait a while longer. In the meantime, he had the Domain to take care of, and lizalfos to thwart.

...That was something he could do.

Sidon knew Link. Knew how the champion always wanted to help wherever he could, and how he’d take on far too much work just to assist. Like he did in Lake Hylia. Link was always worrying about other people’s problems, even with so much on his plate already.

Sidon could ease some of that burden.

If the prince could solve the lizalfos problem, that would be one less thing for Link to worry about. The creatures were already on the ropes as it was - it wouldn’t be a difficult endeavor. The only problem was their General.

Still, Sidon could defeat them. Keep that issue off Link’s back. Keep his people safe at the same time, on his own, as their prince. Then, maybe he could find something among the spoils of battle that he could present to Link. The lizalfos might have something hidden away.

Yes, Sidon decided. He would defeat the lizalfos, and find more ways to ease Link’s duties after that. He smiled to himself, happy with the decision, and looked forward to possibly being able to finally get some rest.

Then a flicker of red rushed past his head.

Sidon’s eyes widened. The air was red. Dark flecks flitted on the wind, like bits of ash, but they glowed eerily. Sidon looked up, at the night sky. The clouds sped across his vision, and a deep crimson hue blocked out the starlight. Sidon’s lips parted in a snarl, but the noise was immediately drowned out by a ghastly roar. The prince cursed his luck. He should have expected this. Should have known their winning streak wouldn’t last for much longer. Defeating the lizalfos just became an enormous undertaking. Every one of the creatures their army had slain, all the monsters in the temple at Lake Hylia...

They had all just been revived by the Blood Moon.

Chapter Text

Link checked his Sheikah Slate for what seemed like the hundredth time since he entered the forest. ‘They weren’t joking when they named this place the Lost Woods,’ he griped to himself. He went around and around again, constantly getting caught in swirling fog that seemed to have a mind of its own. The icon indicating his position blinked on the screen of his slate. The surrounding area was covered by trees. He was somewhere on the eastern side of the forest. With a sigh, Link put the slate back on his belt. Glaring at the ornate torch in front of him, he looked past it, into the dark woods. There were more torches. He could see them. He could even reach some of them.

With a grumble, he set off again, following the line of torches as quickly as he could. Maybe this time it would work. Maybe this time the fog wouldn’t snatch him up again, and mysteriously leave him at the entrance.

He reached the final torch. Or, the final torch he’d been able to get to. There was another he could see, off in the distance. It was spaced further away than the rest, and every time he tried to approach it, the fog had rolled in.

Not this time,’ he told himself. ‘This time I’m just gonna run.

His mouth set in a determined frown, Link bolted for the torch. He could reach it. It was right there. He could see the damn thing.

Then the fog creeped around him, and flooded his vision in white.

Dammit!” Link yelled, finding himself, once again, at the starting torch. ‘Nothing works. How the hell am I supposed to get through here?!’ He could hear the sound of wind chimes, echoing bizarrely from every direction. A part of him leaned toward giving up. Move on. Get going to Rito Village already.

The rest of him urged him to stay.

Something was here, in these woods. He knew it. The rumors of a legendary sword hadn’t escaped his notice - The Master Sword. The blade that seals the darkness.

His sword.

At least, it had been his a hundred years ago. He wasn’t certain he was still the ‘chosen one,’ now. The Master Sword might have given up on him, after all this time.

Link shook his head. He’d find out soon enough, once he found the sword. First he had to navigate through these woods. He took a few steps toward the next closest torch, finding that the fog left him alone. He continued onward, making his way slowly, eyeing the swirling mists with distrust and sheer aggravation. He was sick of fog.

At the final torch he could reach, he stopped. Looked around. There was that other torch, just beyond where he could get to, once again. No other torches around.

Which way am I supposed to go?

A startled yip caught his attention, and he spotted a fox a few paces away. It stood at the base of a gnarled tree, watching him with wary eyes. Its fur was a bright, fiery orange against the dark brown bark.

That’s the first animal I’ve seen in here,’ Link thought to himself. He stared back at it, and the little creature didn’t move. Only watched. Waited. Link’s brows furrowed. ‘What is it doing? Normally it’d run off by now…’ Foxes were skittish no matter how quiet he was. This one just stayed there, like it didn’t know it was supposed to fear hylians.

Then, a thought occurred to Link.

He could follow it.

It lives in these woods. It must know it’s way around.’ Nothing else seemed to work, anyway. Following a native of the woods was worth a shot. The champion took a step closer to the animal, and it immediately ran in the other direction. Link cursed again, and chased after it.

The fox whipped through the trees easily, shifting direction sharply, almost at a whim. Link could barely keep up. He hopped over several large roots, skidding as he tried to change direction as quickly as the fox. It dashed downhill, and Link slid on the damp grass. He came to a halt in a small clearing - the trees here were so twisted, they almost looked like they had faces. Hollows in the trunks served as wide, gaping mouths, with sharp fangs and eerie, gleeful grins.  Link spun around, looking beyond them, into the woods. Everything was dark, with an eerie blue-green hue.

No sign of the fox.

Link groaned. The little animal was gone. He was further into the woods than he had gotten before, but he had no idea where to go now. He pulled out his Sheikah Slate again, bringing up his map. He was somewhere on the western portion of the forest now, close to the middle.

...Which told him absolutely nothing.

The hylian spun around, trying to find some path that was different than the expanse of grass, and trees, and Hylia-damned fog. Everything looked the same. Wind chimes rang in the distance again. Where, he had no clue. He couldn’t even follow the sound.

I’m not even supposed to be here.’ Link let out an irritated huff. He should be in Rito Village, but no, he wanted to try and get his old sword back. He didn’t expect to waste hours wandering around the woods with nothing to show for it. ‘If I lose my way again,’ he thought, ‘I’m leaving. I’m done. Not dealing with this shit.’ He would just leave the woods, head west to Hebra, and try to figure out where Rito Village was.

Decision made, Link marched off in the direction he believed would lead him farther into the middle of the woods - after all, if there was something here, it would most likely be in the center. He trudged up the hill, glaring at the fog that danced a few feet away, inwardly daring it to try and engulf him again. If it did, and he had to come back and do all of this again…

Maybe next time I’ll just burn the woods to the ground. Then walking through it will be easy.’

He probably wasn’t supposed to set fire to the most mysterious and sacred forest in Hyrule, but at the moment he didn’t much care. He reached the top of the hill and continued, never straying from the straight line he was making through the woods.

Then, he saw a torch.

His groan at seeing the blasted apparatus was cut short at the sight of a second torch, very close to the first. It almost looked like they were on a platform of sorts.

The entrance to the deeper part of the woods, perhaps.

Re-energized by the idea that he might have actually made it through the mazelike forest, Link’s march became a light jog. He focused on the closest torch with a grin. Finally, he’d be out of this nonsense. He could probably find a shrine inside the deep woods. Just warp in and out from now on. He would never have to wander around this forest ever again.

Then, the fog rolled in.

Link screamed. That was it. This forest was going to burn now. He pulled his bow from his back, drawing a fire arrow. He didn’t care anymore. Something was going to burn once this fog cleared.

His eyes locked onto a wide, sloping hill that led into the dark. Deeper into the woods. Just where he wanted to go.

Link put his bow on his back, walking downward with a baffled expression. Had the fox led him the right way after all? Or was it the threat of getting burnt down that convinced the forest to just magically lead him here?

He could hear laughter on the wind.

The sound reminded him of koroks. The strange little wooden sprites had a fairly distinctive laugh. Link looked around, half-expecting to see a rock out of place, or a small spinning pinwheel. The koroks were everywhere, and yet, it seemed only he could see them. He tried taking a picture of one, once, and the Sheikah Slate hadn’t even registered that something was there. Link frowned, as he descended further down the hill. The koroks were cute. He wished he could show them to people. Sidon would love the little pranksters.

Of course, that was assuming he could ever show his face to Sidon again.

Link flushed at the memory of his hasty departure. Goddess, that had been the most awkward exit of his life. At least, the most awkward exit he could remember. Link’s frown deepened. He ran away. Ran away from the camp of zora without a word. Sure, he had to go calm Divine Beasts, and the unwelcome reminder only served to pinpoint his procrastination, but to just run off and make a fool of himself in front of Sidon? To just awkwardly blush and leave?

“I always look forward to your company.”

The hylian rolled his eyes at his own overreaction. It wasn’t like Sidon said anything different from usual. And yet...His hand flexed in the empty air, remembered Sidon’s gentle grip. The concern in his eyes.

I truly only wanted to help - to protect you somehow.

Link could feel his ears going red. He was the Hero. He did the protecting. It was on him to keep everyone safe, and Sidon wanted to flip that dynamic completely. Wanted to protect Link. It was radically different from what the champion was used to.

...It was nice.

Come on, it’s Sidon,’ Link reminded himself. ‘He’s probably just...He’s always like that.’ The prince was kind to every person he came across. Almost overly nice, even if the people he was talking to weren’t friendly themselves. He’d befriend them anyway, whether they liked it or not.

Sidon could probably befriend a lizalfos, if he really wanted to.

‘That’s just the guy he is,’ the champion reaffirmed. Sidon cared about people. Cared about his friends. ‘He’s not treating me any different than anyone else. He’s just being nice because I’m his friend.

Link stopped walking, coming to a large, hollow tree trunk. He looked beyond it, where light filtered in through the leaves - there was a clearing on the other side. Link could hardly see it. His vision blurred.

‘...Shit.

Link blinked, trying to dispel the threat of tears puddling in his eyelids. The thought of being nothing more than Sidon’s friend stung much more than he expected. It hurt, considering how special Sidon was. The prince was supportive. Wonderful. Sidon was a fierce, impressive warrior, and yet still the most tender-hearted person Link had met. That confident grin was like an anchor - Sidon was stability in this torn up, unpredictable land.

Not to mention the prince was gorgeous. Those bright scales and golden gaze were starting to haunt the champion’s dreams.

Link brought a hand to his face, rubbing at his eyes. Rubbing away the dampness there. The effort did nothing to dispel the memory of Sidon’s surprisingly sheepish expression - that adorable, passionate awkwardness when he’d expressed his desire to protect Link. The champion brought his other hand up, burying his face in his palms. He groaned. He could feel the heat of his cheeks through his gloves.

Too cute. Dammit, he’s too cute.’ He couldn’t handle Sidon being adorable. It was all he could do to just shove his face against the zora’s shoulder, at the time. Sidon’s expression had been too sweet to bear. Too genuine. The zora never bothered hiding his emotions, it seemed, always at one-hundred percent intensity. Brighter than the sun, and warmer still.

Link wanted to bask in that warmth.    

Cut it out. He’s just your friend. One of Link’s hands dropped to his side, balling into a fist. The other stayed hovering over his mouth. ‘...I need to get a grip.

Sidon was out of his reach. Every time he wanted to simply spend time with the prince, there was some reminder of his duty. Divine Beasts to stop. Master Sword to find.

Hero business.

He didn’t have time for his feelings. Link’s jaw clenched, taking in the sight of the clearing properly. The sun was bright here, and everything so green. The color was deeper here - somehow even more saturated than the more peaceful fields of Hyrule. Those fields were left relatively untouched for a hundred years. This clearing, so isolated, was probably left alone even longer. The leaves, and the grass, and every plant Link could see looked almost unnatural in their intense color. Otherworldly, even.

A korok’s laughter echoed through the air again.

Beyond the trees was his sword, in all likelihood. The blade that bound him to his duty.

‘...duty first,’ he chastised himself, walking forward.


 Link exited the Slippery Falcon, patting his near-empty purse. He certainly hadn’t needed the extra arrows, but extra bomb arrows weren’t something he could resist. Teba, his new ally in the effort against Vah Medoh, had already given him twenty, but he could never be too prepared. Bomb arrows were rare, and they were useful.

Still, the purchase served to slash his already-dwindling funds.

I could go back to Hebra after this,’ Link thought. ‘Hunt for gourmet meat or something.’ The skewers he cooked always fetched him a high price, but the thought of going through Hebra again put a grimace on his face. Hebra. Why in Hylia’s name had he thought going through Hebra would be a good idea? Turning to head higher up the winding staircase of Rito Village, Link readjusted the collar of his new Snowquill Tunic. The material was wonderfully warm after his trek through the snowy mountains, and would have been extremely useful if he’d just had the sense to come here first.

Above, Vah Medoh let out an angry caw. Link glared up at it, taking the stairs two at a time. ‘Yeah, yeah, I hear you,’ Link grumbled inwardly. He supposed the fact that Vah Medoh was so noisy was a blessing in disguise - the noise and angry red of Ganon’s blight had allowed him to find Rito Village while paragliding through a damn blizzard after all.

Still, he was never coming here through Hebra again. Never.

The hylian stopped at Revali’s Landing, walking to the edge of the platform. He could just make out the sight of the Flight Range - the snow-covered mountains were bright under the moonlight. Teba was waiting for him there. Or, at least, he should be. Link briefly wondered if the rito warrior might actually be asleep, considering how late it was.

Honestly, he should be getting some sleep. But how could he, with a Divine Beast practically on top of him?

Link looked down at the large lake below. It was a sheer drop, and Vah Medoh’s shadow engulfed huge sections - as though another beast lurked beneath. ‘There could be something down there,’ Link reasoned, thinking back on the lizalfos base in Lake Hylia. ‘For all I know, there’s another whole temple.’ This land was huge, and he couldn’t even explore all of it.

Even though he was supposed to save all of it.

The Master Sword pulsed on his back, sensing Ganon’s Blight was nearby. As the Divine Beast shifted position, drifting further away, the glow stopped. The blade wasn’t strong enough to keep up its full power. Link rolled his shoulders, irritably.

The sword was heavy.

Was it always so heavy?’ the hylian wondered, half-tempted to switch back to carrying his claymore. Somehow that sword strained his shoulders less. With a sigh, Link pulled out his paraglider, eager to go see if Teba was still awake. The sooner he got this area settled, the sooner he could move onto the next. ‘Finish Vah Medoh, then Naboris,’ he reminded himself. Then he could attend to other things while preparing to fight Calamity Ganon. Finish up some odd-jobs he’d picked up along the way. Find more shrines. Check up on people.

Check up on Sidon.

The hylian grimaced as his cheeks warmed. Check on the zora. He meant to check on the zora. As a whole. Not just a single one. They had an army to take out the lizalfos, so they should be fine, but it wouldn’t hurt to make sure they were doing alright.

Sidon told me to visit anyway,’ Link reasoned. He watched the starlight sparkle on the water below, wondering just how steep the drop was. As far as Shatterback? Further? He couldn’t tell in the dark. Couldn’t even take a picture to bring back and show Sidon --

Stop thinking about Sidon,’ he chastised himself. He knew better, and yet his focus kept getting worse. He had the Master Sword now. Link rolled his shoulders again, shifting to try and fix the blade into a more comfortable position. ‘I have my sword. I’m in Rito Village. Focus on the damn Divine Beast.’ Focus on his duty, not red scales, and bright grins, and warmth, and confidence, and support…

...Hylia damn it.’

“Link?”

The champion startled, turning to spot a bright lavender Rito staring at him. The longest feathers of her wings curled against her chest, and her gaze dropped to her feet. The large, golden hoops framing her face jingled with the motion.

‘...Teba’s wife?’ Link turned fully to face her. ‘Saki, I think she said.’ He inclined his head toward her, and when she didn’t move, cleared his throat. “...Saki?”

Hesitantly, Saki met the hylian’s gaze again. “I’m sorry, I’m not quite sure what to...You’re going to go meet Teba now, aren’t you?”

Link nodded.

“I thought so.” She took a few steps forward. Near the edge of the landing, she paused, taking in the same sights Link had been watching moments ago. The rito tilted her head toward Link. “You seemed a bit distracted,” she said, a light chuckle in her voice. The tone turned teasing. “Were you thinking of someone special?”

Link was certain he now resembled a spicy pepper. ‘How did she--?!’ Thoroughly flustered, the hylian averted his gaze, rubbing the back of his neck with his hand.

“Hmm, I thought as much,” Saki chuckled. “What you’re doing is very brave, but...It’s also extremely dangerous. It makes sense you’d be thinking of those dearest to you.”

Link frowned, although the expression was mostly directed at himself. ‘Those dearest to me…

“Have you told them?” Saki asked.

Link’s eyes widened. Tell them? Tell Sidon?How am I supposed to tell him how I feel when I ran away from him?

At Link’s panicked silence, Saki turned away, her eyes on the landscape. “...You should.”

“It’s...a little...It’s complicated,” Link managed to mutter.

“It’s never as complicated as you lead yourself to believe,” Saki countered. “It’s important to tell your loved ones that you care.” The rito leaned forward a bit, as though she’d take another step to leap off the landing and fly into the night, but suddenly stopped. Her eyes could have burned a hole in the snow.

Link followed her gaze. The only structure out there was the Flight Range, where Teba was.

Something clicked.

“Going to see Teba?” Link asked.

Saki’s eyes shined in the starlight. “I...I don’t want him to lose his focus right before you two…” There was a sharp intake of breath, and suddenly Saki was blinking rapidly. She shook her head, covering the tip of her beak with her feathers.

Link’s brows knitted in concern. ‘...Is she about to cry?

“I’m sorry, Link!” Saki huffed, fanning at her eyes. “I shouldn’t be telling you what to do - it’s not my business what you tell your special someone or not.” Her eyes narrowed, expression torn between a wince and a smile. “...I think I’m projecting, a bit.”

“About Teba,” Link concluded.

Saki nodded. “I...Before he holed himself up in the Flight Range, I didn’t get a chance to say anything beyond ‘be careful.’ That’s not very…” She sighed. “...Harth nearly lost his life fighting Vah Medoh and now…” Her feathers curled again, and her eyes shut.

Link’s fingers twitched, unsure of what to do. Saki kept her eyes closed. When she opened them again, Link could see the worry, and the pain, but a glimmer of stern determination soon engulfed them.

“He’ll be alright,” she decided. “I know you two can do it.” She shifted, patting Link lightly on the shoulder. Her eyes crinkled in a smile, and she moved to leave. “...I should get going.”

As she walked away, Link looked from Saki to the Flight Range, and back again. ‘She just wants to talk to him…’ He frowned again, jogging after the rito. “Saki!”

She turned back, her eyes wide in questioning.

“I’ll...Tell Teba,” he started. At the rito’s look of confusion, Link explained, “Whatever you want to say. I’ll tell him.”

Saki blinked, and then let out a short, surprised laugh. “Goodness, I should have thought of just asking you to in the first place!” She placed her head in the crook of her wing. “...I’m a mess tonight.” Eventually, she nodded to the hylian. “Could you tell Teba... Tell him I’ll see him when he comes home.” She glanced in the direction of her dwelling. “Tulin might be asleep still, when you two get back, but…” Her eyes shimmered again, and her voice strained. “...Please tell Teba that I’ll wait for him.”

Link locked eyes with her, his face stern. “I will.”

“...Thank you, Link.”

With a final nod, Saki turned to leave. As she departed, Link moved back to the edge of the landing. The wind whipped around him, chilling his face.

Focus,’ he thought. ‘This is why you’re here.’

The hylian adjusted his paraglider, and then leapt off the landing. The air rushed around him as he flew. He would land just below the Flight Range, if he was estimating his descent right. Then it was off to see Teba. Off to fight Vah Medoh.

Lives are at stake.’ Not just his, rushing headfirst into danger. Not just soldiers fighting to defend their homelands. Civilian lives. Husbands. Wives. Children. He had to take care of the Divine Beasts. Finish off those Blights of Ganon’s. Defeat Ganon himself. Defeat every monster he came across along the way, if only to make Hyrule a little safer.

Monsters like lizalfos. Goddess, he could see the bastards hiding among the snow from up here.

How many are there?’

Link shook his head, hands gripping tighter on the handles of his paraglider. No. Vah Medoh first. Then he can check on lizalfos. Duty first, then monsters.

...Then Sidon.

Saki was right. He couldn’t just not tell the prince about his feelings for the rest of his life. But now was not the time. After Ganon, he decided. He’d tell Sidon how he felt after he defeated Calamity Ganon.

Once there was peace in Hyrule again, and once the clouds of pure malice around the castle were banished. He could tell Sidon under a clear sky - one that was bright, and blue, with no threat of ancient demons spreading their hatred on the wind. No red light from Ganon’s blights.

It was everywhere, that light. Link could have sworn his vision was going, seeing so much red around him.

No wait,’ he thought, turning his head. The land below him was crimson, when only moments ago, the snow had been a pale white. The mountains looked as though they were covered in sheets of blood.

‘...That’s...That’s not from Medoh.

Red flecks flitted around him, dancing through the rushing wind.

Link’s gaze snapped upward, eyes wide. He couldn’t see properly with the paraglider blocking his view of the sky, so he tried tilting himself - there had to be some angle where he could confirm what he was seeing, much as he didn’t want to see it. Twisting in the air, he nearly lost his grip, hanging on just long enough to realize he’d turned himself right into a collision course with a series of jagged rocks. The hylian dropped to the ground below with a heavy grunt. Spinning around, he looked up.

There, rising rapidly, was the blood moon.

Link’s thoughts spun wildly. The blood moon would revive the lizalfos around Zora’s Domain. The ones in Lake Hylia. All the efforts of the zora would be reduced to nothing within a few minutes.

How could I be so stupid?!’

He felt like screaming. He should have accounted for the blood moon. Should have known it would rise again sooner than he could defeat Ganon.

I could’ve routed the whole temple,’ he realized. ‘I should have. Should’ve routed them all - blocked the entrance. Something!Leaving the zora to deal with the lizalfos had seemed fine, at the time. Their army could handle the scattered remnants that had been left. But all the lizalfos, revived at the same time, with plans for an ambush already in place? Zora’s Domain wasn’t safe.

Sidon wasn’t safe.

Just as the blood moon reached its peak, Vah Medoh flew across it - A monstrous silhouette against a bright red sky. The Divine Beast let out a screech, amplified a thousandfold by the roar of the Calamity. The sheer force of the combined calls reverberated through Link’s bones. He shoved his hands over his ears, willing the thick fabric of his gloves to muffle the noise.

Then, the world went silent.

“The blood moon rises once again.

Zelda’s voice was clear in Link’s head. Urgent. Pleading. The champion stared at the sky with a grimace. The blood moon. Vah Medoh. Both called for action. Immediate, if he could manage it. But the actions required were a world apart - Could he calm Vah Medoh and make it back to the Domain before the ambush? Could he rout the lizalfos before Medoh pointed its cannons at Rito Village, instead of just those who flew too close? How much time did he even have?

“Please be careful, Link…”

“Link? That you?”

The hylian turned, spotting Teba among the rocks - his white feathers nearly blended into the snow. He was armed - a bow slung across his back and a quiver full of arrows. Link stared at him, at a loss.

“If you’re ready, then let’s get a move on,” Teba grunted, gesturing back toward the Flight Range.

Now he didn’t have a choice. Vah Medoh would be dealt with first. His duty as Champion came first. Link gave one last glance at the moon before following the rito. ‘Sidon…’  As he climbed further and met up with Teba, his teeth clenched. ‘I’m sorry. I’ll be there soon. Please just...just wait a little longer…’ His throat tightened. He felt like he was choking. Drowning, even if he was nowhere near the water.

“You sure you’re ready?” Teba asked, leading the hylian to the Flight Range.

Link’s mouth opened, but he knew better. He couldn’t manage words right now. Not when it was so hard to even breathe. His mouth shut, and he gave Teba a curt nod.

They reached the landing, where they agreed to start their flight toward the Divine Beast. Teba turned fully toward Link, and then knelt. He waved behind him, at his back. “Right. Get on.”


 The air was freezing. Link knew his fingers would be numb already if it weren’t for his new clothes. They felt a bit numb anyway - his arms felt disconnected from the rest of him. Teba was telling him something, but he could barely hear over the rushing air.

They were slightly above Medoh now, and the Beast covered itself in an eerie, pinkish glow. Cannons cranked and whirled in their direction, preparing to shoot them out of the sky for daring to come close. Teba dove quickly, narrowly avoiding a blast. He flew further out of range, to regroup.

The rito signalled to Link - it was time to split up. Teba would draw the Beast’s cannonfire while Link pelted the Beast with bomb arrows.

Have to hurry this up,’ Link told himself. ‘People are waiting--’ He stopped, having been just about to leap from Teba to fly toward Medoh on his paraglider. ‘Waiting... Saki.His throat wasn’t clenching quite so tightly now that he was actually doing something. He could breathe again. Talk again, if he was lucky. He’d nearly forgotten to tell Teba. Link clapped the Rito on the shoulder, leaning closer to his head.

“Saki said she’s waiting!” Link shouted.

Teba looked surprised for a moment, and then his wings came down in a hard, confident flap. “She won’t be waiting long,” he shouted back. “Let’s go!” He tilted, soaring back toward the Divine Beast.

Link waited until Medoh had locked its cannons onto Teba, and then jumped. He drew his bow from his back. The bomb arrows flew in a perfect arc, landing directly onto the nearest canon. Link unfurled his paraglider soon after, watching the bits of metal explode beneath him with a relieved smile.

Easy.’

Taking out the cannons was easy. Getting to the cannons took longer than he liked. He couldn’t just flap harder, like Teba - he’d have to glide between the cannons to get close enough to destroy them. Gliding was slow. Agonizingly slow. Link alternated between his bow and his paraglider, desperately trying to avoid both the cannonfire, and running out strength to glide at all.

Eventually, the last cannon was destroyed. Teba exchanged a brief good-bye - after having taken some damage himself, the rito was heading home, leaving Link to deal with the Blight overtaking the Beast. Link soared down to the tail, landing heavily.

He drew the Master Sword. It glowed in his hand with a soft, blue light. The weight of it pulled on his arm, as though trying to spur him into action.

Suddenly, a voice cut through the noise of wind and Medoh’s mechanisms. “Well now, I’ve seen that face before.” The tone was teasing, but not without a hint of derision.

Revali.’ Link chest tightened. It was good to hear the Rito Champion, but at the same time...Link’s fingers clenched around the handle of his sword. Revali was stuck here. Like Daruk. Like Mipha. Stuck here since Calamity Ganon woke, and Link was put to sleep.

“I had a feeling you would show up eventually,” Revali commented. “...But making me wait a hundred years is a bit...indulgent.

Link’s stomach felt like a rock had been dropped into his stomach. He made Revali wait. Made Daruk wait. Mipha. Zelda.

‘Sidon…’

He made everyone wait. He was still doing it, even now.

They’ve been waiting long enough.

Link ran, heading into the belly of Vah Medoh.

 

Chapter Text

‘...I may have been a tad overzealous with this plan,’ Sidon admitted to himself.

The prince was almost entirely submerged - eyes just popping out of the water of Lake Hylia. Lizalfos were everywhere, running about. Yelling orders. The dawn was coming, and Farosh was disappearing into the early morning sky. Sullen lizalfos soldiers were departing from their stations on the bridge, while others were set to gather the arrows they’d tossed at the dragon. Those arrows were still normal, as far as the zora could tell. Sidon stayed by the waterfall where he and Link had camped, hoping his reconnaissance wouldn’t backfire spectacularly.

I knew there would be many more lizalfos after the blood moon, but this is…’ Sidon frowned. There had to be at least twenty on the bridge alone. Twice that patrolling the water. He’d avoided the few stationed close to the Domain by speeding along the river, but their numbers were higher than he liked. ‘How many times has Link culled this area?’ he wondered. The champion must have been hanging around Lanaryu and periodically slaying the monsters. Or, they’d been gathering allies. Whatever happened, there were far more of them than he expected to find, with who knows how many hiding in their Temple. Sidon’s frown became a grimace, and he glared up at the bridge.

I should have brought the others,’ he thought. Diving into the river right after the blood moon wasn’t the brightest idea he’d ever had, but he wanted to see what the zora were up against. The group at the bridge began to yap loudly - their growls irritated and impatient. Sidon couldn’t take on that many by himself, even if they were distracted amongst themselves. The prince sighed underwater. ‘...Perhaps I should have waited.’

A blue lizalfos gave another angry yap, and Sidon realized the monster was leading some argument amongst its companions. The group yelled along with the blue, standing in a half circle around something, too far away for Sidon to tell what they were saying. He swam slowly, cautiously, edging as close as he dared. The zora stayed along the cliffline, ready to dart back to the waterfall and upstream. The lizalfos were still blocking something from view, but they appeared to be shouting at it.

...Your lies will keep us from our victory! Where are my arrows? You villain, you cad!” the blue chanted in Lizal. The other lizalfos grumbled in agreement.

I never deceive, I have my honor!” a higher-pitched growl sounded from behind the crowd.

They’re arguing with another lizalfos?’ Sidon realized. ‘Throwing arrows at Farosh isn’t working still...That’s good, at least.’ So was arguing amongst themselves - the lizalfos having high numbers would be manageable if they were still disorganized as ever.

And yet you fail at such a simple task! Our arrows are weak, and still have no spark!” the blue screeched.

Gerald led us down this path of weakness!” a green croaked, pointing at the unseen culprit. “It was your instruction that ruined us!

Sidon tilted his head in the water. Gerald. The name sounded vaguely familiar...

I tried it for myself, and it flew true! This villainy is not of my doing,” the higher pitched voice, Gerald, countered. “When the arrow struck its mark, I saw it! A shocking arrow, with the spark of death, a scale from the hide of the mighty beast, an arrow of wood, with no destruction. These all fell in front of my sight, my friends!

And can you replicate this mighty feat?” the blue demanded.

A hush fell upon the group. Sidon watched as several members in the half-circle began to cross their arms, or tap their feet in impatience.

Sidon’s eyes narrowed. ‘A shock arrow, a scale, and…arrow of wood. Another arrow?’ A single arrow and a scale made sense, but it spawned a second arrow? That couldn’t be right, unless perhaps one of the others had also thrown an arrow. ‘...Wait, perhaps not thrown, but…’ Suddenly, the prince recalled Link mentioning his own experience shooting at the dragon.

Sidon held back a laugh. He had a sneaking suspicion that original shock arrow might have been the hero’s, rather than this Gerald creature’s. At the very least, they couldn’t recreate the event. Not without Link, anyway.

Of course,” the blue yapped. “Worthless intel from a worthless lizard. His arrows are weak, his camouflage fails - And yet he thinks he can assist our cause.

What?! My camouflage is exceptional!” Gerald piped up again. The group burst into loud, rough cackling.

Ha! He crouches and thinks himself unseen.

A deluded sap with lies in his mind.

My skills are just as skillful as your skills!” Gerald’s angry shriek rose above the cacophony.

The blue turned, waving its hand dismissively. “It has no bearing on the task at hand. Since Ganon’s might has brought our force to strength, and fallen comrades rise to aid our cause, your foolishness will damn our cause no more.” It began to lead its fellows toward the water, and Sidon backed away, pressing himself against the cliff.

Don’t jump in the water,’ Sidon pleaded silently. The blue stopped right at the edge of the cliff, with the claws of its feet digging into the dirt. It crouched, preparing to leap into the lake. Sidon bit at his lip with worry. ‘...I should have waited.’

Your time of comfort has come to an end,” the blue growled, turning its head back to address Gerald. “The General shall see you as you are - Your sniveling cowardice cannot hide. My report will prove your weakness and lies!” It jumped, splashing into the water and swimming rapidly southward.

Sidon sank under the water, slowly, trying not to make any extra noise as the rest of the group followed the blue. He watched from below the surface as they swam further and further away. ‘Yes, just keep swimming toward the temple. Don’t turn back,’ Sidon urged. His eyes darted around him, looking for rocks under the water that he might be able to hide behind should the group turn and look back, but there was nothing.

After a few moments of cursing his utter lack of forethought, and a few more of regretting his idiotic decision to come to the lake, Sidon realized the group had no intention of looking back. Or, for that matter, waiting for Gerald. All the lizalfos that had swam off seemed to belong to the blue’s group - none appeared as though they’d just been ridiculed. Sidon looked around the water. No sign of a straggler.

...This Gerald person must be on the cliff, still,’ the prince thought. He looked up, not seeing anything but the distorted view of the cliff and the sky above. ‘...I might be able to head back to the Domain. At least I can report that they still don’t have more shock arrows.

Sidon resurfaced, turning his head to spot any other soldiers heading toward the bridge. Fortunately, there were none.

Candis, your arrogance leads you astray!”

Sidon startled, and looked up, not seeing anyone by the edge. The voice, however, had been unmistakably the high pitch of Gerald.

Curse your words, I know what my eyes have seen!” the lizalfos grumbled from above. His voice was getting quieter - further away, as Gerald walked along the edge of the cliff.

Toward the waterfall.

Sidon cursed his luck, and his split-second bravado. Rash. Too rash. ‘I’ll do Link a lot of good by getting myself captured here,’ he inwardly groused. ‘Maybe I can still swim past…

That idea was dashed as soon as he spotted lizalfos legs dangle over the side of the cliff - right between Sidon and the direction of the waterfall. Gerald had a perfect vantage of the lake, and Sidon, if the zora tried to swim past. Rather than despair, however, Sidon was caught off-guard by the sight of Gerald’s legs.

The lizalfos had bright blue and orange scales.

In fact, the colors had to be the brightest Sidon had ever seen on a lizalfos. The blue might be closer to cyan - not quite the same color as a luminous stone, but just as vivid. Link may have seen some with such coloring, but it certainly didn’t look like a color from a Lanaryu lizalfos. The prince stared a moment at the clawed toes, baffled.

They ridicule him for not being able to camouflage and he’s...that obnoxiously bright?

Great Ganon, I implore you, curse Candis!” Gerald called out onto the lake. “Let her face reveal her shame for her words! A foot! A foot! A foot upon her face! Let her friends and jokes adore her foot face!

Sidon tread water beneath the pair of legs, which were now swinging back and forth with glee.

Let her tongue break forth with toes and a heel!” Gerald amended with a yap. “If my failures are brought to Isolda, her voice will pound upon me like a rock...

 Sidon felt a pang of pity. The fellow was at a serious disadvantage, if that coloring was any indication. He clearly didn’t have the respect of his peers, either. The prince waited for another round of curses, but instead heard a heavy sigh.

Listen to yourself - you speak nonsense, sir. The Great Ganon does not have time for you...

Sidon heard shuffling, and the legs retreated. Suddenly, a large blue and orange body leapt off the cliff, and into the water. Sidon pressed his back against the rock behind him in surprise. He was just about to try ducking under the water again, when he noticed that Gerald wasn’t heading in the direction of the Temple.

Gerald was heading closer to the waterfall.

Apparently Sidon was being punished for jumping into action without thinking today - the lizalfos beelined right for one of the larger rocks by the waterfall. Sidon’s spirit sank along with his body. ‘I could try to sneak by him…’ he thought, lowering further under the water. Sidon looked around. The lake was fairly clear today. He was bright red. He would stand out just as much as this lizalfos, if not more so. With a quiet groan, Sidon resurfaced, spying Gerald splayed out on the rock.

I shall prove their falsehoods false! With vast skill! They can search forever, but I shall hide!” the lizalfos declared, crouching down and placing his hands over his eyes. “With camouflage so great, and stealth unmatched, Isolda cannot scorn what is concealed!”

Sidon stared, half-expecting the lizalfos to look up and spot him in the water. The other half expected Gerald to actually blend into the rock. When neither happened, the zora relaxed, marginally. ‘I might be fast enough to swim past him, if he has his eyes closed like that.’ Doing so would startle the lizalfos, of course, but Sidon would be long gone by the time Gerald could sound the alert. Even Isolda would be too far off - the report would come too late, and Sidon could get back to the Domain. The prince was about to kick off, when a thought occurred to him.

Isolda.

The other lizalfos referred to her as ‘the general.’ General Isolda. Always by rank. Never with familiarity.

This one just called her ‘Isolda.’

...how close is he to the general?’ Sidon pondered, regarding the bright lizalfos with newfound curiosity. Gerald was close enough that he called her by name. Close enough that, even though he couldn’t camouflage, he was still an active soldier.

Close enough that the general bought into a crackpot idea like throwing arrows at a dragon.

Sidon squinted at the lizalfos. Cyan and orange was painfully obvious on the bland gray of the rock he crouched on. Gerald was average-sized for his kind. Too big for Sidon to simply grab and drag back to the Domain with him. Not to mention the journey would be far more treacherous if he was trying to transport a hostage, especially with nothing to bind him. He regretted not grabbing his net before leaving the Domain. If Gerald was so close to the general, then he had to have at least somewhat valuable information.

He might know what Isolda’s end-goal was.

The zora swam, edging closer to the lone lizalfos. There had to be a way to get information out of Gerald, but how could he do it without raising an alarm? Sidon might be able to grab him - force the lizalfos underwater where the zora would have the advantage - but that wouldn’t convince Gerald to talk. The method didn’t sit well with Sidon, either.

