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The Power of Faith

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Prologue: The History of the Royal Family of Hyrule

 

Before time began, before spirits and life existed… Three golden goddesses descended upon the chaos that was Hyrule…

 

Din, the goddess of power. Nayru, the goddess of wisdom. Farore, the goddess of courage. Din, with her strong flaming arms, cultivated the land and created the red earth. Nayru poured her wisdom onto the earth and gave the spirit of law to the world. Farore, with her rich soul, produced all life forms who would uphold the law.

 

The three great goddesses, their labours completed, departed for the heavens. And golden sacred triangles remained at the point where the goddesses left the world… The sacred triangles together created the Triforce, a mythical power that grants the bearer of all three the power to do their will.

 

And thousands of years later, Demise tried to take the Triforce for his own. He was stopped by the goddess Hylia, and the original Hero of Legend who wielded the Master Sword, a weapon of Hylia’s creation. Demise’s soul was forevermore bound to the sacred sword, so long it remain in it’s sacred pedestal. It was then known by all as the sword that seals the darkness.

 

Demise took on many forms after that, reincarnating in another body to resume what he started millennium ago; Ganondorf, Dark Lord Zarkon, even the Calamity. And each and every time he came back, the soul of the hero, and the direct descendent of the goddess Hylia would rise up to banish him back to the Spirit Realm. Whether skyward bound, adrift in time, or steeped in the glowing embers of twilight… The Hero and the princess of Hyrule were called upon many times in the legends of old, and they were about to be again.

 

One day, ten thousand years after the last battle with the Demise incarnate, a fortune-teller came to Hyrule Castle, speaking of a prophecy that foretold the return of the Calamity; 

 

The Calamity’s return looms.

Seek out the relics from an age past,

To find the answers that you seek.

 

A recipe for success you’ll need,

A sword, a birthright, a team of six.

The fate of Hyrule rests with you.

 

King Alfor Octavius Hyrule was quick to initiate action; the prophecy spoke of hidden relics from an age past, so he ordered for excavation in various areas of the kingdom. There had been brief mentions in ancient texts that the Sheikah tribe created an army of autonomous weapons, and four large mechanical wonders.

 

An elder of the Sheikah people came forth to remind everyone of the legend that happened ten thousand years ago;

 

Hyrule was then blossoming as a highly advanced civilization, even the most powerful monsters posed little threat to the denizens of the realm. The people thought it wise to utilize their technological prowess to ensure the safety of the land should the Calamity ever return.

They constructed four mechanical wonders that came to be known as the Divine Beasts. They also built a legion of autonomous weapons called Guardians. The Divine Beasts were piloted by four individuals of exceptional skill from across the land.

Upon the Calamity’s inevitable return to Hyrule, the princess and the hero fought alongside these four champions against this ancient evil. The Guardians were tasked with protecting the hero, as the Divine Beasts unleashed a furious attack upon this terrible foe. And when the hero wielding the sword that seals the darkness delivered his final blow, the princess used her sacred power to seal away the Calamity.

 

The legends were proved true after unearthing one of the Divine Beasts under Mount Nabooru, the Divine Beast of the Gerudo people. It resembled a long extinct animal called a camel, and was called Divine Beast Vah Naboris.

 

The other three Divine Beasts were found shortly after, in the three remaining tribes’ land; the Rito, the Zora, and the Gorons. Beneath Corvash Peak, the Rito found their Divine Beast resembling a bird, named Vah Medoh. Beneath Ruto Mountain, the Zora discovered their Divine Beast resembling the mythical elephant, named Vah Ruta. And beneath Death Mountain, the Gorons unearthed their Divine Beast resembling a lizard, named Vah Rudania. Each Divine Beast was unique in nature and skills, seeming to thrive in the environment they were found in. They also appeared to all be made of the same unknown material as the Shrines littered across the land of Hyrule, and of the Guardians being unearthed around Hyrule Castle.

 

There was another discovery, seemingly unimportant compared to the discovery of the Guardians and the Divine Beasts… A small tablet, not functioning at the time of its discovery, but covered in various Sheikah texts. Eventually Ryner and Coran, the top researchers in ancient technology, were able to get it to work. But it’s purpose was unknown. It was small enough to fit between one’s own two hands, and had the ability to… Make pictures, all on its own, without an artist needed to recreate the image. And it created them in perfect likeness of the object in front of it. It was obvious that there were other functions for it, but all that it was able to do at that present time was take exact likeness photos.

 

The only things left for the realm to do, was figure out how to control the Guardians, find four skilled pilots for the Divine Beasts, and find the warrior with the soul of the hero.

 

As the member of the royal family with the sealing powers was already well known.

 


 

Prince Lance was the only son of King Alfor Octavius Hyrule and Queen Seraphine Marie, and heir to the throne of Hyrule. As such, his life was fairly sheltered through his studies, archery, and learning how to one day rule.

 

But he was unlike any prince of Hyrule that had ever lived. For some divine reason, he was the only male of the royal family to ever inherit the princess’ birthright of the sacred sealing powers.

 

And to make matters worse? His mother, the only other person who could teach him how to use his sealing powers, died the year before he was to start training.

 

Lance had so many questions for her. How did she know that he had the gift? How did she access it? How does he learn how to use it? Why did she have to leave so soon? What does it all mean?

 

But no such luck for Prince Lance. Without a teacher, and without so much as a handwritten note as a hint to go off of, he was well and truly alone. His father tried, Lance knew that he did, but he didn’t really understand how difficult it was for him.

 

Lance was starting to lose hope that he’d ever access his sealing powers. It had been nearly nine years since he’d started to train at the age of seven, and he hadn’t had any more success than he had on his first day of training. It was almost like his supposed birthright wasn’t his at all.

 

What Lance was really interested in, was the ancient Sheikah technology. Since unearthing the Divine Beasts, Lance wanted nothing more than to study them and help the researchers uncover everything they could about them and the Guardians before it was too late…

 

The fortune-teller had come to the Castle six years ago, when Lance was just about to leave on a journey to visit the Spring of Power. He remembers the day like it was yesterday, and remembers how the woman stared right at him while she recited her prophecy. Her gaze still chilled him, more than her words ever could.

 

He knew part of the prophecy the fortune-teller spoke of related to him. He was the bearer of the sacred sealing powers, supposedly. It was his responsibility to save the land should the Calamity ever return. But it was also apparent that they needed to find the soldier with the soul of the hero. But how would they find him? The Master Sword was supposedly hidden away in some sacred forest… Lance’s guess was that the sword that seals the darkness was hidden in the Great Hyrule Forest north of the Castle… But he’d gotten turned around at the entrance to that forest the one time he’d tried to go in.

 

The four Champions, however, had been appointed shortly after the unearthing of the Divine Beasts. One Champion was appointed from each tribe. Shiro, a superior bowman and a master of aerial techniques among the Rito people. Pidge, the Zora princess, a wondrous healer and shockingly savage with a spear. Allura, the Gerudo chief, unbeaten in her sword skills and crafter of the  best shield ever known (only second to the Hylian Shield, the hero’s shield). And finally Hunk, a Goron known primarily for his negotiation tactics, but secondly for his mastery with the massive Boulder-Breaker.

 

All of the Champions had something in common; they all had the gifts of their ancestors who were the previous Champions from ten millennia ago, during the last encounter with the Calamity. Shiro had Revali’s Gale, the power of creating an updraft that allowed him to soar. Pidge had Mipha’s Grace, the power to heal exponentially. Allura had Urbosa’s Fury, the power to summon lightning to strike down her enemies. And Hunk had Daruk’s Protection, a perfect defense of his body.

 

Lance had the pleasure of being on friendly terms with all of them, especially Hunk and Allura. He had met Hunk back on his first excursion to the Spring of Power, while Hunk was travelling up to Gut Check Rock to fulfil a Goron tradition. Hunk had scared him back then, even though as a Goron, he wasn’t fully grown, but he was still much bigger than Lance at the time. But ever since he stayed with Lance his first day at the Spring of Power, they’d been friends. Lance had been delighted to hear that Hunk had been named the Goron Champion who would pilot Vah Rudania.

 

And he’d known Allura for as long as he could remember. Allura and his mother had been friends for a long time, and he could remember Allura visiting the Castle when his mother was still alive… One of his first memories was with Allura, when she was first teaching him how to use a bow. His father had been so angry, but Lance was so thankful that she’d shown him. He loved archery, it was something he was good at and able to showcase, unlike his love for the ancient technology. His father kept insisting that he instead focus on unlocking his sealing powers, as if that didn’t already take up every waking minute of his day.

 

Well, if his father was insistent on him using every possible moment to unlocking his sealing powers, Lance thought he should head up to the Great Plateau to practice there. It would be quiet, isolated, and most importantly, far from prying eyes.

 

He’d made up his mind. He’d pack up his bags, go inform his father, saddle up Seraphim, and ride out for the Plateau by himself.

 

He quickly packed up a few belongings, and his two notebooks in a small pack he could sling over his back. He also made sure to grab his bow and quiver, in case something came up on the road. It was unlikely, but it wasn’t a bad idea to have his bow on him, just in case. His final addition was the recently named Sheikah Slate that Kolivan, Ryner, and Coran had agreed to give to Lance for safekeeping. He was extremely happy that they trusted him with this, and knew how dedicated he was to helping them. Ryner’s theory was that the Sheikah Slate was a key, of sorts, able to control the Shrines littered across Hyrule, and perhaps even the Divine Beasts. Lance concurred with her theory, but now they just had to find some way to prove it. But none of their tests had turned up any results when they tried to get inside the Shrines.

 

He gave a quick glance around his room before deeming he had all he needed, and started out for the sanctum. He knew his father would be in there at this time of day, tending to his daily duties of listening to the townspeople’s requests and such.

 

He took his time walking up to the sanctum, thinking of how he’d inform his father of where he was going. King Alfor never had any objections with Lance travelling to the site of many sacred ceremonies in the past, but, more often than not lately, he insisted that Lance be tailed by at least two of the knights in his command. It infuriated Lance to no end. What was the point of bothering these trained men and women to stand behind Lance as he prayed to everything he believed in? No point, that’s what.

 

He was shocked to find the massive chamber nearly empty when he arrived, save his father and his personal guards, and a Hylian man kneeling on the ground below the throne.

 

Lance couldn’t see his facial features due to the way he was bowing, but he appeared quite handsome. Medium length black hair, tied back with a purple string of leather at the base of his skull. Some pieces were falling out, covering his face as he knelt. His pointed ears were pierced, oddly, with a small violet hoop encircling the lower lobe of each of his ears. He was wearing simple trousers, and his black hood was pushed back in the presence of the royal family. His patchwork tunic consisted of black fabric with a crimson swath of cloth adorning his waist, along with brown thick leather to act as a bit of armor on his forearms, chest, and one shoulder. But what made Lance pause was the object laid on the ground in front of him… Was that…?

 

“Lance, my son!” King Alfor exclaimed. Lance jumped slightly at hearing his own name, and tore his gaze from the stranger’s form. His father waved towards him, unperturbed by startling his son. “Come here, I have great news!”

 

Lance quickly made his way over to the stairs leading up to the platform, and stopped a step or so away from the thrones. He bowed his head slightly to his father, and kept his back to the stranger. “What news?” he asked lowly.

 

“Do you see that?” his father asked instead, and stood up, pointing down towards the stranger’s form. “After all this time, we’ve finally found the man with the soul of the hero!”

 

Lance turned slowly, praying it was all a dream. There’s no way this is happening, he thought frantically. If the sword that seals the darkness has been claimed, then that meant he was under more of a time crunch than ever.

 

But I still haven’t unlocked my sealing powers… How--

 

“Lance, I want the new Link here to be your own appointed knight.” the king interrupted Lance’s thoughts with a hand clapped to his shoulder. “I think that the two of you should get to know one another, if you are to battle the Calamity together.”

 

“Wh-- Father, I don’t need a babysitter--”

 

“Not now, Lance.” Alfor interrupted, and gave him a pointed look. Lance knew that look. It was the look that said ‘this isn’t up for discussion’. “This man here has been working towards becoming a knight, and what better position for the hero than as your own appointed knight?”

 

With a sigh, Lance turned back to face the man who was soon to be his new bodyguard. This ‘Link’ was peering up at him through his bangs, and Lance nearly took a step back in shock. The stranger’s eyes were a striking violet, visible even across the distance. They were the same colour as his earrings, which contrasted sharply from his dark hair. The man quickly averted his gaze when he caught Lance’s eye, and stared firmly at the ground again.

 

With a soft sigh, Lance backtracked to the steps and made his way slowly down to the main level. He didn’t stop until he was barely a foot away from the man. “Rise,” he commanded lowly, only loud enough for the man kneeling in front of him to hear.

 

Lance was slightly pleased to learn that his new knight was shorter than him by a couple inches. He had a delicate nose, although it was slightly crooked, presumably from being broken before. There was a thin scar on the side of his neck, white against his already pale skin, that receded down into the high neck of his tunic. Well, he doesn’t look like much, Lance couldn’t help but think. “What is your name?”

 

“Keith.” he responded lowly, briefly bringing his gaze up to meet Lance’s.

 

“Well then, Keith, it looks like we’ll be spending a lot of time together.” Lance said slowly, running his gaze critically down the man again. He couldn’t believe this was happening.

 

 

[susan's art]

 

“I expect you to appoint your new knight as soon as possible, son.” King Alfor said, standing up from his throne. “Do you understand?”

 

“Yes…” Lance replied lowly, not meeting his father’s gaze. “I understand.”

Chapter Text

1. A Subdued Ceremony

 

Lance immediately fled back to his room, threw his bag onto his bed, and plopped down heavily at his desk.

 

The sword that seals the darkness has been claimed…

 

Thoughts kept swirling around and around in his head. How did this boy somehow manage to just, find and pull the sword from the ground? Is he truly worthy to be the fifth and final Champion? Did the sword somehow make a mistake? Lance couldn’t help but be bitter towards Keith. He hasn’t gone through years of training for nothing…

 

Suddenly, there was a knock on his door, and Lance whipped around in his chair to face the entryway.

 

Keith was standing awkwardly in the doorway, appearing as uncomfortable as Lance was in the situation.

 

“Well?” Lance snapped, glaring over at his soon-to-be appointed knight. “You aren’t my appointed knight yet, so I don’t need you here.” When Keith didn’t move, Lance sighed exasperatedly. “When I’m in my chambers, I don’t need you, Link.”

 

Keith flinched at the name, but bowed his head slightly. Then he started walking across the room, towards Lance’s desk.

 

“Uhm? What are you--” Lance started to say, but stopped when Keith strolled right past him, through the open doors, and out towards the steps leaving his room down towards the royal gardens.

 

Lance hopped up to see where Keith was going, but as soon as he peeked his head around the corner, Keith had vanished.

 

He plopped back down onto his chair with a loud huff. Weird…

 

He ran a hand over his face, letting his shoulders sag down. I can’t believe my father is giving me an over glorified bodyguard… I can protect myself, I’ve done well so far…

 

Another knock at the door startled Lance from his thoughts. He whipped around to face the door again, to be met by the sight of a young kitchen girl, perhaps four or five years old standing there. “Your highness?” she squeaked out, her bright green eyes wide.

 

“Yes? What is it?” he snapped.

 

She glanced down to the ground in front of her feet, and gripped her off-white apron in her tiny hands. She gripped at the fabric so tight that her little knuckles turned white from the strain.

 

Lance instantly felt terrible for snapping at her. “I’m sorry, that was rude of me, little one.” he apologized lowly, and stood up to face her directly. “I assume there’s a message for me?” he rephrased.

 

“Yes.” she looked up again, sending her long blonde hair flying, and continued, “The king has asked of you to invite all of the… Erm, warriors? The warriors here for a ceremony.”

 

“The warriors?” Lance repeated with a tilt of his head. “Do you mean… The chosen Champions?”

 

The girl’s eyes lit up, and she nodded frantically. “Yes, that was the word. ‘M sorry, your highness.”

 

“It’s fine,” he assured, and walked forwards so he could crouch in front of her. “Does he want to inaugurate the Champions in, as official protectors of the realm?”

 

She nodded hesitantly, and bit at her lip. “I-I believe so, your highness. But, I don’t know what that word means.”

 

Lance snorted softly at her honesty. It was refreshing, for someone to be completely honest in his presence. “It means that my father, the king, wants to introduce a new title.” He calmly explained. “The title of ‘Champion’ will mean that the five chosen warriors will fight beside me when-- if the Calamity returns.”

 

“Ohh.” she nodded understandingly, and released her apron from her grip. She bounced a bit on her toes as she asked “Do you think it’ll come back?”

 

“The Calamity?”

 

“Yeah.”

 

Lance bit at his lip, and glanced away from the child. He did not want to frighten her, even if he knew that there was little chance that it wouldn’t return in their lifetime. “I… Hope it doesn’t.” he said instead, and looked over at her again to gauge her reaction “But, if it does, we all have to be ready. We all have to do our part.”

 

The young kitchen girl nodded understandingly, but didn’t say anything else. Lance offered her a brief smile, and then stood up again. “Thank you for relaying the message, young one. I will make all of the necessary preparations.”

 

She offered him a bright smile, and offered her soft spoken adieu, before rushing back to where she came from.

 

Lance went back across the room to sit at his desk again, plopping down onto the wooden chair with a sigh. He slumped back in his seat, his entire body going lax as he thought about just how much preparation would need to be made. All of the Champions would have to be contacted, and a date set, let alone all of the needed organization here at the Castle that would have to take place. His father most likely wanted to conduct the ceremony in the sanctum, which meant having everything rearranged to hold Hyrule’s nobility along with a show of arms, and a few of each tribes’ representatives. And he’d have to figure out where that new knight fell into all of this.

 

He scrubbed a hand against his face, and groaned. This wasn’t what he wanted. He didn’t want some new bodyguard, who was practically a walking reminder that he was the only person who hadn’t met his goals, and he certainly didn’t need to plan this whole ceremony.

 

Deciding he didn’t want to deal with all this right now, he stood up and rushed over to his bed, collapsing on top of it with a bone-deep groan. At least he had completed all of the Champion’s garb ahead of time.

 


 

By the next day, he had all of the Champions’ garb off to wash, arranged a date with the staff and his father, wrote letters to each of the Champions inviting them out to the inauguration ceremony at the Castle, and started planning the guest list when the new Link knocked on his door.

 

“Can I help you?” Lance asked sharply, barely sparing a glance up at him from the letter he was adding the final touches to.

 

Keith straightened up at Lance’s tone, but stayed quiet. His brows furrowed, but after a moment, he merely shook his head and walked out just as quickly as he came.

 

Lance blinked at the spot that Keith disappeared from, and tsk’d lightly to himself. Typical.

 

A little while later, just as he sealed the final envelope, a knock on his door startled Lance from the quiet tranquility of his room. He turned to see Kolivan standing in the doorway, his closed hand still resting against the door. “Kolivan!” Lance exclaimed, and stood up, ushering him into the room. “Come in, come in!”

 

Kolivan was a member of his father’s personal council, and an esteemed member of the Sheikah tribe. Lance has known him for most of his life, during the time he’s spent in King Alfor’s council. He knew about Lance’s engagement in researching ancient technology, and even introduced him to Coran and Ryner, other respected members of his tribe who were tasked with research. He only had about a decade on Lance, but the way he carried himself made him seem a lot older. He had long white hair, tied back tightly in a braid that came over his shoulder, and an almost permanent frown on his face. His lack of smiling made the fact that he was Ryner’s younger brother all the more shocking. There was an old scar running down the right side of his face, straight from above his eyebrow to just below his lips. Lance still wanted to ask how he’d gotten it, but he wasn’t sure if Kolivan would grace him with an answer. In all the time he’d known Kolivan personally, approximately eight years, he’d always had it.

 

“Thank you, Lance.” Kolivan replied formally, and stepped into the room and closed the door behind him. “Do you have a minute to discuss something?” he asked.

 

“Of course.” Lance stepped forward and offered Kolivan the chair in the middle of the room. “What were you hoping to discuss?”

 

Kolivan sat down on the plush chair with a long winded sigh. “Well, I just came back from a meeting with your father,” he began, glancing up to gauge Lance’s reaction, “and he told me that you’re planning the inauguration ceremony for your Champions.”

 

Lance nodded. “That’s correct.” He said in a relieved tone.

 

“What, you thought I came here to give you some sort of scolding?” Kolivan teased, a small smile on his face. “You know I’d never do anything of the sort, even if your father asked it of me.”

 

“Considering you’re the one who introduced me to Coran and your sister, I don’t see the benefits of you doing that, anyways.” Lance replied with a smirk.

 

Kolivan winced. “Well, his majesty also mentioned that the Champions have not all been entirely briefed on the plan.”

 

“Correct.”

 

“So, I was wondering if I could drop by sometime after the ceremony to explain the whole plan to them?”

 

“Of course.” Lance agreed, and stepped forwards to sit against the edge of the small table in front of Kolivan. “I know Shiro in particular is anxious to hear everything about it, and since you have the original tapestry explaining the tale, I think it would be best if they heard it from you.”

 

“Tale, indeed…” Kolivan mused. “It’s crazy to think that something my sister and I heard stories of from the elders growing up is actually true, and is drastically affecting our adult lives.”

 

That was true… Lance had never really thought about it, but while Kolivan was growing up, it was only a tale. For most of the years he can remember, it’s always been considered as fact, ever since the fortune teller came to the Castle and foretold the return of the Calamity. Lance never had a chance to know it as anything but the fact its proven to be.

 

“Oh, but I shouldn’t keep you, your highness.” Kolivan said, switching back into his formal role. “I’ll let you get back to your work. But, I’ll make sure to drop by while the Champions are here to explain the whole plan to them.” He assured, before offering a bow and leaving the room.

 

Lance watched him go until he disappeared down the corridor, going who knows where. With a sigh, he stood up and turned to sit in the chair Kolivan was sitting in moments before.

 

He knew why Kolivan wanted to discuss everything that day, when all of the Champions would be under one roof for the one and perhaps only time in the foreseeable future, but Lance was also dreading it. That day was going to be eternally long.

 


 

The day of the inauguration ceremony came much quicker than Lance would have liked. He knew he could have planned the whole thing better if he’d had more time, but, his father was apparently eager to give everyone their new title. The new title that would ‘solidify’ the ‘unique bond’, or whatever. Lance didn’t really agree, but, he had to look like he did if he was to lead this group.

 

The inauguration ceremony was set at midday, which meant all of the nobles invited would show up hours before the ceremony was to begin. The Champions would likely be there an hour early, to hear what it was they were to do. Lance had explained in the letters briefly what would happen, but he knew it was still comforting to ask questions in person. Each of the members would be bestowed with new garb before the ceremony, and during the inauguration, they would be dubbed as Champions in their matching blue garb. With members of the Hyrulean nobility, along with a member or two of each of the Champion’s own tribes present, it would be nothing less than grand and official.

 

By the time the sun rose the next morning, all four Champions were scheduled to arrive at the Castle. Lance made sure to have all of the rooms they’d be staying in for the next few days freshened up and ready for their arrival. Couldn’t have the Champions not situated properly, now, could he?

 

As Lance was cinching up the final few delicate buckles on his ceremonial tunic and adjusting the crown upon his head, a loud knock resonated on his door. He jerked up, and whirled around to face the entryway as both large wooden doors creaked open.

 

Hunk appeared through the crack in the doors, and with a grin, he pushed them wide open to squeeze his rocky body through. It wasn’t that he was large for Goron standards, but in a Hylian castle built for Hylians… Hunk seemed bigger than he really was.

 

Gorons were a large, round rocky species that ate rocks harvested from Death Mountain, the quiet volcano in Hyrule. They were much bigger than Hylians, but probably more gentle. A fully grown Goron’s hand could completely encircle a Hylian man’s body, and their legs seemed disproportionate compared to their large upper body. Their skin appeared to be made of stone, but their usually sunny personalities made them appear quite friendly. They were known to be good warriors and blacksmiths, but also good negotiators and more than willing to share a meal. It was why Hylians were friends first with the Gorons, millennium ago.

 

All Gorons  dressed simply, a wrap covering their lower bodies, and usually a few large chains to symbolize their family and their chosen specialty. Hunk was no exception, wearing two large chains that crossed over his belly, with a large buckle with a triangular three toed footprint cinching them together. He also had his treasured weapon upon his back, his large Boulder Breaker. Hunk’s black hair was held back by his usual orange headband, which really wasn’t a fashion statement, but somehow just worked for him. His rocky midsection had become even firmer since Lance had saw him last, and his brown eyes sparkled with affection once he spotted Lance.

 

“Hey, big guy!” Lance exclaimed, and launched himself at Hunk for a hug.

 

Hunk laughed out loud at Lance’s antics, but hugged him tightly anyways. “Hey, little guy! How are things?”

“Well, I’m getting my own knight slash bodyguard, so I mean, not great?”

 

“Aww, I’m sure he can’t be that bad… We knew we’d find the Hylian Champion sooner or later, right?” Hunk huffed, and patted Lance lightly on the back before looking at him squarely. “So, what’s he like? Is he old? Chatty? Bratty? Ugh, please don’t tell me he’s bratty, I want to actually be able to get along with him--”

 

Hunk,” Lance cut in, with a brief smile to his friend. “He’s… I dunno, he didn’t exactly say much. His name’s Keith.”

 

“Keith?” Hunk repeated, and leaned back slightly to look down at Lance. “A Hylian named Keith? Super quiet and kind of broody with long-ish black hair?”

 

Lance cocked his head, and narrowed his eyes slightly up at his friend. “You know him?”

 

Hunk glanced away, “You… Yeah, you could say that.” He said awkwardly, and stepped out of the embrace, but didn’t elaborate any further.

 

Lance decided to let his friend drop the subject. “Well, Keith seems to be the answer to my father’s problems. But, he has taken to calling him ‘Link’, which I think makes him pretty uncomfortable, but it’s hard to tell… He’s hard to get a read on.

 

“And another thing!” Lance exclaimed, and threw his arms out wide. “This was the weirdest thing? He hasn’t really said anything to me, like, at all. Whenever I think he’s gonna say something, he just… Doesn’t? And his bow was weird.”

 

“His bow?”

 

“Yeah, when he was kneeling down before my father, presenting himself.” Lance elaborated. He couldn’t help but find the way Keith seemed to try to make himself as small as possible in the presence of the king odd. “He sort of like, hunched over in his bow?” he explained, and started pacing around the room. “And he was kneeling down on both knees, which I’ve never seen anyone do. I’ve never seen anything like it.”

 

“Hmm,” Hunk hummed thoughtfully. “It does seem like a convict’s bow, if you know what I mean.” He clasped a large hand over Lance’s shoulder as soon as he was within arm’s reach, which, with hands his size, ended up clasping nearly his whole side. “But regardless, do you think the two of you will get along?”

 

“I don’t know, Hunk.” Lance replied, but his mind was elsewhere, trying to think of what Hunk could have meant by ‘convict’. Surely his father would not allow a convicted man to protect him? “I’m so used to going out on my own, researching what I want when I want to, and keeping a pretty quick pace so my father doesn’t know I’m both researching and praying at the same time. I don’t know how this guy is gonna play into that.”

 

Hunk shrugged, and adjusted his large chain on his chest so Lance wasn’t pressing it into his body. “Well, I mean he’s your personal knight. He’ll do whatever you tell him to, I assume.”

 

“I mean, yeah, but... What if he reports back to my father?”

 

“I guess you’ll have to figure that out, then, buddy.” Hunk said softly, and patted Lance lightly.

 

Lance clasped his hand over top of Hunk’s briefly, before jumping back a step, a mischievous grin on his face. “Sooo, Hunk, my buddy and favourite rock ever, how’s married life treating you?”

 

Gorons don’t blush, but if they could, Lance was positive that Hunk would be flushed bright red at the question. Hunk chuckled nervously and rubbed the back of his head. “Well, it’s been great. Shay’s amazing, honestly, and I still wake up wondering why she said yes.”

 

“Aw, c’mon big guy! You two are perfect for each other, and she loves you so much.” Lance quickly assured, and bounced in place slightly. “I hope I can one day find love as pure as yours.”

 

“I know you will, Lance, don’t worry about it!” the Goron exclaimed, and offered him a reassuring smile. “Now c’mon, I bet the other guys are here, too.”

 

Lance nodded, and pulled at the neckline of his tunic. He hated wearing his ceremonial tunic, it was too stiff and too gaudy. The royal blue did make his eyes pop, but the gold decor and the weird leathers at the crease of his elbows constantly reminded him that he did not really belong in these clothes; he hadn’t truly earned them, yet.

 

Hunk gestured for him to lead the way, so, Lance stepped out into the hallway in front of his friend to lead him out to the sanctum.

 

Just as the pair turned the corner, a signature pair of heels clicking on stone caught Lance’s attention. With a wide smile, he turned to meet the soft smile of the Gerudo chief, his dearest friend Allura.

 

Allura was standing tall in all her Gerudo glory in the middle of the hallway, arms crossed over her chest and a small smile twisting her lips upwards. Allura’s dark skin practically glowed, even in the dimly lit corridor, and her blue eyes shone with her own style of mischief. Her jeweled cropped halter top was a pale blue with a pink and purple flower at the center, with gold outlining all of the seams. Her arms were bare, save her gold shoulder pads and gauntlets. Strung across her back were her treasured weapons, her double pointed scimitar and her shield Daybreaker. Daybreaker housed a variety of beautiful gems, and was made of the best metals Allura could possibly find; it was her pride and joy. Her abs were on full display, as was the Gerudo custom, but Lance knew she also just liked to show them off. She was wearing her standard black skirt, the slit up the side showcasing her long legs and tall heels.

 

Gerudo women truly didn’t look too different from Hylians, other than they were taller, more muscular, and entirely a woman-tribe. It wasn’t even a sexist thing, but Gerudo women only bore girls. It was fabled that one man was born to the Gerudo tribe every hundred years, and that the boy would become the king of the Gerudo. But that had only happened a couple times in recorded history.

 

“Lance.” she said softly, and immediately opened her arms out wide.

 

Lance didn’t think twice about bounding forward and inserting himself into her embrace. Hugging Allura was the closest thing to heaven he could think of.

 

She leaned her head down to press her lips to his hairline. “How are you, my little bluebird?” she whispered against his skin.

 

“I’m okay.” he answered honestly, and wrapped his arms around her a little tighter. “Wasn’t expecting this to happen so soon.”

 

“I know.” she soothed, and pressed another quick kiss to his head. “But I’m sure everything will work out. This ‘Keith’ doesn’t seem like a bad fellow.”

 

Lance straightened up, and tilted his head back to meet her gaze. “You’ve met him?”

 

“Just now,” she said with a nod. “Met him down at the gates. But why he was there, I have no idea.”

 

He hummed to himself, and stepped out of Allura’s embrace.

 

Allura offered a smile and a small wave over to Hunk. “How are you?” she politely asked.

 

“I’m doing well, thank you.” Hunk replied, and stepped forwards to clasp a hand on Lance’s shoulder. “We were just heading over to the sanctum.”

 

“Oh, wait!” Lance exclaimed, and whirled around to face Hunk. “The both of you need to stop by your rooms first. Your new garb is in there.”

 

“Not in the sanctum?” Allura cut in, her head cocked to the side.

 

Lance shot her a look back over his shoulder. “Unless you’d like to change into it there?”

 

She scoffed, shaking her head. “No, smartass, I would not.” she said dryly. She started forwards again, and bumped her hip against his as she walked past. “Guess I’ll go change, then.”

 

“Me too.” Hunk added. With a fleeting smile, he followed Allura down the next corridor to where they would be staying for the next few days.

 

“I’ll meet you guys up there!” Lance called after them. He brushed off his sleeves and straightened the front of his tunic, before carrying on down the corridor to the sanctum.

 

The stone walls were bathed in warm sunlight where it filtered in through interspersed windows, making the deep red accents shine even brighter. The gold candle mounts on the wall, shaped into flying lions were lit, casting even more light into the hallway.

 

As much as Lance hated spending time at the Castle, he was the first to admit that his home was beautifully ornate. Everything, from the tapestries lining the walls, to the large gold lions on alternating pillars, down to the plush red carpet. Everything was kept pristine and orderly at all times, which made the Castle seem more like a pristine showroom than a home. But, nonetheless, it was Lance’s home, and fortunately his room was at least a safe haven of all the hustle and bustle of the Castle.

 

Laughter suddenly echoed down the hall, excited and pure, making Lance pause. That was not a sound often found here, not in the genuine sense anymore.

 

He carried on, walking lighter on the balls of his feet so he could creep closer to the noise.

 

Down at the end of the hall, by the corner that cut either outside and up to the sanctum, or down to the mess hall, were Keith and Princess Katie. Her webbed feet were being swung around as Keith lifted her off of the ground in a hug, smiling wide all the while.

 

Lance paused, and narrowed his eyes at the sight. There was no way that was Keith. He wasn’t that sort of touchy-feely person, at least from what Lance had seen of him. He always seemed so distant and cold, never sharing his thoughts, or even sparing words for him.

 

Keith quickly put her down, but the soft smile never strayed from his lips, even as the Zora princess was talking animatedly in front of him, her hands waving all around. If Keith was small, Princess Katie of the Zora was even tinier. The top of her head barely came up to Keith’s chin, even as she bounced around excitedly.

 

The Zora were an aquatic race, appearing almost like the long extinct fabled shark, with how the shape at the back of their heads resembled a fish tail. Their ears were long and thin, almost like the fins on a fish. Their upper bodies were longer than their lower, their legs short and powerful to propel themselves in the water. The princess was primarily a green colour, fading to white in her face, palms, and the bottom of her feet. Her features were delicate; a petite bump for a nose, a delicate set of pale lips, and wide excited brown eyes. Her long ears flowed lightly in the breeze coming in from the doorway, and her usual Nayru themed jewelry atop her head glinted harshly in the sunlight streaming in. She had her Lightscale Trident strapped to her back, overtop of her red shawl. She shifted back and forth excitedly on the balls of her feet, and her ankle bracelets kept catching the sun, making her almost hard to look at.

 

With a resigned sigh, Lance carried on down the hallway with his head high. As soon as the pair noticed him approaching, he plastered a polite smile on his face. “Princess Katie.” he said formally, and dipped his head down in a form of respect. “Your new Champions garb to be appointed in is in your room.” he informed as he slowed to a stop before them.

 

“Oh, thank you, your highness.” she returned, and also dipped her head in a slight bow. “As I’ve said before, please call me Pidge. …I will go get ready, then.” She clasped her hands in front of her, and rocked back and forth awkwardly on her heels, looking between Lance and Keith. “I’ll, uh,” she began, and looked over at Keith again, “I’ll see you in a bit, then.”

 

He nodded at her, and offered her a small reassuring smile. Once her back was turned, he turned to Lance, his expression unreadable. He hovered for a moment, fidgeting with the bottom of his black tunic between his fingertips, before offering a jerky bow and leaving Lance’s sight.

 

Once Keith disappeared, Lance turned slowly to watch as Pidge made her way down the hall back towards the living quarters. He wasn’t really seeing her as she walked away, but rather, lost in his head thinking about the tender moment between Keith and Pidge he’d just witnessed. Seeing Keith show any emotion was so unlike the man he’d previously witnessed. And as soon as he saw Lance, the man he’d soon be sworn in to protect, it was like he retreated back into the shell he’d inhabited since coming to the Castle.

 

Goddesses, what was his deal?

 

He waited a few extra ticks to follow Keith outside, and up towards the sanctum. He didn’t want it to look like he was following him, or something.

 

Lance still couldn’t believe that Keith was, after tomorrow, going to be practically breathing down his neck for the foreseeable future. He didn’t think he could handle it. He knew nothing about him! Other than that he’s never said two words to him, other than his own name, for goddess’ sake, that he was apparently handy with a blade, if the sword that seals the darkness chose him above any other person in Hyrule. Well, it was either that or the Calamity was too close to wait for another worthy candidate. Both thoughts made Lance shudder.

 

He was so lost in his head that he missed seeing Shiro, the leader of the Rito tribe, who was standing near one of the entryways into the sanctum.

 

The Rito were an avian species, appearing to look like a Hylian wearing a fitting bird costume. They had large beaks instead of mouths and teeth, and feathers covered nearly every inch of their bodies. Shiro’s wings were black, with hints of grey and violet throughout. His beak had a healing horizontal crack in the top, just above his nostrils, making it appear slightly askew from a side angle. He had his white feathers on his forehead braided back into the rest of his longer feathers, draping back over his purple scarf hanging around his neck. His reddish-brown tunic appeared to be of flexible material, so he could twist and turn in the air as he needed to, and came down to just below his middle. He had two dark grey bands resting above the ankles of his taloned feet, matching the bands holding his braided feathers together. The grey matched his eyes, and nearly blended in with his black feathered body. He had his Great Eagle Bow strapped to his back, the biggest bow Lance had ever seen. He wasn’t sure how Shiro could wield such a large bow while flying, but, kudos to him nonetheless.

 

“Shiro!” Lance exclaimed, and jerked back to properly address the leader of the Rito people. “Sorry, I—”

 

“Were lost in your head, I see.” Shiro interrupted with a soft chuckle. “It’s no trouble. I was just wondering what I need to do before the ceremony…?”

 

“Oh! You’ll need to head back to your room and find the scarf that’s on your bed, waiting for you.” Lance explained. “You’ll be inaugurated in wearing it, as will each of the other Champions with their own garb. Change into that, and come back here once you’re done.”

 

Shiro nodded, and said “Sure thing.” He started to walk past him, but paused, turning back towards Lance. “I, uh… Well, I was wondering what the newest Champion is like?”

 

Lance looked away from Shiro’s gaze, towards the ground. He didn’t really have anything nice to say, but he also didn’t want to give a bad first impression to Shiro before he even had the chance to meet Keith. That was just cruel. “Well… I don’t really know him all that well.” he said truthfully. “Keith’s pretty quiet, and he must be a dab hand with a blade, if the sword that seals the darkness chose him.”

 

“Oh, I see.” Shiro said slowly.

 

“Sorry I can’t be of more help.” Lance looked back up to Shiro again. “I’ve only known him for a few days myself, and we’ve hardly seen each other, so I’m not sure what else to tell you.”

 

Shiro offered a brief smile, and patted his shoulder with his wing. “No worries, Lance. I appreciate the honesty. I guess I’ll just have to get to know him for myself, then.” He said, and started down the path back to the guest rooms. “I’ll be back in a few.”

 

With a nod back to him, Lance turned and made his way into the sanctum.

 

It was already filled with people, those of nobility, the Hyrulean army, and common folk alike. There were also a few members from each tribe waiting off to the side, near where the provided banners with their tribes’ symbols were waiting for them. Lance didn’t recognize any of them from his time spent in each capital city, but he knew he hadn’t paid much attention to others then… When he’d asked each of the future Champions to pilot their Divine Beasts.

 

With a quick glance around the room, he could see soldiers stationed near each exit of the sanctum standing at attention, and trying to hide how utterly bored they were. Each and every candle and brazier was lit, casting pale shadows intricately around the room, and each banner was well kept and hanging high and proud. Lance always thought this room in particular was too grandiose. There were two large statues of horses rearing up, their mounts extending poles with flags out towards the central area of the sanctum that he found especially much, but… He guessed one day he’d be spending most of his days in here as well, conducting his daily duties from his father’s seat, so he might as well get used to all of it.

 

He glanced up towards the matching thrones, unsurprised to see his father’s seat empty. King Alfor was known throughout the kingdom for showing up exactly when he needed to.

 

When people noticed him, they silenced instantly and bowed their heads in respect, but it made Lance feel awkward, as if they were talking about him when he walked by. Was he the talk of kingdom today? He was the only one who hadn’t fulfilled his duties yet, and today was a day dedicated to bringing everyone who had accomplished their goals together. So, where did Lance fit in all this?

 

Not at the head of this group, that’s for sure.

 

A hand clasped over his shoulder from behind, making Lance jerk up in surprise. When he glanced over, the hand belonged to Allura. “Don’t worry, my little bluebird.” She assured quietly. “This will all be over soon.”

 

Lance breathed out a sigh, and leaned into her slightly. “Will it, though?”

 

She offered him a small smile and a squeeze on his shoulder, before turning and walking back to where the other respected members of her tribe were waiting.

 

With a deep breath, Lance straightened up again, squaring up his shoulders and putting on a smile for the crowd. No sense worrying them all.

 

Suddenly, King Alfor entered the room, and everyone except for Lance gave a deep bow to the King of Hyrule. When Alfor’s gaze met Lance’s, he bowed his head to his father in a public sign of respect. Although, he was sure that of his father had his way, he’d be forced to do it every time in his presence, both in public and private.

 

Lance stepped forwards to the center of the sanctum, where a large depiction of the Triforce was etched into the stone. He stopped in the very center of it, where an image of a winged lion sat with its wings raised. He could hear footsteps coming up behind him, presumably the soon-to-be Champions and their bannermen. He knew that directly behind him would stand Keith and another member of his own personal royal guard, and to Keith’s left would be Shiro and Allura, and then Pidge and Hunk to his right.

 

King Alfor did not sit on his throne, but rather, walked ahead of it to the small balcony overlooking the entire sanctum. Two members of his personal royal guard followed him up, and stood protectively on either side of the thrones, in front of the large red, blue and gold Hyrulean banners.

 

“Welcome, warriors!” King Alfor announced, his voice booming throughout the large room. Where he stood, wings seemed to protrude from his back from the large winged lion statue between the thrones behind him. It made him look even more regal than his crown and title automatically made him. “I’d like to thank you for joining me here today, and for your bravery in accepting this…” he paused, either for effect or to try to find a fitting word, “fateful task.

 

“I officially appoint you as Hyrule’s Champions,” he declared, looking to each of the five Champions in turn, “and bestow on you this sacred garb. That blue is a symbol of the Royal Family, one that has been passed down for countless generations. Those garments you now wear were all crafted by my son, Lance.”

 

Lance tried to keep his head held high as he felt countless pairs of eyes zoning in on him at hearing his father’s words, those of the Champions included. Traditionally, the princess of the royal family would be tasked with such a thing, but as the only heir to the throne… The duty was bestowed upon him.

 

King Alfor suddenly turned his gaze down onto Lance, although any emotion he had was hidden behind whatever mask his father wore while standing up on that balcony. “Lance,” he called down, not unkindly. “I trust you with the task only a child of the royal family can fulfil. Lead our Champions, prince! And together, protect our kingdom from the threat of the Calamity!” On that final note, he stepped back from the balcony railing, and started down the same set of stairs he came in on.

 

Lance stood still, waiting until his father had left the room with his knights in his shadow to turn around and face the newly appointed Champions. He met Hunk’s kind gaze first, and offered him a brief smile before turning to Pidge, who had already glided closer to Keith’s side. She glanced down to the new shawl she wore, and hooked her thumbs beneath it as she met Lance’s gaze again. She mouthed a simple “it’s beautiful” to him once she knew she had his attention. He bowed his head slightly to her, offering a silent ‘thank you’, before letting his gaze shift over to Keith.

 

Keith was already looking at him when their gazes met, making Lance freeze for a moment. It was odd, meeting that striking gaze head on. Keith’s head was usually down whenever Lance saw him, hiding his violet eyes beneath his dark bangs. The new Champion’s garb he’d made for Keith himself was… Quite striking on him. Somehow, even without knowing Keith’s measurements when he’d made the garments, it fit his figure perfectly.

 

He couldn’t help but be surprised about that.

 

When he realized he’d been staring, Lance quickly averted his gaze from Keith’s to look upon Allura, who was smirking at him knowingly with a hand on her blue-clad hip. Lance narrowed his eyes at her briefly, before finally turning towards Shiro. Shiro was actually gazing down to his new scarf with a small smile, stroking the ends of it  almost reverently.

 

Well, at the very least, he was glad everyone liked their new outfits. He’d spent a lot of time stitching in each Divine Beast on their corresponding pilots’ new uniform, and a lot of time fixing all the details into Keith’s tunic especially. He knew, even before the sword that seals the darkness picked its champion, that he’d be seeing much more of the Hylian Champion than any of the others, so he’d taken special care to make sure it was done to his complete satisfaction.

 

“So…” Hunk began, turning to the rest of the group as people started filing out of the sanctum, “what now?”

 

Shiro shrugged, looking to the others for ideas.

 

“You’re free to go off and explore the Castle, if you would like.” Lance offered. “I just want to make sure you’ll all meet Keith and I at the sacred grounds outside of Castletown tomorrow morning for his knighting ceremony?”

 

Everyone nodded at him. It seemed a little silly, even to Lance, that an audience was needed for this sort of thing. Witnesses, or so his father said. But, if they were all to get along and work together, it made sense to him that the rest of his Champions should witness this.

 

Pidge perked up after a moment, and stepped forwards. “Hey Lance, why don’t you show us that slate thingy?”

 

Allura shushed the Zora princess, urging her to keep her voice down. “Not here,” she hissed.

 

Pidge whirled around to face her with a confused look on her face. “What?”

 

“My father doesn’t know I’m still researching ancient technology.” Lance explained quietly, stepping closer to the group. Everyone had sort of shuffled together in a small semicircle in front of him, waiting for him to chime in. “So I don’t keep the Sheikah Slate on me when I’m here at the Castle.”

 

“Ohh, that makes sense.” Hunk chimed in with a nod. “But it’d be cool to see it.”

 

“Yeah,” Shiro agreed. “Where can we go?”

 

Lance hummed, considering the options for a moment. Lance kept the Sheikah Slate up in his study most of the time, away from prying eyes, but his study was too small for more than two people at a time… He supposed they would have to go back to his own quarters, where it was more spacious and they weren’t likely to be disturbed, at least without warning.

 

“My chambers?” Lance suggested. “And then, from there, we can either split up for the night and reconvene in the morning, or we can go down to the royal gardens and spend some time there?”

 

“I saw the gardens on my way in,” Pidge commented, “but I would love to see them up close.”

 

“So would I.” Hunk agreed.

 

“Sounds like we’ll stick together for a bit after your room, then.” Allura said, looking to see if everyone was in agreement. Once everyone offered their affirmations, Allura said “It’s settled, then. We’ll follow you back to your room, Lance, then decide what to do from there down in the gardens.”

 

A hand waving frantically off to the side caught Lance’s eye suddenly. He turned towards it, to be met with the kind smile of an orange mustached man.

 

Coran, an esteemed member of the Sheikah tribe had apparently attended the ceremony, or, perhaps had slipped in while everyone was leaving. Unlike every other member of the Sheikah tribe Lance knew, Coran’s hair was a bright ginger, almost like a swift carrot. He wasn’t sure if it was natural, or if he had white hair like the rest of the Sheikah tribe but dyed it. Lance was fortunate enough to be on good terms with the man, having met him through Kolivan when he first started his work into ancient technology.

 

“Hey, Coran!” he called out, waving him over to the group. “How are you?”

 

“Good, m’boy!” he answered enthusiastically as he approached them. “The ceremony was quite interesting, wasn’t it?”

 

Lance scoffed softly under his breath, but offered Coran a smile anyways. “Oh, most certainly. You saw it?”

 

As Coran nodded, a not-so-subtle cough interrupted Lance’s train of thought. He whirled around to face Allura with narrowed eyes. “Ah, forgive me, let me introduce you all to Coran, a colleague of mine.” Lance said loudly, hoping to appease Allura. “Coran is one of the leading researchers into the ancient technology. His research focuses on the Guardians we’ve been excavating around the Castle, but he’s also extremely knowledgeable on all aspects of ancient technology.”

 

With a smile and a twist of his mustache, he agreed to Lance’s words heartily. “Precisely! And I feel like I know all of you already from Lance’s detailed letters about your progress with the Divine Beasts.” He cast a quick glance over everyone’s new garb. He turned first to Shiro, directly across the circle from him. “Shiro, leader of the Rito tribe, pilot of the Divine Beast Vah Medoh.”

 

Shiro bowed his head to the man, a smile tugging at his mouth. “Pleased to meet you.”

 

“And you, friend!” Coran exclaimed, before turning to Allura. “White hair, and obviously Gerudo… You must be Allura, chief of the Gerudo, and pilot of Divine Beast Vah Naboris.”

 

Allura offered him a curtsey with a mischievous smile. “Correct, you are.”

 

“Excellent!” He exclaimed, skipping over Keith and looking to Pidge. “Lovely to see you again, dear Pidge.”

 

Pidge smiled brightly at him, and nodded. “How are you, Coran?”

 

“Lovely, thanks for asking!” he replied, before turning to the last of the pilots, to Hunk. “And that leaves Hunk! Our dear Goron ambassador, it’s nice to finally meet you.”

 

“And you, Coran.” Hunk agreed.

 

Finally, Coran turned back towards Keith. He wasn’t exactly smiling at him, but he had this knowing look in his eye. “And you must be Keith.” Coran said ominously.

 

Keith straightened up, his hands by his side automatically moving behind him, almost as if he were being addressed by a superior officer. He offered Coran a nod, but stayed silent.

 

Lance couldn’t help but notice Pidge look up at Keith with a worried gaze, but didn’t comment on it. Perhaps she found his behaviour odd as well.

 

“Well, that’s enough for introductions! We have other matters to discuss.” Coran said with a clap of his hands, before stepping to Lance’s side until he was almost breathing down his neck. “But I am here to talk with you all on the subject of ancient technology. Ryner is here as well, is there a place that we can talk?”

 

Lance nodded, looking out to each of the Champions. “Well, I believe my study would normally be the best place for that, but, maybe we should go to my chambers instead?

 

“Perfect, I’ll go ahead and find Ryner and we’ll meet you there.” Coran said, then patted Lance’s shoulder and rushed off to find her.

 

Lance turned back to face the rest of the group with a smile on his face. “Perfect, if Ryner’s here, you guys can ask her any questions you have about your specific Divine Beasts. That’s her area of expertise, after all.”

 

“Oh, that’s great!” Hunk exclaimed, and clapped his large hands together. “I do have some questions for her, like how Rudania and I can move better. I’m still struggling with that.”

 

“This is the perfect opportunity for that, then.” Shiro piped up. “She’d be more than happy to help, I’m sure.”

 

Lance nodded. “Definitely!”

 

“I saw Kolivan here earlier, too.” Pidge piped up. “He’ll probably meet us at some point if his sister is here.”

 

“Kolivan and Ryner are siblings?” Allura asked, sounding surprised. “I had no idea.”

 

“You wouldn’t know it by looking at them,” Lance chuckled, “they’re pretty well opposites in every sense of the word.”

 

Pidge scoffed and nodded. “You aren’t kidding. As wild and scatterbrained as Ryner is, Kolivan is stoic and level-headed.”

 

“Should we head over to your room, then, Lance?” Shiro interrupted softly.

 

Lance clapped his hands together, before ushering the group ahead of him. “Yes, we should.”

 


 

As soon as the group entered Lance’s chambers, with Lance leading and Keith trailing, Coran and Ryner were already standing near Lance’s desk waiting for them.

 

“Ah, perfect, you’re all here!” Ryner exclaimed with a clap of her hands. “Shall we get straight to business, then?”

 

Ryner was a tall, very slender Sheikah woman who radiated warmth and comfort. Her white hair was pulled up in a bun, with some longer strands pulled out to frame her face. She wore a wooden headband of sorts around her head, almost like a circlet, with a blue gemstone in the center, the same colour as the blue of the Sheikah Slate. Lance knew her to be extremely warm and energetic, someone fun to be around, completely unlike her younger brother Kolivan.

 

“Yes, I think we should.” Shiro agreed, leaning against the bookshelf on the wall.

 

With a nod, Ryner reached behind her to pull out the rolled up tapestry that was on Lance’s desk. She unwound it slowly as she walked to the table in the center of Lance’s room, spreading it out on the mahogany surface for everyone to see.

 

Upon first glance, the tapestry was chaotic, absolutely packed with things to look at. But, once one focused on the detail, it was easy enough to tell that it told some sort of story. At the center, there was a vague depiction of the Calamity, and on either side of its swirling mass, portrayals of the hero of legend and the princess of Hyrule. Surrounding the trio were easily a hundred guardians, encircling the entire group, and at each of the four corners were the Divine Beasts. There were a bunch of other aspects thrown in, like Sheikah warriors, a bunch of weird looking towers, and Hyrule Castle at the very top. There also seemed to be some sort of storytelling going on in the boarder, but, Lance knew they were still trying to depict what it was, and if it was important or not.

 

“Woah,” Pidge whispered reverently. “This is incredible.” With tentative fingers, she reached out to stroke one of the guardians, feeling the texture beneath her fingertips.

 

“It is,” Ryner agreed with a smile. “My grandfather was its keeper, but we only discovered it a few months back.”

 

Shiro pointed a feathered finger towards his Divine Beast, where it was located at the top left portion of the tapestry. “This is the same design as my scarf!”

 

“Good eye, Shiro!” Lance exclaimed with a clap of his hands. “I copied the design for each of the Divine Beasts for your Champions garb when I made them. Figured it would tie you all together better.”

 

“You did such a wonderful job, Lance!” Allura praised, pulling up the edge of her skirt to get a better look at Naboris stitched there.

 

Lance waved her off, before turning to Ryner and Coran. “So, should we explain the plan to everyone?” he asked. “I already briefed them on it when they first agreed to be pilots, but it’s been a while.”

 

“I’d like to hear the plan.” Keith piped up from his spot behind Pidge.

 

Lance couldn’t help but jerk up to look over at Keith, surprised to hear any words passing his lips. That was the most he’d ever hear the man speak, let alone in one sentence.

 

“Of course!” Coran jumped in. “Should you or I explain it, dear Ryner?”

 

Ryner glanced up towards the door suddenly, and a small smile turned her lips upwards. “I do believe my brother would be better suited to explaining it.” She said.

 

Everyone turned to face the door, to find Kolivan standing there, his fist poised to knock on the heavy wooden door. “Ah,” he stuttered, “it seems knocking is pointless now. Hello, everyone.”

 

“Kolivan,” Pidge said as a hello.

 

Kolivan nodded to her with a hint of a smile, before turning to Hunk and offering him a hand. “It’s nice to finally meet you, Hunk.”

 

Hunk’s eyes widened, but he shook his hand automatically. “How’d you know my name?” he couldn’t help but ask.

 

“Magic.” Was Kolivan’s instant dry reply. When Hunk’s eyes got impossibly wider, he snorted softly and continued, “No, I saw Rudania on the back of your garb. Put the pieces together from that.”

 

“Ohhh.” Hunk breathed out, then chuckled, rubbing the back of his neck awkwardly. “That makes more sense.”

 

Kolivan then turned to Shiro next, and offered his hand. “It’s nice to finally meet you, Shiro.”

 

“You as well.” The Rito replied. “I’ve heard so much about you.”

 

“All of it good, I hope.” He chuckled, then stepped around Lance to go to Allura’s side. “And you’re the Gerudo chief, Allura, I presume?”

 

“Correct.” She offered him a slight curtsey before shaking his outstretched hand.

 

Once giving her hand a firm shake, Kolivan turned to meet Keith’s gaze across the table. “And you must be the hero of legend, the wielder of the sword that seals the darkness.”

 

Keith straightened up to meet his gaze head on, and gave him a brief nod.

 

A smile tugged at the corner of Kolivan’s lips. “It’s nice to finally meet you, Keith. I’ve heard so much about you.”

 

Lance glanced between Kolivan and Keith, trying to figure out who would have told Kolivan about the newest member of the team. It certainly wasn’t from him, since he didn’t know anything about Keith aside from his name… Hunk was a possibility, since it seemed like he knew Keith, somehow, but wouldn’t say. But, Hunk and Kolivan were just introduced, so…

 

He glanced to Pidge next, who was hovering beside Keith like she’d been every time Lance saw them together. It must have been from her. She was the only one who had a preexisting relationship with the Sheikah, somehow, and she was also the only other one who seemed to know Keith. How, Lance had no idea, but he wasn’t really sure that he cared, either.

 

“So, you’re all wondering what the plan is, correct?” Kolivan spoke up, addressing everyone in the room.

 

Everyone nodded, except for Lance and the other Sheikah, who were the ones to come up with the plan in the first place. “If you don’t mind.” Shiro added cautiously.

 

“Of course not.” Kolivan assured, and made his way around the group to stand between his sister and Coran, at the head of the small table.

 

“To preface this,” Kolivan began, “I will say that this plan is almost the exact same as the one used to defeat the Calamity the last time he invaded Hyrule. You’re all familiar with the tale, correct?”

 

“The four mechanical wonders were tasked with protecting the hero as he battled the Calamity,” Allura said, nearly mimicking the telling of the tale they were all familiar with, “until he struck the final blow, upon which point, the princess used her sacred power to seal away the darkness.”

 

“Correct.” Coran said with a smile. “That’s exactly what we’re going to do this time, as well. It worked once, so, it must work again.”

 

“But what if it doesn’t?” Shiro questioned, and crossed his wings over his chest. “Who’s to say the beast won’t know what’s coming, and be able to counter it?”

 

“Supposedly, the beast is born into the kingdom, then transforms into the horror we see depicted here.” Pidge explained, and pointed to the center of the tapestry, where the swirling mass was. “Which means that we won’t be facing the same monster as the last time.”

 

“Exactly.” Lance agreed. “It’s unlikely that it will be able to counter these tactics, since it’s never battled it before. Or, so we can hope.”

 

Shiro huffed, and crossed his wings tighter over his chest. “But, it’s like you said: everyone knows the story. We all know how it ended. I suggest we have a back-up plan, if something goes wrong.”

 

“Like what?” Ryner questioned. “What plan do you suggest?”

 

Shiro floundered a bit under being asked directly. “Well, I… Uh--“

 

“Shiro’s right.” Hunk spoke up, finally adding something to the discussion. “I mean, even if nothing goes wrong, which, I hope that’s the case, we should have a back-up plan. What if one of the Divine Beasts goes offline, and can’t support the others? Or the Calamity does, in fact, know our plan of attack?” he stepped back from the table so he had room to pace from the desk to the doorway. “We’ll be sitting bright-chested ducks! And I personally don’t want to be a sitting duck.”

 

“What else can we do?” Pidge interjected before Hunk could really get going. “The Divine Beasts were made with one purpose: to stall the Calamity so the wielder of the sword that seals the darkness can take him down.”

 

“I dunno, give them more weapons?”

 

Coran tutted and shook his head. “No can do, these weapons are difficult enough to decipher. We can’t guarantee that we can even enhance them, let alone actually accomplish any improvements.”

 

“He’s right.” Ryner said, and tugged at the ends of her hair nervously. “It’s taken us this long to get them to move. We would need the guarantee of at least a few more years before we could look into better weapons.”

 

“So… What do we do?” Shiro asked.

 

“We stick to the original plan.” Kolivan said firmly, and pointed down to the depiction of Link on the tapestry. “Divine Beasts keep the beast busy, while Keith destroys it, until Lance can use his sacred power to seal it away.”

 

The room went silent for a few moments, processing the plan. Lance knew there were a lot of moving parts, and a lot of things that could go wrong… Let alone the fact that a major part of their plan, him and his sealing powers, were not a go yet. He knew his Champions would be worried, and concerned about it all, but… This was all they had.

 

“Don’t worry, guys.” Lance said with a smile. “We’ve got this. C’mon, we’re Hyrule’s only hope, right?”

 

Everyone turned to look at him with varying expressions of concern, but gave attempts at returning the smile. The only one who seemed either completely at ease, or completely indifferent to the conversation was Keith, who had remained so silent that Lance almost forgot he was there.

 

“Hey Lance, have you unlocked your sealing powers yet?” Hunk asked.

 

Coran, Ryner, Allura and Kolivan all sucked in a breath, while Lance winced and looked to the ground. “No, I uh…” Lance stuttered, not meeting his friend’s gaze. “Not yet.” He finished simply.

 

“Ah.”

 

The tension in the room seemed to double after his admission, and Lance cringed internally. This was all his fault, he was supposed to have done this by now. Supposedly, his mother had mastered her sealing powers by the time she was his age, and here he was not even sure how to unlock them. He was supposed to bring his team good news, bring them together, but it seemed that his failures were only separating his already fragile team.

 

“So, uh,” Pidge piped up with a subtle cough, “why don’t you show us the Sheikah Slate now, Lance?”

 

“Ooh, yeah! I’d love to see it.” Hunk swiftly agreed.

 

Lance perked up and offered a shaky smile. “S-sure, I’ll go grab it.”

 

“Why don’t we go down to the gardens now?” Allura offered. “They’re lovely this time of year.”

 

“Great idea!” Lance agreed. “I’ll meet you all down there?” With that, he bounded up the spiral staircase that led out to his study.

 

Once he reached the top and was out of sight from everyone, he slowed to a stop and breathed out a long low breath. The day wasn’t even half over and he was so ready to curl up in bed and sleep the day away. Between the ceremony, having all of the Champions under one admittedly large roof, and dealing with the age-old awkward question about his sealing powers, he was ready to call it quits on the day. But, he had to keep his guests entertained, and if they wanted to see the Sheikah Slate, that is what they would see.

 

He took his time walking out across the walkway towards his study, surveying the ground below. There were a few Sheikah scientists in the royal gardens by the guardian husks, analyzing them and trying to decide if they were worthy candidates to bring back to the royal ancient tech lab. When they spotted him, they offered him a big friendly wave that Lance couldn’t resist returning with a smile.

 

The large oak doors to his study opened with a small creak, giving way to the organized chaos that was his research. He had a few plants hanging from the ceiling in various pots, and a large easel set up to the right with some sketches of the Divine Beasts and various fauna. He also had some old paintings covering one of the walls, paintings he was proud of when he was younger. His telescope sat proudly on one of the upper shelves, beneath a large window where Lance could climb up and gaze at the stars if he so chose. Every spare bit of shelving space or table top was littered in books of all sorts, from chemistry to biology to astronomy, even some works of fiction, and Lance wished he had more space for books.  His chemistry set was clean and ready for the next use on his table against the far wall, and sitting in front of it was the Sheikah Slate and its holder.

 

Lance grabbed the Sheikah Slate, and brought it to life with a tap of his finger against the screen. The last function he had open was the runes page, not that there was anything there for him to look at, aside from the camera function. There were obviously other runes on it in the past, with five other boxes blacked out, but he had no idea what the other functions were, let alone how to access them. It was almost like they had to be loaded onto the slate… But how?

 

He shook his head, and turned on his heel to leave the study, slate in hand. There was no sense thinking about that now. He wouldn’t be able to act on any hypothesis he came up with now, anyways.

 

On the walk back across the walkway, he spotted the Champions and Ryner walking towards the gazebo at the center of the garden. Pidge, Ryner and Shiro looked to be engrossed in conversation, while Hunk and Allura were talking quietly amongst themselves. Keith was trailing behind the group, and just as Lance’s gaze flickered to him, Keith paused and turned back.

 

Even across the distance, Keith’s eyes were so striking.

 

Lance huffed and picked up the pace, not wanting to keep them waiting.

 

As soon as he joined them in the gazebo, Ryner, Allura, Pidge and Shiro were huddled near the entrance waiting for him, while Keith and Hunk were off to the side having their own conversation.

 

“I tell ya, those formal shindigs really take it outta me.” Hunk groaned, rolling his shoulder out. “Makes me happy I’m not any sort of royalty, having to do these all the time.”

 

Keith nodded slightly in response to Hunk.

 

“So, this is the Sheikah Slate?” Shiro asked, pulling Lance’s attention back to the group. He was pointing down to the surface of the slate with a curious expression.

 

“It is.” Lance nodded, and offered the slate to Shiro to look at. Once he took it from Lance’s hands, he continued. “As you can probably see, there are more uses for it than we originally thought.”

 

“Such as?”

 

“Unfortunately, we’ve yet to discover all of its secrets.”

 

Shiro tapped at the black boxed a few times, before deeming it useless and passed it to Pidge.

 

She held it loosely on top of her hands, almost as though she were afraid to hold it too hard and break it.

 

“Lance showed me something strange with this recently.” Allura said, shuffling closer to Pidge’s side. “Somehow, it can create true-to-life images.”

 

“Really?!” Pidge exclaimed, and looked to Ryner and Lance for affirmation. When Lance nodded, she squealed in delight. “Oh, wow! I would love to see it.”

 

“Here,” Lance offered, and stepped in front of her, gently taking the slate from her hands. He went to the camera function, and pulled up one of the photos he took recently, of one of the waterfalls cascading down from the Castle. He lifted the slate up to show everyone.

 

“Woah!” Hunk exclaimed, stepping up to take a closer look at the screen. “That’s incredible!”

 

“No kidding!” Allura agreed.

 

“There was no artist needed to capture this?” Shiro asked.

 

Lance shook his head. “None. This slate has a camera function that takes photos, all on its own.”

 

“Say, Lance…” Pidge said slowly, and looked up to him with a gleam in her eye. “Do you think…?”

 

“Think what?”

 

“That we could take a photo?”

 

Lance glanced back to Ryner, who gave a shrug. “Uh, sure? What do you want to take a picture of?” he asked.

 

“All of us, of course!” She exclaimed, and turned her head to give Keith a wide smile.

 

“I mean, sure…” Lance agreed hesitantly, and clutched the Sheikah Slate to his chest. Everyone seemed really excited about the idea, so, what harm was there in making everyone happy?

 

He turned back to Ryner, and offered her the slate. “Would you mind…?”

 

“Not at all!” She exclaimed, and eagerly took the slate from Lance’s hands. “I would be delighted.”

 

“Alright, huddle in everyone!” Pidge exclaimed, urging everyone over to her.

 

Ryner spun in a slow circle in place, trying to find good lighting in the slate’s camera before setting everyone up. She stopped with her back to them, and smiled when the slate’s screen showed an image she liked. “All right! This spot should work nicely.” She exclaimed, and gestured everyone over so they stood in front of her.

 

Hunk and Pidge were quick to get in front of the camera, and waved everyone else over with huge smiles on their faces. Allura linked arms with Lance and dragged him over, followed closely by a smiling Shiro, until Keith was the only one left out.

 

“C’mon, Keith!” Pidge exclaimed, waving frantically at him to come join them. “Get over here, dummy!”

 

He narrowed his eyes slightly at her, before breathing out a soft sigh and joining the group.

 

Hunk, Shiro and Allura, being the tallest of the group ended up at the back, while Lance, Pidge and Keith huddled closely together at the front.

 

“Keep your eyes on the Sheikah Slate, everyone!” Ryner reminded, and fussed with the functions to get the frame situated the way she wanted. Once she got everyone comfortable in the frame, she realized that Hunk was standing too tall. “Hunk, can you crouch down a bit?” She asked. With a giggle, she said “You’re as big as Death Mountain!”

 

“Oh, uh, sure.” Hunk said bashfully, and crouched down behind Keith and Pidge, so his chin was just above their heads.

 

With another glance down at the slate’s screen, Ryner frowned, before looking at Lance. “What’s with the glum face, Lance? Gimme a big smile!”

 

Allura shifted so she was directly behind Lance, and put both hands on his shoulders, reminding him that she was there for him. Lance looked back at her in shock, before turning back towards the camera and offering Ryner a small smile.

 

Pidge shuffled closer to Keith, and bumped her hip against his lightly. He glanced down at her with a confused look, and Pidge jerked her chin towards the slate with an overexaggerated smile. Keith chuckled softly, and turned back towards Ryner, giving a smaller smile of his own.

 

“Shiro, you need to actually be in the frame for this to be a group photo.” Ryner chastised, and waved a hand at him to move closer into the group.

 

“Oh, sorry.” He swiftly apologized, and crossed his wings over his chest as he stepped closer to Allura and Lance.

 

Hunk immediately wrapped his large hand around Shiro’s shoulder, pulling him in tight against Lance and Allura, a wide grin on his face. His other hand, he wrapped around Pidge, pushing her into Keith’s side.

 

Keith wrapped an arm around her hip firmly so she wouldn’t fall over, and she thanked him under her breath.

 

“Goddesses, Pidge, you’re so tiny…” Ryner cooed with a soft chuckle.

 

“Yes, I know, I’m small, thanks for the reminder.” She replied dryly with a smile. “Tell me something I don’t know.”

 

Hunk shuffled around for a moment to get into a better crouching position, then stilled, waiting anxiously for Ryner to take the photo.

 

Ryner lined up the slate’s camera, and zoomed in so the focus would be primarily on the group and not anything in the background. When she finally got the result she wanted, she gave the group a big smile. “Alright! Stay just like that! Here we go…”

 

She glanced up from the slate once more to tell everyone to smile, before saying “Click, snap!” and taking the photo.

 

[susan's art]

 

After the photo was taken, Lance took the slate back, and everyone went off to do their own thing. Allura and Shiro ventured off in search of the barracks to get some training in, while Hunk said he was going to look for food. Pidge and Keith had disappeared somewhere, and left Lance alone with Ryner.

 

“Do you think our plan will work?” She asked him quietly, once all of the Champions were out of earshot.

 

Lance noticed Keith slowing down a bit, and turning his head back a bit as if he could hear them across the distance. He quickly decided that that was crazy, and turned back to Ryner. “I think that we just have to trust in them, now.” Lance said with a shrug. “I think we’ve done the best we can, with who we’ve got.”

 

Ryner gave a slow nod, then smiled slightly at Lance. “You’re right. We’ll be fine.” She brushed her hair back away from her face with a small sigh. “I should be getting back to the lab now. Will you be alright?”

 

“Of course.” He said, and waved her off. “Go, have fun. Let me know if you find anything interesting.”

 

“You know I will!”

 

He watched her descend down the stairs and leave the gardens, before making back for his own chambers.

 

He first returned the slate back to his study, before stripping off his ceremonial tunic and dropping down face first in bed. It had been a long day, and he was ready to call it quits.

 

He could face everyone again tomorrow, for Keith’s knighting ceremony.

 


 

As soon as he woke up the next morning, he went through the daily motions of praying, eating a light breakfast, and getting dressed up in another ceremonial tunic.

 

Today was the day he would appoint Keith as his own guardian knight, to follow him wherever he goes and protect his back while praying.

 

He still was uneasy with the idea, but, his father specifically requested it, and he could not disobey him.

 

He put off leaving for as long as he could, but when he glanced at the time one last time, he deemed that it was finally time to go.

 

Lance walked quickly through Castletown, trying to make as little of a scene as possible to get to the sacred grounds as soon as possible. The sooner he got this done, the sooner he could go back to bed and try to forget about the whole ordeal.

 

He was able to make it through Castletown pretty quick, since it was still early enough that the usual hustle and bustle of the town was not at full swing. People bowed as he passed, which made him feel uncomfortable, but he tried not to think too much of it.

 

As soon as exited the town through the main gates, he breathed in a deep breath of the fresh air. Something about being outside the Castle walls always made Lance feel better. The sun was barely halfway off of the horizon, and Lance knew that the town would be awake by the time the sun was up and the ceremony was completed.

 

Shiro, Pidge, Hunk, and Allura were already at the Sacred Grounds when he arrived. The ornate and well-kept grounds here were where ceremonies like this were usually held. He couldn’t see Keith anywhere in sight, and sighed. Of course he’d be late to his own knighting ceremony.

 

“Hey Lance!” Allura called as soon as she saw him. “Did you sleep well?”

 

He offered her a small smile, and kept walking straight towards her. “I did, thank you.” He said as he stepped into her open arms.

 

Pidge bumped her hip against Lance’s once he was released from Allura’s hold. “Have you seen Keith this morning?” she asked.

 

“Not yet, no. But, he should be here soon if he doesn’t want to be late for his own knighting ceremony.” He replied.

 

“I’m sure he’ll be here soon.” Shiro said from Pidge’s other side.

 

Something sparkly caught Lance’s eye, and he turned to see a bright white reflection on the water surrounding the grounds. In the morning light, the Sacred Grounds really did look ethereal, just like it was meant to. He pulled the Sheikah Slate off of his hip, and moved to stand at the base of the grounds, where he could get a good picture.

 

He lined up the base of the Triforce inlaid in the stone with the bottom of the camera, and made sure he could see the four pillars at equal intervals. Hyrule Castle stood tall and proud in the background, uninhibited by trees or even the walls of Castletown. Long shadows from the pillars cast interesting texturing on the stone surface, and the water around the grounds sparkled in the sunlight.

 

Holding his breath, Lance snapped the photo. He quickly pulled up the album function to look at how the photo turned out, and gasped softly at the sight.

 

It was one of the most beautiful pictures he had ever taken with the slate.

 

“I doubt he’ll be late for this. It’s a big day for him.” Hunk spoke up nervously.

 

“It’s a huge day for him! He’s been working his whole life towards becoming a knight!” Pidge squealed. “Oh, I’m so excited.”

 

“’Course you’d be more excited today than me, Pidge.”

 

Everyone whipped around to the sound of Keith’s voice. Allura and Shiro even automatically reached for their weapons. Once Keith noticed, he lifted his hands up in surrender, but a twinkle in his eye said that he wasn’t really afraid of their threat.

 

Pidge flew over to him and wrapped her arms around his waist in a tight grip. “Why wouldn’t I be? This is a huge day for you!”

 

He chuckled fondly at her, and patted her scaled head playfully.

 

Lance couldn’t help but stare at him. He still wore his new Champion’s tunic, which really looked good on him, Lance couldn’t help but admit. But, he was wearing a few new additions today. He wore a wooden gauntlet on his sword arm, appearing to be the same one from black tunic. Lance couldn’t help but admit that he looked much better in Champion blue than in his black outfit.

 

“Well, well, look who finally showed up. It’s tacky to be late to your own knighting ceremony, Link.” Lance chastised, and crossed his arms over his chest.

 

“You never did specify a time, Lance.” Pidge said quickly, turning back to Lance. “It’s not his fault that we all just, showed up early.”

 

Keith offered Pidge a thankful smile, before detaching himself from her to make his way towards the center of the Sacred Grounds wordlessly.

 

The  Sacred Grounds were set up in a large circle at the center, with a small outer circle of water surrounding it. There were four paths leading up to the center, one for each cardinal direction. There were two pillars between each set of paths, encircling the center.

 

At the center of the inner circle, there was a large design of the Triforce carved into the stone. In each respective triangle of the Triforce, each goddess’ symbol was there, one each for Power, Wisdom, and Courage. And at the center portion between the three triangles was the Hylian symbol resembling a flying Lion .

 

Keith stopped at the base of the Triforce, and turned to face Lance. He unstrapped the Master Sword from his back, and laid it in front of him again as he knelt, exactly as he did before the king yesterday.

 

Lance took a deep breath, and took his position at the top of the Triforce, in front of Keith’s kneeling form. He could see the other Champions gathering near the side of the Sacred Grounds out of the corner of his eye. He and the other Champions had discussed at length doing the traditional ‘ceremony of legend’ and had eventually agreed upon doing it when the time came, but that seemed like so long ago… And finding the soul of the hero had seemed like such a far off thing at the time. Lance half regretted agreeing to it, but, he was a man of his word, and would do what he agreed to do.

 

Raising his hand, palm out, towards Keith, he started reciting the words he memorized long ago:

 

“Hero of Hyrule, chosen by the sword that seals the darkness...

You have shown unflinching bravery and skill in the face of darkness and adversity.

And have proven yourself worthy of the blessings of the Goddess Hylia.

Whether skyward bound, adrift in time, or steeped in the glowing embers of twilight…

The sacred blade is forever bound to the soul of the Hero.

We pray for your protection, and we hope that-that the two of you will grow stronger together, as one.”

 

Lance couldn’t help but cringe at his execution. He knew that he sounded bored and unwilling, and that he’d stuttered through the ending, but he was half done.

 

“Forged in the long-distant past, the sword that seals the darkness, guardian of Hyrule, ancient steel, forever bound to the hero…

In the name of the Goddess Hylia, I bless you and your chosen hero.

Over the seas of time and distance, when we need the golden power of the goddess, our hope rests in you to be forever by the hero’s side.

Again, we pray that the two of you will grow stronger together and be together as one.”

 

Lance breathed out a long sigh, happy to finally have it done and over with. This ceremony had made Keith Lance’s own appointed knight, and his father would be pleased. But it didn’t mean that he had to be.

 

“Gee, that was uplifting… He’s made it sound like we’ve already lost.” Hunk whispered to the other Champions.

 

Lance fought hard to keep his gaze on Keith in front of him. This was supposed to be about him, not his own insecurities.

 

“Well, if you ask me, this whole thing does seem to be overkill.” Shiro said lowly, and watched the scene unfold before them with his wings crossed.

 

“Oh, give it a rest…” Allura muttered, and swatted her arm halfheartedly over at Shiro. “That boy is a living reminder of Lance’s own failures. Or, at least that’s how the prince sees him.”

 

Lance brought his hand back towards his chest, and glanced over towards the Champions. They didn’t even seem to notice that he could hear them. He looked back down at Keith, who would soon be following him around everywhere, and realized that Allura was right. Now that Keith had the sword, it was like a constant reminder that he was failing when it came to his own destiny. Oh, why did his father put him as his bodyguard? To motivate him?

 

Well, consider him motivated.

 

Suddenly, Keith glanced up at Lance, his violet eyes questioning. He reached out to grasp the Master Sword, but did not move to stand up.

 

“Rise, sir knight.” Lance whispered, and turned his back to Keith. He could hardly stand to look at him right this second. “I’m heading back to my chambers. I’ll send word if you’re needed.”

 

Lance could hear Keith rise from behind him, but didn’t turn to look at him again. Instead, he fled the Sacred Grounds as quickly as he could without raising suspicion.

 


 

As soon as Lance climbed back up the steps to his chambers, he was shocked to find Keith already sitting on the top step, waiting for him.

 

“Wh-- What are you doing here?” Lance asked incredulously. “I said that I was returning to my chambers, and I thought I made it clear that I didn’t--”

 

“Son,” King Alfor called out from inside Lance’s room.

 

Lance cringed, before lifting his head up high, and stepping around a sheepish looking Keith into his own chambers. “Yes, father?”

 

“Did you appoint Link as your knight?” he asked from his position at Lance’s desk.

 

Again with ‘Link’, Lance thought. Why did his father keep calling him that? And why was he sitting at his desk? “Yes, father, I appointed Keith as my knight.”

 

King Alfor nodded slightly, as if to himself. He wasn’t dressed in his normal attire, but simply in a loose white undershirt, and trousers. His feet weren’t even in boots, but simple shoes without soles on them. His white hair was pulled back by a piece of leather, which Lance hadn’t seen him do since his mother was still alive. He appeared more tired than usual, and his blue eyes were rimmed in red. Had he not been sleeping? “Good, good…” he paused, before lifting a piece of paper off of Lance’s desk. “What’s this?”

 

Lance could almost feel all the blood rushing from his face. His father held up a piece of paper with a list of all of the known Shrines in the land of Hyrule, written in his own quick scrawl while he was last with Ryner . “I, uh… It’s a list of names, father.” he said slowly, trying to avoid the question.

 

“A list of all of the known Shrines, you mean.” Alfor corrected bluntly, and placed the piece of paper back on the desk where he found it. “Lance, you still haven’t unlocked your sealing powers, because you’re wasting your time playing at being a scholar. As the prince, you have a crucial unfulfilled responsibility to your kingdom!” he paused with a sigh, and rubbed a hand over his tired face. “I shouldn’t have to keep telling you this. Leave the researchers to their work, and focus on your training. Do you understand?”

 

Lance balled his hands into fists at his sides. He wasn’t playing at being a scholar. There was nothing more in the world that he wanted to do… And it was something he was good at, unlike unlocking his sealing powers. “Yes… I understand.” he whispered, merely to appease his father.

 

“Good. Now, when I spoke to Shiro this morning, he mentioned that Vah Medoh was acting up. Do you mind informing Ryner and Coran  of that on your way to the Forgotten Temple? You mentioned you were planning to visit in the future; now would be the perfect time.” Alfor asked, and stood up from Lance’s desk. “If I don’t see you again before you depart for your journey, have a good trip.” he turned, and made his way out of the room, a dismissal if Lance ever heard one.

 

With a sigh, he threw himself backwards onto his bed, landing on his back. He threw his arm over his eyes, as if he could block out his father’s words.

 

Wait… Keith is still out there.

 

Lance shot up again just as quickly as he laid down, and peeked around the corner towards the steps leading down to the courtyard. As he suspected, the hero was still there. He didn’t even turn to look at him, but Lance knew that he knew he was there. “Apparently we are departing for the royal ancient tech lab, dear knight.” he said casually, and leaned against the wall. “So go pack, we’ll depart as soon as you’re ready.”

 

Keith nodded, before standing up and starting on his way down the stairs.

 

Now, I just have to find a way to ditch him…

 

Chapter Text

2. Rito Village

 

In truth, it didn’t take Keith long to pack. He always carried everything he needed on him, or in his saddle bags. He packed light in case he needed to move quickly. And after the conversation Prince Lance had with the King… Keith guessed he wanted to be out of the Castle as soon as possible.

 

He hadn’t really had time to stop and think since going to the Castle. He had never expected Pidge to be right in her observations. He’d only gone to the Lost Woods to prove her wrong, but when he saw the fog part for him… He knew he was screwed.

 

As he approached the Korok Forest, he could hear an almost… Buzzing, in his mind. It was almost like the sound that came a split second before a crack of lightning comes down from the heavens. It put Keith on edge, but at the same time, it was familiar. He’d never been here before, never even seen the Master Sword, but… He felt like he had. It was almost like coming home.

 

It was all a blur, really. The Deku Tree welcomed him like an old friend, and told him to pull the Master Sword from the pedestal. And, without even thinking about it, he did. He expected the sacred sword to be, heavier, maybe. Or harder to pull from its sacred pedestal. But he’d pulled it as easily as he’d pluck a flower from the ground. It was unnerving, and before he knew it, he was on his way to the front gates of Hyrule Castle.

 

He didn’t remember much of his journey up to the Castle, but he remembered every moment he spent in the sanctum. How the lighting in the room seemed to angle down on the king, sitting up high and mighty on his magnificent throne. How the air in the room seemed to electrify as soon as the prince stepped in. How the king stared down at him as if he held all the answers, how his guards eyed him in awe, and especially how Prince Lance stared at him as if Keith had personally delivered his death sentence.

 

And then the king ordered the prince to appoint Keith as his own appointed knight? Keith had never expected that would happen, never in a million years. He didn’t have a ton of time to really think anything over, but if anything, he figured he’d be kept in the king’s sights… Not protecting his only son, the heir to the throne of Hyrule.

 

As he made his way back up the steps to the prince’s rooms, he made sure to knock against the large oak doors leading into the prince’s room, before pushing one door open slowly, and peering inside.

 

Prince Lance was curled up on the chair in the center of his room, holding an odd looking tablet in front of him. He had his long legs curled up against himself, and the long sleeves of his tunic pushed up to his elbows. His cerulean eyes were flickering all over the place, looking at the object in his hands. So much so, that he didn’t even hear Keith’s knock. But the prince’s brunette head finally snapped up once his knight stepped into the room. “Oh, you’re here.” he exclaimed, before schooling his expression into something neutral. “So, I assume you’re ready to depart?”

 

Keith nodded, and adjusted his sword strap on his front. He was as ready as he’d ever be for his first day as a knight.

 

“Perfect. Let’s go saddle up our horses, and make haste for the royal tech lab.” Prince Lance stood up, and placed the object onto the holster on his hip, before making his way over to his four poster bed. Laid on top of the stunning lilac sheets was a large white bow, and a matching quiver filled with arrows. He did a quick glance around the room to make sure he had everything before coming to Keith’s side. “Follow me.”

 

He turned and passed by Keith, making his way out and down the steps towards the courtyard, back the way Keith came. But instead of heading down to the path at the base of the tower, the prince cut off from the steps and started making his way through the courtyard, towards the Gatehouses. Keith’s didn’t stop and question him; the prince knew his way around the Castle better than he did.

 

They reached the Royal Stable a lot faster than Keith had thought they would. The stable was tucked into the large hill the Castle sat upon, like most of the inside of the Castle. It didn’t appear like much from the outside, only a simple arch with large wooden doors sitting between them, and a symbol of the Hylian Crest decaled in gold split between both doors. But from what Keith could see inside, the royal stables were meticulous. There wasn’t a stray piece of hay out of place, all of the tack was organized, and all of the stall doors were practically sparkling. Whoever ran this place was surely kept busy. The prince immediately stepped through the arch and made his way for the far end of the aisle, where a white horse had his head out over the side of the stall door. Prince Lance immediately set out for grabbing a brush to brush off the horse.

 

Keith followed him down at a slower pace, to take a peek at all the horses housed in the stable. There were plenty of bay and black horses, even a beautiful sorrel mare, but Lance’s stallion was the only pure white horse he’d ever seen. And Keith had seen a lot of horses.

 

When Keith got to Lance’s horse’s stall, he paused to read the name on the door; ‘Seraphim’. A very royal name befitting a wondrous steed. But Lance was brushing him too roughly, too quickly. Keith stepped in and stopped him, and gently pried the brush from his soft hands.

 

The prince appeared slightly offended, but didn’t offer any objections. He left the stall, presumably to grab his horse’s tack.

 

Keith couldn’t for the life of him remember where he left his own horse. He obviously didn’t take Zephyr into the Lost Woods with him… But did he ride him over here? Did he leave him in a stable in Castletown?

 

He couldn’t help but think about how different his own stallion, Zephyr, was from the prince’s steed. Seraphim was about average in height, with calm blue eyes and a thick neck. He was of stocky build that looked like he could run for miles, and he also appeared to be light on his feet. So Seraphim might be able to keep up with Keith’s stallion.

 

Keith had had Zephyr since he was a colt, when he had long gangly legs and a frightened expression in his eyes. Keith had saved him from certain death; he’d heard the frightened whinnies while walking back to the garrison he’d been staying at, and found the young colt all alone at the bottom of a slippery, steep hill on the banks of the lake surrounding the ancient tree stump. His little legs had been shaking up a storm then, and the long white stripe running down the bridge of his nose resembled a tornado. Keith immediately slid down the cliff to help the foal get out, and fully intended to leave him to his own devices after that, but… The colt had followed him all the way home that night. And since then, they’d been inseparable. Keith had been tempted to name him ‘Storm’, but ‘Zephyr’ seemed to make much more sense as time went on. Zephyr was almost like a gentle breeze, as he didn’t storm into Keith’s life… He’d come in quietly, and without a ton of fuss. And as time went on, he’d grown into his body and his confidence, and his grey body turned darker the older he got. His mane, tail, and legs stayed as white as the moon, as long as they stayed out of the mud. Keith always made sure to take good care of Zephyr’s coat, even when they were on the road. Couldn’t have his boy looking anything less than royal on any given day.

 

Prince Lance returned quickly with his own royal tack, and passed Keith the saddle before he could object, which pulled Keith from his thoughts. His highness kept the bridle and set about putting the reins over Seraphim’s neck and coaxing the bit into his mouth.

 

Keith kept trying to think of Zephyr’s location as he placed the pad and saddle over Seraphim’s back. He could vaguely recall riding Zephyr to town… But he didn’t know how long he was staying, so he’d opted to let Zephyr graze outside the gates. So he must be outside of the Castle’s grounds.

 

“Where’s your horse? Do you have one?” The prince interrupted Keith’s thoughts. “Do we need to equip you with a horse?”

 

Keith merely shook his head and waved off the prince’s questions. He had a good idea of where his horse was. If he was nearby the Castletown’s main gates, he should be able to whistle and Zephyr would come running.

 

The prince merely shrugged, and pulled Seraphim’s reins back over his neck, before leading the way out of the stable. As soon as they were far enough away from the stables, he mounted up, and kept a slow walking pace through the rest of the Castle’s grounds.

 

They were obviously noticed walking through Castletown, not just because of the white horse, but the regal set of brown shoulders. Prince Lance made a point not to meet anyone’s gaze, so everyone in turn made a point to not stop and talk to him. Keith couldn’t help but feel awkward walking beside the pair, but, his own horse would be waiting nearby.

 

As soon as they came to the main road outside of Castletown, Keith brought his hands up to his mouth to whistle out a short tune consisting of higher notes. The prince’s head whipped over to him as if he was crazy, but Keith just motioned for him to wait.

 

Soon enough, a loud whinny carried over the field, and his horse’s dark grey head appeared over a hill. Keith grinned, and started running to meet him halfway.

 

Zephyr never even slowed as Keith rushed up towards him, swinging up into the saddle gracefully as he rushed past. Goddesses, he loved this horse.

 

The prince trotted up on Seraphim, his eyes wide. “Woah, that was kinda cool, I have to admit.”

 

Keith couldn’t help but smile slightly at the prince’s awe. He’d spent a lot of time perfecting that, in case he needed to call on his horse and run. Which, had admittedly come in hand a few times.

 

“Alright, now onto the lab.” Lance steered Seraphim to the west, and nudged him into an easy trot, simply expecting Keith to follow.

 

Which he did.

 

They followed the road as it curved towards the northwest, towards Carok Bridge, just west of Castletown. The bridge appeared quite common, nothing made it stand out from any other bridges in Hyrule. It was made entirely of wood, and had a low fence along the sides, simply spanning the width of the Regencia River. From there, they walked down into the Breach of Demise canyon. The canyon was easily one of the most memorable sights in the entirety of Hyrule; it sat hundreds of feet below the ground around it, and was encompassed by large spires of rock curling around the canyon, nearly like a man’s ribcage. It was long, and had two different exits, one leading north, towards the Serenne stable, and the other west, towards the Great Tabantha Bridge and the stable located at its’ edge.

 

The prince steered his mount north, towards the exit leading up towards the Serenne stable. The incline up to level ground again was steep, and sometimes hard to manage over, so Keith pushed Zephyr into a canter up the steep incline ahead of the prince’s mount. He heard the prince do the same with his mount quickly after, and they quickly exited the canyon. As soon as they came to more level ground, Keith pulled Zephyr back behind Seraphim again. But the prince quickly steered away from the road and onto a grassy plain. He skirted Seraphim around a steep hill until the royal ancient tech lab came into sight.

 

There were only a few buildings there, and they appeared quite old, if the desperate need of repairs was anything to go by. Prince Lance pulled his horse to a stop at the first building and hopped off. “Wait for me here, I’ll just be a moment.”

 

Keith stayed on horseback, but nudged Zephyr forwards a couple steps so he could grab onto Seraphim’s loose reins. He didn’t know this horse yet, and didn’t know whether he’d wander off if left to his own devices or stay put.

 

He had to admit, Seraphim was of wonderful breed. He was tall, stocky, but still athletic enough to run quickly and for a good distance. He doubted that Seraphim could run as fast as Zephyr in a race, and certainly not as fast as Everest, but he probably fulfilled the prince’s needs.

 

His highness returned quicker than Keith thought he would, with a slight smirk on his face. It made Keith want to ask what that smile was for, but he figured that it wasn’t something he could ask. He passed the prince back his reins, and waited for him to mount up and nudge Seraphim forwards before he and Zephyr followed.

 

Zephyr thrashed his head about at the slow pace, sending his long mane flying, until Keith patted his neck soothingly. They were used to travelling at much faster than a trot, but, they were following the prince now. And if the prince was trotting, then so were they.

 

They cut back towards the main road, to head back down into the canyon towards its other exit, leading towards Hyrule Ridge and the Tabantha Great Bridge.

 

The prince actually spurred his horse into a brisk canter, and Zephyr had never been so excited to run in his life. Keith had barely tapped his heels against Zephyr’s sides before he jumped forwards into a brisk canter, nearly catching up to the prince’s mount. Keith quickly had to pull back on his reins to pull Zephyr back a bit; it was probably rude to ride too closely to the prince.

 

The sun was starting to set by the time they made it to the stable before the large bridge spanning the width of Tanagar Canyon, which split Hyrule and the Tabantha Frontier. They bypassed the stable just south of the bridge without even sparing a glance at it.

 

Prince Lance had kept quiet all the way to the bridge, where he slowed Seraphim back down to a trot and turned slightly in his saddle to talk to Keith. “We’ll stop in Rito Village for the night, then make our way down to the Forgotten Temple from there in the morning.”

 

Keith couldn’t help but think that it was counterproductive… As Rito Village was four hours north of the bridge, whereas the path leading down into the Tanagar Canyon was only an hour southwest of their current location, if they skirted around the Rayne Highlands. Perhaps the prince just wanted to sleep in a Rito feather down bed. Keith was certain that he wanted to.

 

With a nod, Keith followed the prince as he led the way up the path towards Rito Village.

 

The prince seemed to speed up the darker it got, which Keith was thankful for. He wasn’t sure how well he could protect the prince in the dark. If it was just himself, he’d be fine, but… He wasn’t sure what the prince was made of just yet. So until he was sure, he’d be extra cautious.

 

They arrived at Rito Village’s stable just as the moon was rising over the mountains to the east, and stabled their horses there. Keith had barely opened his wallet to pay when the prince offered the stable manager a silver rupee. Keith was about to object when the prince waved his hand nonchalantly, and started making his way towards the first bridge.

 

There were three tall pillar-like islands with bridges connecting them, all leading towards the fourth and biggest isle that homed Rito Village. As the Rito were an avian species, their homes were all set up to encircle the tall pillar at the centre of the biggest island. It almost looked like a giant bird rest, with the large bit of rock sticking out sideways near the top. Luckily, there was miles and miles of stairs for the non-Rito people to access the entirety of the isle, or up to where the buildings stopped, anyways.

 

The first building the stairs led to was the Swallow’s Roost, the only inn in Rito Village. Keith hid a yawn behind his hand at the mere sight of the building. Some of his best nights of rest were inside this establishment, over his years of travelling on his own. He didn’t make it out as far to Tabantha, or even Rito Village very often, but every time he did, he spent what little rupees he had to sleep in a Rito-down bed. And every time he did, he could never find it in himself to be mad for spending so many rupees; it was worth it every damn time.

 

Again, as soon as Keith moved to open his wallet, the prince had it covered. And he even purchased two Rito-down beds for the night, which was easily more than a silver rupee and a purple rupee together covered.

 

His highness barely looked over at Keith before plopping down onto his own bed and toeing his boots off. He quietly went about unpacking what he needed for the night from his bag, and paused to place the strange object on his hip beside his pillow. But as soon as the prince set about pulling his tunic off, Keith glanced away. Just because he had his preferences didn’t mean he needed to look… Especially at the prince, who was his charge.

 

He ambled over to his own bed, and set about pulling his own worn boots off. It wasn’t every day that he got a good night’s rest. And he hadn’t slept a wink since he was in Zora’s Domain the day before he acquired the Master Sword, which was three nights ago. The fatigue was finally catching up with him.

 

As soon as Keith’s head touched the pillow, he was lights out. He didn’t even hear what the prince was trying to tell him.

 


 

Keith awoke with the sun, but felt extremely well rested, as he always did from waking in a Rito down bed. He stretched his arms above his head, before sitting up and blearily taking in his surroundings.

 

The bed beside him was empty, and all of the prince’s belongings gone.

 

Keith’s head whipped around, taking in the surroundings. When he saw no immediate sign of the prince’s brunette head anywhere in sight, he leapt up from the bed and pulled his boots on as quickly as he could. Turning to the red-feathered Rito at the front desk with one boot on, he asked “Where is the prince?”

 

“Prince Lance?” Keith nodded frantically. “He left a couple hours ago, before first light. He didn’t say anything, just packed up his stuff and left.” the Rito replied hastily, her feathers rumpling slightly at his agitated tone.

 

Keith bit back a curse. He should’ve known. The prince never wanted a bodyguard, so why would he stick around? He quickly grabbed all of his things, and made his way to higher ground; a white horse would be easy to spot from miles away if one was looking for it. And wherever the prince was going, he wasn’t going on foot.

 

Keith kept climbing until he reached some sort of take-off pad, or a floating dock. It had a large painted image of a Rito symbol, a crescent moon with stylized wings and a tail. This would be a good a spot as any to search for the prince. As he neared the edge of one of the take-off areas, it seemed to get much windier all of a sudden.

 

He took a tiny step back from the edge, but continued to survey; he could see the stable they boarded their horses at for the night, and the path down towards the stable, even the long rickety bridge they crossed over a cliff. But no white horse or prince in sight.

 

Keith bit back a growl. Because of course the prince would up and vanish the one good night’s sleep he’d gotten in ages. He’d just have to grab Zephyr and try to retrace their steps… Maybe he’d gone to the Forgotten Temple without him? That’d explain why he didn’t see Seraphim… They wouldn’t be visible in the Tanagar Canyon from this vantage point.

 

Suddenly, a huge funnel of wind spiralled up before the dock Keith was standing on, causing him to step back to avoid being sucked in. Then, Shiro flew up out of nowhere, and landed gracefully on the railing beside him.

 

“Huh, I’m shocked to see you here, Champion.” Shiro said slowly, and crossed his arms, well, wings, over his chest.

 

“Have you seen the prince?” Keith interjected.

 

“Lance?” Shiro asked incredulously. “Here? No, I haven’t seen him since your knighting ceremony yesterday. Why?”

 

“We came to Rito Village to spend the night in the Swallow’s Roost before heading out to the Forgotten Temple today. But he left before I woke up this morning,” Keith started pacing, and waved his arms about as he explained everything he knew.

 

“Waitwaitwait, the Forgotten Temple?” Shiro cut in, and hopped down from the railing, his feathers waving in the wind. “Lance hates the Forgotten Temple. There’s no way he’d go down there in a million years. I doubt he’d go there, even if that’s what he told his father he’d do.” Shiro paused, thinking, before tapping his feathered fingers together. “Have you checked the Shrine here?”

 

The Shrine? “Why the Shrine?”

 

“Lance is extremely interested in researching the ancient technology, like Vah Medoh up there.” Shiro pointed skywards, towards the Divine Beast flying above Rito Village.

 

Keith peered up, and his jaw nearly dropped in shock. He hadn’t even seen that thing when they came in last night. How did he miss something that big?

 

Divine Beast Vah Medoh was a sight to behold. His wingspan was huge, even from down here, and the propellers running under his wings were nearly silent. The span of his wings was twice the length of his body, and his taloned feet dangled back behind him as he circled the village. His undercarriage was highlighted in a bright, almost electric blue, nearly matching their blue Champion’s garbs. It was incredible.

 

“So if he’s not at the Shrine here, I’d say he’s probably at the Shrine over at the Ancient Columns on the hill by the Tabantha Great Bridge. Those are the only two known Shrines here, unless he travelled back over to Central Hyrule.”

 

Keith nodded slowly, absorbing the Rito’s words. He knew of those columns, they were one of the things that the Tabantha region was known for. Nobody knew what the columns were for, or why they were left, but they were spread out through a few areas in the vast land of Hyrule, even out into the Akkala region. Keith hadn’t visited these columns yet, but something told him that he was about to.

 

“But I’d start over by the Ancient Columns before venturing back to the king’s land.” Shiro continued, and circled around Keith slowly, calculatingly. “Say, are you sure you should be guarding the king’s son? You lost the prince after one day. You’ll have to keep a better eye on him.”

 

Keith fought the urge to say something cruel to Shiro, and instead stepped away from his fellow Champion. “I’m still sort of learning here, Shiro. Didn’t exactly get time to prepare for this role.”

 

Shiro merely hummed softly, and nodded. “That’s true. Well, if you need help finding him, let me know.”

 

With a brisk nod, Keith fled the dock.

 

Shiro had no idea that he’d had no say in becoming Lance’s appointed knight. Shiro had no idea the amount of pressure he was suddenly under. Now he was suddenly the soul of the hero, chosen by the sword that seals the darkness. He wasn’t just 'Keith' anymore, the boy who’s traitorous parents had been killed, and taken into the Hyrulean army at a young age. He was suddenly a Champion, and he suddenly had a world to save. He was suddenly supposed to protect a member of the Hyrulean royal family, protect a prince he’d only ever heard of before. He’d never asked for any of this.

 

But he’d do it anyways, since it was the right thing to do.

 

He took off running for the platform with the Shrine on it, not too far from the docks he was just on. “Your highness?” he called, and peered around.

 

The prince wasn’t there, but… Keith could’ve sworn that the Shrine was buzzing, almost like the feeling he felt before he pulled the Master Sword from the ground.

 

Keith shook his head. He had no time to investigate, he had to find the prince. So he turned and ran, back towards the path spiralling down the centre of the island.

 

He ran as fast as he could down the stairs down the length of the isle, all the way to first bridge. At that moment, he wanted nothing more than to fly like the Rito so he could just fly down to the stable.

 

Keith recalled seeing the ancient columns that Shiro spoke of on their way into Rito Village. They were just to the west of the bridge, about four hours south of here.

 

But he could make it there in half that time on Zephyr.

 

He didn’t even ask for his horse to be tacked up for him. He immediately stormed into the stable and hastily tacked up his horse before hopping up into the saddle in the stall, and spurring out as fast as they were physically able.

 

Keith knew that he had a history of pushing Zephyr in the past, running away from a hoard of monsters or even trying to avoid the rain. But that was over much shorter distances. It was time to see how far Zephyr could run over rocky terrain.

 

They only slowed down to cross the rickety bridge that was barely wide enough for a horse to travel on, taking even it at a brisk trot. As soon as Zephyr’s rear hooves were clear, Keith spurred him back into a full gallop, uncaring that the Master Sword was thumping against his back with every stride his stallion took.

 

There wasn’t exactly a path leading up to the top of the rocky hill where he prayed Lance was. So he slowed Zephyr down to a canter to bob and weave through the ancient fallen columns that littered the grassy hillside. As soon as they reached the crest in the hill, Zephyr whinnied a hello to the other horse he spotted.

 

It was Seraphim.

 

Oh, Keith nearly wanted to kiss that horse in relief. If Seraphim was here, it meant Prince Lance was here as well. And oh, was the prince about to get an earful.

Chapter Text

3. Lance's Resentment

 

Lance was happy to learn that his new bodyguard was a deep sleeper. Keith had conked out the moment that his head had touched the pillow, not even seeming to hear what Lance told him.

 

So as soon as Lance woke up the next morning, he set about quietly packing up his things and slung his bow and quiver over his back so he could leave before the sun was up.

 

But first, he wanted to check out the Shrine that was up near the elder’s house.

 

Supposedly, it was up near the top of the climbable area, out across a bridge by a large landing platform. Ryner said that none of their researchers had been out to Rito Village yet, so Lance would be the first to come in contact with it outside of the Rito people. Lance hoped to have some luck unlocking this Shrine, as it was the furthest from prying eyes.

 

It took him quite a bit of climbing up stairs, nearly halfway up the massive center pillar, to reach the Shrine, but it was worth it once he got there.

 

The Shrine was named Akh Va’quot, and was out on it’s own, surrounded by a few trees out on a lone bit of elevated land. Ryner had told him about it while he stopped at the Royal Ancient Tech Lab yesterday, along with the other known Shrine in the Tabantha region. Supposedly, it was up by the ancient columns they passed heading to Rito Village, so Lance also planned to stop there if he didn’t have any success here…

 

And if he managed to ditch his bodyguard.

 

He approached the Shrine slowly, taking in the entirety of it. The base of the Shrine, where a large circular emblem laid, was covered in fallen leaves from the trees surrounding it. He could faintly see the Sheikah symbol above the entrance; a large magnifying glass, the center shaped in a curved eye shape, with three triangles above looking like stylized eyelashes. There was some swirled decorative images surrounding the symbol, but Lance was more concerned with getting the Shrine activated and open.

 

He stepped up onto the platform, and made his way towards the dark control panel. There was a dark circle in the center, presumably to act as a sensor to the back of the Sheikah Slate. But even when he brought the Sheikah Slate up to the pedestal, nothing happened. The Sheikah Slate remained silent, and the Shrine didn’t make any motions to open, or even power up.

 

Lance sighed, frustrated. What am I missing here? He placed the slate back into its holder on his hip, and bent to look at the control panel’s base. There was no opening for him to pry open to look inside the panel, to try to either manually turn it on or figure out how to get it to work.

 

Well, he was losing the cover of darkness, and needed to move before his bodyguard woke up and came looking for him. Maybe the next Shrine would bring him more luck…

 

He started making his descent back down to the base of the village, trying to be as quick as he could without tripping and falling down the miles and miles of stairs. The air was crisp, and smelled of forest decay, but not overwhelmingly. The entirety of the village was rustic and homey, quite like the forests surrounding Lake Totori and its residents. Lance wanted nothing more than to stop and breathe in the fresh country air, but he, unfortunately, had places to be.

 

As he made his way down the bridges back towards the stable, he looked around at the scenery. The land surrounding the lake was high, varying between lush forest and a snowy plateau. It was absolutely stunning, both aesthetically and in the glare the early morning sun cast on the snow. The little islands connecting the mainland from Rito Village were lush in colossal trees, little ponds brimming with fish, and rocky edges.

 

He asked for Seraphim to be tacked up for him as soon as he approached the stable, not wanting to waste any time. While he waited, he pulled out the Sheikah Slate, and peered at its contents. It appeared to have a map function, but there was nothing on it. He could see a little arrow on what he assumed was his location, along with a line outlining the entirety of the land of Hyrule. There were even lines dividing the regions of the land of Hyrule, like the Eldin region, Lanayru region, and even Faron Woods. But there was no data that showed the actual map, like roads or lakes. How does he get map data to show up on this thing? What functions would it have? Would it be the same as a physical paper map, or would it have some features a regular map wouldn’t?

 

Suddenly, Seraphim’s reins were being offered to him, and he took them with a brief thanks. Not wasting any time, he hopped up into the saddle and spurred him into a trot back up the way they came last night, back towards the Great Tabantha Bridge, and more specifically, the Ancient Columns.

 

It took the pair about four hours to get to the base of the hill that housed the Ancient Columns, and another half hour of bobbing and weaving around the fallen columns to make it to the summit, where the Tena Ko-sah Shrine was located. Apparently, the Shrines were named after the Sheikah monks that inhabited the Shrines, who created the tests laid inside for the hero of legend.

 

As soon as Lance came within walking distance of the Shrine, he dismounted from Seraphim and left him to graze. He pulled the Sheikah Slate off of his hip as he slowly approached the Shrine.

 

As he approached the shrine, he couldn’t help but notice how beautiful the entire scene in front of him painted.

 

In the mid morning sun, everything shone brightly, full of life and possibility. The sky was a bright blue, nearly his favourite colour, and he could see everything all around him, from the Hebra Mountains, to Hyrule Castle, even all the way over to the Dueling Peaks. The tops of the ancient columns, some still standing, were highlighted wonderfully, even with moss and ivy trailing down the length of them. The grass was untrodden here, and grew tall, coming up to Lance’s knees in some places. To the north, he could see Divine Beast Vah Medoh circling in the distance, right above the pillar like mass he knew was the village. It was clear days like this, when he was outside of the Castle, that really let Lance breathe.

 

Lifting up the Sheikah Slate, he clicked the screen a few times, bringing up the camera function. He twisted the slate around for a few moments, trying to find the best angle, before deciding on an angle that showed Medoh, the shrine, and some of the columns littering the area. He took the picture, and smiled when he saw some rays of light gave the picture an extra touch of magic. On days where he was stuck inside the Castle, he liked to look back on the photos he took on his journey. And this would certainly make a beautiful picture.

 

As his gaze settled back onto the shrine, he refocused his attention on why he came to the hidden location in the first place. Ryner had come to the theory that this ancient slate could be the means of opening the Shrines and controlling the Divine Beasts. They’d had no luck with it controlling the Divine Beasts as of yet, but all evidence lead them to believe it was fact; there was a pedestal in each Divine Beast that had a cutout for the Sheikah Slate to sit, and presumably rest to function, but no luck getting it to work. So perhaps unlocking the ability to open the Shrines was the key?

 

Lance tried placing the Sheikah Slate on the pedestal off to the side of the entrance to the Shrine. Unfortunately, nothing happened. “Nothing, just as I thought…” He mused, and took a step back to survey the Shrine.

 

He ran a loose hand through his hair, and hummed softly to himself. “It appears that this structure was designed to be exclusively accessed by the sword’s chosen one. But, designs can always be worked around, at least I hope…” He bit back a sigh at the thought. He wasn’t going to ask Keith to help him.

 

“But, designs can always be worked around, at least I hope.” He continued, and glanced down to the screen in front of him again, as if it would give him all the answers. “How do I get inside...? I need to activate it somehow…”

 

Lance looked up from the slate to look at the Shrine, when suddenly, a loud whinny caught his attention, and he turned around.

 

His knight had caught up with him, and his horse whinnied a hello to Seraphim.

 

Lance groaned quietly. And just when he’d ditched him, too! How did he find me…?

 

Keith followed the path that the upright columns lead to the Shrine. He pulled his horse to a quick stop beside Seraphim, and hopped off. As he started jogging towards where the prince was standing, Lance started walking towards him, with a sour look on his face.

 

“I thought I made it clear that I am not in need of an escort.” Lance snapped, and placed the tablet on his hip before crossing his arms over his chest. “I, the person in question, am fine, regardless of the king’s orders. I’ve done fine without a babysitter for this long, and I certainly don’t need one now.”

 

Keith stuttered to a stop, surprised.

 

“I don’t need you, Link. So return to the Castle, and tell that to my father.” he demanded, and stormed past him towards his own steed.

 

Keith just shook his head, and turned to follow Lance, a few paces behind him.

 

Lance peeked back over his shoulder, before whirling around to face him. “Dammit, Keith, I don’t need you! Just because some stupid sacred sword chose you doesn’t mean that I need more ‘motivation’ or whatever to figure out my own destiny!” Lance yelled, and made a quick shooing motion with his hands. “So go away!” He spun around on his heel again, and hopped up on Seraphim with a huff. As he nudged Seraphim forwards, he peered over at Keith again and said; “Some of us need to do more than just pull a sword from the ground to fulfil our destiny.”

 

His knight seemed to be shocked into motionlessness, so Lance used the opportunity to spur his stallion away at a quick gallop, hopefully to put a league or so distance between them.

 

Why did he have to show up right when everything was working against him? The Shrines weren’t opening up for him, his father was on his case to unlock his sealing powers, and every time Lance saw that sword on Keith’s back…

 

Well, it made him feel like a failure.

 

What did Keith do that Lance hadn’t? Lance had spent every day of his life dedicated to praying, begging to the ancient gods to show him what he was supposed to do. He had no teacher, no one to guide him, and yet he was still penalized for his supposed ‘lack of effort’.


It just wasn’t fair.

Chapter Text

4. Allura's Hand

 

Lance pushed Seraphim back into a canter as soon as they leveled back out below the hill. He couldn’t believe that his bodyguard caught up to him. Didn’t he understand by now that Lance didn’t need him?

 

Where can I go that he can’t follow me…

 

Allura. He’d never find me out there.

 

He quickly steered Seraphim back towards the Great Tabantha Bridge, and back to central Hyrule. He needed to head out for the Gerudo Desert, somewhere Keith would never think to look for him. I’m a genius!

 

It’d take him the rest of the day to reach the Gerudo Stables, and the Gerudo Desert if he rode hard. But he knew he could reach it on his noble steed before the latest hours of the night. Good thing I bought Rito-down beds last night, Lance thought with a smile.

 

He pulled Seraphim back to a brisk trot to cross the massive bridge; it had a few dangerous holes in spots, and it would be quite reckless to risk Seraphim. And it would be especially dangerous if more of the bridge fell away; it was a long drop down to the floor of the Tanagar Canyon. As soon as they cleared the bridge, Lance pushed Seraphim into a full gallop to hopefully avoid Keith spotting them. Lance was brutally aware that his white stallion was recognizable, especially from a high vantage point in the middle of the day. There was a good chance that his knight could spot him, but he was praying that Keith would lose him in his journey from the top of the hill to the bridge. In fact, he was counting on it. Even if Keith could in fact see which direction he was heading, he’d have no idea which direction Lance would go past the Hyrule Ridge.

 

He let Seraphim follow the road south, towards Jeddo Bridge and Satori Mountain. He had to rein Seraphim in again at the bridge, since it looked like a little version of the Great Tabantha Bridge. It was also in desperate need for repairs; he’d have to inform his father of that the next time he saw him.

 

Nima Plain was one of his favourite places to ride over in all of Hyrule. It was just to the west of Central Hyrule, and was fairly flat, perfect for galloping. There was a well beaten path leading from Jeddo Bridge all the way down to Manhala Bridge, but it lead through Sanidan Park Ruins along the way.

 

The park ruins were one of Lance’s favourite places in Hyrule. It housed a magnificent looking horse statue in the center of the small park, rearing up on it’s powerful hind legs. It could be seen from miles around, being on such high ground and of unusual shape. Everything around the park was as Din intended; natural, wild, and free. But the park itself felt so serene, with the water trickling from the ancient fountain and the wind whistling by the statue. Lance wished he could stay and let Seraphim drink from the pond and rest beneath the large tree below the grounds, but… He had places to be.

 

The path curved slowly to lead down the steep hill towards Manhala Bridge, but Lance just leaned forward more in the saddle. It felt as though Seraphim was flying down the hill towards the bridge, his hooves barely touching the ground. As much as Lance loved the feeling of practically flying, he knew he should let Seraphim rest for a bit. He pulled him back to an easy trot once they levelled out just before the bridge, as a bit of a precaution as well as giving his stallion a breather. Manhala Bridge was short, and sturdily made of wood, but it had no railings along the side. It was a long drop down into the Regencia River, and it wasn’t a trip Lance was eager to make.

 

The path curved a bit towards the Great Plateau in the distance, towards the south. To their left, towards the east, was the Coliseum, not often used anymore, but still kept up for odd events of strength and such for the soldiers to get some attention. Lance hadn’t been to the site in years, but it appeared as imposing as ever nestled in the side of the mountain.

 

He passed another stable, just to the west of the Coliseum but paid it no more notice than he did to his bow gently tapping against his back. He was over halfway to the desert, and the sun was just starting to set over the hills; he was making great time.

 

He steered Seraphim off of the main road slightly, to follow the less trodden path leading to the desert. It led to a series of suspension bridges connecting odd shaped islands standing tall over the collection of water from the Regencia River and the frigid River of the Dead. One could see the landscape change over just the span of the lake’s length; the land went from lush hills to arid wasteland. He brought Seraphim down to a walk as they approached the Digdogg Suspension Bridges. The series of bridges were meant to be sturdy, but in the evening wind coming off the water, they tended to rock a bit. It made Lance sick to his stomach to feel Seraphim constantly adjusting his strides to walk along the bridges, but at least at a slow walk it was manageable.

 

They got to flat, albeit rocky land just as the sun finally set on the horizon. As soon as they were on solid ground again, Lance briefly thought of hopping off his mount to kiss the ground. But that would require getting off Seraphim and was simply a waste of time. But he was extremely thankful that the ground they were stepping on was no longer swaying beneath them.

 

As they cantered along, Lance peered around him. The sides of the rocky mountains here were littered with platforms where workers dug into the stone in search of the ancient relics. As they rushed past Mount Nabooru, Lance could almost imagine where the Divine Beast Vah Naboris was pulled from its depths. He’d only been down here once, while the search was still at large, with his father on an assessment of the progress. There had been hundreds of people, Sheikah, Hylian, and Gerudo alike, digging at the stone hundreds of feet up, with only their wits as protection from the unforgiving ground. Lance had been stunned that these people were so willing to be at risk, but apparently the looming doom of the Calamity returning was enough to get people working together...

 

It took them another hour of galloping through the winding canyon to reach the Gerudo Stables. The last bit of land leading down to the desert was too volatile for any horse to traverse, so horses were kept at the stable at the entrance to the desert until their owners finished their business there. Lance had become quite friendly with the stable owner here, as Seraphim had been kept in this stable a lot in recent years.

 

“Hey, your highness!” Colin called out as soon as Lance was in range. “Didn’t expect you here this time of night. Does the Gerudo chief know you’re coming?”

 

The stable owner, Colin, was a tall, lanky man with untamable curly brown hair. He always had a smile on his face, and was always considerate to his customers, no matter what walk of life they came from. His green eyes always held a sparkle to them, and his freckles were always more pronounced each time Lance saw him. He was very fond of Colin, and they’d become good friends in their years of seeing each other.

 

Lance shook his head before dismounting. “No, it was… A bit of a last minute decision.” He said slowly, and patted Seraphim’s sweaty neck heartily. “You did amazing today, love.” he whispered to his horse.

 

“Looks like this guy’s gonna need a cool rub-down.” Colin said thoughtfully, emerging from the cover of the stable. “Where’d you guys come from today?”

 

“Tabantha region. About half an hour west of the Tabantha Great Bridge.”

 

“Great Goddesses, you guys made it all the way from there in one day?!” Colin exclaimed, and grabbed Seraphim’s reins. “No wonder this guy looks beat.”

 

Lance smiled bashfully, and rubbed the back of his neck. “I was, err, motivated.”

 

“I can see that…”

 

Lance reached back into his pouch for his wallet, but Colin stopped him with a wave of his hand. “You can just pay when you come back out. Any idea how long you’ll be down there for?” he asked.

 

“No, not really…”

 

Colin smiled knowingly. “Well, then you should definitely wait to pay. You’ve probably already paid your fees with the amounts you’ve overpaid in the past.”

 

Lance chuckled and patted Colin’s shoulder lightly. “One can never overpay for great service, Colin.”

 

“Well, your highness flatters us.” Colin smiled slightly, and waved him off. “Go on now, it sounds like that Divine Beast is getting close. Maybe the chief will spot you from up there.”

 

With a nod, Lance jogged off for the Gerudo Desert Gateway. As he approached the beaten and abused steps leading down to the sand, he could feel the ground shaking intermittently.

 

As soon as he stepped down onto the sand, he could see Divine Beast Vah Naboris walking towards the gateway. He quickly ran out towards it, or as fast as he could in the sand, and started waving his arms about frantically.

 

Divine Beast Vah Naboris was staggering up close, it’s height absolutely massive. It was truly a marvel to see something from an age past, and even see the camel it was supposedly based off of. It’s long neck was highlighted by the blue energy running all of the Sheikah technology, all the way up to it’s round face. It had a large rectangular body, with gazebo-like structures coming out from where the shoulders and hips would theoretically be. There were two humps sitting atop the center of its back, which had electricity crackling between them, visible even from the ground. Its long legs had many joints leading down to its feet, so it could move about as easily as possible. The electricity generated seemed to originate from the circular feet stomping onto the sand, as the energy seemed to spike at each step the Divine Beast took. Lance couldn’t believe that this thing was actually built by people . It was massive! And something worth marvelling over at a later date.

 

Luckily, Allura seemed to have spotted him, as she steered Naboris directly at him, and slowed as they got closer. As soon as Naboris started to kneel down, Lance rushed around to it’s left side, where he knew the entrance to the Divine Beast was.

 

Allura met him on the entrance platform, with a worried frown. “Lance? What are you doing out here this late? And where’s your bodyguard?”

 

Lance immediately threw himself at her, wrapping his arms around her middle.

 

She wrapped her arms around his shoulders, still visibly concerned. She peered around, as if she was looking for Keith. “You shouldn’t ditch him, Lance. He’s just trying to do his job.” she whispered.

 

“I know, but…” Lance buried his nose into her shoulder, sagging against her pitifully. “He’s got that sword, ‘Lura.”

 

Lance could immediately tell that Allura knew what he meant; her body stiffened slightly, before she wrapped her arms more firmly around him. “Oh, my little bluebird…” she cooed, and ran a soothing hand through his hair. “Just because he has that sword doesn’t mean that you’re failing, you know.”

 

“B-but I don’t have anything… Nothing--”

 

“That’s not true, Lance.” Allura interrupted softly, and leaned back to meet his watery gaze. “Look at the team you have standing behind you. Look at how much you’ve helped Ryner and Coran researching the ancient technology. We’d be nothing without you, Lance.”

 

Lance merely shook his head. How can she think that of me? I’m merely a failure…

 

Allura sighed, and pressed a swift kiss to his forehead before steering him into the belly of Naboris. “Come on, you may as well get some rest. You look exhausted, and we can talk more about this tomorrow.”

 

Lance merely nodded, and let her steer him into the depths of Naboris. In the center of its rotating belly, there was a bed on an immobile platform, presumably where she slept when she didn’t want to venture back to Gerudo Town.

 

“Tomorrow, do you think you could sneak me into Gerudo Town?” Lance asked quietly, as he sat down on the edge of the bed.

 

“Sure, Lance.” she agreed softly. “Anything you want.”

 

With a nod, Lance started pulling off his boots and getting ready to turn in for the night. At least for now, he was well and truly free of Keith. Maybe now he could focus on figuring out how to unlock his sealing powers. Maybe a bit of time spent out here in the desert was exactly what he needed.

 


 

Keith blinked dumbly at Lance’s receding image. Did Lance really think that all it took was for Keith to pull a sword from its pedestal? He couldn’t help but think that Lance was being a little unfair as he watched the prince ride back down the hill.

 

Everything that he’d done in life was in preparation for something like this. He trained rigorously, daily, with his sword, shield, and even with bow and spear to maximize his skill with weapons. He was the best young soldier in the Hyrulean army, and was actually able to rival Pidge in sparring matches. He too lost his mother at a young age, but he’d also lost his father and the only family he had when he’d been taken from the Yiga Clan. Yes, now he knew that they were evil, but at the time? They were the only other family he’d ever known. It’d taken him a long time to forgive those who killed his family for what they’d do to the royal family of Hyrule if given the chance. So Keith thought he’d more than proved his worth to the goddesses or whatever.

 

When he finally came to his senses again, Lance and Seraphim were out of sight. Keith whipped around to get a look at the bridge below them, but didn’t even see them there. He couldn’t see them anywhere.

 

Oh, how will I explain this to the king?

 

Keith rushed over to Zephyr and jumped up onto his back, spurring him into a gallop to follow the prince in the assumed direction he’d gone. If Shiro was right, he’d never go to the Forgotten Temple. He’d seen all of the Shrines in this region, so…

 

Where would he go?

 

He pushed Zephyr as quickly as he dared over the Tabantha Great Bridge. On one hand, he didn’t want Zephyr to trip over any broken wooden beams, but if he slowed down, he had more of a chance to lose the prince.

 

He stopped at the stable just south of the bridge to ask if they’d seen a horse resembling Seraphim. Luckily, one of the stable boys saw him ride east, back out towards Central Hyrule. With a brief thanks, Keith steered Zephyr back towards Central Hyrule, as fast as he felt vaguely comfortable pushing his horse.

 

He started out just west of Castletown. It was the most likely area Keith thought the prince would go. They’d done something similar to what the prince had told the king they would do on their excursion, so it was logical that he’d head home. But nobody in Castletown had seen Lance since they had left the day before.

 

Keith bit back a growl, and headed south. It was possible he’d stopped at the inn in southern Central Hyrule, to stay away from the Castle for an extra day. Zephyr was obviously starting to tire from the extreme galloping they’d done across country since the early morning, but Keith couldn’t let him rest until they found the prince.

 

The woman of the inn had never even met the prince, let alone wait on him at her own inn, so that was another dead end. Zephyr was really starting to look beat, heaving in deep breaths for the few precious minutes they were stopped at the inn speaking to the lady of the house. With a deep sigh, Keith figured it best he pick up his other horse, Everest, to give Zephyr a break while he was on his manhunt for the prince.

 

It cost him an hour he could have spent looking for the prince, but Keith rationalized that it was worth it in the long run. His beautiful dark brown stallion, Everest, was being housed in the Riverside stable at the southeast end of Hyrule Field. Keith knew that Zephyr would burn out sooner rather than later, and Everest was simply a faster horse than Zephyr, along with very well rested. So he and Everest would simply have to make up the time spent travelling to swap horses.

 

His big brown stallion was eager to see him, and whinnied loudly as soon as he neared. His dark brown mane and tail were starting to get a little long; his forelock covered his eyes, and covered most of his long thin white stripe on his nose. Everest pranced in place as soon as Keith unlatched his stall door, and stepped into his space as soon as the door was open wide enough. He had some pieces of straw stuck in his white feathered feet, but Keith knew they’d be shook loose from all the running they were about to do.

 

Keith was quick about brushing him off and tacking him up, for they had places to be. Luckily, the big saddle and saddle bags were easy to strap on quickly, and Everest took the small bit in his mouth with no issues. So tacking up into the most comfortable riding tack Keith owned was easy.

 

Everest seemed restless and excited to be out of the stable, but Keith made sure to warm him up properly to avoid any sprains the search might cause.

 

Just south of the Riverside stable, Keith spurred Everest over the Hylia River at Owlan Bridge to search the outskirts of the Central Hyrule region to the east. He hoped that Lance wouldn’t cross over into Sheikah territory, even though the Sheikah were known to be bound to the royal family… Keith wasn’t exactly fond of the Sheikah. He kept Everest to the main roads, since the prince didn’t seem like the type to go across the country if it wasn’t strictly necessary.

 

The sun was setting as he approached the Goponga Village, a fair ways southeast of Hyrule Castle. It was directly between Hyrule Castle and Zora’s Domain, and had a well known inn, so he prayed that the prince was here.

 

Martha emerged from the inn as soon as Keith pulled Everest to an abrupt stop. They’d known each other for a long time, as he used to stop here for a small snack on his way to see Pidge. “Keith!” Martha exclaimed, and wiped her stained hands off on her apron. A few strands of her brunette hair that was not long enough to be tied back harshly into her bun framed around her face. “It’s so nice to see you! Are you staying?”

 

“No,” Keith said, and dismounted. “I’m looking for Prince Lance. Has he come through here?”

 

“The prince?” she exclaimed, obviously shocked. “N-no, haven’t seen him since he last went up to Zora’s Domain. Why?”

 

Suddenly, her eyes widened and she took a step back. “Oh…” she breathed out. “Is that…?” she pointed to the sword upon his back with a lightly trembling hand.

 

He glanced over his shoulder, to where he could see the handle of the Master Sword sitting proudly. Oh, he thought vaguely. I almost forgot. He merely nodded, and offered her a tiny brief smile.

 

She brought her hands up to her chest, a look of awe overtaking her features. She quickly schooled it back to a relatively normal expression, “I see. I think I understand now. Well, if I do see him, I’ll try to keep him here and send word your way.”

 

Keith breathed out a sigh of relief and nodded his head. “Thank you, Martha. I’m sure I’ll see you again soon.”

 

The sun had set by the time he left the village, but he kept Everest at a brisk walk to gather his thoughts.

 

Where the blazes did he go?

 

Keith vaguely thought about checking back at the Castle, but swiftly disregarded the thought. If the prince wasn’t there, and he was spotted, he’d be skinned. Until there were no other options, he would avoid the Castle at all costs. He supposed he could check the royal ranch, and perhaps the garrisons, to see if anyone there had spotted the prince. But he’d have to do it discretely, lest whispers get back to the Castle that the supposed Hero of Legend had lost the prince.

 

Dammit , Lance. Where are you?

 

He searched all over Central Hyrule fruitlessly, all through the night. There was no word of him from the ranch, nor the village just west of the ranch, nor at either Garrison he’d stopped at. Some of the soldiers he’d trained with were there, and tried to coerce him into staying and letting loose a bit, but he had a job to do. He’d even gone to exchange stop by Lake Kolomo, and to Gatepost Town. Nobody had seen the prince in the timespan Keith needed to locate him.

 

It was nearing midday by the time he trotted Everest down into the water by the old Sage Temple. It was a last ditch effort to find him, Keith knew that, but he was frankly running out of options. Soon, he’d have to face the fact that Lance could be dead in a ditch somewhere. Oh, he was dreading this conversation with the king…

 

“Hero?” a voice called. “Are you the new Champion?”

 

Keith pulled Everest to a stop and whipped around towards the voice.

 

It was a young Gerudo warrior, on horseback bounding down the hill towards him.

 

“Yes? Who’s asking?” Keith replied slowly, cautiously. He had no idea who was asking for him, and it could be a trap.

 

“Chief Allura sent me to find you.” The Gerudo spoke quickly, and stopped her own mount just beside his. She passed him a sealed letter, with what he assumed was the Gerudo Chief’s seal. In the vibrant purple ink, a lone triangle sat with a Gerudo symbol inside, and three dots surrounding the triangle. It looked familiar, but Keith was positive he’d never seen it. Maybe his soul had.

 

He cracked the seal without further thought, and read the brief contents of the letter;

 

 

Soul of the Hero;

 

Lance is safe, as I know you must be worried. He is out with me, in the Gerudo Desert. Come find us as soon as you are able. Meet us at the Divine Beast after nightfall; the prince will surely be fast asleep when you arrive.

 

Allura, Chief of the Gerudo, Gerudo Champion.

~He will be safe with me until you arrive.”

 

Keith shoved the letter into one of the belts on his tunic, and spun Everest around quickly. “Thank you for delivering this to me.”

 

“Of course.” She merely replied, and turned her mount as well. “Care to follow?”

 

“Only if you can keep up,” he said with a smirk, and spurred Everest up the hill again.

 

He could hear the hoofbeats of the horse behind him, but paid them no mind as he steered south, towards the isolated plateau. To the west of it, there was a path that led to the Gerudo Desert, and was easily the fastest way.

 

The hoofbeats quickly faded away, and when Keith glanced over his shoulder, the messenger and her mount were far behind them. He didn’t worry too much about leaving her behind; she obviously knew her way around, and he had places to be.

 

He reached the Gerudo stable as the sun was setting, and paid the owner to keep his horse boarded until he came back. He probably overpaid, as he planned to drag the prince back kicking and screaming to the Castle, but he didn’t mind. The prince had paid for his stable fees and bed in Rito Village, the least he could do now was pay.

 

He could hear the distant steps of the Divine Beast patrolling the sands from the entrance to the desert, and paused to really take it in. It was easily halfway across the desert, but Vah Naboris was as huge and wondrous as Vah Medoh was, out in the Tabantha region.

 

The Gerudo Chief must’ve been keeping an eye on the entrance to the desert, because suddenly, the Divine Beast altered its course towards him. He started out to meet it halfway, or, well, maybe a quarter of the way. It took much bigger steps than he did.

 

As soon as his boots touched sand, Keith felt nostalgia wash over him. He hadn’t been back out to the desert since he was taken from the Yiga Clan at the age of four. It seemed like such a small part of his life, but… His body remembered the sand.

 

His feet remembered the resistance the sand gives against any who dare try to cross it. His upper body remembered to lean forwards slightly to compensate for the constantly shifting sands. He knew exactly how to duck his head to avoid the swirl of sand in his face, but not enough that he couldn’t see everything around him. Everything his head thought he forgot, his body remembered. A warmth overtook his body that the evening chill of the desert couldn’t quench; Keith felt at home in these sands, more than he’d ever felt over the grassy plains of Hyrule or the watery depths of Lanayru. These sands offered a sense of belonging like nothing else had in his life.

 

Except, perhaps holding the Master Sword in his grasp.

 

Suddenly, he was pulled from his head when Divine Beast Vah Naboris started kneeling down beside him. Wow, some kind of knight I am, Keith thought, and shook his head slightly. A Divine Beast getting the drop on me… Who am I, the Calamity?

 

He glanced around the Beast to try to find the entrance. Was it in the foot? How was he supposed to get up there? Frankly, how did Allura do it?

 

His question was answered when the Divine Beast started to kneel in the sand, the entrance becoming clear; it was in the side, in the lower belly, which became nearly ground level when the camel-thing was kneeling. Is that how people got onto camels when they were around? Climbing onto their backs from the ground?

 

Keith didn’t have much time to contemplate it when he hopped up into the belly of the Divine Beast. He was otherwise starstruck by how massive and complex it seemed from the inside.

 

There were a bunch of slowly spinning platforms located in the belly of the machine, exposing holes in its sides as exits to higher levels of the Beast. Hopping onto the first platform he saw, he hoped to find the prince and Allura as quickly as possible.

 

They weren’t on the outer platform he first arrived at, but there was a light filtering down the ramp just to his right.

 

As soon as he was up the ramp, Allura glanced over at him and smiled slightly.

 

Allura was curled up on a spread out blanket, surrounded by pillows and more blankets, with Prince Lance curled up, fast asleep, on her lap.

 

Lance looked so peaceful… Kinder than Keith had ever seen him. He looked younger in the flickering lamp light, and carefree, not burdened by the responsibility he had to the kingdom of Hyrule. Keith could hear a slight snore coming from between Lance’s lips as he approached the pair, but didn’t comment on it. This was the softest he’d seen the prince, and he was fast asleep; Keith could only assume he didn’t sleep much in Rito VIllage, and then to run his horse as hard as he could to avoid him? Definitely draining, even if they hadn’t seen each other in nearly two days.

 

“Ah… Well you certainly got here fast. I should have expected as much, from the prince’s own appointed knight.” Allura said softly as Keith approached. “He was out on a survey all day today. Still as the sands now…”

 

Well, sure, he was the prince’s own appointed knight, but it didn’t mean either of them were happy with the situation…

 

“So…? Spill it, boy, have the two of you been getting along all right?” Allura questioned seriously.

 

Keith grimaced and glanced away from her prying gaze.

 

She chuckled dryly at his reaction. “It’s okay, I know. Your silence speaks volumes.” Allura looked away from Keith and back down at the man curled up on her lap. As she ran a soft hand through his hair, she continued; “He gets frustrated every time he looks up and sees you carrying that sword on your back. It makes him feel like a failure when it comes to his own destiny.”

 

Keith took a slight step back, shocked. So that’s what this is?

 

“Don’t worry, it’s not like you carry blame in any of this.” She quickly reassured him. “It’s unfortunate… He’s put in more than enough time. Ever since he was a young boy, he’s gone through rigorous daily routines to show his dedication… He once passed out in the freezing waters trying to access this,” she waved her hand vaguely, “sealing power. And he has nothing to show for it.”

 

So that’s what he meant about doing more than pulling a sword out of the ground. He’s been training for his whole life for something he doesn’t even have access to yet. And suddenly I stumble in, wielding this sacred sword… It’s no wonder he’s angry at me. He has no idea that I’ve done just as much to earn my title of Champion.

 

“That’s the motivation driving his research. I’d be doing the same thing…” Allura said thoughtfully, and brushed Lance’s bangs away from his forehead. Her long earrings clanked against her shoulder pads as the wind picked up slightly. “He really is… Quite special.” She glanced back over her shoulder at Keith, a warning clear as lightning in her eyes. “You be sure to protect him with your life.”

 

Keith nodded slowly, because, what was he supposed to tell her? That this ‘special boy’ was the one who ran away from the person trying to protect him?

 

“The night brings a chill… It’s probably time we take him in.”

 

Suddenly, Allura’s face lit up and she smirked dangerously. “Or…” She wiggled to sit up straighter, before snapping her fingers, ending with her pointer finger aimed near the ground just outside of their shelter.

 

A crack of lightning crashed down where she pointed, not too far from the side of Naboris, causing Keith to jump back and Lance to jerk awake.

 

"Allura,” Lance gasped, sitting up and away from her, hunched over. “What was that?! Did you feel that?” he blinked rapidly, trying to grasp what he’d missed. Suddenly, he froze, and slowly turned back to where Keith was standing. Disbelief flashed across his face. “Wait, what-- How did you-- What are you doing here?

 

Allura threw her head back and laughed loudly at Lance’s confusion, drawing both men’s gazes to her. Her loud chortles filled the stunned silence.

 

“Wh-what’s so funny?” Lance spluttered out, and sat up. He crossed his arms over his chest tightly and pouted at her.

 

“Just-- You!” she exclaimed, and tried to stifle her giggles. “Your face!! Oh, so worth it.” She lost her balance and fell over onto her side, knocking aside an object Keith had missed in his first look of their surroundings; it looked like a mask, consisting of gold and fine jewels that came halfway down one’s face. The gold encircling back around to hold the mask to one’s face was covered in gorgeous emeralds, and held a large circle with thunderbolts, meant to halo the wearer’s head from a front view. Keith had never seen it before, but it was obviously valuable.

 

Lance reached over and whacked her arm somewhat seriously, a pout still on his lips. “You used Urbosa’s Fury, didn’t you? Can you, for once, just wake me up like any other Gerudo woman?”

 

“What, with a kiss?” she snarked between giggles, and wiped away tears threatening her painted makeup.

 

Keith merely shook his head at the two of them. It was obvious that they had some sort of relationship that predated their coming together as Champions, but he just wasn’t exactly sure what kind of relationship.

 

“Whatever,” Lance muttered, and turned back to face Keith. “You. What are you doing here?”

 

“I asked him to come out here.” Allura cut in, saving Keith from answering. She sat up straighter and straightened her skirts, before levelling a look at the prince. “He’s your appointed knight, Lance. He was obviously worried sick about you, and you shouldn’t have left him like that. He’s just trying to do the job that you appointed him to do.”

 

Keith pursed his lips, and nodded slightly at Allura’s words. She pretty well summed up what he wanted to say, in much nicer terms.

 

“Well I don’t need a bodyguard.” Lance argued, and narrowed his eyes over at Keith.

 

Allura sighed, and rolled her eyes slightly. “I know you don’t. I trained you with your bow, so I know you’re capable. But what about when you’re praying? You can’t pray and guard your back at the same time. It’s not a bad idea to have a trained swordsman around.”

 

“Swordsman, bowman, spearman…” Keith cut in quietly.

 

Allura’s head snapped up at him, and she seemed impressed. “Oh… Well, it’s not a bad idea to have a trained swordsman, bowman, and spearman at your back.” She repeated, with emphasis on Keith’s added information. She perked up suddenly, “Wait, did you train with Pidge?”

 

Keith smirked slightly, and nodded.

 

“Oh, then he’s definitely worthy of holding a spear, if he can hold one against her. Even I can’t match that tiny bundle of ferocity.” Allura shuddered slightly, and nodded towards Keith, almost in respect.

 

From the Chief of the Gerudo, Keith considered himself proud.

 

“Fine, fine, I get it you guys.” Lance cut in, exasperated. “I won’t run off. But, will you please stay out of sight?” he plead, finally turning to face Keith. “It’s degrading, a prince needing his own appointed knight to protect him. I’m fully capable of protecting myself if I’m not praying somewhere.”

 

Keith could think of ten reasons off of the top of his head as to why that was a bad idea, but… He knew that Lance really wanted this. He could definitely see where the prince was coming from. If he were suddenly shackled with his own bodyguard, Keith couldn’t convince himself that he’d just be fine with it. As much as he disliked the idea… At least Lance was agreeing to be watched. Hopefully he wouldn’t run and hide so quickly next time. So, with a great deal of effort, Keith nodded tersely at the prince’s request.

 

Prince Lance seemed to be relieved that Keith had agreed. With a stretch, he stood up and gathered his things. “Should we head back to the Bazaar to sleep, then?” he asked generally.

 

“I need to head back to Gerudo Town.” Allura replied, standing up as well. “I’ve been away for quite some time, and need to check up on things. You and Keith are welcome to stay here, in Vah Naboris?”

 

“No, thank you.” Keith quickly cut in. He didn’t enjoy spending time in these large beasts. It truly felt as though they were alive, with the amount of energy that pulsed through them. Or perhaps it was just Naboris; all the electricity put him on edge.

 

“The Bazaar it is, then.” Lance concluded, and strung his bow over his back. “Thanks for the offer, Allura, but we’ll head to the Inn there.”

 

“Alright, then.” Allura said slowly, doubtfully. “You two play nice now, you hear?”

 

Keith nodded, and glanced over at Lance. The prince was purposefully not meeting his gaze again.


Well, it looks like it’ll just be me playing nice, Keith thought bitterly.

Chapter Text

5. Blades of the Yiga

 

Allura had dropped them off on the Divine Beast at the Kara Kara Bazaar the night before, and Lance immediately sought out the inn. Even after the nap he’d had, he was still exhausted. He and Allura had been out on their feet all day, and Lance was sure Keith was just as tired as he was. He had to have been, if he’d been searching for Lance all day.

 

Lance did feel a little guilty for making him worry. It wasn’t like he’d gone off to war or something in his absence… But Allura was right, he shouldn’t have abandoned Keith like that. After all, he did appoint Keith as his own knight.

 

But it didn’t mean he had to be fond of their partnership.

 

He awoke with the sun, to find Keith already awake on the bed below his, sitting crossed legged and cleaning a knife. Lance had never seen a knife like that before, but didn’t comment on it.

 

He quickly started to pack up his things, ready to face the day. “So, I have a few more things here I want to check out. Nothing praying related, so I don’t need you breathing down my neck.” Lance said casually, in an attempt to make sure Keith wouldn’t follow him too closely. There was no need for his bodyguard to see him conduct his own experiments with the Sheikah Slate’s working functions.

 

Keith merely nodded, and barely looked up at him.

 

It was odd, Lance couldn’t help but think, that Keith had hardly ever said anything to him . He’d said things in his presence, to other people, but hardly ever to him. The only word he could think of that Keith had ever uttered to him was just his name. Did Keith truly dislike his job that much that he refused to even lower himself to speak to a failure of a prince?

 

Well, Lance certainly wasn’t making it easy on him…

 

As he reached for his bow, an idea came to him. If Keith was polishing his own weapons, perhaps…

 

“Keith?” Lance asked quietly, and turned to face the man in question. Keith’s hands stilled as he looked up at him, and Lance fiddled with his bow in his hands. Is this a good idea…? “I was, um… Wondering if you’d clean this, too?” He slowly offered his bow up to Keith on his palms.

 

Keith eyed him dubiously for a moment, as if he was joking. But something in Lance’s gaze must’ve told him that he was sincere, and he reached for the bow with his free hand. He placed it on the bed beside him, and nodded.

 

It wasn’t that his bow was dirty , per say, but it did gather a lot of dust and grime from their ride the past few days, and Lance always liked to keep his bow pristine. It was a big white bow, with blue accents and precious stones all throughout the body of it. He’d chosen the materials for its construction himself, and was very fond of his bow. If he was to trust Keith… He’d have to see how he handles his bow, first.

 

“Alright, I’m heading out then. I’ll be near the Bazaar here, so feel free to join me when you’re done.” Lance said awkwardly, before practically rushing out of the inn.

 

God, he hated not knowing how to talk to Keith. He had no idea how to read him! He was always so stoic, and he never said anything to him… How was Lance supposed to know what he was thinking?

 

What does the boy chosen by the sword that seals the darkness think of me?

 

... Will I ever truly know?

 

Well, with how I’ve treated him lately… He must despise me, but is bound to look like he cares about me…

 

Lance shook his head of these thoughts. There was no sense dwelling on something he may never truly know. Keith never spoke to him, and Lance had never given him any reason to. He doubted it would ever change.


He stopped at the pond at the center of the Bazaar to peer at his reflection. He looked well rested, finally, but his blue eyes still looked tired, even to him. His brown skin usually glowed in the desert sun, but it appeared almost dull, or grainy, like the miles of sand here. Maybe he was just homesick, missing the green grass and copious amounts of water. Or maybe it was just all in his head. He shook his head lightly, as if that would shake the thoughts from his head, and pulled the Sheikah Slate off of his hip to start taking photos.

Recently, when he’d taken a photo of a lovely sunset, there had been a flower in the corner of his screen. And for some reason, the Sheikah Slate honed in on it, and tried to identify it from the distance. When Lance had rushed towards it, the slate had somehow brought up a new function, one that catalogued various things found in Hyrule, such as flowers and fruits and animals, even weapons!

 

So now that he was out here in the Gerudo Desert, he wanted to take as many photos of the wild vegetation as he could.

 

He truly was experimenting with what could or could not be categorized in the device… Trees, such as the palm trees abundant around the Bazaar, could not be identified, but the fruit they bore, could. The fish in the central pond could be as well, but nothing else there, such as the body of water or the vegetation in it.

 

“Maybe the Sheikah Slate could only identify things that were around ten thousand years ago? No, that doesn’t make sense, there had to have been water ten thousand years ago…” Lance mumbled to himself, his gaze locked on the screen. “What’s the catch, here?”

 

He saw a rare type of lizard scurry by, a blue hearty lizard. He’d only ever seen them when they were brought to the Castle for experiments and such, never a real, alive one in the wild!

 

He scurried off after it, but quickly lost where it went in the sand. “You’d think…” Lance muttered, and wandered around, looking for a likely hiding place for a lizard. “You’re blue, and the sand is yellow. You’d be easy to spot…”

 

When Lance finally gave up on his search and glanced up, he was shocked to see that the large mushroom shaped rock that was the Inn was quite far away. He could only see the top of it from where he stood, let alone the pond or the few shops surrounding it.

 

With a shrug, Lance placed the Sheikah Slate back in it’s holder on his hip and started making his way back. He’d told Keith that he would stay close, so he should truly try to keep his word after what he’d put him through. He meant what he’d said last night; he’d let Keith do his job if he promised to stay out of sight unless he was praying. That seemed like a reasonable request, Lance thought.

 

Suddenly, something perked his attention. A shift in the sand from a foot that wasn’t his own. He paused, before whipping around to find the source of the noise, but saw nothing.

 

Lance could’ve sworn that his blood turned to ice. Someone was out there, and Lance wasn’t armed with his bow. He only had a small dagger sewn into the inside of his boot, but if he bent to grab that, his shadow would be onto him in seconds.

 

Without any further thought, Lance bolted back towards the Bazaar. He could feel his boots slipping out from under him on the sand, but just tried to keep upright. He knew if he fell he’d be dead faster than he could utter an un-princely word.

 

He could feel himself tiring from how fast he was trying to run over the shifting sands, but kept pushing forwards. If he could even make it to the edge of the Bazaar, he knew he’d be safe. Others would come to his aid, if Keith wasn’t there first.

 

As Lance approached the final sandy hill before the Bazaar, two red clad Yiga soldiers with curved sickles jumped out in front of him, cutting off his path to safety.

 

Lance felt dread settle in the pit of his stomach as he skidded to a stop. He shifted to turn and run away from them all, but shifted awkwardly on his ankle and crumpled to the ground with a startled yelp.

 

The masked soldiers immediately closed in on him, their white masks broadcasting their blood red symbol viciously. Lance could almost tangibly feel his own fear in the air around him.

 

The Yiga soldier that chased him loomed over him, and raised his vicious sickle above his head to slash downwards. The curved metal blade gleamed in the harsh sunlight, while it was still clean of blood. Lance winced and closed his eyes, waiting for death to come.

 

But it never did. Suddenly, the sickle was gone, and another body loomed over Lance’s protectively, causing the two advancing soldiers to pause.

 

Keith slashed his sword through the soldier mercilessly, before moving to stand between Lance and the remaining Yiga soldiers.

 

Lance fought to bring air into his lungs as he gaped owlishly at the man standing between him and his death sentence.

 

Keith looked beyond murderous, and his violet eyes appeared to burn brighter than Lance had ever seen. He was breathing slowly, and looked confident in his stance, almost appearing calm in the dangerous situation. He had the Master Sword raised in front of him somewhat loosely, but the threat was clear; back off or be killed. Lance knew he’d be scared if he was on the other end of Keith’s sword.

 

Both remaining soldiers backpedalled hastily, apparently not expecting the prince to have a protector. Keith watched them until they disappeared from sight over a sandy mound before whipping back around to face Lance.

 

Lance expected Keith to whirl around and yell at him for running off, but instead met Keith’s concerned gaze.

 

The knight knelt down beside Lance, and began searching him for any visible signs of injury. “Are you hurt, your highness?” he asked lowly, and prodded lightly at Lance’s booted foot.

 

Lance winced and jerked the foot away, but waved off Keith’s concerned gaze. His first sentence to me. “I’m fine, just fine, thanks to you.”

 

“That’s not ‘fine’,” Keith interjected, and pulled Lance’s foot into his own lap. He started pulling off the boot, ignoring Lance’s protests.

 

His ankle was starting to swell up slightly, but nothing more than a light sprain, if Lance had to guess. “I’ll be fine in a day or so, I’m sure.” he mumbled.

 

Keith closed his eyes and sighed softly to himself. “Better a sprained ankle than what they were planning to do to you.” he muttered bitterly, before swiftly pulling the prince up into his arms.

 

Lance shrieked, and tried to wiggle out of Keith’s grasp, but Keith had a better hold on him than Lance had originally thought. “Wh-What are you doing?! Put me down!”

 

“I’m taking you to the pond. You can rest your ankle in the cool water there, till the swelling goes down.” Was all Keith said as an explanation, not letting Lance wiggle his way to freedom.

 

Lance huffed and crossed his arms over his chest, accepting his fate. Keith was obviously stubborn, even more stubborn than Lance, apparently. He was also a lot stronger than the sleeves of his tunic let Lance imagine…

 

With a quick glance to see that no one was watching, Lance let himself take in Keith’s profile.

 

He’d known that his knight was handsome at first glance, but he’d never let himself properly think about just how handsome he was.

 

Keith’s defined brows were furrowed in something kin to concentration, although Lance figured that was his own fault. His vibrant violet eyes never seemed to stray from their target ahead of them, but Lance was almost positive he was aware of everything around them, from the people in the bazaar, to the lone hearty lizard scampering around on the outskirts. His lips were turned down slightly into a frown, nearly a pout , and Lance couldn’t help but think that was the most adorable thing he’d ever seen. The dark black tresses of Keith’s hair seemed like it would be in his way, but he made no motion to brush it out of his eyes or shake his head to send them flying. It was obvious that it was too long, but maybe Keith was too lazy to cut it, or perhaps liked the length. Lance couldn’t imagine why; the length would certainly irritate him if he had to constantly brush it out of his eyes.

 

As soon as Keith reached the edge of the pond, he knelt again, and lowered Lance down gently onto the sand. He rolled up the tight material of his breeches for him, and guided Lance’s foot into the water.

 

Lance hissed at the initial stinging contact the cold water made with his foot, but quickly relaxed into it and sighed. He could already feel how the cool water was soothing the aching muscles.

 

Keith chuckled softly at Lance’s reaction, but didn’t say anything else. But Lance considered the words Keith already spoke to him a win.

 

Keith stood up and brushed the sand off of the front of his pants, before turning and quickly walking back towards the Inn. He came back into sight moments later with the bow Lance had asked him to clean. He didn’t say anything, just offered the bow and quiver without further words.

 

“I uh, I should be thanking you.” Lance said awkwardly, and tried to gauge Keith’s reaction. The man’s face remained impassive, but Lance could’ve sworn his eyebrow twitched. “So, thank you, for saving my life, especially after… Well, after.”

 

Keith merely nodded, and moved a few feet away to sit with his back against a tree.

 

Lance had been hoping for Keith to speak to him again, but perhaps the words today were enough. He shouldn’t already be asking more of the man than he deserves.

 

And he certainly doesn’t deserve much… Not with how Lance has treated him ever since appointing him as his own knight.

 

He saved me… Without a thought for his own life, he protected me…

 

And this is how I’ve treated him?

 

Lance couldn’t help but feel guilty. Or, more guilty than he did before. He’s done nothing but make Keith’s job harder, by running from him and keeping him out of the loop, and frankly, nearly getting himself killed. If only he hadn’t been so adamant that Keith stay out of sight…

 

I really should talk to him, Lance thought. Try to understand why he hardly talks, and maybe even see how he gained the trust of the Master Sword…


Soon, Lance vowed to himself as he stretched out his foot in the cool water. When we head back to the Castle, I will try to talk to him.

 


  

They sat outside until the sun was setting, and the pond’s cool waters were starting to get icy, making Lance’s teeth chatter. Keith instantly took notice, and quietly asked if they should go inside.

 

With a nod, Lance stood up gingerly, testing his weight on his foot. It still twinged, but, after a good night’s rest, he’d be fit as a fiddle to ride back out to the Castle.

 

He quickly took in their surroundings. The sun was sitting low on the horizon, casting everything in a golden hue, even starting to turn the water in the pond pink. Long shadows from the palm trees cast across the sand, dipping and weaving along the small dunes. It was hard to see past the bazaar, with how the fading sun played along the sand, but the scene in front of him was too stunning not to save.

 

After a mere moment’s hesitation, he pulled the Sheikah Slate off of his hip, and raised it up to sight the photo. He had to take a few cautious steps backwards to fit everything into the screen’s view, but when he did, he quickly snapped the picture.

 

He brought it up in the album function the slate had, to make sure it was good before losing the light. He smiled when he saw the result. Light was coming in through the long leaves on the palm trees, casting interesting lighting across the slate’s lens. The slowly rippling water shone brightly, like a pale sapphire in the sunlight, and the inn they were staying at was almost comically shaded in the sun’s descent. The sky above the sand looked like three different shades, blending from reddish-pink to orange to yellow in the fading light.