All this fighting...It’s getting us nowhere.’ Sidon would prefer to just discuss issues, but lizalfos weren’t ones for speaking peaceably. ‘...Although...this one is only cursing his enemies, instead of actually attacking them.’ He didn’t seem entirely aligned with his fellows.

Maybe he could try talking to Gerald.

At any rate, he was pushing his luck by simply staying in the lake. Sidon wasn’t eager to stay, but he wasn’t sure if he would get another chance like this - obtaining more information from a lizalfos close to Isolda was too good to pass up. He might be able to push his luck just a tiny bit more...

But how to approach…?

Gerald remained in his crouched position, as though assured he was blending in perfectly to his environment. His hands stayed over his eyes. The scene reminded Sidon of some of the youngest zora playing hide-and-seek, determined that if they couldn’t see you, then you couldn’t see them. Whenever he caught one of the little ones doing it, he always reacted the same way.

He played along.

That trick can’t possibly work on a grown lizalfos though…’ Sidon pouted at Gerald, who was peeping through one hand to look at the fish darting around below. ‘...can it?’  He had plenty of practice appeasing the zora children in their games, but lizalfos were an entirely different matter.

Gerald continued to watch the fish, giving no indication that he knew he was being observed. In fact, he looked almost peaceful. Relaxed.

He may not even understand Hylian,’ Sidon realized. ‘I should attempt speaking Lizal, but…’ The zora sighed inwardly. He could understand Lizal to a high degree. Actually conversing with it was not his strong suit. He might end up butchering the language enough to enrage the lizalfos, rather than having a calm discussion.

...Well, if worst came to worst, he could always jump up the waterfall and swim away. Gerald wouldn’t be fast enough to follow.

Steeling himself, Sidon swam over to the rocks, head above the water, acting as though there was no lizalfos lying in wait. Gerald noticed the zora immediately, and tensed in his spot, going as still as possible. His beady eyes locked onto the prince, still peeping through his clawed fingers. Still not camouflaging. Sidon actively ignored him, and pulled himself out of the water.

Many lizalfos here!” he commented to the air. He walked forward, keeping his eyes looking in any direction other than down, at Gerald. “I hope they do not attack me. So many. I must go home to the zora-

At that, Sidon very purposefully tripped over Gerald’s long, curled tail.

Gerald was on his feet in a manner of seconds, pointing his spear at Sidon with a triumphant gurgle on his lips. “Ha ha! You fool! Fear your noble captor!” As Sidon stood up, Gerald moved the tip of his spear to the prince’s neck. “You have failed to evade my clever trap!

...Goddess, that actually worked?’ Sidon let his incredulousness at the success serve as shock at seeing Gerald, instead. Better to act surprised, now that he had the lizalfos’s attention. Sidon’s eyes widened at the spear, and he held his hands up in the air. “You catch me!” he growled. “Clever trick! I not see you in the rock!

My prowess is unmatched both far and wide!” Gerald withdrew the spear, placing a hand on his hip with a haughty, yapping laugh. “My mastery of hiding is too great; your zora eyes stood no chance of success!

Yes, yes!” Sidon agreed, bringing his hands together. “A master! A very clever lizalfos!” He grinned broadly at Gerald. “You are amazing!”

The lizalfos’s head twitched to the side in question. He scratched at his cheek with a claw, suddenly sheepish. “...Your words are strange, for none have called me that.

You are very skilled,” Sidon continued. “Amazing camouflage, friend!” The prince couldn’t deny it felt bizarre to be attempting to make nice with a lizalfos, but Gerald hadn’t tried to spear him yet. He just had to keep it up.

...Again, your speech is curious and odd.” Gerald stared openly at the prince. His head turned. One eye stayed locked on Sidon, while the other glanced about the area, as if searching the cliffs for the proper reaction. “...Isolda deems me friend, but only her…” Gerald mumbled.

Isolda is his only friend?’ Sidon flinched, trying hard not to let the surprise show in his expression. Another pang of pity hit his chest. What a friend to have - cold, cruel, heartless General Isolda. Granted, he had to admit the lizalfos in front of him was fortunate to have the general’s favor, but still. ‘Poor thing can’t even use his race’s most basic ability...and no friends but her?

Gerald still wasn’t acting like he would stab the prince. In fact, the lizalfos seemed to have forgotten he was supposed to be threatening Sidon entirely. Gerald broke eye contact, briefly, to look instead at the rock beneath him. He shifted from foot to foot, not entirely sure what to do with himself. Or his weapon. He eyed Sidon again, growling softly.

Why do you use that special term, zora?

The plan was to get information, Sidon told himself. Nothing more. Get info, get back to the Domain. Now, seeing Gerald so flummoxed by praise and the simple use of the word ‘friend,’ the zora was second-guessing himself.

...having a friend among the lizalfos certainly couldn’t hurt, right?

You...” Sidon frowned, pondering over his knowledge of Lizal. ‘What was the word I wanted? I want to say he seems nice. Or perhaps kind? What was the verb for seem?’ His mind drew a blank. With an annoyed huff, he addressed Gerald again. “I do not remember the word for…Damn, what was it?” He shook his head, pointing at the creature before him. “You! Nice! Clever, nice lizalfos! What is your name?

The lizalfos snorted at the attempt. “I am Gerald Reginald Doomsnarl,” He puffed out his chest a bit. “The forty-seventh of my kin, zora.” Gerald’s head tilted again. “What should I call you, who are far from home?

That, at least, Sidon was confident he knew how to say in Lizal. “I am a Prince, Sidon of the zora.

A prince?” Gerald spluttered, his weapon clattered to the ground, entirely forgotten now. “The prince?” He drew his hand to his chin at a sudden realization. “I fooled the zora prince?!”

Yes, a very clever trick!” Sidon repeated. “I am happy to meet you, Gerald-friend!

Lizalfos are no friends to the zora.” Gerald leaned forward, squinting at Sidon. “Why are you here? Your kind is not welcome.

Sidon grit his teeth behind his smiling lips. ‘Did I mess up? I need him to not see me as a threat…’ The prince wracked his brain for a simple explanation. “I am - Oh, I can never get the conjugation right, can I? I am swimming! I see many lizalfos!” He gestured broadly to the lake. “Why are lizalfos here?” He didn’t expect a straight answer, but at least he could pretend he didn’t know about the battle preparations.

We are in preparation to attack,” Gerald stated. “The zora will never see us coming.

Sidon stared at him. ‘That was...that was far too easy.’ He cleared his throat, trying to regain his composure. “...Why?

Zora’s Domain is our intended goal. It will become the home of all my kind.

Again, the lizalfos seemed unperturbed to be giving key information to his sworn enemy. Sidon blanched. “The...The Domain? You have Lake Hylia!” he protested. “Why do you take my home?!

Gerald let out a thoughtful trill, turning his head to look at the lake. “The Lake of Hylia cannot be used - our kind must find another home somewhere. In truth, we have no love for zora kind, and this solution seemed the simplest way.” He shrugged suddenly, looking back at Sidon with a perplexed frown. “Isolda gave her reasons for her choice…” He held out his hand, palm up, tapping on a finger. “Our homes are cramped come every Blood Moon night,” he tapped a second finger, “and monsters seek to harm us everywhere.” His claw touched his final finger, and he continued tapping as the reasons went on. “Our rotting king still wears his crown in death, and stalks a hall we cannot reach alone. We are too many for our current home. The hero strikes us down at every turn, Ganon’s magic disrupts more than it helps…” He chirped. “We are in shambles, to be honest, prince.

Sidon’s jaw hung open as the lizalfos listed off the problems. There was no reason for Gerald to give him this much information...Was there? Was he just that confident in the lizalfos’s plans for an ambush? Things here didn’t seem to be going well, in regard to preparation. At least, not if the shock arrow nonsense was any indication. Sidon couldn’t even begin to process all the new information the lizalfos had just piled onto him.

Gerald chirped again. “Your title is prince, but your name is Sidon?

Sidon nodded, numbly.

“...I would not seek to fight you, Prince Sidon,” Gerald mumbled, looking somewhat remorseful. “...You seem much kinder than I would have thought.

“Aha!” the prince pounded his fist into his opposite hand. “Seem,” Sidon repeated the growl. “That is the word I want to say! You seem nice!

The pair gaped at each other for a moment, and then erupted into laughter.

Your Lizal speech could use some practice, prince,” Gerald commented.

Yes,” Sidon agreed. “I study in the past. Many years, past. I understand more than I speak.” At the small, awkward smile from the lizalfos, Sidon frowned. “Gerald, do you...Do you not like the zora, too?

The lizalfos mirrored the frown. “I have not met a Zora before you,” he admitted. “Some have fought, but none have had your...boldness. Do all your kind speak Lizal like you do?

Only the royal family,” Sidon clarified. “Many zora, no.

You do not match what I was always told,” Gerald explained. “The stories showed us traitors; greedy brats - A spoiled mass with no regard for home, who toss their ancestors aside for gold. Pompous fish who think themselves above us.

Sidon grimaced. “We are not pretentious! Our ancestors are the same, but the lizalfos are not zora, now! We have a different culture now!

How can you pretend you are so humble?” Gerald waved a hand at Sidon’s regalia. “You shine and sparkle more than any king!

I am a prince, and we have good artisans,” Sidon acknowledged with a huff. “The lizalfos have artisans, too, no?

At that, Gerald picked up his spear. He indicated the steel blade bound to the wooden pole. “Is this monstrosity a piece of art?” he growled. “My armor holds together with these scraps! Sticks and strings and stone are never stunning.” The lizalfos grunted. “Our tools cannot create such pretty work. But your creations reek of craftsmanship.

Didn’t have the tools. Overcrowding. Monsters in their home. Sidon glanced away with a frustrated glare. The two races had problems that would never be solved overnight, but the things he learned so far were...potentially fixable. “Why the lizalfos not work with the zora? We have resources. You have strong weapons. We…” He grimaced again, gesturing back and forth between himself and Gerald.

Are you referring to us both, Zora?” Gerald questioned. At the shake of Sidon’s head, he crossed his arms over his chest, thinking. “I think the word you’re searching for is ‘trade…?” the lizalfos offered.

“That’s the word!” Sidon grinned.  “Yes, trade!

Our kinds have never been on such good terms,” Gerald pointed out.

Maybe...Maybe the zora help.” Sidon brought a hand to his chin, thinking it over. Monsters in the temple. The zora had a superior army, and they might be able to rout the monsters in their home. In all likelihood, those monsters were preventing the lizalfos from accessing certain areas of the temple, causing the overcrowding. Resources could be traded. He wasn’t sure what the issue with the king was, exactly, but if it was like the other things Gerald had listed, then he was certain they could find a way to fix it.

They might be able to avoid all-out war.

Still, there was one other issue that he would have to confirm. The prince narrowed his eyes at Gerald. Carefully, he growled. “...Do the lizalfos like Ganon?

Gerald responded with a low-pitched trill. “Do we support Calamity, you mean?

Sidon nodded.

The lizalfos’s eyes darted around again, thinking. At length, he waved the palm of his hand back and forth. “The blood moon has been useful, in its way, but most of our kind simply want to live. There are a few who truly follow him, but Ganon does not hold the mind of all.

And you?” Sidon questioned.

Gerald blew a raspberry with his multi-colored tongue. “I do not fight enough to lose my life, and nothing I have cursed has come to be, so Ganon’s power has no use to me.

Sidon grinned broadly, grasping the other by the shoulders. “Yes! I tell the zora to help with...You say monsters in the temple, yes? We help with this! We not fight! And we trade!”

You offer help, but I don’t understand…” Gerald frowned. Then, realizing something, he clapped his hands together. “Oh! I see! As Prince you could assist us!” Gerald pointed at Sidon’s chest. “But...you would propose to help my people?

No fight is...No fight is good.” Sidon knew he was fumbling over the words, but he was too excited. There was a way out of this mess, and they could avoid the ambush. Link wouldn’t have to get involved at all!  “We help! We no fight! You have home and we have home!

No more fighting...that would be quite welcome.” Gerald smiled.

Sidon pat the other’s shoulder, thinking quickly. ‘I’ll have my work cut out for me, trying to convince Father and the elders…Attempting to work with Isolda won’t be pleasant, either, I’m certain.’ For the moment though, he was giddy. They could solve this through words instead of blades. Maybe establish a new relationship with the lizalfos that wasn’t drowned in bloodshed. Stop all this senseless fighting.

Maybe even get the lizalfos to stop supporting Ganon.

If I pull this off, Link will even have less enemies to fight.’ It would be good for the lizalfos, not getting killed all the time. Good for the zora, not having a sworn enemy trying to attack them all the time. Good for the hero, not having so many monsters hunting him down. ‘Perfect!

What is your plan from here, my friend Sidon?” Gerald asked.

I talk to my father,” Sidon decided. “I go home now, to talk about lizalfos problems.” He turned toward the waterfall, and with a brief wave to Gerald, jumped into the water. The cold lake was refreshing, and the sun was high enough now that the light glinted off his bracelets.

...It really is a bit much, isn’t it,’ Sidon smirked at himself, taking in the shimmering silver. An idea occurred to him, and he unclasped the bracelet on his left wrist. With a powerful kick, he propelled himself upward, leaping to the top of the waterfall. Instead of dashing back to the Domain, however, Sidon grabbed onto the shelf of grass at the edge of the river. He pulled himself up, and looked back at the rocks below.

Gerald!” the zora tossed the bracelet over the falls, grinning when the lizalfos caught it without difficulty. “A gift for a friend! Pretentious, shiny jewelry for you!” Gerald stuttered a grateful yap, and Sidon waved again, diving back into the water to swim to the Domain.

It would be a hellish amount of work, getting the king and the elders to agree to helping lizalfos. However, Sidon was now determined. There were enough benefits to make it worth it. He would figure out some way to convince them.

Besides, it couldn’t be any more hellish than Link’s ordeals.

The prince kicked hard in the water with renewed vigor. Talking to Gerald had absolutely been the right decision.


 

Gerald sat down on the rock, still staring at the waterfall Sidon had disappeared over. “The Zora do not match what we were taught. The kings of old had very different tales...” he muttered, wondering over the odd prince. He turned the bracelet over in his claws. Beautiful silver, with intricate detailing and luminous stones embedded inside. Nothing like lizalfos handiwork. Gerald slipped the bracelet onto his arm, admiring it with a smile. A new friend, and a nice one at that. The reprimands from earlier that morning seemed far away now - who cared about Candis complaining to Isolda when he had a new friend?

...wait. Isolda.

The lizalfos suddenly straightened. His eyes twitched worriedly in the direction of the temple. One eye stayed on the water, while the other stared incredulously at the silver on his wrist.

How will I explain this to Isolda?!


 

Getting back to the Domain was exhausting. Sidon wanted nothing more than to go straight to his water bed and collapse, but the desire to help Link spurred him on. He walked with purpose into the Domain, planning to head straight to the king’s chambers.

‘I have to tell my father what happened,’ he reasoned. ‘I should explain my absence…’ He had begun to formulate an argument for aiding the lizalfos on his way upstream, repeating the points over and over in his head as he swam. ‘I can do this. I can convince them, and solve this, and then-

As Sidon made his way up the stairs, he spotted a large crowd gathered around the path to the Shrine. They chattered amongst themselves, faces worried and alarmed, as guards attempted to disperse them.

That’s odd…’ The prince turned, switching direction to investigate the group. Searching over the heads of the fretful zora, he spotted Bazz attempting to prevent Kodah from moving forward.

“Bazz, come on, let me through-!” Kodah yelled.

“No, I said - Stop! The doctor’s on her way!” Bazz argued.

“Bazz!” Sidon called. “What is all this?” The group of zora in front of him startled, hastily moving out of the way. As they cleared out, Sidon stepped closer to the soldier.

“Sire!” Bazz’s voice held relief, but his face was still full of concern. “You’re back! It’s -” The soldier glanced behind him with wide, worried eyes. “Sire, Link’s returned, but-”

Fear gripped Sidon’s chest. Link was back. He was back, but the doctor was called for.

Something went wrong.

The prince brushed past his guards, running forward and closer to the shrine. He found Gaddison, knelt in the water with her back turned. Sidon’s eyes narrowed at the water - the color was...off. Tinted, and dark, like something had contaminated it. Gaddison looked up as Sidon approached, and she bit at her lower lip. At a loss. She moved to stand and salute her prince, and then Sidon saw what lay behind her.

Link was there, lying at the foot of the shrine. His clothes were torn - ripped in multiple places. His hair tie was missing, and his gold locks splayed out beneath him. A pinched expression marred his features - lips drawn and brow furrowed in pain. In his right hand, he clutched a blade Sidon had never seen him carry before.

He was covered in blood.

Sidon was next to the champion in an instant. He tore his eyes from the sight and turned to Gaddison. “What...What happened?”

“Bazz saw the light of the shrine - the one that signals the champion’s arrival. When Link didn’t come out, Bazz went to check and…” She grimaced. “He found Link collapsed in the water, sire.”

Sidon reached out, touching Link’s shoulder with care. It was damp, and Sidon’s stomach turned. Was that the water, or was it more blood?

“Link…”

The champion stirred. One eye opened, with effort, and suddenly the look of pain on Link’s face melted into relief. The champion mouthed something, and then grit his teeth, bringing a hand to his throat.

“Link, what is it?” Sidon asked, covering the champion’s hand with his own. “Did something happen to your throat?”

Link shook his head, and suddenly gripped the prince’s hand. With a pained grunt, the champion began to pull himself up into a sitting position.

“Wait - don’t push yourself!” Sidon hastily wrapped his other hand along Link’s back, supporting him.

Link sat, leaning heavily against Sidon’s arm. He touched at his neck again, scowling.

“What happened?” Sidon asked, gently.

With effort, the champion looked up at the zora. His mouth opened, but he soon gave up and shut it again. He dropped the sword he’d been holding onto, and brought both hands to his throat. Eyes squeezed shut, Link shook his head.

Sidon turned to Gaddison. “Go find out where the doctor is.” The soldier nodded her head, and dashed back up to the plaza. The prince turned back to Link. “Nothing happened to your throat, correct?”

The champion nodded.

“Yet, you can’t speak?”

At length, Link nodded again. He swayed a bit, and his open eye seemed to have trouble focusing.

He’s hurt too badly.’ Sidon shifted the hylian with care, moving so he could hold Link in one arm. The champion’s head lolled onto Sidon’s chest, stopping just before hitting the whistle on the zora’s cravat. Brushing Link’s hair out of the way, Sidon found the hylian’s eyes were closed.

“Prince Sidon?”

Sidon’s shoulders sagged with relief at the sight of the royal doctor descending the stairs. “Doctor Salma!”

The elderly zora hobbled her way down to the shrine area, with Gaddison close behind her. “I heard the champion is injured?” She peered at Link’s form, slumped against the prince. With care, she ran her hands along the hylian’s head, parting his hair at points to get a better look.

“Is it alright to move him?” Sidon asked.

“I believe so,” Salma nodded. “He should be brought to my ward.”

“I’ll take him,” Sidon stated, maneuvering his hand to get a grip under Link’s knees. He cradled the hylian against his chest, making sure Link was secure before moving. “Gaddison, get the crowd outside to disperse.”

“Yes, sire!” Gaddison ran back up the steps, calling to Bazz.

“So many injuries,” Salma tutted. “He’s done something reckless again.” She began to hobble back up to the plaza. “Don’t worry, my prince. I’ll see to it the champion is healed.”

“Thank you, Doctor.” Sidon watched her depart for a moment, feeling as though he was forgetting something. He glanced around the shrine, and his eyes locked onto Link’s sword. ‘Of course. I can’t simply leave it here.’ With his free hand, the prince lifted the sword from the ground. It was small in his hand - clearly meant for a hylian. Still, it wasn’t Link’s usual claymore. A deep purple hilt, with a gem in the center. The hylian royal crest was imprinted into the blade itself. Sidon had seen impressively crafted hylian swords before, but this one was...different. There was something odd about it. Some power that slept just beneath it’s bright steel. Sidon looked from the sword, to the unconscious champion in his shoulders.

...Perhaps only stopping the lizalfos threat wasn’t enough to help Link.

Sidon made his way up the steps. He had to get Link to the medical ward. Everything else could wait. He held the champion tight against him, wishing he had the ability to just heal him here. Now. Fix whatever was wrong with Link’s throat, so he could at least speak again. The prince took a breath, steadying his nerves and expression before facing his subjects. Inside, though, his mind was a whirlwind.

Chapter Text

“If you continue like this, you will perish,” the Deku Tree scolded.

Link’s grip tightened out of spite, pulling harder on the hilt of the Master Sword. His limbs were screaming. The pain was agonizing – like white hot fire streaming through his veins. His bones felt like they were cracking.

I need this,’ he told himself. ‘I need this sword.

He defeated two of Ganon’s Blights without it, but he needed it now. Needed it for Ganon. For Guardians. He was the hero – he should have the Master Sword.

The sword itself refused to budge, and the world around him began to blur. The Deku Tree’s face warped in the edges of Link’s vision. The tree looked sadder. Older. His voice pierced Link’s ears again, telling him to stop. Telling him he was going to die. The words were dispassionate.

No,’ Link thought. Not dispassionate. Annoyed. Impatient.

After all, Link had been keeping them all waiting for so, so long.

Everyone else was waiting. Or, they died waiting. His fellow knights. His friends. His companions died because he wasn’t strong enough. They were all dead.

Everyone’s been killed, and it’s all my fault–’

For a moment, Link wasn’t sure if the voice was his, or someone else’s.

But it must be someone else. Link wasn’t crying, and those words were forced through a broken sob.

The Master Sword remained in its pedestal. Link growled in frustration. He needed this damn sword to come free so he could leave. He needed to leave. Now. Everything needed to be done now.

His body was aching, desperate to collapse. To stop.

I need this.

There was a roar in his ears, and Link gave another futile tug on the hilt of the sacred blade. The air was red around him, and he could see monsters eyeing him from the shadows. Lizalfos, all growling and gurgling. They were saying words, he knew, but for the life of him he couldn’t tell what those words were.

The lizalfos cheered, suddenly, when the sky itself started to burn.

Link looked up, locking eyes with a Blight. It let out a screech, calling up a gale of wind. The air tore at his skin, and the hylian clung to the Master Sword. His tunic ripped, and blood ran down his arms and chest.

Windblight Ganon screeched again, but when Link looked up, he was face-to-face with a lizalfos. Black, with golden claws. A broken, jagged horn. She held a silverscale spear to his throat, eyes gleaming under a brilliant, decorated crown.

“The Domain is ours,” the general hissed. The lizalfos behind her let out another cheer.

Link’s hands slipped from the Master Sword, and he stumbled backward. Windblight Ganon hovered above, summoning tornadoes to knock the champion back further.

'They’re dead.

Link flailed, fingers reaching out for the sword as the wind pushed him backward – he couldn’t even reach. He turned his head, hoping to spot someone he knew. Where was the Deku Tree? The koroks? The zora?

Where was Sidon?

Every time he moved to look, it was as if there was a wall - something keeping his head in place. He struggled, whipping his head back and forth, getting blocked each time. He couldn’t see around him. The lizalfos’ cackling echoed in his ears, triumphant. Link’s stomach dropped in realization.

Everyone else was dead.

Sidon’s dead.


 

Link’s eyes snapped open. His heart hammered in his chest, so much so that it almost hurt. He stared, wide-eyed, into the dark, hearing nothing but his own panicked gulps for air. His eyes weren’t entirely adjusted, but he could feel he was flat on his back. Damp hair stuck to his forehead. His head was laying in something soft, yet firm. It kept his head from moving from side-to-side. He couldn’t see, but he could tell he was at least indoors. Some kind of room – there was a ceiling, and walls – but it was unfamiliar.

Fear gripped his chest.

He must have failed again. He failed and they put him back in the Shrine of Resurrection. He was recovering from stupid, reckless injuries, and now he had to start all over. He couldn’t even retrieve his own damn sword.

Link forced himself to sit up. He grimaced. It hurt to move.

Looking up, he spotted something leaning against the far wall. Vaguely, he registered it was the same shape as the Master Sword. But that could wait – he needed to get up. Get out of the Shrine. See what damage Ganon had left in his absence.

Again.

It wasn’t until Link tried to move to his knees that he realized something was gripping his hand. The champion’s attention snapped to his right, planning to tug himself free. When he spotted what was holding onto him, he froze.

It was Sidon.

Sidon was right next to him. The prince was slumped over, lying on one arm, and Link finally processed that he was sitting on a bed. The thing that his head had been lying on was just a normal pillow.

The zora’s hand was holding onto Link’s. His eyes were shut. The prince’s gills fluttered gently as he breathed.

Link blinked stupidly for a moment, trying to reorganize his thoughts.

...Sidon’s asleep.

Then, a dawning realization.

Sidon’s alive.

It was a dream. Link’s breath escaped his lips in a shaky sigh. Just a stupid, panic-induced dream.

He turned back to the Master Sword-shaped object to find that it was, in fact, the Master Sword. His shield, with all its nicks and dents, lay against the wall right next to the blade.

I pulled the sword out of the pedestal on my first try,’ he recalled. ‘I went to Rito Village. I went to Vah Medoh, and there was a blood moon…’ His gaze turned back to Sidon. The zora slept on, peacefully unaware of Link’s flustered state just beside him. Link looked down at himself, finding bandages all over his arms and chest.

I fought Windblight Ganon,’ he remembered. The beast’s wind and claws had nearly sliced him to ribbon, but he pressed on. Kept fighting. He could remember now, that desperation that had consumed him in his fight. That need to defeat the Blight now, so he could go check on Zora’s Domain. Check to see if the lizalfos had attacked. Check on Sidon.

Sidon, who was right next to him, sleeping and breathing and alive.

Link didn’t bother to try and stop the tears from welling in his eyes. Sidon, who had found him beaten and battered at the Ne’ez Yohma shrine. Who picked him up. Carried him. That memory was fuzzy, from when Link was falling in and out of consciousness, but it was there. Sidon was there.

And now Sidon was here, when the zora should probably be in his own quarters, and he was holding onto Link’s hand as he slept.

The hylian let the tears fall. His chest squeezed painfully as his breathing grew more ragged, unable to stifle the force of the emotion washing over him. Goddess, he’d never felt so relieved. After all that running, all that worry, the prince was completely safe. Link’s tense shoulders eased as tears ran in rivers down his cheeks.

He hadn’t failed Sidon.

He’s alive,’ Link reaffirmed, leaning forward to lie on Sidon’s arm. A quiet sob wracked his small frame. ‘Sidon’s okay.

The zora stirred with a grumpy groan. His eyelids opened slowly. Begrudgingly. In half-awake awareness, the prince lifted his head, regarding the form of Link clinging to his arm with confusion. A small, agonized whimper startled him completely awake.

“Link? Link, what’s wrong?” Sidon moved his free hand to the hylian’s back. Link was shaking. Crying. Didn’t even lift his head at Sidon’s question. Gently, Sidon cupped Link’s cheek, turning the champion’s head to see his face.

Link could barely see the other, squinting through the tears. He could only imagine Sidon’s worried expression. He was a mess right now, but he couldn’t bring himself to care. Sidon was safe. That was all that mattered.

The prince ran his thumb underneath Link’s lashes, wiping away the wetness. “What happened?” he pressed. When it was apparent that Link wouldn’t answer - couldn’t answer, Sidon looked around the room. ‘He was sleeping fine,’ the zora thought, perplexed. Nothing in the room seemed out of place. Nothing. Nothing had happened. As far as Sidon could tell, the only difference from when he’d fallen asleep was that it was dark now, and that Link was awake.

And crying.

As the hylian buried his face in Sidon’s arm again, the zora began running his fingers through Link’s hair. He hoped the action was soothing.

“...did you have a nightmare?” Sidon guessed.

Another sob. This time, though, it was accompanied by a nod.

“Oh, Link…” Sidon mumbled. He dislodged his arm from Link’s grasp, and pulled the hylian to his chest. He ran his hand over Link’s back, trying to ease the champion’s haggard breathing. “It’s alright. It was only a dream.” He gave Link a firm squeeze, staying mindful of the hylian’s injuries. “You’re perfectly safe.”

You’re safe,’ Link mentally corrected. His throat was too tight. Too raw. He couldn’t even try to explain the nightmare to Sidon. The fear. He opted to curl up to the zora instead, pressing himself as close as he could.

Sidon responded with another squeeze. He mumbled more reassurances into Link’s ears, and continued rubbing the champion’s back. After a while of that, he alternated, combing his fingers through Link’s hair, keeping the hylian as comfortable as possible.

At length, Link’s frayed nerves finally calmed. He breathed deeper. Slower. Without thinking, he matched his rhythm with Sidon’s. Tired, stinging eyes slowly shut. Link snuggled into the zora’s arms, focusing on the feeling of strength in them. Strength, security, and safety. He felt himself drifting, listening to the low timbre of Sidon’s voice rumbling through his chest.

Sidon shifted, cradling the champion. He studied Link’s face as the hylian’s head lolled onto his bicep. Link’s cheeks were stained, and his lips parted slightly. His breathing was even. Relaxed.

Link was asleep again.

Sidon gave a quiet sigh. He was reluctant to put the champion to bed properly, enjoying having Link’s warm body curled up against him. ‘...I’ll just hold him a bit longer,’ Sidon decided. He could put Link back under the covers once the hylian was slumbering more deeply. For now, he let his head rest lightly on top of Link’s.

With the hylian asleep, there was no more reason to speak. Still, Sidon found himself whispering in the dark.

“...Everything’s alright now, love.”


 

“Sidon, I must ask – Have you lost your mind?!

Sidon flinched at his father’s question. His eyes darted around the throne room, avoiding looking up at the king. “I realize my methods weren’t, ah, ideal–”

“Ideal?!” the king roared. “You could have gotten yourself killed!

“I know – it was incredibly reckless, and I shouldn’t have–”

“If you knew it was so reckless, then why, Sidon?” Dorephan’s voice lowered, regarding his son with a grimace. “Why put yourself at so much risk? We could have sent soldiers to obtain information about Lake Hylia! Your own unit, even, while you stayed out of harm’s way! You knew the lizalfos were preparing for war, and yet you still went to Lake Hylia alone?!

“I…” Sidon’s head bowed. “I wasn’t thinking, Father. I’m sorry.”

The king responded with a heavy sigh, leaning back in his throne. He brought a hand to his forehead, massaging it. “No. You clearly were not.”

Sidon had expected his father to be upset. In retrospect, he wasn’t sure how he even managed to get so lucky at Lake Hylia, but the fact remained that it had been a stupid decision to go. His head slowly lifted, and his stomach lurched at his father’s blatant disappointment. “I…I did learn a few things about the lizalfos,” Sidon began, his words slow and cautious. “Things that the scouts wouldn’t have been able to find.”

Dorephan peered at his son between the fingers of his hand, his eyes weary. “Did you.”

“I was able to converse with one of the lizalfos–”

“You did what?!” Dorephan yelled, his hand slamming on the armrest of his throne. “Sidon! Going to Lake Hylia alone was foolhardy enough, and now you tell me you spoke to those dastards as well?!”

“Just one!” Sidon clarified. “Only one, alone, far removed from all the others!”

The king groaned, burying his face in his hands. “Sidon, you are taking decades off my life.”

“He gave me information on their plan, father!” Sidon added hastily, hoping to get through what he learned before the king could launch into another lecture. “They’re acting based on problems they’re facing in their own home - monsters, and overcrowding, and–”

“Monsters?” Dorephan huffed. “They allied themselves with monsters. How could they possibly be having difficulties with those beasts?”

“I’m not certain,” Sidon admitted with a frown, “but I’m guessing the monsters are perhaps inside their temple. There was also…” He paused, thinking back. Gerald had mentioned something about their king, in a hall. Something about wearing his crown in death. He wasn’t clear on the meaning. “...Their king. They cannot reach their king. There was something to do with the king’s crown as well, but–”

“Ah,” Dorephan tapped his chin with a finger. “Well, it’s been many, many years since they’ve had a king. So, they lost the crown, is that it?” He shot Sidon an unimpressed stare. “Son, that sort of plight is their own problem. What does it even have to do with trying to take Zora’s Domain?”

“I’m…” Sidon adjusted his cravat, thinking. “I’m not...sure.” He met his father’s gaze. “But, father, the lizalfos I spoke with wasn’t truly aligned with Ganon! He said only a few actually fight for the Calamity; If we helped them–”

Sidon.

The prince’s words died on his tongue. Sidon shrank under his father’s angry scowl.

“How do you know he wasn’t lying to you?” the king asked with a growl. “How do you know he wasn’t trying to lead you into a trap?

Sidon’s mouth opened to protest. Then, slowly, he shut it, looking down. He wanted to exclaim that Gerald was trustworthy. Had to be. But, thinking back, he could understand his father’s trepidation all too well.

A lizalfos so resented by his own kind, presented with the opportunity to lead the zora prince into a trap...Gerald would be a hero if he captured Sidon.

The prince’s hand instinctively went to fiddle with his bracelet, only to recall he’d given it away. He rubbed his thumb along his empty wrist, his face dark.

“...I can appreciate your desire to end this feud, son,” Dorephan sighed. “Unfortunately, things are not that simple.”

Sidon said nothing, glaring at his own reflection in the polished floor.

“You know better,” Dorephan added, his voice quieter. “You’ve fought Isolda before.”

“Isolda is a general,” Sidon stated. “Her actions do not speak for all of the lizalfos.”

Dorephan’s eyes shut for a moment. When he opened them again, he looked down at his son with a hard expression. “Sidon, as of now, you are not to leave the Domain until further notice.”

Sidon’s head snapped up. “What?!”

“Your judgement is clearly compromised,” the king explained. “Even if your heart is in the right place, I cannot have you galavanting about Hyrule putting yourself in danger!”

“Father, that’s-”

“You are the heir to the throne, Sidon,” Dorephan stated. “You will not be confined to the Domain forever – Just long enough for you to clear your head. You aren’t thinking things through!”

But I’m–”

“Son.” The king’s gaze softened. “Please. Leave the scouting to your guards. This conflict with the lizalfos will only end in blood, as it always does. I do not want you in the crossfire.”

Sidon hung his head. Words of protest burned in him, but he kept his lips firmly shut.

Dorephan sighed again. “Do not concern yourself with the lizalfos now, Sidon. If we are unable to halt their preparations ourselves, then I am certain we will be able to find assistance in thwarting them.” The king smiled softly. “In the worst-case scenario, we can simply ask Link to help us again. I doubt he would hesitate in defending the Domain.”

Sidon grimaced. That was the exact scenario he was trying to avoid. Link had enough on his plate. “Father, please – I am one of the best warriors among the zora!” He gestured to the rapier at his hip and the net on his belt. “I was prepared to go out today to see what could be done – We can’t keep relying on Link to solve our problems for us–”

“That is a last resort,” Dorephan interrupted. “And while you are one of our strongest soldiers, you are still the crown prince. You will not leave the Domain until I have determined you are capable of doing so without putting yourself in unnecessary danger.” The king’s eyes narrowed, and his voice dropped to a low rumble. “Have I made myself clear, Sidon?”

Sidon knew that tone. Those words came from the King, not his father. He was no longer allowed to argue. The prince nodded, slowly. “...Yes. I understand.”

“Good. You are dismissed.”

Sidon gave a quick bow and turned on his heel, heading for the exit. Once outside, he let out a bitter sigh through clenched teeth.

Confined to the Domain,’ he groused to himself. ‘Confined here while an ambush lies in wait outside.’ He knew they could solve this, after speaking to Gerald. He’d been so confident. Now though, after finally managing to get some rest, he could only look at the empty place on his wrist with worry. ‘...was I too hasty? Was Gerald lying to me?

But why would Gerald bother with lying?

The lizalfos seemed so sincere. Gave information so readily. Gerald had been excited when Sidon said he would get the zora to help. Of course, that could have been excitement at the idea of leading the crown prince of the zora straight to Isolda. Sidon could try to trust Gerald, try to help and end this war once and for all, or he could stay safe, allowing everyone else to do the fighting and go back on his word.

Sidon clenched his fist, debating.

The noise of someone clearing their throat startled the prince out of his musings. Sidon turned, noticing Tottika staring at him from his station in front of the throne room.

“Sire?” Tottika regarded the prince with concern. “Is everything alright?”

Sidon cleared his own throat with a cough. ‘Now I’m getting lost in thought everywhere. ...Maybe Father has a point.’ He shot Tottika a grin. “Yes, Tottika, thank you. I’ll be going now.” He turned, descending the steps rapidly to get out of the guard’s line of sight. At the bottom of the staircase, he went left, and then dived off the platform. Once in the water, he breathed deeply.

His plans had hit a wall as large as the Reservoir.

He couldn’t go back on his word. That much, he knew. He swore to try and help the lizalfos with their plight. But, how was he supposed to help the lizalfos if he was stuck in the Domain? How could he solve their issues from here, as well as keep Link out of it?

Sidon ran his fingers over his face with a grumble. Things were going so well until this morning. At least, they were going as well as they could, with Link injured as he was. The prince eyed the tunnels in the cliff face with a frown. There was one that led to Doctor Salma’s ward – the underwater entrance, reserved for zora.

‘...I should check on him.

He could figure out how to help the lizalfos a bit later – it wasn’t like he was going anywhere now. He could check to see if Link was awake. Sidon kicked at the water, propelling himself toward the tunnels, and through the winding paths. Soon enough, he found the underwater section of the ward. A few nurses swam about, tending to zora who were injured in their efforts to stamp out the lizalfos in the immediate area.

Sidon swam further upward, to the above-ground wing. He pulled himself out of the water, expecting to have a short, quiet walk to Link’s room.

As he approached, however, he could hear agitated voices echoing down the hallway.

“I’m fine!

Sidon perked up. ‘Link’s awake,’ he smiled to himself. Although, from the sound of it, the hylian was annoyed. He jogged down the hall, coming up to the door with a grin on his face.

“One night’s rest isn’t enough to–” Doctor Salma’s words ceased as Sidon walked through the door. “Prince Sidon!” The doctor waved at her hylian patient with an irritated huff. “Will you please get it through this boy’s head that he can’t heal from everything overnight?!”

Sidon smirked at the hylian, who was sitting up in bed with a pout on his face. He was dressed only in trousers. Sidon was pleased to find the bandages on Link’s chest and arms had been removed, and there only seemed to be slight bruising left on the hylian’s skin.

“Link, you should be listening to the doctor.”

“I’m fine,” Link grumbled, waving the words away. “Look.” He hopped off the bed, standing tall and flexing his arms.

Doctor Salma was unimpressed. “Champion, get back in bed.”

Sidon held back a laugh.

The hylian hopped from one foot to the other, in an effort to demonstrate his good health. “I heal fast. Took an elixir, too.”

“Well, Doctor, he does appear to be alright,” Sidon observed.

Salma muttered to herself, throwing her hands up. “I don’t know why I bother. He’s as bad as Junayd. Worse, maybe.” She pointed a clawed finger at the hylian. “If I have to treat you again in the next few days, you won’t be leaving for an extra week!” The doctor turned her attention back to the prince. “Your Highness, if he truly insists on leaving, please make sure he’s more careful. I have to go treat that other reckless idiot of yours.”

Link’s brows furrowed, looking to Sidon in askance.

“Other reckless…? Oh,” Sidon realized. “You mean Junayd.”

“Yes, the one who got himself cut up by a lizalfos during his last scouting mission,” Salma griped. “Who then goes and agitates his wounds again while trying to show off. Thankfully the rest of your unit’s been yelling at him for me.”

“I’ll visit him later,” Sidon smiled. “He’ll be scolded properly, doctor.”

“Good,” Salma nodded, packing her things. As she left, she gestured to Link again. “Scold him, too.”

The door shut behind her, and Sidon turned to the hylian. Link smiled sheepishly from where he stood.

“So, you’re feeling better?” Sidon asked. “Truly?”

Link nodded, and headed toward his belongings. He rifled through the pack on the floor, looking for clothes. “Wasn’t exaggerating – I heal fast.”

“That’s a relief,” Sidon smiled at him. “You had me quite worried.”

Link tensed for a moment, and then mumbled. It was too quiet for Sidon to catch, and the hylian stayed intensely focused on getting his tunic on.

Sidon tilted his head. “What was that?”

“…I’m sorry,” Link repeated. His eyes flicked up at Sidon, and then darted back to his belongings. He rubbed at the back of his neck. “For worrying you.”

“I’m simply glad you’re alright,” Sidon shrugged. “Your injuries were extensive. Gaddison was absolutely beside herself, and none of us were certain as to what occurred...What in Hylia’s name...?” The zora trailed off, seeing that the hylian was entirely preoccupied.

Now fully dressed, Link readjusted the belts holding his scabbard and shield in place. He looked up at Sidon for a brief moment, and then glanced at the zora’s hand. The hylian turned his head away, his ears turning a light shade of pink.

Ah, he’s blushing,’ Sidon realized, mentally patting himself on the back for remembering the term. ‘...Wait why is he blushing?’ Not only was the champion turning slightly redder as the seconds ticked by, he seemed to be completely avoiding eye contact. Sidon knelt, moving his head down to get a closer look. Link flinched in response, his eyes going wide at the prince’s sudden closeness. “Are you alright, Link?”

“Fine!” Link managed, his voice going higher than normal.

Sidon’s eyes narrowed. “You...You’re blushing, yes?” Sidon asked.

The red on Link’s cheeks went a few shades darker in response. The hylian covered his mouth with a hand, looking away.

“Why?” Sidon pressed, growing concerned. One of the main reasons for blushing was embarrassment, according to Kodah. He may have embarrassed Link somehow. ‘Maybe something I said…?’ Sidon fretted. “Did I do something?” He reached a hand out to try and turn Link toward him.

Link grabbed the zora’s hand with his own and held it in front of him. He didn’t look up – just stood there, staring intently at the clawed fingers as his ears went red.

“Link, if I’ve done something to upset you, I–”

There was a knock at the door. Link jumped at the noise, fingers tensing around Sidon’s.

A red-scaled nurse opened the door a crack. “Ah, sire? Doctor Salma has given permission for Link to leave the ward.”

“Ah, yes. Thank you,” Sidon flashed a grin at the girl. She nodded to them and shut the door again.

The champion let out a shaky breath, and then strode purposefully toward the door, pulling Sidon along with him. “Come on.”

Sidon was pulled to his feet, hopping up to keep pace with the hylian. “Wha–Where to? Where are we going?”

Link looked up and down the hallway, frowning at the nurses walking about. He glanced at Sidon. “Where’s the exit?”

“For non-zora, it’s to the right, but–”

The champion tugged Sidon’s arm along, walking briskly down the hall.

“Link, where are we going?

“Somewhere else,” the hylian grunted.

Why?” Sidon questioned. The pair nodded to a confused-looking nurse as they passed, and Link showed no signs of slowing.

“Because I need to walk,” Link answered. “I need to move.”

“You can’t simply walk up and down the hall?” Sidon asked, thankful he was tall enough to keep pace with the smaller man. “Why do we need to leave the ward?” His father’s declaration that he was essentially under house-arrest sprang to mind. “I can’t–”

But Link was practically running now, and Sidon had to focus on keeping up.


 

“Link, stop!” Sidon panted.

The hylian finally paused, one foot poised on a rock, readying to push himself further up the grassy hill. He glanced back to Sidon, guilt flashing over his features. ‘I shouldn’t have run so fast.

“Would you please explain,” Sidon huffed. “Why we needed to go this far to talk?” He waved his free hand at the open sky. “We’re nearly at Shatterback Point!”

“I…” Link bit his lower lip. He was still clinging to Sidon’s other hand. “I didn’t want...There were too many people. In the ward, I mean.”

“There was barely anyone on that floor,” Sidon countered. “If you wanted to speak with me alone, we could have easily shut the door!”

“I didn’t want to get interrupted!” Link retorted. “And I – Just–” He buried his face in his hands, letting Sidon’s fingers slip through his. “...I’m sorry.”

Sidon sat down in the grass next to the champion, trying to even out his breathing after the run. “What did you wish to speak about?” he asked, his voice gentle.

You holding my hand while I slept. You being there for me when I woke up from a nightmare.’ The champion couldn’t decide where to start. Sidon meant so much to him – more than the zora could ever know, and he had to word it somehow, but…

Where to even begin?

“...A lot of things,” Link choked out a laugh, hands dropping to his sides. He looked out, over the cliffs, and past the mountains that surrounded the Domain. His face resumed its usual unreadable mask. “I wanted to be outside.”

“What for?”

Link shrugged half-heartedly, he still not looking at the other. “It’s...It’s easier. Out here.”

Sidon frowned at the champion. “Easier to do what?

Link was quiet. The wind whistled past them, and the grass beneath Link’s feet danced around his boots. He’d spent so long worrying the prince, and now here he was. Worrying Sidon again.

At long last, the champion sighed, disgruntled. “To tell you I’m an idiot.”

The prince stared at the small hylian, waiting for him to elaborate.

“The injuries,” Link clarified. “I got hurt because...I was an idiot.” He ran his fingers through the short hairs at the base of his neck. “I saw the blood moon. Got worried about the Domain.”

Sidon’s stomach clenched. ‘The one thing I’m trying to get him to not worry about,’ the prince mused. ‘Damn.’  

“I rushed through Vah Medoh.” Link’s arms crossed over his chest, and his gaze dropped to the town below them. “Took dumb risks fighting Windblight Ganon. Forgot to grab the heart container it dropped.”

“What is a heart container?” Sidon asked.

Link turned to him, finally. “Sacred item. They heal me. Make me stronger.” He shrugged then, with a sardonic smirk on his face. “...and I forgot to pick it up.”

“That’s why you were so badly injured,” the zora’s eyelids lowered.

The champion nodded. “Forgot to heal. Warped straight here.”

“That’s…” Sidon was at a loss. On the one hand, Link had defeated yet another of Ganon’s Blights, which was something to be celebrated. The Rito were surely grateful for his involvement at calming their Divine Beast. The land of Hyrule itself would be grateful. Link was one step closer to fulfilling his destiny as the Hero. One step closer to defeating Calamity Ganon.

On the other hand…

“That was a foolish mistake,” Sidon agreed. Seeing Link deflate at the comment, he quickly added, “But, we found you right away! It could have been much worse – it worked out in the end!”

Link laughed, but his voice was hollow.

Sidon reached forward, taking the champion’s hand again. The hylian didn’t protest, instead opting to quietly stare at the red and white scales of Sidon’s arm. The prince ran his thumb over Link’s knuckles. “Why couldn’t you tell me earlier?” he asked gently. “At the shrine – it seemed like something was wrong with your throat, but it’s uninjured.”

“That’s just…” Link winced. “…me.”

“I’m not sure I understand,” Sidon looked the champion up and down, confused. “You mean you sometimes can’t speak at all? That’s normal?”

“Happens when I’m overly stressed,” Link explained. “Or, around certain people. Certain situations. I just...I can’t talk.”

Sidon hummed in comprehension. “So, then at the shrine it was–”

“Stress.”

“I see,” Sidon muttered. “Is that another reason you wanted to speak outside the ward?”

Link smiled softly. ‘Of course he’d figure that out.’ “Yeah. It’s easier if it’s just you.” At Sidon’s surprised face, Link shrugged. “You’re easy to talk to.”

At that, Sidon’s grin turned almost blindingly bright. “I’m glad! I knew you didn’t speak much, so I’m always delighted to hear your voice!”

Link mirrored the grin.

The prince brought his finger to his lips in thought. “Is there no other way for you to communicate, when you can’t speak?” he asked. “Such as...Perhaps signing, or something similar?”

Link blinked at him, surprised. “Yeah, I can sign.”

“Ah, good!” Sidon grinned. “Then, in the future, you can tell me that way!”

The champion stared at the zora, a quiet happiness blooming in his chest. “You can sign?”

“I can, although I’m out of practice. Mipha taught me, when I was young.” The prince gave Link’s hand a gentle squeeze. “I assume it was because of you.” Link chuckled, and Sidon felt the worry in his heart ease at the sound. The champion appeared to be a little more relaxed now, but there was still a concern at the forefront of Sidon’s mind. “Link, why were you blushing earlier?”

“Ah.” Link went ramrod straight, and his cheeks started going pink again. His gaze dropped to Sidon’s hand. “I, uh. I remembered – Last night.” At Sidon’s confused frown, he clarified. “...When you...When I was–” He shook his head, lowering it so his bangs covered most of his face. “When I had that nightmare.”

“Oh!” Sidon exclaimed, recalling events from his half-asleep haze. Pulling the champion into his arms. Comforting Link as he curled up against Sidon’s chest. The prince’s heart fluttered. “Ah, yes, that – Are you...You’re sure you’re alright after that? You were so distressed–”

Link cut the zora off with a wave of his hand. Then, with smile, he pulled his hand from Sidon’s and stepped closer, wrapping his arms around Sidon’s neck. “Thank you. For being there.” He laughed, quietly. “And, sorry...for all the crying.”

Sidon held the champion close, delighting at the warmth. He nuzzled his head against Link’s with a chuckle. “You needn’t apologize for something like that. I’m more than happy to help.” His fingers idly caressed the fabric on Link’s back, recalling how it felt to hold the hylian the night before. This was nicer, Sidon decided. Link was happier, but still curled up in his arms. The tears were far away now. Link was safe. The prince’s eyelids lowered at the memory of Link sobbing against his arm. He’d never seen the hylian so upset. Not after fighting Vah Ruta. Not even after recalling Mipha.

The nightmare must have been awful.

Sidon pulled his head back to look at the champion. “Do you mind telling me what your dream was about? You don’t have to, if you don’t wish to, but–”

Link pressed his forehead into the crook of the zora’s neck with a frustrated grunt. “...Dreamt everyone was dead.” His fingers dug into the scales of Sidon’s shoulders. “Dreamt I failed. Again.”

Sidon’s eyes widened. He pulled back entirely, bringing a hand to cup Link’s cheek. “Goddess, no wonder you were so upset! Link, that’s awful!”

“Yeah.” Link’s eyes were downcast as he leaned into Sidon’s hand. “It sucked.”

“Well, I can assure you that none of it would ever happen.” The zora grinned broadly, clenching his free hand into a determined fist. “I know you’ll succeed in your quest! I believe in you, and I know the rest of the zora do, as well!” He grew thoughtful, his gaze turning to the mountains. “I can’t speak for the other groups you’ve helped, but I’m sure they would all feel similarly.”

Link smiled back at him, staring softly into Sidon’s eyes for a moment, before patting the hand on his cheek. “Thanks, Sidon.”

“Feeling better?” Sidon questioned, hopeful.

The smile on Link’s face stretched into a grin. “Much.”

“Wonderful!” Sidon chirped. Briefly, he considered speaking to Link about the topics he’d planned to discuss a couple weeks ago - Link’s hasty departure. The Divine Beasts.

His own feelings of love and adoration for the champion.

At the moment, though, Link looked tired. Sidon’s gaze softened in sympathy ‘...That can wait a bit longer.’ His priority now was Link’s health. The prince gestured back down the path to the Domain. “Why don’t we go get something to eat? I’m sure you’re hungry after all you’ve been through.”

Link’s grin turned sly. “Yeah, but mostly from the hiking.”

“The hiking, as I recall, was entirely your idea,” Sidon shot back with a smirk, moving to stand. “We could have stayed in the ward, grabbed something to eat, and found somewhere more private indoors.”

The hylian laughed, turning to walk back down the hills. “I can’t admit I’m an idiot hero with that many people around.”

“I think you’re a fantastic hero,” Sidon stated. When Link turned back, he grinned. “Even if, at times, you might be an idiot.”

Thanks, Sidon,” Link drawled, rolling his eyes.

Sidon laughed at the response. Suddenly, he recalled his own recent gaffs, and his pace slowed. ‘Well, if we’re admitting to being foolish while no one else is around…’ He cast an awkward glance at the champion. “If it makes you feel any better, you aren’t the only idiot in the Domain today.”

Link slowed, raised an eyebrow at the prince.

Sidon scritched at his cheek with a claw. “I...I may have also done something quite foolish after the blood moon.”

Link stopped walking and crossed his arms. Sidon, misbehaving. The thought tickled the champion, and he smirked at the zora. ‘This should be good.’ Knowing the prince, it was likely something small – some royal goof or other that would end up being endearing. “What did you do?” he asked, a teasing lilt in his voice.

“I went to Lake Hylia,” Sidon admitted.

That wasn’t a goof. That was dangerous. Link paled. “You did what?”

“I went to observe the lizalfos. Alone.”

“You did what?!” the champion exclaimed. “Sidon, are you insane?!

“My father asked me the same question,” the prince sighed. “I wasn’t thinking. I wanted to see what we were up against, so I swam there as soon as the blood moon reached its peak.”

“How many?” Link questioned, his face grim. “How many lizalfos were there?”

“Too many to count by sight,” Sidon grimaced. “But I did learn a few things, as well as, uh...” he looked to his empty wrist.

Link followed the zora’s gaze. He stared at the scales along the zora’s arm for a moment, before he grabbed it. He looked at the zora’s other wrist, which was decorated by a lovely silver bracelet, one of a pair. Sidon was missing the other. “Where’s your bracelet?” Link demanded.

“I gave it away.”

Link looked up at him, incredulous. “To who?”

“...A lizalfos I met, yesterday,” Sidon muttered.

“You...what?” The champion halted, gawking at the prince. ‘Holy shit. Did he actually…?

“I befriended a lizalfos yesterday, and there was a whole part of the conversation about zora jewelry, so I gave him my bracelet as a gift!” Sidon sped through the words, exasperated. He hadn’t gotten a chance to tell that part to the king. He rushed through the rest, hoping, almost praying he wasn’t about to get another lecture from Link. “He freely offered me information regarding the lizalfos plans to invade the Domain, and he was actually quite nice, so I thought it would be good to give him something as a sign of our newly-formed friendship!”

Link bit at his lips, trying to suppress a smile. To no avail, though – he burst out laughing, clinging to Sidon’s wrist for support.

“...Link?”

The champion groaned through his laughter. “I can’t believe this. You absolute dork.

“First I’m insane, and now I’m a dork?” Sidon pouted. “Would you care to explain what’s so amusing about this?”

“You make friends so easily,” Link tried to explain. “I joked to myself about it. ‘Sidon could befriend a lizalfos, if he wanted.’ And then,” he shook Sidon’s wrist. “Then you actually did!

Sidon’s fins fluttered. “You...you believed I could? Before I even tried?”

“Of course I did,” Link stated, as though it were blatantly obvious. “I know how charming you are.”

At that, Sidon’s brain momentarily short-circuited. ‘Charming? He thinks I’m charming?’ He stared at the champion, who stood chuckling to himself. ‘I love him and he thinks I’m charming.’ It took nearly all his willpower to not simply grab Link into a crushing hug then and there. That would be too much right now, but later maybe, after he’d confessed his feelings…

Maybe Link truly did feel the same.

“What did your friend say?” Link asked, bringing the prince back into the conversation.

“Oh, right. Yes.” Sidon nodded, attempting to get his thoughts back on track. “He told me they want the Domain because their own home is overcrowded. They’re having troubles with monsters, as well, and there was also something to do with their king and his crown, but…” Sidon eyes shut as he thought back, trying to recall the exact words Gerald had used. “...I am unsure what he meant by it. I believe all these issues the lizalfos are facing are potentially fixable. Now, if I can get my father to believe it too…”

“Good luck with that,” Link commented. He looked over the hills, pondering. ‘Monsters are easy enough.’ The zora army was strong, and if he was perfectly honest, he wouldn’t mind delaying his quest a bit to help out. A part of him twisted at the thought, remembering his haste to defeat Vah Medoh. The reason Ganon was still an issue was because he kept delaying his quest. He kept getting side-tracked. ‘But...Sidon…’ The champion bit the inside of his cheek, looking up at the zora. “...Do you need help, Sidon?”

The prince was immediately flustered. “No, no! I’m sure I can handle it – You have your hands full as it is.” He mustered the most confident grin he could. “You should focus on your own tasks. You don’t have to worry about the Domain!”

I’d rather be helping out here than fighting Blights,’ Link thought. Still, Sidon seemed determined to keep the champion on-task. As much as Link hated to admit it, he needed the prince to refocus him. He nodded solemnly, turning his gaze back to the hills beyond the zora. The light dancing on the grass was bright, and calm, unlike the doubts and worries beginning to creep back into the champion’s head.

Those thoughts came to a screeching halt when he spotted a blinding cyan among the sea of green.

Link took a step back, hand hovering at the hilt of the Master Sword.

“Link?” Sidon turned, following the champion’s line of sight, not seeing anything out of the ordinary.

“I think there’s a lizalfos,” Link whispered. “It’s a weird color, though.”

A weird color. Sidon snapped his attention back to Link with concern. “What kind is it?”

“Looks like an icy lizalfos,” Link elaborated. He frowned at the shape. It was blue, he was certain. The lizalfos was crouched, like it was trying to hide, but Link could see its orange underbelly, even at this distance. He mentally corrected his identification. The color was far too bright for an icy type. “Blue and orange. I’ve never seen one so…”

“Link, that’s Gerald!”

Link’s fighting stance relaxed, and he looked up at the zora dubiously. “...Gerald?

“The one I met yesterday!” Sidon beamed, now spotting the blue scales reflecting the bright sunlight. The gleam of the sun and the long grass almost hid the crouched figure. Almost. “What could he be doing here? It’s a bit risky for him to come so close to the Domain...”

In the distance, Gerald stood, stretching his neck out warily. He moved his arm in a hesitant wave.

“Yes, that’s definitely him,” Sidon confirmed, waving back.

Link stared at the monster in the distance, placing his hands on his hips. “...He’s different.”

“Indeed,” Sidon agreed with a laugh. “He’s – Wait, what’s he doing?”

Gerald was waving his arms rapidly, glancing back behind himself. He pointed at the pair, and then at the Domain.

“What’s he want?” Link asked.

“I think he wants us to go to the Domain, but we certainly can’t speak to him there,” Sidon took a few steps toward the lizalfos, calling out to him with a curious gurgle.

A worried yap from Gerald was cut off by the sudden sound of rushing feet. A horde of lizalfos leapt at the pair from above, spears drawn. Link reached for his sword, but not fast enough, already surrounded by several black lizalfos pointing their weapons at him. The champion grunted in annoyance and turned to look at Sidon, who was similarly surrounded. The zora had one hand on the hilt of his rapier, but he too hadn’t been fast enough to actually draw it.

In front of Sidon was a smaller lizalfos, though still a heavily armored black-scale. Link spotted the familiar, jagged horn atop her head. She aimed her weapon high, at Sidon, and the zora stood fuming. The silverscale spear at his neck glimmered in the sun.

Isolda,” Sidon growled.

The general gave a satisfied yap in response, making a quick swipe across the zora’s chest. The tip of her spear slashed through the clasp holding Sidon’s small whistle. The whistle dropped to the ground, followed by the fabric of his cravat. Isolda’s spear resumed its place at Sidon’s neck as she knelt, keeping one eye on the prince and the other on her prize. She picked up the whistle and brought it to her lips. A short, tiny trill sounded from it, and the lizalfos general let out a high-pitched giggle.

Link grit his teeth, hands itching to draw the Master Sword. Behind their group, further up the hills, were more lizalfos. More and more popped into view, abandoning their camouflage, all different colors. As the general snarled orders at the others, Link turned to Sidon at a loss. He knew she was communicating, but he couldn’t make any sense of Lizal.

Sidon locked eyes with Link, and after a moment’s pause, let out a low snarl of his own. He yapped at the general, whose head tilted almost to her shoulder in confusion.

Her concentration was broken by the arrival of Gerald, who sped to the front of the group. He hopped up, gurgling and yapping hysterically in front of the general, gesturing between the captured duo.

A curious yap left Isolda’s lips, and her eyes split between looking at the prince and the champion. As she studied the two, Gerald chirped at her, pointing wildly at Link. First, at the champion himself, and then the sword on his back. Isolda squinted at the bright lizalfos, and then turned back to Sidon. She yapped again.

“She’s allowing me to translate for you,” Sidon explained, still glaring at the general.

“How thoughtful,” Link hissed.

“You can thank Gerald,” Sidon added. “He’s been trying to explain that we can help with the problems in the temple – Especially you, being the Hero of Hyrule.” The zora’s eyes narrowed at the golden claws clutching his whistle. ‘Damn her. I could have alerted the Domain with that.

The pair of lizalfos growled and yapped back and forth to each other. A blue lizalfos further back snarled angrily, but the noise was short-lived, cut off by a roar from Isolda.

“That blue one is telling her not to listen to Gerald,” Sidon hissed. “Isolda told her to shut up.”

Link’s eyes flicked between the spear points directed at him and Sidon. The lizalfos guarding them were watching with intense scrutiny. He couldn’t break their circle without getting himself injured, let alone without risking Sidon’s life. He scowled at the lizalfos behind Isolda and Gerald. There were just too many.

With a final, decisive snort, Gerald stamped his foot on the ground in front of Isolda. The general brought a claw to her chin, regarding the other with curiosity. She turned her head back to Link and Sidon, and then her mouth split into a wide, sickening smile. She pointed at the lizalfos behind her, barking orders. Then, drawing her claws back to Sidon and Link, she waved at them.

Link’s eyes narrowed. “Sidon–”

“They’re bringing us to the temple, and they’ll delay the ambush in the meantime, but they’re leaving most of the army here,” Sidon explained hastily. He backed up as Isolda approached him. “You, they can carry easily, but they’re expecting me to struggle–"

Behind the zora, a green lizalfos leapt with its weapon drawn. Link didn’t have time to yell before it smashed the flat of its Tri-Boomerang into the side of Sidon’s head. The prince fell to the ground with a heavy thud.

No!!” Link grabbed the Master Sword from its scabbard, and suddenly his neck was completely ringed with spears. He stood there, with the blades poking into his skin, as Isolda tapped Sidon’s shoulder. Satisfied that the prince wasn’t getting up, the general sneered at the hylian. She snapped her fingers, pointing at the champion.

Gerald scooted under the ring of lizalfos soldiers with a long rope in his hands. He looked up at Link with a trill, the sound low and sorrowful. The bright lizalfos quickly bound the champion’s hands and feet, removing his weapons in the process. The spears backed off Link’s neck, and Gerald hefted the small hylian into his arms.

Isolda picked up Sidon’s cravat off the ground and studied it a moment. She glanced in the direction of the Domain, pondered it for a short time, and then turned to Link. With a satisfied yap, she brought the white cloth to Link’s mouth, and tied it around his head to gag him.

Link glared daggers at the general, squirming in Gerald’s grasp.

Isolda brought Sidon’s whistle to her lips, producing the sharp noise right next to Link’s ears. The champion flinched, and the general giggled again. She roared to the lizalfos behind her, and some began marching away from the Domain. Others crouched, immediately blending into their surroundings.

Link’s grunted, the noise muffled by the cravat, and squirmed enough to get a view of Gerald’s face.

The bright lizalfos avoided looking back at the hylian, his eyes on the ground as he marched.

Chapter Text

Link grunted as he was dropped to the ground. He writhed in the grass for a moment, trying to both wriggle free of his bonds and to give Gerald the most piercing death glare of his life.

The cyan lizalfos panted with the effort of carrying the hylian. A blue lizalfos called from the water, making its way toward Link. Gerald hissed back at it, waving the rest of the group onward into Lake Hylia.

The blue yapped back, stepping forward anyway, until Gerald physically blocked them.

The brighter lizalfos growled, indicating the water where Isolda and Sidon were - on their way to the Temple.

The blue turned its nose up at Gerald, stalking off back to its group. The crowd jeered before diving under, abandoning Gerald in favor of their general and captured zora prince.

If I can get my arm free, I can at least get to my slate,’ Link thought, scooting further away. The lizalfos plodded after him, seemingly unwilling to pursue the champion very far. ‘I could use a rune to fight him off. Just need to find a sharp rock, or a dropped weapon or—’

Gerald finally pinned Link to the ground with his foot. He gave a tired trill, glancing back at the water uneasily. At length, he reached down to Link’s face.

The champion recoiled with a jerk of his head, trying to evade the claws.

With an annoyed grunt, Gerald grabbed Link’s flailing head with one hand. He used the other to untie the fabric that gagged him.

Link’s brows furrowed in confusion. He watched, baffled, as the bright lizalfos held the piece of Sidon’s cravat in his hands.

Gerald let out another low-pitched trill, and placed the torn fabric on the ground. He regarded Link with curiosity for a moment, and then moved, lifting his foot off the champion’s torso. He grabbed the small hylian by the shoulders, lifting Link onto his feet.

The champion wobbled a moment, bound ankles leaving him unsteady. ‘...What the hell is this thing doing?’ Link stared openly at the other. Sidon had called Gerald a friend, but the ambush had been so close by – It must have been a trap. Had to be. Gerald led Isolda right to them. The lizalfos dragged Link all the way to Lake Hylia, doing nothing to help the prince.

Gerald looked pensively out over the lake.

Link looked, too, watching the whitecaps on the water as the wind blustered around them. He eyed the monster with suspicion. With the gag gone, he could try talking to Gerald. But, he couldn’t bring himself to. He didn’t trust his voice to work properly.

Besides, what could he even say?

He’d probably only yell. And curse. Nothing productive. Nothing that would help Sidon. Link struggled against his bonds again, flexing and unflexing his arms. Wiggling his wrists. No good – the ropes held tight. He knew if he tried to wriggle his feet instead, he’d fall right on his ass. That was no help either. He opted to keep watch on Gerald, eyes wary.

Gerald seemed oblivious to the fact that Link was even there, apparently more interested in the bracelet on his wrist. His face was drawn in a forlorn frown as he ran a claw over the luminous stones. Suddenly, he growled low, and he looked up at the champion with determination burning in his eyes.

Great, he’s thought of something.’ Link flinched back from the look, wishing to Hylia he could reach the Sheikah Slate. However, Gerald made no movement toward grabbing his spear. Instead, the lizalfos stepped closer, clasping Link’s shoulders with both hands. Link’s eyes widened as Gerald levelled his head with the champion’s.

Gerald yapped, patting the hylian’s shoulders amicably. He pointed to himself, then to Link, and then finally at the Lake.

…I guess he’s taking me down now?’ Link surmised, still unnerved by the claws poking against the sleeve of his tunic.

Gerald pointed to Link again, this time loudly drawing a huge breath of air. He held it, puffing out his scaly cheeks.

Link stared at the other for a moment before realizing Gerald wanted the hylian to do the same. He copied the lizalfos, breathing deeply, and holding his breath.

Satisfied, Gerald nodded to the champion, grabbing ahold of his waist. He lifted Link with ease, and hopped into the water.

They dove deep, though the pace was nowhere near the speed of Sidon. The features of the lake seemed to crawl by, in comparison. As the rocky cliffs slowly shrank into the distance, Link could feel his lungs starting to burn. ‘Can I hold my breath long enough?’ the champion fretted. The water was clear, and he could see the entrance at the bottom. It was so small – so far.

Gerald, meanwhile, was clearly swimming as fast as he could.

As they approached, Link could feel his lungs straining, demanding more oxygen. He choked out a few bubbles of air. Gerald pushed forward as Link squirmed. He needed air. Even getting free at this point wouldn’t be enough. He was too far to reach the surface of the lake before his lungs gave out. The last of his oxygen would be spent before they reached the Temple. Link’s heart pounded in sudden fear.

Would he die here?

Now? Before he could even try to rescue Sidon? The champion bit down on the insides of his lips, desperately trying to keep them closed. Wouldn’t that be a fitting end for the Hero – not dying gloriously in the effort to bring peace to Hyrule, but because he got tied up and dragged under a damn lake.

I can’t fail again—Not like this…’

Gerald landed on the very bottom of the lake, pushing hard off the sediment below and swimming the last stretch to the Temple.

Link’s chest spasmed from the sudden shift in movement, still trying to hold onto the last of his air supply, but to no avail. His lungs were empty. The champion’s eyes squeezed shut – he couldn’t bear to see where the Temple was. Couldn’t bear to see how close he’d come before his lungs gave out.

When Gerald pushed off of ground again, Link gasped, inhaling a mouthful of water before finally coming out into the air pocket. He coughed, hacking out lake water onto the stone floor. He was dangling parallel to the floor as he coughed, and it wasn’t until the spasming slowed that he realized Gerald was keeping him steady. The lizalfos gently placed Link on his knees, thumping a hand on the hylian’s back until the coughs finally stopped. His breathing less erratic now, Link locked eyes with the lizalfos.

Gerald’s head tilted, and he made a curious gurgle.

…This bastard.’ The champion coughed one more time, spitting out the last of the water and then made to move his feet under him so he could attempt to stand.

Gerald patted Link’s back once more before grabbing onto the champion’s arms. He lifted the small Hylian up above his head. The lizalfos strode forward, raising Link higher in the air before he jumped into more water.

The splash licked Link’s boots, but he otherwise stayed above the surface while Gerald swam him over to the westernmost door. The champion wriggled in the grip, maneuvering his head to see where they were going. When he spotted what awaited them at the door, his blood ran cold.

Isolda was standing there, holding Link’s weapons in one arm. Next to her were more lizalfos guards, hunched over a still-unconscious Sidon. Isolda sneered.

This bitch.Link glowered.

Gerald acknowledged his general with a high-pitched yip.

Isolda laughed, the noise harsh and guttural. She turned to Sidon’s limp form, nudging his head with her foot. Chuckling at the zora’s lack of response, she grabbed the aigrette off Sidon’s head, and placed it atop her own. The other guards cackled as she dramatically fluffed up the black feather at the top, standing with a tall, haughty stance. The general clapped twice, and then waved the other guards away. They dragged Sidon underwater, still laughing.

Gerald nearly followed suit, dunking his head under the water to watch the others.

Isolda yapped at him, tapping her foot. When she was certain Gerald wasn’t going to follow the group, the general produced a small silver key from under her armor, and unlocked the west door. Once unlocked, the chains around the frame rapidly retreated into the wall, and Isolda pushed the door open.

Gerald hefted himself and Link out of the water, running to catch up.

Link squirmed, but soon thought better of it once they entered the next room. They were walking him over a rickety-looking bridge, heading across an enormous hole in the floor. The hylian blanched. ‘I can’t even see the bottom...Is there a bottom?

All he could do was trust that Gerald wasn’t simply going to hurl him into the abyss, ending the Hero of Hyrule once and for all. A waterfall on the opposite side of the room poured into the blackness, disappearing entirely into the depths. The hylian’s eyes darted to Isolda’s back, thinking any minute now she’d give the order to Gerald to toss him.

Isolda strutted purposefully across the bridge, and opened the door to the next room.

This room was full of water, with various platforms. Large dragon statues were littered around the area, hanging targets in their mouths. The pair of lizalfos hopped into the water, and soon were at the platform along the far side of the room. There was a high wall here, and what looked like a hallway above. Link couldn’t see any way to get up it.

Then, suddenly, Link was airborne.

The hylian had been flung up the wall by Gerald, and he crashed onto the higher level with a heavy thud. Groaning, Link angled his head up to see the hallway, and spotted large protruding spikes coming out of the floor. Their tips were sharp, and stained – whether by rust or blood, the champion wasn’t sure. Link’s eyes widened. ‘I can cut the ropes on those.’ He heard annoyed yaps from below, and ignored them. Isolda and Gerald could argue. Or banter. Whatever the hell they were saying. The champion rolled, soon squirming up to his feet and hopping toward the spikes.

Isolda landed almost directly behind him. She crooned, amused, dropping the champion’s weapons and snatching Link by the back of his tunic. She dragged a claw against the ropes on his wrists, slicing them apart. The second the hylian’s hands were free, Isolda wrapped her claws around the back of his neck, holding him still while she undid the ropes on his ankles. That finished, she grabbed Link’s leg, and heftily threw him to the other side of the spikes.

He landed hard, splayed out on the floor. ‘…Getting real sick of getting tossed around... The hylian grunted, moving to push himself up, when his sword and shield clattered onto the stone next to him. His attention locked onto the glimmering scabbard of the Master Sword. Link snatched it off the ground, drawing the blade and spinning to point it toward Isolda.

The black lizalfos smiled at him from beyond the spikes, shaking her claw from side to side. Isolda plucked Sidon’s aigrette off her head, and tapped it, the sound echoing down the hall. Then, the general slowly dragged her claw in front of her neck, as though she meant to slice through it.

Link’s fingers strained on the hilt of the Master Sword. ‘…She’ll kill Sidon.’ The hylian fumed, begrudgingly lowering the tip of the blade to the ground.

Behind Isolda, Gerald had appeared, and he waved frantically at Link. The bright lizalfos pointed rapidly at himself, and then the bracelet around his wrist.

Gerald…Sidon? Bracelet? What’s he planning?’ Link thought. ‘Is he going to Sidon?

Gerald straightened, and stepped forward. He tapped Isolda’s shoulder gingerly.

The general peered at Gerald with one eye, the other staying on Link. She gurgled curiously.

Gerald yapped several times, moving his arms this way and that, explaining something. Link watched the pair with a grimace. Observing them now, it was all too obvious now that the lizalfos had a language of their own. Knowing that fact just made it all the more frustrating, waiting here in silence. Not knowing what was being said. Sidon’s fate was completely up to them, and Link couldn’t even understand what would be done.