 

As he placed the Sheikah Slate back on his hip, he saw Keith glance away from him. He knew that Keith probably had some questions about his research, not that Lance could blame him.


After I apologize to him,
Lance vowed to himself. After that, I will talk to him about my research, and what it means to me.

Chapter Text

6. Resolve and Grief

 

At Keith’s insistence, they spent one more night at the Kara Kara Bazaar, just so the prince’s ankle would have more time to heal before they made the trek from the Bazaar to the entrance of the Desert. From there, they’d walk the short distance to the stable to gather their horses and head back to the Castle.

 

They left at dawn, and made it to the stable about halfway through the morning. Keith did, in fact, overpay the owner there, and the owner refused to take any payment the prince offered him for holding Seraphim. Prince Lance even argued with the owner of the stable over it, but they seemed to have some sort of relationship prior to Keith becoming his appointed knight. Keith was frankly, a little surprised. Prince Lance didn’t seem like the sort of man to regularly accompany himself with commoners, yet here he was bickering with the owner, Colin, as if it was a common thing.

 

“Colin, the best stable owner this wondrous land of Hyrule has ever seen… Why won’t you take my money?” Lance sighed, exasperated.

 

“Because,” Colin said with a smirk, “your knight there already paid enough for both his horse and yours. And you always overpay, so there’s no reason for more money to be exchanged now!”

 

Prince Lance huffed, and turned to Keith to narrow his eyes at him. “What did you say to him?” He accused.

 

“He said nothing to me!” Colin exclaimed, and rubbed a hand down his face, already appearing tired, even though it was not yet midday. “He dropped off his horse, gave a purple rupee, and rushed off into the night.”

 

The prince didn’t even seem to hear Colin’s words, as he was still watching Keith’s face closely for any hints. Finally, he hung his head, defeated, and turned to offer his hand to Colin. “Well, I’ll let it slide this time. But next time is a whole other matter!” He vowed.

 

Colin chuckled and took the prince’s hand firmly. “Until next time then, your highness.”

 

With a nod, the prince turned and placed his foot in Seraphim’s stirrup, before hopping up into the saddle gracefully. “Thanks, again, for taking such good care of Seraphim!”

 

Keith waited for Prince Lance and Seraphim to take the lead before nudging Everest after them. He made sure to keep Everest’s nose behind Seraphim the whole time, to not offend the prince in any way, shape, or form.

 

The prince was quiet all the way out of the canyon, not speaking a word either to himself or Keith. Keith could tell that the prince was lost in his head; Seraphim was merely trotting along the path in front of him without any direction from his rider. The white stallion even slowed to a walk on his own at the start of the Digdogg Suspension Bridges.

 

The prince nudged Seraphim into a canter all the way back to the Castle, still not uttering a single word to Keith. Keith had never in his life wanted to say something more, but he wasn’t sure what to say to the prince. Surely, his pride was wounded from having to be saved from the clutches of the Yiga Clan, but, keeping him safe was Keith’s job. Perhaps something else was bothering him?

 

You just have to open your mouth… Say something…

 

When Keith finally worked up the courage to say something, he was too late; they were already at the front gates to the Castle, and soon, they’d be splitting off. The prince would surely head back to his room to be alone, and Keith figured he’d go down to the barracks or something to find a sparring partner.

 

“Well, I’ll take my leave of you now, sir knight.” Prince Lance said slowly, and offered a brief smile over his shoulder to Keith. “I don’t plan to leave my chambers for the next while, but I’ll send word for you if I decide to leave the Castle.”

 

After a moment, Keith merely nodded at the prince’s words.

 

Some courageous soul you are, Keith thought bitterly, and pulled Everest to a stop. It was obvious that the prince wanted to be left alone, so he’d give him that while they were on Castle grounds. He could tend to his horse later.

 


 

It was a week later when Keith finally heard from the prince again, from word of a servant girl who came with a message.

 

Keith was doing his usual sword drills against a standard practice dummy down in the guard’s quarters when a young kitchen girl, perhaps four or five years old, came to his side. She had long blonde hair, big green eyes, and a stained apron across her thin waist.

 

“Prince Lance w-wishes to leave the Castle, and in-in… Asks if you would meet him in his chambers wh-when you’re ready, sir.” The young girl stuttered out, before bowing stiffly and scurrying away.

 

Sir? Keith nearly scoffed. Since when did I become ‘sir’? “Wait!” he called, and ran after her. He skidded to a stop beside her, and knelt so he was eye level with her. “What’s your name?”

 

Her green eyes widened slightly, and she turned to face him, squaring her shoulders. “K-Keely, sir.”

 

“Well, that’s a lovely name, Keely.” Keith said softly, and offered her a small smile. “My name is Keith. And there’s no need for you to call me ‘sir’, y’know.”

 

She narrowed her eyes at him, seeming confused. “But, you’re a kn-knight now.” she said seriously, as if that statement alone meant everything.

 

“That’s true, I am…” Keith said slowly, and brushed his damp hair away from his sweaty forehead. “But I’m not of noble birth. I was born quite like you, I should think.”

 

She turned her head away, avoiding his gaze again. “My parents died when I was younger,” Keely admitted sadly, and twisted her small hands in her apron.

 

Keith’s heart went out to the girl. He knew exactly how hard it was to be in the Castle and be completely alone, especially at her age. “So did mine.” he murmured.

 

Her head snapped up at his quiet words, and her mouth opened in a small shocked ‘o’. She looked so surprised that he was of a similar situation that she was now in; orphans in the land of Hyrule were few and far between, and certainly never at the Castle. Somebody, presumably the lady of the kitchen, probably found her and took her in.

 

In a split second, he’d come to a decision. “Keely, if you ever need anything, either help, or someone to talk to, come find me. I can’t promise I’ll be here at a moment’s notice, but,” Keith brought his empty hand to clasp her shoulder lightly. “I’m here for you, okay?”

 

The grin she gave him was worth any hesitation he may have had. “Okay!” she exclaimed, and wrapped her tiny hands around his arm, giving a squeeze. “Bye, Keith!” she said, and scurried back off the way she came.

 

He stood back up with a smile on his face. He may not be able to do much for the girl, but he hoped he could. He knew better than anyone how hard it was for someone her age to have no blood relatives to surround yourself with, especially in a place such as the Castle.

 

He wiped the sweat that had accumulated on his brow with the back of his hand as he walked over to the chair that housed his items, and sheathed the Master Sword. He quickly threw his blue Champion’s tunic over his head and adjusted his many straps over his body again before setting out for the Prince’s chambers.

 

The Guards’ Chamber was a good distance below the base of the Castle, and directly south of Prince Lance’s rooms, so Keith made sure to move quickly to arrive in good time. He didn’t want to keep the prince waiting incase he was eager to leave the Castle.

 

As he made his way up the stairs towards the prince’s rooms, he could see Prince Lance walking across the walkway from his study to space above his bedchamber. He appeared agitated, and was fiddling with the bottom edge of his blue Champion’s tunic nervously, as if he was trying to distract himself. He didn’t even see Keith until he descended down the spiral stairwell that lead from the walkway down into his bedchamber, as Keith leaned against the doorframe looking into the room.

 

“Oh, good, you’re here.” His highness exclaimed, and clapped his gloved hands together. “I wish to go up to the Great Plateau, to the Temple of Time and the other temples there. Do you have everything packed for a day’s journey?” He asked.

 

Keith merely nodded. The Great Plateau? That was one of the few places in Hyrule that Keith had never been to. It was considered sacred ground, as it was raised above the surrounding area and housed many sacred sites used for royal rituals and such. A mere orphan like himself would never be permitted there.

 

“Good, we’ll set out immediately then. No sense wasting daylight here when we could be heading to our destination…” Prince Lance said lowly, distractedly, and set about packing up the few things he’d need for the journey.

 

As the prince made his way to his desk, Keith stepped further into the room to do a final check. He saw a bow and quiver on the four poster bed, the same bow that the prince had him clean a few days ago in the desert. So he grabbed it carefully, and walked back over to the prince, offering it to him silently.

 

He glanced up, shocked to see his knight offering him his weapon. “Oh, thank you.”

 

Keith nodded, and stepped back to give the prince some space.

 

After he packed a few small items into his bag, the prince turned back to Keith with a determined look on his face. “Okay, ready to head out?”

 


 

They made good time down to the Great Plateau, and arrived at the massive doorway leading up onto the plateau as the sun was nearing the horizon.

 

Keith couldn’t help but be awed at the sight before him.

 

The path leading up into the Great Plateau was magnificent, bordered by large columns that practically touched the sky. There seemed to be a thousand stairs curling up the incline towards the four temples housed at the centre of the plateau, surrounded by lush trees and beautiful wildflowers.

 

The Temple of Time was the largest, and could be seen from the large doorway at the entrance to the plateau. And arranged at triangular points in front of the Temple of Time, descending down the hill, were three smaller temples dedicated to each of the three golden goddesses.

 

The prince stopped his mount at the base of the stairs that split off towards the Temple of Courage and the Temple of Wisdom, leaving Seraphim to graze in the luscious grass off to the side.

 

Keith wasn’t exactly sure what to do with himself. Was he, an orphaned commoner, allowed to enter the sacred shrines? He didn’t even know if he should ask, so he remained atop Everest and awaited the prince’s words.

 

He didn’t have to wait long. “Keith? Are you coming?” his charge called from the entrance of the Temple of Courage. Upon seeing his knight’s hesitation, he added “You’re historically the bearer of the Triforce of Courage, so you should at least visit this temple.”

 

Keith dismounted slowly, and approached the front of the temple cautiously.

 

As it is on the triforce, the Temple of Courage was located at the bottom right corner of the triangle, and towered over all that entered it. The doorway was easily four times Keith’s height, and the height of the temple was at least double that, leaving Keith feeling small and completely in awe of its’ enormity. The prince had already shouldered one of the large oak doors in, but Keith couldn’t help but be shocked that he could do it; the doors were massive and heavy-looking. The temple was encircled completely in tall windows, tapering into a crisp point at the top, with beautiful gold trimmed panels of glass. There was ivy trailing up the columns in between some of the windows, even up towards the steep roof. From what Keith could see through the open doorway from his position, the temple used natural light to light the interior; the inside of the temple was bathed in a warm orange glow.

 

Prince Lance was kneeling at the base of the steps leading up to the altar when Keith finally worked up the courage to step inside. He was kneeling between two pillars that housed small statues of winged Lions bowing inwards. Just before the steps, and just behind Lance’s kneeling form, was a large symbol inlaid in the marble of Farore’s symbol of courage. It looked like a circular moon being protected by two crescent moons, with the circle facing the far left portion of the emblem. It was housed in a similar design as the one found at the Sacred Grounds just south of Castletown; royal filigree and flowers encircled the symbol, and arrows pointed to each cardinal direction. The interior of the temple was not large in relation to the floor space, but merely in its staggering height. There only really seemed to be enough room for the two of them in front of the altar, but Keith knew that it could probably hold ten people comfortably. He also couldn’t help but wonder how long ago these temples were built. Either way, they appeared to be built to last.

 

Suddenly, Prince Lance stood up and walked up the few short steps to stand in front of the altar, which only housed a small rectangular wooden table. He fished around in his pocket for a moment, before pulling out a small green figurine to place on the center of the table. Keith didn’t get a good enough look at it to decide what it was, but it had a long yellow horn protruding from its head.

 

The prince turned back to face Keith, and offered him a small smile. “See? It’s not so bad coming in here, is it?”

 

Keith merely nodded. He didn’t think it wise to tell the prince that he didn’t think he was truly worthy enough to enter this sacred place.

 

“Alright, onto the next one!” the prince exclaimed, and bounced past him to the outside.

 

But as Prince Lance brushed past him, Keith could’ve sworn the air crackled slightly with electricity. He whipped his head back towards the altar, but saw nothing unusual there, save the small figurine that the prince had placed there.

 

But the prince was already halfway to the next temple, so Keith made a hasty exit to follow him.

 

The Temple of Wisdom was adjacent to the Temple of Courage, at the bottom left portion of the triangle the three smaller temples created. It appeared to be of nearly the exact same likeness as the Temple of Courage, except that the emblem inlaid on the floor was Nayru’s symbol of wisdom rather than Farore’s of courage. The symbol had three large dots in a triangular formation, and each was wrapped up in a crescent moon shape that opened outwards, similarly to Farore’s symbol. The only other difference between the Temple of Courage and the Temple of Wisdom was that the latter was on higher ground than the other, resting on top of a small hill.

 

The prince, again, knelt and prayed at the base of the steps leading up to the small altar in the Temple of Wisdom. He seemed to spend more time praying in this temple than the other, but that could’ve just been Keith’s imagination. In the previous temple, he had been more interested in surveying the architecture and the sheer size of it, whilst in here, it was nearly an exact copy of its’ sister temple. Keith stayed in the doorway, and tried to keep still, in case he disrupted the prince’s prayers. But truthfully, he wasn’t sure what to do with himself; nobody ever came up to the Great Plateau, only ever members of the royal family or high ranking nobility, but even that was rare. Perhaps that was why the prince wanted to come up here; it was very unlikely that anybody would find them here.

 

Once the prince was done praying, he stepped up the steps and placed a small blue figurine on the table there. Keith was able to see that it was of a blue dragon, its head and tail encircled in pale blue icicles. It almost appeared to be spiralling upwards towards the sky, as its tail was secured to the wooden base. It wasn’t very large, Keith could have easily fit it in the palm of his hand, but it felt almost powerful, in its tiny insignificance. A sudden chill seemed to overtake the interior of the temple, but the prince was quick to step around him and step outside, so Keith followed suit.

 

Without saying a word, the prince made his way around to the side of the temple to follow the stairs towards the final of the three; the Temple of Power.

 

It, again, was approximately the same size as its sister temples, but it stood on the highest ground, only second to the Temple of Time above them all. Inside, there was a torch burning in the corner, which Keith found odd, but didn’t comment on. The prince, again, knelt at the base of the stairs, clasped his hands together, and prayed for a time, being watched by the Lions that stood on either side of him. Keith stopped a step or two into the temple, but stayed a few paces back from the prince.

 

The symbol of Din’s power looked nearly like the stylized waves that Keith had seen on historical tapestries out in Lurelin Village. There were three curved lines, none bigger than the other, but the waves on the top and bottom had a circle attached to opposing ends, in nearly exact likeness to Farore and Nayru’s symbols. All of the symbols seemed to have a piece of the others displayed in them, unifying them. Keith was pondering the meaning behind that when the prince stood up hastily, and nearly tripped over his own feet.

 

Keith quickly reached out to grab the prince’s arm, to steady him, but the prince was just as quick to pull away and rush up the steps. He straightened his tunic shakily, before he reached into his pocket to pull out a third small statue; a red dragon this time, flames curling around his head and down his back elegantly. Keith could’ve sworn that he felt a sudden heat explode through the air, but quickly dismissed it. He was probably imagining things now.

 

His highness was quick to exit the temple and skirt around it to the stairs that led up to the final of the temples; the Temple of Time.

 

Keith nearly tripped up the stairs eying the enormity of the Temple of Time. And here he’d thought that the other three temples were large. The Temple of Time made them look like toys in it’s sheer size, from it’s position at the top of the hill. In the fading daylight, it’s shadow loomed down the hill, over all three smaller temples below it.

 

The Temple of Time had three large tower-like structures at its front, the middle being the largest, which housed the standard large oak doors that each temple had. The building sat in the middle of a large, rectangular courtyard, only exiting to the stairs leading up the hill, and a path that lead west, towards a large archway further up the hill, into a snowy region.

 

There was… So much to see in the Temple of Time. It was so visually appealing that Keith couldn’t even begin to see the entirety of it. He felt as though he was in pure awe of it. Was that how everybody felt walking up to its’ front doors?

 

The large symbol of the triforce over the massive doors seemed to glow in the setting sun. But what caught Keith’s eye the most was the large statue housed inside the temple.

 

Prince Lance was, once again, kneeling at the base of the stairs leading up to the altar. But this time, the altar did not house a table like the others had; a magnificent statue of the Goddess Hylia stood proudly in the middle, and was guarded by six smaller winged statues. The gigantic statue in the middle almost seemed to glow in an otherworldly light, and silhouetted the prince wonderfully in the late hour.

 

Keith shook his head, and crossed his arms over his chest defensively. He was just here to guard his back, at the king’s request. Nothing more.

 

He could only wish his heart would get the memo.

 

Before meeting the prince, Keith had certainly heard of his beauty. He’d heard equally from both men and women just how much of a vision the dark skinned, blue eyed son of the king was, and especially so on his white stallion’s back. He’d heard of the prince’s charming charisma, and how he seemed to brighten any room he was in.

 

Well, Keith certainly believed that.

 

As Prince Lance knelt between the two bowing winged Lions at the base of the steps, Keith took a good moment to look at him. How his brunette hair, only a little bit darker than his skin, seemed to glow softly in the light of the fading sun. How wide his shoulders looked in the blue tunic he wore, and how tightly it cinched at his waist. And especially how bright he knew the prince’s blue eyes shone when he was excited about something.

 

The blue eyes in question were shut loosely while Lance’s hands were clasped in front of his chest. His right hand was wrapped in a loose fist, while his left palm covered the tops of his fingers on his right hand. It looked like an odd way to pray, but what did Keith know? He’d never prayed a day of his life, and that was the prince’s duty.

 

Sometimes, Keith heard a few muttered words leave the prince’s lips, never loudly enough to be heard, but louder than the other words surely flowing through his mind. Keith didn’t catch what any of the words were, but they held a sad tone to them, almost as though he was pleading. But what for?

 

The sun had set by the time the prince stood up again. He didn’t have any more figurines to place on the altar, but there was also no room to put anything, with the goddess statues there. The largest statue of them all stood five or six times the prince’s height, easily towering over him, but Lance still stood tall in its’ presence. It made Keith a little envious, that he was confident enough in himself to do that. Or, perhaps that his path had been laid out for him since he was a child. Keith wasn’t sure what to make of those feelings.

 

It took Keith a moment to notice that the prince’s blue eyes were staring at him, almost as though he was expecting an answer. “What?” Keith asked, and rubbed at his thumbs nervously.

 

The prince merely shook his head and repeated what he’d said; “I said that since it’s late, we may as well stay up here for the night.”

 

Keith could only nod. He wasn’t sure where they could sleep that would meet the prince’s standards… Had he ever slept on the ground? But the prince surely knew what he was doing; he knew the plateau better certainly better than Keith did.

 

“Alright, then, sir knight. There’s an old shack not too far from here that we could take over for the night.” Prince Lance said casually, and lead the way out of the Temple. “It’s small, but I won’t need you to guard over me; nobody ever comes up here.”

 

“Is that why you wanted to come here, your highness?” Keith asked suddenly, then clamped a hand over his mouth. Stupid, stupid, talking to your charge like that--

 

The prince broke out laughing, stuttering to a stop, and glanced over his shoulder back to his knight. “Wow, so he finally starts asking the real questions, huh? I thought you’d never ask to get personal.”

 

“Why wouldn’t I, sir?”

 

“Wow, okay, first off, when it’s just the two of us, you may as well drop all titles. ‘Lance’ is fine, especially in our situation.” he started counting off with his long fingers. “Second of all, because you’ve hardly said anything directly to me? Until a few days ago, you’d literally told me your name. What’s up with that?” he paused, and pointed to a third raised finger, “And third, yes, I wanted to get away from the castle, is that such a crime?”

 

Keith could only blink and nod his head dumbly at the prince’s flow of words. He’d known the prince to be a passionate person, but never directed towards him. “Oh, uh, okay L-Lance.”

 

Lance smiled, seeming pleased with Keith’s answer. “Alright then, let’s carry on to the shack. There’s a good old cooking pot there we can use, if we can find some meat along the way. C’mon!”

 

Lance carried on ahead of Keith with an almost skip in his step. He was quick to make it down the miles of stairs all the way to the bottom of the hill where they left their horses to graze. He was even already seated on Seraphim before Keith made it to the bottom of the stairs. “Hurry up, slowpoke! Or I’ll leave you behind!”

 

Keith merely nodded dumbly at Lance’s words. So Lance was eager to get away from the Castle. But what for? Did it have to do with his father? Or was Keith missing something else entirely? He let the thoughts roll around in his mind as he jumped up onto Everest’s saddled back, and nudged him to follow the prince’s mount.

 

Lance led them around a large fountain in the courtyard just off of the stairs, across a large grassy plain towards the southeast side of the plateau. The fading light from the sun cast the land around them into pinks and lilacs, filled with calming shadows and a soft breeze. Keith nearly wished he’d come up to the plateau sooner, but he knew exactly why he didn’t.

 

Suddenly, Lance pulled Seraphim to an abrupt stop and held up a hand to stop Keith. As Keith pulled Everest to a stop, Lance pulled his bow off of his back and knocked an arrow to it. He barely let it settle before he let it whistle off through the air, just to the side of a tree.

 

A startled shriek sounded off, immediately followed by a soft thunk.

 

Lance grinned triumphantly, before spurring Seraphim forwards into a trot towards where he let his arrow loose.

 

Lance was just hopping off of his horse when Keith pulled up with Everest. He quickly pulled the arrow from the bird’s neck, and stood up, holding the catch up by its feet triumphantly. “Sweet, supper. Think this’ll be enough for the both of us?” Lance asked.

 

Keith could only nod. It was one of the biggest wood pigeons he’d ever seen, but that was probably because nobody hunted up here on the isolated plateau. It was easily more than enough for the both of them for the evening.

 

“Perfect! I’m sure there are some various shrooms around as well that we can pick.” Lance stepped over to Everest’s side to pass the bird up to Keith. “We’re almost at the shack now, do you see it?” he pointed over towards an area littered with various trees.

 

It took Keith a moment, but finally, he did see it. It was made of a base of rocks, but consisted mainly of long logs of wood. The roof was only some sort of cloth draped over the support beams, but it looked sturdy enough to keep any rainwater out. And it appeared to be built against a large rock, perhaps for stability in wind? It certainly wasn’t something Keith expected to see up on this sacred ground, looking as shabby and run-down as it was… But it certainly wasn’t the attraction people came up to the Great Plateau to see.

 

Sure enough, there was an old cooking pot sitting outside the shack, near an old fallen log, and an unlit torch nestled under the overhang of the shack.

 

Lance was quick to hop off of Seraphim and start un-tacking him. “So, I think there’s an old axe in the shack, do you mind cutting up some firewood for the night?” he asked, while pulling the stirrup leather loose. “I’ll take care of your horse, if you want.”

 

Keith hopped down from Everest’s back, and pulled the reins over his head. “Oh, uh, sure.” he replied slowly, and passed the reins over to Lance. “His name’s Everest, by the way.” He then made his way into the old shack to place the pigeon down and find the axe that Lance mentioned.

 

There wasn’t much in the shack, except for a bed tucked away in the corner, a small table in the centre of the room with small wooden stools standing at either end, and a long, low table in another corner. There were also some old barrels, presumably housing some dried meat or something, but they already had food for the night. May as well save it for someone else who needs it.

 

The axe that Lance mentioned was on the floor, tucked underneath the smaller prep table in the corner. Keith quickly fished it out and swung it up and over his shoulder as he made his way out of the shack to cut down a tree.

 

There were plenty to choose from, but Keith wasn’t keen on chopping down a new tree. Fortunately, there were a few older ones near the cliff at the edge of the plateau that he could drop without feeling too guilty.

 

The axe’s metal against ancient cedar wood echoed across the plain, and the scent of cedar leaves and sap filled Keith’s nostrils. There was no scent like this by the castle, and it reminded him of the woods out in the Tabantha region. It was a simple task, gathering wood for a fire, but there was a simple joy in dropping a tree to keep both he and his charge warm through the night.

 

Keith made quick work of chopping the trunk of the tree into more manageable logs, and carried them all back to the shack as quickly as possible. When he finally dusted off his hands beside the cooking pot, Lance was working to start a fire with a piece of flint. He’d already untacked both Seraphim and Everest, and left them to graze freely nearby, and had even gathered some common Hylian Shrooms and green-topped shrooms that Keith didn’t recognize.

 

“I hope you’re hungry; I think I gathered enough shrooms here to last us a couple of days.” Lance said casually once he got the fire under the cooking pot going. “I, uh, I’ll be honest, I can’t cook all that well.”

 

Keith couldn’t help but chuckle at the prince’s admission. He wasn’t exactly shocked that a prince of Hyrule could not cook for himself. But, truth be told, Keith was pretty hungry. He’d only eaten a small breakfast before training this morning, and not a bite since. “Here,” he made a grabbing motion for the pigeon beside Lance.

 

Lance was quick to pass the bird off to Keith with a curious expression on his face.

 

He started by pulling all of the feathers off of the bird, before severing its neck from its body with a quick pull. “How should we cook it?”

 

“You’re the cook, I’m down for whatever!” Lance quickly stated, and waved a hand about. “I’m not fussy.”

 

With a nod, Keith passed the bird back to Lance before grabbing a spare couple of logs, and setting them aside to set them ablaze.

 

Lance’s confusion was immediately clear; his eyes were narrowed slightly, and his lips were pursed as if he was trying to figure out what Keith was doing on his own.

 

“It’ll take too long to cook that bird in the cooking pot. So, we’ll roast the bird, then cook the shrooms separately in the pot there.” he said as explanation, and started looking around for a suitable stick to spear the bird with.

 

The prince stood up suddenly, and scampered off to the side. Keith watched him go, wondering where he was going off to suddenly. But his questions were answered when Lance bent over and retrieved a good looking stick from the ground, and spearing the bird through its chest in the same motion.

 

He didn’t even hand it back to Keith, just stepped around his body and stuck the stick into the ground near the fire. With a nod when the stick didn’t immediately topple over, he stepped back and plopped down beside Keith. “So,” Lance began, and turned to face Keith squarely. “Now that you seem more eager to talk, why don’t we?”

 

Keith’s eyes widened, but he nodded slightly at the prince’s request.

 

“Alright then! So, tell me about yourself.”

 

What is there to say? “I, uh…” Keith said intelligently, and turned away from the prince’s prying gaze. “I’m not sure what you want to know.”

 

“Hmm,” Lance mused, and cocked his head to the side, thinking. “Well, while we’re waiting for this bird to cook, tell me how you came to the castle. My father mentioned that you were training to be a knight.”

 

“That’s right…” Keith affirmed slowly.

 

Lance appeared much too eager. “How long have you been at the castle? I’ve never really seen you before, and I used to spend a lot of time down in the soldier’s chambers and the training grounds there.”

 

“Well, I spent most of my time out of the castle, training in the garrisons and what-not.” Keith paused, and took a deep breath. “I wasn’t very fond of the castle, and because of who my parents were, the other officers didn’t trust me at the castle unsupervised.”

 

“Wait, what do you mean? Who are your parents?” Lance asked. “Were they convicts? I remember Hunk saying something about it on your knighting day.”

 

“Not… Exactly,” Keith bit his lip, and stared firmly at the ground in front of him. “They were members of the Yiga Clan.”

 

Lance gasped beside him, and Keith flinched. Well, how’d you think he was gonna take that, dummy? “Wait, they’re part of the organization that worships Ganon?”

 

Keith nodded slowly, and glanced over at Lance out of the corner of his eye. Lance had a hand held protectively over his chest, and he looked extremely apprehensive. “Yes, they were a part of that organization, an organization also dedicated to wiping out any who oppose him. Specifically, you, sir.”

 

A hand reached out to grasp his shoulder, and Keith nearly jumped from his own skin. “An organization dedicated to wiping us out, Keith. You’re the man with the soul of the hero, which means they wouldn’t hesitate to kill you, either.”

 

Keith’s eyes widened at the prince’s words. He hadn’t really thought of it like that. It’s not like they knew they were harbouring the soul of the hero when he was still a part of their clan, but it was still a shock that it was true. If Keith had stayed, there’s no telling what would have happened when he found out. If he found out.

 

“Wait…” Lance whispered, and leaned into Keith’s space, trying to get a look at his face. “Aren’t you the boy the army brought back after they ambushed the Yiga Clan? I remember reading in a report that they brought a Hylian boy back with them.”

 

Keith ducked his head, closing his eyes tightly. He didn’t remember much of that day, but he’d had nightmares about it for years as a child. It was how he got so much training time in, and how he improved so quickly; nightmares give you a lot more time to do things other than sleeping.

 

“Oh, Keith, I’m sorry… I-I didn’t mean to--”

 

“It’s fine,” Keith interrupted, lifting his gaze to meet the prince’s. “It was a long time ago, and you’re right; they would’ve killed me if they’d known I was the hero of legend. Besides, they’ve probably forgotten about me, anyways.” he said lowly, bitterly.

 

Lance looked like he wanted to say something else, but appeared unsure of what to say. He bit at his lip, and shuffled back out of Keith’s immediate space.

 

It was quiet around them for the next little while, neither of them saying a word. Keith was more comfortable in the silence; he could sense everything around them that way. The fire’s dangerous tendrils licking along the damp wood, the birds chirping in the distance, their horses as they shuffled around to graze… The smell of damp decay, mixed with the delicious smell of cooking meat… It was wonderfully alive, yet quiet. This is where Keith thrived.

 

Lance, on the other hand, only appeared to be sated for a few short minutes. He kept shifting in his seat, moving from a curled up position to leaning back, to letting his legs splay out in front of him, even to stretch hugely. Keith wasn’t sure how he could move around so much.

 

“Do you think the bird is cooked?” Lance asked suddenly, pulling Keith from his mind’s wanderings.

 

Damn, gotta stay outta my head…  He quickly glanced over to the bird and saw that it was, indeed, a satisfying brown colour, definitely cooked. He stood up and walked around Lance to pull the stick from the ground, and inspecting it. Deeming it cooked, he nodded down to the prince, who stood up and threw a few of the shrooms he collected into the cooking pot.

 

“These won’t take long to cook, and then we can just split everything. Sound good?”

 

Keith nodded, and made his way into the shack to place the bird on the table. Well, it wasn’t a proper dinner like the prince was probably used to, but up here, they could only make do with what they had.

 

He pulled the stick out of the bird, and set back outside. Glancing at the torch, he decided to use the stick to light the torch outside the shack before disposing of it.

 

“Oh, good idea.” Lance commented once the torch was lit. “Then we don’t have to worry about keeping the fire up all night.”

 

As soon as Lance pulled the shrooms off of the cooking pot a few minutes later, it started to rain. It almost seemed like nature was waiting for the pair to be finished cooking before ushering them out of the rain.

 

“Huh, guess this was perfect timing, then?” the prince said thoughtfully as he placed the cooked shrooms on the small table top.

 

Keith could only nod distractedly as he gazed upon the food on the table. He was absolutely ravenous , suddenly taking in the heavenly scent that was hot cooked food. He instantly reached for a roasted Hylian shroom, uncaring of how hot it was between his fingertips, and took a large bite out of it.

 

Lance let out a startled giggle at Keith’s actions. “Wow, you must be hungry if you’re not even willing to let it cool.”

 

“It’s good food,” Keith choked out as soon as he swallowed, and eyed up at the prince critically. “No sense letting good food like this get cold.”

 

“No indeed.” Lance murmured, and picked up a small shroom between his index finger and thumb, blowing on it idly.

 

Neither of them said anything more as they ate, but Keith could feel the prince’s gaze flickering all over his face as he chewed. He wasn’t sure if Lance wanted to say something more, or if he was just unsure if he could talk after their earlier conversation. Either way, Keith was content in the relative silence; there wasn’t a lot of it at the Castle. These quiet moments were only ever truly experienced out here, in the wild.

 

They ended up splitting the bird rather evenly, and what they ate of the shrooms, Keith was sure he had a few more. They ended up having a few saved for their future travels, wherever that may take them. Keith wasn’t sure how long they’d spend up on the plateau, in isolation. He assumed that it was up to the prince to decide; Keith certainly had nowhere pressing to be.

 

Keith finally glanced up at Lance again when he yawned. Lance’s cheeks flushed at the sudden attention, and he swiftly covered his mouth. “S-sorry. Guess the day’s caught up to me.” he murmured, and dropped his gaze to the tabletop sheepishly.

 

“It’s fine. I’m sure you’ve had a long day,” Keith replied lowly. In all honesty, he was unsure of what the prince’s schedule consisted of, or even when it started. Did Prince Lance sleep the day away? Or did he always rise with the sun, with a list of things-to-do daily?

 

Lance merely hummed, and stood up from his spot at the other end of the table. “Yeah, I guess…” He clasped his hands together and stretched his arms out above his head, eying the bed in the corner warily. “So… How’s that gonna work?”

 

Keith glanced behind him, towards the small bed Lance was indicating to. It was certainly smaller than the prince’s usual bed, but Keith was sure that he’d survive for the night. But it certainly wouldn’t fit the both of them, even if Keith scarcely entertained the thought of sharing a bed with the prince. But that certainly wouldn’t happen. Keith was, well, Keith, and Prince Lance was his charge, along with royalty. Lance’s answer should’ve been simple.

 

“I’ll take the floor, over on that straw.” Keith dipped his head over towards the opposite corner, where the barrels were. “You take the bed.”

 

Lance’s eyes widened slightly, before he narrowed them down at Keith. “That’s not really fair, Keith--”

 

“How isn’t it, your highness?” he made sure to enunciate Lance’s title as he stood, and stared across the table at him seriously. “You’re the prince, and I am your knight. I’ll take the floor.” Keith said determinedly, leaving no room for argument.

 

Lance narrowed his eyes at his knight for a few moments, but he quickly saw that Keith wouldn't budge. With a sigh, he relented: “Fine.”

 

Keith covered his smile by turning his back on Lance to make his way over to his sleeping quarters for the night. The barrels could be moved easily enough, and the straw would be more comfortable than other surfaces Keith has slept on. He could hear Lance moving around behind him, presumably getting his sleeping area ready, but left him to his own devices.

 

He took his time moving the barrels up against the side wall, lining the three of them up as close as they could be. They were certainly heavier than they looked; perhaps there was items other than food in them? But what?

 

“Are you sure you’ll be comfortable on the floor, Keith?” Lance asked slowly, glancing back at him over his shoulder. He had his arms crossed across his body, and grasped the bottom of his tunic loosely before continuing: “There’s not a lot of, well, cushion there.”

 

“I’ll be fine, Lance.” Keith said softly, with a slight chuckle. “Honestly. I’ve slept on worse than a bed of straw in my time.”

 

Lance merely hummed, disagreeing, before pulling his tunic up and off of his body. “Well, if you’re sure.”

 

Keith turned back to his own sleeping space quickly, tearing his gaze away from the prince’s back. “What’s the plan for tomorrow?”

 

The prince was silent for a few moments, the only noise he made was a bit of shifting as he pulled his boots off of his feet. “Well,” Lance mused, and pulled the covers back to settle under them, “We should head back to the Castle for a day or so. But as for after that, I haven’t decided yet.”

 

With a quiet nod, Keith set about untying all of the straps on his body, placing everything beside where he would sleep for the night. He opted to keep his tunic on, as the shack was not properly insulated to keep out the chill from the night. He had a blanket tied behind Everest’s saddle if he needed it, but he was sure that once he settled, he wouldn’t need it.

 

“Goodnight, sir knight.” Lance mumbled, and rolled over so his back was to Keith.

 

“Goodnight, your highness.” Keith replied lowly, and settled down into his space for the night.

 


 

The morning came swiftly for them, with the sun peeking in through the cracks in the shack and the birds waking with the sun. Keith was the first to rise, and was quick to pack up everything before the prince woke. He even tacked up the horses before Prince Lance stumbled out from the shack.

 

“Oh, good morning, Lance.” Keith said with a slight smile at the prince’s dishevelled appearance. “Not a morning person, are you?”

 

Lance merely waved him off, and covered a yawn behind his hand. “Yeah yeah, you caught me.” he muttered out, and stretched his arms above his head with an appreciative groan. “Well, if you’ve got our horses tacked up, we should head back.”

 

With a brief nod, Keith passed Seraphim’s reins over to Lance before hopping up into Everest’s saddle. “Lead the way.”

 

As soon as Lance hopped up onto Seraphim’s back, he nudged him forwards into a slow walk back towards the entrance to the plateau.

 

Everything was quietly alive around them, from the soft clop their horses’ shoed feet made upon the grass, to the birds singing in the early morning chill. The long grass whistled its own tune around the horses’ legs as the soft breeze picked up, and ruffled Keith’s hair. The air was still a little brisk without the sun fully warming it yet, but Keith loved it. Even if he was born in the desert, he still loved the smell of dew billowing in the early morning breeze.

 

Lance was silent outside of the occasional yawn and sniffle as he tried to wake up more. Keith couldn’t help but smile slightly at the sight of the dishevelled prince; it certainly wasn’t a sight many people got to see. Lance looked younger and more carefree in his grogginess. He wasn’t as weighed down by his daily responsibilities; he was still able to live under the assumption that he was just him, not the prince who had a crucial responsibility to his father’s kingdom.

 

It wasn’t until their horses exited the large doorway leading into the plateau that Lance spoke up again: “Do you mind if we dismount for a bit? I want to check something with the Sheikah Slate up by Lake Kolomo.” He asked, turning back in his saddle to look at Keith. His eyes even seemed to sparkle slightly at the idea.

 

Keith merely nodded at the prince’s request. He was rendered slightly speechless at the sudden exuberance the prince showcased. And he was also not one to tell the prince what to do; if he wanted to stop by Lake Kolomo, Keith was not one to stop him.

 

With a small smile, Prince Lance dug his heels into Seraphim’s sides to spur him into a brisk canter towards their destination.

 

As soon as the road cut west, out towards the path leading to the Gerudo Desert, Lance steered Seraphim to follow the path until it split off again, towards the north. This path, Keith knew, was the one that split off into a footpath towards the side of Lake Kolomo.

 

Just to the east of the mountain housing the Coliseum, Lance slowed Seraphim back down to a trot until that road split off into the small footpath. He pulled his mount to a stop just to the side of the road, and dismounted, leaving Seraphim to graze freely while he started walking towards the lake.

 

He pulled the tablet, the Sheikah Slate, off of its holder on his hip as he walked. “From here, we’ll make our way to Goron City.” Lance announced, walking ahead of Keith, not even waiting for him to dismount. “Then, we’ll need to make some adjustments on that Divine Beast so Hunk can manage it as easily as possible. He’s figured out how to get it to move… However, it’s apparent that we still have much more to learn.” He mused.

 

Keith merely followed along a few steps behind. He wasn’t exactly sure what the prince was talking about… Didn’t his father say that he wanted his son to stay away from the ancient technology?

 

“To think, that Divine Beast was actually built by people…” Lance said reverently, gazing at the device in his hands. “That means we should be able to understand how it works, and how to use it to our advantage.” As they neared the edge of the water, Lance pulled the tablet up in front of his face, clicking on the screen a few times. Keith could see from his spot behind the prince that the scene in front of them was somehow drawn onto the screen, in perfect likeness and colour.

 

What limits did the Sheikah people have when they created all this technology?

 

“These Divine Beasts… So much we don’t know…” Lance said slowly, and lowered the Sheikah Slate to his middle. “But, if we want to turn back the Calamity, they're our best hope.”

 

The prince turned back to face his knight suddenly, the excited gleam in his eyes still visible. Maybe he is only ever truly happy when researching the ancient technology? Keith thought hesitantly.

 

Suddenly, Prince Lance’s face fell at seeing something over Keith’s shoulder. “Tell me the truth…” he murmured, as if talking any louder would shatter everything around him. He placed the Sheikah Slate back into its holster on his hip before continuing: “How proficient are you right now, wielding that sword on your back?”

 

Keith nearly stumbled back at the sincerity of the question, and the implications it had on his status as the new Champion.

 

“Legend says that an ancient voice resonates inside it.” Lance carried on, oblivious to the inner turmoil his question caused. “Can you hear it yet… Hero?”

 

Keith glanced to the ground, suddenly perfectly aware of how heavy the Master Sword sat in its sheath on his back. In truth, he’d heard nothing from the legendary sword, except the slight ring it cast when he pulled it out of its sheath and cut through the air.

 

“…No, I cannot.” Keith admitted slowly, and glanced up through his bangs to see the prince’s reaction.

 

Prince Lance bit his lip and nodded slightly, as if he knew this was the case. “I see… Well, don’t dwell on it, dear knight! I was merely wondering.” He said, and brushed past him, heading back to his own mount.

 

About halfway there, he paused again, keeping his back to Keith. “You… You don’t plan to tell my father, do you? That I’m still researching the ancient technology?”

 

“Of course not.” Keith immediately replied. He was almost shocked in himself that he was able to answer that so quickly, so truthfully. Even though he hadn’t truly known the prince for that long, he knew that Lance was an honest man. “It makes you happy.”

 

Lance spun around to face Keith again, and grinned brightly at him. “It does, it really does. It’s all so fascinating, isn’t it? Look at what the Sheikah people were able to accomplish ten thousand years ago!” he exclaimed, and pulled the Sheikah Slate off his hip again. He tapped a few times on the screen, before turning it to face Keith.

 

It showcased the picture he just took of Lake Kolomo, with the old Kolomo Garrison ruins crumbling atop the hill at the center of the lake, and even the might of the Dueling Peaks in the far distance. It was able to capture the very image in their eyes on a tiny screen. Keith had to admit, it was truly remarkable.

 

“Can you imagine what they would have accomplished if they weren’t forced to stop?” Lance whispered, and pulled the slate back to face him. “I wonder, would Hyrule be the same?”

Chapter Text

7. Hunk's Mettle

 

It all started out with an offhand proposal.

 

Lance and Keith had just returned to the Castle, and were making their way down to Lance’s own chambers when his father, the King, stepped out of his own suite and intercepted them.

 

Lance forced a grin towards his father while Keith instantly took a step behind Lance and dropped to a knee with his head bowed. Alfor looked surprised to see them, but covered it quickly with what Lance liked to call his ‘work smile’. It was a smile that appeared genuine, but Lance had seen enough of the real ones when he was younger to know these were far from real.

 

“Son,” King Alfor said with a smile. He looked as though he was floundering for a moment, before saying “You’ve returned early,” slowly, and even a bit awkwardly.

 

“I don’t recall saying when I’d be back, father.” Lance said stiffly.

 

Alfor waved a hand haphazardly. “True… How was the trip?” he asked seriously.

 

Lance instantly knew what his father meant; if he’d unlocked his sealing powers. “About as expected, father.”

 

“Ah.” Alfor shifted his weight, and switched his gaze from Lance, down to the man kneeling at his side.

 

Keith was still kneeling, his gaze to the ground in front of his boots and his hair falling in front of his eyes. The underside of his arm was propped up against his raised knee, and his gaze never strayed from the floor in front of his boots.

 

“Sir knight,” King Alfor addressed, and stepped to the side so he was standing directly in front of Keith. “How goes your training?”

 

“Well, your majesty.” Keith said lowly, not raising his head even a fraction. “I’ve grown accustomed to the Master Sword’s weight in my palms. ...Again.”

 

Lance whipped his head to the side to stare down at his knight incredulously. Keith was encouraging his father’s idea that the same soul was the same person? But--

 

Why?

 

“I’m glad to hear that!” Alfor exclaimed, and clapped his hands together. The sound made Lance flinch as it echoed down the long stone hallway. “I think you could be ready for the Hylian Shield, then!”

 

If Lance hadn’t been looking directly at Keith, he probably would’ve missed the way Keith perked up at the king’s words; how his hand flexed slightly, his head perked up minutely, and how his lips twitched. If Lance didn’t know any better, he’d say Keith was excited.

 

But this was Keith, he didn’t get excited about weapons…

 

Did he?

 

“The Hylian Shield, sir?” Keith asked, keeping his voice perfectly neutral.

 

“Oh, well, yes! It is your shield, after all. However…” Alfor paused, and a tiny smirk momentarily took over his lips, “You’ll have to earn it.”

 

This time, Lance knew for certain that Keith smirked confidently.

 

“Who do I need to best?”

 


 

Things turned hectic around the Castle after that; Lance hardly saw his own knight while wandering around, and everyone seemed excited for the upcoming tournament at the coliseum.

 

Apparently, his father decided that for Keith to ‘earn’ the Hylian Shield, he had to defeat each of the Champions in combat. Shiro was tasked to disarm him in any means possible, and for Allura, Hunk, and Pidge to disarm him with their own weapons. And of course it would be a public event; how else would an event like this be done?

Lance was dreading it, honestly. Not that he lacked faith in his knight’s combat skills; he’d seen enough just from the way he held the Master Sword. Keith was obviously a skilled warrior, not just by means of who and what he was, but also by dedication to practicing with his weapons. It was obvious to Lance that he enjoyed what he did, but for what reason Lance couldn’t understand. How was fighting something enjoyable?

 

Lance looked everywhere for his knight; the guard’s quarters, his new room, the stables, quiet courtyards… He even asked the guards near the front gates if they had seen him. But nobody had seen Keith or his horse Everest since shortly after talking with the king. Lance had immediately retired to his room and promptly fell asleep on his beautiful bed, while Keith crept out to goddess-knows where.

 

That was thirteen days ago.

 

Now, the day of the challenge was here, and Keith was nowhere to be found.

 

Lance took his time getting ready for the event. He and his father would soon be embarking out on horseback to the event, and he knew he had to look the part of the crown prince of Hyrule.

 

As he straightened the collar on his Champion’s tunic, he thought back to how Keith took down the Yiga Clan soldier who tried to take his life. Keith had been absolutely ruthless, not hesitating in the slightest. He had appeared calm, and even seemed as though he was in perfect control of both himself and the entire situation. Was that not the first time he’d taken a life?

 

Lance was pulled from his thoughts when a soft knock sounded off of his bedroom door. Straightening up in his seat, he called “Come in!”

 

Both doors open slowly, and Shay’s rocky body entered Lance’s line of sight.

 

Shay was dressed comfortably in a fern green coloured wrap that came across her body, before winding around her waist and tying at her hip. Her medium length dark brown hair was pulled back away from her face to keep her wild curls out of her brown eyes, which practically shone with fondness down at Lance. Lance had known Shay for nearly as long as he’d known Hunk, and had known for quite some time that they were perfect for each other.

 

“Shay!” Lance exclaimed, and launched himself across the room at the only female Goron he was acquainted with. “Long time no see!! How are you?”

 

“I’m good, Lance!” she replied with a giggle, and patted him lightly on the back. “And you?”

 

“I’m good! But, what are you doing here?”

 

“I came down with Hunk to watch him fight the new Champion!” she explained, and ran a hand back through her hair. “Hunk’s told me that you aren’t fond of having a knight at your side… But it’s been awhile since we’ve seen you, has anything changed in that regard?”

 

Lance took a step back, and nodded slowly. “Well, at first, we didn’t really get along. Well… I can’t really say ‘we’; I didn’t give him much of a chance at first. But we’ve been getting along a lot better these days, especially since he opened his mouth and started talking to me.”

 

“Oh? Is he shy?”

 

“Not… Exactly--”

 

“Son!” King Alfor called down the hallway leading towards Lance’s bedchambers. “It’s nearly time to depart! Are you ready?”

 

“Just a minute, father!” Lance called back, peeking up and over Shay’s rocky shoulder to offer his father a hesitant smile. Dropping back down onto his heels, he looked back up at Shay and continued; “He’s just… Quiet. I think his new title and everything that comes with it is draining on him, not that I can blame him. It’s almost like he doesn’t want to crumble under the pressure? But I’m honestly not sure; he’s pretty tight lipped about his feelings.”

 

With a wry smile, Shay said “You two must get along great, then.”

 

Lance huffed, and swatted her arm with a shake of his head. “C’mon, Mrs. Hunk, we’ll be late if we don’t hurry.”

 


 

There was no fanfare as the king and his son entered the coliseum and took their places on the first floor, directly across from the entrance. His father’s personal guards carried a large box up, and placed it between Lance and his father’s seats ahead of them. Lance could only assume that it was the box that held Keith’s Hylian Shield; there was no other explanation, but it did seem rather large for just one piece of equipment. Other people were still filling up into the stands when Lance and his father took their seats, and excitement buzzed around the stadium. Nothing had been done like this in Lance’s short sixteen years of living in the glorious land of Hyrule, so obviously everyone was excited.

 

Especially where all six Champions were concerned.

 

There were four seats surrounding Lance and Alfor’s seats, one for each of the Champions who piloted the Divine Beasts. They would fill and empty as the event wore on, as Keith faced more of his opponents.

 

All four floors of the coliseum were swiftly filling with beings of all races to come watch the event. Zoras, Gorons, Hylians, Rito, and Gerudo… There had never before been an event where so many of every race were gathered in one place at a time. The sun was high in the sky, beating down on the centre of the arena and the top row of spectators. King Alfor stood and made his way over to chat with some of the other Hylian nobles who sat nearby, giving Lance some time to himself.

 

He could admit that he was a bit nervous. For Keith, obviously. Keith would be fighting four of the most skilled warriors the land of Hyrule had ever seen, all in the same day. Sure, he was only tasked to either disarm them or pin them down, but that was still a feat in itself. Lance was confident enough in Keith’s ability, but…

 

Could he really do this?

 

Hunk was the first of the Champions to arrive, and following closely behind was his wife, Shay. Hunk was dressed simply in his Champion’s tunic, but he wasn’t donning the orange headband today. Perhaps Shay finally convinced him not to wear it with his Champion’s garb at such a public event. Hunk offered his wife his own seat, directly beside Lance, and stood behind her with his hands on her shoulders. “Hey, Lance!” he exclaimed, and smiled over at him. “When do I fight again?”

 

“Third, I think? I know Pidge is last, and Shiro fights Keith first, but I’m a little fuzzy recalling which order you and ‘Lura fight him in.” Lance replied.

 

“Oooh, so we get to see how he fights before you go down there, Hunky.” Shay said softly to him, and covered Hunk’s hand on her shoulder with her own.

 

“You’re right…” Hunk agreed, and rubbed his chin thoughtfully with his free hand. He glanced over towards Lance, and said “We’ve never seen him fight.”

 

Lance sat forwards in his seat, and turned more to face the couple. “I have.”

 

Both Hunk and Shay turned to face him with wide eyes. “Wait, like, training, or?” Hunk asked slowly.

 

“No. I, uh,” Lance cleared his throat, and ducked his head to avoid their prying gazes. “I was attacked and didn’t have my bow… Ambushed by members of the Yiga Clan.” he said lowly.

 

Shay gasped, her hands flying to her mouth, while Hunk stiffened up and reached one hand back to grasp the hilt of his large weapon.

 

“Guys, it’s fine! I’m fine, nothing broken, no blood spilt.” he quickly affirmed, waving his hands about frantically.

 

The signature sound of Gerudo heels echoed across the walkway, and Lance glanced up to catch sight of Allura as she neared their seats. “Why would blood have been spilt?” Allura asked as she walked towards Shay’s side.

 

“Lance was attacked in the desert.” Hunk said lowly.

 

“Attacked?” Allura gasped, and quickly stepped over into Lance’s space. She bent to grasp his chin between her fingers, lifting his head up to check him over. “What happened?”

 

Guys,” Lance exclaimed, and swatted away Allura’s prying hands. “Keith was there and made sure nothing happened to me. He even took out one of their soldiers.”

 

A collective sigh of relief sounded from the others, but Allura still looked murderous. “Yiga Clan soldiers? Why didn’t you tell me before?” she demanded. Cocking her hip out and placing both hands on her hips, she narrowed her eyes down at Lance. “I could’ve helped Keith go out after those members who attacked you.”

 

“He never went after them.”

 

“What? Why not?”

 

Lance bit at his lip. “Because--”

 

Because he used to be a member of the Yiga Clan.” Pidge said lowly, eying up at Allura suspiciously from her spot on the other side of the King’s empty chair.

 

Lance whipped around to face her, shock surely plain as day on his face. “You knew that?” he questioned.

 

“I wondered,” Hunk murmured.

 

What?” Allura gasped, staring over at Pidge. She looked down at Lance again after a moment, her blue eyes wide. “You knew that, and still let him become your knight?” she loudly questioned.

 

“Blood doesn’t define anyone, Allura.” Pidge snapped, and stepped over to Allura’s side, glaring up at the Gerudo Chief. Her hands were balled into tight fists by her sides, and her blue Champion’s shawl practically trembled on her small frame in her anger. “Actions do. And look at what he’s done for Lance! He saved him. When members of his own clan, his supposed family attacked Lance, he made his decision. That means everything, don’t you think?”

 

“That’s enough, Pidge.” Keith said lowly, appearing just at the top of the ramp leading up to the first floor of seats. He appeared tired, at least with the topic of conversation, although Lance couldn’t figure out how he’d heard from his position still a ways away. He never paused as he walked towards the group with a slightly resigned look on his face.

 

Pidge spun to face him, shock evident on her delicate features. “But, Keith--”

 

“It’s fine, Pidgeon.” Keith said with a slight shake of his head. He stopped in his tracks a good few steps away from the throne, away from everyone else, and crossed his arms defensively over his chest. The way his arms were crossed, the large stylized symbol of the Master Sword on his chest practically disappeared. “I don’t blame the Gerudo Chief for her views of me; she has no reason to think otherwise, after what the Yiga Clan has done to her people.”

 

Exactly--” Allura seethed.


“But you haven’t done anything wrong!” Lance blurted out, staring across the space at his knight, begging him to understand. Keith’s gaze snapped over to meet Lance’s, and Lance nearly froze under Keith’s stare. Keith’s eyes were so violet, so unnaturally pretty, that Lance could almost feel him drowning in the intensity of it. “Keith hasn’t done any of those things.” he said slowly, not daring to tear his gaze away from Keith’s. “It’s like Pidge said; blood doesn’t define anyone, so…”

 

If Lance hadn’t been staring right at Keith, he probably would’ve missed the way his eyes widened slightly, and how he leaned back a bit at Lance’s words. He even appeared to be rendered speechless, if his mouth opening and then swiftly closing was anything to go by.

 

Lance only tore his gaze away from Keith when Allura scoffed and turned quickly on her heel, her thin heels clicking all the way towards the ramp leading down towards the pit. Her elbow brushed into Keith’s arm harshly, but he quickly brushed it off.

 

Allura was always quick to judge, and could hold a mean grudge, which would make her a dangerous adversary in the arena. But Lance knew that Keith was smart; he’d figure out how to disarm her safely. That was a fight Lance was certainly dreading to watch.

 

A slow, heavy series of steps came towards the group next, seeming powerful in their slow ease. “Are we ready?” King Alfor asked the remaining Champions as he returned to his seat. Everyone except Lance and Keith immediately bowed their heads in respect for the king of Hyrule. Alfor glanced over at Keith expectantly as he lowered himself into his chair. “Are you ready?”

 

Keith blinked at Lance owlishly for a moment, before snapping his attention back to the king. He swiftly dropped to a knee, and dropped his gaze bashfully. “Yes, your majesty. I’ve trained hard in the time I’ve had away from Hyrule Castle.”

 

“I’m glad to hear it! I’m looking forward to watching you battle.”

 

“So where have you been the past two weeks?” Lance questioned with a fair bit of displeasure. It was unlike Keith to abandon him suddenly, without a word or note of warning. Not that he knew Keith all that well yet, but, Lance thought he knew Keith to be better than that.

 

“Training,” Keith replied vaguely, but glanced up at Lance through his bangs. After a moment, he elaborated, “Away from the Castle grounds.”

 

Lance was just about to question his knight further when his father placed a light hand on his shoulder. “It’s time for your knight to go out and complete his challenge, Lance. Do not berate him now; he needs all of his strength and willpower for his upcoming battles.”

 

Keith scoffed softly at the king’s words, and didn’t try to dissuade his majesty of his words. He didn’t make a move to stand up before the king, as if he was waiting to be dismissed. But he was still watching Lance closely, with an almost fond look on his face.

 

Lance wasn’t sure what to think of that.

 

“Well, then, we are ready when you are, sir knight!” Alfor exclaimed, and smiled down at Keith.

 

After a moment’s hesitation, Keith stood, and bowed his head respectfully towards King Alfor. As he turned away to head back down to the main level, he paused, and glanced back at Lance. He seemed to ponder something for a moment, before he turned back and started walking towards where Lance was sitting.

 

Lance squeaked at seeing the sheer look of determination on Keith face, bringing his knees up closer to his chest and flailing his arms about in a very undignified fashion. “K-Keith, what are you--”

 

Keith caught one of Lance’s flailing hands in between his own, and adjusted Lance’s hand until it fit comfortably into his own cradled hand. He brushed his thumb over top of Lance’s exposed knuckles, smoothing away any imperfections upon the back of the prince’s hand.

 

Lance stilled at the soft caress. He wasn’t aware that this man was capable of such delicacy, let alone for someone who’s treated him as terribly as Lance has. The tip of his thumb was rough on Lance’s pampered skin, but he couldn’t bring himself to really care about that. He was still wearing those stupid gloves, which hid most of Keith’s hands from view. Where his palm met Keith’s, he could feel how smooth the worn leather was against his palm. His hand was warm, even through the leather where it enveloped his own. Keith’s palm was bigger than Lance’s, although his fingers were shorter and thicker than Lance’s own. His first and only thought was that his hand looked good enveloped in Keith’s.

 

When Keith bent his head, Lance sucked in a quiet breath, closely watching Keith’s every move. As soon as his lips touched the back of Lance’s palm, he could’ve sworn his heart tried to stop beating, and start beating a million miles a minute at the same time. He could only zero in on the sensation of Keith’s smooth lips on his hand, how they seemed to linger there for longer than strictly necessary.

 

[yammy's art]

 

As soon as Keith’s lips left Lance’s skin, Lance shut his eyes, trying to commit this moment to memory. Nobody had ever treated him like this, nobody that meant something to him.

 

Wait, does he mean something to me?

 

As his eyes flickered open, he peered up through his eyelashes and met Keith’s eyes. Lance couldn’t exactly determine the expression on Keith’s face, but he looked… Quietly content?

 

“Thank you,” Keith murmured.

 

Lance blinked a couple times, and leaned back a bit in his seat. “For what?”

 

“Standing up for me. I…” Keith paused, and chuckled lowly, bitterly, before continuing; “Well, I wasn’t expecting you to, after what happened in the desert.”

 

What happened in the desert…? But-- “But that wasn’t you!” Lance whispered urgently. “That wasn’t your fault. It was more mine than yours.”

 

“What? But--”

 

“Oi!” Pidge exclaimed, breaking the little bubble of quiet Lance and Keith built around themselves. She shouldered into Keith, sending him stumbling a few steps to the side, and he dropped Lance’s hand unceremoniously. “Shiro’s waiting for you, and frankly, so is everyone else. Go down there, already!”

 

“Rude.” he breathed out with a chuckle, and shoved at her shoulder playfully.

 

With an evil snicker, Pidge waved him off, and made her way back around to the king’s left side, where her own seat was.

 

Keith glanced at Lance once more, with a bit of a smile, before he turned and finally made his way down the ramp towards the centre of the arena.

 

Lance watched Keith’s ponytail bounce along with his smooth steps all the way to the ramp, until he couldn’t see him anymore.

 

“Well, that was something.” Hunk whispered in Lance’s ear.

 

With a high pitched shriek, Lance jumped up and out of his seat, nearly tumbling to the floor, but Hunk reached out and caught him.

 

“Goddesses, Hunk!” Lance hissed, and swatted Hunk’s large hands away once he was steady on his feet again. “You scared me half to death!”

 

Hunk chuckled slightly, and Lance could hear Shay’s giggle from behind him. “Sorry, Lance.” he apologized, but didn’t really look all that sorry. “I didn’t realize you and your knight were getting along that well, now.”

 

“It’s not like that!” Lance exclaimed, and pouted over at his friend. “He was just, doing what a knight would… For his charge, before he goes off to battle…?” he said hesitantly.

 

Hunk mhmm’d loftily, with a daring smirk on his face. “Sure thing, little guy, whatever helps you sleep at night.”

 

“Shh!” Shay exclaimed, and bounced a bit in her seat. “It looks like it’s about to start!”

 

With a jerk, Lance spun back around to sit down in his seat. He leaned forwards as far as he dared to peer down into the arena.

 

Shay was right; it did look like it was about to start.

 

Keith was standing in the centre of the arena, with the Master Sword drawn and held loosely in his right hand. He was looking up towards the sky, for what reason Lance had no idea. He was just about to turn to look towards his father when an announcer made his way out from under the shade of the lowest level.

 

“Ladies and gentleman and everything in between, welcome to the coliseum!” the announcer called out. “Today, we have a very special event taking place, something that only happens once every ten thousand years! Today, the newest Champion, the warrior wielding the soul of a hero, will be battling the other Champions to earn his Hylian Shield!”

 

The entire stadium roared their excitement, and the announcer smiled a huge smile. “Now that everyone is ready, let the battles begin!” he exclaimed, and threw his arms out wide.

 

Everyone cheered for a few moments longer, until they noticed that nothing was happening. Keith was standing still in the middle of the arena, with his head tilted back, watching the sky, almost as though he was waiting for something.

 

But what was he waiting for?

 

Lance scooted to the edge of his seat to look up to the sky, to see what Keith was looking for. But there was nothing there; the sky was empty, save a single cloud hovering just above the coliseum.

 

As soon as Lance glanced back down towards his knight, Keith lowered down slightly, eyes still trained on the sky. It looked like he was poised like a spring, waiting to jump into action.

 

Suddenly, a large whoosh of cool air blew through the stadium, and Keith flipped backwards to avoid a sudden assault in the form of a black mass. Shiro swooped straight down and landed lightly on his feet where Keith had been standing merely moments before, and quickly sprung back up into the air. He hovered about halfway up the length of the stadium, watching Keith’s every move avidly.

 

Keith kept his eyes trained on the Rito, how Shiro hardly moved up and down with each wingbeat as he slowly sidestepped around to put the sun behind him.

 

Shiro suddenly swooped directly down again and flew level to the ground, his torso mere inches from the the rocky surface, flying at frightening speeds towards Keith’s chest. Keith waited until the last moment to sidestep away from Shiro’s assault.

 

Shiro whipped back around, and hovered, his taloned feet barely an inch off the ground for a moment. He appeared to be looking around for his next hideout, when Keith came at him with the Master Sword aimed towards his shoulder.

 

With wide eyes, Shiro pumped his large wings powerfully, and vaulted off into the sky. The tip of the Master Sword didn’t even come close to touching him; Shiro didn’t even give Keith the chance to get close to him.

 

Keith stomped the ground angrily, but immediately took a deep breath to steady himself.

 

Lance fought the urge to yell down to Keith, to encourage him to be patient. But he knew that it was unlikely that Keith would actually hear him over the roar of the other spectators… And he was nearly certain that such encouragement would be frowned upon by his father. And what advice could he give to his knight? He’d never sparred with Shiro before; Lance knew that the Rito was a formidable warrior, but never before had the pleasure of seeing his fighting technique.

 

When Lance focused on the fight in front of him again, Shiro was on the ground, using his large wings to create big gusts of wind to try to blow both Keith and the Master Sword aside. It was obvious that Keith was struggling under the assault, but he managed to hold firm. He had his feet braced practically behind his upper body, and he leaned forwards into the gusts with his arms and sword extended.

 

Shiro quickly tired of that tactic, and took to the sky once more, leaving Keith stumbling forward when there was no more force working against him.

 

With a growl, Keith looked around frantically for some sort of leverage to use against the avian. Suddenly, he glanced back at something, and smirked, before running towards one of the columns holding the lowest level of seats upright.

 

Shiro seemed confused by Keith’s sudden action; Keith had mostly stuck to defense, until now. Shiro seemed hesitant, but followed him slowly in the air nonetheless.

 

Keith spun back to face his opponent, his back only a few inches away from the base of the column, and spun the Master Sword loftily in his hand. “Hey, bird-brain!” he called up, taunting Shiro with a dangerous smirk on his face, “You just gonna hide up where I can’t reach you like a coward?

 

The taunt worked; Shiro puffed up with a scowl on his face, and the crowd roared at the challenge. Shiro let himself drop to the ground a good few feet in front of Keith, landing softly with a big gust of air. He stalked forwards with his wings out to the side, making himself look larger.

 

Keith didn’t seem intimidated; he didn’t move an inch as his opponent stalked towards him with his powerful wings spread wide. He just stood perfectly still, with his knees slightly bent and the Master Sword held away from his body.

 

When Shiro came within a few short feet of Keith, he launched forwards, his sharp beak aimed at the centre of his chest. At the last moment, Keith jumped up and over Shiro to avoid the attack.

 

Shiro flailed and jerked back to avoid smacking his face against the stone, as Keith spun around and hopped onto Shiro’s back, pinning him to the ground.

 

Shiro flailed, trying to get his wing out from under his body so he could escape, but Keith held firm. He pressed a knee onto Shiro’s other wing, and poised the tip of the Master Sword above the centre of his back.

 

The announcer came running over to where Keith had Shiro pinned down, and said something too quietly for Lance to hear over the distance. Shiro tilted his head up and replied something, and then the announcer stood up and turned to face the stadium.

 

“Shiro, Champion of the Rito, and leader of the Rito tribe, has conceded the win to the new Champion. Keith wins!”

 


 

As soon as Shiro and Keith stepped into the shade under the first level of seats, Shiro turned to face Keith with a smile. “Hey, you did really well out there,” he said, and clapped Keith on the back with his large wing. “Using the support column to corner me was a good idea. I could see you getting frustrated when I kept flying out of your reach.”

 

“It was definitely frustrating,” Keith chuckled dryly, and brushed his sweaty hair back from his forehead. “But I don’t blame you for it.”

 

“I’m surprised you are so calm about this,” Shiro said slowly, and crossed his wings over his chest. “I wouldn’t blame you for being bitter about our battle.”

 

“There’s no reason to be bitter. It was a challenge for me,” Keith replied, and pulled the hair tie out of his hair to re-tie his hair back out of his face. “A challenge that I overcame. If anything, I wouldn’t blame you for being bitter, Champion; I beat you in a battle in front of practically the entirety of Hyrule.”

 

Shiro chuckled, and shook his head with a slight smile. “That you did. But I don’t mind. You were smart to use the surroundings to your advantage, even though there’s not a lot to use in there. So I believe a ‘congratulations’ are in order.”

 

Keith smiled slightly, and murmured “thanks”. He turned back towards the arena, and stared across the space to where Allura was waiting under the stands for the start of their battle. Nodding his head towards her, he asked “Any advice for me?”

 

Shiro turned to see who Keith was indicating to, and hummed softly to himself. “Ah, Allura. She’s quick, so watch out for that. Her scimitar has two points, so it’s twice as deadly. My advice? Look for her where she isn’t, and get ready.”

 

Keith scoffed, and shook his head. “Alright,” he said doubtfully. “I’ll see how it goes.” And with a small two finger salute, Keith stepped back out into the sunlight, and back into the arena.

 


 

Lance kept his eyes trained on the area that Keith and Shiro disappeared under, waiting for his knight to step back out into the sunlight. He was still a little numb from watching the last battle, and he was unsure of how he’d fare watching the others. He knew that Allura was next up to battle Keith, and he was positive that this would be Keith’s hardest battle.

 

Lance knew that Allura fights dirty when she’s angry. She’s not afraid to use brute force or cheap tricks to disarm or even maim her opponents; that’s how she’d kept her title as Chief of the Gerudo.

 

And frankly, Lance was scared for his knight.

 

“Do you think he’ll be alright?” Lance asked quietly, turning to Hunk and Shay. “You know ‘Lura; she doesn’t fight fair when she’s pissed.”

 

“I’m sure he can handle himself, Lance.” Hunk quickly assured.

 

“I dunno, Hunk.” Shay said slowly, her eyes downcast. “Lance is right… Allura isn’t always one to fight fair, and she was pretty mad at Keith earlier.”

 

Lance threw his hands up. “But that’s not fair!” he exclaimed, and ran a shaky hand through his hair. “He can’t choose who his parents are, any less than you or I can!”

 

“I agree…” Hunk amended, and rubbed at his chin. “But it doesn’t mean that Allura has to like it.”

 

Shay hummed affirmingly, and nodded down towards the arena. “And she certainly doesn’t seem to…”

 

Lance whipped around just in time to see Allura twirl on her toes and bring her scimitar down harshly towards where Keith’s head had been mere moments before.

 

Lance gasped, and swiftly stood up from his seat, edging as close to the edge of the viewing platform as he felt vaguely comfortable being. He felt as though he needed to be ready to intervene, if need be.

 

Keith was certainly on defense against Allura. She was lightning quick on her heels over the cobbled ground, moving as quick as a flash from one side of Keith’s defense to the other.

 

It was obvious that Keith was floundering under the speedy attacks, and it didn’t help that Allura wasn’t holding back; Keith barely had time to lift up his sword to deflect her attacks before she was moving in on his exposed weak points. Her heels were barely making a sound on the hard ground, which didn’t even give Keith the chance to hear her moving before she struck.

 

With a growl, Keith spun blindly, with the Master Sword aimed outwards in an attempt to put a bit of space between himself and his vicious attacker. It only slowed Allura down for a moment; she paused, and waited to move in until his back was to her.

 

With no hesitation, she spun out in front of him and swung her scimitar down swiftly and into Keith’s right shoulder.

 

Keith cried out in pain, and nearly dropped his sword.

 

Allura!!” Lance screamed, and grasped the front of his tunic harshly between his right fist. “What are you doing?

 

Allura barely cast a glance up at him, and didn’t bother responding. She just circled around Keith as he gathered his bearings, like a Wasteland Coyote before going in for the kill.

 

Pidge appeared by Lance’s side, and untangled his hand from the front of his tunic as gently as she could. She fit her own hand in his softly, but squeezed his hand tightly as soon as her fingers were tangled with his.

 

He glanced down at her, and could see that there were tears in her eyes. It was obvious that Keith meant a lot to her, but how much Lance wasn’t sure. But at least he wasn’t alone in his dislike for Allura’s actions.

 

Allura twirled her scimitar loftily in her hand, and let her shield arm fall to her side as she watched Keith grimace at the blood dripping down into his tunic. He glared up at her, leaving his right arm hanging down by his side, the edge of the Master Sword dragging along the stone.

 

As she started moving in, Keith did something unexpected; he switched the Master Sword from his right hand to his left, and pointed the blade at her with an unexpected ease.

 

“He’s ambidextrous.” Pidge whispered to Lance. “And a good thing, too. He would’ve lost right here and now if he could only use his right arm as a sword arm.”

 

“I had no idea…” Lance murmured, and squeezed Pidge’s hand lightly. “Guess he’s got some tricks up his sleeve.”

 

Keith was finally starting to go on offense, pressing Allura back so she had less space to maneuver around. Allura was mostly deflecting his attacks off of her shield, Daybreaker, but Lance could see that she was getting frustrated; it wasn’t often her opponents lasted this long against her.

 

“His arm’s still slowing him down,” Pidge murmured, mostly to herself. “I’ll have to heal him before he battles Hunk.”

 

Lance nodded, with his eyes still trained down on the fight below. She was right; Keith’s right arm was curled up tightly to his chest, and blood was still trickling down into the neckline of his tunic. “I’m sure he’d appreciate that.”

 

With a fierce cry, Allura charged at Keith and swung her sword down in a vicious arc. Keith met her strike with the edge of his sword with a grimace. The loud ringing sound when their blades met rang loudly through the coliseum.

 

He was able to push Allura’s scimitar away after a few moments of a power struggle, and immediately spun into her space. She wasn’t able to get her shield up in time to block him, and he dug his wounded arm’s elbow into her ribs. She coughed, jerking back, and Keith knocked her scimitar from her grasp. It clattered onto the ground, rocking around on its handle a few times.

 

With wide eyes, Allura tried to quickly skirt around him to pick up her weapon, but as she bent, the cool edge of the Master Sword tapped the back of her exposed neck. She froze, and turned her head slightly to peer up at him from the corner of her eye with a startled expression.

 

He tapped the edge of his sword against her neck again, with a slight smirk pulling the edge of his lips up.

 

She breathed out a heavy sigh, and slowly raised both hands in surrender.

 

The announcer flew out from under the stands and addressed the crowd: “Allura, Champion of the Gerudo, and Chief of the Gerudo people, has conceded to the new Champion. Keith wins!”

 


 

As soon as Keith sheathed the Master Sword, he bent down to grab Allura’s Scimitar of the Seven, and offered it to her silently.

 

She looked surprised, but offered him a brief hesitant smile. “Thanks.”

 

With a nod, he turned away from her and started back towards where Shiro was waiting under the cover of the lower level.

 

“Told you she was fast,” Shiro said lowly, and stepped into Keith’s space. He pulled at the shoulder of Keith’s tunic, pulling the material away from the large cut.

 

Keith hissed at the contact Shiro’s feathers made with the deep gash, but otherwise stayed still. “How’s it look?” he questioned through gritted teeth.

 

“Not great… Especially since you continued to fight with it still bleeding out.” Shiro said thoughtfully, and poked at the skin around the cut. “At least it won’t get infected.”

 

“Maybe I should have Pidge look at it before I go back out there.”

 

Shiro nodded agreeingly. “Wouldn’t hurt, I doubt she would mind healing it up for you.” He agreed softly, before glancing back up to Keith’s face. “You know you could’ve just gave up; one of the ways someone could win here is by drawing blood.”

 

Keith narrowed his eyes towards Shiro, not quite meeting his gaze. “But then I would’ve lost. I wasn’t planning on losing to the Gerudo Chief today, or to anyone.”

 

He hummed noncommittally, and wiped some of the dripping blood away from Keith’s shoulder with the edge of his scarf. “You should go find Pidge, I think you’ve lost enough blood already.” As soon as he said that, he glanced up at something over Keith’s shoulder. “Huh, speak of the devil and she will appear.” he muttered.

 

“I heard that,” Pidge snapped without any heat, and stopped at Keith’s side. She shooed Shiro away with a shake of her hands. “Go on, shoo birdy, I’ll heal him up before he goes out to battle Hunk.”

 

Shiro raised his wings in surrender, and backed away, chuckling fondly. “Alright, I’ll leave you in her hands. I’ll go see how Lance is faring.” He turned, and walked back out into the sunlight, before flying off to find the prince.

 

Keith spun around and walked to the edge of the shade, following Shiro with his eyes. The avian flew straight out across the coliseum, to where Lance was pacing frantically by the edge of the royal seating area.

 

Lance looked like a wreck; the front of his tunic was crumpled, presumably from grabbing at it, and his eyes were dancing all over the place. He looked like some cornered animal, and Keith couldn’t help but want to go up there, embrace him, tell him everything was okay. He fought the urge to even wave to him, to grab his attention.

 

A strong sting brought Keith back to his immediate surroundings. “Ow, fuck Pidge.” he cursed, and flinched away from her. “What gives?”

 

“You should’ve been more careful out there.” she said lowly, her eyes downcast, refusing to meet his gaze. “You had me-- us, really worried.”

 

“Us?”

 

“Lance was about ready to jump down into the arena and fight Allura with his bare hands. And they have some sort of brother/sister thing I’ll never understand.” she explained, and tugged on his elbow, still not looking up at him. “C’mon, you know the drill.”

 

With a pout tugging at his lips, Keith crouched down against the pillar so Pidge could have access to his shoulder. “I didn’t mean to cause either of you worry. I’m sorry,” he apologised softly, watching Shiro converse with Lance directly across from their position in the arena. “But, I’m not sure what you expected; I’m battling four of the best warriors in the land. I was expecting to get some new scars today.”

 

“As if your body doesn’t already have enough,” Pidge snarked, and extended her hands out, forming a triangle between her thumbs and forefingers.

 

Keith sighed contentedly as he felt the familiar coolness of Pidge’s healing powers wash over his gash. It was amazing what Pidge could do with just a bit of her own magic. “Who knows, maybe this one won’t scar.”

 

“You obviously haven’t seen this cut, then. This ain’t some papercut, little wolf; Allura’s scimitar did some serious damage.”

 

“‘Little wolf’?” Keith said slowly, and tore his gaze from Lance and Shiro to look up at his childhood friend with a fond smile. “I haven’t heard you call me that in ages.”

 

“Yeah, well,” Pidge floundered, before pausing her healing process to smack Keith’s arm, low enough down that it wouldn’t jostle his open wound. “Sometimes it seems like you haven’t grown up at all. Like today, making reckless mistakes.”