 At length, Isolda sighed, and then nodded to the other lizalfos.

Gerald trilled happily, shooting Link a thumbs-up before leaping down to the floor below.

Isolda placed the aigrette back on her head, and then shooed Link off, directing him to the door at his back.

So, they do actually want me to deal with things.’ Link didn’t want to help them. Not now. Not after all the fights with lizalfos across Hyrule. Not after they kidnapped Sidon. Not after Isolda started threatening Sidon’s life. He could try fighting his way through the Temple. Try rescuing Sidon by himself. Or, maybe Gerald was on his way to help. Link had no idea what the bright lizalfos was saying to him. To Isolda. To anyone. He didn’t know what Gerald’s end goal was.

Sidon called Gerald a friend.

The safest bet was to leave the rest of the Temple to Gerald. At least, for the moment. Sidon was a valuable hostage, and Isolda wouldn’t kill him so easily. Not unless Link put up a fight.

Fine. Fine. I’ll play the goddess-damned Hero for now,’ Link decided. ‘The second whatever’s behind this door is dead, I’m going after Sidon.’ The hylian spun on his heel, roughly grabbing his shield off the ground, noting that Isolda had decided to keep his bow and arrows. He angrily shoved his way through to the next room. The door swung wildly, ricocheting back on its hinges and slamming shut after Link was through. The champion held his sword ready, eyes scanning the room for whatever beasts the lizalfos were having so much trouble with.

There was nothing.

Well, almost nothing. There was a little patch of earth in the center of the room, with a small tree – a dead tree, from the look of it, with no leaves to fill its branches. Yet another door stood on the far side. The rest of the room was obscured by fog.

A shiver went down Link’s spine. He shook himself out of it, frowning. ‘…Cold in here.’ He looked down at his soaking wet clothes with a grimace. Better get this over with. Go get Sidon. Leave. Get warm, dry clothes. He’d be fine then, once he had Sidon back. Once he was dry.

Maybe then the cold dread coiled in his stomach would leave, too.

The champion stepped forward. The floor was intricately decorated stone, covered in a shallow pool of water. His boots splashed as he trudged through the room, beelining for the tree. His eyes darted this way and that, waiting for something to approach him from the mists. The sound of his feet stomping through the water reverberated oddly, dissolving into nothing instead of echoing. He couldn’t tell how large the room was, even as he walked further into the middle. The walls were entirely engulfed in an odd, teal glow.

Having reached the tree, Link examined it, finding nothing of interest. No monsters. Not even bugs. Just a single, dead tree.

Maybe it’s a Talus or something,’ Link figured, stepping onto the patch of earth. He kicked it. Stomped on it a few times. If it was a Talus, it should react to him moving on top and reveal itself. The hylian walked around the tree a few times. Jumped up and down. Prodded the earth, and the tree, with the Master Sword.

Nothing.

Link sighed, frustrated. ‘Maybe the damn thing’s in the next room. How big is this stupid temple?’ He moved to the next door, kicking the water as he went. For all he knew, there was another whole set of rooms he’d have to go through after this. Maybe puzzles. Traps. But where the hell were the monsters?

Once on the other side of the room, he shook off another shiver. Whatever was waiting, it was getting murdered today. He’d kill it quick, and go find Sidon. Then they’d get out of here. Simple as that. Link reached out to push open the door.

Bars screeched down from the doorframe, blocking the exit.

Link stepped back, surprised. Another screech sounded behind him, and the champion realized that the door he’d come through had just been locked as well. His teeth grinded against each other in agitation, knowing he’d have to figure out the secret of this room to progress at all. Just like the Shrines. This place was probably littered with Sheikah tech, too. He turned, ready to solve whatever dumb puzzle the sages had left behind for him.

There was someone standing at the tree, dressed in black. Link squinted at them. ‘Where’d he come from?’ The hylian walked closer, trying to get a better look. The man was short – about the same size as Link, and he also wore a tunic. The man held a sword and shield, holding them loosely at his sides. When Link was close enough to make out the man’s features, he stopped dead in his tracks.

The man looked just like him.

Link stood there, eyes wide. Fingers curled tight around the hilt of the Master Sword. The man didn’t move. Water trickled off Link’s clothes – the steady dripping being the only sound between the warriors. The man in black, though he would have had to come through the flooded Temple himself, was completely dry. The feeling of dread the champion had felt, back when he first entered the Temple with Sidon, returned a thousand-fold.

What the hell?’ Link searched the other’s face, aghast. The hair was different – parted in the middle, and mostly covered by a hat that trailed down to the man’s shoulder’s. But the face. The face was the same. Same ears, same nose, same curve of the brow. The sword and shield the man held were black in color, but Link recognized the shapes.

A Hylian Shield. The Master Sword.

It was him, but at the same time, it wasn’t. Instead of blue eyes, Link found himself caught in the piercing gaze of glowing, red irises.

The man made no attempt to move, seeming content to simply stand and watch the champion’s confusion.

Who is that?’ Link wondered, unable to voice the question. Those red eyes were familiar, somehow. All of this was weirdly familiar. Link could feel his hands shaking, and he cursed the chill of the Temple. It was cold, being so drenched. Walking in wet clothes. Standing around freezing while a bizarre, inexact copy of himself stared him down. That’s all it was. Just cold. That was why he was huddling in on himself. Why he drew his shield closer, covering more of his vitals. Why he was slowly raising his sword, and shifting into a fighting stance.

As the copy’s eyes bored into his own, Link corrected himself. It wasn’t cold.

It was fear.

The champion set his jaw. ‘Whatever this is, it’ll be dead soon,’ he promised himself. He was a champion. The Hero. He could handle some weird doppelganger.

You came back?

The words boomed through Link’s head, and the champion flinched backwards. The copy didn’t react. Hadn’t even opened its mouth. ‘No,’ Link thought. ‘No. No. Absolutely not. I’m not dealing with a telepathic copy of myself. It’s dying now.’ He charged, thrusting the Master Sword forward to impale the copy’s unguarded chest.

The copy leapt upward, easily avoiding the strike, and landed lightly on the blade itself.

Link held his position, frozen in disbelief. The copy was crouched on the Master Sword, face inches away from his own. It weighed nothing.

The copy peered at Link, tilting its head.

Did you want to play again?

Link swung the Master Sword away, out from underneath the copy. As soon as it landed, he sprang into action, slicing away at the copy’s torso. His blade sang as it ripped through the air. It cut through the copy like it was made of water. No blood fell from what Link knew were direct hits.

The copy jumped backward, away from the onslaught. Once far enough, those red eyes locked onto Link again. It stood straight, not bothering to crouch in a challenging stance.

…I see. You’re different now.

Then the copy broke apart, turning completely liquid.

‘…was that it?’ Link wondered, edging toward the spot where the copy had vanished. Nothing disturbed the shallow pool, save for his own feet. The copy was gone. ‘That can’t be it,’ the champion thought, keeping his sword up. ‘It’s never that easy—'

A spray of water erupted behind him, and Link spun around, narrowly parrying the black-hilted copy of the Master Sword. He stumbled backward under the sudden weight of the attack. He brought his shield up, expecting more strikes.

You’re weaker.

The arm holding his shield tensed. The copy’s lips, once again, hadn’t moved – but the voice was clear. As clear as it would be as if was Link’s own thoughts. ‘Shit.’ Link’s mind began to race, looking at the copy. ‘Shit. Shit. What is this thing?

Its form had changed.

Link stood facing an exact replica of himself. The copy’s hair was now parted at the side, and tied back into a short ponytail. It wore a Hylian tunic, in the same style as the champion’s own clothes. The only difference now was that everything was black, as though the copy were cloaked in shadow.

Everything except those red eyes.

The copy stood, holding the replica Master Sword at its side. Its head was titled again.

Link charged again, attacking in a frenzy. The copy responded in kind, matching each movement of the champion’s as though he were fighting a mirror. Link darted to the side, and it followed. He jumped, and it jumped with him. The twin Master Swords clashed, again and again, neither yielding.

This isn’t working’ Link grabbed at his Sheikah Slate, and noted with relief that the copy didn’t seem to have one. He jumped backward, avoiding a slash as the copy went on the offensive. The champion’s fingers ran over the device quickly. He activated the Slate’s runes, moving to summon a bomb.

Not quickly enough – the copy rushed Link, attacking with a forward thrust.

The champion guarded, summoning up Daruk’s Protection to shield himself at the last moment. The copy smashed its sword against the brilliant red barrier, shattering a layer.

The second layer reformed, and the copy attacked again. It shattered.

Link moved, trying to get out of the fray, if only for a moment. He made to dash toward the tree – to get behind it. To get something between himself and this monster. The copy’s sword came down again.

The last barrier broke into pieces.

The copy followed Link’s attempts to run, bypassing his stride and coming around in front of him. It swung its sword in a large arc, spinning on its heel, landing a clean hit across the champion’s chest.

Link tumbled to the ground in his attempt to dodge, hissing at the pain. He looked down, spotting a gash that was already bleeding steadily down his tunic. It mixed with his waterlogged clothes. The wound stung against his skin. He looked up at the copy with a defiant glare.

 “Why are you so weak?

Link pushed himself off the ground for what felt like the hundredth time that day. ‘This is ridiculous.’ He stood again. Took up his stance again. A snarl was on his lips, and fury on his face. He raised the Master Sword again. He was the Hero. He could handle this. He wasn’t weak.

…but he was weaker.

Weaker than he’d been a hundred years ago. He’d been hunting Shrines just to regain that strength he’d lost. And somehow, this thing knew he wasn’t as strong as he had been.

Have I…Have I fought this thing before?’ Link couldn’t remember. He searched his mind – the few memories he’d regained. None of them were connected. Not to this. Not to a temple in the lake, or a mirror image fighting him with his own sword. ‘What was that form it had before?’ Link’s thoughts raced, trying to place the figure. A different tunic. Different hair. But his face. It was familiar, and yet so foreign. Even the shadowy appearance seemed reminiscent of something he knew, but just couldn’t recall. Why did it look like him? Why could it speak in his head?

Oh, I know.

The copy ran at Link again, coming at him from the side and driving him back toward the tree.

The champion barely had time to block with his sword, as the volley of blows came faster and faster. His boots crunched against the wet earth beneath him, and his footing slipped. The copy took advantage of his stumble, striking against the Master Sword and holding its own blade in place. It pushed forward, driving Link backwards until the champion smashed into the tree. His chest burned, and his back screamed in protest. The hylian strained against the weight, glaring into the copy’s glowing eyes.

 “You failed.”

Link struggled against the replica Master Sword, trying to find some angle to push it off. Get some leverage. Get the thing’s eyes away from his own. It felt like the monster was staring into his soul.

It watched him. Studied him.

You failed because you’re weak. Aren’t you the Hero? Aren’t you supposed to save the world?

The champion pushed against the copy harder. ‘It shouldn’t know that. How does it know I failed? How could a thing that lives down here know anything about me?’ This creature, whatever it was, was isolated. Trapped in an underwater Temple. The lizalfos had kept it here. But, it knew him. ‘I must have fought this thing before, but—

Don’t you have a friend to help you? Where are they?

Link kicked out with his foot, catching the copy off-guard and driving it back, briefly. He tumbled from the tree, rolling out of the way. The champion drew in a sharp breath as he agitated the gash on his chest. ‘Why,’ he questioned, ‘Why does it know about Sidon?!’ Link brought his shield up, keeping his eyes on the copy.

It mimicked him, drawing up its own shield, and then rolled its wrist, flipping its sword in an easy circle. It kept the point of the blade even with Link’s head.

Even your sword is weaker than it was.

The champion paled, glancing at the Master Sword. The copy shouldn’t know that either. Nevertheless, it was true. The Deku Tree had made a point to pound that fact into Link’s head before he took the blade from the Lost Woods. The Master Sword hadn’t regained its full strength.

Strength it had lost, because Link had failed.

You don’t deserve that sword.

Link shook his head, as though the action would drive the voice out. He bolted forward, Master Sword held high. He was the Hero, dammit. The Master Sword was his. It chose him. The monster didn’t know what it was talking about.

The copy parried Link’s attack, and after a few quick clashes, the Master Sword was knocked out of his hands.

The champion watched as the Blade of Evil’s Bane flew above him, the steel reflecting flashes of the water below. It spun in the air, and landed only a short distance away, impaling itself in the lone tree.

Link only spared a moment’s glance at the copy before breaking into a run. He dashed at the tree, after his sword. He reached it quickly, and grasped the hilt with both hands. He pulled.

The Master Sword didn’t budge.

Link felt his insides go cold. ‘No.’ He tugged on the blade again. It stuck fast, entirely lodged in the tree trunk. ‘No, no, no.

He pulled again.

The sword stayed put.

No,Link kept pulling, growing more frantic. ‘Please – No, no, not like this, come out, come out'

Link heard a splash behind him, and jumped away just in time to avoid getting cut in half. The copy’s sword slashed at his side, slicing clean through his tunic and giving him another wound just above his hip. Link scrambled away, clutching his side.

Why is it stuck?’ Link looked between the copy and the Master Sword. The tree’s trunk wasn’t that thick. The blade shouldn’t be lodged so deeply. He’d gotten the sword out of its pedestal in the Lost Woods easily enough.

So why couldn’t he retrieve it now?

Can’t even pull it out of a tree. You’re not worthy of that sword.

Link pulled out his shield as the copy ran toward him. The shield was battered from his fight with Windblight Ganon, but it was the only physical barrier he had left. ‘If I just had my bow—damn Isolda!’ His knight shield deflected the first blow easily enough, but the copy was quick – it bashed the shield to the right, and aimed a thrust at Link’s head. The champion turned, managing to avoid getting a sword in his skull, but gaining a new cut on his cheek. Link raised his shield up again. ‘Don’t break,’ he willed it, ‘Please don’t break—’

As more blows from the copy rained down on his beaten shield, Link braced himself. It was too damaged – it would shatter soon enough. It was brittle now. Weak.

You’re weak.

The champion retreated again, running backward. Running away. The room was wide, so he had space. Anywhere else would be better. Anywhere farther away from this bizarre copy of himself.

No one’s here to help you, now.

Link’s hands were shaking, gripping his shield and trying to keep it steady. His arm hurt from blocking. His fingers hurt from their death grip on the metal. His cheek hurt. His side. His chest. He was doing so poorly against this thing.

The copy watched. Waited.

They’re dead aren’t they?

Link froze. No. No, Sidon was here, somewhere, in this damned Temple. He was just captive. But the others…Daruk. Revali. Mipha. The champion’s stomach turned.

It’s your fault they’re dead, isn’t it?

It shouldn’t know—how does it know—

You’re a failure. Will everyone else die because of you?

Link squeezed his eyes shut, violently shaking his head and crouching behind his shield. ‘Shut up! Get out of my head!He tore the Sheikah Slate off his belt again. This time the copy was further away. Wasn’t charging at him. He pulled up Stasis – hoping to freeze the copy in place long enough to try at retrieving his sword again.

The copy took a step forward.

Link pressed the rune, holding the screen up to look through it, and aim. The champion’s fingers twitched on the edges of the tech. The copy was there, on the screen, but there was nothing for Stasis to latch onto. Not its fake Master Sword. Not the copy itself. He could see something smaller, behind it – His sword, in the tree. He could lock on to that, but not his enemy.

The copy walked toward him, raising its weapon.

Damn it.’ Link switched runes, to Magnesis. He could try pulling its sword away – disarm it like it had done to him. He checked the screen again. Nothing. Nothing, except his own sword, once again. ‘Maybe I could use it for mine…but…

What if it didn’t work?

Sheikah Tech might not even have an effect on the sacred blade. Link settled on a bomb instead. He had to do something about the copy first. Then he could try Magnesis on the Master Sword. He hit the rune, summoning the glowing, blue explosive into his hands.

Just in time to see the copy, leaping at him.

Shit!!’ Link dropped the bomb and dashed out of the way, clutching at his bleeding side. The copy crashed down to the water, and Link activated the rune. The bomb exploded, erupting in blue fire. The force of it propelled Link back towards the center of the room, and he fell, rolling away from the blast. Ears ringing, the hero pushed himself up onto his elbows, looking back.

The copy was gone.

…Direct hit,’ Link sighed, relaxing only marginally. The monster might pop back up again. Maybe copy his Slate this time. The champion struggled to get his feet under him. Stood back up.

He switched runes to his other bombs – the square ones. Shape didn’t matter as long as he could use it. As long as it exploded. He held the bomb aloft, looking around the room. The barred door at the entrance caught his eye, and he approached it, flinching at the agitation of his injuries.

I could blow up the door. Maybe the bars,’ he thought, ears straining for any sound other than his feet sloshing slowly through the water. ‘I could get out of here. Get away. Get another weapon.’ His chest ached. ‘Find Sidon. It’ll be okay if I can just find Sidon.

There was still no movement, aside from his own. He tossed the bomb at the entrance. The aim was a little off, landing to the side of the door, but everything would get caught in an explosion anyway. Link looked around again, seeing no sign of the copy. At length, he activated the rune.

The bomb exploded, and the wall along the door broke a bit, deep cracks running through the stone. The bars held steady, showing no sign of damage. The door, likewise, was unscathed.

Shit.’ He switched runes again, pulling out another bomb. ‘Just…Just pelt the wall. Maybe I can break the wall.

You really think that’ll work?

Link dropped to the ground, ducking in response to the words. Steel flew over his head, just barely missing his hair. The champion lost his hold on the new bomb, and ran toward the entrance. He glanced behind him only briefly, spotting the copy giving chase, and activated his rune.

Another direct hit.

And another explosion propelling Link into the air. He hit the ground heavily, body scraping against the stone floor, and groaned. ‘I can’t keep going like this,’ he thought. His arms wobbled dangerously and he shoved himself upright again. Blood seeped into the water beneath him, dancing and swirling around his knees. The last blast had been too close – his trousers were burnt. The skin underneath was a bright, angry red.

A pair of black boots came into view just beyond his bent legs. Link looked up in time to spot the copy, sword held high, and about to stab downward. The champion scurried away, crawling, clawing at the floor to try and gain enough purchase to move faster. He managed to get his legs working, though the burns stung, keeping him from breaking into a full run.

He pulled out his slate again. ‘There has to be something that works,’ he thought desperately. Stasis did nothing. Magnesis did nothing. Bombs worked, but he couldn’t get away fast enough to avoid the explosions himself. There was only one he hadn’t tried yet – Cryosis.

In a room full of water.

Should’ve tried that first,’ Link groused, spinning around and bringing his slate up. He aimed at the water beneath the copy. The ice he summoned would probably just propel the monster upward, but he might be able to get a wall between them. Get some distance. A barrier. Something. He activated the rune, and ice began to build up around the copy’s feet.

Then, the whole thing froze into a solid block.

Link paused, panting, staring at the ice with a baffled expression. The copy was stuck inside the ice, frozen in place. The champion almost laughed, disbelieving. He approached it warily, limping. ‘…That was it?’ he wondered, coming up to the ice. ‘That’s what I had to do?’ The copy was stuck, only one foot touching the floor – the Cryosis catching it mid-stride. Link placed a hand on the ice, leaning on it. His gloves smeared blood onto the crystalline surface.

How much blood have I lost…?’ Link questioned. Probably a lot, but it would be alright. He could leave soon enough. Recover. The monster was trapped. ‘It is made of water.’ His lips stretched into a triumphant grin. ‘That’s all I had to do. You absolute bastard.

Well, that’s a new one.

Link flinched, turning his head to look over his shoulder.

The copy stood by the tree, spinning its sword in its hand.

The champion looked back at the block. The copy was still stuck inside it.

There was a second copy.

It’s made of water.’ Link turned, feeling ready to collapse in a heap. ‘It can make copies of itself.He couldn’t beat it. Not like this. Cryosis would only work on three, at the most, before the ice blocks would break. ‘My sword,’ Link thought, frantically looking past the copy, where the Master Sword stood jutting out of the tree. ‘I need my sword.

The copy ran at him, and Link charged forward at the same time. He leapt over the copy’s swing, ignoring the spike of pain that ran up and down his shins. He pressed on, passing the copy and dashing straight for the tree.

The champion barreled into the wood, not pausing long enough to slow down. He crashed into the trunk with his shoulder, and grimaced. Working quickly, he placed one foot on the trunk, and grabbed the hilt of the Master Sword. He pulled.

Nothing.

The sword didn’t even wiggle in place. ‘Come on, just get out of the damn tree!’ Link pleaded. He felt sick. He was hit by sudden déjà vu – This was just like the nightmare he’d had at Zora’s Domain. Sword not moving. Enemy ready to kill him. Sidon missing. But that was just a nightmare.

This was reality.

Link let go of the blade, whipping out the Sheikah Slate and locking onto the sacred sword with Magnesis. ‘Please.’ The champion activated the rune, using its power to try and pull the blade out. He drew his arms back, the line of magic from his slate to the sword pulsing. Stepping from side to side, he tried getting a better angle. Maneuvered the magic to pull more, in different directions. ‘Hylia. Zelda. Sidon. Someone. Link tugged again, and the sword remained embedded.

He couldn’t do this. Not alone. Not without his sword.

Please.

A series of splashes alerted Link that the copy had decided to follow. He jumped backward, bloodied gloves slipping on the slate. It dropped to the floor, sinking into the water. Link pulled his shield back off his back, facing the copy and putting the tree behind him.

The copy smashed its sword against Link’s shield, over and over.

Stop—Damn it, make this stop,’ Link thought, crouching behind the battered metal. His shield clanged at each hit, and his arms were aching with the effort of continuing to block. Link tried to back up a bit, to use the tree trunk for support, when the copy slammed its sword down again.

His shield shattered in his hands.

The blow knocked Link off his feet, and he landed in the patch of dirt. He could feel the tree’s roots, distinctly, as the back of his head bashed into them. Then, there was pressure on his stomach – the copy stepping on him, holding the champion in place.

Link could see his sword at this angle.

The Master Sword stood proudly in the tree, primed to be taken out, and yet the blade had refused to budge. He reached for it, weakly, arms too short to come anywhere close to the hilt.

The copy dug its heel into Link’s stomach, pressing hard into the wounds it inflicted.

Link’s mouth opened in a silent scream, gasping in pain.

It’s right there—I can’t—’ Link forced his eyes to stay open, and he met the copy’s gaze. It watched him, stoic. Red eyes bored into blue. Link clawed at the monster’s leg, pushing and pressing, trying anything to get it off. ‘Can’t do this. I can’t—I can’t—

And you call yourself a Hero.

The copy raised the black-hilted Master Sword above its head, poised to strike.

Link tilted his head, angling to look at his own sword. ‘Why—Why even choose me in the first place?’ He reached for it again, even though he knew it was useless. If he wasn’t strong enough to beat this thing, how could he possibly hope to defeat Ganon? How could he possibly use the Master Sword then, if he couldn’t do it now?

Shouldn’t it have known, that I’d fail? That I’m—

Weak.

The copy’s sword sunk into Link’s chest.

The champion felt the air rush out of his lungs. Everything hurt. He couldn’t breathe. His sword stood, high above him, unmoving. Uncaring. Link coughed, lungs still seeking one last, desperate gulp of air. The edges of his vision blurred, going dark, until all he could make out was the copy. Its face was blank. Patient. Link almost wanted to laugh at its complete lack of expression. At the absurdity of it all. 

His own face, watching impassively as he died.

The champion’s hand, still reaching out for his sword, fell. It smacked against the water, and then there was silence.

Chapter Text

“It was my pleasure.”

Mipha.’ Link’s nerves eased, feeling the flood of Mipha’s magic wash over him. All at once, he could feel again. His limbs felt lighter. His wounds stopped aching – stopped screaming at him. His eyes refocused, his gaze turning upward to a calm fog that obscured the ceiling.

Then he looked a little lower, and saw the copy.

It was staring at him. Its black-hilted Master Sword dangled in its hand, half-forgotten, and covered in bright, crimson blood.

Link’s blood.

The champion stared back, not quite registering what just happened. ‘It stabbed me,’ he remembered, his hand moving to feel the shredded fabric on his chest. There was no wound there now. No hint of injury. Mipha’s Grace was too powerful to leave him hurting.

That’s new, too.

The copy stepped forward, only to flinch at the sound of a large explosion. It whirled around, looking behind itself.

Link looked too, past the copy, at the entrance to the room. The wall was covered in a thick smoke, and the decorated stone that had once surrounded the door was broken. Rubble had tumbled into the shallow pool of the room, dirtying the water with dust and debris.

What—?

The copy turned back to Link, holding the black-hilted Master Sword high. Its foot dug fiercely into Link’s abdomen again.

Whatever that was, it can’t help you.

Shit.’ Link struggled against the hold, squirming beneath the copy. ‘Shit. I’ll die. If it stabs me again, I’ll really

Abruptly, the copy’s head lurched forward, as though struck from behind. It staggered a moment, and then fell to its knees on top of Link, red eyes wide. Then, it burst apart, reverting to water – sword and all. An arrow fell from the space the copy had occupied, landing harmlessly onto Link’s chest.

Link’s brows furrowed in confusion, grabbing the arrow off himself. He sat up, turning the arrow over in his hand. ‘Where—?’

Link!!

The champion looked up, to the entrance. His heart soared at the sight.

Sidon stood there, in the rubble, with a steel lizalfos bow in hand. The zora was covered in blood – though it was hard to tell if it was all from an enemy, or from Sidon himself. Shallow cuts and claw marks crisscrossed over his scales. His eyes were open wide, and pitch black. Any hint of gold in his irises was thoroughly overcome by his dilated pupils. The prince lowered his weapon, face lighting up with a big, toothy grin.

“There you are! Are you alright?”

Link huffed a weak, relieved laugh. ‘Sidon. Sidon escaped.’ He stood, legs healed but still a bit wobbly. ‘He’s alive. He’s okay.’ The zora climbed through the broken wall, hopping lightly into the water. As soon as his feet splashed in the small pool, the champion felt his stomach drop.  ‘That thing’s in the water—’ He waved frantically at the prince, trying to get him to stop moving forward. ‘It’s in the water—!!

There was a larger splash next to him, and Link spotted the copy. It was facing the zora, watching, sword drawn and ready to charge.

Sidon steps halted, seeing the copy from the front – seeing Link’s form, though dark like a shadow, staring back at him. The zora blanched, unnerved. “That…why is it…?”

Without thinking, Link leapt at the copy, arrow in hand. He plunged the metal tip into its neck.

The copy burst apart again.

“Link!” This time, Sidon ran, reaching Link and the tree with haste. He kept a bomb arrow nocked, keeping his fingers ready to draw it at any moment. “Wh—What was that?! Why did it look like you?!”

The hylian opened his mouth, only to remember his voice had abandoned him. ‘Dammit. I can’t even tell him…’ He touched at his throat, grimacing.

“Your throat—Oh! Your voice!” Sidon knelt, nodding to Link’s hands. “You said you could sign, yes?”

The champion blinked stupidly at the zora. ‘Oh. Right. Sidon can sign.’ In all the havoc of the lizalfos capturing them, he’d forgotten. He brought his hands up, signing slowly, recalling Sidon had mentioned being rusty. “I don’t know what it is. It’s dangerous.” Link looked over the zora with a frown. Sidon was worse for wear – he must have fought his way here. He had his rapier and net, at least, but the bow and the spear on his back were new. Link pointed at them. “What’s this? How did you get here?

Sidon’s eyes narrowed, fingers twitching as Link signed, like they wanted to mimic the motions. “How did you…Oh, how I got here.” He glanced around, searching for the copy.

The room was quiet. The water was still.

The prince kept watch, anyway, continuing to look about the area as he explained. “You weren’t there when I woke, so I started fighting off the lizalfos–” He looked back at the champion then, his smile suddenly sheepish. “But, don’t worry! I didn’t kill any of them, only injured! I may have…I may have maimed a few…Several. But it’s alright! I’m certain they’ll be fine!” At that, he grinned again. “Gerald showed up eventually, with my weapons. He told me where to find you.”

Gerald,’ Link thought, a pang of regret in his gut. So, the lizalfos had gone to get Sidon after all. What had he said to Isolda then? There was no way the general would have allowed him to release Sidon. “Where is Gerald now?” Link signed.

“Gerald is…The whole Temple is in a bit of a frenzy, at the moment. I caused a bit more trouble than I intended, I think.” Sidon's smile turned awkward, embarrassed. “I believe he’s gone to put out the fires…The, uh. The literal fires.” The zora frowned at the champion, gaze shifting to the tree behind him. His dark eyes reflected the Master Sword, still poised in the trunk. “What’s happened to your sword?”

Link’s fingers clenched. He swallowed, bringing his hands up again – the signs clunky, and awkward. “I can’t get it out.

“What?” Sidon looked from Link to the sword again, questioning. “What do you mean, you can’t—” The sound of boots sloshing through water made the zora’s jaw snap shut. Sidon spun around, bomb arrow drawn.

The copy had returned, eyes flicking between the pair. Its weapon hung at its side as it stood. It was waiting. Watching.

“Right,” Sidon breathed, letting the arrow fly.

The copy dissolved, avoiding the attack entirely. The bomb arrow fizzled as it hit the water.

Sidon snarled. “Well, that’s useless, then.” He shouldered the bow, opting to draw his rapier instead. He pulled the spear off his back, and held it out to Link. “If you can’t use your sword, then take this, at least.”

Link grabbed it, noting with curiosity that it was a silver-scale spear. The tip still had some blood on it. He raised an eyebrow at Sidon.

“Courtesy of Isolda,” the prince smirked, black eyes crinkling at the corners.

Link’s eyes widened. The combination of the black eyes, blood, and grinning sharp teeth looked far more imposing than the first time, now that he knew Sidon had just fought his way through an entire Temple of lizalfos, rather than just getting caught up in a single battle. He’d known, of course, that Sidon was a fierce warrior, but seeing him now – hard muscle, cuts and bruises and bloody claws – Link’s mind whirled. His eyes focused on those sharp teeth, spotting remnants of blood on Sidon’s lips. ‘…was he biting them again?’ He wasn’t afraid – not like he was of the copy, at any rate. Still, the sight of Sidon now, primed for battle and having just clawed his way past his enemies, was…intimidating.

Then the zora was smiling self-consciously again, and that brutal battle image was broken in an instant. “Isolda is rather upset with me now – I may have nicked her face when I took the spear from her.” Sidon pumped his fist, energetic. Almost too energetic. “But, I’m sure it’s fine! It’s…It will be fine!”

Link had the sneaking suspicion that the prince was trying to convince himself of that fact.

The pair’s attention shifted at the noise of water splashing. The copy had reformed, and was sprinting at Sidon again.

The zora growled, moving to meet the monster head-on. He ripped his net off his belt, and attacked with his rapier. He clashed with the copy a few times before throwing the net, managing to wrap it around the black-hilted Master Sword. Sidon tugged, yanking the blade out of the copy’s hands and flinging it aside. With the copy unarmed, the prince thrust his rapier forward.

Only to hit thin air, as the copy leapt above the strike.

The copy landed daintily on the thin blade of Sidon’s rapier. It held its balance with ease, leaning forward and locking eyes with the prince. Its head tilted to the side as it peered at the zora.

Link wanted to yell a warning. He ran at the pair with his spear in hand, intent on driving the copy away.

Sidon reacted faster, moving to draw his net over the copy. He cursed as it missed – the copy merely backflipping off his blade, and jumping further away. Sidon hissed at Link. “It doesn’t even weigh anything…How were you fighting this?”

Badly,’ Link thought, his chest clenching with worry. If it played around with Sidon as easily as it did him, what chance did they have? His eyes flicked back to the now broken wall. ‘At least this time there’s an escape route—’

Your friend is different.

Link startled, hands going tight around the silverscale spear. The copy was observing him, now. He glared back at it.

“Link?” Sidon asked. “…Link, are you alright?”

The champion glanced at the prince. ‘He can’t hear it. He can’t hear it taunting me.’ Well, that could be for the better. He didn’t want Sidon to hear about his failures over and over. How he’d let everyone die. Of course, Sidon already knew, being Mipha’s brother. Still, Link didn’t want the reminder. There was no sense bringing up that pain again, especially not in the middle of a fight.

I’m surprised you have a friend left to save you.

The copy quivered, and then broke apart again.

Link and Sidon both tensed, moving closer together.

Well, not for much longer.

“What in Hylia’s…?” Sidon breathed.

Two copies had reformed. One copy of Link, and one replica of Sidon. Sidon’s replica took on everything of the prince’s form – right down to the royal regalia, though the decorative gems were dark. Sidon’s aigrette was absent, the same as the real zora. The replica’s crest was comprised of black scales, which shimmered oddly in the blue-green glow of the room. Where Sidon’s scales would be white, the replica’s were gray. Bright red dots of color gleamed in the spots where the original zora had lighter, pink markings. Its own net was slung on its belt. In its hand was a rapier, dark as night.

The mouth of Sidon’s replica opened – a low, guttural growl rumbling past its sharp teeth. Its eyes blazed red.

 ‘Goddess damn this thing,’ Link grit his teeth. He couldn’t even handle his own copy. ‘How the hell am I supposed to fight Sidon’s?!He looked at the prince, at a loss. Sidon was stricken. The champion could see the zora’s teeth clench, his lips curling back in a low growl of his own. The prince’s shoulders hunched, almost like an animal being backed into a corner. He looked afraid.

Afraid, and angry.

“So that’s your game,” Sidon hissed. “What a wretched thing.”

Link reached out, aiming to touch Sidon’s arm. Calm him. The zora would need to keep his head if they were going to get through this.

But Sidon was already moving, meeting his own replica with net and sword. It responded in kind, throwing its own net at the prince, only to be evaded. Sidon dodged the net, and pushed forward. He stepped close into the replica’s guard, deflecting its sword with a series of parries. Then, he coiled his own net around its head, pulling its face downward.

With a furious snarl, Sidon stabbed his replica just below its dorsal fin, piercing its head.

The replica broke apart instantly, and Link’s copy only spared Sidon a glance before choosing to fight the champion instead.

Or Sidon can take it out just fine,’ Link thought to himself, eyeing the zora. He let his own copy run at him, and danced out of the way of the black-hilted Master Sword. A few quick thrusts of the silverscale spear in the champion’s hands, and the copy burst, raining back down to the floor. Link smirked. ‘…And so can I, with a different weapon.’ With Sidon here, his luck had changed. He could do this. He even had a longer reach, with the spear. The champion smiled toward Sidon, relieved. They could get through this, as a team.

Sidon didn’t notice the champion’s gaze – his own was drawn to the water, a grimace on his face. At length, he looked up, catching Link watching him. The prince grinned back, whipping his net over his shoulder with a confident-looking flourish. The grin, however, was not his usual one. It looked off, somehow. Unnatural.

…that looks…forced,’ Link realized, scrutinizing the other. ‘What’s wrong?’ Before he could sign his question, though, he saw Sidon’s grin vanish.

“Link, behind you!”

The champion spun around. The turn helped him to avoid the brunt of the latest attack, but the blade that came after him nicked his cheek. It was thinner than the Master Sword. Faster.

It was a rapier.

Link stumbled backward, away from the hulking replica of Sidon. ‘I have to fight him after all?!’ The champion raised his spear, batting away the replica’s attempts to catch him with its net. The extended reach from his spear was entirely negated by the replica – the longer, zora arms could attack him from further away than his own copy could.

The replica swung its net again, catching the tip of Link’s spear. It pulled, roughly dragging the champion toward itself.

Link let go of his weapon entirely, dodging to the side to evade the replica’s rapier. He glowered as the replica retrieved his spear from its net, evidently deciding to keep the weapon rather than fling it away. ‘Great,’ the champion groused. ‘Barely any time fighting a copy of Sidon and I’m already disarmed.’ At the edge of his vision, he caught a glimpse of the real Sidon, locked in a fencing match with the copy of Link.

The prince parried a thrust from the black-hilted Master Sword, backing up and keeping his distance from the copy. With a quick flick of his wrist, Sidon dropped the tip of his rapier past the copy’s guard and into its shoulder. It burst, and he turned, spotting Link dodging wildly without a weapon. Sidon cupped a hand around his mouth.

“Bring it this way!”

Link didn’t have to be told twice. He dashed toward the real Sidon, pursued by the replica. It was slower than his own while running, but the length of its arms weren’t doing him any favors. As he got closer to the prince, he saw that Sidon had dropped his main weapons, pulling the steel lizalfos bow off his back again.

Sidon tensed, briefly, glaring daggers as the replica met his gaze. With a snarl, he fired, arrow pealing through the room and glancing off the replica’s shoulder. The silverscale spear clattered to the ground as the copy split into drops of water. The prince sucked in a sharp breath, easing the bow down and shaking out the arm that drew it.