 

“Reckless? How was that--”

 

“Reckless wasn’t the right word,” Pidge cut in softly, and resumed the healing process. She was quiet for a moment, thinking. “Maybe cocky, or even a bit too brash, but not reckless. This is something you want, something you’re willing to work for…” She squinted down at the cut on his shoulder, watching as it closed up. As soon as it was fully closed, the grabbed the bottom of her Champion’s shawl and dabbed at the drying blood on his shoulder, and finally met Keith’s gaze. “So I guess, it just worries me that you’re willing to get hurt for this.”

 

“I wouldn’t say ‘willing’, Pidgeon.” Keith murmured as he stood up. He bent down to wrap his arms around her, squeezing her as tight as he dared. “But I know it’s a possibility.”

 


 

“He’s alright? You’re sure?” Lance questioned lowly, staring up at Shiro critically. “Allura didn’t hesitate at all, and I heard his scream. It sounded--”

 

Lance,” Shiro interrupted, and clapped his wings over Lance’s shoulders. “He’s fine, I promise. Pidge is healing up that cut right now. And then, he’ll be on to battle Hunk and be even closer to completing his goal.” he said soothingly. “So, don’t worry about him. He can handle himself.”

 

“Shiro’s right,” King Alfor added in from his seat. “I wouldn’t have chosen this man as your knight if I did not think him worthy, son. And I certainly wouldn’t have arranged this tournament if I thought for a second that he’d fail.”

 

“Keith’s a fine warrior,” Shay added in with a smile as Shiro moved to take his seat on the king’s left. “He survived everything an angry Allura threw at him; Hunk will take it easy on him, I’m sure.”

 

“Not too easy, love.” Hunk chuckled, and rubbed her shoulders. “This is still a challenge.”

 

King Alfor hummed agreeingly. “A challenge, indeed. One that’s about to continue, by the looks of it.” he said, and nodded down towards the arena.

 

Lance turned towards the arena again and searched for his knight, quickly finding him. He was just emerging from the cover of the coliseum walking backwards, still talking to Pidge who appeared to be scolding him, if her wagging finger was anything to go by.

 

Hunk clapped Lance’s shoulder lightly, and said “I’m heading down there, wish me luck.” but Lance hardly heard him; he was too focused on the set of violet eyes that met his from across the arena.

 

Keith paused in his tracks once he caught Lance’s gaze, his hand halfway up to pull the Master Sword from its sheath. Time seemed to freeze around Lance for a moment as he watched Keith’s expression change from shocked to somewhat sheepish. Keith let his hand drop awkwardly, and offered him a small smile before mouthing some short words that Lance couldn’t read over the distance.

 

“What?” he called, and squinted down at his knight.

 

With a roll of his eyes, Keith waved him off and reached behind him to pull his sword out. Keith tore his gaze from Lance’s to look towards his approaching opponent.

 

Lance turned back and made his way to his seat, sitting down carefully. He knew that the real trial was over for Keith; Hunk would still be a challenge for Keith to defeat, but he was sure that Hunk wouldn’t work as hard to thwart him as Allura had… And Keith already knew how to fight Pidge, so it meant that Keith was just that much closer to his goal.

 

As Pidge made her way back to her seat on King Alfor’s left, she stopped in front of Lance for a moment, and squeezed his shoulder. She offered him a brief smile and a nod before finally heading back to her seat.

 

Lance knew he should ask Keith why he was so keen to get the Hylian Shield, but he wasn’t sure how to bring something like that up naturally in a conversation. He didn’t know Keith well enough to know what could or could not be a sore spot, like the subject of how he came to the Castle.

 

He shook his head slightly and bit at his lip. Looking back to when they were up on the Plateau, he should have thought about what his words could mean to Keith, how they could hurt him… The distant look on his face when he talked about how he was brought to Hyrule Castle was not a look Lance ever wanted to see on his knight’s face again.

 

When he finally brushed the thoughts aside, he was shocked to see that Keith was already standing in the middle of the arena, with the Master Sword drawn and ready in his left hand. Hunk pulled his large Boulder Breaker from its holster on his back, and fiddled with it until he had a comfortable grip on it.

 

It appeared that they were both ready to battle.

 

Keith immediately rushed in towards Hunk, his sword just off to the side, ready to attack. But Hunk was ready, and swung his large weapon down towards Keith once he was in range. It forced Keith to backflip away from the assault and stay back a bit, analyzing his opponent.

 

Lance knew that Hunk wasn’t a particularly quick adversary, but his ability, Daruk’s Protection, was another matter entirely. Hunk has perfected activating it by just thinking about it, and he had certainly made use of it in battles against faster opponents. Supposedly, that was more than Daruk himself could even do; Daruk always had to drop his weapon and bring his fists together to conjure the power. Lance knew that Keith would have to be quick enough to avoid both Hunk’s strong attacks, and disarm him before Hunk could use his ancestor’s protection powers.

 

Keith was dodging and ducking around Hunk, trying to find a good angle on him to disarm him, but it wasn’t working; Hunk was always too quick to pull his massive weapon back up to keep Keith just out of reach. Lance could see the line forming between Keith’s brows, and how much force Hunk was throwing behind each swing of his weapon… They were both getting frustrated.

 

But there had to be a winner.

 

With a loud cry, Keith threw himself forwards. Hunk swung his massive weapon down, but Keith expected it, and rolled out of the way, coming up fast and lunging for Hunk’s massive hands.

 

Hunk’s eyes widened, and he summoned up Daruk’s Protection, a large red ball of power that completely encircled his body. It knocked Keith back like a ball hitting a wall, suddenly and unexpectedly. He rolled over the cobbled stones a few times before he got his feet back under him, and stood up, panting. Keith glared over at Hunk, who had the decency to look guilty about tossing him aside like a ragdoll.

 

But, as stubborn as Keith was, Lance didn’t expect him to try the same tactic again. But he did; Keith ran full tilt across to where Hunk was standing, to try the same attack again.

 

Hunk apparently expected that, and started spinning on his toes, his big weapon arcing widely around him in a deadly circle.

 

Keith stuttered to a stop, looking around for any advantage he could jump on. But suddenly, Hunk started moving as he was spinning, and Lance could see how wide Keith’s eyes got as he started backpedalling away from the spinning top of death.

 

Hunk followed Keith around while spinning, spanning nearly the entire length of the arena, before skidding to a stop to catch his breath and regain his proper balance.

 

Keith barely hesitated, running towards Hunk with everything he had to try to disarm him of his large Boulder Breaker. Hunk wasn’t able to recover fast enough; Keith jumped on top of the flat side of Hunk’s weapon, and used it as a springboard to jump up and over Hunk’s head.

 

Hunk wasn’t prepared for the sudden weight on his weapon, and it clattered to the ground beside him. Before he could bend to pick it up, Keith tapped the Master Sword to the side of his neck.

 

With a slow smile, Hunk raised his large hands in surrender.

 

The announcer came rushing in, and turned to announce the crowd again. “Hunk, Champion of the Gorons, and ambassador of the Goron tribe, has conceded to the new Champion. Keith wins!”

 


 

“Hey, little guy.” Hunk said, turning towards Keith. “That was a good idea, using my weapon as a springboard. Wasn’t expecting that, I have to say.” he chuckled.

 

Keith smiled slightly at the Goron, and sheathed his own weapon. “Here, let me grab that for you.” he offered, nodding towards the heavy Boulder Breaker still laying on the ground.

 

“Oh no, little guy, it’s heavy--”

 

Keith paid no mind to Hunk’s objections, and stepped around him. He bent to pick up the large weapon, and grunted at the unexpected weight; he could barely lift it an inch off the ground with one hand. He quickly grabbed it with his other hand as well, and hefted it up off the ground with a fair bit of groaning.

 

When Keith finally got it a few inches off the ground, he glanced away from the ridiculously heavy weapon towards its owner, to meet a shocked expression on the fellow Champion’s face.

 

“I… I honestly didn’t think a single Hylian could pick up my Boulder Breaker.” Hunk said incredulously, appearing completely in awe. He shook his head slightly, then smiled down at Keith. “Guess there’s more to you than it appears, right?”

 

“I guess you could say that,” Keith gritted out, and hefted the weapon over to its owner. Once Hunk took it from him, he breathed out a sigh of relief. “That definitely isn’t my preferred weapon.”

 

Hunk broke out into loud laughter, and slapped his free hand over Keith’s back powerfully, making Keith stumble forward a few steps. “You stick to your sword, and I’ll stick to my baby. How’s that sound, little guy?”

 

Keith smiled slightly, and rubbed at his sore shoulder, where the handle of the Master Sword jabbed harshly at Hunk’s backslap. “Sounds pretty good, big guy.”

 


 

As soon as Hunk sheathed his own weapon on his back, Pidge jumped up, and smiled wickedly down at the arena. “Finally,” she said ominously, and pulled her own Lightscale Trident off of her back with a bit of a flourish. “My go at the little wolf.”

 

Lance glanced over at her with a confused squint. “‘Little wolf’?” he asked.

 

“Oh, uh, nickname I had for Keith when we were younger.” she said bashfully, and let her thumbs run over the texture on the grip on her spear. “I said it to him earlier, and I, uh, guess it just sorta slipped out?”

 

Lance could only smile slightly at Pidge’s admission; it wasn’t often that she showed any of the softer emotions, but apparently Keith brought that side out of her. “Someday,” he began, and raised an eyebrow at her, “I want to hear the story of how that came to be.”

 

“Sure, or never.” Pidge scoffed, and lightly shoved at Lance’s shoulder as she walked past. “But for now, I gotta go hand that boy his ass.”

 

Lance scoffed softly, and shook his head at her antics. He knew that they both knew she wouldn’t be handing Keith his ass; she’d let him win so he can finally claim his prize.

 

Hunk offered her a very tall high five when he met her on the ramp, laughing at her as she jumped to reach it. After a few attempts at jumping to reach his raised hand, she stopped, bouncing on her feet, and pouted up at him. Then with a deliberate flourish, she raised her spear and raised it up slowly to tap its points against his hand instead. Hunk instantly lowered his hand so she could clap her own tiny hand against his, rather than be speared, and she smirked up at him triumphantly.

 

Hunk carried on up the ramp, shaking his head fondly as Pidge made her way down into the arena with a skip in her step.

 

“Hey,” Lance said as soon as Hunk was close enough. “That was a good fight!”

 

“Thanks,” he replied with a smile, and took Allura’s empty seat beside his wife. “He’s certainly a formidable warrior. I certainly wasn’t expecting him to beat me the way he did.” he said with a chuckle.

 

“I think you did wonderfully, honey.” Shay said softly, and reached out to grasp her husband’s hand.

 

Lance turned away from the couple, and looked down into the arena again. He didn’t want to miss a single second of Pidge and Keith’s battle.

 

They appeared to be talking, too quietly for the rest of the stadium to hear, but whatever Pidge said, it made Keith grin crookedly, more emotion than Lance had ever seen flash across his knight’s face.

 

Lance sat back heavily in his chair. He’d never seen Keith smile like that, wide enough that teeth peeked through his lips, his eyes crinkled, and little divots pressed his cheeks in. He was stunning when he smiled, and Lance couldn’t even deny that he wanted to see Keith smile around him more often.

 

Lance blinked those ideas away frantically. There was no sense thinking about something like that; it would never happen, they would never have that sort of relationship. Who’s to say that Keith would even consider it? After how Lance has treated him?

 

He wouldn’t blame Keith in the least… Who would believe in a failure of a prince?

 

The sound of metal clanging brought Lance out of his head and back into the moment. He’d missed the start of the battle.

 

It looked like the two of them were barely moving around. Pidge was just moving her upper body around to avoid any of Keith’s jabs at her, and Keith was keeping within a fairly close range so she couldn’t do as much damage with her spear.

 

With a dangerous smirk, Keith spun, bringing his sword down in a dangerous arc towards Pidge’s head.

 

Lance gasped and sat forwards in his seat. But Pidge ducked under his assault as easily as one would avoid an approaching branch on horseback. It was almost like she knew exactly what was going to happen. Although, with how good friends they seemed to be, they probably sparred many times in the past, so it was quite likely she did know his attack patterns.

 

Pidge retaliated by swinging her Lightscale Trident around above her head in a vicious circle, pushing Keith back into optimal spear attack range. But even as Keith backed up, he didn’t appear that deterred by her actions; he looked quite calm, eager, even.

 

“Is… Is Pidge gonna let him win?” Lance whispered to himself, low enough that nobody around him could hear.

 

She swung her trident in wide swipes in front of Keith, causing him to keep backing up slowly, but he wasn’t as far out of reach of the weapon’s range as one would comfortably be… But he looked perfectly content to stay there, with the sharp edges of the three pointed weapon nearly grazing the front of his tunic with every swipe.

 

Suddenly, Keith dove forwards as soon as the tip of her trident was past his shoulder, and swung his sword up underneath the spear, trying to dislodge it from Pidge’s hands.

 

But she held fast; her spear was knocked skyward, but it never left her hand. She spun away from Keith to give herself a moment to gather her bearings before turning to face him again, spear aimed threateningly towards his chest.

 

She charged at him with no battle cry, just sheer determination, but Keith sidestepped it as easily as he would a puddle in his path. Pidge spun her spear around blindly behind her, hoping to catch Keith off guard.

 

Keith brought his sword up just in time to parry the attack, keep it from cutting into him. She was quick to pull her spear back, just to try to skewer him with a savage stab towards his middle.

 

He dodged her spear just as she was avoiding his attacks at the beginning of the battle, by just moving his upper body the least amount possible to avoid being impaled. Lance couldn’t help but find it odd to see Pidge’s fighting techniques being mirrored by Keith.

 

In a quick, sudden movement, Keith swung the Master Sword up from where it was at his side up and under Pidge’s Lightscale Trident, and finally managed to dislodge it from her grasp.

 

It spun around in the air a few times, before landing harshly on the cobbled stone a few feet away with a loud clang .

 

Keith raised his sword to let the tip hover just under Pidge’s chin warningly, but it was hard to take it as a serious threat when Pidge was smiling that widely up at him. He grinned back, and let his sword drop to the ground, rushing forwards to swoop Pidge up into a bone crushing hug.

“Lance,” his father said softly, and placed a hand on top of his shoulder. Lance jumped at the contact, and pulled his gaze from the celebrating Champions down in the arena to meet his father’s eyes. “Your knight has one more challenge to face.”

 

“One more?” Lance questioned. He could see out of the corner of his eye that the announcer was making his way to the centre of the arena, but paid him no mind. “What do you mean? Who does he have to fight?”

 

His father swallowed and bit at his lip for a moment, looking a bit guilty. But his voice was clear and true when he spoke his answer: “You.”

 


 

“You did it, Keith, you did it!” Pidge shrieked, and jumped up to wrap her arms tightly around Keith’s neck.

 

“I did…” Keith said slowly, and squeezed Pidge tighter to his chest. “I can’t believe I did it!” he exclaimed, and swung Pidge around, her legs flying out wildly. “I beat four of the most skilled warriors the land of Hyrule has ever seen!!”

 

She giggled giddily until he stopped spinning her. “You did! And you’re finally getting your shield! How excited are you?”

 

Keith tilted his head back so he could look at Pidge’s face and smirk. “You know exactly how excited I am to get a new weapon.”

 

“That’s true.” she chuckled, and let her feet swing back and forth in the air. “You nerd, you.”

 

The announcer, who Keith learned was named Quinn, stepped out into the middle of the coliseum to make an announcement. Keith quickly set Pidge back down on her feet, and stepped over to retrieve her trident for her while Quinn spoke to the crowd. “It appears that our new Champion has defeated all but one of his adversaries!” Quinn announced, and glanced back at Keith, a frown tugging at his lips. “He is set to battle one more person.” he said with a hint of sadness.

 

Keith glanced around confusedly, looking for anyone who looked ready to battle, but came up empty. He was told he only had to fight the Champions, to either disarm them or immobilize them. And he had ; he battled Shiro, Hunk, Pidge… Even Allura, who tried to take a stab at killing him.

 

Who else could he mean? There are no other Divine Beasts, and I am the soul of a hero…

 

Wait.

 

With dawning horror, Keith turned back towards the royal seating area, praying that his hunch was incorrect, that he wouldn’t have to fight him

 

Only to be hit with the sinking horror that he was right.

 

Prince Lance stood up slowly from his seat, and masterfully avoided Keith’s gaze. His large white bow was clenched in his right fist, and a single arrow in his left, as he turned to make his way down the ramp to the centre of the arena.

 


 

Father, why would you do this?” Lance whispered incredulously, trying to wrap his head around the idea. “He’s supposed to be fighting the Champions--”

 

“Which you are. You are also one of the Champions, or have you forgotten?” King Alfor snapped, and sat up even straighter in his seat. “Just because you dawdle around with your ancient technology rather than focusing on your training does not lessen your title any. You are my son, a prince, and a Champion of Hyrule. So yes, you will battle your knight for his shield.” he said coldly, and reached between their seats for the latch on the chest. Once Alfor opened it, Lance understood why the box was so big.

 

It didn’t just hold Keith’s Hylian Shield. It also held Lance’s white bow and quiver full of arrows.

 

Lance tried to swallow around the sudden lump in his throat. This wasn’t fair, his knight overcame his trials fair and square. Why did his father want to keep testing him?

“Take your bow, son.” King Alfor commanded, staring down at him. “It is your duty to battle your knight, either until you draw blood, he disarms you, or you disarm him. Now go.”

 

‘Either you draw blood, he disarms you, or you disarm him.’ His father’s words seemed to play on a wicked mantra in his head, over and over and over. Lance felt as though he was pushing through molasses as he slowly reached down to grab his bow and a single arrow, and stand up from his seat. He refused to look down into the arena, to see his knight, until he absolutely had to.

 

He took his time walking down the ramp, delaying the inevitable. This wasn’t supposed to happen, it wasn’t supposed to go this way… Keith was supposed to already have his shield, his trial completed…

 

When Lance peeked up through his eyelashes, he only saw one pair of boots in the arena. Everyone else had left Lance and Keith the floor.

 

He gripped the single arrow he grabbed from his quiver tightly in his left hand, tight enough that he could practically feel splinters cutting into his palm. His bow was shaking in his hands, but not enough that anyone could see it… Only Keith.

 

When Lance finally found the strength to look up, he instantly regretted it. He wasn’t sure when reading Keith’s facial features became so easy for him, but Keith was practically an open book right now.

 

So many emotions were clear on his face; confusion, shock, exhaustion, reluctance… But Lance couldn’t help but feel that Keith was hiding something. He still hadn’t bent to retrieve his sword, sitting prone on the ground to his right. Keith made no move to go over and grab it. It was like he was waiting on Lance.

 

Lance opened his mouth to say something, but closed it just as quickly. What could he say? That he hadn’t known either? But deep down, Lance felt as though he did know. Why else would his father try to test Keith like this?

 

To make sure that if the time came, Keith would do what was right.

 

Lance shook his head, and blinked furiously to hold back the tears threatening to spill over. Keith was still looking across the space at him warily, like he was unsure what was gonna happen. “I’m sorry, Keith.” Lance whispered, not sure if his knight could even hear him. “I… I had no idea, m-my father planned this…”

 

Keith nodded slowly, starting to piece the pieces together. “It’s… Not your fault, your highness, I understand.” he replied just as quietly. After a moment’s hesitation, Keith slowly sidestepped to bend down and grab the Master Sword. But he didn’t raise it up, bring it to a ready position like Lance thought he would; he sheathed it on his back.

 

“K-Keith, what…?” Was all Lance could say before Keith tucked his chin in and took to a knee in front of him.

 

Lance’s mouth dried at the sight. Keith was offering to submit, to lose everything he’d worked so hard for today, all so Lance didn’t have to fight him. He was playing the part of a good knight to his charge, and Lance’s stomach twisted violently at the sight.

 

He couldn’t-- wouldn’t-- let his knight’s hard work go to waste. He’d already gained new scars from the fights today, and Lance would not let those painful memories be in vain.

 

His father’s words kept spinning around in his head, making him dizzy. ‘You draw blood, he disarms you, or you disarm him. You draw blood, he disarms you, or you disarm him. You draw blood, he disarms you, or you disarm him... You draw blood’--

 

Draw blood. That’s it!

 

Lance nocked his arrow on his bow, and slowly brought the pair up to narrow in on his target without drawing back the arrow. He knew he couldn’t hit any vital areas, but it also had to be an easy place to hit and draw a little bit of blood from. But where?

 

It was so quiet in the arena that Lance could only hear the sound of his own breathing as he searched around for a target on Keith’s body. Drawing blood from the foot would be too messy, to easy to screw up the shot. Arm, same thing, even if Pidge can easily heal him. Legs were dangerous, a few centimeters too far and one could lose the limb. Too many vital organs in the centre of the body, and his handsome face was out of the question.

 

Suddenly, a small body part came to mind, one that is known to bleed profusely and isn’t essential if he slightly misses his target.

 

With a fair bit of hesitation, Lance aimed his bow over to the side of Keith’s right ear, an easy area to knick as his arrow flew by. He only had one shot at this…

 

Lance drew in a deep breath, and steadied himself as he drew back his arrow. He shut his eyes tightly for just a moment to take a step back from the moment. Am I really about to do this?

 

Keith had no idea what Lance was planning. He still had yet to look up from in front of his boots since kneeling before his charge, and Lance was about to send an arrow whizzing by his ear.

 

Here goes.

 

He snapped his fingers open, letting the arrow fly. Luck was on Lance’s side, as the sharp edge of the arrowhead sliced open the side of Keith’s ear, instantly drawing blood.

 

The bow slipped through his fingers and clattered to the ground loudly, the sound loud enough to finally pull Keith’s gaze up from his boots.

 

He looked startled, his violet eyes wide when he jerked his head up, but his shocked expression turned into one of understanding when he saw the bow on the ground. Keith hesitantly reached up to touch his ear, and looked surprised when his fingertips came back with a little bit of blood on them.

 

Lance turned away from his knight to stare up at his father. He couldn’t easily read his facial expression from across the distance, but he hoped his father was satisfied.

 

They stared at each other for a few moments, neither moving, until King Alfor broke the connection, and stood up from his seat. He turned and bent down between their seats, where Lance knew the box holding the Hylian Shield-- Keith’s shield-- was.

 

There was a bit of shuffling behind Lance, but he refused to turn around to see Keith’s expression. He was sure that his knight would hate him for embarrassing him in front of the entirety of Hyrule, and Lance couldn’t blame him.

 

But this was the least painful way, for both of them, to appease the king.

 

He could sense that Keith was just behind his shoulder, so close but so far, and stayed strong. He couldn’t cry in front of Keith, in front of the entire stadium…

 

King Alfor slowly made his way down towards them, holding the Hylian Shield in front of his chest with both hands.

 

The Hylian Shield shone softly in the sun, the silver metal border surrounding it especially. The royal blue background had a few visible marks in it, but that was to be expected of a weapon of its class. The golden triangles on the Triforce stood proudly just above the centre of the shield, surrounded by silver filigree, and just below it sat the royal Hylian crest of the winged Lion in a bright red.

 

Lance couldn’t help but think the red suited the shield, and more accurately, Keith.

 

As soon as King Alfor neared, Keith took a few steps forward in front of Lance, and took to a knee.

 

“You both did well,” Alfor said quietly, looking down at Keith’s kneeling form. “You especially, hero.”

 

“Thank you, your majesty.” Keith murmured, and kept his gaze glued to the ground.

 

“What was this for, father?” Lance said lowly, with his fists clenched at his side. “What exactly did this prove?”

 

Alfor stood up a little straighter, almost as if he was trying to look down on Lance, though they were nearly the same height. His lips tightened into a firm line, and even his blue eyes seemed to glow dangerously. “To prove to the land of Hyrule that your knight is a formidable warrior, but to also prove that the two of you are fated to work together. I needed to be sure that Keith would be willing to do what was necessary, when the time comes.”

 

When the time comes , not ‘if’. Lance bit harshly at his bottom lip, and narrowed his eyes towards his father. “You say that as if you have no faith in me. I’m doing everything I can, father, to make sure I am just as ready as Keith is.”

 

His father said nothing. Instead, he moved towards Keith, and crouched down in front of him. He held out the shield, and with a small feeble smile, said “I believe this is yours.”

 

Keith’s head snapped up, and he stared at the shield as if he was dreaming. His gaze flicked up to the king’s, to make sure he was serious, before tentatively reaching out for it. Just before his fingertips touched the shield, he hesitated, as if touching the shield would make it disappear somehow. When he finally worked up the courage to take it from the king’s waiting hands, a smile instantly overtook his face.

 

Lance couldn’t help but be happy for his knight, even if the path he took to get it was unorthodox. If it took something crazy like this to get Keith to smile, Lance would be sure to keep Keith on his toes.

 


 

Lance didn’t get a chance to talk to Keith once his father gave him the shield. Everything sort of happened so quickly. One moment he was stepping towards Keith to talk to him, and the next, he was on the other side of the arena with his father, while Keith got swept up with Shiro, Hunk, and Pidge to the other side.

 

He was practically in a daze the whole ride back to the Castle… He didn’t even really register that he was home until he sat down on the chaise in the centre of his bedroom with a small huff. He stared down at the backs of his hands, how the mid afternoon sun made them practically glow.

 

Lance almost couldn’t believe that today’s events were real. Keith, his knight, battled against four of the fiercest warriors the land of Hyrule has ever seen, and won? Even with one of the Champions trying their damndest to actually kill him? He felt numb, as if he had been the one battling, not just merely a spectator.

 

Although, he hadn’t been a spectator for the entirety of the event. Lance was nearly sure that the thing that shocked him the most was how swiftly Keith was willing to throw the event so that Lance could be spared.

 

As much as it was Keith’s job to protect Lance, he couldn’t help but think that he had not made his knight’s job easy… And he certainly hadn’t made Keith feel like he was wanted by Lance’s side. He wouldn’t blame his knight if he didn’t want to do the task assigned to him by the king; Lance wasn’t sure he’d want to if their roles were reversed.

 

So why did Keith do it? After he’d worked so hard, fought tirelessly against everyone he was told to fight to win his prize, why did he give it all up for Lance?

 

A knock interrupted his thoughts, and Lance sat up quickly, looking back towards the door.

 

Keith was standing in the doorway, leaning with his hip and shoulder against the closed door. He looked tired, but still alert, even with his arms crossed loosely over his chest. His dark hair was in a bit of a disarray, most likely from the ride back to Hyrule Castle. Lance could see that both the Master Sword and the Hylian Shield were strapped to his back, which made his chest tighten a bit.

 

“Mind if I come in?” Keith asked slowly, and averted his gaze from Lance’s.

 

“Oh, uh, sure.” Lance replied awkwardly, and shifted so his feet were tucked under him on his chaise.

 

With a nod, Keith stepped into Lance’s bedroom and made his way over to his desk. He pulled the chair there out, and sat perched on the edge of the seat. His forearms were braced overtop of his knees, and he rubbed his thumbs together slowly. He looked nervous about something, but Lance couldn’t even begin to guess what.

 

“Your high-- Lance,” he corrected himself, and reached up to fiddle with the violet hoop on his right ear. “I… I just wanted to make sure that you’re okay.”

 

“Shouldn’t I be asking you that?”

 

“I’m not the one who disobeyed the king.” Keith said slowly, with a raised brow.

 

Lance leaned back in his seat, and tilted his head curiously over at Keith. “I… I didn’t.”

 

“Didn’t you?”

 

“No. Well,” Lance said cautiously, and let his gaze drop from Keith’s form. “My father gave me three options after he informed me I was to fight you; to either draw blood, disarm you, or let you disarm me.” he glanced back up to Keith’s face again to try to read his expression, but Keith’s face was carefully blank. “So I took the easy way out.” he admitted bashfully.

 

Keith was quiet for a few moments, scarcely even breathing, which made Lance nervous. Does he think I made the wrong decision? Lance thought, and rubbed his hands on top of his breeches to dry his suddenly sweaty palms, anxiously awaiting Keith’s response.

 

“I know what you’re probably thinking,” Keith said without looking up. “You’re thinking that I blame you, or something, but I don’t. I’m perfectly fine, even happy with your decision.”

 

“What? But, why?” Lance asked incredulously.

 

“You had the opportunity to do with me what you pleased.” Keith admitted softly. “You could’ve brutally maimed me, or even killed me, and I would’ve taken it. But what did you do?” he finally looked up and met Lance’s gaze head on for the first time since entering the room. “You chose a way that saved both of us from pain.”

 

Both of us.

 

“I know you truly don’t like having someone following you around,” Keith continued, “but I really do appreciate what you did in the arena today.”

 

“That’s not true,” Lance said firmly, and put his feet back on the floor to stand up. With just a moment’s hesitation, he made his way towards his desk to stand in front of Keith. “I quite like having someone by my side.” Keith sat up stiffly at his confident approach, but Lance didn’t hesitate; he crouched down and brushed the hair in front of Keith’s right ear aside to inspect the damage that he caused.

 

The small triangle of skin was swiftly scarred over, only a small nick out of the side of the upper lobe. Pidge’s handywork was obvious in its swift recovery, but Lance couldn’t help but still feel guilty about how he marred his knight’s body.

 

When he leaned back on his haunches, Lance realized how close he was to Keith. Keith’s breath was fanning softly across his cheek, cool and soothing to Lance’s suddenly flush complexion. His hand was still tangled in the long inky tendrils by his ear, which were tickling Lance’s fingertips as they swayed in the late afternoon breeze coming in from the window. Keith’s eyes were wide, flickering all over Lance’s face in their close proximity. Lance couldn’t help but be struck slightly speechless at how vibrant Keith’s eyes were. He had met a lot of people from every walk of life in his short life, but never anyone with violet eyes, let alone eyes so vibrant and breathtaking as Keith’s. They were framed beautifully by his dark eyelashes, and Lance felt the sudden urge to stay and look into Keith’s eyes for as long as he’d let him.

 

Lance instantly blinked the thought away, and turned his head away from Keith’s curious gaze. No sense thinking about that, Lance chided himself. “It-It looks better than I thought it would,” he said aloud, breaking whatever sort of trance took hold of them both.

 

Keith blinked dazedly, and nodded. “Yeah. Uh, you’re a good shot.” he said dazedly.

 

“Thanks,” Lance replied awkwardly, and stood up, brushing his hands off on his thighs.

 

The awkward silence between them was nearly suffocating to Lance, but he wasn’t sure what he could say to alleviate it. Yes, his actions were meant to be innocent, but the connotations he realized they could have had struck him viciously. He bit at his lip, and turned away from Keith so he didn’t have to look at his handsome face.

 

“Oh, Lance?” Keith said suddenly. “Hunk told me to tell you that he’d be practicing with Vah Rudania on Death Mountain tomorrow around noon, if you were still interested in looking at how it functions.”

 

Lance whipped back around with a wide smile on his face. He fought the urge to jump in place as he said “Okay! Get ready to head out for the Eldin region in the morning, dear knight. Ever been to Death Mountain?”

 


 

Lance was up bright and early the next day, rising just before the sun to go through his daily motions of washing up, praying as the early morning sun rose into the sky, and preparing for the day excursion to Death Mountain.

 

He was so excited to go out and see Vah Rudania; he’d only seen this Divine Beast a few times since it’s unearthing, even though one of his closest friends was it’s pilot. And he’d never seen the inside of it, so he had no idea what to expect. Did it look like Vah Naboris, with spinning platforms and columns for electricity to run through, or was it’s interior design completely different? What sort of features did a fire resistant weapon have? Why a lizard-like form? How did Hunk control it? What weapons does it have?

 

Oh, Lance could hardly wait to see the nitty gritty of Vah Rudania.

 

But he was still waiting on Keith.

 

From his brief experience with Keith, he seemed to be the type of person to rise with the sun, if not earlier, and be up and at ‘em before a reasonable hour. And he knew that Lance wanted to go to Death Mountain today; he was the one who informed him about Hunk’s training today.

 

So where was he?

 

Lance shouldered the small bag containing his two books and some writing utensils, and made sure the Sheikah Slate was held properly on his waist, and decided to first check Keith’s new quarters.

 

Shortly after being knighted, his father had an old room cleared out to become Keith’s while he stayed at the Castle. Apparently, it belonged to one of the nobles who frequented the Castle when Queen Seraphine was still alive, when the court was more lively and active. But since his mother’s passing, and the fortune tellings of the Calamity, there has not been a lot of want or reason to hold court like the old days. So many of the rooms that used to be occupied were now empty and collecting dust. Fortunately, King Alfor decided that Keith should have one of the bigger rooms, quite close to Lance’s own quarters.

 

Lance hadn’t been in Keith’s new room since it was cleaned out and given a new owner, but he knew the interior quite well. It used to be one of his favourite hiding spots from his tutors when he was younger. He was quite curious as to how Keith’s made the room his own in the short time.

 

He knocked lightly as soon as he approached, and edged closer to hear if there was any movement from inside. When he heard nothing after a few moments, he slowly turned the handle and peered in.

 

The room was quite similar in set-up to his own room; bed in the middle of the far wall, a small table and chair set up in the centre of the room, and a desk in the far corner. But Keith’s room was lacking the staircase leading up to a study, and a bookshelf lining one of the walls. His room was still quite dark, even in the morning sun, even with one of the doors leading out to a small balcony open. Apparently Keith’s room did not get as much sun as Lance’s room did this time of year.

 

It took a moment for Lance’s eyes to adjust, but when they did, he jerked back in surprize.

 

Keith was standing just beside the open doorway to the balcony with his back to Lance. He was dressed merely in his tan trousers and boots, no shirt on to cover the various marks littering his body. His hair was a wild mess of curls, not yet pinned back in his usual ponytail, and still looked incredibly sleep ruffled.

 

Even with the pale marks and tiny dark freckles littering his back, Lance couldn’t help but admire Keith’s body. He was obviously very fit, the tightness of his waist and muscle on his arms evidence of that. But it wasn’t just his physical fitness that drew Lance’s gaze in on him; it was a vulnerability he hadn’t seen in his knight yet. As Keith yawned and stretched his arms above his head, arching his back with a satisfied groan, Lance realized that he had never taken the time to really think of Keith as a person. He wasn’t just Lance’s pointy shadow… He was a person with quirks, likes and dislikes, and more importantly, a past.

 

It was obvious that Keith was haunted by his past, or at the very least wary of it. On one hand, Lance could understand why; Keith was born into a rebel group that he was eventually taken from, and scorned for it. But at the same time, it molded Keith into who he was today. Lance could only hope that Keith wasn’t ashamed of who he was and where he came from. What he said yesterday was true; Keith shouldn’t be blamed for his parent’s choices.

 

Suddenly, Keith turned and saw Lance standing in the open doorway. He squawked, and jerked back, reaching for a sword that was not on his back. “Your high--” he started to say, but pitched forwards when his back came into harsh contact with the wall. “Fuck-- Shit, sorry uh, Lance??”

 

Lance broke out into startled giggles at his knight’s pain. He couldn’t contain the laughter even if he tried. Keith just looked like a fluffed up and confused kitten and Lance simply couldn’t handle that. He brought his hands up in an attempt to stifle the noise, but it escaped his fingers in joyous giggles. “Oh my goddess, Keith !” he exclaimed, still giggling, and stepped through the door and let it swing open freely. “I’m,” he breathed in a deep breath to tame the giggles, “sorry. I knocked, but you didn’t answer, so I wanted to see if you were asleep or something.”

 

“No, I… Sorry, just lost track of time I guess.” Keith said with a one shouldered shrug, and flexed his hands at his sides. “Is it nearly time to go?”

 

“Anytime now. It takes four hours to ride up to Death Mountain from here, and if Hunk said he’d be training around noon, then the sooner we leave the better.”

 

Keith nodded, and stepped over to his desk, where his blue tunic was draped casually over the back of his chair. He glanced around the room for his white undershirt, and spotted it over on the chair in the centre of the room, directly in front of Lance.

 

As Keith approached, Lance stared at the fresh scar standing starkly against the rest of Keith’s skin. It still looked fairly fresh, the puffy pink showcasing the newness of the scar against his pale skin. The scar ran from the top of his shoulder, down to a couple inches below his collarbone. In all honesty, it didn’t look as terrible as it could have, barely even looking mangled anymore, but the emotions tied to it made it all the more gruesome.

 

“Pidge did a good job healing that up.” Lance said hesitantly.

 

Keith reached up to his ear, and ran his fingertips overtop of the sliver out of his ear. “Yeah, I already told you that it’s--” he paused when he glanced up and saw that Lance wasn’t looking at his ear, but rather down at his shoulder. “Oh. Yeah, she did.”

 

Lance bit at his lip, and stepped into Keith’s space, running his fingertips down the length of the new scar hesitantly. “I still can’t believe Allura cut into you like that.” he muttered.

 

“I wasn’t expecting her to be as… Savage about it, but I was expecting to get some new scars yesterday.” Keith admitted with a shrug. He reached out and grabbed his white undershirt, and quickly pulled it over his head. “I assume you are ready to depart?”

 

“Whenever you’re ready, sir knight.”

 


 

Keith was quick to gather his belongings, and they made good time out of Hyrule Castle and Castletown, only stopping to gather their horses. Lance had Seraphim, but Keith had a steed other than Everest. He recognized the grey stallion from when they first met, but never got the horse’s name.

 

“His name’s Zephyr,” Keith said as soon as they exited Castletown’s east walls. “I could see you staring at him as if you were trying to recall a name.” he quickly explained. “But you never asked before, so I knew you wouldn’t be able to recall something you never knew.”

 

“Zephyr… Sounds calming.” Lance said with a smile. He glanced at the worn tack that sat upon Zephyr’s back, and made a mental note to have tack made for both of Keith’s steeds. “How did you come upon Zephyr?”

 

“Well, I saved this handsome guy when he was but a colt.” Keith patted Zephyr’s grey neck soothingly, and smiled fondly when Zephyr’s eyes closed contentedly for a moment. “I was going back to Hyrule Garrison one day, I was… Maybe nine? Either way, I heard shrill whinnying coming from the bottom of that steep drop by the huge ancient tree stump, you know, that one just to the northwest of that garrison? I found him shaking like a leaf down the incline, half in the water, and helped him get out.

 

“He was still pretty young, too young to be weaned from his mother, so I tried to send him on his way. But, he followed me.” Keith dropped the reins and looked up to the sky with the same fond smile on his face. “So I took him back with me to the garrison, and we’ve been inseparable ever since. I’ve had him for eight years now, and every minute spent with him has been my best.”

 

“Eight years?” Lance questioned, and peered down at Zephyr’s head as he bobbed along the path in front of them. “How old does that make you, then? Seventeen?”

 

Keith hummed agreeingly. “I’ll be eighteen in October.”

 

“Ahh, a fall baby.” Lance said with a smirk. “I didn’t realize you were older than me…”

 

“Don’t despair, prince,” Keith said, and tipped his head forwards again to look over at Lance with a smirk. “We’ll be the same age for a few months, I assume, once you turn seventeen.”

 

Lance rolled his eyes, “And I’m sure you know when my birthday is?”

 

Keith narrowed his eyes over at Lance with pursed lips. “Obviously not, dear prince. I sometimes forget my own birthday, let alone that of a man’s I barely know.”

 

“That’s true, I guess we truly don’t know much about each other…” Lance said thoughtfully, and looked forward through Seraphim’s white ears again. They were approaching Boneyard Bridge, and just beyond it, the Hyrule Forest Park. The park was just across Hyrule Moat to the east of the Castle and was a popular place for meetings and sightseeing outside the Castle walls. They’d need to move quickly through there to avoid prying nobles wondering where they were going, Lance knew.

 

Keith was quiet for a few moments, the only noise around them being their horses shoed hooves clopping along the cobbled road. Lance kept his eyes straight ahead, only daring to glance at Keith from the corner of his eye.

 

They were both quiet until they crossed over the bridge, and onto the park grounds. Keith turned towards Lance again, and asked “When is your birthday?”

 

“July 28th, although I dislike doing anything for my day of birth. I’m not usually at home for it, anyways.” Lance said lowly, a bit of bitterness seeping into his tone. Clearing his throat, he asked “And what day is yours?”


“October 23rd.”

 

Lance closed his eyes for a moment, imagining the beauty of the land around them at that time of year. The leaves would just be changing, from vibrant vermillion hues to vibrant crimsons, gold, and orange. “The leaves are changing colour on your day of birth. How fitting.” he said softly, with a fond tilt to his lips.

 

Keith sort of nodded along, but didn’t say anything. It was quiet around them, but Lance didn’t find it awkward between them anymore. The only noise around them was the peaceful sound of nature in the lightly wooded area. The leaves on the trees were whistling softly in the breeze, and he could faintly hear water trickling down the magnificent fountain near the centre of the park. There weren’t too many people in the park yet, only a few nobles Lance recognized from the Castle relaxing in a gazebo up on the hill. It felt real out here, outside of the Castle walls. He didn’t have to put on a good face and consciously act a certain way; everything out in the world was genuine and sincere. He could only hope that, one day, he wouldn’t have to hold up a facade in his own home anymore.

 

“What’s your favourite colour?” Keith inquired suddenly, pulling Lance out of his quiet reverie.

 

He glanced over at Keith curiously, pondering the answer. “Hmmm… Blue?” he thought about it for a moment more, before confirming. “Yes, blue. What’s yours?”

 

“Red.”

 

“Red, huh?” Lance questioned, and looked back towards Keith again with a wry smile. “I would’ve guessed it was purple, or perhaps black, from the amount of both you were wearing the first time we met.”

 

Keith chuckled and shook his head. “No, it’s just easier to blend in with your surroundings at night in either colour. Red is too easy to spot.”

 

“Why red? I mean, why do you consider red to be your favourite colour?”

 

He didn’t respond right away, making Lance wonder if that was not a question he could ask. Lance was just about to apologize when Keith spoke up; “It’s the colour that the sun sets as, when it’s setting over the desert sand.” he paused, lost in thought for a few moments, before he continued; “Sunsets aren’t the same over Hyrule Field as they are in the desert.”

 

Lance tilted his head to the side, considering. “I guess you’re right. I’ve never considered that before, even with the amount of sunsets I’ve seen both there and here.”

 

“And you?” Keith questioned, and nudged Zephyr forwards a bit until they were side by side with Lance and Seraphim on the road. “Why is blue your favourite colour?”

 

“Well, it’s a colour I’m always surrounded by in Hyrule Castle… It’s a royal colour.” Lance explained, and rubbed his reins between his fingers. The soft leather texture grounded him as he tried to explain his reasoning. “But, it’s also the colour of clear water, and the sky at midday. It’s the colour of Seraphim’s eyes, and a colour of hope. As it’s the colour of the Champion’s garb, like yours.” he clarified, and motioned towards Keith’s tunic.

 

“Ah, yes. Well, your answer is a lot more thought out than mine, it seems.” Keith said awkwardly, rubbed a bit of Zephyr’s white mane between his fingertips. He still hadn’t picked up the reins, and Lance was quite surprised at the amount of trust Keith had for his horse, even if they were as close as they appeared.

 

“Aren’t you worried that he’ll wander off the path?” Lance questioned, nodding down at Zephyr.

 

“Zephyr?” Keith questioned. “Oh no, he knows where he needs to go. If there’s a path to follow, he follows it.”

 

“How did you train him to do that?” Lance wondered aloud. He quickly turned his head forwards, shocked at his own question.

 

“Well,” Keith said slowly, and rubbed his hands up and down Zephyr’s neck, thinking. “It’s not so much ‘training’ as it is trust. And a trust like ours takes years to build up. It all starts out with caring for your horse, and making sure he knows he’s loved. So, be sure to take the time to soothe your mount; that’s the only way it will know how you truly feel.”

 

Lance nodded, and thought about the sentence a few times. “So, just making sure to pet your horse and take good care of him, right?”

 

“That’s a start!” he said with a smile, and pulled Zephyr back with a tug up on the bit of mane just in front of the saddle, letting Lance and Seraphim go over Helmhead Bridge first. “Don’t worry, I’ll help you and Seraphim bond. He seems like a great steed, and a loving guy. So it won’t take much.”

 

“He really is a good horse. But, I’ve found I don’t often have enough time for him…” Lance said distractedly. He reached forwards and ran his hand down the length of Seraphim’s white neck, and smiled when he heard his stallion breathe out a soft sigh at the contact.

 

“See?” Keith said, suddenly appearing back beside Lance with a small smile on his face. “Horses love attention, and your horse is no exception.”

 

Lance nodded, and picked up the reins again. “How do you know all this?”

 

“Trial and error, honestly.” Keith admitted, and rubbed at the back of his neck. He peeked ahead at their surroundings, his eyes lingering on the small settlement just to the east. The Rauru Settlement was slowly approaching as their horses ambled along the road. “Zephyr here is a good teacher; we worked with each other a lot to decide what was good or bad between us. More common things like general care and finding proper fitting tack was provided by the garrison officers.”

 

“I’m surprised they let you keep him… It’s unlike them to bend the rules, isn’t it?”

 

Keith scoffed and shook his head. “You’re right, they certainly didn’t want to. Apparently someone as ‘young and inexperienced’ as me shouldn’t be ‘rewarded’ with a horse. They tried to take him away from me, but Zephyr bit that poor officer’s hand and ran right back to me.” he chuckled softly at the memory, “So, they stopped trying. But not from lack of effort, let me tell you.”

 

“I can certainly believe that… I’ve met some of the officers, like Commander Iverson. They’re really strict.”

 

“That they are…” Keith said distractedly, looking at the scenery around them. His head never strayed from looking directly ahead, but Lance knew that he was taking in the entire scene around them for any bit of threat. Not that he would find any here.

 

The Rauru settlement was small, nestled into the bottom of the hill before the Great Hyrule Forest. The people that lived there were quiet, and simpler than most. Supposedly, they were descendants of the original sage of light, Rauru, and lived to carry on his mission to spread peace through the land. Although… Lance wasn’t exactly sure what that meant, since he’d never seen any of them move from their small settlement. And supposedly, the long dead sage was an advisor to that age’s king of Hyrule, once upon a time. So, why were they here, and not closer to the Castle?

 

“Hey, which part of the mountain did Hunk say he’d be training on?” Lance inquired, and shifted in his seat. “Like, are we meeting him at the maw of Death Mountain, or taking the path just north of the stables here?”

 

Keith blinked and pulled his attention back to Lance. “Uh,” he paused, and bit at his lip. “He didn’t say, exactly…”

 

“Well, don’t worry, dear knight.” Lance assured, and waved a hand about to try to reassure him, “We’ll see Vah Rudania soon enough, I’m sure.”

 

Sure enough, as soon as Lance finished his sentence, a large rumble overtook the ground, and Seraphim sidestepped nervously. Lance reached out and rubbed a hand over his shoulder to soothe him, and let the reins go slack, giving his white horse the room to shake it off on his own.

 

“Look!” Keith exclaimed, and pointed up towards Death Mountain towering practically above them. “I think I see it.”

Lance turned his head quick enough to nearly give himself whiplash, looking up towards the mountain expectantly.

 

Divine Beast Vah Rudania was quite different than the other Divine Beast Lance was familiar with, both in shape and function. Vah Rudania was the Divine Beast of the Goron tribe, after all… It needed to be fireproof. The large beast was modelled after a lizard, presumably the still frequently-found Fireproof Lizards that roamed the fiery mountainside. All four of its three toed feet were encased in flame as it walked along the side of Death Mountain, but the flames didn’t seem to affect it at all. It’s face was made up of six curved triangular pieces that made a point where it’s weapon was hidden, and it had a blue glowing eye shapes on each of the four triangles on the top half of its face. It was hard to tell from their position, but it looked like it was closer to the path leading up onto the mountain just north of the stables.

 

“C’mon!” Lance exclaimed, and spurred Seraphim forwards into a quick canter. “We should hurry to cut Hunk off before he goes to another part of the mountain!”

 

Lance didn’t hear a response from Keith, but advancing hoofbeats told him that Keith and his steed were keeping up just fine.

 

As soon as the road split north just beside the Woodland Stable, Lance steered Seraphim up that path, and then to the right where it split again. It was a decently steep trek upwards, so Lance made sure to give Seraphim a bit more rein to drop his head and propel himself forwards.

 

He quickly found that the mountainside would be too rough for the horses to travel up. He pulled back on the reins until Seraphim stopped, and quickly hopped off. “Looks like we’re walking from here,” he said with a bit of displeasure. He waited for Keith to hop off of his mount before saying “I wish Hunk could’ve met us at the bottom… It’d save us a lot of walking.”

 

“Ah, walking’s good for you.” Keith said teasingly, and patted his shoulder as he made his way past him. “Builds princely character, or something.”

 

“What’s that supposed to mean, dear knight?” Lance squawked, and hurried after him. “Are you saying I’m boring?”

 

“Of course not.” Keith replied with a hint of laughter.

 

Lance pursed his lips and glared at Keith’s back as he climbed ahead.

 

They walked up the steep mountainside in silence for awhile, until Lance remembered something. “Keith?” he asked, “Where did you go for your few days away from the Castle?”

 

“Oh, before the tournament?” he questioned, glancing back at Lance. “Well, where I usually go to get away from everything.”

 

“And… Where is that?”

 

“Are you familiar with the Taobab Grasslands? Directly south of the Great Plateau, west of the Hylia Lake?”

 

Lance tried to pinpoint where that was on his mental map of the land of Hyrule. If it was directly south of the Great Plateau... “Uh, is that like, a really low region just between Mount Faloraa and the Stalry Plateau?”

 

Keith nodded, and continued walking up the rough path towards where the rumbling of the Divine Beast was coming from. “Yeah, just in that little line of land. Well, there’s a big wild horse herd that congregates there, and it’s pretty far away from any prying eyes. I’ve been going there for years, ever since I caught Everest up there.”

 

“There’s a wild horse herd there? How big?”

 

“Biggest herd I’ve ever seen.” Keith said quietly, his voice full of awe.

 

“So why there?”

 

Keith hummed, and thought about his answer for a moment. “Well, I mean, it’s really quiet up there… Nobody ever goes there, and the horses there are quite friendly. It’s a good place to train, and I’ve got multiple exits if I was ever ambushed for whatever reason. And… I guess it’s just a place that calls to me, y’know?”

 

“No, I… Can’t say I do.” Lance said slowly. “I don’t really have a place like that.”

 

“One day, I hope you find your place, Lance.” Keith said honestly, and shot a smile back over his shoulder.

 

Suddenly, the rumbles shaking the ground seemed to be right on top of them. Keith jumped back and put himself between Lance and the source of the rumbles protectively. A large shadow reached over them, completely covering all of the ground around them that they could see. Lance looked up, and smiled at what he saw.

 

Hunk had found them.

 


 

As soon as they boarded the Divine Beast, Lance immediately started firing question after question Hunk’s way, asking about the controls, how it stayed fireproof, and what sorts of weapons it had. Keith just stood a few steps away with his arms crossed over his chest, and chuckled at how frazzled Hunk seemed by all of the prince’s questions.

 

Eventually, Lance ran off into the machine to inspect things for himself when he wasn’t satisfied enough with Hunk’s answers.

 

Hunk shook his head and made his way over to Keith’s side. “Should’ve known he’d bombarde me like that.” Hunk chuckled with a fond shake of his head. He placed an arm around Keith’s back briefly, and asked “Wanna see something cool?”

 

Keith wasn’t sure how to politely turn the big guy down. He seemed genuinely excited to show him something, so after a moment, he offered a feeble smile and a ‘sure’.

 

So he got pulled to the top of the Divine Beast, where Hunk rushed towards the front portion of the platform, jumping over various ridges with unexpected ease. Keith followed Hunk at a more cautious pace, taking his time to look at their surroundings.

 

Death Mountain was certainly quite stunning, if one could look past the boiling hot lava dripping down the sides closer to the peak. They were far enough away from the actual molten volcanic area, but Keith could still feel the heat in the air at their altitude. It was different than the desert heat that he was used to. It was still a hot, dry heat, but this heat felt nearly scorching. Like, if you got too close to the peak, your skin would melt off of your bones.

 

How did Gorons stand it?

 

“I think I’m finally getting the hang of controlling this Divine Beast!” Hunk exclaimed, and stretched his arms up above his head, his metal chains clanking all the while. “I tell you what, sure is a blast piloting a toy like this around.”

 

“It seems like you enjoy being a pilot.” Keith replied with a smile.

 

“I sure do.” Hunk agreed, and turned back to face the mountainside. “Speaking of which, can you believe this view?”

 

Keith had to admit, the view was quite stunning. The sun was high in the sky, showcasing the entirety of what Death Mountain had to offer. Its surface shone softly in the sunlight, casting a slight glare back at Keith, but he didn’t mind. The ground was mostly of a brownish-red stone, which showed off various precious stone’s colours in the ground's dull hue. And further up the mountain, the crimson red of lava was quite pretty, from a distance. Keith knew he’d never want to get anywhere close to that, though, even with a fireproof elixir.

 

“Just look at all those delectable rocks sprinkled on those mountains,” Hunk gushed, and rubbed his belly absentmindedly. “Mighty tasty!”

 

“I might not know a whole lot about this Calamity thing,” Hunk continued after a pause, “But mark my words, I’ll protect this land of ours to the death! Right, little guy?” he clapped Keith on the back, sending Keith flying forwards a few steps with a wince.

 

Hunk laughed heartily at Keith’s reaction, and swiftly apologized. “Hey, by the way… Congrats on becoming the prince’s appointed knight. That’s a really big deal, protecting the king’s son.” he chuckled, before adding “No pressure.”

 

Keith scoffed at Hunk’s words, and rubbed at his shoulder. “‘No pressure’, sure.”

 

“Seriously, though. Lance is a strong personality. So strong, that he can’t quite see the range for the peaks! Remember that, and you’ll be fine.”

 

Keith was just about to ask what that meant, when the ground beneath their feet started to rumble.

 

Hunk glanced around frantically, trying to see where the movement was coming from. It wasn’t the Divine Beast; it was shaking from the movement too. Which meant…

 

“What the…?” Hunk muttered, and threw his arms out to keep his balance.

 

Keith looked around critically, trying to find the source of the earthquake, or if anything was happening. Suddenly, Hunk put himself between Keith and something, and summoned Daruk’s Protection.

 

As soon as Keith ducked, he saw what Hunk was doing; protecting them from a bunch of boulders that were falling right for them. He could only hope that Lance was safe inside Vah Rudania now. If he wasn’t, Keith knew he wouldn’t be able to save him.

 

With a grunt, Hunk deflected the large boulders away, letting them bounce down the side of the mountain. He let his ancestor’s power drop, and turned to check on Keith. “Alright, so what was I saying…?” he murmured distractedly.

 

“Was that an earthquake?” Keith questioned.

 

Hunk didn’t seem to hear him. “That was a little strange... “ he murmured, mostly to himself. “As far as I know, Death Mountain has been quiet for decades… But if the mountain was shivering enough, to send down a bunch of boulders that size, then--” he cut himself off, and glanced back at Keith with a sheepish smile. “Nevermind. Forget I said anything.”

 

He stared off towards where the boulders came from on the mountain for a few moments, until Lance came barrelling up and out of the Divine Beast.

 

“What was that? Are you guys okay? What happened?” Lance questioned furiously, looking over each of their bodies carefully.

 

“A couple boulders came down, nothing drastic,” Hunk assured, and offered his friend a smile. “I kept us safe, no worries.”

 

“But how’d that happen?” Lance asked incredulously, glancing around for the source of the assault.

 

Hunk took a few steps forward and placed a large hand on Lance’s back reassuringly. “It was me, I steered Vah Rudania wrong and we ran into the side of the mountain. Nothing to be worried about!”

 

Lance appeared convinced, but Keith pressed his lips together. Both he and Hunk knew that no such thing happened; Hunk hadn’t moved the Divine Beast since the pair boarded.

 

So why did he lie to Lance? What was he trying to protect him from?

Chapter Text

8. A Premonition

 

Lance wasn’t inside the belly of the Divine Beast for a long time after that. It was obvious that he wanted to do more research, but Hunk was quickly fading. Piloting a Divine Beast was tiring, which wasn’t shocking to anyone.

 

“So, you ready to head back to the Castle, your highness?” Keith asked when Lance approached.

 

Lance merely hummed as he stopped beside Keith, his gaze not straying from the screen on the Sheikah Slate. “It’s amazing, isn’t it? All this technology we’ve been, sitting on, for the past ten thousand years!!” he exclaimed, and danced a bit in place. “Hunk, did you know that these, uh, vents below our feet? They open and close.”

 

Really?” Hunk gasped, and turned back towards the Hylians. “I had no idea! How do I do that?”

 

Lance looked up from his screen slowly, his eyes wide. “Uh, buddy, you’re the one with the weird telepathic link to this hunk of metal.” He smiled brightly at Hunk before continuing, “If anyone can figure it out, it’s you!”

 

Hunk narrowed his eyes over at the prince. “Wow, aren’t you just sooo helpful,” he lightly jabbed, a smile tugging at the corner of his lips.

 

Keith snorted despite himself, but quickly schooled his expression back into one of boredom. But not quick enough to fool Lance: the prince glanced towards him out of the corner of his eye, and smirked dangerously.

 

“Well, dear knight, I do think we have the time to stay here and help our dear friend figure out how to open these vents, don’t you think?” Lance drawled, and sidestepped to bump his shoulder to Keith’s lightly.

 

With a groan, Keith rolled his eyes and blew out a big dramatic sigh. “Well, if his highness insists, I suppose we could waste daylight outside of the Castle walls.” He paused, and raised a brow. “Who knows, if we stay out too long, we might have to camp out.”

 

Lance gasped, and thumped his spare hand against his chest with a soft thud. “My hero, how could you suggest such a thing?”

 

Hunk burst out in loud laughter at their theatrics, nearly doubling over in his rambunctious laughter. While he was distracted, Lance leaned over to whisper in Keith’s ear, “I like the way you think.”

 

“So, take your time, Lance.” Keith added, and started walking backwards, away from the pair. “I can keep myself entertained while you two figure this,” he waved his hand vaguely towards the vents beneath their feet, “thing out.”

 

“Will do.” Lance said with a nod. “But… Maybe don’t stand on the vents, incase we suddenly figure out how to open and close them.”

 

With a brief salute, Keith turned his back and started down towards the tail end of the Divine Beast. He was pretty sure all of the technological babble would go over his head, anyways. And rather than be tempted to ask questions, he figured he’d get out of the prince’s hair.

 

It wasn’t like anyone could sneak up onto Divine Beast Vah Rudania… But Keith kept an eye on the perimeter. Whatever material the beasts were made of was unclimbable, even for someone as skilled in climbing as Keith was. Even if he managed to get a handhold, the next potential handhold would be too far away to be of any use. So unless Hunk let someone aboard the Divine Beast, no unexpected visitors would be arriving.

 

So he decided to check out the machine as a whole. He was near the tail end when he decided to start really looking at it. It had a large, long tail that looked sort of like a mallet, and it swung around as the machine slowly moved forwards, presumably to keep balance. There was a ramp that led down into the belly of the beast, so Keith cautiously stepped down it.

 

It was pretty dark inside, only lit by a few torches placed at random throughout the room. There seemed to be a few different ‘rooms’, for lack of a better term, located at the outskirts of the main area. They each had a glowing blue stack located somewhere inside, and what looked like some sort of puzzle to get to each one. But, why…?

 

Suddenly, the world around Keith lit up, practically blinding him from the near darkness he’d been exposed to. He threw an arm over his eyes as Hunk’s excited whoop and Lance’s laughter echoed down into the belly of the beast.

 

“You all good down there, swordsman?” Lance called down, laughter still hinting his voice, as Hunk called down an apology.

 

Keith groaned, and waved dismissively towards the general direction he’d heard the voices from. He brought his arm away from his eyes a bit to test the waters, but it was still quite bright. It took a few moments of blinking behind the shadow his arm cast in the midst of the new light to see without squinting.

 

Footsteps echoed down the ramp, and Keith turned in time to see Lance making his way down the steps into Rudania. “Sorry about that,” he swiftly apologised, and had the decency to look sheepish. “I wasn’t expecting that to work.”

 

“It took you two less time to figure it out than I thought it would.” Keith admitted. “What’d Hunk have to do?”

 

“Believe it or not, that telepathic link I joked about was actually no joke. I told Hunk to imagine that the Divine Beast was breathing below him, sort of like gills or something, and boom! The vents opened.”

 

“Gills?”

 

Lance pointed up to the ceiling, where the vents had opened and retracted into themselves to create wide holes. “See? They sort of look like gills when they’re open.”

 

Keith hummed, unconvinced. “Sure thing, prince.” he murmured, and looked back down at Lance again.

 

It was easy to forget that Lance was taller than him, sometimes.

 

“So, I guess since we’re done here, we should head back to the Castle.” Lance said slowly, and scuffed the toe of his boot into a random nook on the floor. “You ready to go?”

 

Keith felt as though that was the exact opposite of what Lance wanted to do. “You… Don’t want to go back to the Castle yet, do you?” he said slowly, unsure.

 

“What? Psh,” Lance scoffed half-heartedly, and glanced up at Keith for just a moment. “I’m excited to go sleep in my own bed tonight.”

 

“But not excited to hear everyone talk about you behind your back.”

 

Lance’s head snapped up so quick that Keith feared for the safety of his neck. His face was carefully neutral, but his knee-jerk reaction told Keith otherwise. “W-wait, so you knew--”

 

“Or your father’s belittling words.” Keith counted off with his fingers.

 

“Wow, you tell it like it is.”

 

“Or the crushing responsibility that comes with being th--”

 

Warm brown hands were thrust against Keith’s lips, utterly silencing him. “Okay okay sheesh… Yes, Keith. All of the above, happy?” Lance hissed out. With a sigh, he relented, and lightened the press of his hands against Keith’s mouth. “Do you have any idea what it’s like, not feeling completely welcome and at ease in your own home?”

 

Keith’s shoulders slumped, and he let out a breath through barely parted lips. He could feel how it fanned out across Lance’s cupped palms. He simply raised a brow, and waited for Lance to come to that answer on his own.

 

It took a few moments, but Keith knew exactly when he came up with the answer to his own question; Lance’s blue eyes widened, and his mouth dropped open slightly. “Oh, right. Uh, sorry?” he offered, and lowered his hands from Keith’s mouth.

 

Keith chuckled softly and shook his head. “No problem. I don’t blame you for not wanting to go back just yet. So, why don’t we find something to do to stall some time? I think we can easily stall until tomorrow, don’t you?”

 

Lance merely blinked for a moment, until he comprehended what Keith was saying. When he realized what he meant, the grin he offered to his knight was blinding.

 

And if it made Keith’s heart stutter a bit, well, that was knowledge just for him.

 

Suddenly, Keith had an armful of Lance, who threw his arms around Keith’s shoulders in a light hug. Keith froze under Lance’s weight, unsure what to do. Did he hug back? Was he not supposed to touch? Did Lance want him to hug back?

 

“This is a hug, Keith. You know what those are, right?” Lance murmured, dangerously close to his ear. He could feel how Lance’s slow breaths fanned across the lobe, and he fought the urge to shiver.

 

Slowly, he brought his arms up to embrace Lance’s middle, sure to keep his hands not too high or too low. He was sure that his body felt stiff to Lance’s touch, but, he wasn’t used to being embraced in this way from anyone other than the Zora. It was an odd feeling to have Hylian flesh touching his own in such a comforting way. He didn’t think anyone other than Pidge had touched him in such a caring way since his own parents.

 

It was really nice.

 

Lance let go sooner than Keith wanted, but, he didn’t blame the prince for thinking that he might not have wanted it. He didn’t exactly act like he wanted the embrace.

 

“Well, dear knight, we should leave Hunk to go back to his home. He looks like he’s fading, and I’m sure Shay’s wondering where he is.” Lance declared softly, and stepped away from Keith awkwardly.

 

Keith could only stare down at the ground and fight to keep the flush off of his cheeks. “Of course, your highness. Whatever you say.”

 

Lance glanced over at him with a curious expression, but quickly turned back before Keith could try to understand the look. He was quick to rush back to the top of the Divine Beast, practically running to escape the awkwardness between them.

 

Keith groaned and buried his head in his hands. Of course he had to go and make things awkward between them. Lance was obviously a person who grew up in a more caring environment, being the prince and all. He wasn’t touch starved, like Keith was.

 

Prince Lance probably didn’t notice every gentle tap his bow gave against his back, or every brush of his fine clothes against his skin. He probably didn’t overthink placing his hand on someone’s shoulder, or leaning his weight playfully into a friend. He’d never had anyone shy away from him before, never had hands come down sharply upon his back. Not like Keith had.

 

With a soft groan, Keith let his hands fall down from his face, and straightened his shoulders up. If Prince Lance said they were done on the Divine Beast, then they were done.

 

He made his way back up the ramp slowly, taking the time to survey their surroundings. The sun was on it’s descent down towards the horizon, the sky starting to turn from blue to pink, and making the red earth around the Divine Beast seem even more vibrant. Hunk and Lance were talking quietly near the head of Rudania, but as soon as Keith started making his way towards the front, Lance and Hunk turned towards him and started walking to meet him halfway.

 

“So, you’ll let me know if anything else comes up?” Lance asked, and glanced up at Hunk with a slightly pleading gaze.

 

“Of course!” Hunk agreed, and stretched his arms out for a hug. “I’ll take every chance I get to drag you out from the Castle to come visit Shay and I.”

 

As soon as Lance inserted himself into Hunk’s space for the hug, Hunk turned his head to look over at Keith. “And the same for you, little guy. I’m excited to be seeing more of you! And Shay would certainly like to get to know you better.”

 

Keith offered the Goron a small smile. “Of course, big guy. Just write to Lance. Wherever he goes, I go.”

 

“Can’t imagine it any other way.” Lance said softly, stepping out of his friend’s embrace. “So. Shall we carry on?”

 

“I can drop you guys off at the top of the path you came up on. Sound good?” The Goron asked, with a light pat to the prince’s back, mindful of the precious bow resting there.

 

“Sounds great, Hunk!” Lance agreed, and turned to face Keith. His hands were on his hips and he had an easy smile on his face, like he’d completely forgotten about, or ignored the awkwardness they had just minutes before. “So, shall we go home, dear knight?”

 


 

Hunk dropped them off at the very top part of the path they had trekked up the mountain on hours ago, leaving them nowhere to go but down. But before descending, Lance scrambled up the slope a bit more to look down at his father’s kingdom.

 

As Keith reached the top, Lance already had his Sheikah Slate pulled out, and was fiddling to get the camera function open. He stopped directly behind Lance, practically breathing down his neck as he watched the Sheikah Slate bring up the image in front of them on their tiny screen.

 

The sun was on it’s descent towards the horizon, but barely halfway there yet. Lance shifted to the side, so the slate was lined up with the pond down below that housed the military training grounds that Keith himself trained at, with the large river flowing around the sacred forest directly behind the training grounds. Hyrule Castle stood tall and proud in the light, barely casting a shadow on the area around it. The day was so clear that Keith could see all the way over to Rito Village, or at least the pillar-like island it stood on. Vah Medoh could be seen slowly circling in the distance, almost directly in front of the Hebra Mountain range.

 

It was easy to forget how beautiful Hyrule was, sometimes.

 

“Why are you taking pictures?” Keith asked lowly, and sidestepped a bit so he could see the prince’s face.

 

Lance bit at his lip for a moment before answering. “Well, I sometimes feel like I’m shut in at the Castle. So, I take these pictures to look back at all the beautiful places we’ve been…” he scoffed softly to himself, and lowered the Sheikah Slate. “It’s silly, isn’t it? A prince feeling--”

 

“I don’t think it is,” Keith interrupted firmly. “You’ve had a lot on your shoulders, and being able to stop and look at the beauty of the kingdom-- your kingdom, must mean a lot.”

 

Lance sucked in a startled breath and turned his head to look at Keith head on. His mouth was parted slightly in surprise, and his gaze flickered all over his face, trying to find an answer on Keith’s face. A faint flush decorated his cheeks, but Keith tried not to read too hard into that.

 

“You…” Lance breathed out, before turning to face forwards again with a soft smile on his face. “You always know what to say, don’t you?” he asked, and raised the Sheikah Slate up to eye level again.

 

“Do I?” Keith asked, a brow quirked. “I feel like I don’t always know what to say.”

 

“Well, take it from me. You always know what to say to me.”

 

Once he’d taken the picture, he placed the slate back on it’s holster on his hip, and turned to face Keith with a smile. “We may as well carry on home now. You ready?”

 

Keith could only nod. Lance was then quick to lead the way down the steep path, while Keith was content to stay a few steps behind.

 

“So, what did you think of that Divine Beast?” Keith questioned. “I think it was one of the Beasts you had never seen up close, correct?”

 

“Right!” Lance agreed, and slowed down until Keith was by his side. “It was amazing, I had no idea that Divine Beasts were so alive! And I know Hunk didn’t know either, because he doubted me when I told him how to open the vents. And the interior! Did you see all those puzzle-like areas in the body of Rudania?”

 

“Yeah, I did, actually. What’s all that about?”

 

“Well, apparently Hunk had to unlock all of those areas by--”

 

A sound coming from below them tore Keith’s attention from Lance’s words. He paused in his tracks and reached a hand out to stop Lance as well. Lance stilled at Keith’s sudden demeanor change, his voice droning out into silence.

 

It was quiet for a few moments, making Keith doubt his hearing, before hooved footsteps carried up the path towards them. He could also hear softer footsteps, of something smaller, perhaps someone walking beside their horse. But, horses couldn’t make their way up this steep path to the top of this peak.

 

Which meant--

 

Keith grabbed Lance by the waist and pulled the both of them to hide behind a bit of a corner the rocky mountainside gave underneath the viewing platform they’d been dropped at. Lance squawked, but otherwise stayed quiet when he saw how serious Keith looked.

 

He waited for a few moments, before peering around their shelter to confirm if his suspicions were correct.

 

It took a few moments, but suddenly, a massive silver lynel came into view, being followed by a small hoard of bokoblins.

 

“Holy shit.” Keith whispered, and reached back blindly to shove Lance backwards a few steps, trying to shield Lance’s body with his own. “There’s a whole hoard of monsters out there.”

 

Lance’s eyes widened, and he crouched down, trying to peer around Keith to see what they were up against. “A silver lynel?” he murmured incredulously. “You hardly ever hear about those, let alone see one--”

 

“This isn’t a good time for a study, your highness.” Keith interrupted lowly, his gaze still honed in on the approaching enemies. “I need to clear them out so we can carry on down the path. This is the only path on this side of the mountain, and sooner or later, they’re gonna find us.” he glanced quickly back at Lance, “So I need you to get to higher ground and stay safe, okay?”

 

“Higher ground?” Lance questioned sharply, and glanced back up to his knight to level him with a look. “You do realize I can protect myself--”

 

“This isn’t up for discussion, Lance.” Keith tore his gaze away from their approaching enemies to try to show Lance how serious he was. I can’t protect the both of us if I’m worried about him. Please, just, go.”

 

Lance stood up slowly, keeping eye contact with his knight all the while. He seemed to realize quickly that Keith wouldn’t budge in his decision, and with a nod, backtracked up the path, staying as close to the mountain’s sharp walls as possible.

 

Keith breathed in a deep breath, and slowly drew the Master Sword from its sheath. With his left hand, he reached back for his new shield with a slight smirk. Time to test this baby out.

 

Hesitantly, Keith stepped out from behind his cover to face down the hoard of monsters.

 

The silver lynel was the first to notice him, and with a loud roar, it pulled out its massive sword and shield, squaring off against him.

 

Lynels were massive creatures that were part Hylian, part lion, and part horse. Their upper bodies resembled that of a Hylian, with a broad chest and strong arms, while their head was that of a horned lion, with a wild mane flowing in even the barest of breezes. Their lower bodies looked like a common horse, with four hooved legs and a tied up tail. This lynel’s body was a snowy white, with purple stripes that matched its vibrant mane, solidifying its fearsome silver class. Lynels were massive, brutish, and absolutely devastating to an untrained soldier in battle.

 

Fortunately, Keith had battled a lynel in the past… But not one as powerful as the silver lynel. And this lynel had an entourage of red and blue bokoblins. Bokoblins were somewhat stupid creatures with simple thoughts, and were easy to defeat in lower numbers. But a whole hoard of them was another matter, and with a lynel at their forefront?

 

Keith had certainly had better odds in the past.

 

A red bokoblin roared, and charged at Keith, raising its club as it advanced. Keith flicked his gaze over to the oncoming threat, but held firm, still facing the bigger enemy head on. When the beast came within the final few feet, he turned, his shield ready to deflect its blow, but the bokoblin never reached him; it collapsed just in front of him, an arrow lodged in its chest.

 

Keith whipped around, trying to find the source of the support, only to find Lance perched at the top of the mountain with his bow drawn, and the next arrow knocked to his sights.

 

“I’ll keep them off of you!” Lance called down as he let his next arrow loose, into the next approaching bokoblin. “You keep that lynel busy!”

 

“Lance, what are you doing?” Keith roared, and threw his shield arm, gesturing wildly. “Get out of here!”

 

“And leave you to fend for yourself?” Lance snapped back, and lowered his bow to glare down at his knight. “Let me help you!”

 

No! Let me handle this, your high--”

 

“Keith get out of the way!” Lance screamed, and took up aim again, letting an arrow fly in the same motion.

 

Keith whipped around just as the lynel was bearing down on him. He hadn’t even heard it approaching. He quickly raised his blade to parry it’s attack, but the beast roared and changed its aim at the last moment, skirting around Keith’s blade and slicing into his forearm.

 

With a hiss, Keith drew his arm back into his chest and grimaced down into the decent slice the lynel’s massive sword cut into his arm. He stepped back a few steps, watching his opponent warily. The beast also backed up, and let his shield arm drop a bit. There was an arrow embedded in its thick shoulder, right where the beast would raise his arm.

 

That’s where I strike, Keith decided, and flew at the beast with determination.

 

He was able to get in a few hits at its wounded shoulder before it roared and swiped at him with his vicious sword, but Keith was already backing away with a determined look on his face. He knew that lynels took a lot to take down, so he’d just have to hope that Lance stayed safe while he took down the leader.

 

It was tiring, dodging and deeking around the lynel’s massive multi-point sword, but at least he could keep slashing away at his downed shield arm. Lance’s accurate arrow targeting put his arrow at the perfect place, so it couldn’t raise its shield arm to block any of Keith’s blows.

 

Keith didn’t dare glance around him to see where the bokoblins were. The bigger beast needed all of Keith’s attention, he couldn’t afford to be distracted anymore. He could only hope that the remaining bokoblins would stay off of him for long enough that he could finish off the lynel.

 

He could feel his limbs getting heavier as he backflipped away from a swipe of the lynel’s blade. He wasn’t sure if it was just his lagging body, or if the lynel was also getting tired. A jab towards Keith’s face was a little too close for comfort when the sword whizzed through his hair, but Keith just kept moving, kept jabbing, kept trying to wear it down.

 

There were a variety of bleeding cuts all over the lynel’s upper body, concentrated on its right side, where it wasn’t able to properly shield any of Keith’s blows. As the beast swiped downwards, Keith sidestepped the blow, and managed to get a few sharp jabs into the lynel’s mid-body before it could lift its sword again. A particular jab to the softer area where the beast’s hylian torso met the equine chest made the lynel jerk back in pain, and Keith grinned.

 

So that’s where it’s weak spot is. Keith thought smugly, and quickly backed up from the beast, putting some distance between it and himself.

 

The lynel watched him closely for a moment, before jumping towards him, its sword arm making a vicious slice for his legs. Keith backflipped away from the assault, and quickly rushed to its side, jumping on the lynel’s back before it stood up to its full height again.

 

With a roar, the lynel starting bucking and jumping around, trying to throw Keith from its back, but Keith held fast, driving the Master Sword into the place where two torsos met relentlessly.

 

After only a few blows, the lynel roared, and thrashed about wildly, nearly throwing Keith from its back, before collapsing forward onto its knees, and sinking to the ground.

 

Keith breathed a sigh of relief, and hopped off of the fallen monster. He quickly took in his surroundings to see where the other enemies were.

 

The ground around them was littered with fallen red and blue bokoblins, all felled by an arrow or two in vital areas. As much as Keith was glad he didn’t have to split his attention on the bokoblin attacks and on the lynel, he was still mad that Lance risked his life. It wasn’t his job.

 

At the thought of Lance, Keith turned to look up at Lance’s perch.

 

Lance was backed up to practically the edge of the cliff, with his bow held defensively in front of him. The quiver attached to his belt was empty, and everything about his stance read helpless.

 

Lance!” Keith shouted, and started running back up the mountain, following the path towards him.

 

As he rounded the path leading to the the top of the cliff, he saw why Lance was on the defensive; a single bokoblin had escaped both of their sights, and advanced on Lance with his massive wooden weapon raised.

 

He’d never make it to Lance’s side in time.

 

In a last ditch effort, Keith slowed down, and wound his hand with his sword back. He focused intently on the back of the monster’s back, and threw his sword as hard as he could.

 

The blue bokoblin turned at the new noise, just as the tip of the Master Sword ran it through.

 

As the bokoblin dropped, Lance sagged in relief, nearly dropping his bow. “Sharp work, samurai.” he said somewhat breathlessly.

 

Keith ran flat out past the Master Sword, and straight towards Lance. As soon as he skidded to a stop in front of him, he let his Hylian Shield drop from his shaking hands, and reached up to grasp Lance’s chin. He was quietly grateful that Lance didn’t object to the sudden handling, especially with Keith’s surely sweaty hands.

 

“Are you alright?” Keith asked lowly, and stepped back slightly to look at Lance’s entire body. “You’re not hurt, are you?”

 

“No… No.” Lance replied softly, and stood still, letting Keith check over his body visually for any injuries. “You stopped that bokoblin before he could reach me, so, thank you for that.”

 

Keith reached for the prince’s elbow, and gently pulled him a few steps forward so he wouldn’t be so close to the edge. He let his hand stay on his elbow for a few moments longer than necessary, and circled around Lance to be absolutely sure of his health.

 

Once he circled once, he glanced over towards the dead bokoblin, where the Master Sword was still embedded, sitting with the hilt tall and proud towards the sky. The Hylian Shield sat a few steps away, directly between Keith and the sword, with its handles facing the sky.

 

He stepped forward, and crouched down to grab the shield and place it on his back, before stepping up to the sword. He pulled it swiftly from its place in the bokoblin’s stomach, and sheathed it in the same motion.

 

Lance was shuffling around quietly behind him, but Keith kept his back to him.

 

Keith took a deep breath, and let his eyes flutter closed as he asked “What were you thinking?”

 

Lance stilled behind him, scarcely even breathing. It took a few moments, but Lance finally responded with a faint “What?”

 

“Why would you engage?” Keith rephrased, staying absolutely still.

 

Lance shifted behind him, presumably taking up a defensive stance. “Why wouldn’t I?”

 

Keith’s fists clenched before he could think about it, and his head fell forwards as he tried to stay reasonable. “Because, your highness, I am your protector. I am the one who’s supposed to fight all of our battles, not the both of us.”

 

“And why not?”

 

“Because I can’t protect you when you’re jumping into the fray with me!” Keith shouted, whirling around to face a startled Lance. He paused, and tried to take a deep breath before continuing. “It’s… Not your job to protect my back, Lance. I’m here to protect you, no matter the cost.”

 

“It shouldn’t be like that.” Lance argued, and stepped forwards, practically unconsciously. “You shouldn’t have to put your life on the line--”

 

“But that is the way it is, Lance.” Keith interrupted softly. He offered him a brief, rueful smile before continuing; “It’s my job to protect you, now, and for as long as I’m in your service. And… I hope we’re in each other’s company for years to come.”

 

Lance scoffed quietly, and shook his head. “Of course we will. You won’t get rid of me so easily, dear knight.”

 

“So you promise to let me do my job?” Keith asked seriously, advancing towards Lance again. “You’ll stay out of the way, stay safe, the next time we’re attacked?”

 

“Next time?” Lance scoffed, and opened his mouth to say something. Once he saw Keith’s stern gaze, he hesitated, before quietly agreeing to Keith’s terms.

 

Keith nodded, with a satisfied smirk playing at his the corner of his lips, and turned back to face the mess they’d made. He cringed slightly at seeing the mess of bodies strewn across the path, but, both he and Lance made it out alive, so it was worth it.

 

Woah, Keith, you’re injured!” Lance exclaimed, and sprung over to his side, inspecting his forearm.

 

Keith glanced down at the cut on his arm. He knew the lynel had slashed his arm open, it had still hurt even with the adrenaline coursing through his body, but he’d been ignoring the pain until Lance pointed it out again.

 

“Here, sit, and let me look at those cuts.” the prince instructed, and tugged on the sleeve of Keith’s tunic until he plopped down onto the rocky earth with a sigh.

 

Lance knelt beside him, and hummed quietly to himself as he rolled up the sleeve on Keith’s tunic, inspecting the cut. It was deep slash up near his elbow, on the top part of his forearm. And while it had closed and stopped bleeding since it was originally cut, blood started welling up freely again, threatening to spill over.

“That won’t do,” Lance murmured to himself, and pulled the sleeve of his own tunic down a bit to dab at the blood. “This one’s pretty deep. We should go see Pidge about getting it closed up.”

 

“Pidge?” Keith questioned. “Why would we travel all the way out to Lanayru just to have her heal up a scratch?”

 

Lance levelled his knight with an unimpressed look. “This,” he indicated to the still freely bleeding wound, “is not a scratch.” He paused, and zoned in on something on Keith’s forehead. He brought his hand up slowly, and brushed inky black tendrils away from Keith’s forehead. “This, on the other hand, is a scratch.”

 

Keith automatically brought his hand up to where Lance’s own hand was, and winced when his fingertips made contact with the slice. “Huh…” he whispered, slightly baffled. “I don’t even know how I got this.”

 

That cut doesn’t look too bad, actually.” Lance said thoughtfully, and let Keith’s bangs fall back against his face. “You’re fine, for now. But, you know, there’s a fine line between courage and recklessness.”

 

“‘Recklessness’?” Keith repeated in a somewhat stunned tone. “What--”

 

“As brave as you are, that does not make you immortal.” Lance continued, oblivious to Keith’s rebuttal. He adjusted his position so he was sitting, rather than kneeling, beside Keith, and glanced down to the chaos down below. “And besides, we’re halfway to Pidge already, so we may as well go see her.” he said, somewhat distractedly.

 

Keith turned to look at the prince’s expression, watching as it slowly fell. “It seems, that…” Lance began, and looked down at the back of his right fist, which had somehow clenched, “that the frequency of these types of attacks are on the rise. And, the scale of beasts we are facing is intensifying as well. I… I fear that this is an omen that pertains to the Calamity.”

 

Keith didn’t know what to say to dissuade him of his logic. It was true, that the number and types of beasts in Hyrule had increased lately, but that didn’t necessarily mean that the Calamity’s return loomed. And he knew that he’d never been good with words, especially not in the prince’s case. What could he say?

 

Just as Keith was about to try to say something, anything, Lance stood up and brushed his breeches off. “And, if that’s the case, I’m ready to expect the worse. We all have to be prepared, and that includes me…”

 

“Do…” Keith began, but he hesitated. “Do you think we’ll be ready?” He asked tentatively.

 

Lance turned away, looking down towards down the mountain, not truly seeing what’s in front of him. “Well, I'm hoping to be.” After a moment, he turned back to face Keith with a faint smile. “Will you help me?”

 

“Of course I will. You know that.” Keith answered sincerely, standing up beside the prince.

 

Lance glanced over at him with a smile. “Good. Now, let’s be off to Zora’s Domain, before that cut gets worse.” With a sense of finality, Lance started down the mountain again.

 

Keith could only shake his head fondly at the prince’s back. Well, if they wanted a way to stay out of the castle for an extra day, this was certainly the way to do it.

 

“You do realize,” Keith began, as he followed Lance a few paces behind, “that it’ll take us until tomorrow at noon to ride, and then walk to the Domain?”

 

“I’m aware. And it’ll take us that, plus a few hours to come back to the castle.” Lance called back over his shoulder. “We can talk the whole way there and back.”

 

Keith groaned loudly, and playfully staggered a few steps. “Talk, your highness? What about? Haven’t you nearly used up all your words today?”

 

Lance spluttered, and stuttered to a stop. “Me, using all of my words in a day? Dear knight, I do think you’re getting the two of us mixed up.” With a smile, he carried on down the path. “I’m not the one who’s all dark and broody all the time.”

 

“‘Dark and broody’?” Keith squawked, and jogged to catch up to Lance’s side. “I don’t think my personality is that boring.”

 

Lance snorted, before covering his smile with his hand. “Boring? Oh goddesses, no, you’re far too interesting for that.”

 


 

Both Zephyr and Seraphim were quite close to where they’d left them hours before. They’d moved off the path to graze off to the side, but were both quite ready to go when both boys mounted up.

 

They rode well into the night, scarcely saying anything as the night wore on. Lance even fell asleep on horseback for most of the ride, which wasn’t unexpected. He’d had a lot more excitement than he was used to. Keith wished they could stop and rest for a few hours, but he knew they couldn’t. If they stopped to rest on the road, it would take them even longer to make it up to the Domain.

 

And Keith didn’t think he could stay conscious much longer.

 

He’d started feeling weak as soon as he mounted up on Zephyr. The lynel battle must have had a much greater toll on his body than he’d anticipated. He hadn’t felt like this in years, not since he stumbled up to Zora’s Domain the first time.

 

But he kept quiet, since Lance was fast asleep on Seraphim’s back as they ambled along the path. He kept his gaze focused on the path in front of them with a fair bit of difficulty.

 

Keith woke Lance up with a light shake as soon as they reached the fork in the road, that either led north, to Death Mountain’s base and Akkala, or continued most eastward, towards Zora’s Domain. He knew that Lance was usually groggy for the first while after he woke up, and waking him up now would give him enough time to adjust to the early dawn before it truly rose.

 

He was quiet until they reached a part on the path where they’d need to dismount, and leave their horses. The rest of the path would be too steep in areas, or too wet in others, so it was just best to leave them behind. They only had a few hours trek left.

 

As soon as Lance dismounted, he glanced back over at his knight, only to do a double take. “Woah, Keith, are you okay?”

 

“Fine, just fine Lance. Let’s just get up to the Domain.” He quickly dismissed, and started up the rocky path to the first bridge they’d have to cross, the Inogo Bridge.

 

It was all uphill from there, and not in the good way.

 

Keith could normally make the entire trek up the winding path to Zora’s Domain easily, quickly, and without breaking much of a sweat. But today? Every step he took felt harder than the last one, and he knew they were barely even started on their path. There would be very few downhill parts on the road to the Domain, and only ever uphill. Since the path primarily followed the river that flowed from the the heart of Lanayru, most of the path was on a steep rocky path that only ever seemed to go upwards. Keith couldn’t help but think that today it went all the way up to the heavens.

 

Oh, why couldn’t they have just gone to the castle?

 

He glanced down at his arm, and cringed at his cut’s condition. It was still bleeding, even through his undershirt, and hadn’t really stopped since he defeated the lynel yesterday. He glanced back at Lance to see how he was faring, and was shocked to see that he was quite close behind him. He swiftly pressed a hand to the cut, covering up the blood spot on his shirt.

 

As soon as they started to go downhill a bit towards the Bank of Wishes, Keith sighed in relief at the break. He knew it wouldn’t last long, since from there it cut through a sheltered rocky path over to Oren Bridge. That bridge marked the halfway point, for the regrettably easier half of their journey. Lance had been oddly quiet, but Keith was thankful for it. If Lance tried to make conversation, Keith would be forced to respond, and he wasn’t sure he could focus on more than keeping one foot going in front of the other.

 

As soon as they reached Oren Bridge, Keith’s world started to spin. He stumbled over to the railing and gripped it tightly, blinking furiously, trying to clear his vision.

 

“-th, Keith?” Lance questioned, and his face suddenly appeared in Keith’s line of vision. He looked incredibly worried. “Can you hear me?”

 

“Yeah… I’m fine.” Keith mumbled, and stood up straight, letting go of the railing, only to collapse back against it again.

 

“Woah, no no that’s not ‘fine’.” Lance said worriedly, and grasped Keith’s elbow, trying to keep him upright. “We’re almost to the Domain now, just a little further, okay?”

 

“We’re not that close,” Keith murmured tiredly, and let Lance tug him down the bridge’s length. “We still have to cross Luto’s Crossing and scale Ruto Mountain before we even reach the Great Zora Bridge.”

 

Lance breathed out a nervous laugh, and wrapped an arm around Keith’s waist, trying to keep him upright. “Great, well, at least you know the layout of the Domain, even when you’re clearly delirious from blood loss.”

 

It took a few moments for Keith to understand those words together in that sentence, but when he pieced together that they meant, he perked up. “Blood loss?” he slurred. “What?”

 

Keith felt rather than heard Lance groan as he adjusted his hold on his waist as they trekked down the path. Wait, when did we get this far? “I’m sure you know this,” Lance began slowly, with a fair bit of sarcasm, more than Keith’s muddled brain knew what to do with, “but you were cut yesterday, and my selfish ass decided to get you treated by Pidge, which was totally out of the way, rather than going straight home to get you looked at there.”

 

“Don’ blame you.” Keith said seriously, and looked up just in time to catch Lance’s shocked expression. “‘M not fond o’ the castle either.”

 

“I wish that were true…” Lance murmured. Before Keith could even comprehend what was happening-- he must have blinked out for a moment-- he was being thrust into someone else’s arms in a cooler place. He tried to pry his eyes open to hear what all the shouting was about, but he just felt so heavy . And it was too damn bright, he couldn’t see where he was or who was with him. It was all too much, he couldn’t focus.

 

The only thing he could focus on, was a warm hand curled into his own. The palm was slightly smaller than his own, but the fingers were thinner and longer. It felt so right to hold onto their hand. He tried to grasp onto the hand tighter, but suddenly everything went black.

Chapter Text

9. Pidge's Touch

 

Lance couldn’t help but feel like something was wrong with Keith as he walked ahead.

 

Before, when they were trekking up Death Mountain until they met up with Hunk, he’d practically had to slow down so Lance could keep up. But now? Lance had to consciously keep a slower pace so he wasn’t crowding Keith like a shadow as he led the way.

 

He really started to worry when Keith started staggering along the path, swaying from side to side. He desperately wanted to reach out to him, to stop him and let him rest… But they were on their way to get Pidge’s help. She’d be able to help him, heal him. They just had to keep pushing onwards.

 

When Keith finally staggered to a stop at the base of the Oren Bridge, Lance quickly rushed over to his side as he leaned precariously onto the railing. “Keith?” Lance asked, worry surely laced into his tone. When he didn’t respond, he said his name again, a little louder the second time. “Can you hear me?”

 

“Yeah…” Keith muttered out, music to Lance’s ears. “I’m fine.” he weakly assured. He tried to stand up on his own, but swiftly collapsed back against the bridge as soon as he tried to let go of the railing.

 

“Woah, no no that’s not ‘fine’.” Lance said worriedly, and grasped Keith’s elbow, trying to keep him upright. He glanced around, trying to get a glimpse of that signature fish tail that indicated how close they were to the Domain. He couldn’t see it yet, but, he was sure they were closer than he thought. “We’re almost to the Domain now, just a little further, okay?” he assured.

 

“We’re not that close,” Keith murmured tiredly.

 

Lance huffed, and slung Keith’s limp arm over his own shoulders, and gripped onto his wrist tightly so he wouldn’t go anywhere. Once he was sure he had a good grip on his knight, he started down the path again, being conscious to keep the pace slower so Keith could stagger along beside him. Luckily, Keith seemed to have no objections to the sudden support.

 

“We still have to cross Luto’s Crossing and scale Ruto Mountain before we even reach the Great Zora Bridge.” Keith continued suddenly, making Lance jump a little. Goddesses, was he still on about that?

 

Lance breathed out a soft laugh, and wrapped an arm around Keith’s waist, trying to keep him upright. “Great, well, at least you know the layout of the Domain, even when you’re clearly delirious from blood loss.”

 

Keith was quiet for a long time, until they made it all the way up the steep bank, to the top of path before it cut down again towards Luto’s Crossing. As soon as they started the descent, he perked up and looked right over at Lance with a glassy gaze. “Blood loss?” He slurred.

 

Lance barked out a nervous laugh, and pulled Keith tighter to his body so he could quickly adjust his grip on his waist and wrist in a simultaneous motion. “I’m sure you know this,” he said slowly, with a fair bit of sarcasm, and glanced over at Keith with a pointed gaze, “but you were injured yesterday, and my selfish ass decided to get you treated by Pidge, which was totally out of the way, rather than going straight home to get you looked at there.”

 

Keith sort of nodded at the idea, but his head drooped downwards, and his feet starting moving even more sluggishly as they trekked down the hill. It wasn’t until they reached the far end of Luto’s Crossing that Keith spoke up again. “Don’ blame you.” he murmured.

 

Lance peered down at him, his brows raised and mouth agape.

 

Keith glanced up at him briefly, surely catching Lance’s shocked expression before he could school it. “‘M not fond o’ the Castle either.” he continued.

 

“I wish that were true…” Lance murmured, and bit at his lip. He truly doubted that Keith really meant that, he was probably just trying to cheer him up in his usual Keith-way.

 

Just as they made it to the base of Ruto Mountain, Keith went completely lax in Lance’s grasp.

 

Lance gasped, and lowered Keith’s limp body to the ground as gently as he could, making sure to hold the back of his head. He couldn’t believe this was happening. Keith had actually passed out from exertion and blood loss, goddesses.

 

Lance swore under his breath, and knelt down beside Keith’s still form. He pressed his hand to Keith’s pale forehead, shocked to find it clammy to the touch. Then, he tapped his fingertips to each of his cheeks sharply, trying to wake him up. When that didn’t work, he groaned, and stood up, brushing off the knees of his trousers. Glancing around, he tried to see how close they were to the Domain; they had to be getting close by now. He still couldn’t see the signature luminescent blue fishtail, which was the tallest part of the city, but if they were at the base of Ruto Mountain, they were bound to be at least half way there.

 

With a grimace, Lance bit at his lip, trying to decide what to do. It was unlikely that anyone would be around to help him; the Zora never took the mountain path, and other Hylians were rarely, if ever, at the Domain…

 

It was up to him to get Keith there, to get the help he desperately needed because of Lance’s own stupidity.

 

He leaned down again, and quickly maneuvered Keith onto his stomach, turning his head to the side so he wasn’t face-down in the dirt, and pulled him up onto his back with a grunt. As much as it was a bit of a pain to hold him like this, his own hands supported under Keith’s lax thighs, and his arms draped over Lance’s shoulders, it would be easier on him in the long run. He wasn’t sure if he could hold and carry him up and down the mountain like Keith cradled him out in the desert.

 

Wow, Lance thought, guess we’ve both cradled each other.

 

As he stood up, he looked up the path, towards the top of the climbable part of the mountain, and groaned again under his breath. This was gonna be a long trek.

 

One foot in front of the other, left foot, right foot, was the mantra Lance kept repeating to himself as he trekked up the mountain. Keith’s head lolled to the side, his nose pressed against the side of Lance’s neck, causing him to shiver with every slow, shallow breath he gave. Keith still hadn’t stirred, not since passing out at the base of the mountain, which worried Lance to no end, but they’d get help soon. He had to keep himself together, for Keith’s sake if not his own.

 

“Oh, Lance, why couldn’t we just go back to the Castle?” he muttered darkly to himself. “You just had to stay out of there for a few extra days. Well!” he exclaimed, and bounced slightly into his next step, sending Keith’s feet kicking forwards, “This is what you get. An injured bodyguard, and an intense workout carrying his injured ass up a mountain.”

 

As he approached the top of the mountain path, he picked up the pace, and breathed out a sigh of relief when he saw it levelled off for a bit before winding down the opposite side of the mountain.

 

But, he had to admit, the view was beautiful from up here.

 

He could finally see the top of the tail of the large fish that housed the heart of the Domain. He couldn’t see the body yet, due to the sweeping rocks that hooked over various cliffs around the entire region, but he could see the walkways that made up the outskirts of the city. In the late afternoon sun, everything shone vibrant blue, even violet in areas, showcasing the luminous stones used in the architecture.

 

He only wished he was coming to the Domain under better circumstances.

 

Going down the mountain was loads easier than trekking up, and Lance practically jogged down the winding path to try to get there faster. Keith still hadn’t moved, and Lance was starting to panic. Was he going to be okay? Keith had to be okay, they still had so much left to do together…

He almost cried in relief when they leveled out towards the Great Zora Bridge, which led straight to the heart of the Domain.

 

The Great Zora Bridge was seemingly eternal, the tall spires connecting in almost a canopy over the walkway. There were easily over fifty spires from the start of the bridge, to where it met the front of the Domain. The cool breeze coming off the water made Lance sigh in relief, but the relief was short lived when he felt Keith finally shift slightly against his back.

 

Lance picked up the pace, practically running down the length of the massive bridge to reach Pidge faster.

 

About halfway down, he met a shocked looking Zora guard, who paused mid step at the sight of the dishevelled Prince of Hyrule carrying an unconscious Hylian on his back. “Y-your highness!” she exclaimed, and quickly bowed her head. “Is there anything I can do for you?”

 

“Get Princess Katie, please.” he gasped out.

 

The Zora nodded, and swiftly turned on her heel and rushed towards the Domain ahead of them.

 

Lance didn’t see where the guard rushed off to, so as soon as he stepped off of the bridge and climbed the few steps up into the city itself, he stopped to marvel at the city as a whole.

 

He’d been here before, but, each and every time he stepped into the courtyard stole his breath away. There were two levels to the Domain, accessible by two large staircases to either side of the large courtyard just in front of Lance. The first thing to catch his gaze was the absolutely massive fish structure that sat at the centre of the Domain, housing the throne room on the second level, and a shrine down some stairs beneath the throne room. There were massive pillars everywhere, all equipped with a teardrop shaped light at the top. Water flowed freely throughout, especially through the throne room and into the courtyard, where a lovely fountain sat.

 

Other Zora were stopping to openly stare at Lance and Keith, but Lance couldn’t really find it in himself to care. He just needed to get to Pidge.

 

Suddenly, two green Zora stepped out from a shop at the far side of the courtyard. He immediately recognized Pidge, in the blue Champion’s shawl he’d made for her himself, and he could only assume that the Zora beside her was her older brother, Matthew. He couldn’t recall if he’d met the crown prince of the Zora before, but he knew enough about him from his lessons as a child, and from Pidge to hold a conversation, presumably.

 

The siblings looked almost identical, the same green bodies and brown eyes, although Matthew was a lot taller than Pidge. But, Pidge was small enough that it was not a hard achievement to meet. Other than the height, and Prince Matthew’s slightly more masculine features, they looked so similar that one could mistake them for twins. Although, Matthew did have a slightly different silhouette than Pidge. Where Pidge’s head was smooth, Matthew had a dorsal fin that protruded from the crown of his head, and there were matching jagged marks down the length of his ears.

 

He had less jewels on than his sister, but he still wore a similar necklace with a diamond shape dominating the center. There was a dark purple, nearly black feather sitting atop his head, protruding from the circlet-like jewelry he wore, and he had large silver bracelets circling his wrists with the same diamond shape as the focus. And there was a stark white scar on the right side of his face, a slice starting below his eye and running diagonally down towards his jaw. Lance couldn’t help but wonder how the crown prince got such a scar.

 

What happened?!” Pidge demanded as soon as she was close enough.

 

Lance winced, and glanced down at the water at his feet. He hadn’t really thought about Pidge’s reaction to seeing her best friend injured. Either way, being yelled at was never pleasant. “W-well, uh--”

 

“Look at him!” she exclaimed, and immediately stepped into Lance’s space to place her tiny hands to Keith’s face, where it was still pressed into the side of Lance’s neck.

 

“Let him speak, Pidge.” Matthew scolded softly, and stopped a few paces away from Lance, looking at Keith’s still form with a worried look.

 

“Speak?” she shrieked, and brushed Keith’s long raven hair to the side, taking note of all of his injuries. “Look at him, Matt! He’s bleeding in multiple areas, he’s white as a sheet, and unconscious!”

 

“I know--”

 

Lance loudly cleared his throat, interrupting them. When he saw he had both of the royal’s attention, he gave a brief explanation, “We were ambushed.”

 

“Ambushed?” Matthew questioned, shock clear upon his features.

 

Pidge glanced over at him, then started healing the small wound on his forehead. “By a few bokoblins, or?” she questioned lightly, but her tone was disapproving.

 

Lance narrowed his eyes at her, but didn’t try to argue. “A silver lynel.”

 

“A what?!” Matthew and Pidge exclaimed at the same time.

 

Lance nodded. “A silver lynel, and a hoard of bokoblins at its back.”

 

Matthew swore softly under his breath, and Pidge stepped back so she could face him directly. “So, what, did you just stand there while Keith was getting attacked?”

Pidge,” Matthew immediately chastised, and gave her a stern look.

 

No!” Lance exclaimed, and adjusted his hold on Keith. “I-”

 

“No, Matt, I want to know why Lance shows up here unharmed, with Keith in such a state that he is being carried by the man he’s supposed to be protecting!”

 

Matthew huffed, and walked around to Lance’s back so he could take Keith from his grasp. “Well, Keith is Lance’s protector, it makes sense that he--”

 

“Whatever.” Pidge huffed, and walked over to her brother’s side as he adjusted Keith in his grasp. As soon as he was being held by Matthew in a bridal style, where she could start working on his wounds, she brushed his hair to the side so she could heal the cut on his forehead. “You know as well as I that they’re both trained to fight with their weapon of choice.” she hissed out.

 

“I was helping him!” Lance shouted, and whirled around to face them. He clenched his fists, and closed his eyes briefly, trying to regain control of his emotions. They were still in public, after all, and yelling to the crown prince and princess of the Zora in the courtyard just below their throne room didn’t look good. “I kept all of the bokoblins off of him while he battled the lynel.” he said slowly, conscious of keeping his voice even.

 

Matthew glanced back at Lance with a slightly impressed look. “See, Pidge?” Matthew said loftily, “Lance here helped Keith. He didn’t just, stand around and act like a damsel while Keith fought.”

 

“I didn't.” Lance said lowly, and narrowed his eyes at Pidge. “I didn’t just hide while Keith fought, not like he wanted me to. He was mad, at first, when I didn’t, but I couldn’t just leave him to fight a whole hoard of monsters on his own, especially not with a monster like that silver lynel at the front.”

 

Pidge stopped healing Keith to turn and look at Lance head on, her expression unreadable. He couldn’t tell what Pidge was thinking, it was obvious she was trying to keep her face blank. After a long moment, she finally sighed and shook her head, looking down towards the ground. “That sounds like Keith.” she said quietly, and looked up at Lance as she said it. “He’s always been the one to fight his battles off on his own. Doesn’t like anyone else around who can get hurt.” She looked back to Keith with a fond look on her face. “Dummy,” she whispered to him. “Always worrying me.”

 

“Speaking of,” Matthew interrupted lowly. He nodded down to where his injured arm was bleeding onto the front of his tunic, “you need to look at that, Pidge.”

 

“Right.” She agreed, and gestured off towards the other side of the courtyard. “C’mon, I’ll look at him in his room.”

 

With a nod, Matthew started off towards Keith’s room at the Domain, with Pidge hot on his heels. Lance hesitated, though, at the mention of Keith’s room. He had a room here at the Domain?

 

If he did, it was obvious that there was a lot about Keith he didn't know. He knew that Keith had a past here, and that Keith has been friends with Pidge, and presumably Matthew, since he was quite young, probably five or six years old, after being taken from his home and his parents in the Gerudo Desert. But what he didn’t know was the history of their friendship, how much time he spent here, or what it meant to him.

 

He bit at his lip, before quickly following after Pidge and Matthew. He had no idea where this room was at the Domain, so if he lost them, he’d have to ask around for directions, and that wasn’t something he was eager to do.

 

They strolled right through the Seabed Inn, through a set of doors that led to a short hallway with doors lining down the length. At the end of the hall on the right, Pidge opened the door for Matthew and Keith, and followed as soon as they entered the threshold.

 

Lance was the last to enter, hesitant about entering a room uninvited. But, both Matthew and Pidge knew he had been following, so, he must be allowed in.

 

As soon as he came to the doorway, he paused, peering into the room first. It was small, only had a bed and a bedside table in the centre of the room, and a small desk in the far corner, but it felt homier than Lance would have expected. The walls were the same blue as luminous stones, and one of the walls wasn’t actually a wall, but an open concept from floor to ceiling, overlooking the water behind the Domain.

 

Matthew gently placed Keith on the bed, atop the covers, and Pidge immediately set to healing his wounds. She reached out both arms and created a triangle with her hands, and closed her eyes, and after a moment, bright blue light emanated from between her hands and flowed down towards Keith’s injured arm.

 

Lance finally stepped into the room, and closed the door behind him as Pidge started healing him. He let his hand linger on the door handle as he tried to decide if he should go to Keith’s side or not. After only a moment’s hesitation, he let go of the handle and walked the short distance to Keith’s bedside.

 

Keith’s brows were furrowed and his lips were pursed into a slight frown as Pidge healed him. Lance couldn’t help but feel terrible looking at the state of his bodyguard, lying there on the bed. But, bodyguard didn’t seem like quite the right word for Keith anymore.

 

What was he now? An acquaintance? Someone who worked for him? A friend? Something more than that?

 

Lance had no idea, anymore. It was simple before, a prince and bodyguard relationship, where there were no real feelings from either side. But it was different now. Lance knew more about his knight, about who he was and all the trials it took to get him there. And Keith knew more than most about Lance himself, his fears and hopes and dreams.

 

And that was pretty scary for Lance.

 

He sat down on the edge of the bed carefully, taking care to not move Keith and not to disrupt Pidge’s ministrations. It was weird, sitting so close to Pidge’s healing magic. He could feel it rippling towards him, almost like the small waves on the water in the pond by the gazebo outside of his room at the Castle. He knew Pidge had healing magic -- it was one of the reasons she’d been picked as a Champion, along with her savagery with a spear -- but Lance had never seen it for himself.

 

Keith’s grimace deepened, and before Lance could even think about his actions, he gripped Keith’s uninjured hand. Keith’s hand was quite different than his own. His palm was bigger, rougher from years of gripping a sword, but that didn’t bother Lance. His fingers were also thicker than his own, and shorter. It was interesting to see the differences between their hands. They were practically polar opposites, and yet, Keith’s hand just felt so right in his own.

 

“Lance?” Matthew questioned.

 

Lance jerked upright, and whirled around to face an equally startled Matthew. “Sorry,” he swiftly apologized, “I didn’t mean to scare you. I just thought I’d steal you away for a few minutes?”

 

Lance nodded, but turned back towards Keith. His face didn’t look as pained anymore, and he could see that Pidge’s healing magic was working; the wound on his arm was closing up nicely. It took him a bit to tear himself away from Keith, but, he couldn’t stay in Pidge’s way for much longer.

 

Plus, Matthew probably wanted to know more details.

 

Matthew led him back out into the hallway, closing the door quietly behind them. His shoulders drooped as soon as the door closed in front of them. “Crazy day, huh?” he murmured.

 

“No kidding,” Lance agreed softly. He never expected to arrive at the Domain in such a state. “Sorry about the dramatic entrance.”

 

“You’re fine.” he replied, and turned to face him. He straightened up his shoulders again, and offered Lance a kind smile. “I don’t believe we’ve been properly introduced.” he said, and offered him a hand. “I’m Prince Matthew.”

 

With a smile, Lance shook the offered hand. “Pleasure to meet you.”

 

“The pleasure’s all mine, and, all that jazz.” he said with a wave of his hand. “You can call me Matt. Everyone else in there does.” he indicated back at the closed door behind him.

 

“Sounds good, Matt.”

 

“So… What exactly happened?”

 

Lance let his eyes close as he dropped his head forwards. He knew this was coming. “Well, Keith and I met up with Hunk while he was training with Rudania yesterday around noon, and we left a few hours later. On our way back down the mountain, we ran into that silver lynel being flanked by a hoard of bokoblins, maybe twenty of them? Anyways, long story short, I shot down all but one of the bokoblins, and Keith killed the lynel and that final bokoblin.

 

“But, I was the one who suggested we come out here.” Lance sighed, and started pacing from their position to the end of the corridor. “Rather than go back to the Castle, which was only a few hours journey from our position on the mountain, I said that we should come out here to have Pidge look at him, and he didn’t even question me. But I wish he had. And I wish he’d said something before he started getting delirious and eventually passing out.”

 

“Where did he pass out?” Matt interrupted. “You never said.”

 

“Base of Ruto Mountain?”

 

Matt whistled, and looked over to Lance with an approving look. “So, you’re telling me you carried him all the way up Ruto Mountain, down again, and then all the way up to the Great Zora Bridge?”

 

“Pretty much.”

 

“Goddesses,” Matt muttered, and shook his head. “I can’t believe you did that.”

 

“Well, who was gonna help me?” Lance stopped pacing and turned so he was facing Matt again. “A random bypasser on the road to Zora’s Domain?”

 

Matt chuckled dryly. “Guess not.”

 

Lance sighed, and rubbed his face in his hands. “I can’t believe I was so stupid . If I had just said that we should go back to the Castle, we wouldn’t be in this mess right now.”

 

“You’re right.” Matt agreed solemnly. “And Pidge wouldn’t be as pissed as a hornet at you.”

 

Lance groaned and leaned back against the opposite wall, hanging his head. “I know--”

 

“But you two also wouldn’t have come by the Domain, which, seeing Keith always pleases the Zora royal family.” Matt smirked a bit, and crossed his arms over his chest. “You’ve been keeping him away from us, Lance.”

 

Lance looked up again, and gazed over at Matt with a curious expression. “I mean, I know Keith and Pidge are childhood friends, but… What’s the story with that?”

 

Matt seemed to ponder the question for a moment, before asking “Do you really wanna know?”

 

“Of course I do.”

 

He nodded, but suddenly, his open expression hardened into something sterner. “Well, before I say anything, what do you know of Keith’s childhood?”

 

That’s fair, Lance thought. Matt obviously wouldn’t know what Keith had or hadn’t told him. “Well,” Lance began, “I know his parents were members of the Yiga Clan, and, by association, so was he. His parents were killed in the Hyrulean and Gerudo combined attack, where most of the Yiga Clan was wiped out. And he was brought back to serve in our army. After that, I only really know bits and pieces of his childhood…”

 

“That’s good enough.” Matt interjected, and nodded slightly, mostly to himself. “Alright, so Keith’s told you pretty well everything. I’m… Actually kind of surprised.” he admitted. “He doesn’t exactly share his past to those who don’t already know it.”

 

Lance shrugged. “I don’t blame him.” he said softly. “Someone who’s seen as an enemy just because of who his parents were… It’s unfortunate. He’s so much more than that.”

 

“He is.” Matt agreed. “Keith is so much more, once you actually get to know him. Most people in the Hyrulean army know him as this samurai, this master with nearly all weapons who lets nothing phase him. But that’s not true.”

 

“I know.” Lance murmured. “He has so many emotions, so much life in him. But he never lets anyone see it.”

 

“He used to.”

 

Lance perked up at Matt’s words. “Really?” He looked up to Matt’s face again, searching for any signs that he might be joking. But he wasn’t.

 

Matt nodded. “When I first met Keith, he was so expressive. Was never afraid to tell us exactly what he thought, or to ask questions. He was so curious, about everything when he first came here.” Matt smiled and shook his head fondly at the thought. “It makes me wonder what happened to that curious little kid.”

 

“So… How did he come to the Domain? When did he?”

 

“I think Keith was about five years old.” Matt began, and settled against the wall opposite of Lance to tell the story. “He was covered in scratches and bruises, and looked so exhausted. Pidge found him out by that tree near the entrance to the Great Zora Bridge when she was heading out to practice. It’s crazy, to think that she walked across the bridge that day, rather than jumping down into the water. She could have missed him, and our lives would be totally different.

 

“But I’m glad she did, and I’m glad she met him that day. That was the day she gave him his nickname.”

 

“‘Little wolf’?” Lance questioned.

 

Matt looked surprised that he knew that. “Yeah, actually. She gave him the nickname ‘little wolf’ because of how he looked curled up under that tree. He was shaking like a leaf, and looked absolutely frightened, but when she came up to him, he still tried to defend himself, just like a wolf pup.” he shook his head fondly, chucking softly to himself. “And then she brought the little wolf home.

 

“My parents were immediately welcoming to him. He obviously posed no threat, and was initially tentative in accepting anything we offered him, but not because he feared it would do him harm. No, he didn’t want to impose on us in any way. He kept saying that he didn’t wish for us to waste our resources on him, that we shouldn’t bother with him. Eventually my parents wore him down to eat a little bit of food, and we quickly realized that the army had been malnourishing him. He was weak, and he was exhausted because he couldn’t sleep.

 

“He was there when his parents were killed…” Matt said lowly. “Had nightmares about it for years. I think he still sometimes has nightmares about it. But, having nightmares and not wanting to sleep gave him the perfect opportunity to learn how to fight. Blaytz, the captain of our guard, found him one night attempting to hit a practice dummy with a sword. He saw potential in him, and told my father about that potential, and, we started training him.

 

“Blaytz, and the rest of our royal guard were the ones who taught Pidge and I how to fight.” Matt explained. “So, since he was under our protection, they also started teaching Keith how to fight. He eventually had to go back to the garrison that he fled from, but that was probably six or seven months after he showed up. So he had a fair bit of an advantage over the other kids his age at the garrisons he trained at, and even more so that he had an extra few hours of practice time when he couldn’t sleep.

 

“But, he kept coming back.” Matt said fondly, with a slight shake of his head. The soft smile on his face told Lance exactly how fond he was of Keith. “He kept coming back to be a part of our family, and I can honestly say he is a very welcome addition. My parents adore him, and obviously my sister loves him. I see Keith as my brother, and I only want what’s best for him. And if protecting you and staying by your side is what he wants, then I’m happy for him. But,” Matt paused, and stood up on his own feet again, stepping a few steps across the hallway, closer to Lance, “If you put him in unnecessary danger again, I can’t guarantee you won’t get more than some shouting from my sister.”

 

“Understandable.”

 

“Good.” Matt said with a tone of finality. “Well, we should head back in and see how Pidge is making out.”

 

With a nod, Lance stood up as well, and followed Matt back into the room.

 

As soon as Matt stepped in, Pidge looked up from Keith’s still form. “Hey.” she said, “I don’t think he’s gonna be waking up anytime soon.”

 

Lance froze mid step, and looked down to Keith’s form, still laying prone on the bed. Pidge had stripped him of his blue Champion’s tunic and boots, leaving him in his white undershirt, pushed up to his elbows, and tan trousers. “Is he gonna be okay?” he asked quietly.

 

“Oh yeah, he’ll be fine.” Pidge quickly assured. As Lance breathed out a sigh of relief, she continued; “He’s just lost a lot of blood, and his body needs time to heal. He’ll probably wake up tomorrow, and I’ll finish healing him then.”

 

“Why can’t you finish healing him now?”

 

Pidge paused, and looked back over at Keith, pondering the question. “Well, there’s not a whole lot else I can do until he wakes up.” she said slowly, and rubbed at her shoulder in an attempt to ground herself. “I mean, I could try, but I don’t know what good it’ll do.”

 

“No sense in trying, then, Pidge.” Matt interjected. “He’ll wake up, and when he does, we can see how he’s fairing and take it from there.” he stepped over to his sister, and covered her hand with his own. “Now c’mon, that probably used up a lot of your magic. It’s time to recharge, sis.”

 

With a groan, and a fond smile up at her brother, she said “Fine,” in a dramatic tone. “But I expect you to carry me.”

 

Matt groaned, and rolled his eyes at her. “Seriously?” he deadpanned.

 

“Yes! I’ve done my work, and what have you done?”

 

Lance chuckled quietly at witnessing the easy banter between the two siblings. He almost wished he could have had a sibling of his own.

 

“You must be tired too, Lance.” Matt announced, grabbing Lance’s attention again. “Want to grab some food, then we can get you a room?” he offered.

 

“No, but thanks anyways.” Lance politely declined. “I’m gonna stay with Keith, until he wakes up.”

 

“That could take a while,” Pidge said slowly. “We don’t know when he’s gonna--”

 

“I’m sure Keith would appreciate that,” Matt interjected, covering his sister’s mouth with his hand. “We’ll be going, then. Feel free to let us know if you need anything.”

 

“Will do.”

 

With an overdramatic groan, Matt spun so his back was to his sister and crouched down for her. She gave a mischievous grin before pouncing onto her brother’s back and wrapping her arms around his neck. “Alright!” she exclaimed with a giggle. “Onwards, to food!”

 

Matt dashed out of the room, with Pidge squealing in delight on his back, and Lance chuckled fondly at their theatrics. Even with everything that was going on in the world around them, it was refreshing to see that some people were still really living.

 

With that thought, Lance looked over to the bed again. Keith still hadn’t moved, and it didn’t look like he’d be moving for the next while. So, Lance grabbed the chair from his desk and moved it to Keith’s bedside.

 

He sat down gently on the edge of the seat, keeping his gaze on Keith all the while. Colour was starting to come back to his face, and his breathing didn’t seem as shallow anymore, all things that Lance was hoping to see. But, he was also hoping to see the violet of Keith’s eyes again, and a smile that was just for him.

 

He’d just have to wait for Keith to wake up for that.

 

He leaned back in the chair, and settled in for a long night.

 


 

Consciousness came back to Keith slowly.

 

It was like every bone, every fiber of his being was against being conscious. His body felt numb, but when he breathed in a slow breath it felt like his chest fought to stay still. It felt kin to creaking open an old chest not meant to be opened, trying to force it open when it so obviously did not want to budge. It wasn’t until he tried to move that his body flared up in pain. He couldn’t remember the last time his entire body felt this sore.

 

He tilted his head to the side, away from the noise beside him, and groaned lightly. His head felt really light, lighter than it should have felt on his shoulders. He closed his eyes even tighter, trying to will his head to stop pounding. It took a while, he wasn’t sure how long, but eventually the pounding in his head dulled down to an occasional throb that he could practically ignore.

 

And then, he pried his tired eyelids open.

 

He immediately knew where he was -- he’d spent enough time in Zora’s Domain, and the bedroom he had here to know -- but he just couldn’t remember how he’d gotten here in the first place.

 

When he managed to turn his head to the other side, he was shocked to find someone curled up against the edge of his bed.

 

He dimly registered the brunette hair, and the blue tunic slowly rising in time with their breathing, but it took him a lot longer than normal to piece together who was fast asleep against the edge of his bed.

 

How long had Lance been here?

 

The sky outside was dark, no hint of twilight or even of moonlight, so it must have been extremely late. The last thing he could remember was stumbling down towards Oren Bridge around midday, trying to hide how faint he felt from Lance. But, obviously, it didn’t work, if he couldn’t even remember how they got to the Domain. How long had he been sleeping here before he woke up?

 

He didn’t really want to, but he felt as though he should wake Lance up to tell him that he was awake, and to see how long he’d been out for. But, he just looked so peaceful…

 

It was fairly dark in the room, the only light coming from the candle on his desk in the corner, but Keith could see Lance clearly. He could see that he was sleeping on his arms, which were resting against the edge of the mattress. His brows were pinched, and his lips were set in a slight pout, even as he slept, which Keith couldn’t help but think was the most adorable thing. He somehow managed to look quite comfortable, even though Keith knew sitting in his desk chair for long periods of time was killer. He’d be doing Lance a favour by waking him up.

 

He reached out and gripped Lance’s shoulder lightly.

 

Lance instantly sat up with a soft gasp, and rubbed at his eyes. As soon as he came to his senses, he looked down to where Keith was laying. “Oh my goddess, Keith!” he exclaimed, and threw himself forwards to wrap his arms around his shoulders. “You’re awake!”

 

Keith breathed out a low chuckle. “Yeah,” he grit out, his voice rough from lack of use.  He lifted his arm up with a wince in a half-hearted attempt to return the hug. “I’m up.”

 

“How are you feeling?” Lance timidly asked, and sat back to let Keith have a bit of space.

 

With a groan, Keith replied “I’ve felt better.”

 

Lance groaned in response, and let his head drop forwards against the bed with a soft thunk . “I knew it.” he mumbled. “I knew I screwed up.” he looked up again, with a guilty frown on his face, and said “I hurt you.”

 

“N-no, you didn’t--”

 

“But I did!” Lance interjected, and looked away from Keith, down at the sheets on the bed. “I was stupid, I thought coming here to see Pidge would be better, but I just put you at risk. I’m so sor--”

 

“No, Lance.” Keith interrupted, and with great effort, sat up in bed, even though every fiber of his being fought against it. “You did what you thought was right.” he gritted out, trying to will the pain away.

 

Lance bit at his lip, and fiddled with the sheets between his fingers. “No,” he said softly, guilt lacing his tone. “I didn’t.”

 

Keith’s head tilted to the side in confusion. “Wh--”

 

“I was being selfish.” Lance continued, and sighed lowly. “I wasn’t ready to go home, so I suggested we come out here so we could avoid the Castle. But, I put you at risk, and because of my stupidity, you were seriously hurt.” he blinked frantically for a moment, before looking up to meet Keith’s gaze again. “I’m really sorry, Keith.”

 

Keith let his shoulders slump forwards at Lance’s absolutely broken tone. He obviously felt terrible, but Keith couldn’t find it in himself to be upset at Lance for his actions. He knew exactly how much stress and responsibility sat on the young prince’s shoulders, more than anyone their age should have. Keith had a pretty good idea of how much weight was sitting on Lance’s shoulders, the pressure the realm, his father , put there. Keith felt no reason to let this sit on his shoulders too.

 

“There’s no reason to be sorry, Lance.” Keith admitted quietly. “I will follow you anywhere, you know that.”

 

“Only because you have to.” he replied lowly, and turned his head away again. He adjusted his position on the chair with a wince, and said “It’s your job.”

 

“If you think I still see this as a job, then you’re denser than I thought you were.” Keith said with a raised brow.

 

Lance squawked, and turned to face Keith again, ready to say something before Keith interrupted him again. “I’d like to think we’re friends by now, your highness.” he admitted. “I think a relationship as unique as ours makes us more than just prince and charge, don’t you?”

 

Lance leaned back in his seat, looking at Keith with a curious expression on his face. He seemed to ponder Keith’s confession for a few moments, before a smile took over his features. “Friends…” he murmured. “I like that.”

 

As much as the word coming from Lance’s mouth made Keith’s stomach twist uncomfortably and his heart ache, he knew that it was the right thing to do, the right thing to say. With a nod, Keith said “good”.

 

A sudden wave of dizziness took over him, and he hunched forwards, gripping at his head as if that would make the black spots go away.

 

Lance immediately stood up, and gently urged Keith to lay back down. “You should still be resting, Pidge didn’t finish healing you. But, she’ll stop by when you wake up later to finish, okay?”

 

As soon as Keith’s head touched the pillow, his eyes fluttered shut. He tried to ask Lance to stay, but, his lips felt like lead, and before he knew it, he’d fallen back asleep.

 


 

 

The next thing he knew, he was waking up to the comforting feeling of Pidge’s healing magic washing over his whole body in a light wave. It was so soothing, like laying in a calm pool of water, letting the waves brush over skin. He sighed out a long breath, and let his body relax under Pidge’s ministrations with a small smile.

 

“Thought you’d wake up soon.” Pidge said lowly. “It’s after lunch now, in case you’re wondering.”

 

“Thanks, Pidgeon.” he whispered, and yawned widely, not even bothering to cover his mouth. His limbs still felt heavy. After a moment, he tried peeking out of his tired eyelids.

 

Pidge had stopped her healing for the moment to go blow out the candle on Keith’s desk. It was bright and sunny outside, the waterfall behind the Domain practically sparkling a beautiful blue in the sunlight. It was almost too bright to look at after the darkness he’d awoken from, but he welcomed it gladly.

 

“How’re you feeling?”

 

Keith rubbed at his tired eyes, and sat up with a groan. “Well, I’m feeling better now than when I woke up during the night.”

 

“Lance said that you woke him up.” Pidge added softly, and turned back towards the bed with a slight smile. “I’m surprised you were willing to wake him.” she admitted, and crossed her arms over her chest lightly.

 

Keith pulled the strong of leather from his hair, and shook his head about a bit, sending his loose hair flying. “I wanted to know what I missed.” he said, and placed the string of leather between his teeth to gather his hair and re-tie it back. His bed head was probably an absolute mess. “I don’t remember too much.”

 

“What do you remember?”

 

“I remember everything up until the Oren Bridge, and then some shouting?” Keith said slowly, trying to recall fuzzy memories. “And I think someone was holding my hand at one point. Was that you? Or Matt?”

 

Pidge shook her head, and bit at her lip. “Not me, no. And I mean, Matt carried you into your room here, but after he put you on the bed he stepped back. Must’ve been Lance.”

 

“Yeah…” Keith glanced away from her, and tried to process that little bit of information. Other than hugging, Lance was never one to get too physical with anybody, other than Allura. He knew that Allura was sort of a mother figure to him, since his own mother was friends with her before she died, but that was different. And Lance certainly wasn’t affectionate with his father. King Alfor did not seem like the type of man to comfort his son, or to comfort anyone, really. So he was surprised that Lance went out of his way to be supportive, when he was hardly ever shown any. “Must’ve been. ...How did I get here?”

 

“Lance carried you to the Domain, and sent for Matt and I to meet him in the courtyard.”

 

Keith’s head snapped up at her words. “Lance carried me here?” he asked incredulously. “Wait, from where?”

 

“Matt said that Lance told him that you passed out at the base of Ruto Mountain.” Pidge explained. She sounded surprised, yet proud. “I’m honestly not sure how he managed it.”

 

Keith was seriously surprised, too. He honestly didn’t think Lance had it in him. “Man, I don’t remember any of that…”

 

“That’s not surprising.” Pidge said seriously, stepping back to Keith’s bedside again. “You’d lost a lot of blood, and have been passed out pretty well since you and Lance arrived around this time yesterday.” She raised her hands up and started the healing process again.

 

After a moment, Keith finally stretched out his arms in front of him to see the extent of the damage this time around.

 

The cut on his arm was closed, but had only scabbed over. It still stood out starkly against his skin, not because of the stark redness of it, but the scary depth. The blade had sliced diagonally into Keith’s skin, making healing difficult for Pidge, and the makings of an interesting scar.

 

Well, with how many different marks Keith had littering his body, at least this one would have an interesting story. He knew he also had had a cut on his forehead, but, without a mirror he had no idea how well it had healed. All said and done, he knew he was lucky for making it out as unscathed as he did from the silver lynel.

 

“Hey, why don’t we get you up and out of this room?” Pidge offered, and brandished his freshly washed tunic from behind her back. “It’ll be good to get you up and moving, get the blood flowing, and we can see how strong you are.”

 

With a nod, Keith reached out for his tunic, and threw the covers back in the same motion. As he threw his legs out from over the side of the bed, he saw his boots near the foot of the bed. He threw the tunic up and over his head, letting it settle back onto his chest where it belonged before standing up.

 

He almost sat back down with how quickly his head started spinning. But he threw an arm out to keep his balance, while the other hand came up to press at the space between his eyes, as if pressing there hard enough would stop his vision from spinning.

 

“Woah, Keith, easy there.” Pidge exclaimed, and latched herself to his side, offering her support. “Don’t move too fast, now.”

 

“Shit,” Keith muttered, and shook his head. “Sorry ‘bout that, Pidge.” He patted her scaly head lightly before stepping out of her hold, towards his boots. He sat down heavily at the foot of his bed to pull them on, ignoring Pidge’s watchful gaze on him as he did.

 

“Y’know, you don’t make it easy on me.” she accused lightly, and poked his shoulder with a sharp finger. “I’m always worrying about you, and when you show up half-dead being carried by your Prince Charming, it doesn’t lessen my worrying any.”

 

Keith squawked, and spun to face her. “He is not--”

 

“You really think that I don’t know your type by now?” she sassed, smirking down at him. “And I can probably take a stab at when you started thinking about him in an unprofessional manner.”

 

He pouted, and crossed his arms over his chest, refusing to meet his best friend’s gaze. She knew him far too well for any chance of denying it. With a huff, he asked “When, then?”

 

“I’m assuming just before the tournament at the coliseum. Something happened between the inauguration ceremony and the start of the tournament, obviously, but it was probably only a few days before the event.” she placed her hands on her hips, and levelled a look down at him. “Am I right?”

 

Keith groaned loudly, and buried his head in his hands. As Pidge broke out into her usual evil chuckling, Keith just shrunk further in on himself.

 

Her victorious laughter rang through the small room for a few ticks, before she looked down at Keith’s form again. She breathed out a long breath, simply studying her best friend for a long moment. “Fine,” she murmured, pulling Keith’s gaze up again. “I won’t pester you about it anymore.” she promised.

 

Keith offered a smile up at her, and shifted around in his seat, turning to face her more directly.

 

“Especially since Lance is the first of your… Fancies that I support.” she continued. “He’s a good guy, and as we both know, he’s under a lot of stress. I don’t know what good will come of it,” Pidge paused, thinking about what good could come of that sort of situation, “but I know the both of you are good in each other’s hands.”

 

He nodded at Pidge’s words, before standing up and pulling her into a hug. She immediately wrapped her arms around him in turn, and tucked her head under his chin, like they’d been doing ever since Keith grew taller than her. He tightened his grip on Pidge, savouring the feeling of her small body enveloped in his own. He couldn’t imagine not having her in his life. He pressed a kiss to the top of her head, before pulling away.

 

She smiled up at him as she backed out of the hug, but not out of arm’s reach. “Alright, so, let’s get you out of here. Where do you want to go?”

 

Keith pondered his options for a moment. He wanted to go somewhere private with Pidge, away from the prying eyes of the rest of the Zora. He disliked looking weak in front of them, or, weaker than they’d seen him in the eleven years he’d been coming here. “Well, what about Ruta?”

 

“Ruta?” Pidge questioned, shock lacing her tone. “I didn’t think you really liked the Divine Beasts?”

 

“Well…” Keith hummed, and dropped his gaze from Pidge’s for a moment. “Lance’s love for the ancient technology has rubbed off on me.” he admitted quietly. “Now that I’ve spent time around them, I find them soothing. Or, well, at least Rudania was.”

 

“Psh, that hot hunk of metal?” Pidge scoffed, and grabbed Keith’s elbow, pulling him out of the room before he could change his mind. “Ruta’s much cooler than that fireproof lizard is. C’mon!”

 


 

As soon as Ruta picked Pidge and Keith up from the walkway out on the surface of Reservoir Lake, Pidge urged Keith to sit on a raised part of the end of Ruta’s nose. She quickly sat beside him, and started pushing up the sleeve of his tunic on his injured arm, exposing the closed wound.

 

“I was just thinking,” she said conversationally as she started up the healing process again, “that this reminds me of the time we first met.”

 

Keith raised his gaze from his arm up to her face. “Oh?”

 

“You were such a reckless child.” she chided softly, keeping her eyes on the task in front of her. “Always getting yourself hurt at every turn.”

 

“Hey, I learned from those mistakes.” Keith immediately protested, squinting slightly at her.

 

“Be that as it may,” she said quickly, dismissing his words, “every time, I would heal you, just as I’m doing right now. I was always willing to heal your wounds… Even back then.”


Keith nodded slightly, aquiesting to her words. He knew that she was right, no matter how small the cut was or how difficult it was to heal, she would heal him, no questions asked.

 

He wasn’t sure what to say to that, so he let the silence surround them. Pidge seemed just as content to stay quiet, but it didn’t seem awkward between them. No, they knew each other too well, and were comfortable enough around each other to not feel the urge to fill the space between them with words. That was one of the things he loved about her.

 

Keith looked down at his arm again, happily surprised to see that the mark had completely healed. All that was left now, was a pale mark resting slightly raised above the skin surrounding it. Pidge always did a good job healing him.

 

“There.” Pidge declared, and leaned back, her palms resting flat against the surface of Ruta. “All healed up.”

 

“Thanks, Pidge.” he said sincerely, and twisted his forearm around a bit to look at the scar from all angles.

 

Pidge nodded, and looked away from Keith, out towards the water surrounding Ruta, and the kingdom she was proud of. She sat up again, and laced her fingers together in her lap. “So, if the Calamity does, in fact, return… What can we really do?” she murmured.

 

Keith looked towards Pidge out of the corner of his gaze, not really sure what to say. Obviously she, as the princess of the Zora, was worried about the safety of her people, but she also sounded scared. It wasn’t a word he usually associated with Pidge, the fearless and vicious spear-wielding princess. “Well… We stick to the plan, the plan that Lance and Kolivan laid out--”

 

“I know the plan.” Pidge interrupted harshly, but immediately deflated after snapping. “We… Just don’t seem to know much, about what we’ll be up against. Doesn’t that worry you?”

 

“Honestly? It terrifies me.” he admitted lowly, and hung his head, ashamed that he was admitting this out loud. The dark thought at the back of his mind, that one day, he’d have to fight this massive being that he was supposedly born to fight. None of it made sense, none of this was fair. This wasn’t what he wanted in life. He didn’t want this sort of crazy responsibility. He just wanted to spend time with the family he’d made of the Zora, the family he’d made in Lance, and just, live. But that wasn’t his destiny, or whatever. His destiny was to fight by Lance’s side to seal away the Calamity, no matter the cost. And he’d fight tooth and nail to do it, too.

 

But even the thought of that chilled Keith to the bone.

 

Pidge finally turned back to face Keith again, her gaze determined. “You know that no matter how difficult this battle might get, I will always protect you, right?”

 

“Of course I do.” Keith assured, and reached out to pull her closer to his side. Her arms automatically found purchase against the back of his tunic, gripping so tightly that the material might shred between her fingers. But Keith didn’t care. The solidness of Pidge, his best friend, in his arms made breathing just a little easier, even if just for a moment.

 

In that moment, simply holding his best friend, and breathing in the scent of her, and of the mist coming off the reservoir, made things just a little easier.

Chapter Text

10. Silent Princess

 

They decided to spend another night at the Domain to let Keith rest a little more, which was perfectly fine with Lance. He didn’t want a repeat of their entrance to the Domain, and since Keith wasn’t always as… forthcoming with that sort of thing as Lance wished he would be, he was more than happy to spend an extra day there to ensure Keith’s wellbeing.

 

Besides, he wanted to check out the Shrine here in the Domain anyways.

 

When walking back to Keith’s room after supper that night, he spotted the Shrine located beneath the throne room. He’d noticed it when they first came to the Domain, but, with Keith’s condition upon their arrival, Lance had been more concerned with other things.

 

With a bright smile, he stepped down the watery steps cautiously, lest he slip down the slippery steps. He didn’t want to have to go get treated by Pidge due to his own carelessness.

 

He went over every reachable nook and cranny of it, practically top to bottom, looking for any way to potentially get inside of it. If he recalled correctly, this Shrine was named Ne’ez Yohma, and it was the only known Shrine in the Lanayru region, aside from Soh Kofi, the Shrine  just to the west of the Inogo Bridge at the far edge of Lanayru.

 

This Shrine, like the ones he investigated out in the Tabantha region, didn’t appear to want to open either. It was identical, as far as Lance could tell, to all of the other Shrines in Hyrule, down to the location of the pedestal on the platform. He couldn’t see any way to pry open the panel to look inside, and pushing against the wall at the front of the Shrine didn’t seem to budge it in the slightest.

 

Suddenly, someone tapped his shoulder lightly, and Lance whipped around to face them with a start. He met with Keith’s bemused smirk and knowing gaze and winced. He peeked sheepishly past his knight to see how much time had passed since he came down to investigate the Shrine. The sky, or what he could see of it, at least, was dark. The sun appeared to be long gone, showing no hints that it had even graced the sky that day.

 

Keith cleared his throat, bringing Lance’s attention back to him, before he narrowed his eyes slightly at him. “How long have you been down here?” he questioned lowly, accusingly.

 

Lance could only shrug. All he knew, was that the sun was still in the sky when he came down here. But, where ancient technology was involved, he knew that it was easy to lose himself in trying to find answers in his research.

 

Suddenly, an idea struck him. Supposedly, these Shrines were designed to only be opened by the sword that seals the darkness’ chosen one. Which, fortunately for Lance, the person the sword chose was the man standing right in front of him.

 

With a sly smile, Lance asked “Hey, can you do something for me?” Without waiting for an answer, he reached for Keith’s hand. Keith opened his mouth to protest, but Lance pulled him up onto the platform with him, up and out of the water surrounding the Shrine.

 

Keith’s eyes widened at the contact, but he stepped up surely, barely even hesitating. “Uh, sure?”

 

“Perfect!” Lance exclaimed, and pushed the Sheikah Slate into Keith’s hands. “Try touching the slate to the pedestal there.”

 

With a raised brow, Keith glanced over to Lance with a surely skeptical look on his face, but Lance wasn’t looking at him-- he was looking down at the pedestal excitedly. Keith huffed lowly, and did as he was asked.

 

As he placed the face of the Sheikah Slate onto the pedestal, Lance pressed into Keith’s space to watch what happened from over his shoulder. He could feel Keith holding his breath as he practically plastered himself to his back, but didn’t think much of it. He, too, was probably waiting to see if anything would happen if he placed the slate against the pedestal.

 

After a few long moments, Lance breathed out a long sigh, and stepped back from Keith’s space. “Damn,” he muttered, “I really thought that would work.”

 

“Sorry,” Keith apologized lowly, and turned, offering the slate back to Lance. “I’m not sure what else to do.”

 

“That’s all that’s supposed to be done. According to our research, these structures were designed to train the sword’s chosen one, you, how to battle any enemies that come up against you.” Lance paused, and glanced down to the slate’s face, as if it would give him the answer. “We must be missing something. Maybe… Some sort of activation mechanism?”

 

“Activation mechanism?” Keith echoed.

 

Lance hummed, and nodded slightly. “Perhaps. But… I have no idea what that would be. Or even where to start--”

 

A hand gripped at Lance’s elbow, pulling his gaze up from the slate’s screen. Keith wasn’t looking at him, but rather, past him. “Well, it’s not something we’re gonna find today, Lance. You should get some rest before we head back tomorrow.”

 

“Is that why you came down in the first place?” Lance questioned, but placed the Sheikah Slate back on its holster on his hip. “What time is it, anyways?”

 

“Late enough.” he replied simply, and released his light grip on Lance’s elbow. “You can take my room for the night.”

 

Lance whipped around to face him, but Keith was already walking away, back up to the main level. “B-but, where are you going to sleep?” He exclaimed, and followed up the steps behind him.

 

“I’m not.” he replied softly, but clenched his hands into fists as he levelled out behind the fountain. Lance could practically see the line of tension in his back, even beneath the two layers of clothing he wore. He wanted to reach out to him, to soothe him, but he wasn’t really sure if he could, or, if he should do that. “I think I’ve slept enough the past few days.” Keith continued, and stopped, still not looking back at Lance.

 

The space between them was practically deafening. Lance swore that he could hear every trickle of water moving around them, hear how the wind whistled softly through the architecture. He wished he knew what to say to Keith. He knew what he shouldn’t say. Things like “Oh, it’s not your fault”, or “I don’t blame you for any of this”, because none of it would work on Keith, the self-sacrificing idiot. He didn’t think anything he could say would comfort his friend… So he simply stayed quiet, and hoped that it was enough.

 

Keith’s shoulders rose with a deep breath in, and fell with a deep breath out before he turned and looked back at Lance with a small smile. “Besides, with us leaving in the morning, this is the perfect opportunity to see if Pidge and Matt are up for a few sparring matches.”

 

A startled laugh broke out from his chest before he could contain it, and Lance covered up his smile with his hand. “I’m sure they’d be up for a challenge.”

 

“Challenge?” Keith questioned, and smirked, causing Lance’s chest to constrict dangerously. “For them, maybe. But not for me.”

 


 

True to Keith’s word, they did depart in the morning, pretty well as soon as Lance woke and had a bite to eat.

 

The trip back to the Castle was uneventful, fortunately, and they made good time, arriving as the sun was turning the sky from blue to pink in the late afternoon.

 

There was no fanfare as they reached the gates, just guards stepping aside and bowing to Lance as they passed. Keith promised to take care of both Zephyr and Seraphim, but Lance insisted that he stay with him and do it himself.

 

He certainly didn’t miss the smile Keith gave when he thought Lance’s back was turned.

 


 

Lance woke up with the sun the next day, and went through his daily motions of praying once he got out of bed, and changing before greeting the maids who came in to tidy his bed and ask what he wanted for breakfast.

 

With his breakfast came the news that the tack he commissioned for Everest and Zephyr had been completed. He was excited to surprise Keith with the new tack, but Keith still hadn’t come knocking yet. He also didn’t come when he went up to his study to answer letters, or even in the time after where he took some time to write down some thoughts.

 

When he was just about done answering letters, there was a knock on the door of his study. He waited a moment to see if it was Keith; if it was, he’d walk right in after waiting for a moment. But when the door didn’t open, he knew it wasn’t his knight. He stood, and opened the door, surprised to see one of the Sheikah assistants from the research lab. She didn’t say anything, just gave Lance the sealed letter, and turned around.

 

As soon as he shut the door, he ripped the letter open, eager to see the contents of the letter. It was a letter from Coran, in his messy orange scrawl. To this day, Lance had no idea how Coran managed to procure orange ink, but he figured it was too late now to ask. The letter was brief, telling him that he should make his way out to the ancient research lab just to the west of Castletown.

 

He had started to wonder what he was going to do with the rest of his day, but with this letter’s arrival, he knew that he and Keith would be heading out to meet with Ryner and Coran to see what they’d found. He’d known he didn’t want to stay at the Castle for more than a couple of days, but with being gone for longer than expected with the lynel incident, he felt as though he should spend at least a day or so at home. But, a trip to the tech lab would only take half a day… So, with that thought, he went looking for his knight.

 

He started out with Keith’s chambers, knocking loudly, but when he peeked inside, it looked like Keith had already been gone from bed for at least a couple of hours. He then checked the dining hall, hoping that Keith was just getting a late breakfast, but nobody present had seen him since their return. He also stopped by the kitchen, just to see if he’d grabbed a small snack before going somewhere else in the Castle, but nobody there had seen him either.

 

As he left, one of the kitchen maids, who’s name escaped Lance, paused him with a quiet word. “I’m not exactly sure where Sir Keith is,” she said meekly, “but Keely, the young kitchen girl, left early this morning saying she was going to spend some time with him downstairs.”

 

Lance thanked her, and left the kitchen, wondering where they could have gone. ‘Downstairs’ was pretty vague, considering directly below the kitchen were the docks leading out to the Hyrule Moat. But, close to it was the royal guard’s chambers, along with the guard’s training grounds. Perhaps…?

 

He took his time walking down to the training grounds, keeping an eye out for black hair tied back in a ponytail, or Keely’s blonde hair. As he approached the doorway to the stairs leading down to the training deck, he could hear a dull thump of something blunt hitting something soft, and grunts of exertion that were obviously not from one of the knights.

 

Lance stopped in the doorway, and was met with the sight of Keith instructing Keely on how to best hit a standard practice dummy with a wooden sword.

 

They were set up in the center of the upper training level, with a large practice dummy set up in front of young Keely. The dummy easily towered over her, perhaps even double her height, but she didn’t seem wary of it. She held her wooden sword and shield proudly, and was repeatedly attacking the dummy in its ‘softer’ areas. She also had a small quiver of arrows strung across her back, although there was no bow on her, or near her.

 

Keith was circling Keely and the dummy slowly, praising her for good hits and correcting her form gently when need be. Both the Hylian Shield and the Master Sword sat proudly against his back, barely shifting around with each step he took. As he circled her, he didn’t give off a harsh or unforgiving vibe. He was watching her movements carefully, but also with some sense of pride.

 

Lance took a few steps out from the doorway, towards the steps leading down to them, not tearing his gaze from the pair for even a second. He hadn’t seen the young kitchen girl since he snapped at her shortly after he knighted Keith, but it was apparent that they had some sort of friendly relationship. He couldn’t help but wonder how that came about. Keith didn’t seem like the type of man who would be good with kids, but here he was, coaching Keely on how to best strike down her grainy opponent.

 

With a loud battle cry, Keely thrust the blunt point of her practice sword into where the presumed heart of her enemy would be.

 

Keith immediately cheered, and knelt down to offer her a hand to high-five. She giggled under his praise, and dropped her sword to clap her own tiny hand against his palm with a wide smile.

 

Lance sucked in a stuttering breath watching the events unfold in front of him. His chest felt fluttery and his whole body warmed at watching their interaction, and he wasn’t sure what to make of those feelings. He clutched a hand to his chest as if that would stop the sudden summersaults his heart was trying to make.

 

Right as Lance was trying to gather his bearings, Keith glanced around and spotted him off to the side. With a smile, he called up “Hey, Lance!”

 

Keely whipped around, dropping her shield with a loud clatter. A shocked expression crossed her face, before she ducked her head towards him in a shaky sign of respect. “H-hello, your highness.” she stuttered out.

 

“Hello,” Lance replied, and started making his way down the steps to their level. “I wondered where you ran off to. What are you two up to?”

 

“Training Miss Keely here how to fight.” Keith explained, and glanced down at the child. “She’s learned a lot in such a short period of time.”

 

“I can see she’s gonna be a fine swordswoman one day.” Lance agreed, and stopped a few steps in front of the pair. “I had no idea you two knew each other.”

 

“Yes, your highness.” Keely squeaked out, and finally lifted her gaze to his. Her green eyes were wide, but her voice was firm.

 

Keith nodded, agreeing with her. “Yeah, we met a while back. I’ve been working with her in the morning on a variety of skills, including how to use a bow.” He paused, and looked down to her with a smile. “She’s quite exceptional, for her age.”

 

“Well, she has a wonderful and dedicated teacher.” Lance couldn’t help but smile at how proud Keith sounded at her progress, almost as if she were his own. He swiftly shoved the thought from his mind. “You’ll have to show me how you handle a bow sometime, young miss.” he said to her softly.

 

Keely could only nod enthusiastically, but a smile tugged at the corner of her lips.

 

Keith turned to look at Lance again. “I’m sorry, Lance, were you waiting for me?” he questioned seriously.

 

“Oh, not for anything pressing.” he assured with a wave of his hand. “I was just surprised when you didn’t stop by my chambers this morning.”

 

Keith rubbed at the back of his head with a nervous chuckle. “Sorry about that,” he apologized lowly, “but I’ll admit, I didn’t think you’d be up by now.”

 

“It’s like, mid-morning, dear knight.” Lance said, and crossed his arms over his chest. “Of course I’d be up by now.”

 

“Of course.” Keith swiftly agreed, but pursed his lips, trying to keep a smile from crossing his face.


Lance narrowed his eyes at Keith, but didn’t say anything, lest he say something smart back. Instead, he knelt down to Keely’s level to get a good look at her.

 

Her green eyes were wide at suddenly being eyelevel with the crown prince of Hyrule, and she ducked her head, looking down at the dusty ground beneath them. Her wispy blonde hair fell forwards to cover her face, but Lance didn’t mind. He knew that he had been unfairly cruel to her the last time they met, so he’d have to rectify that.

 

“Hey, Keely?” Lance asked softly, and waited for her to lift her head up and look at him. “I just wanted to apologize again for the way I treated you the last time we met.” He apologized sincerely. “How I reacted when you first came into my chambers that day was wrong. I was upset, but my feelings were my own problem, and I shouldn’t have lashed out at you.” He paused, gathering his thoughts for a moment before continuing. “I was wondering if you could forgive me for that…?”

 

Keely’s face lit up with a wide smile, and she bobbed her head quickly, before swooping forward and wrapping her little arms around his neck.

 

Lance froze as soon as she came into contact with him, but he quickly recovered and threw his arms around her in return, squeezing her briefly.

 

She stepped back after a long moment, but her smile remained.

 

Keith snorted softly, and shook his head down at Lance without a word.

 

Suddenly, Keely perked up with a panicked look on her face. “Shit, I have to get back to the kitchen.” She exclaimed, and started fumbling with the buckle on her front that held the quiver of arrows to her belt.

 

Lance stood up and glared over at his knight. “I wonder who taught her that word.” He accused loftily.

 

Keith flushed, and ducked down to help Keely with her quiver and avoid Lance’s accusing gaze. As soon as she was free of it, she practically bolted towards the stairs that Lance came down, nearly tripping in her haste.

 

“Sorry, but I have to get back to work!” she called back over her shoulder as she rushed up the steps. “I’ll see you tomorrow, kay Keith?”

 

“Sounds good!” Keith called after her.

 

Lance watched her rush off with a slight smile. He’d had no idea that Keith met up with her in the mornings like this. “How long have the two of you known each other?” he asked. It was obvious that they’d been doing this for quite some time, if they were that familiar with each other.

 

“Since the day you and I went up to the Great Plateau together.” Keith scuffed the toe of his boot against the ground, and turned to face Lance, still holding the quiver in his hands. “She was the one who brought me the message about it, how you were looking for me.” He paused for a moment, before adding “She called me ‘sir’.”

 

“You do realize, that as a member of my personal royal guard, and as one of the Champions of Hyrule, that is how someone should address you in casual conversation, right?” Lance pointed out.

 

“I mean, yeah… But, Keely? Calling me ‘sir’?” he scoffed, and shook his head slightly. “That’s like Allura calling you ‘your highness’.”

 

Lance shuddered at the thought of that. He could more easily picture Allura knocking his ass to the ground and holding his ear in some sort of complicated Gerudo hold. “I didn’t realize you saw Keely that way.”

 

“She’s an orphan, just like me.” Keith said lowly, and bent to start picking up the things she left behind.

 

“Wait, what?” Lance questioned, shocked.

 

“She’s an orphan.” Keith repeated, and walked over to the weapons rack to put her tools away. “She’s been here at the Castle since she was two years old, working in the kitchen and running errands between nobles.” He sighed, and turned back to face Lance again. “She hasn’t had anyone. So, I took it upon myself to be here for her, for whatever she needs.”

 

“Oh…” Lance replied awkwardly. He shifted on his feet, unsure of what to say. “I… I had no idea.” He said after a moment.

 

“Yeah, well… She doesn’t need anyone to pity her.” He said defensively, and turned back to the weapons rack again, rearranging some of the items there.

 

“She doesn’t need my pity.” Lance snapped, but quickly decided that wasn’t the way to deal with this. He knew why Keith was being defensive for Keely, because he was Keely at her age. He had been just as alone as Keely was here at the Castle, but now Keith was doing this so that she wouldn’t be as alone as he was. “She has you.”

 

Keith froze, his arm still extended down to the side to grab a dagger to rearrange it. He scarcely even breathed for a moment, before turning to face Lance again with a surprised expression. “…How…?”

 

“How do I know that she has you?” Lance finished, and crossed his arms over his chest with a brow raised. “Because I know for a fact that as soon as you found out she was an orphan, that you’ve gone out of your way to make sure she has someone here. Someone you wish you had when you were her age.” He let his arms fall down to his side again, and started walking towards Keith. As soon as he was right in front of him, he reached out and clasped a hand on his shoulder reassuringly. “Nobody should have to be alone like you were, like she was before she met you.”

 

Keith smiled, and reached up to clasp a hand over top of Lance’s, squeezing for a moment before letting go. “Yeah…”

 

Lance let his hand drop slowly, but still stayed close to Keith for a few extra moments before turning away, back towards the stairs. “Well, now that she’s gone, I have something to show you.” He said ominously, and started walking ahead of him.

 

He could practically feel Keith’s confusion coming off of him in waves. “What?” he questioned, and jogged to catch up to Lance, falling in step beside him.

 

“It’s a surprise.” Lance replied, and glanced over at him to gauge his reaction. Keith looked extremely surprised, so he pressed on. “I got you something that I hope you’ll like.”

 


 

As soon as Lance led Keith to the stables, Keith started lingering behind, looking more and more suspicious with every step they took.

 

Lance looked back over his shoulder towards his knight, perplexed by his sudden hesitance. “What?”

 

Keith pursed his lips, and cast a concerned glance over to the stable doors. “What sort of surprise is this?”