Link stopped just in front of the zora, panting. He looked over Sidon’s pinched expression in worry. ‘He’s hurt.’ Then, his stomach twisted. ‘…he’s hurt, and he’s still doing so much better than I did.

Sidon’s eyes were less dilated now, the ring of gold around his pupils a little larger. He directed a weary smile at the champion. “I don’t think I’ll be able to fire this bow again. I can’t aim properly – I meant to hit the creature’s torso.” The words were quiet mutters – the zora’s voice strained. He held out the bow to Link, and the champion saw a long gash along his arm. It was shaking – spasming with little jolts of pain. “You had better take this, and the arrows. I only wish I’d picked up more…”

Reaching into the quiver Sidon carried, Link pulled out three arrows – two regular, and a single bomb arrow. He shoved them into his own quiver, feeling queasy. ‘Guess I’d better not miss.’ He nocked one of the regular arrows, keeping ready while standing close to Sidon. He could see the silverscale spear lying in the water a short distance away. He wasn’t sure he had time to grab it before the copies reformed again. Link bit his lower lip from the inside of his mouth. ‘Sidon just keeps…handing me weapons.’ He looked over the zora again, who was holding his net in his injured arm. The arm spasmed again. ‘Even though he’s hurt, I’m the one that needs help.’ He’d all but abandoned the Master Sword at this point. The champion stared forlornly at its perch in the tree.

…I’m supposed to be the Heroso why can’t I do this?

The copies reappeared, just in front of the Master Sword. Their forms were darker now, appearing as almost solid masses of black. Their eyes flashed, and they charged again.

Link drew his bow, aiming for the replica of Sidon. It was definitely slower than the other, lumbering forward on its shorter legs. He fired.

The replica deflected it easily with a flick of its net.

Shit.’ Link drew the second arrow and fired at his own copy instead. It raised its shield, and the arrow bounced off, ricocheting to the ground. Link’s fingers shook on his bow. He could try the bomb arrow, but these things were made of water. Even if it hit, it would only fizzle. It might damage one, but it would be better if both copies got caught in the crossfire. And that was only if he didn’t miss again. ‘Shit.

“Go after mine – its legs,” Sidon commanded. He clapped a hand on the champion’s shoulder. “You can do it, Link!” He held his rapier in front of him, and ran to meet Link’s copy.

You’re really going to make your friend do all the work?

The champion ran too, off to the side, making his way toward the silverscale spear. Sidon’s replica met him halfway, and it threw its net at the hylian. Link skidded to a stop, barely avoiding getting caught. He locked eyes with the replica, brow furrowing as it reached down to the water. The liquid swirled around it, and it clenched its fingers as though it were grabbing something. It pulled, and another net formed around its hand, solidifying as it was dragged from the water. Link groaned, inwardly. ‘This is the worst.’

The replica threw its second net, and Link rolled. Again, the replica bent down, reaching into the water to rearm itself.

I could go for the spear,’ Link thought. He glanced at the bow in his hand. A bomb arrow probably wouldn’t help him much, even if the monster wasn’t moving.

The bow itself, though…

The champion glanced over the jagged, angry spikes of the steel lizalfos bow. ‘…that’s a weapon, too.’ Link ran straight at the replica, moving his grip lower on the bow. When the replica moved to thrust with its rapier, Link swung the bow like a boko bat, smacking the sword away. He spun, gaining momentum and slamming the bladed, spiked edges of the bow onto the replica’s knee.

It sank in, and then stopped, getting stuck as though it was hitting something solid.

The champion blinked, and the replica burst. ‘That felt…real? Almost real.

“Excellent work, Link! I knew you could do it!”

Link turned, searching for Sidon. He spotted the zora sitting, waving at him. His net was underneath him, and it was…moving.

Link’s copy thrashed beneath Sidon, caught in the net and pinned by the weight of the zora.

He’s sitting on it,’ Link realized, taking in the sight. ‘…He’s sitting on the damn thing.’ He gestured at the raging copy, directing an annoyed glare at Sidon. ‘Really?!

“What?” Sidon asked, looking down briefly to observe the copy struggle. “This? Oh…Well,” Sidon scratched at his cheek. “It…I know it isn’t you, but it certainly looks like you. I’m…I’m having difficulty injuring it. Plus!” He extended his arms, smiling. “All I had to do was catch it in my net! It’s far less of a strain to—!” The copy stopped thrashing, and Sidon’s eyes widened. He looked down at it with a low growl.

Ridiculous,’ Link grumbled internally, stomping toward them. He raised the steel lizalfos bow high, jerking his head to the side to direct Sidon to move. The zora stood, hurrying out of the way. Link swung, smashing the spiked section of the bow down onto the bundled copy.

Again, it sunk in a bit, and stopped.

Then the copy broke apart into the water. Link held the bow curiously, looking it over. ‘There’s nothing special about this thing…so why doesn’t the monster feel like I’m cutting through water anymore?

“We should get your sword,” Sidon commented, indicating the tree. “I think I saw your slate over there, as well.” He began to move toward it, but Link surpassed him.

My slate!’ he chastised himself. He should have picked it back up earlier. Cryosis might actually be useful, now, with Sidon here. Or he could try warping them both back to Zora’s Domain. That thought was more appealing. Warping out, getting to safety, telling King Dorephan what happened. He wouldn’t have to keep fighting this monster – one that bested him like no other before it. He wouldn’t have to listen to its taunting anymore. He wouldn’t fail if he just never finished this fight.

Then, Sidon’s replica reappeared.

The replica stood between Link and the tree, swinging its net in a circle and ready to throw. Its form was now a deep, inky black, looking far more like flesh than shadow. It snapped the net forward, sweeping it toward the champion.

The champion jumped backward, out of the way. ‘Dammit!’ He continued retreating, eyes searching for some direction around the copy. Some way around the monster. If he could just get to his slate…

Suddenly, the champion’s back bumped into something solid.

Sidon was behind him, turned toward the entrance of the room. Link’s copy stood in front of the doorway, black-hilted Master Sword twirling in its grip. The zora glanced around, thinking. His eyes locked onto the bow that Link held. He hooked his net back on his belt for the moment, and grabbed Link’s shoulder.

“I have an idea, if you’ll place your trust in me,” Sidon stated.

Do it, Hero. Have someone else save you. It’s not like you can save yourself.

Link set his jaw, squeezing his eyes shut, willing the voice to stop. Yes, he was the Hero. Tasked with defeating Calamity Ganon. Saving the Zora. The Gorons. The Rito. Gerudo. Princess Zelda. Everyone.

Everyone, except himself.

It didn’t matter what Sidon’s plan was, as long as it worked. As long as they got out of this, and Link went on to fulfill his duty. It didn’t matter that Link couldn’t think of a plan to save them.

Even though he should be able to.

Link nodded to the prince, and instantly he felt Sidon’s large hand grab him by the back of his tunic. The zora lifted him, tossing the small hylian high in the air, in the direction of Link’s own copy.

What the hell kind of plan—?!’ Link snapped to attention, finding himself at the perfect vantage point to use his final arrow. He snatched the bomb arrow out of his quiver, and took aim. The world went quiet, for a moment. Time itself seemed to slow. His heart pounded, the noise thudding in his ears. ‘Even if the bomb fizzles, I can at least hit it—’ The champion’s eyes narrowed, and the bomb arrow flew from his fingertips.

The shot hit the copy directly in its head, and then exploded.

A long, distorted scream filled the air as the copy sank into the water. The champion startled. It was his own scream. The noise had been ripped from his throat enough times at this point that he had no trouble recognizing it. He landed, grip choking up on his bow so he could use it as a bat again. He turned.

Sidon was clashing with his replica at the tree. The replica’s rapier flashed, and it tore across Sidon’s gills. The zora gasped in pain.

Sidon—!’ Link was about run, to get to the prince to assist him, when the tide turned.

Sidon deflected another thrust aimed at his midsection, parrying it, and tossed his net. The net engulfed the replica’s head, and it flailed, stepping backward. Sidon followed it, and pointedly stabbed through its chest.

The replica let out a warped, agonized roar.

Link shuddered at the sound. It was sharp. Animalistic. It sent icy shivers up and down his spine. He felt sick, even as replica fell, melting away instead of breaking apart. The noise dissipated from the room, but it hung in the air, haunting and echoing inside Link’s skull.

He never wanted to hear anything like it again.

The prince huffed, drawing a hand gingerly to his injured side. Sidon ran his fingers over his gills and winced. The slits on the other side of his torso flailed, trying to compensate. With a tired sigh, the zora looked to Link and grinned, wincing slightly. “I think we’ve finally won, my friend!”

He’ll be okay,’ Link told himself. The prince was terribly injured now, but he’d live. Still, Sidon’s grin did nothing to put the champion at ease. ‘That still looks...? Wait. He’s faking,’ Link realized. ‘Why is he faking?’ The prince obviously didn’t want Link to worry. The hylian could tell that much. Pretending the injuries weren’t bothering the zora didn’t make sense – Link could see them. He knew they must be painful. There had to be some other reason for Sidon to fake a smile at Link. To only pretend he was happy. That everything was fine. Then, a thought occurred to the champion.

Sidon knew he failed.

The prince must have figured out Link had failed against his copy. There was no way the champion could be pinned under a monster like that, miraculously uninjured, and only then start doing terribly. Seeing Link miss easy shots with the arrows. He knew Link was shaken, offering encouragement and plans in Link’s place, instead of following the champion’s lead.

And now he’s faking to make me feel better. He’s pitying me.

He’d only ever wanted to show off in front of Sidon. To prove he was just as great a hero as the zora seemed to think he was.

And now he’d blown it.

“Now, let’s see about your sword!” Sidon chirped, though his side twitched with the effort of standing straight. He walked the short distance between himself and the tree, frowning at the blade. The prince grabbed it, his hand all but engulfing the hilt, and he pulled.

The Master Sword slid out of the trunk.

‘…No.

Now, Link genuinely thought he was going to be sick. ‘I couldn’t get it to budge,’ he thought. His fingers felt numb. His body buzzed. Breathing felt like he was trying to suck air through molasses. ‘I couldn’t—how did Sidon—I’m the Hero—The champion could feel his breath quicken, like he couldn’t get enough air to his brain to process what had just happened. ‘That’s impossible. That’s not—Sidon didn’t—How could he do it when I couldn’t—?!’

“Link?” The prince called, his voice concerned. “Link, what is it?”

The champion’s pulse quickened, heart ramming against his ribcage. He wanted to run. Wanted to get out of here. Get as far from this Temple as possible and never return. He wanted to leave the Master Sword behind.

The bow in his hands fell to the ground.

He pulled out the Master Sword when I couldn’t and he knows I failed and he’s just pitying you and the monster’s dead but only because Sidon was here and you’re the Hero so why couldn’t I do anything to stop it and shit shit shit no this isn’t happening get ahold of yourself—Damn it, Link, why are you so—?!’

Weak.

Water surged in front of Link, and soon a copy of himself stood before him. Red eyes alight like a flame, it leaned forward, examining Link mere centimeters from his face.

Link!!” Sidon’s rapier was raised in an instant. He ran at the copy.

Come back to play, Hero.

The copy smiled, and then sank back into the water. The liquid pulsed, and the area filled with white light.

Link squinted, blinking at the brightness. Eventually, the light cleared, and the fog with it. The shallow pool was still around his feet. The eerie, teal glow had disappeared entirely, leaving muted stone walls that resembled the design of the rest of the Temple. Link refocused, looking past Sidon’s worried face to the center of the room.

The tree was gone.

Wait…It was an illusion?

Link sank down to his knees. The pain of the joints hitting hard stone didn’t register. Sidon was shouting at him. Words. Something he couldn’t make out. He couldn’t hear. His thoughts were a whirlwind, unfocused and screaming, drowning out the world around him.

The tree wasn’t even real?

Chapter Text

Link’s breath stuttered, coming in short, and panicked. ‘The tree wasn’t real. It wasn’t real. It wasn’t even real.His eyes dropped to his hands. They were shaking. He couldn’t get them to stop. ‘I couldn’t pull the Master Sword out of a tree that wasn’t even real.

How could he call himself the Hero?

Sidon was at his side, kneeling. The touch of the zora’s fingers on his face had him flinching. Link’s eyes boggled at the prince, wondering where the sudden touch had come from.

Sidon’s hands twitched, like he wanted to hold the champion’s face again, but he held himself back. “Link,” he mumbled, his voice quiet, and gentle. “Are you alright? You’re crying.”

The hylian brought a finger to his cheek. It was wet. Warm. Warmer than the water from the Temple. It spilled from his eyes, cascading down his face as he drew in more shuddering breaths. ‘Couldn’t get the Master Sword. Couldn’t win. Couldn’t do anything.’ He spasmed in a full-body shiver, and hugged himself. He shook his head roughly.

“Link, you’re safe now. It’s gone,” Sidon stated. He frowned at the Master Sword, still in hand, unsure what to do with it. Link was clearly far too upset to take it. The zora shifted, placing the blade gently into the water next to him.

Link’s eyes snapped to the sword. It lay unassumingly in the pool. Just another piece of metal. Nothing special about it, beyond the legend. Nothing wrong with it. The only thing wrong was him. His limbs ached, feeling weak, and clammy. Useless. He watched his reflection in the water, warping and distorting above the blade as he shook.

Then, it was like his insides were on fire.

There was a sick feeling deep within his gut. Link was dizzy with it. His chest felt hot – too hot, like there was magma in his veins. In his lungs. Like something trying to claw its way up and out of him, eating, burning him away from the inside. Hell-bent on getting out. Hell-bent on breaking the Master Sword in half.

He hated the sword.

He hated himself.

“Whatever happened to your sword – I’m sure it was only that creature trying to mess with your head,” Sidon commented.

That wasn’t true, though. Not to Link. The creature only spoke of what he knew about himself. What he knew, deep down, ever since he had woken up to people calling him the ‘Champion of Hyrule.’

He was a failure.

He failed a hundred years ago. He kept making mistakes – stupid mistakes, all over Hyrule. He should have known the blood moon would hit while he was nearing Vah Medoh. Should’ve grabbed the heart container after his fight with Windblight Ganon.

He should have known the lizalfos would head to Zora’s Domain the second they could. That it was idiotic to lead Sidon outside the Domain, where the lizalfos could capture him. To put the prince in so much danger.

He should have brought a better shield with him. Extra weapons. He should have given himself as many options as possible, for fighting any kind of monster.

A Hero should know better.

“That creature merely got into your head, Link,” Sidon pressed. His voice remained quiet, but only just, barely restraining himself from raising it. “Don’t do this to yourself.”

Link’s fingers felt at his throat as he grimaced. He was a failure of a Hero. One who couldn’t even speak in times of trouble. Not even in front of Sidon – he couldn’t even manage in front of the one person he cared about more than anything else.

And I’m supposed to save the world. Right.

Suddenly, Sidon’s large hands wrapped around the champion’s. He looked Link hard in the eye, bringing the hylian’s hands up in between them. “Tell me what’s going on.”

Link stared at the zora, baffled.

“You can sign. I may be out of practice, but you can at least try to tell me what’s wrong. Even if I only understand the gist of what you’re saying, that’s better than nothing.” The prince’s grip tightened.

Link’s heart lurched. ‘What can I even tell him…?’ He wasn’t sure he even wanted to say what was on his mind. Wasn’t sure he wanted to lay all of it bare, for Sidon to see. For Sidon to judge.

What would the prince think, if he knew the Hero wasn’t a hero after all?

“I can’t bear to watch you suffer when I’m right here,” Sidon continued.  He held Link’s hands higher, releasing just enough that the hylian would be able to move them. The prince’s eyes grew desperate. He was worried. Scared. The zora’s fingers ran over Link’s own, as though trying to rub the will to move into them. “Please, Link.

The champion felt a pain in his chest. One that didn’t feel much different from the black-hilted Master Sword slicing through it. He couldn’t deal with Sidon being this upset. Couldn’t bear the zora’s voice quivering like that. Link turned his head away, ashamed. He couldn’t keep worrying Sidon. He couldn’t keep causing the prince more pain. Sidon would figure out the truth one day. Everyone would find out the champion wasn’t strong enough, eventually. There wasn’t much point in hiding it now.

Link’s arms felt like lead, but they moved. He formed the signs slowly, taking a deep, shuddering breath to steady his hands. It didn’t help, but he signed anyway.

I’m a failure.

The champion waited, eyes watching Sidon’s face to verify the zora comprehended the words.

Sidon continued to watch Link’s hands for a moment. Then, he frowned at the hylian. “You failed once,” he agreed. “That doesn’t make you a failure.”

Who says I won’t fail again?” Link protested, hands moving a little faster. “I’m weak now. I hear it everywhere. I have to find Shrines to regain the strength I lost. The Master Sword lost its power because of me.” And now, the Master Sword didn’t even recognize him. Not in the middle of his worst fight in memory. Instead, it decided getting stuck in an illusory tree was better than being wielded by him. He wasn’t worthy of the blade anymore.

The thought pricked at his brain, his head feeling like was full of brambles.

The damned Sacred Blade had picked the worst possible moment to cast him aside. The champion ground his teeth together, fingers clenching angrily. “I couldn’t even fight a shadow of myself, alone!” He could feel the water welling in his eyes again, and he pointedly ignored it. He didn’t care anymore. This battle proved one of his greatest fears. He wasn’t strong enough. He probably never would be. Even with the Master Sword, it wasn’t enough, and he was getting so sick of it all. Sick of everyone telling him he was the Champion. The Light. The Chosen One.

If I can’t even beat a copy of myself,” Link signed, “then how the hell am I supposed to fight Calamity Ganon?!” He gestured to Sidon himself, and the zora startled. “How do you know I won’t just fail all over again?! How can I save Hyrule when I couldn’t save my friends?! I couldn’t save Mipha – you know that! I’m not strong enough – what if I just get everyone killed again?!”

Sidon’s face darkened.

Link’s head dropped. He couldn’t look at the prince anymore. Not after finally admitting the truth. He’d failed so badly before. He kept failing now. He’d fail again. He wasn’t a Hero – he was just some amnesiac knight, traversing across Hyrule and trying to pick up the pieces. Whatever Champion he had been before must have died that day, a hundred years ago.

All that was left was Link. Weak, useless, stupid Link.

I can’t do this,” Link signed, unable to stop himself. He’d never been made to explain himself before. Never unleashed all the pain he felt. He knew no one wanted to hear the Hero complain – it was why he kept it all quiet in the first place. Now that he’d started, though, his hands moved faster and faster, unable to bear keeping it in any longer. “I don’t know why anyone thought I could do this. I’m not strong enough. The Master Sword gave up on me. A copy of myself beat the shit out of me. A copy of you beat the shit out of me—” He heard Sidon shift in front of him. His eyes squeezed shut, blocking out the view even of Sidon’s feet while he let the zora judge him.

‘I mean, for fuck’s sake—

“I believe in you.”

Link’s eyes opened again at the statement. They were the same as Sidon always said, but his tone was different. Vastly different. He raised his head, looking up at the zora in confusion.

Sidon looked back at Link with narrowed eyes. His lips, usually so quick to offer a comforting smile, were drawn in a grimace. The gold of Sidon’s irises had finally returned to normal, but they flashed with anger. His pupils were thin slits, focused entirely on Link.

The hylian shrank under the gaze, unsure what to do. He’d seen Sidon angry. Seen him absolutely incensed when he thought the champion had been hurt by the lizalfos.

He’d never seen Sidon angry with him.

“I believe in you,” the prince repeated, his voice a low, rumbling growl. “Though you don’t seem to grasp what I mean when I tell you so.” His lips curled back in a snarl. “Do you think I don’t understand how you’ve failed, Link?”

He did know,’ Link thought, stomach sinking. ‘He knew I couldn’t handle that monster—’ Then, the prince’s expression changed, and Link’s thoughts trailed off. Sidon was still angry, of course. His eyes blazed with the fire of that anger.

But behind that fire, there was so much pain.

“I know the consequences of what happened from your failure a hundred years ago,” Sidon stated, flatly. “I know them first-hand. I lived through them.” His voice cracked over the words. “I watched my world shatter when I was a child.

The zora’s hands moved to hold Link’s shoulders, but the grip was weak. It was a light pressure, like Sidon was only trying to use the touch to ground himself. As the zora’s head lowered, Link reached up to run his hand along Sidon’s, and then paused. His hand lingered in mid-air. ‘I’m probably the last person he wants touching him right now—

“Do you think…Do you think it was easy, finding out who you were?” Sidon asked, not lifting his gaze. “Finding out that the hylian I brought to the Domain, to help us, was none other than the Champion – The man who was supposed to defeat Ganon, with Mipha, all those years ago?” His hands fell lower along Link’s arms. “…It was like ripping open a wound that I thought had finally, finally begun to scar over. To heal.”

Sidon went silent then, and Link started panicking. Before he had a chance to act on it, though, to squirm out of the zora’s hold and collapse in on himself, to curl up in his own self-hatred, Sidon spoke again.

“Yet, even knowing who you were, and what happened, you still gave me hope,” Sidon huffed, smirking. “I’d been watching you. I’d seen you fight. I could see how strong you were, before you were anywhere near Vah Ruta. Without this.” He picked up the Master Sword. The prince held it for a moment, scrutinizing the inlaid Hyrule family’s Royal Crest in the steel. “This is the Master Sword, isn’t it? Your blade of legend.” He placed it back down in the water, fingers resting on it gently. “You calmed two of the Divine Beasts without it. You calmed Vah Rudania before I’d even met you.” The prince’s lips quirked up more, faintly. “So, I trusted you.”

Link let out a shaky, relieved breath. He reached then, unable to help himself. He placed his hand on Sidon’s – the one still gently holding Link’s arm. Sidon gave the hylian’s arm a light squeeze, and Link found himself mirroring the prince’s small smile.

Because it was a smile on his face, now. It was small, and still so full of pain. So full of agony. But it was there, and it was real, and it was grateful.

“And then, Link,” Sidon continued, “Then we fought together.” The prince’s smile stretched at the memory. “You were magnificent. One tiny hylian, fending off Vah Ruta’s ice defense with only a bow and some shock arrows. All while riding on my back, while I was swimming as fast as I could!” He let out a light chuckle. “And jumping into frigid jets of water, swimming up them to attack the Beast…You managed all of it. You went alone into Vah Ruta. You fought the very blight that killed my sister.” Sidon beamed, then, his eyes shining. “You won.”

Link held Sidon’s arm with both hands, fingers running over the zora’s wrist. Sidon’s other hand lifted to cup Link’s cheek, and the champion leaned into it. His eyes drifted shut, reveling in the smoothness of the scales against his face. Reveling in the closeness.

“I knew then. I knew I could always trust in your strength.” Sidon ran his thumb across the hylian’s cheek, softly wiping at the tear stains. “I knew then that you were the man that would save Hyrule.” When Link’s eyes flew open at the statement, Sidon added, “I’ve come to know you not only as a valiant warrior, but as one of my dearest friends. I know you as a person, Link, and I know you’d never fail again.” He spotted the champion glance downward, at the Master sword, teeth worrying over his lip. Sidon gave Link’s head a gentle nudge, bringing the hylian’s attention back to him. “It’s not because you wield the Master Sword, or because you’re the Hero of legend. It’s because that’s simply who you are.

Link frowned, and his hands lifted from Sidon’s wrist to sign. “…I don’t remember who I am. Everything’s in pieces.

“You’re Link,” Sidon said, simply. “You’re caring, and you’re kind. You go leagues out of your way to help others. You’ll put yourself at the greatest risk, if only to solve the problems of a single person – and don’t tell me that’s just because it’s your duty. I know it isn’t. It’s just you.” The zora grew thoughtful then, his gaze glancing around the room. He took in the designs of the temple. The aftermath of their battle. The room itself was barely damaged, beyond the hole by the entrance. It looked nearly pristine, despite the fierceness of the battle. He looked back at Link, and the small cut on the champion’s cheek. That cut was all that was left. A tiny, red mark on Link’s face, belying all the intensity of the fight. The intensity of Link risking everything, enduring the copies and their relentless attacks on his psyche, all because the lizalfos had forced them here.

Sidon frowned.

“There are several who have called you reckless, but…I don’t think that’s completely accurate. You would be reckless if you did all this without a care for anything, but you do care. Perhaps too much.” Sidon’s fingers moved through Link’s hair, claws brushing through the layers that were too short to stay in the champion’s ponytail. His voice softened. “I know you’re scared. Terrified, even. That much was clear during our last battle. Yet, you’ve continued to roam Hyrule, despite terrible odds, unabated.”

Sidon’s hands moved again, and Link found himself being pulled closer. The hylian was merely inches away from Sidon’s face – looking into the depths of those deep, golden eyes. He spotted tiny flecks of teal in the gold that he’d never noticed before.

“I don’t think you’re reckless. I think you’re courageous.” Sidon’s head leaned down until the tip of his crest rested in the hylian’s hair. “I believe in you. I only wish you would believe in yourself.”

The hylian leaned upward, pressing his head against Sidon’s, and squeezed his eyes shut again. Tears leaked from Link’s lashes.

“Don’t let that thing get inside your head and get the best of you,” Sidon muttered, thumbs rubbing in small circles on the hylian’s shoulders. “Its words were poison, only meant to eat away at you from the inside – to distract you. You are so, so much better than you could possibly know.”

The tears came in rivers now. Link was crying again. Couldn’t stop crying. His knees wobbled, and he let them collapse. Sidon was the one holding him up now, and the zora brought Link close, holding him tightly. Link’s fingers felt along the prince’s scales, before winding their way up around Sidon’s shoulders. A sob wracked his frame, and Link buried his face into the crook of the zora’s neck.

Sidon rubbed a hand down Link’s back soothingly. His other hand held the champion steady. The prince brought his lips to Link’s ear, mumbling. “It’s alright, Link…Everything will be alright.”

Link pressed harder against the zora, breathing coming in ragged, painful gasps. All he could think to do was to get closer – to let the zora’s hold engulf him. To let Sidon’s words wrap around him, strong and soft and secure, like a blanket.

Like a shield.

The champion’s chest hurt, from crying. His cheek hurt, too, stinging from the cut of the replica’s rapier. His head hurt, trying so hard just to push away the copy’s taunts. Trying so hard to just breathe enough. Everything hurt but Sidon – nuzzling against Link’s hair and gently running his fingers across the champion’s back.

…the hell did I do to deserve him?’ Link wondered, curling up against the prince.

Eventually, the aching, choking sobs ebbed. Sidon pulled back a bit, brushing the champion’s bangs out of the way. He smiled at Link, his hand moving to hold the champion’s cheek again.

Link brought his eyes up, slowly, still a little embarrassed to meet Sidon’s gaze after everything. When he did, his shoulder’s drooped with relief. ‘He’s not mad at me anymore,’ Link realized, taking in the warmth of Sidon’s expression. ‘He knew. Of course he knew. He knew everything—’ The thought gave the champion pause. Sidon knew everything.

Link hadn’t mentioned the copy was speaking in his head.

His brows furrowed, regarding the zora with newfound confusion. He hadn’t signed a thing about what the copy had been saying. About it giving voice to his own doubts. Sidon hadn’t been able to hear those taunts, either. The creature’s lips never opened.

Yet, Sidon knew.

“What is it?” Sidon asked, frowning at Link’s confused face.

The champion signed the question, slowly. “How did you know…How did you know it was in my head?

“…Ah,” Sidon’s eyes flicked away, sheepishly. “I thought it was a safe assumption.”

Why?

At that, Sidon’s eyes darkened. His gaze dropped to the water as he mumbled, “…because it was doing the same to me.”

Link stared. ‘…doing the same…?’ His brain chugged along at a crawl, not quite registering. Sidon wasn’t hearing taunts aimed at Link, he’d been hearing taunts aimed at himself.  ‘What…If he was dealing with that, too…but he fought so much better than I did,’ Link thought. The prince had been going through the same attacks on his psyche, and yet had been calm enough to keep up the fight. Calm enough to give Link instruction. “How were you so calm?” he signed. “How was it not getting to you?”

“…It was getting to me,” Sidon admitted. “I simply…I have a bit more practice than you, I suppose.” The zora smiled softly. “I’ve had a hundred years to learn how to cope.”

Link stared at the zora, incredulously. Of course, the zora had plenty to cope with over a hundred years, he was sure, but…Sidon had never shown that much distress – never showed he’d been going through the same sort of personal, all-consuming guilt, like the champion. The zora worried here and there, understandably. Fretting about his more feral appearance, and the like. Link thought further back, recalling finding Sidon in the middle of the night, once, speaking forlornly to the statue of Mipha. That had been so short, though – Sidon had snapped right back to his usual self afterward. He seemed to bounce back so quickly – just a shining ray of hope and happiness that almost never faltered.

What was it telling you?” Link signed, at length. He couldn’t think of anything that the copy could exploit from Sidon, unless it was about Mipha. That couldn’t be all, though. Not with how the monster had hounded Link.

“It was…It only preyed on the usual roots of my self-doubt,” Sidon explained, waving the statement away.

The champion shot the other a determined glare. “I told you mine,” he signed. “You don’t have to if you don’t want to, but—

“It’s…” Sidon sighed. He paused, biting his lip. “…Alright. I did make you admit your own,” the zora laughed, but the sound was hollow.

Link grabbed Sidon’s hand, running his fingers over the scales.

Sidon held onto the champion, loosely. “There were a few…One was that I couldn’t protect Mipha.”

You were a child,” Link protested.

“I was…I know, and I understand that,” Sidon smirked. “I still wish, sometimes. I don’t know what I could have done, but oftentimes I feel as if there must have been something. I hate feeling useless – I always have. Yet, that feeling seems to keep cropping up, as of late.”

When the zora stopped, Link tapped him. He inclined his head, signaling the prince to elaborate.

Sidon grimaced, as though continuing was physically painful. “I…I couldn’t stop Vah Ruta.” At the champion’s surprised expression, he clarified, “By myself, I mean. I couldn’t take care of the issue myself – for my people. My weakness to shock arrows prevented me from doing much more than finding someone else to do it, in my stead.”

You know using shock arrows would have killed you,” Link glowered. “You being dead doesn’t help anyone.

“I never said my anxieties were entirely logical,” Sidon chuckled. “Yours certainly aren’t.”

The champion felt a flush creep into his cheeks. He rubbed at them. The lines of tear stains made them feel stiff, and dry. “Okay,” he managed. “…I guess that’s fair.

Sidon smiled for a moment, but it faded as he continued. “Most of my fears have to do with my own duty, as the prince. Of not being able to protect my people, with my own power…I’m the crown prince. I’ll be King someday.” The zora rubbed at the zora crest holding together what remained of his cravat. “What I am able to accomplish now is going to influence my peoples’ opinion of my rule, long before I ever take the throne. I have to live up to my father’s legacy, as well as Mipha’s, and…I loved her. I still do, but…” His eyes locked on Link again. On those bright, beautiful blue eyes. Sidon’s stomach twisted. A million words were on his tongue. A million things he wanted to tell the champion. “…Mipha casts a long shadow.”

You’ll be fine,” Link assured the other. “You needed outside help and you got some. Mipha would be proud.

At that, Sidon seemed to recall something. He huffed a quiet laugh. “I guess so.” He looked over Link again. “Still, I couldn’t even go inside Vah Ruta. I had to leave it solely to you, in the end.”

The champion’s hands were up again, to protest. Sidon took them gently in his own.

“Link. I know the Divine Beasts are a part of your duty, but…” His gaze lowered, taking in the small, scarred hands he held. “…I care for you. Dearly. I know it must be difficult – absurdly so, to manage all that you do. You have the heaviest burden of anyone in Hyrule. The least I could do is try to take some of it on myself…but…” Sidon regarded the room sullenly. The broken entrance. The decorated stone walls. The Temple itself elicited a gloomy grunt from the zora.

Everything had gone so wrong.

“I tried to ease your burden by taking care of this by myself,” Sidon explained, gesturing to the room around them. “You’ve seen how well that venture went.” He grimaced at the Master Sword, still submerged. “I managed to fail that entirely, and got you dragged into it anyway.”

The champion followed Sidon’s gaze. He regarded the Master Sword with a weary expression.

“That…That was what the creature fed on the most, I think,” Sidon muttered. “I wanted to help you, but…” He smirked at himself. “…I don’t seem to be able to.”

Link snapped to attention at the final comment. He peeled his hands away from Sidon’s grip, surprising the zora. The champion grabbed the fins framing Sidon’s face, tugging and forcing the other to look at him. He brought his hands back up. “You do help me. You help me more than anyone I know.

“Link—”

Being the Hero sucks,” the hylian signed, scowling. “It’s hard. You’re right – it’s a heavy burden. Sometimes it feels like I’m drowning under it.” Link touched the side of Sidon’s face, gently, stroking the other’s cheek before continuing. “But I know you’re always there – you believe in me. Having that support is…” The champion’s hands fumbled for a moment, fidgeting as he worked out what he wanted to say. It wasn’t enough, to tell Sidon he appreciated the zora’s efforts. Appreciated being his friend. It was more than that. It always had been. More than just caring for Sidon. More than just being grateful for Sidon.

Link took a steadying breath.

I failed a hundred years ago,” the champion signed. I’m scared I might again. I’m scared, because this time, I could lose the person I love the most.

Sidon looked from Link’s hands, to the champion’s face, and then back to his hands again. “I’m…I’m sorry, Link I may have missed something – ‘person you love,’ was it?”

Link nodded to Sidon, feeling his face begin to heat up.

“That was right?” Sidon questioned. “Wait, but…I think I missed when you said…Who are you referring…?”

Link’s cheeks turned as bright as the zora’s scales. His gestures turned hurried, wanting to get words out before embarrassment took over. “I love you.

Sidon goggled at the champion.

Link held eye contact. He knew his face was stained. His eyes were probably puffy. He was sure he looked like an absolute mess. He could’ve waited for a better moment to say such important words to the prince – one where he was clean, not stained with blood, and sweat, and a hundred years’ worth of tears. Not coming off the tail-end of a complete meltdown, with too-bright eyes boring into Sidon’s like two blue flames.

But Sidon sat there, wide-eyed, with the most breathtaking smile Link had ever seen.

Link!” The zora’s eyes gleamed at the champion, sparkling even brighter than Farosh’s lightning. Sidon scooped Link up, standing and drawing the hylian as close as possible. “You—You actually—Truly?” At Link’s bashful nod, the prince brought the other into a bone-crushing hug. “Why didn’t you say anything?! No, wait!” He stopped, suddenly pulling back again. “I should have! Why did I not say something during that speech I gave about how wonderful you are?” The zora flinched, realizing he had the champion sitting on his injured arm. He shifted Link to the other one, and frowned at himself. “Damn, I should have…that would have been perfect.”

What are you talking about?” Link demanded, tugging on one of the zora’s fins.

“What? Oh! My apologies – How foolish of me,” the prince laughed. He held the champion close. Tight. Secure. So close, Link could see every little detail in those happy, golden eyes. “I love you, Link!”

Link huffed a laugh. All at once, Sidon was nuzzling against the side of his face, and he laughed harder, clinging to the zora. He felt warm again – the chill from the Temple entirely forgotten. The battle with the copy was a distant dream. All that was left was Sidon, holding him – showering him in praise and affection.

Then, there was a sniffling noise.

The pair froze, looking around for the source of the sound. The room was empty, still, save for the pool and weapons scattered about the water.

“Oh,” Sidon breathed, looking toward the hole by the entrance. “Gerald.”

Link turned his head, and, sure enough, there was the lizalfos. Gerald’s bright cyan and orange coloring was stark against the stones. He was still sniffling, and looked oddly squished, lying on the rocks. He let out a small, doleful yap.

“…He says, ‘that was touching,’” Sidon supplied.

How long has he been there?” Link signed, gawking at the lizalfos.

Sidon made a curious gurgle.

The lizalfos yapped in return, and then wiggled uncomfortably. He managed to scoot himself forward, and then suddenly several large, invisible somethings splashed into the water.

More lizalfos, no longer camoflagued, fell into the room. They all bolted upright, skittering before forming an awkward, embarrassed huddle close to the entrance.

“He’s been here since I mentioned easing your burden. They all piled by the entrance to watch,” Sidon explained, his voice flat in annoyance.

Link didn’t think his cheeks could get much redder.

Gerald stood, brushing himself off with a happy grunt. He hopped in the water and waved at the pair, growling.

“He brought back up for the battle, but by the time they got here we…They didn’t want to interrupt,” Sidon translated. He placed Link back on the ground with care. “Goddess, that’s a bit embarrassing...”

No shit,’ Link mused, willing his blush to cease. The lizalfos looked harmless enough. Just uncomfortably pacing in place – completely at a loss for what to do, now that they’d been caught spying.

They all jumped as a low growl was heard from the entrance.