 

“A… Good one?” Lance replied hesitantly. He stopped, and turned to face Keith who’d stopped a few steps outside of the stables. “It’s nothing bad, Keith, I promise, just, c’mon!”

 

With that, he turned and left Keith, walking all the way to the end of the aisle where Zephyr’s new stall was.

 

On either side of Seraphim’s stall, were two stalls with new engraved gold labels on them. On the left, for Everest, and on the right, Zephyr. Zephyr poked his head out as soon as he noticed Lance, and nickered welcomingly to him. He reached out to stroke his nose with a smile.

 

He heard Keith approaching slowly, and he stopped a few steps away when he saw the new names on the stall doors. “You…?” he whispered, indicating to the doors.

 

“Yup!” Lance exclaimed, and spun to face him. “I’m not sure where you house Everest when you have Zephyr, but I thought we could go grab him and bring him here on our way back from our outing later on. But!” he stepped back a few steps, towards the tack room door, “that’s not all.”

 

Keith narrowed his eyes, but followed Lance nonetheless. Lance opened the tack room door for him, and indicated that he should head in first.

 

Along the walls, for each stall there were two saddle racks hanging on the wall with smaller hooks underneath for bridles and halters. Seraphim’s tack normally sat alone on the far wall, but on either side of Seraphim’s tack, just like their stalls, were four new racks set up for Keith’s horses’ tack.

 

For Everest, there was a brand new set of brown tack, more comfortable in design, for longer rides. The saddle also had large buckles on the back to attach the new saddle bags sitting on the floor below the racks. And for Zephyr, Lance specially commissioned stunning black tack, similar in creation to Seraphim’s own equipment. The shiny new stirrups practically shone in the light coming from the torches lining the walls.

 

Keith gasped, and rushed across the room to touch the new equipment for his horses. He started with Everest’s, since it was slightly closer, touching the long leather girth strap reverently, before reaching underneath the saddle to pull the new bridle off the rack. He fiddled with some of the buckles on it for a minute, before putting it back on the wall and skirting around Seraphim’s tack to go to Zephyr’s new saddle.

 

“So?” Lance asked, watching from a few steps back as Keith pulled the black leather saddle off of the wall. “What do you think?”

 

Keith whirled around to face him with a massive grin on his face. “What do I think?” he exclaimed, and stroked the leather on the pommel reverently. “I love this, oh my goddess, Lance!! What possessed you to do this for me?”

 

“Well,” Lance started off, but paused, pursing his lips, and gestured to the set of tack above Zephyr’s newly commissioned tack. He raised a brow, not really feeling the need to say more.

 

Keith glanced up to Zephyr’s other tack set, and grimaced. “Ah.” He said simply.

 

“Yeah… But, good news!” Lance clapped his hands together, and stepped forward to pull Seraphim’s bridle from the wall. “You can try it out today.”

 

“Oh? Where are we going?” he shifted the saddle over his forearm, and reached out to also grab the bridle from the wall.

 

“We, dear knight,” he started, and hefted Seraphim’s big saddle into his arms, “are going to the royal ancient tech lab.”

 


 

They brushed and tacked up their horses quickly, and soon after headed out for the ancient tech lab.

 

Castletown was bustling around them as they rode through the town square. It seemed like everyone was rushing around, trying to get their errands done before heading home for the night. As they rode past Central Square on their way west, towards the Breach of Demise, Keith’s gaze lingered on the statue at the centre of the square. As much as Keith hated the Castle and the city at its front gate, he could admit that the large water fountain at the heart of Castletown was quite beautiful. The three winged lions stood proudly, overlooking the square from the centre of their high perch, water trickling through their paws and into the large reservoir below.

 

When he spent time in Castletown as a boy, he always made a point of coming to sit on the fountain’s steps and watch everyone moving around them. He felt safe under the gazes of the mighty lions above him, and the water gently splashing along the perfectly cut stones soothed him. It reminded him of Lanayru, of the waters running freely through Zora’s Domain. He picked a spot at the water’s edge as his own, to always sit in the same spot. His spot faced the Castle, right beside the large plaque that dedicated the fountain to one of the previous leaders of Hyrule, as an anniversary of their crowning day. Keith didn’t care much at the time for who or what it was for, but he felt soothed sitting beside it nonetheless.

 

When he finally tore his gaze from the fountain, he caught Lance staring at him, probably wondering why he was staring at the fountain, something that’s been there since before either of them were born. But Lance was quick to look away and didn’t ask him about it, so Keith kept his mouth shut.

 

Lance led them over towards the water resovoir before cutting down to the western gate, keeping to the less busy streets of the city. It was quieter out here, although the noise from the centre of town could still be heard from out here. People stopped and bowed as they passed, which made Keith tense up in the saddle. He knew it wasn’t for him, that it was for their crown prince… But having everyone’s eyes on them made him jittery. He couldn’t wait to get out of Castletown.

 

The guards at the gate bowed their heads to Lance as they passed, but one of them perked up when he noticed Keith, and waved at him. Keith recognized him from their time at the garrison together, but couldn’t recall his name… Jarod? Logan? Something along those lines. He remembered him to be a quiet, but nice guy. He offered him a small smile and a nod back, not sure what else to do. He heard Lance scoff softly beside him, and turned back to face him with a raised brow. “Something amusing, your highness?” he asked lowly.

 

“Nope.” Lance quickly replied, but the smirk stayed plastered to his lips. “Nothing at all.”

 

“Ahh, I see how it is.” With a shake of his head, Keith looked forwards again, between Zephyr’s grey ears. “So, why are we suddenly going to the ancient tech lab?”

 

“I received a letter from Coran this morning.” Lance explained, and fished said letter out of the pack on Seraphim’s back. “He was pretty cryptic, but, it sounds like they have some new developments, maybe with the Shrines?” he explained, and offered Keith the letter. “I don’t know, but I’m curious to see what they’ve found.”

 

Keith smiled softly at how excited Lance sounded. It was obvious to anyone how much Lance loved the ancient technology, and how dedicated he was to figuring out all of its secrets… If only the king would take notice of it. “I guess we’ll see when we get there, then.” He murmured distractedly, peeking at the letter’s contents. It was written in orange ink…? Odd. The contents were brief, stating that Lance should come visit the lab as soon as possible to hear about the new developments. He folded the letter up and placed it back in its envelope before passing it back to Lance.

 

Lance only nodded as he took the letter back, quiet again as they reached the town between Castletown’s borders and the Carok Bridge, switching from his real smile to his fake smile he wore in public. Keith hated seeing that smile on Lance. He knew that Lance was not as comfortable sharing his thoughts with others, but that sort of smile just reminded Keith that Lance hid himself away from the rest of the world.

 

They were both quiet as they rode through the village, only the sound of their horses’ shoed feet meeting the cobblestone filling the space between them. Keith could also hear clanging coming from off beside Castletown, from the quarry. The somewhat rhythmic clanging was both sort of soothing and really damn annoying, how did anyone live here? But, to each their own, he guessed.

 

As soon as they rode over Carok Bridge, it was like a weight was lifted off of Lance’s shoulders. His real smile returned, and he even spurred Seraphim into almost a gallop down into the canyon to get to the tech lab faster.

 

Keith couldn’t help but reminisce as Lance and Seraphim rode ahead, heading down into the Breach of Demise. This was almost exactly like their first adventure together, when Lance told his father that they were heading out to the Sacred Temple, but instead, he ditched him. The first place they went to was the royal ancient tech lab, before carrying on their way to the Tabantha region.

 

Neither of them had been back to the ancient tech lab since that day, and Keith could tell that Lance was getting excited as they got closer and closer to the lab. He was practically bouncing in the saddle, and Seraphim was getting restless because of it. As they rode down into the Breach of Demise canyon, Keith spurred Zephyr even faster so they were ahead of the prince and his steed. He shot a smirk back over his shoulder, a clear challenge for a race.

 

He could hear Lance’s laughter ringing through the canyon as he spurred Seraphim into a gallop after Keith and Zephyr, which made Keith laugh along with him. They seemed to be on almost pins and needles around each other at the Castle, but out in the wild like this, it was like they were finally able to breathe in the air and just be themselves.

 

Lance was able to steer Seraphim in front of Zephyr when they cut off of the path to head north out of the canyon. Keith perked up, shocked at the sudden turn of events, but found he couldn’t be upset about losing when Lance flashed a bright and beautiful smile back over his shoulder to him.

 

He was weak for him, after all.

 

Lance only slowed Seraphim down when they leveled out, and cut off the well beaten path again to take the shortcut to the tech lab. He sat up even straighter in his seat, and spurred Seraphim into a brisk trot as soon as he spotted the lab.

 

The lab hadn’t changed much since the pair were last there together, a few new Guardian hulls laying around and more people than Keith recalled seeing there last, but none of that mattered to Lance. He made a beeline to the largest building at the far edge of the plaza and hopped out of the saddle before Seraphim was even fully stopped.

 

Keith quickly grabbed onto Seraphim’s loose reins as Lance darted inside. With a shake of his head, he dismounted from Zephyr and tied both horses side by side to the post nearby, and went into the same door that Lance disappeared in.

 

The room was bigger than he expected, littered with a bunch of tables and pieces of various technology laying around. Almost every available wall space was covered with writing or sketches or blueprints for various things, sometimes overlapping each other. Various members of the Sheikah tribe were milling around, moving in and around each other seamlessly in the organized chaos of the room.

 

It took Keith a minute, but he finally spotted Lance off to the side of the room, talking to Kolivan, Ryner, and Coran. Not knowing what else to do, he made his way over to Lance’s side.

 

“I can’t believe we never noticed it before,” Coran was saying, and pointed down to a spot on the map laid on the table in front of them. “There’s actually a staircase leading up the hill to where this Shrine of Resurrection is—”

 

“But it was concealed by overgrown grass.” Ryner cut in. “And even when you’re standing in front of it, it’s still hard to see, hidden by trees and tall brush.”

 

“Wait, what is this?” Keith cut in.

 

Lance whirled around to face him, his eyes practically shining with excitement. “We’ve discovered a new Shrine! But, this one seems to have a different purpose than all of the others in Hyrule.”

 

“Traditionally, the Shrines have the purpose of training the sword’s chosen hero for any challenges he may face.” Kolivan explained, looking directly at Keith as he spoke. “But—"

 

“This one seems to be a medical facility.” Coran cut in. “But without the Sheikah Slate, we were not able to do any further analysis.” He gestured down to the slate on Lance’s hip. “Do you think we could plan a meeting at the Shrine of Resurrection to test its abilities?”

 

Lance nodded slowly, contemplating. “Of course, I’m just… Not sure when that’ll be right now.” He glanced over to Keith with pursed lips. Keith could only shrug; he wasn’t sure how much time they would need for tests like this. “Can I get back to you on specifics?” Lance asked, turning back to Coran.

 

“Of course, m’boy.” Coran assured, and turned to Ryner. “You think the Slate will be able to control the Shrine of Resurrection’s functions?”

 

“I do.” She assured, and pushed the map aside to rustle around for another piece of paper beneath it. It took a few ticks, but when she found it, she pulled out the paper with a bit of a flourish, a triumphant smile on her face. “It has a Guidance Stone, exactly like ours, inside by the medical bed.” Ryner explained, pointing to the detailed sketch on the paper. “So, we can only assume that since the Sheikah Slate works with our Guidance Stones, that it will also be equipped to work with the Shrine of Resurrection.”

 

Keith’s eyes widened at the onslaught of information. Guidance Stones? What were those? He turned his head so he could try to get a better look at the design on the paper. The image there looked familiar to him, but he couldn’t recall where he’d seen it before. And it did look vaguely similar to the pedestals present on each of the Shrines he’d visited, but they didn’t have a cutout for the Sheikah Slate like this one did.

 

What did this all mean?

 

Suddenly, Lance reached over and grabbed the sleeve of his tunic, tugging at it to grab Keith’s attention. Keith jerked up, looking over to Lance with wide eyes.

 

“You look overwhelmed.” Lance whispered, not unkindly. “You don’t have to stay here, if you don’t want to.”

 

Keith narrowed his eyes at the mere suggestion.

 

Lance raised a brow, and gestured around to the rest of the lab with his other hand. “I’ll be fine. Almost all of the Sheikah are armed, if, goddess forbid, something were to happen.”

 

Keith cast a quick glance around the room, to see that Lance was right; most of those present were armed, and the Sheikah had dedicated generations of their lives to protect the royal family. He knew that Lance would be safe here, but…

 

“Don’t worry, Keith. I’ll be fine.” Lance said softly, and offered him a small smile. It was like he could read Keith’s mind sometimes. “There’s a large tree to the north of here, it overlooks the Castle. Why don’t you meet me over there?”

 

“If you’re sure?” Keith asked. When Lance rolled his eyes and used his grip on his tunic to push him away, Keith chuckled and started backing away. “Fine, I’ll be by that tree, then. Take your time. I’ll leave Seraphim here for you.”

 

But Lance had already turned back to the table of Sheikah experts. Keith breathed out a chuckle, and turned to leave the lab, weaving through the other Sheikah smoothly.

 

Zephyr nickered to him as soon as he exited the building, and Keith walked straight to him and pressed his forehead into his grey shoulder. Zephyr leaned into the touch, seeming to offer Keith his strength, which he was thankful for.

 

He took a moment just to take solace in his dear companion’s presence, breathing in his calming scent, before standing up straight and untying Zephyr’s reins from the post. He tossed them up and over his neck, and patted his neck before walking away.

 

Keith knew that Zephyr was following him even without the confirmation of his shoed hooves against the cobblestone, but hearing his boy following him without any prompting still put a smile on his face. He looked back over his shoulder at his steed, watching his grey head bob along as he followed a few steps behind at a comfortable walk.

 

Goddesses, he loved this horse so much.

 

Turning to face forwards again, he focused forwards on where he was going. Lance had said to go to a big tree found to the north of here, and that it overlooked the Castle.

 

Well, he supposed he’d know it when he saw it? Hopefully.

 

They ambled along for a bit, heading north like instructed, walking through a beautiful field of wildflowers. Zephyr paused for a minute when he found a patch of tasty looking grass, so Keith waited for him to finish before moving on.

 

Once they made it up a small hill, Keith spotted a tall lone tree in the distance, seemingly right beside Hyrule Castle. He picked up the pace, jogging towards it until he was underneath the canopy of its leaves.

 

The tree was massive, both in the size of its trunk and in how tall it was. There were a bunch of wild flowers surrounding it, of all different colours and styles. Keith didn’t have much knowledge about flowers, but, they were very pretty. He even spotted one that was a pretty five petalled flower, blue at the centre that faded white to the tips. There were such a vast variety of them that Keith couldn’t even stop to look at all of the pretty flowers.

 

When he stood underneath the massive tree, his breath caught in his throat. Sunlight was trickling in through the dancing leaves, casting a kaleidoscope on his sight. There was a cool breeze coming from the pond behind him, sending his bangs flying. He could have sworn it felt like heaven here beneath the tree.

 

Zephyr came up from behind him, and nudged at his shoulder with his muzzle. Keith turned towards his stallion with a smile, and stroked his velvet nose, beneath the noseband of his shiny black bridle. When Zephyr leaned into his touch, Keith brought one hand up behind his ear to scritch, while running the other down his face in a light touch, just how he knew his horse liked it. Zephyr closed his eyes at his ministrations, practically going lax under his hands.

 

Keith pressed a quick kiss to Zephyr’s nose, before starting to unbuckle his new tack. He had no idea how long Lance would be at the tech lab, although knowing the prince, it could easily be a few hours with new technology being discussed. And there was no sense keeping Zephyr tacked up in the meantime.

 

He took his time carefully unlatching all of the buckles on Zephyr’s grey cheeks, and waited until the bit was dropped down into the palm of his hand before pulling the reins over his neck. He placed it down against the base of the tree trunk, before turning towards the saddle.

 

The saddle was a little more complicated, being of a different style than Zephyr’s other saddle. His old saddle simply had three straps underneath the saddle flap, and only two were needed to hold his girth. But now, there were extra buckles and flaps and strips of leather holding things together… It took Keith a little longer than normal to toss the girth up and over the pommel and pull the saddle into his arms, but as soon as he did, Zephyr did a full body shake that made Keith chuckle.

 

He placed the saddle down with the bridle against the base of the tree, then turned back to look towards the tech lab. He truly had no idea how long Lance would be; the prince had given no indication of when he wanted to go back, and they still had over half of the day to kill before heading back to the Castle…

 

Suddenly, a signature thump sounded from behind Keith. When he turned, he was met with the sight of his horse laying down on the grass beneath the tree, surrounded by blue and white and yellow wild flowers. Zephyr’s eyes closed in contentment, and he breathed out a satisfied huff.

 

Keith simply gazed upon his horse for a moment, happy to see his horse so at ease. He had known that becoming Lance’s appointed knight would have its up’s and down’s, but he hadn’t really thought about the toll it would have on his horses. But it seemed that despite the increase in travel and long days, Zephyr was happy, and happy to take time to relax when he could. Keith knelt down on the grass beside him, planning to sit beside him while he napped, but quickly decided that laying with him would be more satisfying for the both of them.

 

As he settled against Zephyr, his back to his horse’s middle, he breathed out a long breath with a smile. He could feel Zephyr’s  warmth settling deep into his bones, and after a few minutes of gazing out towards vast Hyrule, his eyes started getting heavy. He decided not to fight it, and let his eyes droop shut, falling asleep quickly.

 


 

It was early afternoon by the time Lance stepped out from the lab with a stretch, glancing around for Seraphim.

 

Keith, true to his word, left Seraphim behind for Lance to ride out on and find him.

 

With a called good-bye into the lab, Lance untied Seraphim and mounted up, to ride out towards the tree he told Keith to meet him at.

 

It was such a beautiful day out, Lance couldn’t help but notice as he urged Seraphim to amble along. The sun was shining brightly up above, the soft breeze was beautiful, and the land around him was filled with beautiful, vibrant colours. This was one of his favourite spots in Hyrule to come and sit and just be when he had the chance to. It was why he told Keith to meet him out here in the first place.

 

As he rode up to the tree, he didn’t immediately see Keith or Zephyr anywhere. He was starting to worry that Keith went to the wrong spot, when he noticed a large grey mound sticking up from the grass. Lance didn’t recall there being any rocks near the tree the last time he was there…

 

[karo's art]

 

It wasn’t until he was almost to the tree’s base that he realized it was Zephyr curled up on the ground, nestled up to Keith, and not a rock. The two of them were curled up together in the grass, surrounded by wild flowers beneath the large tree, both fast asleep.

 

Lance cooed quietly at the sight of the pair, dozing together in the afternoon light. Lance knew for himself how easy it was to doze beneath the light streaming in from the tree, but he never expected his knight to be the type of man to enjoy an afternoon nap.

 

He jumped down from Seraphim’s back as quietly as he could, and left him to graze nearby while he tiptoed to Keith’s side.

 

Lance crouched down beside Keith once he was within arm’s reach of him, and let his eyes drag over his features. Keith was leaning back against Zephyr’s side, arms crossed over his chest and his feet crossed at the ankles. He was moving forward and back slightly with each breath Zephyr took, but it didn’t seem to bother him at all. His eyelashes cast long shadows down his cheeks, the shadows fluttering as the leaves moved above them, and his bangs flowed this way and that in the breeze coming off of the water a bit to the west of them.

 

He looked peaceful, more at ease in this moment than Lance had ever seen him.

 

Zephyr’s head finally perked up when Lance sat down beside him on the grass. Lance reached out and stroked his cheek fondly, until Zephyr let his head rest against the grass again, his eyes fluttering closed. Lance was glad that Zephyr felt comfortable sleeping in his presence; horses were skittish animals by heart, after all.

 

He let his gaze turn back towards his knight, his friend, then. He didn’t feel like waking Keith just yet, because he didn’t know how long Keith had slept the night before. Or the night before that.

 

He, just, wanted to let his friend sleep.

 

To pass the time, he pulled out the Sheikah Slate to look back to some of the photos he’d taken. The first one he’d deemed worthy of keeping was the picture Ryner took of them all after his father inaugurated the team as Champions, back when he’d still thought Keith was just his pointy shadow. The next was from the next day, a picture of the Sacred Grounds just outside of the front gates of Castletown. It was still one of his favourite pictures, with the tall pillars framing Hyrule Castle in the background perfectly.

 

He kept scrolling through the photos, taking the time to look at the details in each one. The fallen pillars by the Tena Ko-sah Shrine in Tabantha. The colour of the sky in the desert by the Kara Kara Bazaar. The way the ruins of the Lake Kolomo Garrison were framed by the Dueling Peaks miles away. The vastness of Hyrule in the photo he took from one of the tall peaks of Death Mountain.

 

Suddenly, Zephyr jerked his head up and snorted loudly. Lance whirled around to face the danger, only to see a poor little Summerwing butterfly hanging on to his muzzle with all its might. He couldn’t contain the soft laughter that bubbled out of him at the sight.

 

Just as Lance covered his mouth with his hand to smother the noise he was making, something pounced on him and knocked him flat on his back.

 

He struggled to free a hand against the attacker, only to be met with the sight of a bleary Keith hovering above him. Lance froze, body going lax under Keith’s hands. What was he thinking? He couldn’t help but wonder as he gazed up at the boy above him.

 

[steph's art]

 

Keith was blinking rapidly, trying to dislodge the sleep from his eyes without relenting his grasp on his target. His hands were warm where they gripped Lance’s wrists, pressing firmly but not ungently. He was coiled up, like a spring ready to pounce. Lance thought he could laugh if he weren’t so startled by Keith’s actions.

 

It took a few ticks, but when Keith finally came to and realized what he’d done, he jerked back with wide eyes. “L-Lance!” he exclaimed, swiftly clambering off of him. “Holy sh—I am so sorry!”

 

Lance breathed out a chuckle at his friend’s frazzled state, and sat up. “It’s fine, Keith.” He assured. “I admit, I was a little confused when you suddenly tackled me, though.” He said slyly, and picked up the Sheikah Slate from where it fell when Keith tackled him.

 

Keith groaned, and buried his face in his hands. “I didn’t mean to.” He muttered, the words half hidden from the barrier his fingers made. When he peeked up from his hands, his cheeks were tinged pink. “I’m not sure what happened.”

 

“I think I woke you up by accident.” Lance said, and gestured over to Zephyr. “He got all frazzled by a butterfly on his nose.”

 

“Ahh… Yeah, Zephyr’s a bit of a scardy-cat. He gets spooked easily.” Keith reached over to his horse and patted his shoulder. “But, I still love him.”

 

“I know you do.” Lance agreed softly.

 

Keith was quiet for a moment, simply stroking Zephyr’s shoulder, until he stood up and urged Zephyr up as well with a simple gesture. He nudged him away to graze off with Seraphim, then turned back to Lance. “So, what did you learn over at the lab?”

 

Lance immediately perked up, and clapped his hands excitedly. “Well, as you know, we found a new Shrine. We’re thinking that this Shrine has the ability to heal, although to the degree or its effectiveness is unknown. Coran suggested that we head over as a group before you and I head back to the Castle tonight, just to test some theories. Would that be alright?”

 

“Of course.” Keith immediately agreed, sitting back down in the grass. “Actually, Everest is housed at the Riverside Stable, not too far off course, if we were to head back to the Castle from the plateau. So, that would actually work out well.”

 

“Perfect!” Lance clapped his hands together excitedly. “Then it’s decided. We’ll head back to the lab in a bit to tell them.”

 

Keith nodded, and adjusted to sit more comfortably. “Not eager to head back to the lab just yet?”

 

“That’s not it…” Lance murmured, scrolling through the Sheikah Slate. “More like, the sooner we’re done there, the sooner we head back to the Castle.”

 

Keith hummed, and said “That’s true.”

 

Lance glanced up from the Slate’s screen to read Keith’s expression. He seemed perfectly fine relaxing beneath the tree for a little while longer, so Lance didn’t feel too bad asking him to stay with him a while longer. He then pulled out the camera, debating if he should take a picture of a rare Keith so at ease with his surroundings, before turning it to snap a few pictures of the flowers around them.

 

“The flowers we have in Hyrule aren’t just beautiful…” Lance said conversationally, and lifted up onto his knees to he could move around more easily to take photos of the flowers around them. He took his time zooming in and adjusting the angles on each picture he took so the flowers looked as good as possible in the frame. “They’re also quite useful as ingredients for a variety of things!”

 

“Really?” Keith asked, crawling over to Lance’s side.

 

“Mhmm! We use them for medicinal purposes, as well as for perfumes and other scents. We’re also looking into ways they can enhance traits other materials have!”

 

Keith peered up and over Lance’s shoulder at the screen, looking at each picture he took. “That makes sense.”

 

Lance glanced back at him with a smile, before bringing up the album on the Sheikah Slate to look at the photos he took. On the third image, there was something at the top corner that made him pause.

 

Was that…?

 

He looked up from the Slate’s screen, glancing around for the flower he thought he saw, and gasped when he saw it.

 

Lance shuffled over towards it, and placed the Sheikah Slate back in its holster on his hip as he did. He crouched over the flower, cupping the air around it with his palm to point it out to Keith. “This one here is called the silent princess.” He explained softly. “It’s a rare, endangered species.”

 

Keith shuffled up behind him, gazing down at the flower. “I noticed this one earlier. It’s… Quite beautiful.”

 

“Despite our efforts, we can’t get them to grow domestically, yet.” Lance said sadly. “The princess can only thrive out here, in the wild.” He reached out to stroke one of the petals, but pulled back at the last moment, hesitant to even touch the rare flower, no matter how beautiful he thought it was.

 

“Do they die domestically, once they grow to a certain point?” Keith asked, squinting down at the plant. “Or do they not even bud out of the ground?”

 

“They don’t even seem to bud out of the ground. All that we can hope… Is that the species will be strong enough to prosper, on its own.” Lance pulled his hand back towards his chest, gaze still locked on the flower. He himself had not tried to grow silent princesses domestically, but he’d read reports of many before him who had tried. He found botany incredibly interesting, even tried dabbling in it when he was younger and still studying from the many librarians and tutors at the Castle, but with being away from the Castle as often as he was, it didn’t really work out.

 

“I’m sure they will.” Keith assured, and placed a hand soothingly on Lance’s shoulder. “Life will find a way.”

 

Lance nodded slightly, and glanced around at their surroundings. It was nearing mid-afternoon, and if they wanted to head to the Plateau and to Riverside Stable before dark, they would have to leave—

 

Something small jumped out of the grass from the corner of his eye. Lance whirled around and jumped towards it, trapping it with his hands. When he peeked between his thumbs, he squealed in delight. “Look at this!” he exclaimed, turning back to Keith with the little thing cupped between his palms. “I don’t believe it, but I’ve actually caught one!”

 

Keith looked extremely hesitant, but came towards Lance nonetheless.

 

“This delicacy is known to have very, very potent effects under the proper circumstances.” He continued, and opened his hands with a flourish, showing off the little Hot-Footed frog there. “Ta-dah!”

 

[mikipin's art]

 

“A… Frog?” Keith deadpanned, glancing back and forth from Lance’s face to the little frog wiggling about in his hands.

 

“Yes, a frog!” Lance wiggled a bit in excitement, keeping an eye on the frog so it didn’t jump out of his hands. “Research from the Castle shows ingesting one of these can actually augment certain abilities!”

 

“Do what now?”

 

“We wouldn’t be in a controlled environment out here, but with your level of physical fitness, you’d be a perfect candidate for the study!” Lance said slyly, looking up at Keith through his eyelashes.

 

“Study? What study?” Keith exclaimed, leaning back slightly.

 

Lance pushed the frog up towards Keith’s face with a smile. “Go on!” he urged. “Taste it!”

 

“Taste it?!” Keith jerked back, away from the offending wiggling green frog. “Why would I do that?!”

 

“For science, of course!” Lance urged.

 

Keith made a face, and stood up swiftly, putting a couple strides between him and the frog. “I’m not helping science today.” He said firmly, and narrowed his eyes down at Lance.

 

Lance pouted, holding Keith’s gaze and holding the frog up pleadingly. After a few moments, it was obvious that Keith wasn’t going to budge, so with a sigh, he let the frog hop out of his hands and back safely into the grass. “You’re no fun.” He murmured.

 

I’m no fun?” Keith said with a raised brow. “You’re the one who was asking me to eat a frog.”

 

“For science! But fine, be that way.” Lance said with a pout. As he stood up from his kneeling position, he could see Keith eying him out of the corner of his eye. “C’mon, we may as well head back to the lab now, let Ryner and Coran know we’ll head out to see the Shrine of Resurrection today.”

 

Keith nodded, and whistled softly for Zephyr, who came trotting over to him with no hesitation. Seraphim perked up as well, and after a moment, followed Zephyr over to the base of the tree.

 

“As soon as you tack Zephyr up again, we’ll be on our way.” Lance said. “I can do his bridle, if you want?”

 


 

Coran and Ryner were happy to be investigating the Shrine of Resurrection with Lance, and with Kolivan at their side, the group travelled down to the Plateau swiftly.

 

Keith left Lance in Sheikah care once they entered the large gate at the entrance to the Great Plateau, to go and fetch Everest so they wouldn’t have to do it on their way back to the Castle.

 

Michael, the man who ran Riverside Stable, seemed surprised to see Keith, but gave him a smile as he walked over to Everest’s stall. Everest’s brown head was down in his grain tray, but as soon as Keith unlatched the door, his head jerked up, but he nickered as soon as he saw who it was. Keith let his hands run down the length of Everest’s long neck, tangling in his mane, before giving his shoulder a good scritch. He pressed a kiss to his cheek before stepping out of the stall again to put the bridle over his arm, and heft the saddle and pad onto his forearm.

 

Everest looked excited to be leaving his stall, practically prancing in place as Keith tacked him up. Keith plucked a piece of straw out of his mane as he led him out of his stall and outside, before mounting up without even stopping.

 

“You’re taking them both?” Michael called from his desk.

 

“Yeah!” Keith called back, and steered Everest around to face him. “These boys have a place in the Castle stables now.” He said with a slight smirk.

 

Michael’s jaw dropped open, his brows raising up towards his ginger head. “No kidding?!” he exclaimed, and slapped his palms against the desk. “How’d you swing that?”

 

“Perks of being the Prince of Hyrule’s appointed knight, I guess.” He replied with a shrug. “Trust me, it was a shock to me, too.”

 

“Goddesses…” Michael muttered with a shake of his head. Then, he stood up and made his way out from the shade of the stable and offered Keith his hand. “Guess this is the last I’ll be seein’ ya for a while?”

 

“Guess so.” Keith agreed, and reached down to shake his hand. “Thanks again for everything.” With a final smile down at the man, he whistled for Zephyr to follow and spurred Everest off in a quick canter back towards the Great Plateau.

 

They made good time, trotting up the steps leading into the Plateau just as the sun’s descent was turning the sky orange. Seraphim was still grazing outside of the Shrine of Resurrection, so Keith left Everest and Zephyr to do the same.

 

As he walked towards the Shrine, the first thing he noticed was that the large doorway was practically hidden: Keith almost walked past it, as it was covered in ivy at the top, and hidden at the base by overgrown grass and big bushes. Even looking in once you found the doorway did not help much, as it simply looked like more rock inside.

 

Once he walked in, he was shocked that the stairs suddenly ended and dropped off into a small pool of water, before continuing into stairs the rest of the way into the Shrine. Once he found himself at the bottom, he was met with weird markings on the floor, similar to the ones he’d seen on the platforms of other Shrines in Hyrule. There was a large circle sitting just before a ramp, featuring Sheikah text and looking as though it were powered down. Off to the side he noticed a pedestal, like the ones beside the doorways at each of the other Shrines he’d visited with Lance, but didn’t pay much mind to it once he heard voices filtering through the doorway at the other end of the room.

 

As soon as he walked into the room, his gaze was drawn to the large structure above the medical bed built out of the floor. Keith had no idea what it resembled, but it sort of looked like a large upside down flower… thing that had roots stemming from it out to the far stretches of the ceiling above it.

 

Lance was standing beside Ryner by a pedestal matching the drawing he saw in the lab earlier, talking quietly to themselves and pointing to the Sheikah Slate held there. Coran was standing on the medical bed, looking up and in to the flower thing hovering above the bed, and taking intermittent notes between his quiet musings.

 

Kolivan stepped over to his side, pulling him from his thoughts. “It’s incredible, isn’t it?” he asked, gesturing to the room as a whole. “We never thought that something like this existed, let alone that it functioned.”

 

“What exactly does this do?” Keith asked. “Do we know?”

 

“We’ve learned that this Shrine does, in fact, have the ability to heal.” Coran piped up from the medical bed.

 

Lance hummed in agreement. “But we also learned that this facility has the ability to place those in its care under a long term stasis, a long sleep if you will, to heal any matter of wounds or damage to the body while sustaining it to its necessary needs.”

 

“It’s quite the facility.” Ryner said, her voice full of awe. “But, it makes you wonder…”

 

Keith cocked his head slightly. “Wonder… What?”

 

“If the injuries of the previous war were so great as to necessitate such a facility…” Lance said lowly. “It makes you wonder why this facility was built in the first place.”

 

Lance’s words brought a hush over the room, everyone taking a moment to process the prince’s words. It was a little scary to think about, when that ideal was brought up. Why did they need this facility? For their needs at the time? For potential future needs?

 

Keith knew he would be uneasy about the place until they fully understood its purpose, until they finally got it running at full capacity. Who knows what the future holds?

Chapter Text

11. Shelter From The Storm

 

Keith always liked to start out the day by spending some time with his horses. And it was so much easier now, with the both of them being housed at the same stable.

 

As he pulled open the large stable doors, he quickly noticed that none of the torches lining the walls inside were lit. So he pushed open the double doors as far as they would open and walked inside. The ambient noise of a stable was always comforting to Keith, the sound of horses moving around in their stalls and talking to each other. He couldn’t think of a better way to start the day.

 

At the approaching sound of boots echoing down the aisle, all of the horses heads popped out from their stalls, eagerly waiting for their breakfast. A sorrel mare with a blaze on her face whinnied welcomingly to Keith, but he only had eyes for three horses.

 

His gaze immediately drew in on Seraphim, who pranced about excitedly when he saw who was coming down the aisle. Zephyr whinnied for him, and Everest stretched his head out as far as he could towards Keith as he approached.

 

As Keith reached out to stroke Everest’s cheek, Everest turned his head to nibble on the end of his sleeve. Keith snorted, and shoved his head away with a chuckle. “Fine, mister, we’ll get you some food before you eat me.” He said fondly, and stepped back to pull the Master Sword and Hylian Shield from his back, propping them up against the hay bale between Everest and Seraphim’s stalls. He then grabbed two parts of hay out of the bale, and quickly tossed it up and over Everest’s head before he could get a bite out of it and make a mess of the immaculate aisle.

 

He pulled another part of hay out for Seraphim, and stepped towards his stall. He pushed the white stallion’s head away so he could unlatch the stall door and walk inside with the hay held away from the horse’s eager nose. Seraphim’s hay net was empty, so he put the hay in as quickly as possible before Seraphim got too antsy to eat.

 

Keith locked the stall door behind him, and walked to the next bale of hay, sitting on the ground between Seraphim’s and Zephyr’s stalls, and pulled out two sections for his grey stallion. Zephyr nickered softly to him, but stepped back from the stall door so Keith could step in.

 

“See? This is how you boys are supposed to act.” Keith said to the two stallions in the next stalls. Neither of them seemed to care, though, since their heads were down in their hay. He took his time putting Zephyr’s hay into his hay net evenly. Once he was done, he turned, and wasn’t all that surprised that Zephyr was hovering beside him, ready to eat but not pushing his way in. He gave his horse’s grey shoulder a pat before stepping around him and out of the stall.

 

Once he locked Zephyr’s door behind him, he stepped back just to look at the three horses. Everest’s head was down at the back corner of the stall, presumably where Keith threw the hay, while Seraphim and Zephyr were eating out of their hay nets like civilized horses.

 

“Oh, looks like you got started on feeding.” A voice called down the aisle.

 

Keith whirled around to face a lanky woman strutting down the aisle with purpose. She had long brunette hair, pulled back in a severe ponytail at the base of her neck and impeccable tall black boots that clicked with every step she took.

 

“O-oh, yeah.” Keith stuttered out. “Sorry, I just fed these three.”

 

“No worries.” She said, and came to a stop beside him. “These two yours?” She asked, indicating to the two horses on either side of Seraphim’s stalls.

 

“Yeah.”

 

“Ah, so you must be Keith. Nice to finally meet you.” She offered a hand to him. “Name’s Nat, I run the day to day here at the royal stables.”

 

“No kidding?” He asked, a smile tugging at his lips. “So you’re the one to thank for this impeccably clean aisle. Nice work.”

 

“Thanks.” She replied quickly, but a smile tugged at the corner of her lips. “Well, I’ve got to get to it. These stables don’t stay impeccable on their own.” She started walking away, but turned back when she was about halfway down the aisle. “Oh, did you give one or two parts hay to Seraphim, there?”

 

“Just one.”

 

“Good. Today’s his day to get one part oats. I’ll go grab that before he finishes up with his hay.”

 

Keith waved her off. “No no, I’ve got it.” He assured. “You work on the others.”

 

She nodded, before carrying on her way to start on her chores for the morning.

 

Keith turned back to Seraphim, and watched him for a moment more before turning to head to the feed room.

 

The feed room was across the hall from the tack room at the very end of the aisle, and was just as clean and organized as the rest of the stable. Keith knew without even looking at the label which container held what he was looking for. He grabbed a blue bucket and scooped out a couple loads of oats, before closing the container back up and leaving the feed room, making sure to close the door behind him when he left.

 

As he walked back to Seraphim’s stall, he noticed that Zephyr’s stall door was open. He wasn’t really concerned, but he was wondering who was in there with his stallion.

 

Once he got to the open door, he saw Keely stroking Zephyr’s shoulder as he munched away at his breakfast. “Oh, hey there, young lady.” Keith said as he carried on to open Seraphim’s stall door.

 

“Keith!” She exclaimed, and whirled around to face him with a huge smile on your face. “You never told me your horses were so beautiful!”

 

“Finally made your way down here, huh?” He placed the bucket near Seraphim’s side up against the wall of the stall so the white horse wouldn’t accidentally knock it over.

 

She turned back to the stallion to watch him eat. “Well, you’re always talking about Zephyr, so I thought I’d come meet him.”

 

Keith locked the stall door behind him, and stepped over to Zephyr’s stall, closing the door so he could lean against it. “He is pretty handsome, isn’t he?” He mused softly. “That’s my best boy, right there.”

 

Keely reached up as high as she could to touch his mane, but couldn’t quite reach it. So she gave that up to continue stroking his shoulder, and what she could reach of his neck. “He’s so soft.”

 

“Well, I always make sure to brush him so he stays soft and shiny.” Keith explained. “Do you want to help me brush him when he’s done eating?”

 

She turned back to him with wide excited eyes, and nodded furiously.

 

Keith smiled, and leaned back to look over at Everest. His head was up, and it looked like he was done eating, if him licking his lips was anything to go by. “Well, Everest looks like he’s done eating his breakfast. So, wanna help me with him first?” He offered, and stepped back to open the stall door for her.

 

With a big smile, she left Zephyr’s side and stepped out into the aisle, looking up at Keith with her wide green eyes.

 

With a quick flourish, Keith locked Zephyr’s door and stepped over to Everest’s stall, grabbing the halter on the floor and unlocking his door in the same motion. As the door swung open, Everest pushed his head into Keith’s space, and Keith slipped the halter up and over his ears. Once he cinched the halter closed, he guided the big brown stallion out of his stall with a hand to the side of his halter, and led him to a set of cross ties in front of Seraphim’s stall.

 

“What do I need to do?” Keely asked eagerly, bouncing on her toes.

 

Keith glanced around, looking for a step stool for her to use as he clipped the cross ties to either side of Everest’s halter. At the very end of the aisle, beside the tack room, he spotted one. He pointed down towards it, and said “Can you grab that?”

 

With a nod, she ran down to grab it, and rushed back. She offered it up to Keith, and he put it down on the floor by Everest’s front feet, so she could reach his withers when standing on it. He then offered her a hand to help her step up, which she gratefully took. She teetered on top of it for a moment, but quickly regained her balance. She looked back over her shoulder at Keith, waiting for further instruction.

 

He turned and reached into the grooming kit hanging from Seraphim’s stall door for two brushes. He took a moment to bang them together to rid some of the old dirt and horse hair out of them, before passing one to Keely. “Brush with the hair,” he explained, and showed her what he meant, brushing in the same direction that the fur on Everest’s shoulder went.

 

She nodded, and slowly let her brush run down the brown fur, a little too lightly to really do anything.

 

Keith chuckled softly, and put his hand over top of hers, pressing the brush into the fur a little more. “Don’t worry about being too rough, it’s almost impossible.”

 

She tried again, this time pressing a little harder, and watched as a small puff of dust came off of Everest’s shoulder after her brush stroke.

 

“Good!” Keith said with a fond smile. “Now, just keep doing that until we get the dust off of him.”

 

“Okay!”

 

The two of them brushed in silence for a while, Keely working on what she could reach around Everest’s neck, shoulder, and barrel while Keith worked on everything else. Once he reached the stallion’s other side, he put the brush down and helped Keely off of the stool, bringing it to the other side for her to work on the other shoulder. While giving her a hand up again, he said “Everest isn’t too dirty, really, I gave him a good brush last night after Lance and I returned.”

 

Keely set to work brushing the fur in front of her with determination, her little tongue peeking out a little in her focus.

 

There was some straw tangled up in Everest’s white feathers, so Keith retrieved a pair of clippers and a hoof pick from the tool bag. He pocketed the hoof pick so he could clean each hoof after trimming. He liked to do it somewhat regularly, so Everest’s white feathers wouldn’t start to get big knots and get tangled up in things, like straw or burrs.

 

“Are we gonna work on Prince Lance’s horse, too?” Keely asked, stepping down from the step ladder carefully.

 

Keith stood up straight, and pocketed the clippers and hoof pick. “If you want to, we can.” He said, and unclipped Everest from the cross ties. He spun him around, and led him back to his stall. He pulled the halter off and let it rest against the lock on the stall door, before turning back to Keely. “But, we should do Zephyr first.”

 

“Okay!”

 

With a smile, Keith simply opened Zephyr’s stall door, and let him amble out into the aisle all on his own.

 

Keely’s eyes were as wide as saucers watching the scene unfold in front of her. “Woah!” she shrieked, causing Zephyr to stop in his tracks with a snort. “What if he runs away?”

 

“He won’t,” Keith assured, and motioned at Zephyr for him to keep moving. “He’s a good boy, and I trust him.”

 

Keely watched silently as Zephyr came to stand where Everest had been standing moments before, and stood still in the middle of the aisle, all on his own.

 

Keith set about moving the step stool for her beside Zephyr’s grey shoulder, the same set up they had for brushing Everest. He offered a hand down to Keely, which snapped her out of her reverie.

 

[steph's art]

 

“He’s so cool!” She gushed as she took Keith’s hand, and stepped up to start brushing his grey shoulder.

 

Zephyr snorted and turned his head to look at her. She reached out tentatively to stroke his nose, which he immediately leaned in to as much as he could at the awkward angle.

 

“I think he likes you.” Keith said with a smile, and started brushing where Zephyr’s white mane met his withers, working down the path the hair took.

 

“Really?”

 

“Really.”

 

Keely turned back to brushing Zephyr’s shoulder with a twinkle to her eye, and Keith was filled with pride at the sight. Seeing Keely get along so well with his boy made him so happy in a way he couldn’t justify, but he was fine with that. Having the little girl in his life just filled a piece of his heart he didn’t know was missing, and she fit so perfectly.

 

New booted footsteps came down the aisle, and Keith turned to see Lance walking towards them. “Ah, I wondered if this is where I’d find you two.” Lance called out.

 

Keely turned to face him, and offered a quick curtsey, her smile never straying from her lips. “Prince Lance!” She exclaimed. “Keith’s teaching me how to brush down his horses!”

 

“Ah, a very important task!” Lance said, coming over to stand beside Keith as he worked. “Can’t learn to ride before doing the necessary prep beforehand.”

 

Keely’s gaze turned to Keith next, her eyes wide. “Are you going to teach me how to ride?”

 

“Not today, little one.” Lance interrupted with an apologetic smile. “Keith and I are leaving the Castle shortly.”

 

Keith turned to face Lance with raised brows. “We are?”

 

“Yup!” Lance exclaimed, and deftly pulled the brush from Keith’s hands. “We, dear knight, are going out to the Spring of Courage.”

 

“Aww,” Keely whined with a dramatic pout. “But I wanna learn how to ride.”

 

Keith turned back to her, and crossed his arms over his chest. “Soon, Kee, but not today, okay?” He ruffled her hair as he walked around to Zephyr’s near side, and bent down to clean out his hooves.

 

“Fine,” Keely relented, and dropped down from the step stool once she deemed Zephyr’s shoulder clean. She picked up the stool and brought it over to the other side to work on his other shoulder.

 

“Do you think we could be out of here in an hour?” Lance asked.

 

Keith stood up straight once he cleared out the hoof, and looked over at Lance across Zephyr’s back. “So soon?”

 

Lance sent him a look, and gave a slight shrug.

 

“Ah,” Keith said simply, “alright, then. I can get both of our horses ready if you want to go pack?”

 

“Sure.” Lance said, and placed the brush on the grey stallion’s hindquarters for Keith to grab. “Anything you need from your room, or?”

 

Keith thought for a moment, but shook his head. “No, I have my sword and shield already. Anything else is already in Everest’s packs.”

 

“Who do you plan to take today?” Lance asked curiously.

 

“Hmm… How long will it take us to ride to the Spring?”

 

Lance hummed, and thought about the answer for a moment. “Perhaps… Half a day’s ride, if we keep a good pace?”

 

Keith’s eyes widened, and he whistled lowly. “Where is the Spring of Courage?”

 

Lance glanced down to Keely, and pursed his lips. “Well, uh…”

 

Keith fought the urge to roll his eyes. “Kee’s not gonna say anything, y’know.”

 

“Well… It’s in the Faron region.” He said hesitantly, keeping the information vague.

 

Keith could understand why Lance didn’t want to share the locations of the sacred shrines, but honestly, what was Keely going to do with that information? “So, that is a good distance away. We won’t be back here until tomorrow, around midday, perhaps.”

 

“Perhaps.”

 

Keely whined from the other side of Zephyr, pulling the gazes of both men over to her. “You won’t be here tomorrow morning to train with me.” She pouted.

 

Keith offered her a rueful smile and a shrug. “No, doesn’t look like it, Kee. But, I will be here the next morning, and I can teach you how to ride if we both get up in good time?”

 

“Deal!” she exclaimed, and let out an excited squeal. “Oh man, that’s gonna be so fun!”

 

“Make sure to clear it with the cook,” Keith said. “I don’t need her riding my ass about getting you back in time for lunch again.”

 

“’Again’?” Lance asked with a smirk.

 

Keith waved him off. “But back to your question, I’ll bring Zephyr. He’s more used to overnight excursions than Everest is.”

 

“Alright,” Lance said, and started walking backwards towards the exit, “I’ll go pack up and meet you back here shortly.”

 

Keith nodded, and Keely waved at him before Lance turned and made his way out of the royal stables.

 

Keely turned back to Keith with a thoughtful look on her face. She put the brush on Zephyr’s back, and reached up to grip handfuls of his white mane. “Have you ever braided his hair before?” she asked.

 

Keith grabbed the brush before it could slip, and eyes Keely suspiciously. “…No?” he said slowly. “He’s a boy.”

 

“So?”

 

Keith wasn’t sure what to say to that logic. He turned to put all of the grooming gear back in its home, and turned back to Keely slowly. He didn’t see what harm would come from it. “Uh… If you want to braid his mane… Feel free?”

 

She squealed in delight, and set about pulling Zephyr’s head down so she could start at his forelock. Zephyr looked confused, but didn’t question it. Keith simply walked away to grab tack to let Keely do her thing.

 


 

Lance managed to barely contain his giggles until they were out of the town.

 

Keith levelled a glare at him as soon as they were past the front gates, before letting out a loud, dramatic sigh. “Go on, laugh already.” He muttered.

 

Lance broke out laughing at the sight of Zephyr’s poorly braided made, random bits of white sticking out all the way down his neck until it ended in what looked like a ball of white down by his withers, brushing against Keith’s hands with every step the stallion took. It didn’t help that Zephyr was practically pouting, as much as a horse could pout, and it was just too damn funny.

 

“I’m sorry, I really am.” Lance said between chortles. “I just—Wow, Keely does not know how to braid.”

 

“Think you can do better?” Keith snapped without any real heat.

 

“Uh, yeah, I can actually.” Lance replied with his chin up high. “I happen to be a very good mane braider.”

 

“I’ll believe that when I see it.”

 

Lance scoffed softly, and spurred Seraphim forwards into a brisk canter, steering them east, towards Mabe Village and the royal ranch. “Remind me when we get to the Spring to do it.” He called back over his shoulder.

 

Keith nudged Zephyr after him, and they cantered down the road towards the village.

 

They followed the road as it curved southwest, cutting down the centre of Hyrule Field, all the way to the Hyrule Garrison. They slowed to a trot to get through the more populated area, but still wanted to get through quickly. They had a lot of ground to cover, and no time to stop and say friendly things to old peers and colleagues, in Keith’s case. His time spent at this Garrison was better left in the past.

 

The road eventually curved south and they picked up the pace to a quick canter on the cobbled road. There was a bit of foot traffic heading to the exchange grounds, primarily Hylian with a few Rito and Gerudo milling about, but they all moved to the side for the quick moving horseback pair.

 

As they rode past Lake Kolomo, or what they could see of it through the thick trees, Keith was reminded of the last time he and Lance were here, on their way back to the Castle after spending the night on the Great Plateau. Things were so different now. Keith knew about, and fully supported Lance’s research into ancient technology, and Lance had a better understanding of who Keith was, and respected him as a person. Things Keith never thought would have come from their relationship as prince and charge. It was nice to see that he was proven wrong about this.

 

Gatepost Town was as quiet as ever as they rode past it. It was built to guard the entrance to the Great Plateau, and to ward off any who sought to use it for anything but its religious purpose, but few ever even thought of it anymore. So Gatepost Town was merely a ghost of its former self, now.

 

“Why are we taking the road, anyways?” Keith asked once they rode past Gatepost Town. “We’ve wasted time following it, when we could have cut ‘cross country and reached the Bridge of Hylia faster—”

 

“Roads were built to be used, Keith.” Lance interrupted, not unkindly. “And taking them keeps us out of the Castle longer. So, respect the roads.”

 

Keith rolled his eyes, but fought the smile tugging his lips upwards. It wasn’t like he didn’t enjoy spending time with Lance out on the road. He was more worried about the weather than anything else. But being this inefficient sort of hurt his soul a little.

 

They had to slow down to a trot as they rode through the Outpost. Things were bustling there, people running back and forth, kids playing in the streets with their pets, and business carrying on as usual at the post. When people realized who was coming through, they parted and bowed their heads to Lance. He kept his head held high, even with all the eyes watching him as they rode past. Keith knew that if it was him that everybody was looking at, he’d crumble.

 

Where the Outpost met the East Post, the road came to a fork, where one could either continue East out towards the Dueling Peaks, or south towards the Lake Hylia and the massive bridge spanning its length. Keith nudged Zephyr into a canter as they turned south, and when he heard Lance and Seraphim do the same, he pushed his horse into a fast gallop.

 

The fast pace quickly pulled the messy braid apart, and Keith dropped the reins to gently pry out the tie at the withers so it could all fall loose. As soon as the tie came free, Zephyr shook his head out, sending his newly freed mane flying. Keith laughed out loud, and patted his boy’s neck.

 

Lance and Seraphim flew past them as they rounded out around Scout’s Hill, and he threw a wicked smirk back over his shoulder at them. Keith tried to let Zephyr level out to try to take the lead, but they approached the narrow entrance of the Bridge of Hylia sooner than he liked.

 

Everytime he came to this massive structure, Keith couldn’t help but be awed by it. The architects must have worked for decades on it, and it still stood up strong. The entrance was built up tall like a fortress, seeming to almost touch the sky. The large Hylian crest at the top showcased exactly which race built it, and the various Triforces at integral points of the architecture caught and bent the light down on the walkway, making it seem even more larger than life than it already was.

 

The archway leading onto the actual bridge could fit traffic going both ways, but Keith still let Lance go in ahead.

 

As the bridge left land and started spanning over water, it started coming out of its own shadow. The grey bricks beneath the horses’ hooves seemed to sparkle in the light, and the moss and grass starting to grow in the cracks looked like it was meant to be there. It spanned the entire length of the large lake, and felt like it was eternal.

 

Once they were comfortably on the bridge, and started coming into some foot traffic crossing the bridge, the pair pulled their horses back to an easy trot. As much as racing was fun, they didn’t want to cause any trouble. Keith’s couldn’t imagine walking the span of the bridge, it seemed almost impossible.

 

At the centre of the bridge was a beautiful courtyard, with a wagon set up as a vender off to the side. A three tiered fountain sat at the very centre, water eternally cycling through from the top to bottom. It wasn’t circular like most other fountains were, but was instead a hexagonal shape, from the top tier down to the border around the reservoir at the bottom. At the very top of the fountain was a big blooming water lily, and water tricked out from between its petals to fall to the pools below. It was easily the most exquisite part of the whole bridge, one Keith liked to look at as water trickled down into the pool below.

 

There was a couple with the wagon sitting off to the side, selling some bread and other baked goods from Deya Village, on the northeastern side of Lake Hylia. Keith had seen them around before, and Lance smiled when he saw them. They stopped briefly to buy a loaf of bread and a few cookies for their journey, and for a brief conversation before carrying on their way to their destination.

 

Lance put the reins down against the pommel and let Seraphim amble along as he munched on his cookies. Keith was surprised to see him have the trust in his horse, but it was well deserved. Seraphim kept bobbing along the path like nothing had changed, and the sight of the pair brought a small smile to Keith’s lips. He wrapped up his share of cookies and pocketed them for later, and put the loaf of bread into his saddle bag as carefully as he could.

 

As soon as they stepped off of the bridge, Lance nudged Seraphim forwards into a brisk trot, and turned his eyes off of the road, looking for something through the trees.

 

“What’s up?” Keith asked lowly, and scanned the area for anything Lance might be seeing.

 

Lance hummed, not really answering Keith’s question. He didn’t seem too worried about it, so Keith let it go. He knew Lance would explain when he remembered to.

 

Suddenly, Lance veered from the path, cutting in through the trees towards where the hills dipped down to meet the lake. Keith followed unquestioningly, but still not sure what they were doing.

 

His question was answered when they came to a small path down the hill, where a lone tree sat nestled against the waters edge. There was a small patch of land, large enough that the horses could amble around and have a chance to drink before mounting up again and moving on.

 

“I wondered where we were going,” Keith said quietly, and dismounted from Zephyr’s back.

 

Lance jumped down from his horse, and gave Seraphim’s white shoulder a pat as he bent to drink from the water. “This is a good stop before we get to the Spring,” he explained, “we’ll be there soon enough.”

 

Keith turned to look back up the path they came down. “We’re right by Faron Woods… But I still have no idea where you’re taking me.”

 

“We, dear knight, are going to the mouth of the Dracozu Lake, just north of the Damel Forest.”

 

Keith turned back to Lance with a raised brow. “Really? That’s where the Spring is?” he asked incredulously. “Doesn’t seem all that… Springly.”

 

“‘Springly’?” Lance questioned with a chuckle.

 

Keith rolled his eyes. “You know what I mean.”

 

“I can sort of see your point.” Lance conceded, crossing his arms over his chest lightly. “The location it’s in doesn’t seem like the place a Spring would be. But that’s the point. When you see the Spring of Courage, you’ll see how wrong you are.” As soon as Seraphim’s head lifted from the lake, Lance put his left foot in the stirrup and hopped back up into the saddle with ease.

 

As soon as Zephyr had his fill, Keith followed suit, and the pair made their way back up to the road to continue on to Faron Woods.

 

Faron Woods looked like any other forest, full of big tall trees and tons of wildlife all around. But what was different about this forest was the architecture blending in with nature.

 

As they fully entered the forest, on either side of the path were two large pillars that sort of seemed like a gateway into the forest. They consisted of four columns each, stacked closely together to make one large pillar, and were topped with syilized curls that were reminiscent of Farore’s symbol of courage. It was sort of like a gateway to something sacred, but there was nothing but woods for miles until the closest town.

 

Part of the road was laid in bricks from a time long forgotten, but most of it was just years and years worth of boot and hooves beating the grass back so much it could never return. There were intermittent pillars, smaller than the ones near the entrance to the woods, sporadically throughout the forest as they rode along, some with designs, but other so worn down they appeared smooth.

 

At one point, there was a statue of a dragon’s head beside the path, nearly parallel with the path. Keith had seen it before, but had never really paid attention to it until now. There was ivy hanging from its nostrils, and moss growing on top of its head. It looked like a part of the landscape now, so easy to overlook, but its craftsmanship was incredible. Keith couldn’t help but wonder why it was there.

 

Shortly after, they came to a small wooden bridge that spanned the width of the Floria River. It appeared sturdy in the fast moving water. The river itself seemed to part forest from jungle, as the trees changed from oak and pine to palm and barrigonia from one side to the other.

 

Pretty well as soon as the pair got off of the bridge, Lance steered them off of the path through a large gateway of sorts. There were a bunch of massive ruined pillars and structures, almost completely overrun by the jungle around it, very hard to see in the brush.

 

Lance was quick to tell Keith that these ruins were the Zonai ruins, and similarly to how Hylians had the winged lion as their tribute, the Zonai had dragons. It explained all the depictions of dragons scattered around them.

 

There was no path here for Zephyr to follow, but Lance seemed to know exactly where he was going, masterfully steering Seraphim around all of the jungle and fallen buildings scattered across the ground in front of them. It almost seemed like he could do this in his sleep. Keith had no idea how many times Lance had been here, but he could guess a lot over the years, if he knew the path this well.

 

They slowed down to a walk down a small incline where some large stones, perhaps stairs, sticking out intermittently down the hillside. They were avoidable for the most part for the horses, but Zephyr did have to hop down one large stone so Seraphim didn’t have to. They were able to pick up the pace again once they made it down the incline.

 

A large clearing opened up in front of them a few strides past the incline, sparsely littered with trees and pillars. What drew Keith’s eye in was the big carving on the cliff face off to the side. There were massive pillars spanning the width of the cliff, some topped with dragon sculptures, but others with the same swirling symbol as back in Faron Woods. In some areas, the walls had given way for tree roots to descend, some of which were thicker than Seraphim’s hay belly.

 

Even though the entire place was in ruins, Keith couldn’t stop marvelling at how beautiful it was, let alone how it must have been at its prime. He didn’t say anything about it though, since Lance was being unusually quiet.

 

Lance led them towards the other end of the clearing, where there were two dragon-topped pillars leading to an area that narrowed into a smaller clearing, bordered by tall cliffs on either side. Keith couldn’t see much, since it curved off somewhere, but he could hear water rushing nearby, so he knew they must be getting close to the Dracozu River.

 

Sure enough, the small natural path bordered by tall cliffs led them to the edge of the river. They followed it north, as it twisted and turned like a snake. They had to ride single file along the riverbank, since there was a lot of space spanning from the river to the cliff. Keith could see how tense Lance’s shoulders were as he rode ahead. He wanted to say something, but wasn’t sure what there was to say that hadn’t already been said to Lance a thousand times. He knew what was at stake. All he could do was be there for him. So, he would be there for his friend, for as long as he needed.

 

Soon enough, they reached where the river met the Dracozu Lake. There was an old rickety bridge spanning the short length of the lake to the other side of the clearing, where some sort of large structure was awaiting.

 

It wasn’t until they got closer that he realized there were two large clawed hands on either side of the large structure. There was a tree growing on top, and the roots seemed to be coming out of what looked like a nostril…

 

“Is that… A dragon?” Keith asked incredulously, pointing up at the structure.

 

Lance flashed a grin over at him, and nodded. “Sure is.” He pulled Seraphim to a stop before dismounting, and gesturing to the dragon’s open mouth. “See? Where we walk in, we’re walking right into the dragon’s mouth. And on either side are its claws. They built this place to look like it was breaking out from Farosh Hills. Fitting, right?”

 

Keith dismounted, and patted Zephyr’s shoulder distractedly, still looking up at the giant structure in awe. “Farosh is the name of the dragon supposedly protecting this region, right?” he asked, never tearing his gaze from the sculpture.

 

“Correct!” Lance praised.

 

The teeth coming down towards the ground from the dragon’s top jaw were massive, easily twelve times his own height. How did people build magnificent things like this? Keith turned his gaze to look inside the mouth now, towards the back of the structure, or, the throat. There was something nestled at the back, there… “Inside…?”

 

“The Spring of Courage?” Lance filled in. With a nod, he started towards the stairs up and into the dragon’s mouth. “Into the dragon’s mouth, we go.”

 

Keith waited until Lance was nearly up the steps to follow him into the structure. He couldn’t get over how massive this was, it was basically one massive sculpture that protected the Spring.

 

As soon as he stepped inside, he felt like an ant compared to the surroundings. The teeth towering up from the floor were tall, but rounded out with age. Moss and grass covered nearly every inch of the floor, making Keith doubt if the floor was originally stone or not. There were some large roots from the tree above cascading down to the floor near the back of the dragon’s head, through spots where the roof had caved in. Somehow, even though this architectural marvel was not originally part of nature, nature had taken it in over time and made it its own.

 

When Keith stopped looking at the scenery, he noticed Lance already at the back, standing on a dias before a goddess statue that looked very similar to the one on the plateau. When Keith climbed the stairs to join him on the raised dias before the sacred pool, Lance whirled around to face him with a forced smile. “I promised you I would braid Zephyr’s mane, didn’t I?” he said, and brushed past him to head back outside.

 

Keith cast a look towards the goddess statue, before following Lance back out to the horses. He was able to quickly catch up to Lance’s strides, and walked side by side with him until they reached their horses.

 

Zephyr was right where Keith left him, but Seraphim wandered a few steps away to a spot with some tasty looking grass. Lance walked right over to Zephyr and started unbuckling his bridle before Keith could stop him.

 

“You don’t have to do this,” Keith said, stopping beside Lance and levelling him with a look. “Zephyr doesn’t need his mane braided.”

 

“I want to.” Lance argued, and looped the headstall of Zephyr’s bridle over his arm, reaching for the reins to pull over his grey ears with the other hand.

 

Keith reached out and grabbed Lance’s hand, stopping him before he could touch the black reins. “Lance,” he said lowly, “I know you’re stalling.”

 

Lance’s eyes cut over to him, slightly narrowed, as if daring him to continue.

 

“I know you’re afraid,” Keith continued, unperturbed by Lance’s behaviour, “and I don’t blame you. You have a lot of pressure, an unknown timeline to access sealing powers you don’t know how to access. I can only imagine how stressful that is for you, since you don’t really share how you’re feeling about it.” He wanted to press Lance about it, make him feel comfortable enough to bare his soul to him, but he didn’t know how to do that when he couldn’t it himself. His thumb rubbed soothingly against his wrist where he still gripped the prince’s brown wrist before he could stop himself. “So, it’s okay to stall, I won’t push you. Okay?”

 

Lance looked surprised by Keith’s words, as if this was the first time somebody was taking his own feelings into account. Keith sincerely hoped he wasn’t the first. “Okay.” Lance said lowly, letting his hand go slack in Keith’s grip.

 

Keith reached over to pull his horse’s bridle off of Lance’s arm, looping it over his own forearm before letting go of Lance’s wrist and pulling the reins over Zephyr’s neck. Once he looped the reins over his forearm with the rest of bridle, he fished around in his pocket for the leather hair tie from earlier, offering it up to Lance.

 

With a small smile, Lance picked it up from Keith’s palm, and put it in his own pocket. Then, he reached up to Zephyr’s white forelock, combing through it with his fingers before pushing it back behind his ears.

 

Keith watched him work for a minute, separating the forelock into three sections and twisting them intricately into a braid pattern before stepping back to the saddle to start unbuckling it. The metal on the bridle tapped against the metal stirrup, making a loud ringing noise ring out through the clearing. Seraphim jerked his head up at it, but quickly deemed it unnecessary of his time and went back to grazing.

 

He went through the motions of looping the stirrups over the seat of the saddle, pushing up the saddle flap and unbuckling the girth straps quickly, getting the saddle and pad off of Zephyr’s back, and placing the tack off to the side on top of a fallen column. As Lance was finishing the tight braid down the horse’s neck, Keith grabbed a few fistfuls of grass to brush out the damp fur where the saddle pad had been sitting. It wasn’t hay or straw, which would have worked better, but it would have to do.

 

Lance tied off the braid with the brown string of leather, and stepped back with a small “ta-da”. Zephyr’s white mane, from forelock to withers, was braided nice and tight, not a single hair out of place. Lance had tied it all the way to the end before tying it off with the leather tie.

 

As much as Keith hated to admit it, Zephyr looked pretty dapper with his made braided like that.

 

“What do you think?” Lance asked excitedly. “Isn’t he handsome?”

 

Keith pursed his lips, trying to hide the smile, and shrugged slightly. “Yeah, it’s alright, I guess.”

 

“Shut up, you love it.”

 

He let his shoulders slump, and smiled sheepishly at Lance. “Yeah, he does look really handsome.” Keith admitted. Before Lance could try to braid his tail, too, he said “But now, you should go pray. You have to change for that, don’t you?”

 

Lance pouted, but quickly changed pace, nodding solemnly. “Yeah, I have a whole ritual I go through.” he said solemnly, and turned, walking over to Seraphim to rifle through his small saddle bags. After a moment, he pulled out a thin white tunic and simple trousers, and a pair of tall sandals. There were a few things wrapped up in the tunic, Keith could tell, since it didn’t look flat, but he was sure he’d find out what the entire outfit looked like soon enough. “I’m gonna go change into this, then.” Lance announced, and walked back towards the Spring.

 

“I’ll untack Seraphim for you.” Keith called, and waited until Lance was gone from sight before letting his head fall forwards against Zephyr’s back. Zephyr turned his head back towards him to nudge at him with his muzzle, but didn’t move anymore, letting Keith have his moment.

 

After the moment was up, Keith pulled away from his horse, offering him a quick pat to his back before ambling over to Seraphim.

 

The white stallion perked up when he heard Keith approaching, and nudged him fondly. Keith gave the spot behind his ear a quick scritch before reaching under his jaw to start unbuckling the bridle. He took his time unbuckling everything, pulling the leather out through the buckles slowly so they didn’t accidentally catch on anything, and cleaning off the bit in the water from the lake so it didn’t stain green from the grass Seraphim was eating.

 

He took the same care with the saddle, threading the irons up close to the pommel before pulling the saddle flap up and unbuckling the girth on both sides, draping it up and over the seat before pulling the saddle from his back. Seraphim wasn’t as sweaty beneath the saddle pad as Zephyr was, so he didn’t really need a brush down, but Keith brushed him down with grass anyways, just to be safe. It also gave Lance time to finish what he was doing before he ventured back into the dragon’s mouth.

 

Keith wasn’t sure what their plans were for the night, so he didn’t want to set up camp incase it wasn’t necessary. So, with nothing else to do for the horses, he finally followed Lance inside the structure to see what he was doing.

 

As he walked back towards the Spring itself, Keith didn’t see Lance at first, and assumed he was off somewhere still changing. But when he stepped up onto the dias before the goddess statue, what he saw nearly took his breath away.

 

Kneeling in the water before the goddess statue was Lance. The water surrounding him came up to mid thigh, soaking through the tan trousers he wore. He was wearing a white tunic, cinched at the waist with a bright blue belt, similar to the colour of Keith’s own tunic. The material of the tunic wasn’t tucked into his trousers, and the bottom hem of the garment that came in contact with the water was practically see-through. It was a simple enough outfit, meant to be humble in the presence of the goddess, but Keith couldn’t stop staring at him.

 

Lance looked more beautiful in the Spring, kneeling humbly before the goddess with soaked trousers than Keith had ever seen, and he was finding it harder and harder to bring air into his lungs the longer he stared at the prince’s back.

 

[allexche's art]

 

His head was bent forwards, showing off the long line of his neck as he quietly prayed. His brown hair fell forwards around his pointed ears, curling slightly in the jungle heat. He looked relaxed, or as relaxed as someone kneeling down in cool water could, as he prayed. Keith’s gaze was drawn to every movement his shoulders made as he breathed in and out, slowly rising and falling with every softly murmured word he said. It really made Keith want to wrap him up in his arms and do some worshipping of his own.

 

Instead, he stood still and just looked at Lance. Because what else could he do?

 

A soft breeze blew through the collapsed walls, ruffling Lance’s tunic against his back and sending Keith’s bangs flying. Keith brushed them aside and kept his eyes glued to Lance’s back, watching avidly as Lance rolled his shoulders out to readjust the fabric, stretching his arms outwards to pull it back into place.

 

There were gold bands on Lance’s wrists, sitting overtop of the long white sleeves of his tunic. They were long, taking up about half of his forearm, and made of gold. There was a design on them, but Lance’s hands were back in front of his body before Keith could decipher what the design depicted.

 

Keith quickly lost track of how long he stood there, watching over Lance as he prayed and prayed to the goddess statue before him. He moved at one point to remove his sword and shield from his back, leaning them up against a nearby pillar so he could stretch his shoulders out while Lance stayed practically immobile in the water. His eyes never strayed from the prince’s back, not as minutes turned to hours, and the setting sun turned their bright blue and green landscape to a bright emerald, all the moss and ivy becoming even richer in the fading light. The fading sun gave Lance almost a halo, bathing him in gold light.

 

He looked ethereal.

 

Keith could never hear what Lance was saying, when he spoke. It was almost like the spoken words came unbidden to his lips, like he was unaware that they were being spoken at all, because he would quickly fade out into silence again.

 

But, when the sun was practically beside Lance, bathing him in golden light, he spoke loudly enough for Keith to hear him.

 

“Is it because I’m distracted?” Lance said suddenly, making Keith almost jump out of his boots. Even though he knew Lance wasn’t talking to him, he had to fight to stay quiet. “Distracted with researching ancient technology?” Lance continued, “If that’s the reason, it doesn’t seem fair. I’ve spent every day of my life dedicated to praying. The ancient technology is just as important as using my sealing powers, so…”

 

As Lance’s voice faded away, Keith sat down on the dias, watching the shadows slowly move across the far wall as the sun continued to set. Lance never moved, never shifted from his kneeling position, even as the sun disappeared beyond the horizon, turning the sky above to purple.

 

In the silence, Keith had plenty of time to survey their surroundings. The Spring of Courage itself was beautiful, even in its ruined state. The goddess statue was worn around the edges, but still looked beautiful. On either side of the statue were two smaller statues, although they were hardly recognizable as the smaller goddess statues Keith knew them to be. They were so worn down that one was actually only a stump now, only its base remaining. On either side of where Lance was kneeling were crooked pillars, each adorned with small winged lion candle mounts. There were two more pillars behind Lance, closer to Keith’s position at the base of the stairs leading down into the Spring’s icy waters. They were all wrapped up with ivy, trailing down the length of the leaning pillars into the water below.

 

Even though the Spring was starting to fall apart with age, it was still a sight to behold. Something about it made it seem ethereal, magical, even in its run-down state. There was beauty in the broken. But Keith wasn’t sure if Lance saw the beauty in it anymore.

 

When the stars graced the sky, Keith stood up again, and slowly made his way to where Lance was kneeling. If Lance heard him approach, he made no indication of it. Keith waited for him to turn his head up to him, or in some way show that he knew he was there, but when he made no such motion, Keith put a hand to Lance’s shoulder lightly.

 

“I need more time,” was Lance’s immediate response.

 

Keith sighed softly, and pulled his hand back reluctantly. He wasn’t sure what good more time would do, if he’d already been kneeling in the Spring for hours. But, he wouldn’t push Lance to leave if he wasn’t ready. He took a couple steps back, letting him have some space, but still be close enough to let Lance know he was there for him.

 

He watched as the sky made the shadows taller and taller before they blended in with the surroundings. When the sky turned black above them, the stars and the moon their only source of light, Keith tried again; “Lance, c’mon, it’s late… You should eat something.”

 

“Not hungry.” Lance replied lowly, not even sparing a glance back at Keith. His gaze had hardly strayed from the face of the goddess since the last time Keith spoke to him.

 

“Yes, you are.” Keith argued, and reached down to grab Lance’s elbow.

 

Lance yanked his elbow out of Keith’s grasp, turning back to him with a pinched expression. His blue eyes practically screamed anger. “Don’t!” he exclaimed, and stood up, backing away a few steps from Keith. “I’m not done yet.”

 

Keith closed his eyes and breathed in a deep breath, before levelling Lance with a look. “Lance,” he said firmly, and crossed his arms over his chest, “you’ve been at it for hours. If you haven’t gotten anywhere by now, I don’t think it’s gonna happen tonight. There’s still tomorrow, if you want to try again.”

 

Lance growled under his breath. “You don’t understand!” he exclaimed loudly, glaring at Keith.

 

Before he even realized it, Keith took a step backwards, as if backing away from Lance’s sudden outburst.

 

“I’ve been trying to do this,” Lance growled, “for ten years. I’ve been trying to unlock my sealing powers so my father will stop looking down on me, so I can put my efforts into research, and so everyone will stop looking at me like they pity me.” He broke off to laugh once, not humorously. “The crown prince of Hyrule, and all of Hyrule pities him.”

 

“That’s not true--”

 

“But it is!” Lance shouted, and balled his hands into tight fists by his sides. “It’s true and you know it. Poor Prince Lance, the boy who can’t do the one thing that’s asked of him.” He broke off to rake a shaky hand through his hair, making it stick up at odd angles. He spun away from Keith, sending water splashing around his knees. “If I didn’t try that would be one thing. But I’ve been working my ass off to unlock my sealing powers, or tap into them somehow, and I’ve got nothing to show for it.”

 

Keith frowned at Lance’s back, seeing all the tension there beneath his tunic. Well, this is what he’d wanted, for Lance to talk to him. And now, he was. He stepped over to Lance’s side, and put a soothing hand on his shoulder, praying he wouldn’t shrug him off again. Lance flinched, but didn’t shrug his hand off, which Keith took as a good sign. “Look,” Keith began, “we both know it’s not from lack of effort that your powers aren’t manifesting. So, there must be something we’re missing.”

 

Lance was quiet for a few moments, his shoulders rising and falling slightly with every breath he took. Eventually, his shoulders drooped, and he breathed out a long low sigh. “Like what?”

 

Keith honestly didn’t think he’d get this far. “Uh…” he muttered intelligently, floundering for an answer. What could he say that Lance didn’t already know, or had already been told a thousand times? “Well, remember what you told me on the Great Plateau?”

 

Lance scoffed lightly. “We talked about a lot of things up there, dear knight.”

 

“When I was hesitant about entering the sacred temples, you didn’t berate me or call me stupid, you simply asked if I was coming.” He couldn’t express how much that meant to him. Lance, even before they were friends and were on the terms they had now, was understanding enough to let Keith come to his conclusion on his own, merely stated facts. “And you also told me that since I’m traditionally the bearer of the Triforce of Courage, I should at least enter Farore’s temple.”

 

“What are you saying?”

 

“I’m saying,” Keith took a step forward and pivoted so he was facing Lance head on, “that maybe the Springs of Courage and Power aren’t the places you unlock your sealing powers at.”

 

Lance’s eyes widened when he came to the conclusion. “You’re saying I might be able to do it at the Spring of Wisdom.” he said slowly, letting the idea run through his mind.

 

“Perhaps.” Keith said with a shrug. “It’s an option, right?”

 

Lance hummed thoughtfully, and chewed at his chapped lip. He was quiet for a long minute, considering, and Keith gave it to him. He deserved to have the time to think things through. If nobody else would give it to him, Keith would.

 

“I…” Lance began, but faltered, and glanced away from Keith, looking down at their distorted reflections in the water. “Yeah, it’s an option.”

 

“Okay.” Keith said with a smile, and squeezed Lance’s shoulder reassuringly. When Lance’s hand came up to cover his, he was shocked to feel how cold it was. “Wow, okay, time to build a fire.” he pulled his hand away from Lance’s shoulder to grab his elbow instead, and led him out of the water.