Isolda stepped into the room, her pace slow. She bore no weapons, though the prince’s aigrette was still atop her head. She stopped next to Gerald and crossed her arms over her chest, regarding Link and Sidon with wary eyes. A bright red cut ran along the side of her head.

‘…That’s the same place as Sidon’s scar,’ Link realized. He glanced at the zora.

Sidon snarled at the general.

Isolda responded with a single yap, and then paused, growing thoughtful. She removed the aigrette and inclined her head toward the pair, gurgling.

“She…” Sidon turned to Link, looking confused. “She says she made a mistake, separating us. That we’re stronger together.”

Isolda yapped a few more times. Gerald nodded rapidly next to her, mouth split in a wide smile.

The prince let out a laugh, repeating one of the yaps in disbelief. “She’s going to have us healed. And we can leave, once we help them gain access to their king’s crown.”

There’s not another telepathic copy monster, is there?” Link asked, face irate behind his moving hands.

Sidon repeated the question in Lizal.

Isolda cackled, and growled in turn.

“There is a monster, but it’s aligned with Ganon,” Sidon clarified. “It’s ‘no match for the Hero and his love,’ she says.” He knelt next to Link, his voice dropping low. “Do you think we can? After we’re healed up?”

Link mulled over it. He wanted to get back to Zora’s Domain and leave the goddess-forsaken Temple behind. But, now, they had the trust of the lizalfos. The trust of their general. He eyed the Master Sword, beneath the water. He would have Sidon with him, to fight this other creature. They could help the lizalfos, and maybe secure respect for the zora crown. Or, at least, for Sidon. The hylian met the zora’s eyes.

“I got us into this,” Sidon murmured. “I’ll let you decide.”

I’m the Hero,’ Link thought, running a hand over the scar on Sidon’s fin. ‘…I help people, even when it’s not part of my duty.’ The next battle wouldn’t be nearly so bad. Couldn’t be. Not with Sidon with him from the start. Not when he had so much support so nearby. The champion breathed deeply, bracing himself, and proceeded to lift the Master Sword out of the water.

It was lighter.

The blade still had weight, but it was a good weight. Solid. Comfortable. Familiar.

Link sheathed the sword, feeling rejuvenated even without the healing. He grinned at Sidon. “We can. Let’s go, love.

Sidon beamed back at him. “Very well, my hero.” He turned to Isolda and growled.

Gerald nearly slipped, jumping for joy as he was. Isolda merely laughed, and beckoned for them to follow. A few more lizalfos popped into the room at her command, carrying elixirs. Others scattered about the room, picking up the discarded weapons. Isolda’s spear was returned to her. A small green lizalfos skittered over to Link, and handed him his Sheikah Slate with a happy yap.

Link walked alongside Sidon, feeling like he was gliding on air. Whatever else this Temple had in store, they would be able to face it.

Together.

Chapter Text

Isolda grunted, bringing the party to a halt in the main area of the Temple. She gestured to the locked door in front of her – the northernmost door. Bringing out a small silver key, she unlocked the chains that held the door shut. That done, the general turned back to Link and Sidon, gurgling.

Sidon, now mostly healed, nodded to her. “She says this monster spawned with the return of Calamity Ganon,” he translated. “Everyone but the king fled, and the doors locked behind them.”

“So, the king’s dead?” Link asked, his voice having returned during their rest. His throat was still a little raw and raspy from all the crying, making his words gruffer than he intended. He coughed.

Sidon repeated the champion’s question, in Lizal.

Isolda snickered at something, and then yapped in return, shrugging.

“They don’t know,” Sidon supplied.

“Why’d she laugh?” Link asked, narrowing his eyes at the general. She peered back at him, smiling.

Sidon frowned, and directed the question at Isolda.

She snickered again, and then laughed fully. At an annoyed yap from Gerald, she hissed, still smiling.

“Ah,” Sidon muttered. “She’s laughing at my Lizal. She says it’s awful.” With a sigh, the prince brought a hand to pinch between his eyes. “It’s passable, but…”

Gerald yapped a few times, and Isolda ceased laughing long enough to retrieve a larger, golden key. A ruby was encased in the bow of it, and metal protruded from the bow like curved horns. She moved to hand the key to Sidon, but was stopped by Gerald.

The bright lizalfos crouched, looking up at her with a pleading trill.

The general rolled her eyes, and handed over both the key, and Sidon’s aigrette.

Sidon took both items with a grin, placing the aigrette back on his head. “That’s better.” He gurgled another question at the pair of lizalfos. Isolda and Gerald looked at each other, and then turned back to the zora with an even larger shrug than before. Sidon sighed, looking to Link. “I asked if they knew how to defeat the monster. Their answer is, uh…”

“I got it,” Link grimaced. “Going in blind, then.”

“Essentially,” Sidon agreed. He stepped toward the door, key in hand. The lizalfos guards watched from the water, and Isolda and Gerald moved out of the way. The zora nodded to Gerald.

The bright lizalfos shot the prince a confident thumbs-up, and then directed the gesture to Link.

‘…Okay, I get why they’re friends,’ Link mused, smirking. ‘Gerald’s as much of a dork as Sidon.

“Ready, Link?” Sidon asked, poised to open the door.

Link checked his gear. The Master Sword and steel lizalfos bow were slung across his back, securely. His quiver was full now – a few of the lizalfos donating shock arrows for the oncoming battle. The champion drew the Master Sword, spinning it once before nodding to Sidon.

Isolda stopped the pair with a growl.

Link’s brow furrowed at the general as she called over a young blue. Isolda plucked the shield off the blue’s back, and she held it out to Link. She yapped at him.

The champion took the shield from her, confused, but grateful to have something to replace the one he’d broken. “…Thanks?”

“She wants us to win,” Sidon translated, looking a bit baffled himself. Isolda growled again, and he regarded her with a flat frown. “Ah, ‘I want you to win, so don’t be stupid, asshole.’ That’s…That’s essentially what she said.”

Link raised a brow at the zora.

“I’ll admit to making the language a tad more…polite,” Sidon admitted, shrugging at Link’s incredulous stare.

Isolda yapped, giving Link a hearty smack on the back before pushing him toward the door.

Link shoved his way through with an annoyed grunt. Once beyond it, he directed a grimace toward Sidon. “She may be helping us now, but I still don’t like her.”

“Yes,” Sidon agreed, also grimacing. “I’m thankful she’s decided to cooperate, but…” he sighed. “Let’s get this over with, shall we?”

Link smirked, and then moved to proceed through the room. Then stopped. A steep incline stood before them. Spiked mechanisms littered the incline, broken into pieces or stuck in the walls. Each one was placed along a rail, presumably to move back and forth across the incline and hamper any progress.

“Those look pleasant,” Sidon commented, a sarcastic lilt to his voice.

“They look infuriating,” Link shot back, as he attempted to go up the incline. It was even steeper than it appeared, and the champion was certain that if he didn’t keep moving, he would slip and fall right back down. ‘Good thing these spikes don’t move,’ he groused. He trudged upward as quickly as he could, followed by the prince.

Another door stood at the top of the incline. This one was also bound by chains, though they were gold, and the lock was far more ornate than the previous one. Sharp, gleaming horns protruded from it.

Sidon took out the matching golden key, and inserted into the lock. Before turning it, he glanced at Link. “Ready, my love?”

The champion felt his heart flutter. ‘My…’ He smiled at the zora, face determined. “Whenever you are,” the champion grinned, “Darling.

Sidon snorted, twisting the key. “We’ll have to work on your delivery of pet names. That sounded sarcastic.” The lock vanished, and the chains flew back into the wall.

“Once this is over,” Link promised, running a hand affectionately over the fin on the zora’s arm. “I’ll call you whatever pet names you want.”

“Then we should get to slaying this monster!” Sidon chirped, pumping his fist. He stepped forward, and the door raised itself, automatically, into the wall. The zora stared at the empty space a moment, surprised.

Link took the other by the hand, leading the way into the room. “Let’s hurry up and get out of this Temple.”

Once across the threshold, the door fell shut behind them. Bars slid into place, blocking the entryway. This time, neither Link nor Sidon spared the bars a moment’s notice. They both kept their swords ready, scrutinizing the room.

It was a sizable room, though Link estimated it wasn’t much bigger than the room where they’d fought the copies. Large, oval plates lined the wall, covered in flowing decoration designed to look like waves. Once again, Link spotted odd targets, hanging in the center of some of the oval plates. Beneath them were more spikes – they were covered in stains, and this time the champion knew for certain it was blood that stained them. The stone flooring was arranged in a repeating scale pattern, only cutting out at a large, square pool in the very center of the room. Four platforms stood in the water, each with metal ladders on their sides. The pool was still, and murky, with bits of purple and red sparking through it.

The Master Sword glowed in Link’s hand.

“That must be Ganon’s Malice,” Sidon breathed.

Another water monster,” Link groaned. He hated this entire Temple. Was everything water-based? The puzzles, the monsters…It was awful. The champion found himself cursing whoever decided to build a water temple thousands of years ago. He pulled the steel lizalfos bow off his back.

“What are you doing?” Sidon asked, eyes flicking from the bow to the water curiously.

“Not taking chances,” Link said, his voice flat. He drew a shock arrow. “Get ready.” Once Sidon had his guard up, keeping both net and rapier aloft, the champion fired at the water.

The shock arrow sunk into it, and the water convulsed.

As electricity surged through it, the pool moved, and stretched. It flinched in certain sections, bending into areas that were further from the arrow, as though it was trying get away from it. The Malice pulsed as the water squirmed, bits of red flecking off it.

Sidon stood there, aghast. “I’m not sure what I expected,” he commented, watching the water flail. “I know it wasn’t that.”

Then, part of the water twisted, becoming almost tubular, and it reached out toward the pair. It surged forward, still convulsing.

The duo split apart, each diving to a different side to avoid the water. It slammed onto the stone, splashing and flailing wildly, searching for its prey.

Link watched the watery tentacle, trailing his eyes down it and into the pool. ‘Is it just water?’ he wondered. ‘That can’t be it—oh.’ There, spinning around the bottom of the water’s stretching appendage, where the water was clearer, was a round mass of flesh. It was pink, and veiny, surrounded by a blue orb. Eyeballs protruded from it – eyeballs that were reminiscent of the goopy clusters of Malice the champion had found strewn about Hyrule. Link waved across the pool to Sidon, and then pointed down, at the flesh ball.

Sidon looked, and his face twisted in disgust. “Is that it?” he asked, shouting the question.

Time to find out,’ Link thought, drawing another shock arrow. He took aim at the eyeball-covered flesh, and fired.

The arrow stuck into it, and the creature spasmed. The electricity jolted through it, and it ceased moving, like it had been stunned. The water continued to flail, shrinking back a bit as it determined its prey was elsewhere.

The duo frowned at each other from across the pool.

That stalled it,’ Sidon mused, eyes darting over the water. As they watched, the mass of flesh began to shake. Then, it was moving again. The appendage stretching from it shifted, slowly reaching toward Link. The zora glowered. “Shock arrows only stun,” he muttered. The hand that held his net drifted to his side, to his newly-healed gills. The elixirs the lizalfos had provided had done wonders, though they still felt a bit tender. The zora’s eyes bored into the water, debating. If the shock arrows weren’t enough…

Link ran, heading to the far wall to avoid the watery tentacle. It was slow, so within a few paces he was out of reach. The champion fired another shock arrow at the mass of flesh in the water. Again, it convulsed, and stopped. But, other than the two arrows sticking out of it, the flesh appeared relatively unharmed. Soon it was shaking itself off, resuming its spinning and its attempts to grab the pair with water.

“Link!” Sidon called. “I have an idea!”

And I still have none,’ the champion grimaced, stomach sinking. He should, by this point. After resting. Yet, still…The hero took a breath. ‘No. No, that’s fine. I’m not fighting alone. Sidon’s helping.’ He waved at the zora, giving him the all clear. He would hold back while Sidon enacted whatever he was planning.

Sidon set his jaw, and then leapt into the water.

The champion blanched. ‘People call me reckless?!’ He ran to the edge of the pool, a shock arrow in his hand, but not nocked, too worried he’d hit Sidon with it.

The zora swam between the four platforms, evading the bits of Malice. Sidon charged at the mass of flesh and grabbed it with his claws, spearing them into the blue orb that held the creature. Then, he broke the surface, and tossed the mass high into the air.

Shoot it!

Link fired, pinning the creature with another shock arrow and propelling it to the opposite side of the room. It flew through the air, smacking into the wall before landing with a sickening slapping sound. It convulsed and spasmed a few times, before it grew still.

“Get out of the damn water, Sidon!” Link yelled, seeing the liquid spasm along with the creature. He couldn’t see the zora in the murky water. Another appendage started to slowly grow from it, reaching out to the sides of the pool, searching.

The zora sank, and then propelled himself back upward, jumping out of the pool and flipping onto the stone. He leaned over, gills flaring as he coughed. ‘That isn’t water,’ he realized. ‘It’s more like sludge.’ Glancing upward, he realized he was hacking almost absurdly close to the creature itself. The mass of flesh twitched and spasmed only a few paces away. With a gasp, Sidon drew his rapier, running forward and stabbing into the monster.

The creature spasmed again, but it rolled away. It hopped, and then bounced right back into the water.

Sidon looked at Link from across the pool, perplexed.

The hero glared at the creature, which was now swimming around in circles again. Another watery appendage began to form. ‘What the hell is this?’ Link thought. ‘Are these attacks even doing anything?’ They didn’t seem to be. The creature continued on, spinning faster, as though it was uninjured and didn’t have multiple arrows sticking out of it.

The Master Sword hummed on his back.

Link slung his bow over his shoulder, and drew the sacred blade. It was like a beacon in the dim room. ‘…Aligned with Ganon, huh?’ he mused. He caught Sidon’s eye. “Toss it to me!”

Sidon looked reluctant to jump in the water again, but he braced himself anyway. Within seconds, he was diving, and swimming after the mass of flesh. He grabbed it, and this time tossed it to the side where Link stood, waiting.

Link backed up, letting the creature fly past him and land on the floor. It rolled, and then reoriented itself. The flesh ball bounced once, as if to make its way back to the pool. Link blocked its way, swinging the Master Sword in an arc.

The second the blade made contact, the creature recoiled, like it had been burned. The Master Sword sliced through its outer layer with ease, and a deep green liquid oozed from the cut that was left. The mass of flesh bounced again, dripping green, and jumped back to the pool in erratic, panicked hops.

Sidon jumped out, onto one of the platforms, and coughed. His gaze turned to Link, who was standing over several green splotches on the floor. The champion turned, looking somewhere over Sidon’s shoulder, eyes going wide. The zora looked too, spotting a massive tube of water stretching out of the pool, reaching for him.

“Sidon, jump!

The zora leapt back into the water, just as the Malice-filled appendage smashed down onto the platform. Sidon kicked hard, propelling himself out of the pool and near the champion. He gasped.

“Are you alright?” Link questioned, examining the zora’s gills in concern.

“Fine,” Sidon choked out. “I don’t know what that liquid is made of, but I can’t breathe in it.” He shook his head, directing a glare to the pool. The creature inside it swirled, forming another watery appendage to reach toward the pair. “Did the Master Sword work?”

“Yeah, it’s bleeding,” Link nodded. Then, he shot a flummoxed frown at the mass of flesh. “At least, I think.”

“Then, I’ll continue tossing it to you!” Sidon charged, leaping back into the water without hesitation.

The plan was effective, and the pair soon developed a routine. Sidon swam, grabbing the creature from the water and throwing it to the hylian. Link stabbed at the flesh with the Master Sword. Meanwhile, both avoided the multiple watery tentacles flailing at them. After a few more stabs from the sacred blade, the creature was proving less energetic – flopping or rolling, rather than hopping, back to its pool.

Link chased after it, aiming another slash at the flesh ball. It was bleeding profusely now, barely slipping out of reach of the blade and falling into the pool. The champion cursed. ‘Just have to wait for Sidon again, I guess.’ He stood back, easily evading another swing of a tube of water. There were many of them now, stretching and waving from the pool, but they were slow. The hylian jogged away, waiting.

And he waited.

…And waited.

Link’s grip on the hilt of his sword tightened. ‘Where is Sidon?’ The zora was far faster than the creature in the water. It shouldn’t be taking so long.

Then he spotted Sidon’s clawed hand, for the briefest moment, tossing the creature high in the air.

The throw sent the flesh ball straight up – nowhere near the champion. Link cursed again, ripping his bow from his back and firing a shock arrow. The arrow struck true, and the creature was hit across the room, sparking.

The hylian ran around the edges of the pool, scanning the water with worried eyes. ‘Where the hell is Sidon?!

The water spasmed again, and a large tube raised itself out of the pool. The water was a little clearer, and Link could see a dark mass of inside it. The watery appendage swung, hurling the mass to the side of the room.

Sidon slammed against one of the oval plates, cracking it.

Link watched, horrified, as the zora fell onto the massive spikes jutting out of the wall. The prince screamed as the spikes tore through the scales along his sides, landing on the floor with a grunt of pain. Sidon gasped against the stone, dragging himself away from the wall. He locked eyes with Link, and then glanced around the room, spotting the spasming creature. He attempted to get his legs under him, and flinched, groaning at the effort.

Sidon!” Link called, about to switch directions. The creature sat convulsing to his right. Sidon, unable to even kneel on his torn-up leg, lay to his left. The water in the pool stretched, massive appendages reaching toward both. Link stepped forward, only to stop as Sidon yelled.

“Kill it!” the prince growled. “It’s—”

The sentence was swallowed as another tube of water slammed down on the prince. It enveloped the zora, dragging him across the stone and back into the pool.

Link turned to the creature with a fierce growl of his own. ‘No. No way. This thing is dead.’ He pulled another shock arrow from his quiver, firing it as he ran toward the creature.

The mass of flesh shook itself, ready to roll back to the water, when the latest arrow hit its mark. The creature let out a high-pitched squeal of pain.

Link fired another arrow, ducking past more tubes of water to get closer. Once his arrow hit, he drew another, and fired again. And again. He kept firing until he was only a few paces away, having propelled the creature further and further away from the pool.

The mass trembled, now sporting so many arrows that it resembled a round, watery pin cushion.

The champion dropped his bow, and pulled his sword out of its sheath. The Master Sword gleamed, and he raised it above his head. A bizarre wave of déjà vu hit him, realizing his copy had stabbed him with the same maneuver. He glowered at the memory, shaking his head. He brought the blade down, forcing it so hard into the creature that he could feel the steel sink into the stone beneath it. A part of him panicked – thinking the blade would get stuck again. His grip held firm.

The creature shrieked. It hissed, and writhed. Then, all at once, it burst into miniscule drops of water, leaving green blood mixed with black Malice on the floor. The Malice evaporated.

Link whipped around to look for Sidon.

The water inside the pool pulsed. Then, it began to spin. It spun around, and around, gathering itself and forming a twisting stream toward the ceiling. Once it hit, the water drained upward. Less and less remained, until the champion could see a large, dark mass in the center. The last of the water evaporated in an instant, and Sidon crashed to the bottom of the empty pool.

A loud, pained coughing could be heard from the pool.

Link’s heart leapt to his throat. ‘He’s alive—’

“I’m alright!” Sidon shouted, before erupting into another coughing fit. “I just – Ow, Goddess damn – That was not a pleasant landing!”

If he can complain, he must be okay,’ Link reassured himself. He turned back to the Master Sword. It stuck upright, out of the stone floor. Its glow ceased, leaving the blade its regular, shimmering steel. The champion grabbed the hilt. ‘…You’d better not pull the same shit,’ he thought, mentally scolding the blade.

The Master Sword slipped out of the stone, easy as cutting through goat butter.

The champion let out a breath he hadn’t been aware he’d been holding. He sheathed the sword in its scabbard, and walked toward the pool.

At the bottom, Sidon ran his fingers gingerly over his right side. Jagged cuts from the spikes bled along his scales, and the zora grimaced. The cuts were shallow, but they hurt, and his fall hadn’t done him any favors. He stretched his leg, and flinched as pain shot up and down the limb. With a frustrated sigh, the zora looked up at the empty pool. Then, his eyes widened.

The pool wasn’t empty.

Laying right in front of the zora was a massive skeleton. A lizalfos skeleton, though it was far larger than the kind Sidon was used to. It had a long, curved horn extending from its skull, and was covered in an elegant, though water-logged, cloak. The skeleton wore heavy, dented armor, held together by string and bent metal. It was heavily rusted, and the prince felt he could likely snap pieces of the armor in two, if he tried. But these dressings couldn’t hold the zora’s attention. On the skeleton’s head, it wore an intricate crown of bone, also held together with string and steel, and decorated with multiple uncut gems. The gem in the very center of the crown took the last of Sidon’s breath away.

The Zora’s Sapphire sat on the crown of the lizalfos king, shining and pristine.

Sidon couldn’t tear his eyes away. The sacred stone of his people was sitting right in front of him. The sapphire, lost for centuries, had been in the lizalfos’ possession. Used as the crown jewel. Once, the stone had been used by zora royalty, to present to their love as a symbol of engagement. Now, that very stone, which his ancestors had lost so very long ago, was within touching distance. He could scoot over to it without even standing, and pluck it right off the crown.

Which was exactly what he did.

The crown hadn’t been constructed well – the pieces split apart the second Sidon removed the sapphire, cascading down the skull of the lizalfos king. The other, uncut gems clattered on the floor. The prince turned the sacred stone over in his fingers. It was smaller than he expected, fitting easily into the palm of his hand. Sidon let out breath, in awe of the brilliant gold frame, and deep, shining blue of the stones. ‘I could take the Zora’s Sapphire home,’ a part of the zora whispered.

I could give it to Link,’ added the rest of him.

Maybe not now, right this minute, but eventually. He knew he loved the champion. He confirmed Link loved him, as well. Marrying the hylian was an option, now. At least, in time.

And now, he could present the zora’s sacred stone to his love.

Sidon’s fingers wrapped over the stone, resolute. ‘I’ll have to hide this,’ he thought, wracking his brain. He could hold it – his hand concealed the stone completely when he made a fist. It would look a bit odd, constantly holding his hand that way – he would have to be careful the lizalfos didn’t see it. If they caught him…well, he could claim it as a reward, couldn’t he? After all the help they’d given, returning the Zora’s Sapphire to the zora was really the least they could do.

“Sidon?”

The prince’s head jerked up in surprise, fingers clenching over the sapphire. He looked around and spotted Link, just dropping down from one of the steel ladders on the edge of the nearest platform. “Link!” He grinned at the champion, moving his hand behind him to hide his fist. “Excellent work!”

“Are you okay?” Link asked, rushing to the zora’s side. “Those spikes—”

“Oh, those – I’m fine, dearest, I promise. My injuries hurt a bit, but those spikes are nothing compared to the scales of a zora!” Sidon laughed. Then, he tried to stand. Pain jolted up and down his leg as soon as he put pressure on it. He flinched and flopped back down to the floor.

Link regarded the prince with flat disapproval. “Fine, huh.”

“…I may have underestimated the spikes,” Sidon admitted. “However,” he pointed at the skeleton next to him. “I did find the king!”

“…he is dead,” Link commented. His eyes flicked over the skeleton with disdain. “Well, we cleared the room. Isolda can deal with the king.”

“Yes, and perhaps Gerald could help me stand.” At the hylian’s somewhat disappointed look, Sidon smiled sympathetically. “I know you would rather assist me, but you’re a tad shorter than I am, darling.”

Link flushed, and slowly nodded. “…I’ll get Gerald.”

Sidon reached out, extending his hand. The hylian took it without hesitation, though his confusion was plain on his face. The prince brought Link’s hand to his lips, and placed a light kiss to the champion’s knuckles. “My hero,” he chuckled.

Redder now, Link squeezed the zora’s fingers tightly. The champion opened his mouth to retort, and then his eyes darted away, looking at the skeleton.

A bright, eerie light was glowing in the skull’s eye sockets.

A haunting roar erupted from the skeleton, bones clattering against the floor. The skeleton shifted, then, pushing itself off the ground. Standing on two legs, the king’s skeleton towered over the pair in the pool. The remains of the king’s crown spilled off its head entirely, and it stared down at the gems and bone as they lay on the floor. The glowing eyes shrank, and then met the gaze of the duo. The skeleton reared its skull back, and then its jaw opened in a piercing shriek.

Link and Sidon stared, mouths agape.

“The king’s a stal,” Link muttered.

“A very upset stal,” Sidon added.

The undead lizalfos king raised its bony, clawed fist, nearly touching the top of the platform next to it.

Link leapt in between the king and Sidon, shield raised and sword drawn. He aimed the blade high as the lizalfos king let out a growl.

“Wait, Link!” Sidon grabbed the hylian’s shoulder. “He’s talking!”

Link groaned. More Lizal. Of course. “What’s he saying?

Sidon listened intently as the king growled and snarled. The skeletal limbs shook as it gestured around the room, finally settling to point at the pair, accusingly. Sidon blanched. “He…We’re intruders and he wants his crown back,” Sidon translated.

What crown?” demanded the champion. He searched the skeleton and the pool with his eyes, seeing nothing but fragments of bone and gems. There was no crown.

“Those, ah, those pieces on the ground,” Sidon indicated the fragments. “I touched it, and it broke.”

The king screamed, gaping maw dangerously close to Links head.

The hylian flinched, almost dropping his weapons to hold his ears closed. “Tell him that!”

Sidon yapped a few times, gesturing to the gems at the king’s feet.

The king growled, looking at them. Then, he shrieked again, stomping his bony feet on the ground. The pieces of the crown rattled.

“What’s he saying now?!” Link shouted over the roar.

Sidon shrank backward. “That we’ll die painfully!” He reached behind him – his injured leg wouldn’t cooperate, but they had to leave. The fist that held the Zora’s Sapphire squeezed, and the decorative frame poked into his palm. ‘Could I give it back?’ he wondered, panicked. ‘Or is he angrier that the crown is broken?

His question was answered by the king rearing back, and slashing heavily at the pair with his claws.

Link’s shield blocked most of the blow, but the impact sent him flying backwards, into Sidon. He crashed into the zora’s chest, knocking both of them over. There was a large scratch in the shield now, but it held together.  In an instant, the hylian was up again, shield up and in front of Sidon.

The zora strained to push himself off the floor. He glared at the king, and let out a roar of his own.

The king screamed back.

Link felt like his eardrums were going to explode. The noise bounced around the pool, amplifying it. The champion shouted at Sidon over his shoulder. “What the hell did you tell him?!

“Nothing! I yelled for help!”

The king raged, his massive tail whipping back and forth behind him. Bits of stone fell from the platforms as the king pounded and cracked them with his bony fists. With a long, drawn out hiss, the king loomed over Link and Sidon, eyes glowing like unholy beacons in the blackness of his eye sockets.

Link held the Master Sword steady, shifting from a defensive position, to offensive. He prepared to charge – to leap at the king and stab the sacred blade into his undead head.

A curious gurgle made the group pause.

Link and Sidon looked up, spotting the face of another lizalfos, peering over the edge of the pool. His bright cyan and orange scales were completely at odds with the darker stone.

“Gerald!” Sidon shouted, his face alight with relief.

The lizalfos chirped back, and then regarded the undead king with confusion.

The king screeched up at the smaller lizalfos, slamming his tail into a platform. He stomped his feet more, and gestured to the top of his empty skull. He growled and gurgled dangerously at Gerald, and Link could feel the anger radiating off the monster like a wave of heat.

“He still wants his crown,” Sidon explained. “He claims he needs it, to lead.”

“He’s still planning to lead?” Link asked, incredulous.

Gerald, calm as could be, simply tilted his head at the raging skeleton. When the king finally paused in his roaring, the bright lizalfos responded with a matter-of-fact chirrup.

The king was silent. His eyes burned at Gerald, the light slowly getting larger. At length, the king let out a small, surprised yip.

Then, the entire skeleton collapsed.

Link stepped back in surprise, tripping over Sidon and falling against the zora’s chest. Sidon pulled the champion close, keeping him away from the falling bones and armor. The remains of the king rattled and clattered, and then, eventually, dissolved into a puff of black and purple smoke.

Only the king’s horn remained, laying gently on the elegant cloak.

Link stared, flabbergasted. He turned around to look at Sidon, who was also staring at the cloak and horn in bafflement. When the zora didn’t look down at him, Link grabbed one of the fins framing Sidon’s face. “Sidon.”

“…What?” The prince’s eyes finally met the hero’s. “What is it, Link?”

“What the hell?” Link asked, directing his arms toward the cloak and horn. “What the hell just happened?

“Oh,” Sidon muttered, seeming dazed. “Gerald…Gerald said, ‘Sire, you are dead.’ That’s all.”

“And the king?” Link demanded.

“…Oh.”

Link’s eyes narrowed at the zora. “Oh?

“That’s what the king said,” Sidon explained, still looking confused. “…That’s all he said. ‘Oh.’ Then he…Then he was gone.”

The champion spun to look at the remains. The pieces of the lizafos crown lay scattered about the floor of the pool, mixed with rubble. The cloak was crumpled slightly, cushioning the horn as though it were on display. Link’s head tilted back, looking up at the damaged platforms in disbelief.

 “Perhaps the king hadn’t realized he had perished?” Sidon suggested.

“How would he not realize?!

“I don’t know!” Sidon answered, at a loss. “I don’t know how lizalfos death works!”

At that, Gerald landed next to the pair with a cheerful yap. He waved pleasantly at the confused hylian, and then turned to the zora. The lizalfos startled, spotting the injuries along Sidon’s side. Then he was hopping, letting out little panicked yips before zipping over to the prince and examining the wounds.

Sidon yapped at Gerald, sheepishly.

Gerald nodded rapidly, and motion for Link to go on and climb out of the pool. He set about helping the prince to stand up, supporting Sidon with his long, lanky arms.

Link hesitated, but a reassuring grin from Sidon spurred him onward. He climbed up the rungs of the steel ladder quickly, jumping up to the top, and out of the pool. Once standing, he leaned over, watching the duo below.

Gerald held onto Sidon, bouncing on his knees. After a count of three, the lizalfos sprung, jumping them high into the air, and over the platforms. They landed without difficulty, and Gerald eased the zora into a sitting position. Sidon hissed, flinching from brushing cuts against the stone. Gerald patted him on the back, yapping. Then, he turned to Link, mouth open in a wide, toothless smile.

Link smiled in turn. “…Thanks, Gerald.”

The lizalfos chirped, grabbing the champions hands and shaking them roughly in gratitude. Then, he waved, gurgled, and ran out the door.

Guess the bars went back up after we beat the monster,’ Link noted, watching the door shut behind the lizalfos.

“He’s getting assistance,” Sidon informed the champion. “More healing elixirs, and such. He’s also informing Isolda that we’ve succeeded.”

“That was success?” Link almost laughed. “Their king is dead. The crown’s broken.”

“Gerald gave the impression that he expected that,” Sidon shrugged, and then flinched again. His hand felt along the cuts on his side.

Link walked over to the zora. He stood on tiptoe, wrapping his arms around Sidon’s neck with a sigh. He felt Sidon shift, wrapping an arm around the hylian and pressing his face against Link’s hair. “Are you okay?” Link asked, his voice quiet.

“I’ll be perfectly alright,” Sidon assured him, nuzzling against the champion’s cheek. “It only hurts to stand. I’m certain elixirs will cover the worst of the damage.” He pulled his head back, grinning. “You were magnificent, as usual.”

Link huffed a laugh. “I wasn’t the one swimming in…whatever that thing was.”

“Ah, yes,” Sidon’s eyes narrowed, suddenly recalling something. “Remind me to never do that again. Not being able to breathe while swimming might be one of the worst experiences I’ve ever had.”

“You see why I don’t swim much,” Link smirked.

“Is that what it’s like for you?” Sidon grimaced at the thought. “That’s awful. You have my utmost sympathy, dearest.”

Link laughed, and then curled up closer to the zora. He stood there a moment, taking in the feel of Sidon’s scales under his fingers. The rise and fall of the prince’s chest. Link breathed deeply, inhaling the zora’s scent and relaxing. “…Don’t do that again,” he murmured.

Sidon smiled, hugging the hylian close. “I won’t,” he promised. “I must admit, I’m relieved the creature could only create those tubes of water.” He frowned. “With how malleable it was, it could have morphed into worse. I’m not keen on getting that near Ganon’s Malice again.”

Ganon’s Malice. Link’s insides went cold. That creature was aligned with Ganon. “It might come back,” he whispered. “With the blood moon.”

Sidon hummed, running his hand over the champion’s back thoughtfully. “Well, we can tell Isolda how we fought it. Though, I suppose if they need the Master Sword again, I’ll have to come back and swim around that gunk after all.”

Link squirmed, looking up at the zora with worried eyes.

“It will be fine, Link,” the zora smiled. “We can defeat it again, if we need to. The next time will be easier, at any rate! We know how to fight it now.”

“I know,” Link muttered. “I just…” Strength seemed to be seeping from his limbs. He clutched onto Sidon, willing the mental image of red eyes and shadowed forms to vanish as the lizalfos king had. “…the copy.”

“Oh.” Sidon stiffened. “…Was it aligned with Ganon, as well?”

“I don’t know,” Link murmured, voice even quieter. “I don’t know what it was.”

Sidon held the hylian, going quiet for a moment. After a bit of thought, he pulled back again. His hand reached for Link’s cheek, and he ran his thumb over the soft skin. “We’ve beaten it before,” he stated. “We know what fears it preys on. We can beat it again.”

Link’s eyes were dark, and dazed. Unfocused. “I don’t want to,” he winced. “…I can’t. I can’t fight that again.”

“Link.”

The champion reluctantly drew his eyes up, meeting Sidon’s gaze.

“You can fight it,” the zora assured the other. “You won’t be alone. You’re strong enough to face it.” Then, Sidon grinned. “I believe in you.”

The cold in Link’s chest faded, some. His breathing eased, and he managed a small smile at the prince before burying his face in Sidon’s shoulder again. “…I love you.”

“I love you, my darling,” Sidon responded, combing his fingers through the champion’s hair.

Link snorted. “Darling.

Sidon let out a long-suffering sigh. “That still sounds sarcastic.”

“Love you,” Link chuckled, “You absolute dork.” His laughter was met with a large, clawed hand ruffling his hair. He beamed up at Sidon, finding the zora smirking in spite of himself.

The door opened again, and Gerald was back. His arms were full of hearty elixirs, and he struggled to hold all of the vials as he maneuvered through the door. He yapped happily at the pair and held out one of the elixirs. The vials in his arms shifted, and several fell to the floor, thudding onto the stone. Gerald looked down at the dropped elixirs for a moment, and then yapped at the pair. He waved the vial he held at Link.

The champion took it, and passed the hearty elixir to Sidon.

“You should take some,” Sidon commented, pushing it back. “Go ahead, there are plenty.”

Not this again,’ Link frowned. He opened the elixir and took a short swig. Then, he pushed the remainder into Sidon’s hand. He smirked. “Take the rest.”

Sidon’s eyes widened for a split-second, and then he laughed. “Are you always going to insist I drink these awful things like that?” He drank from vial, grimacing at the taste.

“That’s the plan,” Link stated, a grin plastered on his face.


 

The lizalfos all cheered as Sidon and Link exited the northern door. The pair waved sheepishly as they came into the main room of the Temple. Gerald presented them both, a wide smile on his lips. He yapped a few times, indicated his head, and an awed hush fell over the crowd.

A series of claps was heard from behind the group, and they parted as Isolda walked forward. She smirked at Sidon, and huffed. She growled as she indicated the victorious pair.

“She’s impressed,” Sidon explained to Link. “Gerald’s confirmed that their king is dead, which…it sounds as though that’s a good thing?” At Link’s confused shrug, the prince gurgled a question to the lizalfos general.

Isolda laughed, and yapped again, indicating her own head like Gerald had. She jerked a finger at Sidon.

“Oh,” Sidon muttered. “Oh.

Link nudged the other. “What?”

“She said the king’s orders are absolute, even in death – that it was his order that the lizalfos would be allied with Ganon.” The zora looked down at Link, an excited grin on his face. “Now they can get a new king, and thanks to our efforts they’re going to consider a treaty! They’re calling off the attack on the Domain!”

Isolda yapped again, pointing at the pair.

Sidon’s face lit up at the words. He clasped the champion’s shoulder. “And we both get immunity in their territory!”

“Their territory?” Link questioned. “Isn’t that…all of Hyrule?”

“Oh,” Sidon's eyes narrowed in a wince. “Unfortunately, no. These are the Lanaryu lizalfos. Their factions split centuries ago. The other lizalfos you come across will still be Ganon’s allies.” His gaze turned sympathetic. “I’m sorry, my love.”

Link snorted. “That’s fine.” He smirked at the zora. “Less of a burden already.”

Sidon grinned.