 

As soon as Lance’s sandalled feet touched dry land, he shuddered at the sudden chill. Without even thinking, Keith staggered to a stop and pulled his own tunic up and over his head to offer it to Lance.

 

“Uh… What are you doing?” Lance squeaked, stepping back from Keith’s outstretched hand.

 

Keith pushed it at Lance’s chest in an obvious invitation, and adjusted his white undershirt with his other hand. “You’re cold. Until I get the fire going, wear my shirt.” he offered.

 

Lance stared at him doubtfully for a long moment, before tentatively taking the shirt from Keith’s outstretched hand. He clutched it close to his chest, feeling how warm it was, before slipping it up and over his head.

 

Keith froze as the tunic settled on Lance’s shoulders. He had no idea seeing Lance in his tunic was something he needed. The blue really brought out his eyes, and seeing it hang off of his shoulders made Keith want to wrap him in his arms and protect him from the world.

 

With that thought, he turned his back to Lance, grabbed his weapons, and started out of the structure to go start the fire.

 

He knew these kinds of thoughts weren’t the thoughts he should have about his friend, let alone thoughts he should have about the crown prince of Hyrule. They wouldn’t do him any good. But, he knew it was inevitable. Lance was such a beautiful person, so passionate and more complex than anyone stopped to give him credit for. He was someone that made other people happy just by being close to him, and Keith wanted nothing more than to protect him from the rest of the world, including the king.

 

Which, in a sense was already his job… But it didn’t feel the same. It wasn’t the same.

 

It also really didn’t help that he was easy on the eyes.

 

Zephyr perked his head up as he approached, nickering softly at him as Keith stormed past. He made quick work of cutting some roots with his sword and brought them back to the clearing, then finding some dry sticks and leaves for kindling. By the time Lance exited the structure, Keith was coaxing the small fire to a bigger flame at the centre of the clearing.

 

“Thanks for letting me borrow this,” Lance said, and reached for the bottom of the tunic to pull it up and off of his chest.

 

Keith reached out and grabbed his wrist, stopping him. “No, keep it on until you’re warmed up.” he offered.

 

Truth be told, he wasn’t ready for Lance to take it off yet.

 

When Lance smiled and nodded to his request, Keith pulled his hand back, and walked back to where he placed all of the horses’ tack. He unclipped his bag from his saddle, and brought it back to the firelight. Lance was already sitting on the ground before the fire, hands near the flames to warm up when Keith plopped down on the opposite side of the flames. He rustled around for a moment, until he heard the crinkle he was looking for. He wrapped a hand around the bundle carefully, and pulled out the loaf of bread they purchased from the couple on the bridge earlier in the day.

 

“You hungry?” he asked, showing the loaf off to Lance.

 

At the sight, Lance’s stomach rumbled loudly. His face immediately flushed, and he leaned back from the fire to try to hide from Keith.

 

Keith smirked, and chuckled lowly. “Guess that answers my question.”

 

“Shut up and give me a piece of that, already.” Lance grouched, and stretched a hand out towards him, around the fire.

 

He was quick to do as he asked, breaking the break as equally as he could managed, and offered Lance the bigger half. He put his half down on top of the bag on the ground, and started rifling through his saddle bag again to find his stash of dried meat. If he recalled correctly, there should be enough for he and Lance to share for dinner tonight. And there was still his share of the cookies from earlier.

 

With a small triumphant hum, he pulled out the small pouch of dried meat he kept on him for nights just like this. Pulling open the drawstrings, he grabbed a piece of cured meat out and popped it in his mouth before offering the bag up to Lance. “Meat?”

 

“Yes please, I am starving.” Lance said with his mouthful, and reached over with his free hand to grab a few pieces of dried meat. Once he swallowed his bite of bread, he tried a nibble of the meat, moaning happily when the taste flowed over his taste buds. “Wow this is so good, I had no idea bread and meat could taste this good.”

“It helps when you’re eating on an empty stomach,” Keith replied with a chuckle, and put the bag down. He rifled around in the bag one last time, looking for a goblet-like glass he kept on him for water. Once he fished it out of the saddlebag, he stood up and walked a few paces away to dip it into the lake. He took a tentative sip, making sure it was okay, before having his fill and refilling it for Lance.

 

As soon as he sat down again, a little closer to Lance this time so he didn’t have to keep reaching around the fire, Lance made grabby hands for the cup. Keith quickly passed it off to him with a roll of his eyes.

 

Lance gulped down a few big sips of water, before moaning in appreciation. “I had no idea how thirsty I was,” he admitted, and put the goblet down between them on the flattest ground he could find. “Thanks for this.”

 

“No problem.” Keith replied quickly, and reached over for his bag again, lastly fishing out the bag of cookies. He put the bag down between them and finally took a bite out of his share of the bread. He didn’t say anything before, but he was also pretty hungry. Lance at least ate his share of the cookies before they arrived here, but Keith hadn’t really eaten since yesterday.

 

They ate in silence for a while, with only the crackling of the fire in front of them to distract them from their thoughts. Zephyr and Seraphim were both grazing on the outskirts of the area, but Keith wasn’t too worried. He knew that if Zephyr wandered too far for food, he would come back with a whistle, and Seraphim would probably lay down for bed soon. As he nibbled on the crust of his bread, he stared into the fire, watching the roots collapse in on themselves and the fire flickered with each destructive fall it’s kindling made.

 

When he reached for the bag of dried meat, he was surprised to find it significantly lighter than it was before. He reached inside, shocked to find it empty. He whirled around to face Lance with a questioning look, showing off the empty bag to him.

 

It took Lance a moment of squinting to see what he was looking at, and what it meant, but when he realized he squeaked, flushing all the way down to his shoulders, visible even in the dim firelight. “Oh sh-- I am so sorry !” he exclaimed, hands coming up to cover his mouth. “I had no idea--”

 

“It’s fine.” Keith interrupted with a fond shake of his head. “I knew you were hungry.”

 

“Still, I should have shared more with you…”

 

Keith waved him off, before closing up the cloth bag and putting it back into his pack. “There’s still a few cookies, right?”

 

Lance quickly reached out for the small bag they were in, to offer the bag up to Keith. But when he lifted the bag a little too easy, his face fell, and he turned to face Keith with a sheepish expression.

 

“Really?” Keith asked incredulously, not unkindly. “You ate everything?”

 

The whine Lance gave echoed through the clearing. “I’m sorry.”

 

“It’s fine,” Keith was quick to reassure Lance, giving him a small smile. “I know you were hungry.”

 

Lance reached out to grab Keith’s arm, giving him the most apologetic look Keith had ever seen on his face. “But, so were you.” Lance said softly, and quickly apologized again. “What are you going to do?”

 

He wasn’t really sure what else to do. It was too dark to go hunting, and he wasn’t eager to leave Lance alone in the dark while he went off to find food. He had nothing left in his bag, so the earliest he’d be able to eat again would be at breakfast tomorrow, if they could scour up anything in the area. From what he saw on the way in, it didn’t seem like there was too much wildlife in the area to hunt, and everything else was up past the cliffs, too high for access. So it was more likely that they would have to stop on the way back to the Castle.


Well, he’d had worse. And it wasn’t like he’d had nothing to eat since they left the Castle this morning. He did manage to eat his share of the bread before Lance could hoover it down. He’d be fine until sometime tomorrow when they find something to eat. He said as much to Lance, but the prince still looked skeptical about it.

 

“I promise,” Keith reassured, offering Lance a small smile. “I’ll be fine. It’s not like I’ve had nothing to eat, I did have half of the loaf of bread.”

 

Lance eyed him skeptically for a moment, before relenting. He took one more sip from the cup, before leaving it to Keith. Then, he stood up and made his way over to the log where Seraphim’s tack was, and fished the sleeping bag he brought off the back of his saddle. He grabbed the one from Keith’s saddle as well, before bringing them over for them both.

 

He placed Keith’s down on the ground beside him, and walked over to his side of the fire, and started unrolling his bed for the night. He settled down on top of it as soon as he got it rolled out smooth, and turned back to Keith. “So, in the morning, I want to do a little more praying before we head out, okay?”

 

Keith nodded, and brought his own sleeping bag to his lap, untying the strings holding it rolled up. “Okay, do you want me to wake you up just before dawn, then?” he asked.

 

Lance groaned, falling back onto his elbows dramatically. After a moment, he nodded to Keith’s question.

 

Keith couldn’t help but chuckle at Lance’s dramatics as he unrolled his own bed. “Alright, I’ll wake you up in the morning, then. And we can discuss the rest of the day’s plans while tacking up tomorrow.”

 

With a nod, Lance stood up, and stripped Keith’s tunic, tossing it back over to him before uncinching the belt on his waist and dropping it to the ground beside where he’d be sleeping tonight.

 

Keith simply held his shirt for a moment, feeling Lance’s warmth lingering in the fabric, before folding it and placing it where his head would rest for the night. He gave a short whistle, listening for how close Zephyr’s answering snort was, before looking around for Seraphim in the darkness. The white stallion had curled up on the ground not too far from them, and his head was down, appearing already fast asleep.

 

Lance plopped down on the ground and pulled the covers of his sleeping bag back, and unlacing the tall sandals he wore. Once they were laying beside his belt, he removed the gold bracelets from his wrists, and crawled inside his bed for the night.

 

Once Keith put his weapons off to the side and crawled into his space, he turned back towards Lance, surprised to see Lance already looking at him. “Well,” Keith said softly, barely loud enough to be heard over the crackling of the fire, “good night, your highness.”

 

“Goodnight, dear knight.”

 


 

When Keith woke the next morning, as the sky was starting to turn grey, he was quick to get up and out of bed with only a little bit of quiet groaning. His back was not thanking him for sleeping on the rocky uneven ground, but it wasn’t anything a little morning training wouldn’t fix.

 

He threw his tunic back on over his head, letting it settle on his chest as he looked over to Lance’s sleeping form.

 

Lance was snoring softly, curled up in a ball on his side beneath his blankets. His nose was pink, and his hair stood up at funny angles that Keith couldn’t help but find adorable. He looked chilled, by how he was burrowing in on himself beneath his covers, so Keith dragged his blanket over and draped it overtop of Lance, hoping to warm him up again before waking him up.

 

He grabbed his sword from its sheath on the way past, and ventured to the far side of the clearing, crossing the bridge to the other side. He didn’t want to accidentally wake Lance up while training, so he made sure to put some distance between them, but still close enough that he could keep an eye on him.

 

A warm puff of air met the back of Keith’s neck, and he whirled around with his sword up, to be met with his stallion’s brown eyes looking unblinkingly back at him. Breathing out a sigh of relief, he patted the side of Zephyr’s neck, before pushing him off to go on his way so he could train.

 

He made sure to stretch his neck, arms, back, and legs, breathing deeply with each stretch before starting his routine. It was a routine he mastered long ago, fighting a difficult but beatable invisible opponent in front of him. Stab, jab, duck, spin, parry… Every move in any order he came up with that morning was well rehearsed, meant to warm up his body and awaken his mind for the day. It usually took him about twenty minutes, all said and done, to go through the motions.

 

As soon as he felt ready to face the day, he turned back towards where Lance was still sleeping, and started making his way over.

 

He put his sword back in its sheath as quietly as he could, and took a sip of water from the goblet left out last night, before kneeling down beside Lance’s sleeping form. The sky was just starting to turn pink as his hand hovered over Lance’s shoulder. He took a moment to simply look at Lance, as he breathed slowly beneath his blankets. Keith was a little hesitant to wake the sleeping prince, but, he had wanted to pray for a bit before heading out again.

 

Keith let his hand fall onto Lance’s shoulder lightly. “Lance,” he said softly, giving his shoulder a light shake. “It’s time to get up.”

 

Lance groaned, and burrowed deeper beneath his blankets. “N’is too early,” he mumbled.

 

Keith chuckled lowly at Lance’s reluctance. He had a feeling Lance wasn’t a morning person, and this just solidified his thinking. “C’mon, sleepyhead.” he urged, and poked his cheek with his index finger, “you can’t waste the day away sleeping.”

 

A hand came out from beneath the covers to swat at Keith’s prying finger. “I can try,” Lance argued, and pulled the covers up and over his head.

 

“No, you can’t.” Keith rebutted, and pulled his sleeping bag back from Lance’s body, tossing it somewhere behind them. With Lance’s face re-exposed, he pressed his cold fingers to the side of Lance’s face. “You’re the one who wanted to pray for a bit before we leave. C’mon, it’s time.”

 

With a bone-deep groan, Lance sat up in his sleeping bag, squinting blearily at their surroundings. His hair was sticking up funny, especially around his temples and ears, and Keith couldn’t smother his laughter before it spilled from his lips. With quick, deft fingers he smoothed out Lance’s curls for him, trying to smooth them into submission for the day while Lance yawned widely.

 

After a moment, Lance waved him off, and pushed the blanket back with a small shiver. “Alright alright, that’s enough.” he murmured, and reached over to grab his sandals and start lacing them up. “‘M gonna go pray now. Come find me once you’ve packed everything up?”

 

“Of course.”

 

Once Lance had his shoes all tied up, his bracelets back on, and his belt strung across his waist again, he ambled off back towards the Spring with a yawn to continue what he started yesterday.

 

Keith watched him go until his white tunic completely disappeared from sight into the back of the dragon structure. Then he set about cleaning up their campsite.

 

There wasn’t much to do, all said and done, aside from rolling up the blankets, packing up their belongings, dispersing the ashes from the fire, and tacking up the horses. So he wasn’t sure what progress Lance could make in such short time. But, he took his time doing his thing.

 

Once his stuff was packed back up inside his saddle bag, he whistled for Zephyr and picked up his saddle pad. He could hear his horse’s advancing hoofbeats approaching, but kept his back to him until he felt the stallion’s nose press lightly into his back.

 

With a smile, he turned around and pressed a quick kiss to his face, laughing lightly when Zephyr leaned into his touch. His free hand went up to scritch his forelock, to stop when he realized it wasn’t hanging free like it normally would. The braid Lance did yesterday was still well kept and tight, as if he’d just finished braiding it. Keith couldn’t help but be surprised that Zephyr had let it stay for this long.

 

He pressed one final kiss to his face before stepping back towards his grey shoulder, throwing the white pad up and settling it up against his withers. He made quick work of saddling him up, leaving the girth a touch looser than he usually would since they had a long ride back today. The bridle was even quicker, Zephyr took the bit like a champ and buckling up the chin and jaw straps were simple.

 

Keith gave Zephyr’s shoulder a pat before picking up Seraphim’s tack and walking over to where the white stallion was grazing nearby. “C’mon, big guy,” Keith murmured, and hooked an arm under his jaw, lightly pulling his head up from the ground. “Just let me get your bit in and then you can go back to eating.” He said, and dumped the saddle and pad to the ground so he could do the stallion’s bridle first. It took a moment for Seraphim to finish his mouthful of grass, but once he did he took the bit easily enough. After latching the bridle properly, he let go of the reins so Seraphim could continue grazing until they departed.

 

Seraphim’s saddle was more complex than Zephyr’s new tack, so it took Keith a little longer to hook everything up correctly. But he was also taking his time so he didn’t have to pull Lance from the Spring’s waters faster than he had to.

 

But, once he let the brown saddle flap fall, there was nothing left for him to do to waste time. So, it was time to go retrieve Lance, so they could move out.

 

His footsteps echoed lightly through the neck of the dragon as he made his way back to the Spring of Courage. He normally walked lighter than this, especially out in the open, but he wanted Lance to know he was coming.

 

When he spotted Lance, he wasn’t surprised to see him kneeling in the same place as he was the night before. His arms were hanging down by his sides, though, not clasped like they usually were when he was praying. Keith couldn’t help but find that odd, but, what did he know?

 

“The truth is, I hate praying.” Lance said aloud, to the statue or to himself, Keith wasn’t sure. “I spend every day of my life dedicated to something I hate doing.” Lance continued. “How much time have I spent here, in this position, in front of statues, the sun or the moon, on my knees and begging?” he broke off slightly, shaking his head at the notion. “Every day, I pray for answers, a way to move forward, to do what’s asked of me, and it’s like I’m stuck, stuck doing nothing, and it kills me.

 

“Everyone else has their thing, the thing that they’re doing to prepare for the Calamity attack. Everyone has their role, and they’re satisfied and capable to fulfil it. But me?” Lance hunched forwards suddenly, his hands coming up to clutch his chest in frustration. “I’m in the same place I’ve always been, even if I’m doing it all across Hyrule. I haven’t moved.”

 

“You have,” Keith spoke up, the words tumbling out before he even realized that he was speaking. When Lance whirled around to face him with wide eyes, he pressed on; “You’ve brought everyone together, you’re the leader of our team of Champions. None of this would be possible without you.”

 

Lance’s blue eyes were as wide as saucers as he stared at Keith.

 

“I don’t think you realize how much the team looks to you for answers.” Keith continued. “Hunk wouldn’t be able to control his Divine Beast the way he does without you. Shiro probably wouldn’t be a part of our team if you hadn’t asked him. And…” He paused for a moment, “I certainly wouldn’t be here without you.”

 

Lance scoffed softly and ducked his head, “I think you’re giving me too much credit.”

 

“No, really.” Keith insisted, and stepped down into the Spring’s icy waters. “Did you ever stop and think about how quickly I came to the Castle with this sword after you visited Pidge?”

 

“Pidge?” Lance asked, sounding incredibly confused. “What does she--”

 

“The day you came to visit her, to retrieve her answer on becoming a pilot.” Keith pressed on, slowly walking towards Lance as he talked. “She already knew what her answer would be. And all of Hyrule, hell, I knew you were looking for the soul of the hero. The day you came to Zora’s Domain, Pidge told me that I should go try to find the sword that seals the darkness .”

 

Lance’s breath caught in his throat.

 

“That day changed my life forever.” Keith admitted with a small smile. “When I pulled this sword from its pedestal, I became your guardian knight, to watch over you wherever you go. I was no longer Keith, the silent swordsman of the Hyrulean army who didn’t take orders well. I became a Champion, an important member in a team, and… Most importantly, I became your friend.”

 

Keith stopped when he was mere inches from Lance, looking down at him as his blue eyes started to water. “And as your friend,” he crouched down in the water in front of him, so their eyes were on the same level, “believe me when I say you’ve moved.”

 

Before he knew what was happening, Lance’s arms were around his shoulders in a tight hug, his nose pressed tightly against the skin below his jaw. Keith acted on instinct, wrapping his arms around him in turn.

 

Lance breathed in a deep breath before finally speaking up, “That’s the first time anyone’s ever told me that I was doing something right.” he whispered. “Thank you.” He said sincerely, and wrapped his arms a little tighter around Keith’s neck.

 

A small smile stretched across Keith’s lips, and he rubbed one hand up and down Lance’s back soothingly as they hugged. Lance’s grip was strong, and honestly, Keith wasn’t going to be the one to break them up.

 

After a few more moments, Lance’s grip loosened, and he leaned back from Keith and wiped at his eyes. “Okay, we should get going.”

 

“As you wish.” Keith said, and stood up, offering a hand down to Lance. “I’m ready when you are.”

 

Lance took Keith’s hand gratefully, and slowly rose from his kneeling position. As they stepped out of the Spring and back onto dry land, Lance glanced down towards his soaked trousers. “I should, uh,” he rubbed the back of his neck, “I should change before we head out.”

 

“Of course.” Keith quickly agreed. “Want me to grab your clothes?”

 

“No, thank you.” Lance said gently, and made his way over to Seraphim’s side to rifle around in his saddle bag. He quickly fished out his boots, tunic, and pants from yesterday, and turned back towards the entrance of the building. “I’ll be right back.”

 

Keith nodded, and turned towards Zephyr, who’d ambled over to his side for treats. He nosed at the small pouch Keith had on the back of his belt, and Keith lightly shoved him away with a chuckle. “Sorry, boy,” he patted his grey cheek fondly, “I don’t have anything for either of us. We’ll have to stop somewhere and get the both of us a snack to tide us over until we get home.”

 

Zephyr snorted unhappily, before pressing his head into Keith’s body again for pets. Keith was more than happy to oblige until Lance returned.

 

Seraphim ambled over to the pair, and nudged Keith’s elbow with his muzzle, seeming to want in on the pets as well. Keith chuckled, and turned slightly so he could easily pet both horses at the same time. His right hand rubbed a circle pattern on Seraphim’s forehead, just as he liked, and his left hand scritched the roots of Zephyr’s white forelock. Both stallions looked absolutely blissed with the treatment.

 

Lance joined them a minute later, with a smile tugging at his lips seeing his horse look so happy. He quickly threw his clothes back into the saddle bag, before rubbing his horse’s white shoulder soothingly. When Seraphim grunted contentedly, Lance turned to Keith. “You ready?”

 

Keith answered by hopping up into Zephyr’s saddle.

 

*~*~*~*

 

The trip back to Central Hyrule was quiet, fortunately for the boys as they rode back towards the Great Bridge of Hylia. It was early enough in the day that there was no foot traffic yet, so they made good time back towards home.

 

As soon as Seraphim’s shoed hooves hit the stone walkway of the bridge, Lance reined his horse back into a brisk walk. Keith was quick to do the same with Zephyr, and looked over at Lance quizzically.

 

“Maybe that cart is here again.” Lance said, gesturing out towards the centre of the bridge. “The one we got bread from yesterday.”

 

At the mention of food, Keith’s stomach rumbled loudly, heard even over the sound of metal shoes hitting stone. Keith flushed.

 

“We should definitely see about getting you some food, then.” Lance said with a chuckle, and nudged Seraphim forwards again into a canter.

 

When they reached the centre of the bridge, there was no wagon in sight. It didn’t even look like it could be heading their way down the bridge.

 

“Guess not.” Keith said with a shrug. “Don’t worry about me, Lance. I’ll be fine until we get back to the Castle.”

 

“No,” Lance argued, and turned a bit in his saddle to look over at Keith. “You need food.” He chewed at his lip, thinking for a moment before his face lit up. “I know! That nice couple was from Deya Village, which isn’t too far from here.” He sat properly in his saddle again, and pointed north, to the far side of the bridge. “It’s just over there, we’d barely be adding time to our journey.”

 

The last time Lance said something similar, he ended up passing out from blood loss. But, he wasn’t in danger of anything like that, this time. And Lance’s words did make sense…

 

Plus, he was pretty hungry.

 

“Okay,” Keith relented, “we can go to the village. But!” he pointed a finger at Lance. “We can’t stay too long. Deal?”

 

“Deal!” Lance exclaimed, and nudged Seraphim into a gallop ahead of him.

 

With a roll of his eyes, Keith nudged Zephyr to follow. His heels had barely met Zephyr’s sides before he was tearing off after the white stallion.

 

They caught up to them just as they got off the bridge, but Keith reined Zephyr in a bit. He had a vague idea of where the village was, but had never been there himself, so he let Lance lead the way.

 

They quickly rushed through the outpost, with not many people out and about yet, and crossed the Proxim Bridge over the Hylia River to the east of the post at the same speed. They followed the path heading out towards the Dueling Peaks for a while, until Lance steered his horse away from the path, circling around a steep hill and onto a natural path between cliffs.

 

Keith and Zephyr followed a few paces behind, just far enough behind that the dust Seraphim kicked up wouldn’t get in their way. Keith cast a glance up towards the sky, eying how grey it was starting to look, compared to when they left this morning. They’d have to be quick here if they wanted to avoid any weather these clouds might bring.

 

As houses came into sight, both Lance and Keith slowed their mounts down to brisk trots to ride through the village. Off to the right, Lance spotted the same cart that they stopped at yesterday, and made a beeline towards it.

 

Once the couple saw them, they quickly dropped in a bow before Lance, but he waved them up with a pink dusting on his cheeks. He told them that they stopped by the village for some more goodies since they missed them out on the bridge. Apparently they had an unexpected delay, which is why they weren’t out on the bridge yet.

 

They pointed them into the bakery to choose from more variety with smiles, before waving and leaving to go to the bridge to sell their wares.

 

Lance turned back to Keith with a smile. “You can pick out anything you want to eat.” he told his knight. “It’s the least I can do after eating all of your food last night.”

 

Keith tried to wave him off, but Lance was insistent, even going as far as grabbing Keith’s elbow and dragging him into the shop.

 

The aroma as soon as the door opened almost made Keith melt into a puddle. Everything smelled heavenly, and Keith’s stomach immediately reminded him of how hungry he was.

 

A bell rang out as the door closed, and a head popped around the corner to see who entered the shop. “Hi, there!” the cheery voice called out, and a middle aged man stepped out into the shop. “What can I do for you?”

 

“We’re hoping to get some goodies, sir.” Lance said with a smile, and stepped up to the counter. “Keith here is pretty hungry.”

 

Keith levelled a playful glare at the back of Lance’s head, but stepped up to the counter nonetheless. The glass casing showed off plenty of goodies inside, like bread, rolls, dessert, and cookies, and Keith’s mouth watered at the sight. He had no idea where to start.

 

Lance’s finger suddenly jabbed towards the glass, pointing down at a long squat circular roll of bread with bits of black swirling through it. “Is that poppyseed bread?” he asked hesitantly.

 

“It is!” the baker confirmed.

 

“We have to have that.” Lance exclaimed, eyes wide with excitement. “We’ll take that, please.”

 

“Poppyseed bread?” Keith asked curiously. “What’s that?”

 

Both the teller and Lance leveled him with an incredulous look, as if his words were blasphemous.

 

“I can’t stand for that,” the baker muttered to himself, and reached into the display to grab the bread, pulling it out and placing it on the counter. He grabbed a knife from below to cut a hearty piece off the loaf, offering it up to Keith.

 

Keith glanced to Lance, before slowly stepping forward and eying up the poppyseed bread offered up to him. He hesitated, looking between the man’s outstretched hand and up to his face.

 

“Go on, boy.” He said, shaking his outstretched hand a bit. “It’s good, I promise you.”

 

With a shrug, Keith took the offered bread, and took a bite. He had to fight the urge to moan in delight when the tastes washed over his tongue. It was sweet, but not too sweet, and the bread was moist and good and amazing, how had he missed out on this for his entire life?

 

Lance smirked knowingly at him. “Good, right?”

 

Instead of answering, Keith took another bite of the bread.

 

“I’m glad you like it,” the baker said with a knowing smile. “Shall I pack up the rest of the loaf for you?”

 

“Please,” Lance said, turning back towards him. “How much for the loaf, and the piece Keith is eating?”

 

“That piece is free for the prince’s knight.” he said with a smile. “But the rest of it is thirty rupees.”

 

Keith nearly choked at the price of the half loaf of bread. That seemed crazy for bread, but Lance was quick to pull out his wallet and offer up the rupees without any complaint. He knew the prince was loaded, obviously, and had more than enough money to do whatever he pleased in his day to day life, but he still couldn’t believe he was spending good money on part of a loaf of bread for Keith.

 

“And perhaps another roll of this bread?” Lance asked, pointing down to a roll exactly like the one they had yesterday. “We bought some from the cart on the Hylia Bridge yesterday, and it was delicious.”

 

Once payment was exchanged, and Lance clutched both breads to his chest, they bid adieu to the baker before leaving his shop.

 

“Thanks for stopping,” Keith said to Lance sincerely. “I was getting hungry.” He shoved the rest of the cut piece the baker gave him into his mouth.

 

“It was no trouble. It was my fault you were hungry.” Lance said. He passed the bag with the poppyseed bread off to Keith, before reaching into the other bag and tearing off a piece of bread for himself.

 

Zephyr and Seraphim ambled over to them, nosing at pockets for their own treats. Keith bumped his hip against Zephyr’s nosing, while Lance gently pushed Seraphim away with a laugh. They stood around for a few minute, eating their bread in relative silence while the village folk did their thing.

 

As soon as Lance finished his portion of bread, he put the remainder in his saddle bags, and turned back to Keith with a mischievous look on his face. Keith was instantly wary of it. “...What?” he asked lowly.

 

“Do we have time,” Lance asked slowly, stepping towards Keith, “to check out the shrine in this village?”

 

“Shrine?” Keith questioned. “Like, ancient Sheikah shrine?”

 

“Oh, no. A shrine dedicated to the local gods of this region.” Lance clarified. “Almost every town or village has one, and I’ve never seen the one here.”

 

Keith glanced up towards the sky, getting greyer by the minute. But when he looked at Lance again, his face was too pouty and cute to resist. With a resigned sigh, he turned to Zephyr and mounted up again. “Alright, where is this thing?”

 

Lance squealed excitedly, before hopping up on Seraphim and whirling him around to the west, up where a lone tree sat up on a hill. “It’s up there, we can ride up there from here.”

 

With a fond shake of his head, Keith motioned for Lance to lead the way up the hill towards the supposed shrine.

 

They made it up to the top quite easily, once they got out of the town itself. There was a well trodden path winding up the hill towards the large tree that they followed until they were at the base of the tree.

 

To the north of the tree, nestled against the roots sticking up from the ground, was a man made rock shelter covering two small statues, presumably a man and his wife. There was a woven basket in front of each of them for offerings, both overflowing with various gifts, such as fruit and bread. They both had cloth adorning their heads, protecting them from any weather that the shelter couldn’t protect them from.

 

Lance dismounted first, a few steps away from the statues, and pushed Seraphim off to graze nearby as he stepped over to the statues. He knelt down in front of them, and pulled a stray leaf from one of the statues’ head.

 

Keith dismounted from Zephyr, and came over to stand beside Lance to admire the statues.

 

They were short and stout, appearing to have sunk into the ground a bit over time, but were still looking quite good. They still had recognizable features, not yet worn off by time, and their closed eyes appeared serene.

 

“Beautiful, aren’t they?” Lance whispered, and let his fingers run down the side of a statue’s nose. “These are bound to be thousands of years old, and they look to only be a couple years old, at most.”

 

Keith hummed agreeingly.

 

After a moment, Lance stood up and brushed off his trousers. He gazed around them at the world they could see from atop the hill. It was one of the taller in the area, only dwarfed by Scout’s Hill across the Hylia River, and Farosh Hills on the far side of the village, and offered a great view of everything in between.

 

Suddenly, Keith felt a drop hit his nose. With a muttered curse, he looked up to the sky and saw that the dark clouds had caught up to them. “This is what I wanted to avoid.” he muttered.

 

“Rain?” Lance spun to face him. When he noticed the shoulders of Keith’s tunic were speckled with darker spots from where rain hit tunic, he winced.

 

“Yeah, rain.” Keith confirmed, and stepped beneath the tree’s canopy to avoid most of the drops coming down. “We can either wait it out, or we can try to ride through the rain back to the Castle.”

 

“I think we should wait it out,” Lance said, looking to the sky. “Doesn’t look like it will last long.”

 

With a shrug, Keith pulled his weapons holsters from his back and propped them up against the tree. He pulled the sword out from its sheath, and stepped out to the fringes of the canopy with his sword.

 

“What are you doing?” Lance asked.

 

Keith gave his sword an experimental swing, watching how the blade of his sword cut through “I’m gonna train for a bit. Not a whole lot else I can do in this weather.”

 

Lance watched him stretch for a moment, before turning and sitting down against the base of the tree, settling in to wait out the storm.

 

Keith spun away from him, and adjusted his grip on his sword so it felt more natural in his hand. He passed his sword from hand to hand, trying to decide which hand to train with first. After weighing his sword in both hands, he decided to work with his left hand.

 

He stood up straight, his sword raised out in front of him for a moment, before jumping into action. He jabbed forwards, slashing through invisible enemies in front of him, before spinning and slaying the enemies behind him.

 

He parried an invisible enemy’s blade, before striking it down with a downward slash and using the momentum to kill the one next to him. He spun out, his blade extended to cut down any remaining enemies encircling him.

 

Keith breathed in a few deep breaths and took a small break, and pushed his bangs back from his forehead. Rain water was dripping down from the leaves above and onto his head, so he brushed his bangs back before water started dripping down his face. He switched his sword to his other hand, and repeated the motions with his right hand.

 

He kept an eye on the sky above as he went through the motions, watching as the clouds moved above their heads, but stayed just as grey all the while.

 

“I doubt this will let up anytime soon.” Lance said lowly, looking up at the sky through the green canopy above them.

 

Keith didn’t answer him, but when he cast a glance back over his shoulder, he knew Lance knew that he’d heard him.

 

Lance was curled up on a rock sitting against the base of the tree, part of the small shrine beside it. The way his knees were pulled up to his chest on his seat made him look a lot smaller than he really was, a lot less like the prince he was. “Do you ever think about the path your parents tried to set you on?” he asked suddenly. “Following in their footsteps, becoming a trained assassin for the Yiga Clan?”

 

Keith turned to face him, sword extended outwards, the point of his blade nearly skimming the ground beside him. He’d nearly forgotten that Lance was there, with how quiet he was being. He was sure whatever face he made gave away how shocked he was at the question. “What do you mean?”

 

“Well, what if your path mirrored your father’s?” Lance offered slowly, trying to explain whatever reasoning he had. “What if the army never raided the Yiga Clan, and you grew up with your parents? If you dedicated yourself to becoming an assassin as well?”

 

Keith truly had no idea what to say to that. But Lance spoke up again, leaving Keith no room to even try to answer the questions.

 

“You would have been committed to training to achieve your goal, just like you were to becoming a knight.” Lance said with a small smile. But his smile quickly fell from his face, replaced by a sad look that Keith would do anything to erase from his face. “You’re quite admirable in every aspect of your life… I see now why you would be the chosen one.”

 

The Master Sword almost slipped from Keith’s hand at Lance’s quiet words.

 

“What if, one day,” Lance said slowly, “you realised that you just weren’t meant to be a killer? Yet the only thing people ever said, is that you were born into a family of assassins, so no matter what you thought, that’s what you had to do?” he curled up a little tighter on himself, avoiding Keith’s gaze, as he said: “If that was the only thing you were ever told…

 

“I wonder, then, would you have chosen a different path?”

 

With that single sentence, Keith knew that Lance wasn’t really asking what he was asking. He was talking about his own life in all the theoreticals, and was asking about what he should do in his own life. He stepped over to Lance, and knelt down in front of him, hoping to pull his gaze back to him. He waited for Lance’s blue eyes to turn to him before speaking, “I’d like to think I would.” Keith admitted with a shrug. “But, it’s also hard for me to imagine myself in a situation that didn’t happen, won’t happen.”

 

“I know.” Lance flailed a bit, his cheeks tinged pink. “It’s stupid, I know, I’m sorry--”

 

“I’m not finished.” Keith interrupted softly, startling Lance. “I didn’t think your question was stupid. But I also know the question isn’t really about me.” He reached up and placed a hand on Lance’s knee, pulling it away from his body until his foot rested comfortably on the ground. “If there’s anything I can do to help, you know I will.” He let his hand linger on Lance’s knee.

 

Lance breathed out a long sigh, and let his head drop forwards to rest against his still raised knee. He looked so small and so scared, Keith wanted to wrap Lance up in his arms and protect him. He was overcome with those sorts of feelings a lot lately.

 

“I know you will.” Lance murmured, so quietly Keith almost missed it.

 

Keith knew he needed to say more to really comfort him, but he wasn’t sure what else he could say. He wanted to shield Lance from the world and tell him exactly what he needed to hear, but he wasn’t sure exactly what Lance wanted to hear. He knew how much he wanted to research the ancient technology… He’d seen how happy it made Lance. But he knew he still needed to unlock his sealing powers, in any way he could. Giving up now, when he’d spent so much time dedicated to attempting to access them almost seemed like a waste.

 

It was too bad he couldn’t take some time off to focus on things that made him happy for a while.

 

Lance looked up and past him suddenly. “It looks like it stopped raining,” he said lowly. He pushed up from his spot against the rock, stretching his arms above his head as he stood. “We should be getting back to the Castle.”

 

“Are you sure?” Keith asked, standing as well. “We could probably--”

 

“No, I think it’s time.” Lance said firmly, and walked over to where Seraphim had wandered to graze. “I don’t think we should spend much more time here.”

 

“Alright.” Keith relented lowly, easily. He wasn’t going to push Lance into anything. He could see from the set of his shoulders how much this conversation was affecting him. No sense doing anything else now.

 

When Lance got to Seraphim’s side, he paused, looking over his back to the expanse of land beyond. The Great Hylia Bridge and Lake Hylia were in perfect sight, and Lance smiled slightly at the sight. After a moment, he pulled the Sheikah Slate from his hip and took a few steps back, pushing Seraphim’s head out of the way of the shot.

 

Keith stepped up behind him, peering over Lance’s shoulder as he lined up the shot.

 

He positioned the camera so it had the tree, shrine, and most of the bridge in the shot. The sky was grey up above, but was turning blue off in the distance. The massive span of the Hylia Bridge was almost entirely in the frame, and it looked massive, even from where they were standing. To the right of the bridge was the tree and the shrine, taking up most of the right side of the frame. The sun starting to peek out from the clouds behind them made the rocky shelter of the shrine appear bright, almost like it was creating its own light, and the two statues beneath it were shaded almost comically. It was a beautiful picture, even though the events that just occured here were more melancholy than anything.

 

As soon as Lance took the picture and saved it to the camera roll on the slate, he put it back on his hip and turned back to Keith with a small smile. “Ready to depart, dear knight?”

 

Keith smiled in return, and nodded. “Always.”

 


 

The ride back to the Castle was quiet, both between them and around them. They didn’t really encounter anybody on the roads home, most people still cooped up inside after the rain. Even Castletown was quieter than usual, lacking the hustle and bustle of the midday rush. They hardly saw anybody until they reached the front gates of the Castle.

 

When they rode up the incline, two soldiers stepped out from their posts to stop the pair.

 

“Your highness,” they said, bowing as both mounts were pulled to a stop. “Welcome home.”

 

“Thank you,” Lance said slowly, confusion in his voice. “I appreciate that, but, what’s the meaning of the welcoming committee?”

 

“We have orders for Sir Keith,” one spoke up. Keith’s blood practically turned to ice at his words, but he schooled his expression back to one of neutral indifference as soon as the soldiers turned to face him. “The King has requested that you meet with him as soon as possible.”

 

“What? Why?” Keith stuttered out.

 

Lance turned to face him with wide eyes, seeming just as confused as Keith was.

 

“You’re to meet the King in the sanctum as soon as possible.” the other soldier reiterated sharply. “You’d best not keep him waiting.”

 

Keith tried to swallow the lump that suddenly formed in his throat, without much success. “Alright, then…” he muttered, and spurred Zephyr forwards again, forcing the soldiers to jump aside. “Best not keep his majesty waiting.”

 

He could hear Lance urging Seraphim up the hill after him, but made no motion to wait for him. He didn’t want to look at Lance right now, lest either of them get startled by the other about who was waiting for Keith upon their arrival.

 

As soon as they were through the massive imposing front gates, he spurred Zephyr forwards into a brisk canter up the cobbled path, and started running every possible scenario through his head. What could the King want to see him for? Was he fired? Being promoted? Reassigned to a new location?

 

What could his majesty possibly want with him?

 

He scarcely glanced back over his shoulder the entire ride up to the sanctum, where he was sure he could find the king.

 

As soon as Zephyr was near the stairs before entering the sanctum, Keith pulled his grey horse to a stop, and swiftly jumping from his back before he’d even come to a complete stop. He jogged through the doorway, slowing to a more appropriate pace when he spotted the royal blue of the elite guards who protected the king up near the thrones on the dias above.

 

King Alfor turned to face Keith just as he was dropping down into a deep bow. “Link! There you are!” he exclaimed with a clap, the sound echoing throughout the large chamber. “You’ve returned.”

 

Keith wasn’t sure what to say to that, so he offered a simple nod instead.

 

“If you’ve returned, that means my son has, as well.” his majesty said, but it was less of a statement than a question. “That’s good.” He mused, and started walking down a set of stairs that led to where Keith was kneeling.

 

Keith ducked his head when he realized where King Alfor was heading, staying absolutely still as the king’s heavy boots approached.

 

His steps echoed through the empty room, only silencing when he stopped a few feet in front of Keith. He was quiet for a few long moments, presumably looking down at his son’s appointed knight with whatever impression he had of him. Keith really wasn’t sure what to expect of the king anymore.

 

“So, Keith,” King Alfor began, and Keith couldn’t help but be absolutely floored that the king had used his real name, “we need to have a chat about my son.”

 

Keith sucked in a deep breath, and ducked his head a little lower.

 

This was far worse than the worst case scenarios he’d prepared for on the ride up.

Chapter Text

12. Father and Son

 

Keith wanted nothing more than to melt into the floor and disappear from this conversation, but it wasn’t something he could do. And even if he could, he had a feeling King Alfor would somehow manage to follow him to finish the conversation. All he could do was make himself as small as possible, and grin and bear it.

 

“I heard that my son travelled out to the Spring of Courage,” King Alfor began, circling Keith slowly as he spoke.

 

“Yes, your majesty.” Keith replied lowly.

 

The king’s heavy footsteps slowed to a stop directly behind Keith, and Keith fought to keep his shoulders straight under the heavy weight of King Alfor’s gaze. He could hear fabric rustling softly as the king shifted behind him, considering his next words carefully. “So, how did the trip go?”

 

“Your majesty?” Keith knew exactly what he was referring to, but wanted him to spell it out anyways.

 

Footsteps echoed through the room as King Alfor walked around to stand directly in Keith’s line of sight. “Did my son unlock his sealing powers during his visit to the Spring of Courage?” he reiterated.

 

Breathing in a deep breath, Keith lifted his head to finally meet King Alfor’s gaze. “No, sire. His attempts to do so were unsuccessful.”

 

Disappointment flickered across the king’s face, along with something else that Keith didn’t recognize, before he quickly masked it up with his usually stern face. “I see,” he muttered, and spun away from Keith to resume his slow pacing.

 

Keith watched his majesty as he paced the floor, not sure what else to do. He knew he couldn’t say anything, because what could he say? That Lance was working extremely hard to do as he was asked, rather than doing something he prided himself in, enjoyed doing? He couldn’t say that to the king. King Alfor would have none of it, he knew that. So he just stayed quiet, kneeling in his presence even as his knee was starting to lose feeling against the cold stone floor.

 

King Alfor slowed to a stop a ways away, his back still to Keith. “He has to gain access to his sealing powers sooner rather than later.” he announced.

 

“I agree.” Keith said with a wince.

 

With a sigh, his majesty turned back to face Keith slowly. Keith was shocked to see how down the king looked, how sad his blue eyes were. He was about to speak up and ask what was wrong, when the king spoke; “Lance lost his teacher when he was quite young. Ever since, he hasn’t had a single note or book to go off of to learn.”

 

Realization washed over Keith at King Alfor’s words; Lance’s teacher was his mother.

 

“My wife died suddenly, when he was only six years old,” King Alfor continued. “And ever since, he’s trained on his own. He hasn’t had anybody to teach him, and after almost ten years, his pursuits have been just as fruitless as when he started.”

 

Keith already knew Lance had been trying to unlock his sealing powers for that long, but King Alfor had no reason to know that.

 

“But, I’m sure he would have accessed them by now if he wasn’t dabbling in research.” the king said casually.

 

Keith froze, scarcely even breathing as the king’s words echoed in his mind. It felt like his veins were pumping ice through his body as the cold sense of dread settled in. He knew King Alfor did not approve of Lance’s interest in researching ancient technology… But he had no idea, really just how much he hated it. “Do… Do you need me for anything, sire?” he asked quietly.

 

As soon as he asked the question, he regretted it. King Alfor’s face hardened, and he looked every inch the sovereign of the kingdom of Hyrule once again. He made his way back over to Keith, and with every footstep he took, Keith had to fight the urge to cower under his powerful gaze. “I need you to answer a simple question, knight.” he said slowly, firmly.

 

Keith gulped, and gave a simple nod, indicating for the king to go on.

 

King Alfor linked his arms loosely behind his back, shoulders squared as he came to a stop a step in front of the knight. “Is Prince Lance still doing research into ancient technology?”

 

Keith ducked his head, avoiding eye contact with the imposing man in front of him as he quickly thought of the best course of action. If he told the truth, like his gut instinctively told him to, Lance would be in trouble, but if he lied, he’d be lying to the king’s face, and if he ever found out… He wasn’t sure if he would survive the consequences.

 

But… He already knew what his answer was.

 

Keith breathed in a deep breath, before saying, “No, sire. To my knowledge, he is not still researching ancient technology.” As soon as the words came out of his mouth, he held his breath, waiting for King Alfor’s response.

 

Boots shuffled from side to side as the king shifted his weight, but he was silent otherwise. When he still didn’t say anything for a few long moments, Keith lifted his gaze up from the floor to look at the king.

 

King Alfor looked calm, but his blue eyes practically flamed in rage. Keith jerked back slightly at the look of barely contained fury. “I know you’re loyal to my son, and I commend you for that.” the king said lowly, dangerously. “But, I know for a fact that my son has been doing research instead of dedicating every moment he has to his training. So, Keith Kogane, orphan of the Yiga Clan,” he stood up even straighter, looking down on him with absolute seriousness, “if you ever lie to my face again, you will be punished.”

 

Speechless, all Keith could do was nod.

 

The king spun on his heel, and waved a hand dismissively back towards Keith. “You’re dismissed.”

 

Keith barely remembered to bow in his haste to leave the sanctum.

 


 

Lance paced the length of his room, looking out the door every time he walked by it to see if Keith had returned yet.

 

He still couldn’t believe his father had asked to meet with him. What could he want with Keith? And why was it so important that he needed to go see him as soon as they returned to the Castle?

 

Lance was practically beside himself with nerves and anxiety. But, until Keith returned, he had nothing to do but pace and wait for his knight to return.

 

He wasn’t sure how long he paced across the room, glancing to the door every couple seconds, or when he heard footsteps echoing through the halls. But, every time he was disappointed by the lack of Keith he saw.

 

Eventually, he gave in and crumpled down on his chair with his back to the door. If Keith wasn’t going to come back, there was no sense wasting his energy waiting for him.

 

He pulled the Sheikah Slate off of his hip, and scrolled through some old photos to pass the time. The most recent photo he took west of Deya Village was pretty, although much darker than his other photos. Normally, when he was out and about, the sun was shining and it was a beautiful day out. But today, it had rained and the sky was dark and cloudy, almost the same colour as the Bridge of Hylia in the distance. Even if it was different than his other photos, he still loved it.

 

Suddenly, a knock sounded at his door, and Lance jumped straight out of his chair, nearly dropping the Sheikah Slate. He whirled around to face the doorway, expecting to see Keith, but he was surprised to see Shiro standing there.

 

Something was different about Shiro, though… Lance couldn’t quite put his finger on it, but something about the Rito chief had changed since he saw him last, at the coliseum.

 

“May I come in?” Shiro asked tentatively.

 

“Oh!” Lance exclaimed, and waved him in. “Of course, sorry.”

 

“No worries.” Shiro said with a smile, and entered Lance’s room, stopping just behind Lance’s chair and crossing his arms lightly over his chest. “How have you been?”

 

Lance placed the slate back on his hip and offered Shiro a shrug. “Alright, I guess… How about you?”

 

Shiro gave a one shouldered shrug in turn, grey feathers flexing on top of hardened muscle. “About the same.” he answered. “Oh, my nephew wanted me to let you know that he wanted to see you again.”

 

“Korbin, right?” Lance clarified. A small smile twisted his lips upwards at the thought of the small Rito child. They had only met for a few minutes, but somehow, Shiro’s little nephew managed to make quite the impression on him. “He was such a delight. I’d love to see him again someday soon, as well.”

 

“He would certainly love that!”

 

“Wait, what are you doing here at the Castle?” Lance questioned. “Is everything alright?”

 

“Oh!” Shiro exclaimed, and put a soothing hand on Lance’s shoulder. “Yes, everything’s perfectly fine. I’m not here on any official business.”

 

Lance raised a brow, waiting for Shiro to continue.

 

Shiro pulled his hand back, letting his hands fall to his sides. “Do you know Azarel?”

 

The name rang a bell. Azarel, if he recalled, was the Rito singer hired by his father to work in tandem with the court poet and musician. He nodded.

 

“Azarel is my best friend, and my brother-in-law. He’s Korbin’s father.”

 

“Oh!” Lance exclaimed, and clapped his hands excitedly. “I had no idea!”

 

Shiro smiled softly, and nodded. “We’ve been best friends since boyhood.” He said quietly, a fond smile tugging at his lips. “When he and Calla started seeing each other, I knew he would treat her well. And he has. He loves my sister, and their son, more than anything. But he works here to keep food on their table, and frankly, mine as well.”

 

“He sounds like an amazing man.” Lance whispered.

 

“He is…” Shiro agreed softly. His eyes were downcast, but the look in them was incredibly fond. Lance couldn’t help but wonder what Shiro wasn’t saying about the man. But Shiro suddenly perked up, looking wide-eyed. “Oh! But, I was probably interrupting something. I should go.”

 

“No, no!” Lance exclaimed, and reached out to grab Shiro’s arm before he could turn to leave. “You weren’t interrupting anything. And honestly, I could use the company.”

 

“Oh?” Shiro questioned, and turned back to face Lance again, a puzzled look on his face. He glanced around the room, as if he just noticed something, or, someone was missing. “Where’s Keith?”

 

“That’s just it.” Lance sighed, and flopped back down onto his chair. “Keith was called to my father’s side as soon as we arrived back to the Castle. But, that was probably an hour ago now. He can’t possibly still be with my father.”

 

Shiro hummed thoughtfully for a moment, before putting his hand on Lance’s shoulder again. His hand was incredibly warm, not just because he was covered in feathers, but because of the genuine care he had. “I’m sure everything’s fine. He probably just stopped somewhere along the way.”

 

Lance shrugged. “Maybe.”

 

“Why don’t we go try to find him, then?” Shiro offered. “We can look for him together.”

 

Lance looked back over his shoulder to Shiro, trying to see if he was serious. He looked sincere, and Lance wasn’t quite ready to be left alone again quite yet. He was always so lonely at the Castle without Keith. “Alright.” Lance agreed. “We’ll start with his room, see if he’s been there since we came back.”

 

Shiro removed his hand, and waited for Lance to stand up and join him, before they left Lance’s chambers together.

 

Lance led them a short distance down the hall, towards where the door to Keith’s chambers was. From the outside, the rooms looked almost the exact same. The same ornate wooden doors barring entry, the Triforce being carried by a large winged lion above the door. The door was still shut tight, and didn’t look like it had been opened since Keith left his room yesterday morning. But, he still rapped against the doors twice anyways, waiting to hear if anyone was inside. When no answer came, he opened one of the doors a crack and peered inside, unsurprised to see Keith absent.

 

With a shrug, he turned back to Shiro. “Guess he’s not here. We’ll keep looking around for a while.”

 

“Where do you think he could be?” Shiro asked, indicating for Lance to lead the way.

 

Lance hummed, weighing some options in his mind as they ambled along. “Well, he might be in the kitchens, or the dining area. Or he might be down in the stables, tending to his horses. Who knows, he might even be down in the guards’ chamber, doing some training. He likes to train a lot.”

 

“Well, where should we start?”

 

Lance slowed to a stop as they approached a door, leading outside to the courtyard below the sanctum. Perhaps… “Maybe we should see if Zephyr is still up at the sanctum.”

 

Shiro looked confused. “Zephyr?”

 

“One of Keith’s horses.” Lance explained distractedly. He scanned what he could see outside for any sign of blue of the Champions’ garb, or for Zephyr’s grey coat, but couldn’t see any sign of them. “Yeah, let’s go check up by the sanctum. I mean, I hope Keith’s not still there, but we’d better start there incase he still is.”

 

“Good idea,” Shiro agreed, and stepped out in front of Lance, into the sunlight. He looked even lighter in the light of the sun, the colour of his feathers more white and lavender than black and violet.

 

Suddenly, realization dawned on Lance about what was different about Shiro. When he had first met the proud Rito, he was made up almost entirely of black feathers, except for bits of his hair whiting with age and the purple sheen his feathers naturally had. But now, a good portion of his feathers were grey, borderline white, looking almost spotted and mottled, giving him a completely different look. “Woah, Shiro,” he exclaimed, and jumped ahead of him to get a better look, “you’re going white!”

 

Shiro ducked his head, and rubbed the back of his neck bashfully. “Yeah, uh,” he chuckled nervously, “you noticed that, huh?”

 

“Kind of hard to miss.” Lance mused, and reached up to poke at Shiro’s hair, where more white than black feathery hair was braided back into his usual style. “I mean, it’s totally badass, but what’s with the sudden change?”

 

Shiro let his arms drop to his sides with a long winded breath out, before smiling sheepishly at Lance. “Stress, I guess.”

 

“Stress?” Lance questioned. He reached out to grab his elbow soothingly. “What’s the matter? Do you need aid? Is there anything I can do to help?”

 

“Oh goodness, no.” Shiro quickly assured, and detangled himself from Lance’s grasp lightly. “It’s nothing you need to worry yourself with.”

 

Lance narrowed his eyes at the Rito chief, disbelievingly. “Shiro, if there’s anything I can--”

 

“Shiro!” A new voice called out. Both Lance and Shiro whipped around to face whoever called out to them.

 

A smile quickly overtook Shiro’s face, and he laughed joyously. “Azarel!” he exclaimed, and leapt forwards, opening his wings in the same motion to fly over to the Rito in question.

 

Azarel of the Rito was of bigger and more muscular build than Shiro, shockingly, and was primarily a cool brown colour. His chest was blue, nearly the colour of the sky, and so were the tips of his feathers atop his head. The same blue framed his white face, making his green eyes pop.

 

Lance was shocked to notice that Azarel’s eyes were two different colours, one the same green as the delicate markings on his face, and the other a faded blue colour. The blue eye had a scar running through it, similar to Kolivan’s, but with the discolouration of the iris itself, Lance wondered if Azarel was blind in one eye. He had a few scars on his body, extremely similar to Shiro’s, located primarily on his chest and one shoulder. Despite all the faded scars, he still looked incredibly kind, the sort of person Shiro deserved to have in his life.

 

As soon as they collided, Azarel pulled Shiro up into a strong hug. Shiro wheezed a little at the tight grip, but his laughter gave away how he felt about the hug. Lance couldn’t keep the small smile off of his face at the sight of the brothers even if he tried. As soon as Shiro’s taloned feet touched ground again, Azarel whirled around to see who Shiro was with. As soon as he realized who it was, he dropped into a deep bow. “Your highness,” Azarel addressed, bending so far in a bow that his hair fell forwards and brushed the ground. “I apologize, I did not--”

 

“You’re fine, friend.” Lance interrupted, and stopped a few paces in front of him. “Rise. We’re all friends here.”

 

Azarel slowly straightened up, glancing back and forth between Lance and Shiro. “Of course.” he said hesitantly.

 

“You’re good, Aza.” Shiro soothed, and clapped a hand to his shoulder. “I was planning to come find you once Lance and I were finished.”

 

Azarel’s eyes widened, “Did I interrupt something important?” he asked frantically.

 

“Oh my, nothing important.” Lance was quick to assure the frantic Rito. “No, Shiro and I were just searching for my knight, and fellow Champion.”

 

“Keith was called up to King Alfor’s side as soon as they returned to the Castle this afternoon.” Shiro explained. “But he hasn’t returned. So we were heading up to the sanctum to see if he was still with his majesty.”

 

“Unless he’s one of the king’s personal royal guards, he’s not up in the sanctum.” A new voice called out.

 

Shiro and Azarel’s gazes flicked to just over Lance’s shoulder, somewhere behind him, so Lance turned to meet the newcomer.

 

She was petite, and of Sheikah heritage, if the white hair was anything to go by. Her hair was cut short, framing her face in cute curls that just brushed her shoulders with every step she took. She didn’t look much older than Lance, perhaps two years? But she radiated youthful energy, enough that even Lance felt energized by her presence. She had an instrument strapped to her back, it was brown and looked a bit like a box… But Lance wasn’t sure what it was, exactly. She stopped when she was beside Lance, and flashed a bright smile up at him, her brown eyes practically shining.

 

Lance thought he’d seen her around, but he couldn’t recall her name…

 

“There you are, Penny!” Azarel exclaimed. “I was wondering where you ran off to.”

 

“I went ahead up into the sanctum, but the king’s not ready for us.” The Sheikah girl, Penny, explained. “So I thought I’d come wandering back down to meet you along the way. Oh, hey Shiro!” she waved at the other Rito, and offered him a big smile.

 

“Penelope.” Shiro said fondly. “How are you?”

 

“Good, thanks!” she turned back to Lance, and put a comforting hand on his arm. “Now, who was it that you’re looking for?”

 

“My knight, Keith.” Lance replied. “He was called up to a meeting with my father when we returned, but I haven’t seen him since.”

 

Penny hummed, and ran a hand through her hair, thinking. “No, I… Can’t say I’ve seen him.” she said hesitantly. “But, I did see a young girl leaving the sanctum with a big grey horse, taking it back to the stables. Oh, what’s her name…”

 

“Keely?” Lance offered.

 

She snapped her fingers, and pointed up at Lance. “Yes! That’s her name, Keely. Works in the kitchens. Such a doll. Yeah, she was leading a fancy lookin’ horse away from the sanctum, back down to the stables. Big, grey, white legs…”

 

“Yeah, that’s Keith’s horse.” Lance confirmed, and glanced down the path as if he’d be able to see them. “How long ago was this?”

 

“Maybe ten minutes ago?”

 

Lance hummed, considering. “Well, Keith might be down in the stables, then.”

 

“I’ll come with you.” Shiro offered, and patted Azarel’s shoulder a final time before stepping away. “I’ll find you later, okay?”

 

“Alright!” Azarel agreed, and stepped over to Penny, wrapping a large wing around her and scooping her up. She squealed in delight, legs dangling inches off of the ground, and called back a goodbye to the prince and Rito chief.

 

Lance bumped his hip against Shiro’s as they walked along. “I’ve never really met Azarel before, but he seems great.”

 

“He is.” Shiro agreed with a small smile. “We’ve been through a lot, together.”

 

Lance thought about asking Shiro to explain further, but then he saw Shiro rub at the scars on his upper arm out of the corner of his eye, and decided against it. He could only assume that their scars were from the same incident, whatever happened. But he didn’t want to pry. If Shiro wouldn’t offer up the information, there was no sense reopening old wounds just to sate his curiosity.

 

They walked in silence for the rest of the way down to the stables, but it didn’t feel awkward. It was just, comfortable. And Lance was more than fine with that. He liked Shiro, and liked spending time in his company, but he wasn’t sure what he could or couldn’t say to him. But the stables weren’t too far from where they were, so it didn’t take them long to reach the large doors to the stables.

 

Lance walked in first, scanning the area. Down at the very end, near his own horse’s stall, was Keely attempting to untack an extremely patient Zephyr.

 

“Need any help?” Lance called out, and quickly made his way down the aisle towards her.

 

Keely whirled around, and smiled gratefully when she saw who it was. “Prince Lance.” she exclaimed. “Boy, am I happy to see you. I don’t know how to get this,” she gestured vaguely to the saddle, “thing off of Zeph.”

 

Lance chuckled, shaking his head as he came up beside her, and lifted the saddle flap up to start unbuckling the girth. “Keith hasn’t shown you this yet?”

 

“No,” Keely said with a pout.

 

“Well, I’m sure he will tomorrow.”

 

Shiro stopped a few feet away from Zephyr, looking at the grey horse warily.

 

“Oh!” Lance exclaimed, and let the girth fall below Zephyr’s belly to hang on the other side. “I should introduce you. Keely, this is Chief Shiro,” he said, gesturing over to the hesitant looking Rito, “he’s the Rito Champion, and pilots Divine Beast Vah Medoh.”

 

“Nice to meet you, young one.” Shiro said, finally looking over at her.

 

“Shiro, this is Keely, one of the young ladies who works here at the Castle. She and Keith have become fast friends ever since he became my knight.”

 

Keely offered a quick curtsey, before turning back to tend to Zephyr.

 

As Lance walked around to the horse’s far side, he saw Nat bring a horse out of a stall a few feet down, and Shiro visibly flinched. His eyes closed tight, and he breathed in slow and steady breaths through his nose. His hands were bound up in tight fists at his sides, and it wasn’t until the shoed hooves quit clopping against the stone floor that Shiro opened his eyes again. That was new. “Uh… You can carry on ahead to look for Keith, if you want.” Lance offered hesitantly. “I’ll help Keely, and then I’ll catch up to you.”

 

“Oh!” Keely exclaimed suddenly, drawing both of their attentions in on her. “You’re looking for Keith?”

 

Lance stood up on his tip-toes to see her face over Zephyr’s tall back. “Yeah, have you seen him?”

 

“Well,” Keely hummed, and rocked back and forth on her heels, “I saw him in the halls by the kitchen, but he just walked right past me. He asked if I’d care for Zephyr, but he didn’t say where he was going. That was maybe half an hour ago?” She paused, and looked right into Lance’s eyes as she said, “But I’ve never seen him look so miserable.”

 

Upon hearing her words, Lance and Shiro shared a glance. After a moment, Shiro nodded. “Alright, I’ll go on ahead and look for him. I’ll see you soon.” And with that, he spun away and made haste down the aisle and out the door to go find Keith.

 

Keely came around to Lance’s side, and pulled at the bottom of his tunic lightly. “What’s up with Keith?” She asked worriedly.

 

Lance let the saddle flap drop, and knelt down so he was eye level with her to speak. “Well, he had a talk with my father. I’m not sure what about, but whatever it was,” he grimaced slightly, “it obviously wasn’t a good chat. But we’ll find him, and cheer him up, okay?”

 

Keely took a deep breath, before nodding. “Okay.”

 

“Okay then.” Lance echoed, and stood up. “We’ll finish untacking and caring for Zephyr before we head out. He’ll want his best boy looking his best, won’t he?”

 


 

Everything was a blur. He wasn’t sure how he got here, or how long he’d been here, but it didn’t matter. The only thing that mattered was the solidness of the dummy against his fists.

 

Keith sent a punch to the dummy’s face, before delivering a few punches to its middle and ducking away quickly, coming up behind it. He planted a solid kick to the lower back, making sure to keep his hands close to his body, before spinning back to the front of it again.

 

He couldn’t feel his fists anymore, but that hardly mattered. It just made it easier to wail on the dummy without holding anything back.

 

Before starting, he’d had the foresight to put some weights down against the base, so he could hit it without fearing it would wobble and fall over. He was thankful for it again as he landed a solid kick to the dense straw chest, and immediately followed it with a few quick jabs to the face, throat, and stomach.

 

His breath was starting to come short, and his bangs were sticking to his forehead, but he didn’t care. He would work until the king’s words stopped ringing in his ears, however long that took.

 

He’d taken his sword and shield off of his back at the start of practice, not wanting the extra weight. Besides, it was more satisfying to use his fists than to use weapons.

 

The king’s words were still ringing in his ears, no matter how hard or how fast he hit the dummy. ‘I’m sure he would have accessed them by now if he wasn’t dabbling in research.' He sent an open handed jab to the dummy’s throat. ‘He has to gain access to his sealing powers sooner rather than later.' Keith cursed lowly and kneed his opponent in the stomach. ‘If you ever lie to my face again, you will be punished.’ With a loud growl, he sent a punch blindly to the centre of his opponent, hard enough that he would have sent someone of flesh and blood to the ground. But since it was a dummy made of tightly packed straw, the hit did more damage to him than it. But he didn’t care, couldn’t care. He needed to get the disapproving tone of King Alfor out of his head.

 

He sucked in a deep breath, before winding up his left fist, readying for another hit. But, a warm hand enveloped his own before he could send the punch flying.

 

Keith whirled around to face a concerned Shiro. He jerked back slightly, surprised to see his fellow Champion in the barracks of the Castle of all places.

 

“Keith,” Shiro said soothingly, holding fast when Keith tried to pull his hand back, “what are you doing?”

 

“Training.” Keith replied, and glanced back towards the dummy. He was a little surprised to see some of the straw sticking out from the tight bindings, some already fallen to the floor. “I’m training.” he repeated distractedly.

 

This isn’t training,” Shiro disagreed, and pulled the hand he was still holding up closer to his face. “This is you letting out your pent-up emotions on a training dummy, and the dummy seems to be winning.”

 

Keith squawked, and whirled around to face Shiro again. “It is not--”

 

“Look at your hands,” Shiro interrupted firmly. He made quick work of pulling off the glove on his left hand, careful of his knuckles. He let the glove drop to the floor, and tilted Keith’s hand back so he could see his own handiwork.

 

All of the knuckles resting against the back of his palm were split open, weeping red down to the stained tops of his fingers. Not even his thumb was saved, somehow he even managed to split open the outside of the knuckle as well.

 

“Huh.” Keith muttered, twisting his hand slightly back and forth in Shiro’s grasp to assess the damage. “I didn’t even notice.”

 

Shiro scoffed lightly under his breath. “Clearly… Alright, c’mon, let’s get your hands cleaned up.”

 

Keith let Shiro drag him over to a bench off to the side, and sat down gingerly on the smooth surface. As soon as he sat down, it was like all the energy drained from his body with one simple exhale. “Damn,” he muttered, and let his head fall forwards. His hair fell forwards as well, but he made no motion to push it back. Feeling his hair tickle his nose and cheekbones was a good tether back to reality.

 

“You did quite the number on your hands.” Shiro tsk’d, and reached into a pocket to pull out some gauze. “What’s gotten into you?”

 

“It’s nothing.” Keith quickly dismissed. With a groan, he rolled his shoulders out before letting his shoulders, neck and arms go lax. “Nothing I can’t handle.”

 

“Well it’s obviously something.” Shiro argued softly, and pressed the gauze a little rougher than necessary into one of Keith’s knuckles. When Keith flinched, Shiro continued, “I’m here if you want to talk.”

 

Keith let things go silent between them as he considered his options. He could tell Shiro, but by the looks of it, he was already going grey from stress. He didn’t want to add to anything Shiro already had on his plate. He could talk to Lance about it, but he wasn’t sure if that would really achieve anything other than make Lance more worried and frantic than he already was.

 

The silence stretched on, but Shiro made no further motion to pull any information out of Keith. He just sat there quietly, keeping to his task and let Keith decide if he wanted to share or not.

 

Oh, what the hell. “Is it safe to assume you’ve already talked to Lance since arriving at the Castle?”

 

“Yes.” Shiro said simply, and dropped Keith’s hand into his lap to pick up the other to tend to it.

 

“Then you know I was summoned to speak with the king immediately upon our arrival.” It wasn’t a question. Knowing Lance, Shiro knew everything that he did. Lance wasn’t the type of person to keep things hidden, aside from his research.

 

Shiro hummed softly under his breath, staring critically down at Keith’s right hand. “I do.”

 

“Well,” Keith took a deep breath, and sat up straight again, “King Alfor asked me about the status of Lance’s sealing powers.”

 

The hands tending to Keith’s knuckles froze for a moment, before resuming their care. “And you told him that Lance still has not unlocked them.”

 

“Correct.”

 

“Must have been an interesting conversation.” Shiro said dryly.

 

Keith let out a short humourless chuckle. “You have no idea.”

 

“What’d the king say?”

 

“In short?” Keith let his head roll back, so he was staring up at the wooden rafters above them as he said, “Lance needs to do better to unlock his sealing powers, despite everything he’s been doing for the past ten years.”

 

Shiro muttered a soft curse under his breath. The gauze in his hand was shaking slightly, so Keith righted his head again to look over at Shiro. He looked disappointed, rightly so, but he also just looked sad. Keith wasn’t sure what to do about it, so he spoke up again, “But that’s not all.”

 

“No?” Shiro asked incredulously. “No wonder you were beating the dummy to a pulp.”

 

Keith chuckled lightly at Shiro’s words, but quickly sobered up again. “He also asked me if Lance was still doing research into ancient technology.”

 

“What?” Shiro whispered. “What did you say?”

 

“I lied.” Keith said simply.

 

“You what?!” Shiro exclaimed, loud enough that it echoed through the chamber, and stood up to stare down at him. “You lied to the king of Hyrule?!”

 

“I did.” Keith murmured. He looked down to his hands, slowly weeping clear-reddish fluid from the cracks, and clenched them into tight fists just to feel the sting. “But, he knew I was lying. He commended me for my loyalty to his son, but informed me that if I ever lied to his face again, that there’d be consequences.”

 

“Holy shit.” Shiro muttered, and spun away, shaking his head. He took a few steps away, before whirling back to Keith with an accusing finger pointed at him. “You lied to the king? What made you think that would be a good idea?”

 

Keith groaned, and buried his head in his hands. “I wish I could say I wasn’t thinking, but I was!” he exclaimed, and stood up. “I was thinking, because all I could think about was what Lance would do if his father found out!”

 

Shiro visibly deflated at that. His arms dropped to his sides, and the look he gave Keith was one mixed of pity and respect.

 

“Do you have any idea how hard Lance has worked?” Keith questioned, and stalked forwards until there was only a step between them. “When we went to the Spring of Courage, he spent more time in the Spring than he did doing anything else. He was praying, no, begging to whoever the hell is listening to unlock his sealing powers already, so he can do what’s asked of him. And nobody’s ever stopped to see if this is even what he wants to do. Not a single person. But he still does it, even when there’s nobody except me in his corner.”

 

“I know.” Shiro whispered. “I know this isn’t what he wants. But,” he rubbed the back of his neck, “he knows what role he has to play in the battle to come, as do the two of us.”

 

“Did you know that everyone here talks about him behind his back?” Keith continued as if Shiro hadn’t said a word, and clenched his hands into tight fists at his sides, until he could feel his blunt nails digging into his palms. “Everyone. I hear it in the kitchens, the dining hall, the guards’ chamber. Hell, I’ve even heard it in Castletown, let alone wherever else word spreads in this kingdom. He doesn’t have anyone who doesn’t scold him for his shortcomings, not even his own father.” he said bitterly.

 

Shiro straightened up, and levelled Keith with a look. “Hey, that’s not--”

 

“I’m the only one in his corner, and it’s not fair to him.” Keith gritted out. “He deserves so much more--”

 

“I know.” Shiro interrupted softly, and stepped forwards to wrap Keith up in a hug. “I know. But, he’s lucky to have someone like you behind him.”

 

Keith immediately melted into the embrace. Something about hugging Shiro just made him feel safe, something he hadn’t felt in a long time.

 

“Lance also has us Champions in his corner, y’know.” Shiro said lowly. “So, you’re not all alone behind him. You’re just, always there for him, a constant reminder that he has people backing him up. The rest of us are… A little more distant.” With a final soothing pat to Keith’s back, he untangled his long limbs from Keith, stepping back a step to let Keith have his space again.

 

He breathed out a sigh, before smiling slightly up at the Rito. “Thanks, Shiro.” he said sincerely. “I know you’re right, it’s just…”

 

“Hard to see him like that. I know.” Shiro soothed. “But it won’t be like this forever.”

 

Keeeeeiiiiiiiiiiiith!” Keely’s voice called out from somewhere above them.

 

Keith quickly glanced around, looking for her, but couldn’t see her anywhere. “Keely?” He called out in response. When there was no answer for a few seconds, he called “Down on the training deck!”

 

A few seconds later, Keely’s blonde head peeked over the railing above them, and a wide grin took over her face. Lance appeared behind her a few seconds later, and he looked relieved to see them.

 

“There you are!” Lance exclaimed, and started making his way down the stairs towards them, Keely hot on his heels. “Where have you been?”

 

Keith turned to face Lance, and linked his arms behind his back loosely, keeping his hands hidden from Lance until he could properly tend to them and put his gloves back on. “I’ve been down here.”

 

“Are you okay?” Keely asked cautiously.

 

Keith couldn’t keep the fond smile off of his face if he tried. “Yeah, Kee, I’m fine. Don’t worry.”

 

She looked skeptical, but satisfied enough with the answer as she came to a stop by his side. She reached out to wrap her fingers around the bottom edge of his tunic at his hip.

 

Shiro glanced down to where Keely’s hand bunched up in his shirt, but didn’t comment on it.

 

“Why didn’t you come back to my chambers after speaking to my father?” Lance questioned, not unkindly. He looked more worried than anything.

 

“I, uh…” Keith floundered around for an answer. He didn’t want to tell Lance the truth, that he needed to blow off steam after the conversation with his father, because that would only worry him. But he needed something. “Well--”

 

“The king requested that he do more training, on top of his daily routine.” Shiro cut in smoothly, casting Keith a look out of the corner of his eye. “To make sure he’s prepared for anything that could come up against you, Lance.”

 

“Right.” Keith quickly agreed. “That’s exactly it.”

 

Lance narrowed his eyes suspiciously at the pair, but didn’t doubt them. “Alright. And that was it?”

 

“That was it.” Keith clarified.

 

Lance’s shoulders slumped in relief, “Oh, thank Hylia.” he muttered. “I couldn’t stop thinking about all the bad possibilities, like you getting fired or--”

 

“Hey, I’m not that bad of a guardian knight.” Keith interjected with a smirk. “I’ve kept you safe from plenty of things.”

 

“That’s true.” Lance agreed with a smile.

 

“Hey, Lance?” Shiro asked, bringing the prince’s attention back to him. “I had some questions about my Divine Beast, I was wondering if there was somewhere we could talk…?”

 

“Oh! Of course.” Lance said quickly, and skipped over to Shiro’s side to link arms. “We can head up to my study to talk about it.”

 

“That sounds good, thank you.” Shiro said, turning their backs on Keith and Keely. Just before they got to the stairs, Shiro gave Keith a meaningful look over his shoulder.

 

With a nod, Keith turned to Keely, crouching down so they were eye-level. “Think you could help me with something?” he whispered.

 

Keely’s eyes widened, but she quickly nodded. “Whatcha need?” she asked just as quietly.

 

Rather than explain, he thought it best to just show her. So, he pulled his hands out from behind his back and lifted them up so she could see.

 

She hissed softly through her teeth at the swollen and bruised skin. Shiro had managed to stop the bleeding on most of his knuckles, but they would still have to be cleaned and dressed before he put his gloves back on. “What happened?” She questioned.

 

“Well, that’s a funny story,” Keith said with a light chuckle. “Remember what I said to Lance, about my conversation with the king?”

 

Keely gave a slight nod.

 

“We actually had a very different conversation.” Keith admitted lowly. “And, I couldn’t face Lance after, so I came down here to hit some things. And, well, this is the result.”

 

“Aww, Keith.” Keely cooed. She waved her hands at him, telling him to stand, before grabbing lightly onto one of his wrists to guide him. “Let’s go to the kitchen, we’ll find help in there.”

 

They wandered over to the kitchens together in comfortable silence. Keith thought to offer Keely a piggy-back ride over, but he wasn’t sure what she’d say to that, so he didn’t. And besides, the kitchens weren’t too far from the barracks anyways, so she didn’t miss out on much.

 

Nobody seemed to notice when they wandered into the kitchen. Everyone was bustling around trying to get dinner ready. Keely pointed to a stool in the corner, and told Keith to sit before weaving through the chaos of the kitchen to find something.

 

Keith sat quietly on the stool, watching the flow of everyone in the room. Even though everything looked chaotic and disorganized, there was still a flow, and nobody ever collided into each other. Hot trays were carried out of the ovens without burning anyone, dishes were made and sent off without breaking any plates, and knives chopped quickly without any accidental slicing. Keith couldn’t quite wrap his head around how everything happened here. He was convinced this was the most magical place in all of Hyrule.

 

Keely came back a few minutes later with the head of the kitchen, Sandra, but Keith knew her as Sammy.

 

“Back already, are we?” Sammy said with a raised brow and her hands on her hips.

 

“Sammy, no, his hands.” Keely pointed down to Keith’s hands, which had gotten a little more swollen since he’d last looked at them.

 

When she noticed the state of his hands, her eyes widened. “Goodness, we’d better get some ice for those hands. Keely, dear, fetch some ice for our friend?”

 

With a nod, Keely rushed off to do as she asked.

 

Sammy grabbed a chair from nearby, and pulled it over to Keith’s side, looking at him with that look she got anytime she wanted him to talk about it. Keith pursed his lips, meeting her gaze head on. But after a moment of staring, he sighed and gave in; “Had a talk with the king about his son, and I needed to go hit something afterwards.” he said quietly, only loud enough that she could hear him over the general kitchen noise.