Gerald stepped between the pair and Isolda, hopping happily. He gurgled, punching his own hand, and then puffed out his chest with pride.

“They’re going to try and subdue the other lizalfos,” Sidon translated. “Apparently they’ve been wanting to for ages.”

“That’d help.” Link regarded Gerald with a grateful smile.

Isolda turned to the chattering crowd, and barked several orders. The crowd scattered, darting to different areas of the Temple. Some went underwater. Others ran behind Link and Sidon, to head into the pool room. The general waved a hand at the pair with a gurgle.

“We can rest here til morning, while the lizalfos are fixing up their Temple,” Sidon explained. He tilted his head at the general with a frown on his face. “That’s more generous than I was expecting.”

“I could just…” Link mumbled, pulling his Sheikah Slate from his belt. He pulled up his map, selecting the Ne’ez Yohma Shrine. He pressed the icon, to select it.

Nothing happened.

Link frowned, tapping the icon again. Still no reaction. The champion looked to the zora at a loss. “I was going to warp us back,” he explained. “The slate won’t work.”

“That’s alright,” Sidon smiled. “We can sleep here tonight, and once we reach the surface, you can try it again.”

The champion nodded, but continued to frown at the slate. He couldn’t access the warping function from inside the Temple, even though he’d planned to, earlier. ‘Glad I didn’t figure that out the hard way,’ he thought, recalling his desperation to retrieve the slate during his fight with the copy. He placed the slate back on his hip. When he looked up, Sidon’s hand was waiting to take the champion’s.

“Gerald’s going to show us to some of the sleeping quarters,” the prince grinned. From behind him, the bright lizalfos nodded vigorously.

At the thought of sleep, the champion found himself already beginning to yawn. His muscles ached from battle. His mind ached from emotional exhaustion. Link took Sidon’s hand, letting himself be pulled toward their destination.


 

Link didn’t bother to pay attention to all the twists and turns they took through the Temple – the water level was raised and lowered several times. The champion found himself wondering how the lizalfos were coordinating it, until they came to a large, open room. It was filled with bedspreads and blankets, with hammocks lining the ceiling. Several lizalfos were already curled up in the hammocks, rocking gently as they slept. The room was sparsely decorated – there were a few piles of discarded armor, laying in disorganized clumps along the walls. A single torch burned at the back wall, keeping the light level at a minimum.

Gerald led the pair to a large pile of blankets. He grabbed one off the top, whipping it off a sleeping green lizalfos. The newly discovered lizalfos growled, disgruntled. At Gerald’s insistent yapping, the green rolled to its side, and sprawled there, refusing to move. Gerald’s yapping grew louder.

Then the hammocks above yelled back, and the room was soon a cacophony of lizalfos growling and gurgling at the green.

With a grumble, the green rolled completely away from the pile. It pushed itself to a corner slowly, with only its hind legs, still half-asleep and reluctant to move any other part of its body.

Link watched the green scoot away on its stomach, biting his bottom lip and trying not to laugh. ‘They’re…They’re all ridiculous,’ he realized. When they weren’t trying to kill him, the lizalfos were actually amusing. Just grumpy, overgrown lizards, with a flair for drama.

Gerald demonstrated that flair with a flourish, rearranging the large pile of blankets into a bizarre sort of nest. The bright lizalfos then grabbed one more – an enormous and richly decorated blanket, flaring it out on the top. He patted the bundle and turned, satisfied. He presented the mass to Sidon and Link with a happy chirp.

Sidon responded with a grin and a growl, and stepped into the mass of blankets, rearranging himself until he was decently comfortable. Then, he beckoned to Link. “Here we are—” The zora’s grin was near-blinding in the dim room. “Come to bed, love.”

The champion rolled his eyes, but complied with a smirk. He settled into the blanket nest, reveling in the soft warmth as he curled up against the prince. ‘Kinda surprised these are dry,’ Link thought to himself, glancing over the stitching. The patterns were clearly hylian – the lizalfos must have stolen the blankets from elsewhere. Thankfully, even if the rest of the Temple seemed damp, this room was pleasantly warm – cozy, even. Link glanced at the other lizalfos, a little wary. Most were sleeping peacefully, but they had still been his enemies a few hours ago. As Sidon drew the largest blanket over them, Link whispered, “...you think this is okay?”

“Staying here, you mean?” Sidon asked, his voice hushed. At Link’s nod, the zora peered over the hylian. Gerald curled himself up on the floor next to them, tucking his head under an arm. The other lizalfos seemed entirely unbothered, more intent on sleep than anything else. He recognized a few lizalfos – ones he’d fought in his effort to get back to Link. Some were still sporting injuries the prince himself had inflicted. They blinked at the pair curiously, before yawning and shifting in their hammocks. Sidon drew his arm over Link, holding the champion to his chest. “…I believe we’re safe.”

“If they attack us,” Link whispered, “I’m blaming you when we get home.”

Sidon chuckled. “Fair enough.” He pressed his lips against the hero’s hair. “…Good night, dearest.”

“G’night,” Link yawned, snuggling closer into the crook of Sidon’s neck. He was exhausted. Even if he didn’t fully trust the lizalfos yet, the room was cozy. The blankets were comfortable. Sidon, who was wrapped protectively around the hylian, breathed evenly. Calmly. The zora’s arms held him close, one hand resting on Link’s back, and the other closed in a fist, buried in the blankets. The hero relaxed, finally, letting his tired eyes drift shut.

Chapter Text

As soon as the blue light dissipated, Link let out a sigh of relief. The cool glow of the Ne’ez Yohma Shrine was a welcome sight after all the drab stone of the Temple.

That’s how you travel?”

Link turned to the zora prince with a cheeky grin. He nodded. “Most of the time.”

“That was amazing!” Sidon clenched his fists in front of him, eyes wide with excitement. He gazed at the slate on Link’s hip with newfound awe. “That was much faster than swimming back! Although, I must admit, it is a bit jarring,” he chuckled, tapping his foot on the base of the shrine. “I didn’t realize it lifted you into the air.”

“I’m just glad it worked,” Link shrugged. The slate’s lack of response in the Temple had worried him, but as soon as they’d breached the surface of Lake Hylia, it was back to working properly. The hero gestured toward the stairway leading up to the plaza. “C’mon.”

Sidon followed the champion, splashing through the water and fleet-lotus seeds. A small bright-eyed crab skittered out of his way, darting behind the shrine. The prince hummed thoughtfully as he walked up the stairs, suddenly frowning. “I do hope Father isn’t too cross when we see him…”

“Why would he be?” Link asked. “We stopped the lizalfos threat.”

“Well, yes,” Sidon agreed. “But I wasn’t...He had just barred me from leaving the Domain, when we were captured.”

Link stopped at the top of the stairs, staring at the prince. “…What?

“I’d been too reckless lately – going to Lake Hylia alone convinced him I wasn’t thinking clearly.” Sidon explained, coming up next to the hylian. “So, he decided I should not be allowed to leave the Domain until further notice.” He winced. “I didn’t get a chance to tell you.”

Link paled. He was the whole reason they’d left the Domain in the first place. He was the one who dragged Sidon away, putting them in prime position to get kidnapped.

The king of the zora was going to be cross with him.

Your Highness!

The pair turned, spotting a black-scaled guard running at them from across the plaza. Sidon waved. “Hello, Bazz!”

Bazz skidded to a halt in front of them, panicked. “Where have you been?! We’ve been searching all over the Domain—Guards all over the rivers—”

“We were captured by the lizalfos,” Sidon stated. At Bazz’s worried expression, he hastily elaborated. “That’s all settled, though! They’ve called off the attack. Now, I must speak with the king about what’s happened.”

“They’ve…?” Bazz looked between the pair in confusion. “I…Yes, yes of course.” He directed his spear in to the side, making way for the prince. “Please, sire. Champion.”

Sidon smiled to Link, offering his hand.

The hero took Sidon’s hand without a word, too wrapped up in worry to notice Bazz’s face light up at the action. ‘Sidon was supposed to stay here. I got us both kidnapped.’ He resisted the urge to rub his hands down his face, inwardly groaning. ‘King Dorephan’s going to be pissed.’ Was it too late to claim he had champion duties to attend to? Just warp out and leave?

As they climbed the stairs to the throne room, Link could feel Sidon’s hand twitch with nerves. The zora’s other hand was clenched into a nervous fist.

‘…I can’t leave him,’ Link thought, berating himself. He couldn’t just leave Sidon to deal with the consequences of his actions. The champion squeezed the hand he held, shooting the prince a reassuring smile.

Sidon’s eyes softened at the hylian, and then his gaze shifted to the throne.

King Dorephan sat there, regal as he ever was, though his face was drawn with stress. His head perked up at the sight of the pair. Relief washed over his expression, and then his lips drew back, baring his sharp teeth. “Sidon.” The growl of the king was accompanied by a deep, disappointed grimace. King Dorephan placed his head in his hand with a heavy sigh. “There you are.”

The pair flinched.

“Father,” Sidon began, “I’m sorry, I—”

The king held up a hand to silence the prince. He locked eyes with Bazz. “Inform the others to call off the search.” Bazz saluted, quickly exiting. Once the guard had departed, the king looked over the pair with weary eyes. “Answer me this, first. Are you two alright?”

Sidon regarded his father with confusion. “We…Yes?” He turned to Link, and they looked each other over. Their wounds were almost entirely healed now, save for a few fine lines along Sidon’s side. The cut on Link’s cheek hadn’t disappeared either. They would likely bear scars, but otherwise the elixirs the lizalfos provided had fixed them up. Link nodded to Sidon, who in turn nodded to the king. “Yes.”

“I am glad to hear it,” Dorephan muttered.

He’s calmer than I expected,’ Sidon noted with some relief.

That relief evaporated in an instant, when the king’s frown deepened in rage.

Where in Hylia’s name have you two been?!” Dorephan hollered. “The last anyone saw of you was in the medical ward! And then, nothing! Vanished, without a trace!”

Link shifted uncomfortably, his gut writhing in shame. Sidon opened his mouth again, to explain, but Dorephan’s booming voice drowned him out.

“All this after I explicitly forbade you from leaving the Domain! I expect better of you, Sidon!” Dorephan gestured broadly, his hand sweeping across the expanse of the throne room. “Do you have any idea how worried everyone has been?! The prince of the zora, gone, nowhere to be found! The champion of Hyrule as well – We’d thought you’d been captured, or worse!” His hand crashed down on the arm of the throne. “Explain yourselves!

Sidon shrank under the king’s fiery gaze. “I…I have no excuse, father, I—”

“It was my fault,” Link admitted. The king and Sidon both stared at the hylian in surprise. Link gave Sidon’s fingers another squeeze, and then stepped forward. He wasn’t going to sit back and let the prince take the blame. Not when he had been the one to bring Sidon out of the Domain. The champion swallowed his nerves, forcing himself to maintain eye contact with King Dorephan. “I brought Sidon outside. We…” Link the back of his neck with his hand. “…We did get captured.”

Dorephan’s expression turned livid. “You—Sidon!

“I—Link’s not entirely to blame!” Sidon protested, stepping forward next to the champion. “I didn’t tell him about your decision – I…” The prince’s head drooped. “I didn’t get a chance before—”

“Before you were ambushed by lizalfos?” The king questioned with a snarl. “By the very creatures I warned you to steer clear of?”

“It was Isolda, father,” Sidon persisted. “She had their entire army with her—”

“Yes, because she planned to ambush the Domain!” Dorephan roared, slamming the arm of his throne again. “You knew that! You’re the one who brought us that information, Sidon! You’re lucky she didn’t decide to kill you then and there!” The king pointed to the aigrette on Sidon’s head. “You know she’d be thrilled to slaughter the zora prince – not to mention you, Link,” he rounded on the hero, eyes ablaze. “She could have decided to end your life, effectively securing Calamity Ganon’s reign over Hyrule!”

Link’s eyes dropped to the scale pattern on the stone flooring. Next to him, Sidon’s bowed his head. The champion wracked his brain, trying to think of a better way to explain. He couldn’t argue – The king was right. They were lucky. Isolda had captured them. Forced him to face the copy in the Temple. Left part of her army around the Domain, in case Link and Sidon didn’t cooperate. It was an awful experience, but she could have done much worse. She had planned much worse, for the Domain.

Thankfully, she abandoned that plan.

‘…Wait. After all that effort for the ambush, Isolda just…?’ The champion frowned, confused. Isolda abandoned her original plan, in an instant. Months of effort, of preparation, gone. Ages of throwing arrows at Farosh. All that time, wasted. Inside the Temple, she’d made sure Link and Sidon were healed between battles. She’d lent him a shield, to fight the morphing monster – she’d wanted them to succeed.

The thought struck the hero as odd.  

“They planned an ambush,” Link crossed his arms over his chest, his brow furrowing. “…but they kidnapped us, instead.”

“And?” the king growled. “Does it matter? Neither of you should have been out there!”

“Yes, but it could’ve been worse,” Link countered. “Could’ve held us hostage – Used us as collateral.” He looked up at Sidon for clarification. “Why didn’t she attack the Domain?”

“Gerald argued with her,” Sidon supplied. “He told her we could help.”

“She wouldn’t just believe that,” Link’s eyes narrowed. “Would she?” The champion thought back. Isolda wasn’t remotely pleasant to deal with, but she’d treated them well. For some reason. She’d believed they would be able to help, and chosen that route instead. She’d thrown away the plan for an ambush in favor of dragging just two people to the Temple. She’d done it to solve the problem relatively peacefully. A general of the lizalfos, known for her ruthlessness in battle, had avoided war entirely. All because one lizalfos asked her to.

Something didn’t fit.

“I do not see the point of musing over the in-fighting of lizalfos,” the king stated, his eyes hard. “This ‘Gerald’ has some sway over her decisions. It doesn’t matter.”

“But she outranks him,” Link continued. The bright lizalfos hadn’t been able to camouflage properly, when he’d met Gerald. His coloring was off. He was friendly – too friendly, with sworn enemies. Gerald wasn’t someone the champion thought would have sway over the general.

Yet, somehow, Gerald did.

“Why did she listen to him?” Link asked the prince.

“I’m…I’m not sure, to be honest,” Sidon admitted. “Gerald mentioned Isolda was his only friend, but...”

“Might we get back to the issue at hand,” the king questioned, impatient fingers tapping along his throne, “Or does this lizalfos have something to do with your rash behavior?”

“Gerald was the lizalfos I spoke to at Lake Hylia,” Sidon clarified. “The one I befriended. It was Gerald who told me the lizalfos needed help slaying monsters in their Temple.” He brought his fist to his chest. “Father, if it wasn’t for him, we would have been killed immediately. He even helped us put their old king to rest!”

The king paused then, his face perplexed. “I was under the impression they were acting without a king. You told me they only needed the crown, Sidon. Their king is still alive?”

“No, he…The king became a stalfos. He didn’t realize he was dead,” Sidon said, bringing a finger to his lips as he thought back. “There was a monster in the room where his skeleton was, and, well, the crown broke…The king argued with Gerald, as well, since he still wanted to rule as a stalfos. It’s…It was…” The prince directed a helpless look at Link.

“Lizalfos are confusing,” Link observed.

“No, no,” Dorephan relaxed, marginally, leaning back into his throne with a sigh. “That does…That behavior certainly sounds like old Doomsnarl.”

“Doomsnarl?” Sidon questioned, thinking back. The name seemed familiar, though he couldn’t place it.

Dorephan growled, in Lizal. “I believe that’s what they called him.”

“King Doomsnarl, the Brilliant.” Sidon repeated, for Link. “Brilliant isn’t a title the lizalfos normally use, is it? I thought their kings tended to take on monikers like ‘the Bloody,’ or ‘the Hateful.’”

Dorephan hummed, thinking back. “I never saw him, myself, but I believe the title came from the brilliant color of his scales.” The king huffed a sardonic laugh. “He certainly wasn’t the wisest of leaders. Quite the pain to deal with. Once he got an idea into his head, I don’t think anyone could convince him of otherwise.”

“…Wait a moment,” Sidon breathed. He repeated the growl of the lizalfos king’s name, jaw falling open in recognition.

Link raised an eyebrow at the prince. “Sidon?”

Sidon stared, unseeing, across the room, his face stricken.

“Sidon?” Dorephan leaned down with a look of concern. “Are you alright, my son?”

Sidon looked up at his father, dazed. “Gerald.

“Yes,” the king grunted, resting his chin on a hand. “Your lizalfos friend. Sidon, going to the Lake alone was the most bull-headed decision—”

“His name is Gerald Reginald Doomsnarl,” Sidon interrupted. “The forty-seventh.”

King Dorephan stared at his son for a long moment.

Slowly, the tense irritation in the king’s face melted, giving way to surprise. At great length, the king snorted. “Son,” he chuckled, covering his face with his hand. “You should have told me that at the start.”

Link looked between the prince and the king, flabbergasted. “Then, does that mean…?”

The king shook with laughter. “Sidon, you didn’t tell me you befriended the lizalfos prince!

“He…He didn’t tell me.” Sidon crossed his arms with an almost offended expression. “Why didn’t he tell me?”

Dorephan grew thoughtful, though a smirk still played on his lips. “As I recall, Doomsnarl’s children all left Lake Hylia.” The king shook his head, snickering to himself. “Goddess, that’s a turn of events. I didn’t think any were left in the lake.”

“…Father?” Sidon moved closer, his steps tentative.

The king gave another heavy sigh, though the anger was now absent. “Yes, my son?”

“If Gerald’s really…If he becomes the next King of the Lizalfos, then…” Sidon inclined his head toward his father. “We could arrange for a treaty. They’ve already begun considering it.”

Dorephan regarded his son with a curious stare. “You’ve really grown close to him?” he asked. “The prince truly thinks highly of you, in spite of our history with the lizalfos?”

“Lots of tears when we left,” Link commented. He smiled warmly at the prince. “Gerald misses him already.”

“Yes,” Sidon smiled in turn. “He was quite distraught that we were leaving so soon. He’s insisted that we visit.”

Dorephan gave another thoughtful hum, running a finger over his chin. “It seems to me,” he drawled, “In spite of your reckless blundering and brash attitudes, we’ve come to a promising crossroads.”

Sidon’s mood immediately perked up. “We have?”

“I can hardly believe I’m saying this,” Dorephan said, slumping fully into his throne. “It may be time we attempt to negotiate with the lizalfos, for peace.”

Sidon beamed, turning to Link with eyes alight with excitement. The champion grinned back.

“In the meantime,” Dorephan resettled himself, resuming with a more serious tone. “Champion, I have received reports that Vah Naboris has been wreaking havoc in the Gerudo Wasteland. You’d best be off, while the zora handle this.” At Link’s solemn nod, the king smirked again. “Do try to think before running off into the middle of the desert. I’m told the lizalfos there have electric abilities.”

Link shot Sidon a sheepish smile, and bowed to the king. He turned on his heel, exiting the throne room. The prince would have to work things out with the king, now. ‘A treaty…’ the hero mused, walking with a skip in his step. Sidon was no longer in trouble for leaving the Domain. He’d somehow scraped through. Meanwhile, the lizalfos and zora had the potential to make amends – to end the fighting once and for all. There was a lot of work ahead of them, but things were finally starting to look up. Facing the final Divine Beast didn’t seem as daunting, now.

Sidon watched Link depart with a worried pout.

“Oh, go after him, Sidon.”

The prince’s eyes widened in surprise, and he turned back to the throne in askance. “Father?”

“I can tell you want to say goodbye.” Dorephan’s smile softened, his countenance finally warm again. He shooed the prince off with a wave of his hand. “Go on. I have to call for Muzu and the rest of the elders to discuss these…developments.”

Sidon bowed quickly, and dismissed himself, running after the hero.

The prince spotted Link just outside, Sheikah Slate already in his hands. “Link!” Sidon called. “Link, wait!”

The champion turned, only to find himself being scooped up into Sidon’s arms. He let out a yelp of surprise, scrambling to balance himself while the zora nuzzled against his face. Link laughed, latching onto the prince’s neck.

“Be careful, my love,” Sidon murmured as he hugged the hero. “I’ll be waiting for you. Don’t rush yourself this time, please.”

“I won’t,” Link promised, loosening his hold to smile up at the zora. “I’ve learned my lesson.”

Sidon grinned back at him, and set the hylian back down on the ground. He ran affectionate fingers through the long locks of hair in front of Link’s ear. “...Well, I know I said don’t rush,” he chuckled, “but do come back soon! Only don’t forget that…What did you call it? A heart container?” At Link’s snicker, Sidon brushed a thumb across the champion’s cheek. “I’ll miss you, dearest.”

“I’ll miss you too,” Link muttered, gazing at the prince with happy, half-lidded eyes. He dragged his hand along Sidon’s, giving it a light squeeze before stepping back. He pulled up his map on the Sheikah Slate, selecting a shrine as far southwest as he could get. Before he pressed the icon, he waved at Sidon.

“Good luck!” Sidon pumped his fist across his chest. “I know you can do it!”

The champion beamed, and then was engulfed in bright blue light. It divided – fine strands shining through the air as Link warped. The light vanished into the sky, leaving the space in front of the prince empty.

Sidon stared at the spot where Link disappeared with a soft sigh. ‘He’ll be fine,’ the zora reassured himself. Link could handle electricity far better than a zora. It would be incredibly dangerous, he had no doubt. Vah Naboris was a Divine Beast. Still, Link wouldn’t take it lightly. The champion knew how powerful Ganon’s Blights were.

Besides, after fighting the copies in the Temple, the blight might be easy.

“Sire?”

Sidon startled, spinning around to find Bazz and Ailbhe standing nearby. Bazz had an odd gleam in his eye. Ailbhe bounced on the balls of her feet, excitement readily apparent. Both guards were trying their best to keep themselves from smiling.

Both were failing.

Sidon regarded them with a flat look. “…Dare I even ask?”

“We couldn’t help but overhear—” Bazz started.

“You called Link your love!” Ailbhe squealed, clasping her hands together.

“Yes,” Sidon stated. “I informed the champion of my feelings during our time with the lizalfos.”

“And he loves you back, right? Right?” Ailbhe pressed, leaning forward expectantly.

Sidon rolled his eyes. “…Yes.” He directed a suspicious smile at the black-scaled zora. “I suppose this ends the betting pool, Bazz?”

Bazz laughed. “Yes, sire. There was a bet for ‘during the champion’s next visit,’ which I think would include your time with the lizalfos. There was another for ‘as soon as possible.’” The guard titled his head to the side, his grin turning cocky. “I’ll have to inform everyone who participated.”

Sidon huffed. Of course. Not even a full day back, and he had to deal with people betting on his love life again. The prince’s fist clenched over the hidden Zora’s Sapphire. His guards may be ahead of him on guessing at his feelings, but he very much doubted they could predict the token he planned to give the champion. He regarded the white-scaled guard with a patient smile. “I take it, by your excitement, that you won, Ailbhe?”

“Oh, no, my prince,” Ailbhe waved her hand in front of her. “Not me. I’m just excited about all this in general.” She nodded her head to her compatriot. “Bazz is the one who bet for Link’s next visit, after he spoke with you.”

Sidon eyes narrowed at the black-scaled guard, miffed. “Really, Bazz?”

“It was fairly obvious sire,” Bazz explained, his grin so wide it nearly touched the fins framing his face.

“If that was your bet, and Ailbhe didn’t win…Who was the other bet from?” Sidon inquired. “The one who bet for as soon as I possibly could?”

At that, Ailbhe started cackling, practically shrieking with laughter. Bazz coughed, badly hiding the fact that he was laughing, as well. The black-scaled guard cleared his throat.

“That would be Muzu, my prince.”


 

Sidon missed Link.

The thought of the hylian was all-consuming at this point, as Sidon stared dolefully at the Zora’s Sapphire. He held it underwater, in the large, ornate pool that served as his sleeping chambers. The luminous stones’ light glinted off the golden frame, reflecting light onto the vaulted ceiling. Sidon sulked at the shimmering sapphire.

I didn’t even get to kiss him properly before he left,’ the prince groused. ‘I should have.

There were a lot of things now that Sidon wished he did, before the hero had departed. It had been weeks since he’d last seen Link. Weeks of meetings. Of trying to convince the elders that, yes, they did have a chance for peace with the lizalfos. Trying to convince them that, yes, Sidon was aware he’d been incredibly reckless, but everything had worked out in the end.

Everything but the Sapphire.

He had half a mind to bring it straight to his father, but the elders would be in the throne room soon enough, if they weren’t there already. They were in there every hour of the day, now, arguing about the lizalfos.

The sapphire was a priceless, precious artifact. He was certain the elders would want to hoard it – to never let it out of their sight again, now that the sacred stone had finally been retrieved. He wouldn’t be able to give it to Link at all, if that happened. Convincing the elders that sending a letter to Gerald was a good idea had been difficult enough. Giving their sapphire to the hylian champion might prove even more so. The zora prince’s teeth worried over his bottom lip.

I still need to speak to Father about this,’ Sidon thought. ‘Sitting here worrying hasn’t gotten me anywhere.

With that, the prince pulled himself up and out of the pool. Water still dripping off his scales, he left his room briskly, beelining for the throne room with the Sapphire clasped tightly in his hand.

When he reached the throne room, he found it devoid of elders. The prince let out a small sigh of relief, and strode forward, toward the king.

Dorephan sat with a piece of parchment in his hand, a puzzled frown on his lips. He glanced up at the sound of his son’s approach, but his eyes returned to the parchment as he spoke. “It seems we were correct, Sidon.”

“We were?” Sidon asked, stopping just before the king’s side. He peered at the parchment. “Is that from Gerald?”

“Yes,” the king affirmed, tapping the letter with a claw. “He is indeed the prince – he even refers to the old king as ‘Granddaddy Doomsnarl’ in this letter.”

Sidon brightened. “That’s wonderful! So, he’s next in line for the throne, then?”

Dorephan grunted. He brought a finger to his chin, rubbing it thoughtfully. “I don’t suppose you saw the Zora’s Sapphire while you were in the Temple, did you?”

Sidon’s insides turned to ice. His jaw dropped, suddenly not remembering how to speak. ‘Did they see it?’ the prince panicked. ‘Did they see me take it? I was so careful!

“Apparently,” the king continued, a wry smirk on his face, “The lizalfos have had it for centuries. Gerald didn’t explain how his ancestors came across it in the first place – only that it’s been a part of the royal line for generations, as a sort of proof of lineage.” Dorephan lowered the letter, turning to his son with concern. “They can’t find it, and Gerald can’t claim the throne without it.”

The frame of the sapphire pricked against Sidon’s hand. ‘I never should have taken it,’ the prince chastised himself. ‘Goddess above, what have I done?

“You saw the old king – did you see the sapphire anywhere among his bones?” Dorephan asked.

Sidon took a deep, steadying breath. He certainly couldn’t hide it now. As much as his insides were squirming, he had to come clean. Had to admit what he’d done and face the consequences. He locked eyes with his father, willing his nerves to calm.

“I did.”

Dorephan smiled. “Excellent! Do you recall where it was?”

Sidon fidgeted, rubbing his free hand along his empty wrist. At length, he sighed miserably, and held out his fist. Sidon held the Zora’s Sapphire out to his father.

“…I took it.”

The reflection of the sapphire flashed in Dorephan’s eyes. The king blinked several times, not quite believing what he was seeing. Slowly, he reached down, plucking the sapphire out of Sidon’s hand and holding it up to examine it. “I never dreamed I would see the Zora’s Sapphire in anything but history books,” the king breathed.

“I realize taking it was a mistake—!” Sidon stressed. “An awful one – I didn’t know its significance to the lizalfos, I only…! It was the zora’s, initially, so I thought I would…”

“You wanted to return it to its home?” Dorephan guessed, chuckling. “I do not blame you, son. Had I been in your position, I likely would have done the same.”

“We’ll have to get it back to Gerald, somehow,” Sidon thought aloud. At his father’s reluctant gaze, the prince narrowed his eyes. “That…That is what we should do, isn’t it?”

Dorephan hummed, turning the sapphire over in his hand. “I will admit, I’m loathe to part with the sacred stone, now that it’s returned to us.” His eyes flicked to the letter from Gerald. “…Surely there’s some other way for him to claim the throne?”

“Father, we can’t—”

“Not to mention, you could give it to Link,” the king grinned knowingly.

“I—that’s—” Sidon spluttered. He paused in an effort to calm himself. “Father. We need to give it to Gerald, to secure peace between the zora and lizalfos. As much as I would like to give it to Link someday, that’s…why am I the one arguing this?!” He waved a hand at the sacred stone. “The zora have been functioning for millennia without the sapphire – can’t it be a symbol of peace, now? We shouldn’t be keeping it. I shouldn’t have stolen it.” The prince’s fingers touched the silver replica of the sacred stone that decorated his cravat. “Gerald would be king already if I hadn’t…”

At his son’s drooping shoulders, Dorephan let out a low, begrudging groan. “Very well, I see your point.” He lowered the sapphire, handing it back to Sidon. “Keep that hidden. I don’t want the elders to find out we reclaimed the Zora’s Sapphire, only to give it right back to the lizalfos.”

Sidon took the stone with a worried frown. “So…what do we do? How do we get the stone back to Gerald? I have immunity in Lanaryu now—”

“If you’re the one to present the stone, then they’ll know it was you who took it,” Dorephan grumbled. “No. That would start a war.”

Sidon thought. “Link has immunity, as well, but he’s off calming Vah Naboris.”

“Link may be better able to sneak the stone back,” the king huffed. “He’s much smaller than any zora – he would be far less noticeable.”

“I don’t want them blaming Link for taking it!” Sidon protested.

“True, that’s—” Dorephan paused, spotting a figure approaching the entrance to the throne room.

Gaddison entered, stopping just shy of entering, and saluted.  “Sire, elder Muzu is here to see you.”

“Ah, yes,” Dorephan nodded. He turned to Sidon, who was clasping the sapphire behind him, out of sight. “We’ll discuss this topic at a later time, son. For now, simply…Hold on to your discovery until we can coordinate with the hylian champion.”

Sidon bowed to the king, departing with the sapphire still in his fist. He nodded to Gaddison as he left, hoping he didn’t appear as ruffled as he felt. So much for his plan to give the Zora’s Sapphire to Link. He could find some other trinket to give the champion, of course. Something not quite so…dire to their circumstances. At this point, Sidon felt it might be wiser to simply ask the hylian what he would want.

The sapphire, in the meantime, needed to go back to Lake Hylia.

Chapter Text

Link started running the second his foot touched down on the Ne’ez Yohma shrine. He barreled through the shallow water and up the stairs, coming out into the bright, midday sun. The light reflected brilliantly off the scaled pathways. In front of him, half-turned to watch both the plaza and the shrine, was Prince Sidon.

The zora’s eyes lit up, spotting the champion. “Link!”

The hero beamed, and he dashed toward the prince. He leapt at Sidon, arms outstretched.

Sidon caught Link easily, swinging the hylian around before drawing him close. “You’re back! Oh, my dearest, I’ve missed you.” He sat Link on his forearm, petting at the hero’s pointed ears while he looked for any injuries. “You’re in much better shape than last time,” Sidon observed. “I take it you’ve calmed Vah Naboris?”

Link groaned. “That blight was the worst.” He rolled up the sleeve of his left arm, showing off a twisting scar that bloomed over his skin like the branches of a tree. “Lots of lightning.”

“This looks awfully painful.” Sidon ran his fingers over the scar with a grimace.

Link shrugged, pulling his sleeve back down. “Hurt when it happened. Heart container fixed me up.” He flexed the arm triumphantly, showing off how it moved without difficulty. “See?”

The prince’s lips pursed. “You’re certainly in a good mood, so I suppose you must be fine.”

“Happy to be done with Thunderblight Ganon,” Link chuckled. He leaned forward, pressing his cheek into Sidon’s. “And happy to see you.”

Sidon hummed, pleased, leaning his head against the champion’s. “I knew you could do it.”

“Figured I’d come back here to rest,” Link murmured. “I missed you.”

The prince pressed a kiss to the side of Link’s head. He ran his free hand along the champion’s back, relaxing. Enjoying holding his love again. Link was back, safe, and he’d be staying. At least, for a while. The thought brought a smile to the zora’s face. The champion volunteering to rest was rare – even more so when he was fighting fit, thanks to the magic of the heart container.

Sidon’s expression turned suspicious.

The prince looked over the champion curled up in his arms. Link was fine. The scar on the hero’s arm, while it had looked terrible, wasn’t hindering Link’s mobility. He was in a good mood. Optimistic, even. He was perfectly capable of going off to fight other things.

He didn’t need rest.

“While I’m delighted you’re here, Link,” Sidon commented, “I must admit to being a bit confused.”

Link pulled back, frowning. “Why?”

“You’re going to rest?” Sidon asked, a small smirk on his lips. “Willingly?

The champion’s eyes darted away. “Well, I…I wanted to know how the lizalfos…I thought I could…” Floundering for an answer, Link pouted at the prince. “Can’t I just come see you?”

“Of course. In fact, I encourage it,” Sidon laughed. “It’s simply unlike you to rest without someone forcing you to.”

The champion huffed, hunching his shoulders and looking away.

Sidon’s eyes softened in sympathy. “…You’re worried,” the prince surmised.

Slowly, almost imperceptibly, Link nodded.

“About facing the Calamity?” Sidon guessed. Another nod. “My love, you can do it. You know you can.”

“I know,” Link muttered, his voice quiet, and without conviction.

Sidon nudged the other with a gentle headbutt. “Are you here because you’d like a distraction to calm your nerves?”

The champion locked eyes with the prince. “…Maybe.”

Sidon huffed a laugh, but then grew thoughtful. ‘We still haven’t gotten the Zora’s Sapphire back to Gerald…’ He eyed the hylian in his arms with a warm gaze. ‘I suppose it wouldn’t be terrible to ask, if it could help him calm down.’ The prince glanced around the area, to be certain no one was listening in. He spotted Junayd and Tottika a distance away, heading to their stations. The guards shot the prince a knowing grin when he and Link caught their eye. Sidon rolled his eyes at them, and then turned back to the champion, keeping his voice low. "I may have a task for you – At least, it will be simpler if you assist with it.”

Link perked up immediately, his face brightening. “Really?”

“Yes, but we can’t discuss it here,” the prince stated, setting Link back down on the ground. He took the hylian’s hand. “Come, I’ll show you.”

“Where are we going?” Link asked, falling into step with the zora.

“My quarters.”

Link blinked a few times in surprise. As the zora kept leading, he bit his lip, trying not to grin. “What exactly am I helping you with?”

The prince shot the other a confused frown as they walked. Then, thinking back on his words, he froze. ‘Oh. Oh, that sounds like I’m bringing him to my room to—’ Sidon’s free hand flailed, trying both to wave the matter away and hide his flustered face. “What—No, Link it’s not—! It isn’t anything like that!

Link laughed. “Damn. You got my hopes up.”

“I got your—I…what?” Sidon spluttered. At Link’s cheeky grin, the zora breath caught. The hylian’s eyes sparkled with mischievous glee. ‘I…I suppose I could’ He had missed the hero. It had been weeks since he’d been able to hold Link. To run his fingers through the hylian’s hair, and watch those golden locks sway in the gentle breeze. He could remove Link’s ponytail now. Hold the other man as he indulged, a little. Link was finally close enough that he could kiss the champion --  trail his lips down Link’s cheek, down Link’s neck, undoing the belts of the champion’s armor as he did so. Remove the heavy tunic covering Link’s lithe form…

The prince cleared his throat, trying to pull himself back to focusing on the task at hand.

“You alright?” Link inquired innocently, though the grin plastered on his face suggested otherwise. “You look a little flustered, darling.”

Oh, he is absolutely doing this on purpose,’ Sidon grumbled inwardly. “I’m fine,” Sidon managed. “The task I have for you isn’t…” He sighed, and knelt next to the champion. “The task I wish to discuss with you concerns the lizalfos.” Then, he leaned lower, murmuring into Link’s ear with a smirk. “Though, you are more than welcome to help me with more personal matters, later.” The prince pulled back, seeing the hylian go still, his eyes wide. Sidon smirked in satisfaction as he saw a red flush creep across the champion’s cheeks.

Link brought a hand to his face, looking up at the prince with wide eyes.

Eager eyes.

Sidon grinned broadly, and then gave the hylian’s hand a gentle tug. “Let’s be off, shall we?”


 

Link crouched by the edge of Sidon’s sleeping pool, looking around with curiosity. There was a large wooden desk and chair to his left. The desk was littered with scrolls and books, which he figured Sidon had been flipping through recently. The zora script along the spines he recognized, even if he couldn’t read it. There were older books too, with titles in a text he’d never seen in his life. ‘Is that Lizal?’ the champion wondered. ‘He must be practicing.’ He turned his head, peering into the pool.

Sidon was underwater, at the very bottom, removing one of the scale-like tiles from the floor. He grabbed something from a small, hidden hole, and then replaced the tile. That done, Sidon kicked and surged upward, resurfacing.

“What’s that?” Link asked, leaning forward as Sidon approached.

The prince’s eyes flicked down to the object in his hand, frowning. Briefly, disappointment flew over his features. Then, with a shake of his head, he held the object out to Link. “This is the Zora’s Sapphire.”

“It’s beautiful,” Link noted, eyeing the trio of sapphires appreciatively. He’d seen a lot of gems in Gerudo Town – even bought plenty of jewelry for himself. None of them compared to this, though. The blue hues were deeper. Purer. There was something inherently different about the gem. Something special. Something he couldn’t quite place.

“It’s the sacred stone of my people,” Sidon explained. “Lost to us for…Well, since it was given to the Hero of Time, I think.”

“You have it, though,” Link observed, his brow furrowing. “What’s the problem?”

Sidon let out a pained groan, sinking into the water until his lips were nearly covered. He stared at the stone glumly. “…I stole it from the lizalfos.”

Link snorted, biting back a grin. “I’m sorry – you what?

“I stole it,” Sidon repeated with a grimace. “The king’s crown broke because I removed the sapphire.”

“You…” Link stifled a laugh. “You stole it. Off the king’s crown. You.

“Yes, my dearest, we’ve established that,” Sidon grumbled.

“Sounds more like something I’d do,” Link snickered. He touched the frame of the gem gently, noting the similarities between it and the pin that held Sidon’s cravat. “If it’s the Zora’s Sapphire, though, why…?”

“We don’t know how the lizalfos found it, but they’d been using it as a means of proving royal lineage,” Sidon provided. “So, Gerald needs it. However, since I took it, he can’t claim the throne, let alone override the old king’s will with a peace treaty.”

“Oh.” Link’s expression turned more serious. “That’s bad.”

Yes,” Sidon bemoaned, his shoulders drooping. “Not to mention that I can’t simply bring it back to Gerald myself – the lizalfos would know exactly who took it!”

“Then, I’ll take it to Gerald,” Link suggested, simply.

“My darling, they’ll think you stole it if you do,” Sidon protested. “But, perhaps if—”

“I’ll sneak it over,” Link shrugged, taking the Zora’s Sapphire from Sidon. “Gerald will just happen to find it next to him. They won’t know it was me.”

Sidon stared at the hylian. “That’s…Are you sure?”

“You know I don’t mind,” Link nodded, stowing the sapphire into one of his pockets. “Of course I’d want to help you.”

Sidon offered the champion a wry smirk. “Well, there’s that, and there’s the fact that you’re a bit of a meddler.” He took Link’s hand in his own, running his thumb over the hero’s knuckles. “You do jump at the chance to get involved in others’ business.”

“You told me it was helping people,” Link corrected, returning the smirk.

“Is that not what I said?” Sidon asked, feigning innocence. “You jump at the chance to help people?” The prince laughed as Link tugged gently at one of his fins, the champion’s face amused, but still annoyed. “I only tease, my dearest,” Sidon chuckled. “In all honesty, I would rather this task not fall to you.”

“This is important,” Link stressed. “I’ve done more for less.”

“I know, but…” Sidon’s face fell, glancing away from the champion. “This is…This problem was my own doing. You’ll be correcting my mistake.”

“I’ve been running around Hyrule correcting my own,” the champion stated. “Correcting yours will be a nice break.” Link pulled out his Sheikah Slate, pulling up the area around Lake Hylia. He’d want to be close, but maybe not directly in the lake itself. Nothing would tip off Isolda more than Hyrule’s Hero spontaneously appearing in the middle of the search for the sacred stone. The action screamed that something was up. No, he would have to come in on foot.

“I know I said this was meant to distract you from the weight of your duty,” Sidon laid his arms on the edge of the pool. He inched closer to the champion, and then leaned his head on his arms with a pout. “Even so it’s…This is a lot to ask of you.”

“I want a distraction,” Link countered, moving the map on his slate around to find an appropriate shrine to warp to.

“You’re too kind to me, love,” Sidon murmured.

Link looked up from his slate with a smile. “Payback.”

Sidon’s head perked up. “Pardon?”

“For all the times you’re too kind to me,” Link answered. He held the slate toward Sidon. “Are you coming, too?”

“I’d like to,” Sidon affirmed with a nod. “Hopefully I’ll be unnecessary, but you might need a translator.”

Link took hold of the zora’s hand, and then leaned forward to plant a kiss on Sidon’s crest. “Keep holding onto me, then.”

Sidon snorted, wrapping his fingers tighter around Link’s. “As though I’d ever want to let go.”


 

Sheikah gear, Link had called it.

Tight, form-fitting material made for the express purpose of sneaking around. In this case, it was sneaking down a steep hill at the southern edge of Lake Hylia, to hide behind a tree. Beyond that tree was a small, sandy shelf.

On that shelf, Gerald sat moping.

Sidon watched Link from high above the beach, hiding himself among the stone parapets of the Bridge of Hylia. The lizalfos were focusing their search in the water, confident that the Zora’s Sapphire was somewhere within the lake itself, so Sidon was able to keep himself relatively out of sight. The prince crouched, his heart pounding as Link tiptoed next to the tree, instead of staying behind it.

He looks good in that gear,’ Sidon thought, eyeing the hero’s form. The special clothing didn’t leave very much to the imagination. There was armor attached, though each piece was small, and served to almost frame Link’s chest rather than protect it. Decorative lining along the legs only served to emphasize the champion’s powerful thigh muscles. Sidon’s fingers twitched as he wondered how the clothes felt. There was space between the armor and Link’s belts where the zora could rest his hands, just above Link’s hips. Sidon hummed, not sure whether it would feel like caressing Link’s skin, running his fingers over that thin material.

There was a small ‘plop’ from the water below.

Goddess, what am I doing?’ Sidon thought, shaking his head. ‘Focus.

Gerald’s head perked up, turning this way and that, before he spotted the ripples in the water. Then, with a curious trill, he swam out to the spot, dunking his head to investigate. He resurfaced with an excited yap, and then dove.

Once Gerald had dived after the stone, Link scrambled his way back up the hill. He jogged up to Sidon and pulled his mask down, revealing a triumphant grin. “Perfect throw.”

“Excellent work, Link!” Sidon cheered.

The hylian hopped up, onto the parapet, to look into the lake. “Just hope he grabs it,” Link muttered, watching for the bright lizalfos to resurface. “It’ll sink fast.”

“I’m certain he can manage it,” the prince smiled. He looked into the lake as well, watching bubbles rise from where Gerald had dived. They would have to wait a minute. Maybe two. He couldn’t be sure how fast Gerald would catch up to the sinking stone. Sidon’s eyes flicked to Link. Seeing the champion in the gear up close, it was hard to resist trailing his fingers along the back of the hylian’s shirt. Sidon reached out, brushing his fingers lightly against the material. It was soft. Almost slick.

The champion turned at the touch, raising an eyebrow at the zora.

Sidon’s fingers paused along Link’s spine. “I, ah…I wanted to see how the suit felt.”

Link’s stare turned sly. “While I was in it?”

“I—Well—” Sidon started.

“You can touch me all you want later,” Link teased. “This is important.”

Sidon scoffed, wrapping his arm around the hylian. He leaned, growling into Link’s ear. “Full of snark, today, aren’t you? Must you torment me so?”

Link pressed a long, obnoxiously drawn out kiss to the zora’s cheek in response. “Missed you.”

Sidon grumbled, though it was half-hearted, his annoyance appeased by the sudden affection. He watched the water over Link’s shoulder, humming contentedly as the champion pet along the zora’s forefin.

Below, Gerald resurfaced, the Zora’s Sapphire held high in his clawed fingers.

“Oh!” Sidon exclaimed. “He’s got it!”

“Told you my throw was perfect,” Link stated, smug.

With a series of happy chirps, the bright lizalfos swam to the largest island in the lake. The pair scrambled to the other side of the bridge to watch him. Once at the island, Gerald hopped excitedly to the top of the hill, calling down to where the lake’s shrine was hidden.

Isolda emerged, eyeing Gerald curiously before spotting the sapphire. She went still at the sight of it. Then, the general hopped up next to the lizalfos prince, and roared over the lake.

Soon the water was filled with lizalfos, all responding to Isolda’s call. Their scales shimmered, all different colors, as they swam close to the island. The masses looked up at Isolda and Gerald with expectant faces. Gurgles and growls filled the lake, as the lizalfos caught sight of the sapphire.

Then, Gerald handed the Zora’s Sapphire to Isolda.

“Oh no,” Sidon breathed. “Oh no. No, no, what is he doing?!”

As Isolda examined the stone, a small section of lizalfos, led by a blue, began to cheer. The blue hopped out of the water, lifting their hands and trying to get the rest of the onlookers to join in. The blue began to chant. Their followers chanted as well.

“What are they saying?” Link asked.

“Hail Queen Isolda,” Sidon hissed. “That she should be the one—” The zora’s jaw snapped shut at the sound of another angry roar.

Isolda stomped her feet below them, holding the sapphire aloft. With her other hand, she pointed at the blue. She growled and gurgled, rapidly, gesturing to the entire lake of lizalfos.

“She just keeps going,” Link observed.

“It’s…She’s giving a speech,” Sidon explained.

“Can you translate it all?” the hylian asked, watching as the general of the Lanaryu lizalfos continued addressing the blue.

“I…, she’s saying ‘You’re idiots,’” Sidon translated as the general growled again, hitting the ground with the blunt end of her spear. “All of you who hail me instead of the prince. Idiots that follow the Calamity to their death.” Isolda pointed the tip of the weapon at the blue. “You, Candis. You lead these bastards?”

The blue stood tall, almost defiant, and yapped with a nod.

Isolda let out a cackle. “Of course. Of course it’s you.” The general brought the Zora’s Sapphire in front of her, staring at it. “We’ve lived under bloody laws, until now. Of course you, so bent on revenge on the Hero, would want a general to rule.”

Sidon turned to Link with a frown. “You’ve fought that blue one?”

“Hell if I know,” Link responded with a frown of his own. “I’ve fought a lot of them.”

“She has a grudge, apparently,” Sidon observed, looking back at Isolda.

The blue, Candis, bowed low to the general.

Isolda contemplated the other lizalfos for a moment, and then shrugged with a growl.

“I don’t want to be Queen.”

“Thank Hylia,” Link breathed.

Next to him, Sidon continued to frown, focused on the next words that left Isolda’s maw.

“We’ve served under generals for too long. The last king, the king before that…what good has it done us? They always order us to support Ganon, and that brings war.” Isolda tapped her broken horn with a golden claw. “Following Ganon ends badly for us. It always does.” At that, the general hopped down from her perch, stalking her way toward Candis. “The Hero you hate so much? He saved our asses. Gerald said the zora and the Hero could help us, and they did. Our home is free of monsters for the first time in a century – You know the Hero can stop Ganon, too.”

“She does believe in me?” Link questioned, aghast.

“He always stops Ganon,” Sidon continued, voicing Isolda’s words with the same baffled expression as his friend. The general laughed. “He’s already recaptured the Divine Beasts! He’s unstoppable – the kings told stories of our ancestors dying in their fight against the Hero, time and time again.” At that, Isolda paused, chuckling darkly at the group behind Candis. “You know mine didn’t. My ancestor didn’t fight the Hero. He was smarter than that. He gave the Hero flippers or some shit. You know how well things turned out for him?” The black lizalfos sneered, the scar under her eye stretching. “His clan survived. The Hero left him alone. The hylians let him live.” She gestured to the ground with a sweep of her arm. “It’s why I’m even standing here. It’s why a lot of you are standing here. The rest of you are just lucky bastards.”

Candis gurgled in response, pointing angrily between Gerald and Isolda. Isolda spun on her heel, her long tail whipping Candis in the face. The blue lizalfos went down, crashing to the ground, and several of the lizalfos let out a startled yip.

Isolda stood above Candis, walking away with an annoyed grunt. She climbed back up the hill, rejoining a pensive-looking Gerald. The general turned back, addressing the group attending to Candis with a roar. “It’s lizalfos like you that hold us back! Dumbasses that can’t see that we’re stuck!” She jabbed the point of her spear into the ground. “Stuck in an idiotic war against the Hero that we’ll never win! Ganon is going to lose, and we’ll be caught in the crossfire!”

Other sections of lizalfos began to nod along. Those standing closest to the group of dissenters began to back away from them, distancing themselves.

“It’s just the damned zora right now,” Sidon rumbled as Isolda continued. “We only fight the zora, in Lanaryu. I hate them. We all do. But, they’re friends of the Hero, and they always have been – What happens when Ganon is defeated?” The onlookers looked to each other, several tilting their heads. “The other races all become friends and form treaties.” The general hissed. “We’ll have to fight all of them. Rito, Gerudo, whatever. Plus the Hero. The Hylians. All of them. We’ll die, and with no blood moon, we’ll die forever.”

Gerald yipped next to Isolda, concerned.

The general thrust the Zora’s Sapphire at Gerald. “You are our best chance, my prince. You befriended that asshole, Sidon—”

The zora stopped speaking, his face pinched in annoyance.

“Sidon, keep translating,” Link urged, pushing on the prince’s arm impatiently.

With a sigh, Sidon continued. Isolda grabbed one of Gerald’s hands, shoving the sapphire into it. “You befriended the Hero’s love. There’s a chance for survival, with you as the King. You can befriend the rest of the zora, and then the other races won’t kill us once Ganon’s dead. The Hero won’t have reason to wipe us out – the lizalfos won’t get culled again. At least, not those of us in Lanaryu.” The general turned, addressing the masses of lizalfos again. She stood tall. Prideful. “You make your choice here. Support your prince and live, or fight for the Calamity and die.” She picked up her silverscale spear, spinning it. A sickening smirk stretched across her lips, and she pounded her fist against her chestplate. “And, by the way, you’ll die fighting me.”

The group with Candis began to hiss, stomping and waving their weapons. More lizalfos backed away from them, looking nervously between the angry crowd and Isolda.

“You’re outnumbered!” Isolda pointed her spear at the rebellious group, cackling. “Outnumbered and outclassed!”

Gerald stepped forward, tapping Isolda on the shoulder.

The general stopped, looking the lizalfos prince hard in the eye.

Gerald inclined his head toward her, letting out a low trill.

Isoda blinked at him for a moment, and then responded with a somewhat surprised yip. Her stance relaxed, and her eyes darted around the lake, watching the others with a small frown. The lizalfos in the water waited. The dissenters all growled lowly, poised to fight, but unsure of what transpired. Isolda brought her fist to her mouth, and awkwardly cleared her throat. “Also, Gerald found the gem first, so…Law of the lizalfos. He’s the king.” At the confused murmurings of the crowd, the general rubbed the back of her head. “…I probably should have started with that.”

The dissenters each let out an indignant groan.

Sidon snorted.

“Did she just…?” Link muttered.

“She nearly started a civil war!” Sidon laughed. “All because she forgot to tell them Gerald found the sapphire first. Goddess above, she may be clever in battle, but she’s not clever with words, is she?”

Isolda waved a hand at the unconscious form of Candis and yapped. Soon, the blue was being carried away, to be attended to with elixirs.

Gerald hopped excitedly, tapping the Zora’s Sapphire with his claws and chirping.

“We should go,” Sidon stated, backing away from the bridge, a pleased look on his face. “Gerald’s saying they should send word to Zora’s Domain.”

Link pulled out his Sheikah Slate. He brought up the map and then moved to stand next to Sidon. “Better make sure you’re there, then,” the champion chuckled.


 

“My prince,” Tottika bowed low, and then gestured to the entrance of Zora’s Domain. “There is an entourage of lizalfos here to see you.”

Sidon bolted to the balcony overlooking the plaza. Sure enough, several lizalfos were stopped at the main bridge, being blocked by Gaddison and Bazz. One lizalfos in particular stuck out from the rest – his cyan and orange scales gleaming. Sidon grinned.

Gerald, now wearing a long, burgundy cloak that looked suspiciously like a hylian-styled blanket, caught sight of the zora prince. An elated smiled graced his face, and he yipped, hopping up and down in excitement. A makeshift crown of bone and steel, topped with the Zora’s Sapphire, bounced atop his head.

Sidon all but ran down the steps into the plaza, coming up to the group. “Let them through!” he ordered the guards. Gaddison and Bazz glanced at each other nervously, but then stepped aside, allowing room for their prince to approach the lizalfos. Sidon beamed, growling in Lizal. “Gerald! I am happy to see you!” He looked about the lizalfos guards flanking the new king, and paused. He saw a silver, two blues carrying a large, stone chest, and a black. The black looked back at Sidon passively. Its long horn curved elegantly at the tip of its nose. No scar split its check. It wasn’t Isolda.

The general was nowhere in sight.

Where is Isolda?” Sidon hissed, a perplexed frown on his face. His hand reached for his empty wrist, touching along the scales in anxious habit. Isolda was Gerald’s number one general. She would demand to be here, to protect their leader. His eyes searched briefly behind the group of guards, half-expecting to see the general perched somewhere else. Casing the Domain. Lying in wait.

She will not attend today, by my will,” Gerald explained with a casual wave of his hand. “We know her presence here would be uncouth. Our purpose now is to make peace – A treaty would be compromised with she, Isolda the Defiant, by my side.” The bright lizalfos puffed out his chest with pride. “Isolda has been sent to Akkala, to conquer lizalfos who challenge us.

The prince’s shoulders sagged in relief. “I understand!” Sidon chirped. “I appreciate this.” No Isolda today. Maybe never again. She was going to be very busy if Gerald wanted her to lead the charge against the other lizalfos factions. Sidon directed Gerald to follow him, and began walking to the throne room. As Gerald fell into step next to the prince, Sidon asked, “The Akkala lizalfos…they are strong?

They are, of course,” Gerald confirmed, holding his crown in place while he walked. “Led by a general. He is a lout, adorned with silver scales. His followers named Tristram ‘the Woeful,’ and woe is what Isolda shall bring him.

Sidon eyed the crown on Gerald’s head with a fretful gaze. It looked as though the strings holding it together would fall apart at any second. ‘We finally get the stone back to him – what happens if the sapphire just falls off his head?’ the prince pondered. He grimaced at the jewel. “Your crown is—

Alas, my crown!” Gerald cried, laughing heartily. “Our artisans fail me, with hasty hands and no care to the form. They made their monarch a crass coronet! A new and sturdy crown they plan for me, though elegance will never describe it.

Sturdier would be better. Prettier might be better still. Glancing down to Gerald’s wrist, the prince could see that the lizalfos still wore the bracelet the zora had given as a gift. The one the lizalfos had claimed was pretentious. Sidon smirked at it. “Our artisans make crowns. They make a crown for you.” Gerald’s eyes widened, and the zora waved to the makeshift regalia with an elegant, exaggerated flourish. “A pretentious crown, from the pretentious zora.

Gerald stared at the prince, aghast. “Such generosity you show me, friend! You would have zora artisans make it?

Sidon nodded, pumping his fist. “A king needs a good crown! It is a symbol of peace, from me.

And a grand symbol it is,” Gerald chuckled. “You are kind – I accept this most benevolent gift.” As the pair climbed the last of the stairs, the bright lizalfos regarded the zora prince with curiosity. When they reached the throne room, Gerald stopped abruptly, turning to Sidon with a trill. “I must ask you a question, my dear friend.

Sidon stopped as well, and smiled at the other. “Yes, friend?

Your articulation does please me, but, my curiosity does demand truth – Why do you always speak in Lizal, now?” Gerald asked, touching his chin with an inquisitive claw. “The common language of the land, I know, though my tongue does trip and twist upon it.

Sidon’s eyes boggled at the new king. “You…You understand Hylian,” he repeated, Lizal entirely forgotten.

Of course, I know it,” Gerald stated. “Lizalfos all do. We reached the Domain thanks to zora guards. They communicated directions here, not knowing Lizal terms to guide our way.

“Why didn’t you tell me?” Sidon questioned. “I could have – Is that why Isolda kept laughing at me?!”

The lizalfos king cackled. “You did not know we understand your words! No wonder, then, that you continued on.” Gerald brought his fingers to his mouth, covering his chuckles. “Dear Sidon, I must give apologies. I did believe it was for practicing, your attempts speaking in my mother tongue. Discouraging you is what I wish least.

The prince groaned. All that time. All that effort. He could have spoken normally. “I’ll practice some other time, I think.” He rubbed between his eyes, closing them in embarrassment. “Goddess, I must have looked quite the fool.”

I enjoyed all your effort, zora prince,” Gerald consoled the other, still smiling. “It gladdens me, to know you can speak it – to know the royal zora speak it still.

“Well, I’ll have to alert my father to this,” Sidon sighed. He smirked at the bright lizalfos. “His Lizal isn’t much better than mine.”

Gerald guffawed, and followed the prince into the throne room.


 

Elder zora lined the far wall, watching the lizalfos approach with wary glares. The lizalfos guards behind Gerald squinted back at them. The two blues hefted the chest they carried next to their king, and dropped it heavily onto the floor. Zora guards held still, though several clutched their spears tighter, as though bracing themselves for a fight.

Link stood to the left of the throne, watching the zora and lizalfos guards square off in a staring contest. ‘They’d better not start shit,’ he thought, keeping an eye on both groups. The tension in the air between the groups was palpable. The elders were nervous. The guards were nervous – both zora, and lizalfos.

King Dorephan, on the other hand, looked quite relaxed. He leaned back in his throne, regarding Gerald with a hint of fondness in his eyes. In his hand, the zora king held one of the letters Gerald had sent.

Sidon stepped in front of the group of lizalfos, bowing to his father. “Your majesty, and esteemed members of the court, may I present King Gerald Reginald Doomsnarl…” He glanced at the other king, who glanced backward at his guards.

The silver lizalfos behind Gerald yapped. Gerald gurgled approvingly.

“The Prime,” Sidon finished. At his father’s nod, he approached the throne, moving to the zora king’s left side.

The champion shot a confident grin at the prince.

Sidon’s lips quirked up in a smile, and then he turned to address Dorephan again. “Gerald has informed me that he fully comprehends the common tongue, if you wish to speak that instead of Lizal.”

“Thank Hylia,” Dorephan huffed a laugh. “I haven’t used Lizal for anything more than ceremonies.” His gaze moved to Gerald. “I welcome you to the Domain, King Gerald. Now, you said in your letters that you are amenable to a treaty between our kingdoms?”

Gerald chirped.

“Yes, that is true,” Dorephan commented, drawing a finger across his chin. “I believe I have gone over our own requirements thoroughly enough in our correspondence. Have you any disagreements?”

Gerald glanced at Sidon and Link, fidgeting with nerves. He breathed deeply, and then began a long series of growls.

Link watched as the lizalfos king proceeded to launch into a lengthy speech. Gerald gestured broadly about the room, and inclined his head to King Dorephan. All the while, his growls and gurgles filled the air, the zora and lizalfos all keeping silent as Gerald spoke. His high-pitched voice rang clear, with passion, as he indicated each of the zora in turn.

Link shifted on his feet, glancing between Gerald and Sidon, for cues. The zora royals appeared too focused, and too enthralled by what was being said to translate. On the edges of the room, several elders shifted, listening. Link frowned at them. ‘I wonder how much they understand.’

Then, Muzu glanced between the lizalfos and Dorephan, searching his king’s face just as Link had.

The hylian smirked. ‘Not much, I guess.

After what felt an age, Gerald finished. King Dorephan regarded him in awed silence, seemingly unable to speak. Then, he cleared his throat, voice shaking slightly with emotion. “I thank you. It gladdens my heart to hear such compassionate words from the king of the lizalfos.” Dorephan smiled warmly at Gerald’s smaller form. The lizalfos smiled back, though his claws still clicked together nervously.  “As for your own requirements, I do believe we can reach an accord.”

Gerald trilled happily, and then motioned to the two blues. The pair of guards lifted the stone chest from the floor, straining to bring it forward. Gerald tapped the chest, and indicated Sidon with a yip.

“What’s that?” Link asked, his voice hushed.

“A gift,” Sidon supplied, confusion on his face. “For me.” The prince walked toward the chest, kneeling down to open it. As he lifted the lid, his lips parted in surprise. He looked up at Gerald in question. “My friend, what is this?”

Gerald gave a yap, and showed his own arm to Sidon, displaying the zora bracelet. He tapped the luminous stone that decorated the jewelry, and then pointed to the stone chest with a growl.

Sidon’s eyes lit up, and he pulled another bracelet from the chest. It wasn’t the prettiest thing – more like a steel bracer than jewelry. Small chunks of topaz decorated the edges, with a larger piece in the very center. There were long, curving snake patterns scratched into the metal, in the likeness of Lanaryu. Sidon put the bracer on quickly, securing leather straps and beaming up at the lizalfos king. He reached out, clasping Gerald’s hands in his own. “Thank you, my friend! This is wonderful!”

Gerald gave a happy chirrup, shaking Sidon’s hands up and down excitedly.

“Hylia’s blessings be upon this day!” Dorephan boomed. He nodded to Muzu. “Fetch the parchment, we have a treaty to draw up.” The elders on the outer edges of the room all heaved a sigh of relief.

The lizalfos cheered, with Gerald’s voice the loudest among them.

The zora king turned in is throne, looking to Link. “Champion, you bear witness to this joyous occasion.” Dorephan’s warm smiled twitched into a smirk, briefly. “I may not approve of how it was managed, but I nevertheless thank you for your efforts in securing the result.”

Link grinned self-consciously up at the zora king. As the rest of the members of the court began to move about, going to fetch maps and other documents, the champion left his spot next to the throne. He jogged over to Sidon and Gerald.

“Link!” Sidon took the champion’s hand, drawing him closer. “Look at this!” He indicated the new bracer with a giddy grin. “It’s a gift in exchange for the one I gave to Gerald – These are meant for their fiercest warriors.”

Link ran his fingers over the topaz with a hum. “Explains why it looks like armor.”

“It grants its wearer resistance to electricity,” Sidon exclaimed. “Protection for the prince, as a sign of peace, according to Gerald.”

Gerald yapped proudly, brimming with confidence. He smiled at the pair for a moment, and then tilted his head, contemplating. The lizalfos king’s eyes flicked up to his crown, and then back to the pair. He trilled questioningly at Sidon.

The prince nodded to the lizalfos, and then turned back to Link. “He’d like a word with me, in private.”

“Dorephan wants me to witness the documents,” Link shrugged. “I’ll be here when you get back.”

Sidon brushed an affectionate thumb against the champion’s cheek. Standing, he gestured for Gerald to follow him out of the throne room.

The lizalfos king yapped at his guards. Each of them saluted response, standing in place. Gerald smiled and waved at Link, and then walked outside with Sidon.


 

The duo exited onto a small balcony overlooking the water. Sidon rested a hand on the railing, directing a curious gaze at Gerald. “What did you wish to speak to me about?”

The matter is most delicate, I fear,” Gerald admitted, scratching his cheek with a claw. “I can speak of this to no lizalfos, nor zora, save, of course, for you, my friend.

“I see,” Sidon frowned. “Is…Is there something wrong? It isn’t something to do with the treaty, is it?”

It is nothing so dire, Sidon, no!” Gerald stressed, waving his hands in front of himself. “Your behavior confounded me, you see.” He tapped the Zora’s Sapphire on his crown, his claw clinking against the golden frame. “You did not keep the zora’s sacred stone.

Sidon blanched, feeling his stomach twist. He and Link had been so careful. Made sure they weren’t seen at Lake Hylia, returning the stone. His thoughts whirled, a sick feeling pooling in his stomach. His voice went weak, muttering, “…You knew.”

I spied the sapphire in your hand, back then. When I helped you from the pool, you had it,” Gerald shrugged, as though it had been obvious.

“You saw–?!” Sidon spluttered.  “You didn’t say anything about it!”

The Zora’s Sapphire, was it not so named?” Gerald asked, simply. “Its title was not changed by our past kings. I thought you meant to bring it to its home.

“You needed the sapphire to become king!”

Gerald let out a low, thoughtful growl. “Your point is fair, though worry is misplaced. Most are in favor of my rule. All else, they follow in fear of my general.” The lizalfos king shook his head with a chuckle. “Isolda could keep them in line, although, I favor this, your bloodless method, more.” He tilted his head at Sidon. “You had need of the sapphire, did you not? Your motivations elude my grasp, still. It is not necessary for your rule. What reason bade you take the sapphire home?

“It was…It used to be a symbol of love, from royal zoras, like our zora armor. An engagement present, of sorts,” Sidon explained, at a loss. Gerald didn’t care. Sidon had stolen the most precious artifact, the crown jewel, right out from under the lizalfos. Right out from under the lizalfos prince. By all rights, he should have started another war, and yet Gerald stood there, calm as could be, as though they were discussing the weather.

Gerald stared at the prince with a contemplative frown. “You meant for me to find the stone, correct?

“I did,” Sidon confirmed.

Gerald shuffled on his feet, suddenly profoundly uncomfortable. “I am flattered sir, but cannot accept. We are not so close for such a gesture.

Sidon squinted at the lizalfos, unsure whether he had misunderstood something. Then, it dawned on him.

Gerald misunderstood him.

“Oh! Oh no – No, I was going to give the sapphire to Link as a symbol of love!” Sidon clarified. He waved a panicked hand at the crown on Gerald’s head. “I gave it back to you, so you could claim the throne! It wasn’t—I didn’t mean for it to be—”

Gerald let out a long trill, nodding sagely in comprehension. “Ah, it all begins to fall into place! I hope your hero is not too upset, now that he will not receive this dear gift.

“He doesn’t know about that, actually,” Sidon admitted, running his fingers along the topaz in his bracer. It was calming, having something on his wrist again. He hadn’t realized how strange it had felt to have that wrist be empty of jewelry.

You did not tell him?!” Gerald yapped, affronted. “You fool, zora prince! Beloved though he is to you, your heart, your love–” The bright lizalfos gasped, clutching his chest in horror. “Did my eyes and ears deceive me? Did you not, in the lake, confess your love?” He grasped Sidon’s forearms, shaking them roughly. “You planned to give him this most sacred stone, to gift this precious prize, and he, your Link, knows nothing of your intent to woo him?!

Sidon startled, caught off-guard. “Well, I—”

No! Unacceptable!” Gerald screeched, stomping his foot. He jabbed a claw in the direction of the throne room. “You must go now! Tell him – I demand you do so at once!

“Gerald, I can’t now,” Sidon protested. “We have to get the treaty settled first, and then Link will be off to go fight the Calamity!”

Gerald huffed, crossing his arms over his chest. “The treaty, yes, it does take precedence.” He pointed a claw at Sidon’s chest. “My demand still stands! After treaty talk, you will tell him, your champion, your goal. Your intent should be made known to your love! I order this, as your friend and as king!


 

Link yawned. The sun was low over Zora’s Domain, painting the sky in vibrant oranges and purples. The treaty was signed. The Lanaryu lizalfos were heading home to work out the next steps for their kingdom. The hero stretched his arms above his head with a grunt, trying to work out the kinks from staying in one spot for so long. He didn’t think just being a witness would be so exhausting, but now it was over. Everything was settled, finally.

Everything except Calamity Ganon.

Link checked his packs for the hundredth time. He had his best gear. Best elixirs. Plenty of food and water for the trip. The steel lizalfos shield on his back was still sturdy, not at risk of breaking. The hero rolled his shoulders, readjusting the weapons attached to his belts.

He was ready.

Still, he paced the plaza in the Domain, back and forth. ‘I’m fine,’ Link told himself. ‘I’m fine. I can do this. I beat the other blights. I—

“Link, there you are!”

The champion turned, spotting Sidon walking toward him with a bright grin. Link ran to him.

Sidon caught the hylian in his arms, pulling him into a tight hug. “I’ve been looking for you – I was worried you’d left already.”

“Can’t,” Link grunted, nuzzling closer. “Not without saying goodbye.”

“I should hope not,” the zora chuckled. He ran his claws gently through the short hairs on Link’s neck. “Truth be told, I’ve been ordered to speak with you before you leave.”

Link relinquished his hold on the prince with a laugh. “What?

“Gerald,” Sidon explained with a smile. “I’m afraid there’s…I never told you why I took the sapphire. Gerald advised me to do so. Rather, uh, rather forcefully.”

Link’s eyes widened. “Gerald knows you stole?”

“Yes, he’s aware. He’s assured me that he doesn’t harbor any ill feelings over it, especially since we returned the stone.” Sidon gave a nervous chuckle. “He also promised not to tell Isolda.”

“She’d be pissed,” Link laughed. He placed his hands on his hips, regarding the zora with an interested smirk. “So, why did you steal it?”

Sidon held the hylian’s gaze, and then breathed a long, defeated sigh. “I had meant to give it to you, eventually.”

Link stared. “Me.”

“Yes, love.”

The hylian placed his hand over his chest. “You were going to give me the crown jewel of the lizalfos.”

“It was a symbol of love, for the zora, in times long ago,” Sidon explained. He drew his hand up to cup Link’s cheek. “I was going to give it to you as a sign of my affection. I’ve been meaning to get you something, to court you properly but…” He bit his lower lip pensively, eyes darting to the side. “I’m afraid I don’t have anything that’s…I have nothing appropriate. Nothing I have is special enough, not for someone as special as you.” With a sardonic laugh, he added, “In retrospect, even the Zora’s Sapphire pales in comparison.”

Link reached up, dragging his fingers along Sidon’s fins. He looked fondly over the red scales, trailing along where the red blurred into white along the prince’s face. The hero locked eyes with Sidon, then, the zora’s eyes colored like honey in the warm light of the sun. Link shook his head, biting back a grin. “You absolute dork.”

Sidon scoffed. “A dork again, am I? For wanting to court you properly?”

“You’re always a dork,” Link laughed. “All I want is you.”

Sidon blinked at the champion. Then he smiled serenely, leaning forward to press a kiss to the top of Link’s head. He brought his hands to the hero’s hips, pulling Link closer. “You already have me, my dearest.”

The lingered there, holding onto each other quietly. At length, Link reached around Sidon’s neck, squeezing the zora one last time before he left. He dropped down, an apologetic smile on his face. “I should go. I’ve got a Calamity to kill.” He pecked Sidon’s cheek.

Sidon nodded. “Of course.” He stood, and then pumped his fist, shooting the other a confident, toothy grin. “Good luck, my love – I know you’ll succeed!”

Link nodded back to him, and turned toward the bridge leading out of Zora’s Domain.

As he watched Link’s back, a thought occurred to the prince. “Wait, I’m such a fool—Link!” He called out to the champion, jogging after him.

The champion turned back to the prince, his brow furrowing with confusion.

Sidon’s eyes darted away, briefly. “I…Well,” the zora cleared his throat, looking suddenly sheepish. “I was wondering…”

Link’s head canted to the side. “What?”

“Well, it’s just—” The zora knelt before the champion, an annoyed frown on his lips. “With all that happened in the Temple, and with how exhausted we both were, I…Even after getting the Zora’s Sapphire to Gerald, I didn’t—We never…” Sidon scratched at his cheek with a claw. “I haven’t gotten a chance to kiss you properly, so—”

The hero snorted, amused. He approached the zora, coming to a stop just in front of Sidon. Link stood on the tips of his toes, beckoning for the zora to lean down more. Once the prince had done so, Link placed his hands on Sidon’s cheeks, and then pulled the zora even lower, pressing his lips to Sidon’s.

After the initial surprise wore off, Sidon felt himself melting. He pulled the champion to his chest, one hand slipping behind Link’s head and into the hylian’s hair. The other hand dragged down Link’s back, settling on the hylian’s hip. Link’s fingers left tingling trails on his scales, as they drifted to the back of his neck, brushing along the underside of his head-tail. Link drew back, to breathe, and the prince chased after him, eager to recapture the plush lips of his love – so much softer and warmer than he ever could have dreamed. Link responded in kind, a small moan escaping his throat as the zora held him in place. Sidon’s arm snaked around the hylian’s waist, lifting the smaller man off the ground. He broke away only for the briefest of moments, kissing the hero over and over, running his hand over the back of Link’s neck and reveling in the softness of the champion’s skin. He stopped only when he was certain he’d kissed Link completely breathless.

Link’s eyes fluttered when they parted, breath coming out in quiet pants. Sidon found himself entranced by the hylian’s lashes – the color like spun gold, shining in the setting sun. Link’s lips, a deeper color than they were before, quirked up in a cocky smirk. A pleasant pink tinged the champion’s cheeks.

Happy,’ Sidon decided. ‘That blush means he’s happy.

“Anything else?” Link asked, chuckling, his feet dangling in the air.

“Only a reminder,” Sidon beamed at his hero. “I believe in you.”

Link mirrored his prince’s grin.  “I love you, too.”

 

~Fin~