 

“Ah.” Sammy said simply. “Makes sense. But,” she pulled one of his hands into her own lap, staring critically down at the mess he’d made, “did you have to do so much damage to your hands?”

 

“Honestly? I didn’t even notice.”

 

Sammy’s eyebrows rose, and she tsk’d slightly. “That bad, huh? Well, we’ll get you patched up, and then you can carry on back to the prince’s side.”

 

“Thank you.” Keith said sincerely. “I know I’m probably more trouble than you’d like.”

 

“Oh, most certainly.” she swiftly agreed, and reached forwards to flick his forehead lightly. “But, Keely’s fond of you, and so am I.”

 

Keely returned with a bowl of ice, and plopped it down on Keith’s lap.

 

“Oh, thanks Kee.” Keith said with a smile. He tentatively let the backs of his hands rest on top of the ice, hissing at first contact, but relaxing into it as the ice did it’s work.

 

“Alright, I’ll come back and check on you in ten minutes. Keep ‘em in for a minute, out for a minute.” Sammy instructed. With that, she turned and blended back into the chaos.

 

Keely took Sammy’s abandoned chair, bringing her knees up under her chin as if she was trying to take up as little space as possible on the seat. “Do you think you can still show me how to ride tomorrow?” she asked.

 

“Of course!” Keith exclaimed. “I’ve been thinking about it since Lance and I left for the Spring. I’ve got it all planned out.” he said with a wink.

 

The smile Keely gave him was blinding.

 


 

Once his hands were bandaged up and his gloves on to cover the evidence, he was shooed from the kitchen so there were less bodies in the way. He left for Lance’s chambers as soon as Keely waved her goodbye, with assurances that she’d get up early to meet him down in the stables.

 

Keith took his time walking to Lance’s room, making sure to school his expression into something Lance wouldn’t second guess. The lie had held up so far, and he didn’t want to jeopardize that.

 

Once he arrived at Lance’s door, he didn’t even bother knocking, just walked right in once he saw Lance sitting at his desk, with his back to him. He walked across the room quietly, smirking slightly when Lance still hadn’t noticed him. He stopped when he was directly behind his chair, and peeked over his shoulder. He was writing in one of the books Keith always saw with him, but hadn’t asked what it was yet. He took a quiet step back, before asking, “Did Shiro leave?”

 

Lance jerked, sending his pen across the table, leaving a big smear across the page he was writing on. He whirled around to face Keith with wide eyes, “Keith!” he shrieked, and whacked his arm once. “You scared me half to death!”

 

“Well, has he?” Keith asked with a chuckle.

 

Lance rolled his eyes, and adjusted in his seat. “Yeah. He didn’t really have any questions for me, so he left to find Azarel soon after we got here.”

 

The name sounded familiar, but Keith couldn’t place the name to a face in his mind. “Azarel?”

 

“The court singer, and Shiro’s best friend turned brother-in-law.” Lance explained.

 

Keith snapped his fingers, the face and the name matching up in his mind. “That’s right, I know him. Wonderful singer, and he’s usually accompanied by Penny, the court poet.”

 

“You know Penny?” Lance asked curiously.

 

“Everyone does.” Keith said simply. “She’s, just, one of those people who everyone knows.”

 

Lance hummed, and turned back to his desk, righting his pen back into its inkwell and closing his book. “Everything okay with you?” Lance asked quietly.

 

Keith stared at the back of Lance’s head, wondering what brought this on. “Yes?” He said hesitantly. “Why wouldn’t it be?”

 

“Just wondering,” was all Lance said.

 

It was quiet between them for a few moments, before Lance shifted in his chair, looking back at Keith again. “I think I’m gonna turn in early for the night,” he announced. “You probably should, too. Who knows what tomorrow brings.”

 

“Of course.” Keith said with a slightly exaggerated bow. “Until tomorrow, your highness.”

 

Lance rolled his eyes, but played along. “Sleep well, dear knight.”

 


 

True to her word, Keely met Keith down at the royal stables bright and early the next morning, even before Nat got there. She was practically vibrating in her excitement to get started.

 

As soon as Keith opened the massive doors wide enough, Keely slipped through the gap and bolted down the aisle towards his horses’ stalls.

 

When Keith joined her, she was in front of Everest’s stall, stroking the brown stallion’s face as he blinked sleepily at her. Seraphim and Zephyr were still fast asleep on their feet in the corners of their stalls.

 

“Who am I gonna be using today?” Keely asked, bouncing excitedly on the balls of her feet.

 

Keith hummed, considering the options. He knew Lance wouldn’t mind if they used Seraphim, since they wouldn’t be doing anything extensive, but… No, Seraphim shouldn’t be the first horse she learns how to ride on. Keith wanted it to be one of his own. “Who do you want to ride?” he asked.

 

“Hmm,” Keely looked back and forth between Keith’s two horses, considering her options, before pointing to Everest. “I think I’d like to try with Everest, if that’s alright?”

 

“Of course.” Keith agreed, and pulled his halter off of the rack to slip it up over Everest’s face, cinching it closed beneath his chin. “Let’s get him tacked up together, and then we can take him up to the courtyard, where it won’t be too busy this time of day. Sound good?”

 

Keely nodded, clapping her hands together excitedly. As Keith brought Everest out of his stall to tie him to the cross ties, Keely grabbed two dandy brushes from the hanging grooming kit on Seraphim’s door. She banged them against each other to rid the old dust, just as Keith showed her, before handing one of the brushes off to him.

 

They made quick work of brushing down the stallion, focusing on his back, where the saddle and pad would sit, as much as possible. But since he hadn’t left the stable since being brought here a few days ago, there wasn’t much to brush away. While Keely finished brushing, Keith dropped his brush back into the kit and pulled out a hoof pick. He took his time clearing out the dirt and straw caked into his hooves, slowing down to show Keely what he was doing when she peeked over his shoulder.

 

Once he was finished, he stood up and brushed his hands against the top of his trousers, before tossing the pick back into the kit, smiling softly when it landed inside. “Alright,” he began, turning back to Keely with his hands on his hips, “now that you know how to groom your horse, now it’s time to tack it up.”

 

“Okay!”

 

With a nod, he spun and started making his way down to the end of the aisle. “You stay here, I’ll go grab Everest’s tack.” he called back over his shoulder.

 

He pushed open the door, opening it wide so the light from the aisle lit up the room. He quickly grabbed Everest’s old tack, throwing the saddle and pad over his arm and the bridle clenched in his fist, before exiting the tack room, closing the door firmly behind him. He spotted the same step stool from the other day, and grabbed it before walking back towards the pair.

 

Everest perked up when he saw Keith walking down the aisle towards them with his tack, bobbing his head a bit with his ears sticking up. Keely looked just as excited to see Keith with the tack, too. He couldn’t help but think they made a great pair.

 

“What first?” Keely asked as soon as Keith was beside her again.

 

Keith placed the bridle on top of a hay bale, and offered the saddle pad to Keely. “This is the first piece. Do you know which way it goes?”

 

Keely fumbled with the blue pad for a moment, looking hesitant. She twisted it until she was holding it correctly, and lifted it up for Keith to see with furrowed brows.

 

“That’s right!” Keith said with a smile, and took it from her hands to throw the pad up on the horse’s back. He made sure to put the front of the pad up against his withers, and explained to Keely why they did that.

 

He adjusted the saddle in his arms, holding it so he could show some things to the little girl. He went through the motions of explaining everything she would need to know about the saddle, like the stirrups, girth straps, and saddle flap, before easily hefting it up and over Everest’s back.

 

“Do you remember how this cinches up?” Keith asked, and pulled the girth from overtop of the saddle.

 

Keely nodded, and stepped up, taking the girth from Keith’s grasp. Keith moved the step stool for her, and offered a hand to help her up onto it. She lifted the worn leather saddle flap slowly, revealing the straps of leather underneath, and lined the girth up to the straps, trying to figure it out.

 

“We only use two of the straps.” Keith reminded her, and used his pinky and index fingers to point to which two straps to use. “See where the holes look more stretched? Put the buckles in those holes.”

 

Keely was quick to do as she was asked, and stepped down from the stool. She started to pick it up, to take it to the other side to do the same thing, but Keith stopped her. “I’ll do it.” he offered. “We have to make sure the girth is tight enough, that the saddle won’t slip around while you’re on his back.”

 

“Ohh.” Keely said simply. “Okay.”

 

Keith quickly stepped around to the other side, and made quick work of cinching up the other side of the girth. Once done, he stuck two fingers between the girth and Everest’s belly, making sure it was tight, but not too tight that it would pinch him. When he was sure it was just right, he came back around to Keely’s side, and picked up the bridle from the top of the hay bale.

 

“The bridle is a little more complicated,” Keith explained, rearranging it so he could more easily explain the parts of the piece of tack. “This metal part here is called the bit.” he explained, tapping the bit with his finger. “It goes into Everest’s mouth, and it’s the first part of the bridle we put on him.”

 

He quickly unhooked the cross ties from either side of Everest’s green halter, letting them drop back against the walls on either side of the aisle, and unhooked the halter, looping it over his elbow once he removed it. He threw the reins up and over Everest’s head, and backed up so his back was up against the horse’s chest, just behind his jaw. He slowly demonstrated how to get Everest to take the bit, before buckling the rest of the bridle together.

 

Keely looked a little overwhelmed by all the tack, but Keith was quick to soothe her; “Don’t worry, I’ll always be here when you have questions or need some help. I know it seems like a lot, but,” he put a hand on top of her head, smiling down at her, “it’ll become so easy and so natural that you won’t even think about it anymore.”

 

“Really?”

 

“Really.” Keith promised, and pulled the reins back over Everest’s neck, handing them down to Keely’s waiting hands. “Alright, you lead Everest out, and I’ll be right behind you.”


Everest leaned down and nudged the girl lightly with his nose, causing her to giggle loudly and stroke a hand through his long forelock until he closed his eyes contentedly. Then, she turned and started slowly leading the content stallion out of the stable.

 

Keith watched them go for a minute, before quickly cleaning up the mess they made. He didn’t want to leave it for Nat and the other stable hands, when it was something he could do quickly on his own. Once he was finished, he jogged out of the stables, hoping to catch up with Keely, who would be meeting him in the courtyard.

 

A familiar orange head was walking along in front of him, and Keith smiled slightly to himself. “Coran!” he called out, causing the man in question to jump and whirl around. “Hey!”

 

“Hey!” Coran called back, and stroked his moustache to right it after his initial fright. “How are you Keith?”

 

“Good, thanks, yourself?” Keith replied as he caught up to the man. “What are you doing here so early?”

 

“I’m heading some research on recently excavated Guardians this morning,” Coran explained, and started walking again, with Keith by his side. “I wanted to get here early to make sure everything was in order.”

 

“Ah, makes sense.” Keith murmured.

 

“What are you doing up early?” Coran questioned, and quickly glanced around. “Doing something for Lance?”

 

“Not... Exactly.” Keith said with a shrug. “I don’t think he’s even up yet. I’m fulfilling a promise to a friend.”

 

Suddenly, Keely and Everest came into sight. As soon as she spotted Keith, she gave him a big wave.

 

“Ah, you’re teaching young Keely how to ride, eh?” Coran patted Keith’s shoulder. “She’s a good kid.”

 

“I’m surprised you know her,” Keith replied. He smiled over at Keely, and returned her wave.

 

“Of course I do.” Coran said simply. With a final pat to Keith’s shoulder, he started walking off in another direction, leaving Keith to wonder what exactly he meant by that. He shrugged it off, and continued making his way over to Keely. “You ready to ride?” he called out when he was closer.

 

The huge grin she gave him was all he needed to know.

 


 

Lance woke to the sound of laughter.

 

It was so unusual and uncommon, that Lance thought he was still dreaming for the first few minutes of his day. But when he opened his eyes and sat up in the bed, and the laughter was still there, he rolled out of bed, put his slippers on, and crossed the room to the small balcony.

 

In the courtyard below was Keely, Keith, and Everest. Keely was sitting on Everest’s back, looking the happiest Lance had ever seen her, and Keith looked just as proud. Everest was standing perfectly still as Keely slowly managed to stand in the saddle, and throw her arms up in the air victoriously.

 

Lance couldn’t remember a time he had ever seen his knight so happy. The smile he had was so big that Lance could see his dimples all the way up here, and it made his heart stutter.

 

He leaned forwards on the railing, content to simply watch them for a few minutes before he got started with his daily routine. He couldn’t hear what Keith was saying over the distance, but it looked like he was explaining how her feet should sit in the stirrups. And once he was done explaining, he let go of Everest’s reins and let Keely have total control.

 

Lance gasped, and leaned as far forwards as he felt vaguely comfortable, hoping that Keely would be okay. He knew rationally that she would be, with Keith so close to come to her aid, but he felt too far away to be of any use if something were to happen.

 

But, he had no reason to worry. Everest was more calm and relaxed than Lance had ever seen the big brown stallion, happy to take things slow for the learning rider on his back. In another life, he might have been a good lesson horse for children, but in this life, it looked like he was meant to be Keely’s horse. Keith’s smile reflected that he was thinking something similar, and he looked so damn proud of the two of them.

 

He watched for a few more minutes, watching as Keely steered Everest around in circles at a walk before moving to a trot, before he left them to their own devices to start his daily routine.

 

With being at the Castle all day today, he put on his stuffy royal tunic, and picked his nicest pair of boots. He would’ve given anything to go around the Castle in his normal gear, the things Keith usually saw him in when they were travelling together, but if he ran into his father, he knew the look he would get for it. So he held back his grimace as he laced up the fancy sleeves and cinched his belt on, and sat down to start out his daily routine.

 

He had some letters waiting on his desk, backed up from a few days of not working through them. There was one from Pidge, and one from Allura, but the others were inconsequential. He’d save them for later, when he was more awake and ready to deal with whatever nonsense they contained.

 

Pidge’s was a simple friendly letter, asking how he and Keith were doing, and asking when they were planning to come visit again. Lance took his time writing a neat letter replying that they were both good, and that he would send word when he knew they would see each other again. He made sure to give his regards to Matt, and to the king and queen, before sealing it with his own personal seal.

 

Allura had also sent a letter for him, asking how her little bluebird was doing, and how his training was going. She usually asked about it every couple of letters, but he couldn’t be mad when Allura asked about it, because he knew that she wouldn’t judge him for his shortcomings. She never had. She conveniently didn’t ask about Keith, but he knew why that was. She was still mad at him for who his parents were, and his short time with the Yiga Clan, her sworn enemies.

 

In his response, he made sure to mention that both he and Keith were doing well, and how his latest excursion to the Spring of Courage was unsuccessful. Allura was quite familiar with that Spring in particular, having travelled there with him a couple times before.

 

Once he sealed his response, he glanced at the remaining letters to be read, and sighed. He didn’t have the motivation to do them now, so he stood up and walked up the spiral staircase to head up to his study.

 

He didn’t stop to look around as he walked to his study, wanting to hole up with the Sheikah Slate for a while without being interrupted. He knew if he stopped to survey what was going on around the Castle, he would get distracted by something and stick around for longer than he should.

 

As soon as he entered his study, he made sure to shut the door firmly behind him before walking over to the chair in front of his desk and plopping down onto it. He breathed out a long breath, letting his shoulders go lax for a few moments before perking up and grabbing the Sheikah Slate from his desk.

 

As soon as he turned it on, he brought up the album functions on the slate, scrolling back through some of the old photos he had. He still had some old ones from when he was first learning about the Hyrule Compendium, so he went through and removed all the photos he no longer needed. It left him with the pretty nature scenes he had taken since Keith came into his life.

 

Lance thumbed through them all, stopping to look at each one until it made him smile before moving on to the next one. He was almost a little sad when he ran out of photos to look at.

 

But then he thought, he could go take more! He stood up from his desk, and made his way over to the door. He made sure to peek through the doors before bringing the Sheikah Slate up to his face, adjusting to get the perfect shot.

 

Just as he was about to take a photo, the doors on the other side of the walkway opened. Lance hid the slate quickly behind his back, unsure of who was coming up to join him.

 

He breathed out a sigh of relief when he saw it was only Keith. “Hey, out of the way!” he exclaimed.

 

Keith jumped, looking startled by Lance’s presence, before righting himself and glaring across the space at him. “What?”

 

“I’m trying to take a picture!” Lance exclaimed.

 

With a roll of his eyes, Keith shut the door behind him, before jogging across the walkway to stand behind Lance, and look over his shoulder while he took a picture, just like he always did.

 

Lance brought the slate up to his face again, looking for the perfect angle he’d had before Keith interrupted him.

 

He made sure to centre the slate between the centre of the walkway, so the stone railing was a mirror image of itself on the screen. The big oak door at the end was centered in the frame, casting interesting shadows in the morning light. He could see one of the entrances to the sanctum on the ground above, and one of the gazebos off to the side. A ton of winged lion statues were in the frame as well, from the sanctum, the gazebo, and the torches on either side of the door in front of him. If anyone saw this picture and had never been to Hyrule Castle, he was nearly positive they’d be able to guess it was the Castle simply by the amount of flying lions.

 

He held his breath as he took the photo, and immediately pulled it up in the album to check the quality.

 

The shadows from the morning sun made the walkway and the staircase chamber look almost blocky, but it was still a sight to behold. The Sheikah Slate didn’t miss a single detail, not in the rocky wall behind the walkway, or the stonework of the railings, or the rich red and blue banners blowing in the breeze. Even though it was a sight Lance saw nearly every day, the photo nearly took his breath away.

 

With a nod, Lance spun around and walked back into his study, making sure to step around Keith. He put the slate back on his desk, before turning back to Keith with a clap of his hands. “I didn’t say ‘good morning’. So, good morning!”

 

Keith smiled slightly. “Good morning, your highness.”

 

“How has your morning been so far?” He asked, even though he already knew Keith’s answer.

 

Keith’s smile broadened, and he looked very content. “It was a very good start to my day.”

 

“I saw you teaching Keely how to ride. She’s a natural!” Lance exclaimed.

 

“She is, isn’t she?” Keith murmured, and glanced outside, looking distant. He was quiet for a moment, before he came back to himself, and turned back to face Lance again. “So. What’s the plan for the day?”

 

Lance hummed thoughtfully, before shrugging. “No plan yet. There might not even be a plan for today. I’d be okay with a day spent here at the Castle.”

 

“Well then,” Keith said with a slight smirk, “who am I to deny the prince? Lead the way.” with an exaggerated bow, he gestured for Lance to lead the way.

 

With a roll of his eyes, Lance stepped back out into the sunshine and let Keith close the doors to his study behind him.

 

Lance waited for Keith to join him before slowly making his way across the walkway, back to his room. But, after only about a step, a noise coming from below them caught his attention. He sidestepped over to the railing, and peered down below.

 

He could see various Sheikah members circled around a fully functional walking Guardian. Coran was off to the side, observing every slight movement critically. Lance gasped, and leaned as far as he could over the railing to see everything he possibly could.

 

Somehow, one of the Sheikah researchers was able to control the Guardian with her hand, making it twist its body one way then the other, and make it slowly spin around with careful steps from its long bending legs.

 

“Incredible…” Lance said aloud. “We’re at a point now where we can actually control them.”

 

Keith came up beside him, and peered down to see what the researchers were up to. He didn’t look nearly as excited as Lance felt, but, he wasn’t displeased about the sight either. His eyes still took in every movement going on down below avidly, as if he couldn’t tear his gaze away.

 

“At the current rate, we’ll soon know all we need to know about the Guardians and the Divine Beasts!” Lance continued. He noticed Keith’s eyes dart off to the side, somewhere behind him, but figured it was nothing. “And, should the Calamity ever show itself again, we’ll be well positioned to defend ourselves.”

 

Suddenly, Keith took a few steps back from him, and dropped down onto one knee in a deep bow.

 

Lance froze at the sight of his knight down on one knee. He only knew one person that Keith would bow that deeply for.

 

“What are you doing out here, Lance?” King Alfor questioned.

 

Lance whirled around to face his father, his hand coming up to his chest as a deep sense of dread settled in his stomach.

 

King Alfor stopped a few steps before the pair, looking down at Lance with his usual disapproving gaze. Lance hated when his father gave him that look.

 

“I-” Lance stuttered out, and clenched his fists tightly at his sides. He breathed in a deep breath, before standing up a bit straighter and looking his father in the eye. “I was assessing the results of the experiment with the Guardians.” he said confidently, trying to sound more sure than he felt. “These pieces of ancient technology could be quite useful against the--”

 

“I know that.” his father interrupted firmly. “They’re essential to Hyrule’s future, and our research demands that we keep a close eye on them.” He narrowed his eyes, making Lance shrink in on himself as he said, “However, as the prince, you currently have a crucial unfulfilled responsibility to your kingdom.”

 

There was that tone again, the tone his father used as if he were lecturing an insolent child, someone who was in the wrong. Lance hated it when he used that tone on him. He wasn’t a child who needed to be scolded anymore, yet his father still treated him as if he slacked off and did everything but what he was supposed to do.

 

“Let me ask you once more,” King Alfor sighed, sounding exasperated with the conversation already, “when will you stop treating this as some sort of childish game?”

 

“‘Childish game’?” Lance snapped. “Who says I’m treating this like a childish game? I’m doing everything I can!” He paused to take a breath to compose himself before continuing, “I’ll have you know that I just recently returned from the Spring of Courage, where I offered every ounce of my prayers to the Goddess--”

 

“And now you are here wasting your time!” King Alfor exclaimed, causing Lance to jerk back in shock. “You need to be dedicating every moment you have to your training! You must be single-minded in unlocking the power that will seal the Calamity away!”

 

Lance felt his face start to fall at his father’s words, but quickly hid it beneath what he hoped was a cool mask of indifference. “I already am.” he said lowly. “Don’t you see? There’s nothing more I can do! My hope--” He paused, not meaning to say that part out loud. But the look his father was giving him practically screamed for Lance to finish his thought. “My hope is that you’ll allow me to contribute here,” his father’s head was already shaking, “in whatever way I can!”

 

“No more excuses, Lance!” King Alfor exclaimed, louder than he’d ever spoken to him before. Lance flinched back at his father’s voice level, but quickly resumed his posture with his shoulders pushed back. “Stop running away from your duty,” his father continued, at a lower volume. “As the king, I forbid you to have anything to do with these machines from this moment on. And command you to focus on your training.”

 

Lance clenched his hands so tightly at his sides that he was sure there would be marks on his palms later.

 

With a sigh, King Alfor turned slowly and walked towards the railing, overlooking the experiments going on below. “Do you know how the gossip mongers refer to you?” he asked casually, as if discussing the weather. Well, perhaps talking about how disappointing his son was was like discussing the weather. “They’re out there at this moment, whispering amongst themselves…

 

“That you are the heir to a throne of nothing. Nothing but failure.”

 

Lance let a slow breath out through barely parted lips, his shoulders slumping with it. He knew the words were spoken, but hearing them from his father?

 

“It is woven into your destiny to prove them wrong.” King Alfor said, turning back to face Lance again. “Do you understand?”

 

“Yes.” Lance immediately replied. “I understand.”

 

With that final note, King Alfor left the walkway, disappearing through the open door and into the darkness inside.

 

Lance stood there, staring dumbly at where his father disappeared for a few long minutes, scarcely even breathing. When he woke up this morning, he’d had no idea this was the way his day would turn out before lunch.

 

Suddenly, a quiet shifting noise came from behind him. Lance whirled around to face a pained Keith. He’d honestly forgotten he was there. “I’m sorry you had to witness that,” Lance whispered, and leaned heavily on the railing.

 

Keith closed his eyes for a moment, breathing slowly as if bracing himself for something. When he opened his eyes, Lance feared what he might say. “I need to tell you something.” Keith announced, his voice shaking a bit at the edges.

 

Now Lance was really worried. “What is it?”

 

“Yesterday… When your father asked to meet with me, he did not want me to add to my training regime.”

 

Lance leaned more heavily onto the railing. “No?”

 

“No. He…” Keith cursed softly under his breath, and looked away, refusing to meet Lance’s gaze as he said, “He asked if you were still researching ancient technology.”

 

Lance immediately understood what Keith was referring to. “And you had to tell him the truth.” He was probably scared as to what he would say about snitching to his father. “It’s okay, I understand--”

 

“No, you don’t.” Keith interrupted quietly. “Because I didn’t tell him the truth. I lied, and told him that I had no knowledge of you researching anything since I came into your service.”

 

“What?!” Lance exclaimed, and lurched forwards to grab Keith’s shoulder, forcing him to face him again. “You lied to my father?”

 

“Yes.” Keith said simply.

 

Lance couldn’t believe he was hearing this, there was no way he was hearing this correctly. He had a million questions for him, like how he could think that was a good idea, or if dabbling with treason was something he did for fun, but what he asked was; “Why?”

 

Keith shrugged defeatedly, as if this was something he’d been asking himself every waking minute since yesterday. “Because… It’s my job to protect you. And seeing you do your research? I never see you as happy as you are when you’re holding the Sheikah Slate in your hands. I didn’t want-- No, I couldn’t be the one responsible for taking away your happiness. So, I lied.”

 

Lance felt as if all of the breath from his lungs had been sucked out by those three simple words. Keith, noble and selfless Keith, risked his own safety to protect Lance from his own father. He wasn’t sure how to feel about that, but mostly, he just felt proud that this man was his closest friend. “Thank you.” He whispered gratefully.

 

Keith offered him a tiny brief smile. Then, he straightened up again, and asked “When do we leave?”

Chapter Text

13. Slumbering Power

 

They soon after left the Castle as quickly and efficiently as possible, with their sights set on Akkala. They planned to ride hard to try to make it to the distant region before the sun set.

 

Their plan was to go visit the Spring of Power, hidden somewhere in northern Akkala. Lance hadn’t said exactly where, but Keith wasn’t going to press. He knew Lance would tell him sooner or later.

 

The ride across Eldin towards Akkala was quick and uninterrupted. They barely came across anyone as they galloped across the plain, all the way east until they split north just before entering Lanayru. They slowed down to a brisk canter to ride north until the road split again, wary of the small settlements along the road so they didn’t disturb anyone. It was starting to get late, after all, and the sun was starting to near the horizon.

 

It wasn’t until the ground beneath them started to turn from dirt to rock that they came across more people. Soldiers, primarily, stationed at the citadel to the north. Keith tried not to look at any of them too closely, lest they recognize him. He was, supposedly, supposed to be stationed here himself before he pulled his sword from its pedestal.

 

It wasn’t until they reached the large Akkala Span that Keith realized he’d been holding his breath. He hated this place.

 

But, they did manage to make good time. Riding for nearly seven straight hours, with only stops to water the horses at the river along the way was quite good time for making it to the remote corner of Hylian territory. He tried to remind himself of that as Zephyr’s hooves clopped against the large bridge spanning the gap at the border of Eldin and Akkala. He also tried not to think too hard about who was present at the citadel, who’s front gates they were slowly approaching.

 

“Are you alright?” Lance asked cautiously, making Keith jump slightly in his saddle.

 

Rather than giving an actual answer, Keith answered Lance’s question with one of his own; “How far do you think it is to the Spring of Power?”

 

“Hmm… Perhaps about an hour?”

 

“Where exactly is the Spring?”

 

“It’s still a bit north from here.” Lance offered. “Do you know where the old quarry is? The Ordorac Quarry, not the Ulria Grotto where we’re digging at now.”

 

Keith tried to think of where that was on his mental map of Hyrule. He had a decent idea of where it was, generally, just north of the Shadow Pass. “Yeah?”

 

“It’s nestled in there. Hard to find unless you know where you’re going.” Lance said with a smirk.

 

“Keith!” A new voice called out suddenly.

 

Keith glanced around timidly, looking for the source of the voice. Behind them, coming from the small stronghold at the entrance to Akkala, there was a familiar looking shadow waving frantically at him. With a large smile, he spurred Zephyr back to go meet the man.

 

As soon as he was close enough, he launched from Zephyr’s back, and offered his old garrison friend a hand. “Jake! Long time no see.”

 

Jake appeared to be a little taller than Keith now, and had cut his long, wavy brown hair closer to the roots, only long enough to curl a bit at the ends. He wasn’t wearing his armor, which meant he must be off duty, and his light tunic stretched across his chest even more pleasantly than the last time he saw him. His green eyes were so expressive, always showing exactly how he felt, and he looked absolutely elated to see his old friend again.

 

“No kidding!” Jake exclaimed, and ignored the hand, pulling Keith in for a tight hug instead. Keith laughed, but returned the hug just as enthusiastically. “Where have you been?”

 

As soon as the words were out of Jake’s mouth, he glanced over Keith’s shoulder to see who he was riding with. His eyes widened at the sight of Seraphim’s white coat, and the man wearing royal blue upon the horse’s back. Jake quickly pulled himself out of the hug and lowered himself in a deep bow. “Your highness,” he said reverently, “I apologize, I-I had no idea you were riding with--”

 

“Don’t worry.” Lance interrupted, dismounting from his horse’s back. “Any friend of Keith’s is a friend of mine.”

 

Jake straightened up slowly, his eyes flicking back and forth between Lance and Keith. He gave Keith a questioning look, silently begging him to explain.

 

With a roll of his eyes, Keith straightened up to give proper introductions. “Lance, this is Jake, one of the guys I trained with. He’s just about the only guy with a good sense of humour around here.” Jake gave another quick bow at the introduction. “And Jake, this is Prince Lance, heir to the throne of Hyrule. He and I have been working together for a few months now.”

 

“Wait, how did you manage to get chummy with the king’s son?” Jake questioned. “What sort of strings did you have to pull?”

 

With a smirk, Keith reached back over his shoulder to pull his sword from his back. “No strings, just a sword.”

 

As soon as Keith brought the Master Sword out in front of him, Jake’s jaw dropped open. “Holy shit!” he exclaimed, and snatched the sword from Keith’s hands to get a better look at it. “You pulled the sword that seals the darkness out of its sacred pedestal?! Who convinced you to try that?”

 

“Pidge.” Lance and Keith said at the same time.

 

A look of understanding immediately took over Jake’s strong features. “Ahh. I completely understand now.” he passed the sword back to Keith, who sheathed it in a practiced motion. “Now I know why you stood up Sanda. Again.”

 

“Admiral Sanda?” Lance questioned, and Keith winced. “You stood up Admiral Sanda?”

 

“Not the first time he’s done it, either.” Jake said smugly, crossing his arms over his chest. “Man, if she gets word you’re here, she’s gonna have your head.”

 

Keith winced at the thought, shrinking slightly at the mere mention of the woman, but after a moment, a devious look took over his features. He turned back to Lance, and asked “Do you think the title of Champion outranks an admiral?”

 

Lance breathed out a mix between a sigh and a chuckle, shaking his head lightly. “Unfortunately, I do believe it does in your case.”

 

“‘Champion’?” Jake questioned. “What do you mean?”

 

“You’re looking at the Hylian Champion, inaugurated in by my father himself.” Lance explained. “Each of the tribes, including Hylian, has a Champion put forth to battle the Calamity, should it reappear.”

 

Jake cocked his head, still seeming confused. “Like, the old legend?”

 

Exactly like the old legend.” Lance confirmed.

 

Jake looked back over to Keith, to see if what Lance was saying was true. When Keith didn’t offer anything otherwise, Jake took a step back in shock. “Wait, so… The rumours are true? The Calamity’s gonna return?”

 

Keith offered his friend a small sad smile, and a slight shrug. “We hope to the Goddesses above it’s not true, but, we have to prepare for the worst.”

 

“And with Keith pulling that sword from its pedestal, things aren’t looking too good.” Lance offered lowly.

 

Jake muttered a soft curse under his breath. “I had no idea… I mean, monster attacks are on the rise, and we’ve had to be more vigilant than ever to make sure everyone is safe, but I-I never thought--”

 

“I know.” Keith interrupted softly, and reached out to put a soothing hand on Jake’s shoulder. “It’s hard to believe.”

 

Jake was quiet for a few long moments, letting the information sink in. But he perked up again quickly, looking back to Lance with a smile. “I shouldn’t have interrupted your journey. Where are you two off to?”

 

“Lance is travelling to train at the Spring of Power.” Keith said. “We should actually carry on before it gets darker out.”

 

“Wait, at this hour?” Jake interrupted. “No no, you must stay here for the night. The admiral would have my head if I didn’t insist.”

 

Keith’s face blanched at the mention of the admiral. “Wait, she’s here?” he questioned lowly, glancing over to the imposing citadel just over yonder. “Why didn’t you say so?”

 

“I thought you knew she was permanently stationed here now?”

 

Lance nodded along to Jake’s words. “It’s true. Even I knew that.”

 

Keith whirled around to face Lance with a glare. “But you’re the prince, you’re supposed to know about this sort of stuff.” he hissed.

 

Lance rolled his eyes, and turned back to Seraphim to mount up. “We’d be glad to accept your offer, Jake.” he loudly announced.

 

“But-- Lance.” Keith hissed.

 

“No but’s, Keith.” Lance said smugly. “I’m the prince, and I want to sleep in an actual bed tonight. You’re not going to deny me that, are you?”

 

With a bone deep sigh, Keith turned back towards his horse and mounted up with only muttered complaints. Jake looked surprised to see his friend acting so casually with the prince, but didn’t say anything about it. Once both Lance and Keith were mounted up, he lead them off the path, up towards the imposing sight of the citadel.

 

“Don’t worry, I’ll cover for you,” Lance said, lowly enough that only Keith could hear him. “If Admiral Sanda says anything, I’ll shut her down.”

 

Keith smiled gratefully over at him. Lance had no idea how much that meant to him. He’d managed to push any thoughts of his time under Admiral Sanda’s definite rule from his mind, but coming back here, it just brought everything back to the forefront. He’d been running from her and everything she stood for, for so long… It would be hard to face her down. At least Lance had his back, even if he didn’t know the whole story yet.

 

“Must be weird for you, Keith,” Jake called back over his shoulder as soon as they reached the foot of the bridge, “being back here again.”

 

The Akkala Citadel was the biggest stronghold in Hyrule, aside from Hyrule Castle. It had the second largest concentration of military forces, and was the place the most missions were sent out from. Only the strongest and most skilled members of the military were sent to its towering heights. Keith knew he should consider it an honour that he was going to be stationed here, if he didn’t leave the military when and how he did, but he couldn’t find it in him to care much for the place.

 

“You aren’t kidding.” Keith said simply.

 

More and more members of the Hyrule militia walked past them, each stopping to bow as soon as they recognized Seraphim and who was upon his back. Keith tried to keep his back straight and his shoulders tall, but too many eyes were upon him, some of them starting to whisper. He’d been recognized.

 

As they turned off the road to follow a paved path up to the citadel, Keith couldn’t keep his gaze from it any longer.

 

It was massive and imposing, practically an eyesore against the Akkalan scenery. It was built directly into and onto the mountain, grey against the red rocks the region was known for. The top of every section of the building had a couple of trees, the leaves as red as an apple. The doorway, even over the distance, was colossal, similar to a beast’s gaping mouth. Complete with a large iron gate, it certainly felt like a trap.

 

Jake was looking back at him when he tore his gaze from the citadel, so he gave him a small smile in an attempt to soothe him. He honestly never thought he’d be back here.

 

He could see Lance giving him a look from the corner of his eye, but he didn’t want to explain anything here. He’d do it when they were alone in the royal chambers, secluded at the very top of the citadel.

 

As they crossed the bridge leading directly to the stronghold, the guards watching over the gate saluted to Lance as they walked past. They at least managed to keep the whispers to themselves until they were well past, out of earshot to anyone but Keith.

 

Even if he couldn’t hear them, he knew what they would all be saying. What is the runaway doing here? How can he stand to show his face here after fleeing? Does he have a death wish? He knew whispers would be exchanged the entire time he was here, but he couldn’t disagree with Lance’s wish to sleep in a bed tonight.

 

If anyone other than Lance would have asked, though, he would have avoided this place like the plague he knew it to be.

 

As soon as they dismounted and passed their horses off to waiting hands, a small group of armed soldiers came up to them, flanking Admiral Sanda.

 

Keith had really hoped to avoid her for a little longer.

 

“Your royal highness,” Admiral Sanda gave a deep bow, her entourage doing the same in her shadow, “I had no idea we would be expecting you.”

 

Lance stood up a little straighter, staring her down with a cold and distant expression. “It was a bit of a last minute decision, Admiral. I do apologize if we’re imposing.”

 

“Never, sire.” She assured.

 

“Well, my knight and I were hoping the royal rooms might be available for the evening?”

 

At the mention of the knight, the admiral’s gaze cut over to Keith, staring pointedly at him with her usually cold stare. “‘Knight’, hm?” she questioned, and linked her arms loosely behind her back, “I had no idea the renegade had been promoted.”

 

Keith fought against his strong urge to defend himself against her tone, or worse, throw insults back at her. But he knew he couldn’t say anything, since her words were true. So he kept his back straight but his head low, avoiding her gaze to stare at the ground beneath her feet.

 

“‘Renegade’?” Lance questioned, narrowing his eyes at her. “I’m not sure what you’re referring to, but I suggest you hold your tongue.”

 

“Hold my tongue?” She snapped, eyes wide. “This man is the one who forsook his duties, running away to follow his own whims wherever they took him. He abandoned his post--”

 

“To fulfil his destiny of becoming a Champion of Hyrule.” Lance interrupted levelly. “That cause is more worthy than any mission you could possibly send him on.”

 

Admiral Sanda took a slight step back in shock, her eyes glancing back over to Keith again. She seemed to finally take notice of his royal blue tunic, and the sword resting against his back. “A Champion?” she whispered incredulously. “This boy? There is no way--”

 

“Do you deny that he carries the sword that seals the darkness?”

 

“Well, no--”

 

“And do you deny his title of Champion, bestowed upon him by my father, the king, and of the rank I gave him as my own personal guardian knight?”

 

She blanched at Lance’s words, seeming to realize her mistake of calling him out on his actions before having all of the evidence. After a moment, she composed herself again, appearing to be the same cold-hearted soldier she always was. “Of course not, sire.”

 

Seeming satisfied, Lance smiled slightly at her. “Of course not.” he repeated lowly. “Now that that’s behind us, might we carry on up to our rooms?”

 

Admiral Sanda bowed again, quietly answering Lance’s question. As they started to walk past her, she spoke up again. “Your knight can sleep in his old quarters.” She offered cooly. “You need not make room for him--”

 

“I shall do as I see fit, Admiral.” Lance said firmly, glancing back over his shoulder at her. When she didn’t offer up any further objections, he bid her a quick good night, and exited through the front gate, heading for the stairs that curled up the citadel to the very top.

 

Keith bumped his wrist to Jake’s, whispering that they’d meet up later to catch up, before swiftly following Lance before Admiral Sanda could say anything more.

 

They quietly made their way up the spiral staircase all the way up, the stars as their witnesses, until they levelled out to a flat bit of land housing the royal rooms.

 

It wasn’t so much rooms as it was almost its own building. These rooms were kept special for the royal family at the top of the citadel, the safest part of it, if Hyrule Castle were ever under siege and they needed protection. These rooms had only ever been used for their true purpose once or twice in history, and were now mainly kept in case a member was ever in Akkala and needed somewhere to stay.

 

As soon as Lance shut the door behind them, they both breathed out a long sigh of relief. “That was horrible.” Lance muttered, letting his head fall back against the wooden door with a dull thump. “She really hates you, Keith.”

 

“Tell me about it,” Keith muttered, collapsing into the desk chair right beside the door. “She never liked me, even before I left. No matter what I did, I was never good enough.”

 

“I’ve never liked her,” Lance muttered, and surveyed their surroundings. The room they were in looked like some sort of office, with organized papers and records stacked up at the corner of the desk. There was a simple table and set of chairs laid over in the corner, right beside a large doorway that to a room lined with torches.

 

Lance looked around curiously, taking in their surroundings. “I’ve never been up here before.” he announced, and started walking towards the doorway into the other room. “I’d never thought to actually stay here.”

 

“Really?” Keith asked curiously, standing up to follow Lance. “I’ve been through here before, but only once, on a dare.”

 

“A dare?” Lance questioned distractedly, looking up the short set of stairs. “You succumbed to dares, dear knight?”

 

Keith breathed out a soft chuckle, looking away from Lance as he said, “I think every boy does at one point or another.”

 

“That’s fair. Ooh, a bedroom!” Lance exclaimed suddenly, and rushed down another small set of stairs and disappearing through the doorway just off to the side of them.

 

Keith followed at a slower pace, letting Lance look to his heart’s content. He knew none of the rooms here were extravagant, nothing like the chambers back at the Castle, but in a pinch, they would do.

 

He stood outside of the room for a few moments, simply looking at the surroundings. At the very end of the hall, there was a small round table with an unlit candle, and a chair at its side. Keith smirked upon seeing it. He’d been in here before, but only once. Jake and a few of their friends, after a night of jokes and gambles, dared Keith a month’s worth of wine rations that he wouldn’t have the guts to remove one of the chairs from the building and put it in Admiral Sanda’s office. He drank more in the following month than he had the rest of his life. It was nice to see the chair again.

 

After a moment of reminiscing, Keith entered the bedroom after Lance. He was a little surprised to see him sitting on the edge of the bed, levelling him with a look. “So,” Lance said casually, and crossed his arms over his chest, “wanna tell me about your history with this place?”

 

Keith breathed in a deep breath, holding it in for a moment before nodding to Lance’s request. There was a stool tucked into the corner, so Keith grabbed it, and pulled it over so he could sit directly in front of Lance.

 

“Hmm, where to start,” Keith mused softly, and leaned forwards, letting his hair fall forwards in front of his face.

 

“The beginning?” Lance offered helpfully.

 

Keith levelled him with a look. “Well, you already know the beginning. My parents were killed in the Yiga Clan raid, and I was brought back to Hyrule Field as an army brat.”

 

“Yeah, that I do.”

 

“Well,” Keith leaned back slightly, and crossed his arms over his chest to begin, “after that, I was mainly at the Hyrule Garrison, but I also spent a fair bit of time at the Moor Garrison, so I could just take the day and run up to see Pidge. But because of my background, nobody really trusted me with anything, even though I advanced so much faster than the rest of the trainees, most of whom were older than me.”

 

Lance leaned back a bit on the bed, processing the information.

 

“Did I ever tell you about how I met Pidge?” Keith asked suddenly.

 

“You didn’t, no.” Lance said, shaking his head. “But, when we were at the Domain, I asked Matt about it while Pidge was healing you. He told me all about it.”

 

Keith hummed, and let his head tip back slightly. “Yeah, he’d know a lot about that. He was there.” He trailed off, thinking back to when he met the Zora. He remembered thinking about how different and strange they looked, but he was the most concerned with how differently the Zora treated him than people of his own race. “Then I was sort of going back and forth, between the Garrisons and Zora’s Domain. My superior officers hated that.”

 

Lance scoffed softly. “Well, fair enough. A kid running around doing what he wants? They couldn’t control you, and they love to have everything just in order.”

 

“Well, if they’d treated me better I never would have wanted to run away in the first place.” Keith muttered darkly.

 

Lance’s eyes widened slightly at Keith’s tone. “Treated you better?” He asked.

 

“Well, yeah.” Keith leaned forwards again, bracing his forearms against the tops of his thighs. “Why do you think I ran away in the first place? They never said it, but they hated who I was, where I came from, and treated me differently than everybody else. I was always used as the demonstration boy, who they’d ridicule and pick apart. And since our superiors did it, everyone else did too. The older trainees always took my food, but nobody ever did anything about it. Hell, our superiors practically told them to do it, with how often they called me out for the littlest of things in front of the entire Garrison.

 

“I hated my time there. It was the same at every army institution I went to. And it was even worse here at the citadel, let alone at the Castle.”

 

“The Castle?” Lance asked, sounding surprised. “You spent time at the Castle? When?”

 

“For some of my younger years. But never for long.” Keith stood up from his chair, and started slowly pacing the room as he talked. “Nobody trusted me at the heart of the kingdom, the home of the king and his son.”

 

A long breath whistled out from between Lance’s lips as he realized what Keith was implying. “The Yiga Clan was created to wipe out any who oppose the Calamity.” Lance said slowly. “So, they assumed that since you hailed from it, that you would be a risk.”

 

Keith slowed to a stop, on the other side of the room from Lance, but turned to face him as he said, “Exactly.”

 

Lance stood up suddenly, his hands balled into fists at his sides. “How could they treat you like that?!” He cursed heatedly, looking down at the floor in an attempt to hide how mad he was from Keith. “They had no right to do that, to punish and ridicule you for something you never--”

 

“Lance,” Keith interrupted soothingly, and came across the floor to grab Lance’s balled fists, gently urging his fingers apart so he wouldn’t hurt himself, “it’s okay. It’s all in the past.”

 

“That does not make it okay.” Lance said firmly, finally looking up to meet Keith’s gaze again. “You didn’t deserve to be treated that way.”

 

As much as he knew Lance’s words were true, hearing them come out of his mouth took his breath away. He knew what Lance thought of him, and how much he trusted him, but hearing that he was treated wrongly by someone of his own race was something he never thought he’d hear.

 

“I’m sorry I was never there for you when we were younger,” Lance continued, much softer now. He sounded upset with himself, as if it were his fault that Keith was treated that way. “I wish I had been.”

 

Keith offered him a small smile, and released Lance’s now lax hands. “How would you have known? It’s in the past, Lance. What’s important is that I’m here now, and we’re together. I’ll be at your side for everything.”

 

“I know you will.”

 

Neither of them said anything for a few moments, simply letting the heaviness of their conversation dissipate. Keith wasn’t sure what else there was to say about it anyway, so he let it drop. “You should get some rest.” he said, and gave Lance’s shoulder a soothing squeeze. “We have a long day tomorrow.”

 

Lance hummed, and reached up to cover Keith’s hand with his own. “That’s true. Sleep sounds like a good idea.”

 

Keith let his hand drop, already missing the warmth, but took a step back. “I’ll be out by the door for a while, until sleep decides to grace me. If you need me, I’ll be out there.” With that, he offered a soft spoken good night, and left the room, closing the door quietly behind him.

 

As soon as the door shut with a soft click behind him, he leaned heavily against the door, letting it support some of his weight as he tried to relax his shoulders. He knew Lance wanted to know more about him, and would never judge him for his past, but it was still hard to open up about his past. Nobody ever wanted to know before, aside from the ones who already knew, because they were there.

 

Lance was dangerous to Keith’s heart, even if he didn’t know it.

 

With that, he lifted up off of the door, and went out to where he told Lance he’d be, in the main entrance.

 

As soon as he rounded the corner, he was surprised to see someone already standing by the desk in the dark. Immediately, he unsheathed his sword, its ring echoing in the small room and aimed it at his opponent’s back threateningly.

 

The figure lit a match, lighting one of the candles there, and turned casually, despite the sword at his back. It was Jake.

 

“Goddesses,” Keith muttered, and sheathed his sword again, before starting to unbuckle the straps holding his gear to his back. “I thought you were an intruder.”

 

“In the citadel?” Jake questioned wryly, and used the lit candle’s flame to light more throughout the room. The flickering light of the candle in his hand cast dancing shadows across the room. “Seems unlikely. But, I’m glad you’re still as suspicious as ever.”

 

“It’s not suspicion if I’m right.” Keith replied easily. It was a conversation they’d had many times in the past, and the answer came to him as easy as breathing.

 

“Sure sure, oh knighted Champion of Hyrule.”

 

Keith snorted, and propped his weapons up against the wall before plopping down on one of the chairs at the table. “Sure, throw all my titles at me, why don’t you.”

 

“Well, you have so many now.” Jake speared the candle into a holder at the centre of the table, before collapsing into a chair across from him. “I still can’t believe you’re more decorated than me.”

 

With a roll of his eyes, Keith propped his feet up against the table and crossed his arms over his chest. “Doesn’t take much, with how undecorated you are.”

 

“Hey, I resent that!” Jake exclaimed, and smacked Keith’s feet playfully. “I’ve been doing well since you left.”

 

As soon as the words left Jake’s mouth, they both deflated a little. The mood of the room changed with the mention of Keith’s leaving, shifting into something cold and awkward, something they hadn’t experience with each other in years. Jake shifted uncomfortably in his chair, considering his next words carefully.

 

But Keith beat him to it. “I’m sorry I left without saying goodbye.”

 

“We had a surprise party planned for you.” Jake murmured, almost too softly to hear. “I know you hate your birthday and everything that ties to it, but, seventeen’s a big one. It was just a small thing, the usual people, but…” his voice trailed off slowly.

 

Keith let his head fall back, his eyes searching out the cracks in the ceiling visible in the flickering lights. He couldn’t look at Jake anymore.

 

“Where did you go?” Jake asked.

 

“All over.” Keith replied with a slight shrug. “Anywhere that people wouldn’t recognize me.”

 

“For half a year?”

 

“There’s a lot to see in our vast land of Hyrule.” Keith said with a slight smirk, and sat upright to look at Jake again. “I went everywhere. From the home of the Rito, to Lurelin Village. Spent half a year travelling before I went up to visit Pidge, and she told me I should go try to pull the sword out of its pedestal.”

 

“Must have been amazing.” Jake mused softly. “Any special places?”

 

Keith thought about it for a moment, thinking about all the beautiful places he’d been. But, there were so many, too many to choose just one. “The sunrise over the ocean in Lurelin Village was breathtaking. It’s pink and gold, changing the water from black to blue in the morning light. There’s nothing like it. And looking up at the sun through the trees in the middle of the Great Hyrule Forest is also amazing. That’s not a sight everyone gets to see.”

 

“Whenever we’ve gone past the forest, it’s always shrouded in mist.” Jake recalled. “You’re probably the only one alive who’s seen the inside of that forest.”

 

Jake was right, he probably was the only person who’d been in the forest since the last time the sword was pulled from the ground. And it sort of made him feel privileged, for the very first time since claiming the sword that seals the darkness. His life had felt like nothing but a curse for as long as he could remember, but finding the sword, and finding Lance gave him a purpose like no other.

 

“So, what’s it like working for the prince?” Jake asked. It was almost like he could read Keith’s mind.

 

“Honestly?” Keith kicked his feet down from the table, and leaned his elbows against the edge in their place. “Lance hated me at first. Hated having someone following him around, hated that I had the sword when he still hasn’t unlocked his sealing powers.”

 

“Hate you?” Jake cut in wryly. “How could that be true?”

 

Keith snorted, and shook his head at his friend’s interruption, even though he was more than used to it in their years of friendship. “But we got to know one another, and things are different now.” he smiled softly, and ducked his head, to hide his face behind his bangs. “He’s such an amazing person.”

 

The chair across from him creaked as Jake leaned back with a knowing hum. “Oh, I think I understand now.” he said slyly. “You’re more fond for him than your position allows, eh?”

 

His cheeks flushed before he could deny his friend’s words. “No,” Keith rebutted weakly. “He’s just--”

 

“Smart, handsome, talented, and royalty?” Jake interrupted with an exaggerated swoon. “And his beauty is known all throughout Hyrule. I’m not surprised you fell for him.”

 

Keith squawked, glaring up at Jake. “Who says I’ve fallen for him? I only said I liked him, not that I’ve fallen for him.”

 

A defined brow raised, and Jake levelled Keith with a smugly knowing look.

 

With a groan, Keith collapsed forwards, his forehead smacking lightly against the edge of the table. He tried to ignore Jake’s loud laughter, but it still made his heart race. Even after all these years, and moving past the idea of them, his heart still hadn’t really gotten the memo, even with Lance in his life.

 

“I don’t blame you, though.” Jake continued, and Keith risked a glance up through his long bangs. “He seems like an amazing guy. And he puts up with your bullshit, which takes a lot of effort.”

 

Keith sat up again with a fond groan. “Hey--”

 

“But he’s also really fond of you.” Jake said on a softer, more sincere note, and leaned back in his chair, balancing on the back two legs. “I can tell. You two are sort of like magnets-- you move together.”

 

Keith flushed at the implications behind his words. “W-well, I’m his protector. That’s normal.”

 

“What about your relationship is ‘normal’?” When Keith offered nothing to defend himself, Jake continued, “You two act like you’re attached at the hip, and not out of duty or anything. It’s like you’ve been together for years, not just a couple of months. But I know that’s not true, because nine months ago, you’d never met no royalty. It’s kind of like you two were destined to be brought together, or something.”

 

“I doubt that.” Keith muttered lowly.

 

Jake sighed, and stood up, the chair legs screeching loudly against the stone in the small room. “Fine, don’t take my word for it. I know how stubborn you are.” He came around and stopped beside Keith’s chair, leaning his hip against the edge of the table, “I know I won’t be able to change your mind.”

 

Keith gave a slight shrug, not dignifying Jake with an answer. They both knew what the answer was, anyways.

 

“Well, I should leave you to it.” Jake offered a fist down to Keith to bump.

 

With a smile, Keith bumped his fist to Jake’s, but hissed when his knuckles flared up in pain. He’d forgotten about the state they were in.

 

Jake looked shocked for a moment, before realization settled in. He quickly took Keith’s hand into his, and pulled the glove off as carefully as he could before Keith could pull his hand back.

 

The bandage wrapped up around his knuckles above his palm were dirty from the inside of Keith’s glove, but also redder than they should have been. “Keith,” Jake tutted, and sat on the edge of the table, starting to pull the bandage off, “you need to take better care of yourself.”

 

Keith rolled his eyes, and leaned back in his chair to let Jake do his thing. He knew he wouldn’t be free until his friend was completely satisfied. “Yes, dear.” He muttered dryly.

 

“Don’t take that tone with me.” Jake said without any real heat, but pulled the bandage off harshly, smirking when Keith winced. “You know I’m right.”

 

He let his shoulders slump, and adjusted in his seat until he was more comfortable. They both knew that Jake was right, but Keith didn’t want to give him the satisfaction. Jake took his time with the other hand, taking extra care to not disrupt any abused skin. They’d both had their share of wounds over the years, and this felt like second nature.

 

Jake turned away, letting Keith’s hands drop back into his lap in search of the first aid kit he was sure was kept in here. “How’d you manage this?” He asked casually.

 

“Had an unpleasant conversation with the king.” Keith said simply.

 

“So you found something to hit, without thinking about your own wellbeing.” Jake supplied. Once he found what he was looking for, he turned back to Keith again, shaking his head all the while. “Why am I not surprised. What was it this time? A tree? Stone wall? A bale of straw?”

 

Keith frowned, “A training dummy.”

 

Jake snorted, and crouched down beside Keith to start tending to one of his newly unbandaged hands. “That’s a new one. Look at you, branching out a little.” He started wrapping up one of Keith’s hands in a new bandage carefully, making sure to put just the right amount of pressure as he wrapped.

 

“I honestly didn’t even realize I was doing it.” Keith murmured, watching as Jake tended to his hands. “It wasn’t until Shiro, one of the other Champions, found me and stopped me that I realized how hard I’d been hitting the dummy.”

 

“You tend to hyperfocus when your emotions are out of whack.” Jake tied off the first bandage, and moved onto Keith’s other hand, wrapping it up with the same tentative care. “So, I’m not exactly surprised. But I had kind of hoped that maturity would yield more patience.”

 

“And patience yields focus,” Keith groaned, and smacked Jake’s shoulder with his newly freed hand, “I know. I have matured! But, I don’t know if patience will ever be one of my virtues.”

 

Jake carefully tied off the bandage, and tucked the ends into the wrappings as securely as he could. “If you haven’t learned it by now, I don’t think you ever will.” He grabbed the abandoned glove from the table, and pulled it onto Keith’s newly bandaged hand, securing the button and everything before shifting over to work on the other hand.

 

“You’re too good for me.” Keith admitted lowly, watching his friend work.

 

Jake scoffed and shook his head. “You know that’s not true. I’m just the right amount of good.”

 

“That’s true.” Keith relented easily, a smile tugging the edges of his lips upwards.

 

His other hand was bandaged up just as quickly, and Jake gave the back of his hand a pat before standing up, wincing when his knees cracked.

 

“You’re falling apart, old man.” Keith commented wryly.

 

Jake smacked him upside the head with a pout, causing Keith to laugh out loud. “I’m only a year older than you.” Jake grumped. “You make it seem like a lifetime.”

 

“No, your knees do, actually.”

 

With a roll of his eyes, Jake smoothed down the hair he’d ruffled on Keith’s head.

 

Once Jake was done fussing with his hair, Keith stood up, and pulled his friend into a tight hug. “It was really nice to see you again.” He admitted lowly.

 

“It was,” Jake said, and wrapped his arms as tightly as he dared around Keith’s torso in turn. “We need to see more of each other in the future.”

 

“I’ll do what I can.” Keith promised, and pulled back from the hug a little reluctantly. Hugging Jake was as close to hugs from his mom that he could remember. “Lance will probably do more training at the Spring of Power in the future, so we’ll be back up this way sooner or later.”

 

With a nod, Jake started slowly walking backwards towards the door. “Just keep me updated. I don’t want to almost miss you like I did this time.”

 

“Have a good night, Jake.”

 

Jake smiled, and reached back to push the door open, before saying “You too, Keith,” and stepping out into the darkness of night.

 

Once the door swung closed, Keith turned and walked back towards the bedroom Lance was sleeping in. He stopped outside the door, listening for a moment. When he heard only silence, he let the door open just far enough to peer inside.

 

There were no lights on, but the light reflecting off of the moon came in through the lone window in the room, silhouetting the bed perfectly. Keith could see a lump buried beneath the covers, in the same fashion that Lance always slept. With a nod, he let the door creak closed, before finding his own bed to sleep in for the night.

 


 

In the darkness, there was a single blip of light.

 

Lance turned to face it, simply looking at it for a few moments. It looked to be a good distance away, judging by how small it was in the consuming darkness. Lance couldn’t even see his own body, but he could feel his shoulders moving with each breath he took. He knew this wasn’t real-- couldn’t be-- he let his shoulders relax, and started walking towards the light, wherever the dream wanted to take him.

 

It took awhile, but he got close enough that he could decipher what the light was.

 

In the darkness, a lone woman stood, haloed in blinding gold light. She wore her long blonde hair down, and it cascaded down her back in all its wondrous glory. A dress, as white as the cleanest snow, rippled and waved across her frame, trailing past her hands and ankles.

 

Lance couldn’t help but feel awed by her presence. She was beautiful, a woman most men would willingly die for. But Lance felt calmed, warm and soothed by her presence. For some reason, he felt kin to her, although he couldn’t put his finger on why.

 

Everything around them was dark, the only light coming from her. Even though he couldn’t see anything, he could have sworn that the darkness was moving and shifting, malevolently edging around at the fringes of the light. The light from the woman-- a goddess, or a fairy-- seemed to be the only thing that kept the darkness at bay.

 

When he finally stopped and looked at her face, trying to see if he recognized her, he realized that her lips were moving, talking in a seemingly urgent manner. He was surprised to find that he couldn’t hear a word, not a whisper of what she was saying.

 

A hot sense of anxiety filled his chest as the realization sunk in. The woman, whoever she was, was trying to get into contact with him, warn him of something. But he couldn’t hear her, couldn’t hear anything outside of the rising buzzing in his ears as panic started to settle in. What was she trying to say? What was she trying to warn him about? What was happening?

 

Suddenly, the light shrunk a little as darkness pressed in on them. The goddess flinched, but quickly straightened her shoulders and the darkness receded as she glowed brighter. Lance shrunk back, looking around wildly at the darkness surrounding them. What was out there? What was going on??

 

The woman reached out to him again, finally coming closer when she saw how panicked Lance must have looked. A soothing smile turned her lips upwards, but he was too freaked out by their surroundings to take to her attempts to calm him. This darkness, what was it? Where was it coming from?

 

He could feel his heart pounding a mile a minute in his chest, its frantic beats ringing out in his ears. He couldn’t hear anything over it, not from lack of trying. His breath was coming faster now, stuttering along the line of his throat with every breath in and out. Even though she was there, standing right in front of him, almost close enough to touch, Lance had never felt more alone. A deep sense of dread trickled into the pit of his stomach, but of what Lance had no idea.

 

A hand suddenly appeared in his line of sight. He realized he must have looked away from her without even knowing, looked away from the light. When he glanced up to her again, he finally saw her eyes, the same blue he’d come to recognize as his own. Without even thinking, he jerked forwards, reaching out for her hand...

 

But as soon as their fingertips were about to brush, everything slipped away, and Lance woke with a start. A gasp tore from his chest, and he lurched upwards, throwing his covers back in his hasty movement. He blinked furiously, willing his eyes to focus as he tried to slow his breathing.

 

His heart was still beating a mile a minute, still loud enough to be heard in his ears, just like in the dream. It was startling, to say the least. No matter how slow Lance breathed, how calm and collected, it seemed like his heart was still racing.

 

It took a good few minutes after his eyes adjusted and his breathing evened out into a steady rhythm that his heart followed their example, slowing to a normal pace. The phantom ringing still echoed softly, but he opted to ignore it as he threw the covers back and swung out of bed.

 

The stone flooring was icy cold against his bare feet, but he paid it no mind as he stumbled over to the desk, where he left the Sheikah Slate and his books the night before. He knew if he didn’t write about the dream now, that he’d forget about it.

 

But the sinking feeling of dread in his stomach felt like it would never dissipate.

 

He grabbed the more worn of his two books and pulled it closer, opening up the leather cover and flipping through the pages until he found the first blank one. He picked up his quill, dipped it in ink, and placed it to the page.

 

Lance knew what he wanted to write, what he wanted to etch onto the pages so he’d never forget, but the dread sitting deep in his core wouldn’t waver. He couldn’t stop wondering what it all meant. Was there any meaning? Or was it simply a manifestation of his fears?

 

Rather than let the thoughts keep swirling around in his mind, he put quill to paper and wrote it all down. Getting it out was helpful, lessened the tightness of his chest and the depth of despair in his stomach, but didn’t eradicate it.

 

He kept writing and writing until a knock sounded off on his door. There was only a moment’s hesitation before it cracked open, just far enough for Keith to peek his head in. “Morning,” he said softly, stepping in through the door once he saw that Lance was out of bed.

 

Lance glanced up from his work, gave him a quick flash of a small smile before returning back to his writing. He wrapped up the last few words before putting his quill off to the side and letting his book fall closed.

 

Keith came over to the desk, leaning his hip against the hard edge. “Did you sleep well?”

 

“Does the impending return of the Calamity worry you?” Lance blurted out, rather than answering Keith’s question.

 

“Uh,” Keith floundered a little, obviously not expecting the heavy question in the early hours of their day. He breathed out a nervous chuckle, before saying, “I don’t think that’s the kind of conversation we should have before breakfast.”

 

A wave of shame washed over him at Keith’s words, sitting heavy in the pit of his chest. He turned back to face the desk and ducked his head, hiding his gaze from Keith so he wouldn’t see the embarrassed flush surely painting his cheeks red. “Yeah, you’re right. Sorry.” To feign nonchalance, he cracked his book open again to peer at the contents, making sure the ink didn’t bleed onto the previous pages.

 

Keith shifted, adjusting his stance against the desk. Lance could see him out of the corner of his eye, but refused to look directly at him to avoid the judging look he was surely getting. He could take that sort of judgement from a lot of people… But not from Keith.

 

“I’m definitely worried about the future attack.” Keith admitted lowly. Lance jerked his head up just in time to see Keith crossing his arms tightly over his chest. It seemed to be something he did when he was nervous or hesitant, but still determined enough to fight through the feeling. He leaned forwards, closer to Lance, almost like he was trying to physically open up while still keeping his arms crossed. “None of it makes sense, y’know?” Keith continued. “I was just, out wandering Hyrule when I ventured into a forest, and suddenly I had this-- this destiny I’m supposed to fulfil.”

 

Lance certainly knew a little about what Keith was feeling.

 

“And to top it off, this destiny isn’t just protecting you.” Keith stood up from the desk, and started pacing across the length of the room while he talked. “No, I’m supposed to battle the Calamity, whatever it looks like. And it wouldn’t be named ‘the Calamity’ lightly. I have a literal sword against something calamitous, what am I even supposed to do?”

 

“We have a plan, remember?” Lance interjected soothingly, hoping to soothe the slightly frayed ends of Keith’s words. “And it’s not just you out there, whenever it does strike. You’ll have Pidge, Allura, Hunk, and Shiro backing you. With amazing weapons, I might add.”

 

Keith’s pacing slowed to a stop as he considered his words. He looked contemplative, looking at a crack on the floor distantly as he rationally thought it through, until he finally looked up to meet Lance’s gaze again. “And you.”

 

“What?”

 

“You’ll be at my side, right?” Keith clarified. He took a few steps forwards, but stopped when he was beside Lance’s chair, almost like he didn’t realize he was doing it until it had already happened. “I’m gonna need you.”

 

“Of course.” Lance swore, the words tumbling out of his mouth before he even thought about what his friend was asking. “Well, if I’ve unlocked my sealing powers, that is.” His shoulders slumped at that. What if I haven’t unlocked my sealing powers by then?

 

“Hey,” Keith crouched down in front of him, and put a soothing hand on his knee, pulling Lance out of his head. “We’ll figure it out together, okay?” Keith reassured. “You know I’m here for you.”

 

Even though Keith was wearing his stupid fingerless gloves, Lance could still feel the warmth of his hand against his leg. It was extremely comforting, and made his entire body lighten in a sense that he wasn’t sure how to describe, but it was nice. “I know you are.”

 

With a pat to his knee, Keith stood up again with a slight groan. “Now, what brought on this topic of conversation so early in the morning?” he questioned with a slightly joking lilt.

 

Lance sighed, and leaned heavily against the back of his chair. “Just a dream.”

 

“Oh?” Keith walked over to the bed, and sat against the edge, looking at Lance expectantly. “Wanna talk about it?”

 

He wasn’t even sure how to describe it without sounding crazy. But, it was Keith who was asking. “I was standing alone in complete darkness,” Lance began, “when I noticed this small speck of light in the distance. When I walked up to it, a woman was standing there. She was the source of the light. The darkness was trying to close in on her, but she wouldn’t let it. I’m not sure how she did it. She was trying to speak to me, to warn me of something, but I couldn’t hear her…”

 

“Warn you of what?” Keith questioned.

 

“That’s just it.” Lance let a long breath whistle out from between his lips, thinking back to what fleeting memories he had of the dream. “I have no idea.”

 

Keith hummed, and shrugged nonchalantly. “Well, it was just a dream. I’m sure there’s nothing to worry about.”

 

Lance nodded distractedly along to Keith’s words. He knew, rationally, that it was just a dream.

 

But, why wouldn’t the horrible feeling go away?

 


 

Leaving the citadel was fortunately less eventful than when they came in. Apparently, Keith and Jake had said their goodbyes last night, so they were free to ride out for the Spring of Power as soon as they were ready.

 

The feeling in his gut didn’t dissipate the farther they got from the army base, like he had hoped it would. If anything, the closer they got to the Spring of Power, the more the feeling bled out into the rest of his being.

 

Lush green grass and colourful leaves were their path leading down the hill, away from the citadel, and deeper into Akkala. On either side of them were steep cliff sides of red rock that got taller with each step they descended. Lance always loved the beautiful vibrant colours of the region, so full of life and wonder. But the only time he ever came out to the area was to train at the Spring of Power. It put a bit of a damper on his ability to truly marvel at the beauty.

 

His thoughts were usually more focused on his sealing powers, and all the doubts that came with it.

 

But, seeing all the red around them, from the vibrant trees, to the Akkalan rocks, down to the dirt beneath their feet, Lance couldn’t stop thinking about Keith. He’d once said that it was his favourite colour, and Lance could only associate the colour with him now. But he wasn’t sure when he’d started thinking about the colour red as uniquely ‘Keith’.

 

It wasn’t just red, though. It was blue, the colour of his tunic. Purple, the colour of his eyes. Black, the same shade as his long silky hair. Grey, the colour of his horse’s coat. Brown, the leather always cladding his hands. So many colours that Lance associated with Keith, rather than mundane things that most people associated with colours. Even though they’d only known each other for the span of a few months, Keith had managed to quietly insert himself into Lance’s life so deeply that he wasn’t sure he’d ever be able to look past him again.

 

“You’re awfully quiet today,” Keith spoke up suddenly. He gathered Zephyr’s reins up in one hand and let his other drop to his lap. “You okay?”

 

“Just, a lot on my mind.” Lance answered vaguely, and reached forwards to give Seraphim’s neck a pat. His steed grunted softly at the contact, and Lance couldn’t help but smile slightly. “I’m okay.”

 

Keith pursed his lips, but didn’t contradict Lance’s statement, which he was thankful for.

 

Lance felt bad for lying to Keith, but, he didn’t want to worry his knight. He already worried enough about his safety, he didn’t need to worry about his wellbeing as well. With each step Seraphim took, the unease at his core shifted and breathed, never giving Lance the chance to get accustomed to the feeling. He had no idea what it was about, but he couldn’t help thinking it meant something.

 

But what?

 

He shook his head, trying to rid it of the thoughts, before spurring Seraphim forwards into a brisk canter. He grinned back at Keith over his shoulder, yelling “Race ya!” before levelling his horse out to run as fast as he could.

 

Lance couldn’t hear Zephyr’s hoofbeats over the sound of Seraphim’s, but knowing Keith’s stallion, he knew they were right on his tail without even looking back. When the path forked, one going north and the other going more east, Lance steered his horse for the northern path, knowing it would take them to their destination sooner.

 

The well beaten path started gently bobbing and weaving between the trees as they raced along. Lance couldn’t see the details of the trees with how fast they were running, but that hardly mattered. He let Seraphim follow the path, rather than risk steering him wrong. His horse knew the way.

 

Movement from the corner of his eye made Lance turn his head, and he was unsurprised to see Zephyr and Keith riding along beside them. Keith smiled a wide smile when he caught Lance’s gaze, probably the happiest look he’d seen on his knight since they left the Castle. He looked free, and it made Lance’s heart stutter a little in his chest.

 

Thoroughly distracted, he didn’t even realize Zephyr was pulling ahead of Seraphim until he was completely out in front, and Lance was practically eating their dust. He reined his horse back into a more reasonable pace with a chuckle, letting Keith win this round.

 

It took a moment, but Keith seemed to realize that Lance wasn’t still right on his tail. He glanced back over his shoulder to see if that was the case, and immediately yanked up on the reins, pulling Zephyr into a sudden sliding stop. “What’s up?” he called back.

 

“You won.” Lance replied, slowing Seraphim down to an easy walk once they neared Keith and Zephyr. “Besides, I wanna show you something.” He steered Seraphim off the path, towards a cliffside that he knew overlooked the quarry.

 

Without even looking back, he knew Keith and Zephyr were following along. As they neared the edge, Lance stopped at a safe distance so they could look down at the quarry below.

 

The quarry itself was a bit of an eyesore compared to the land around it, but in time nature would claim it for its own again. There were tall spires of rock coming up from the ground, stark against the much lower land around it. The grey looked cold against the vibrant grass, but a few small trees were starting to grow in the space between.

 

“We’re here!” Lance announced, gesturing out to the land below.

 

“The Spring?” Keith pulled to a stop beside him, looking around below for the Spring. He looked just as confused as Lance expected him to. “Uh, where?”

 

Lance hid a snicker behind his hand. “C’mon, I’ll show you.” He steered Seraphim around, before spurring him into a brisk canter along the side of the cliff, until it curved down into the valley.

 

As soon as they levelled out inside the quarry, Lance reined Seraphim back into a trot, so he could more easily bob and weave around the fallen rocks laying on the ground. He distantly heard Zephyr trip over something, and Keith soothe him quietly, but didn’t look back. He was focusing on the walls ahead of them, looking for the hidden entrance to the Spring.

 

The entrance to the Spring was naturally hidden by a veil of trailing ivy, only noticeable if someone knew what they were looking for.

 

With a triumphant noise, Lance pulled Seraphim to a stop and dismounted, leaving him to graze while he jogged over to the familiar looking blanket of ivy.

 

“Where’s the Spring?” Keith asked, hopping down from Zephyr’s back.

 

Lance turned to face him, gripping a handful of ivy in his palm. “Hidden in plain sight.” He announced, and pulled the ivy curtain back to reveal the archway hidden underneath.

 

Keith’s jaw dropped open, and he jogged forwards to peer in through the ivy. “Woah.” He whispered reverently. “I had no idea this was out here.”

 

“Most people don’t, even the people who worked here for years before we moved on from this location.” Lance explained, and motioned for Keith to enter first. “We’ve kept it hidden from prying eyes for many years.”

 

The hallway inside was untouched, or at least, since the last time Lance was here. There were still the same long sweeping cracks in the floor, and moss still inhabited the crevices between bricks along the arched ceiling. Running along either side, almost like a railing, was a line of bricks that had depictions of Din’s symbol of Power etched into the face, leading them down the length until the archway leading to the Spring at the end.

 

Lance was always a little convinced that the tall rocky mound above their heads was created around the tunnel leading to the Spring, even though he knew how silly that was. It was so perfect in its aged glory that it just made sense. He could already hear the soft sound of waterfalls echoing down the hall.

 

At the end of the hall, overtop of the arched doorway leading out to the Spring, was a large stone engraved with a depiction of a praying Hylia. Keith slowed in front of it, taking a moment to look up at the craftsmanship, before stepping out into the light again.

 

Eight pillars, four on each side, bordered the path up to the stairs leading to the dias. Each pillar was decorated with a flying lion candelabra, all unlit. A few small waterfalls were cascading down the rocks on either side, and many more deeper into the Spring.

 

The dias was elevated up above the walkway leading into the Spring, a few inches above the water level before it trickled down into the reservoir on either side of the entryway. Moss and ivy covered nearly every inch of the sides, where water kissed its surface as it misted upwards.

 

Keith stopped and stared as he stepped back out into the sunlight out of the arched canopy of the pillars, gaping outwards at the beauty of the Spring. Lance couldn’t blame him-- it was quite beautiful. “Woah,” Keith whispered, turning slowly in place to look at everything the site had to offer.

 

“Right?” Lance said in response, and walked around him to head up onto the dais.

 

The four pillars at each corner of the dias were broken, having crumbled and smoothed out in the cruel elements and time. Water lapped lightly against the stairs leading down into the water, and flowed around the broken pieces of pillars that disturbed the smooth surface.

 

And directly in front of him, framed by two serene waterfalls, was the platform raising a tall statue of the Goddess Hylia up and out of the water. She was flanked on either side by two smaller statues, their wings starting to round out from age, and some ivy trailed up from the surface of the water and up around the bases of the statues.

 

Water lilies and their purple flowers sat on the surface of the water, rippling with each small wave that washed past. There were also two tall trees here, one on either side of the Goddess statues, their trunks twisted with age. Moss trailed up the trunks, all the way up to their branches, blending in with the canopy of leaves they housed.

 

Lance breathed in a deep breath, staring out at the rippling water. As much as it was a beautiful, serene place that inspired awe and worship, Lance only had scorn and contempt for the place. It was the source of many many miserable hours of his life, and most likely many more. “I should get to it, then.” Lance announced with a sigh, and turned, almost smacking directly into Keith. He hadn’t even heard his knight come up behind him.

 

He was so close that he could see how wide Keith’s eyes got at their sudden closeness. “Sorry,” Keith muttered, and stepped to the side so Lance could go past.

 

Lance waved him off with a shaky smile. “You’re fine.” he assured, fighting to keep his breathing even. It was harder than it should have been, with his heart beating like a frightened bird trying to escape its cage. “I’ll, uh, go get changed. Be right back.” With that, he fled as quickly as he could without rousing Keith’s suspicion.

 

As soon as he was on the other side of the wall of ivy, Lance breathed out a long sigh, leaning heavily against the rock wall. With distance from Keith, his heart started slowing to a normal pace again, not beating as harshly against his breastbone. He couldn’t understand why his body was reacting in such a way, why it reacted as such when Keith was near.

 

He shook his head out, trying to physically dislodge the thoughts from his mind, and made his way over to Seraphim. He’d wandered a bit away to munch on some grass near the base of one of the tall pillars of rock. His horse lifted his head when Lance opened the saddle bag, but quickly resumed eating once he realized he wasn’t needed. Lance pulled out his white tunic and simple trousers, and quickly changed into them, stumbling a little when taking off his boots, and replaced the void in his bag with his riding gear.

 

The grass tickled his bare feet as he hopped around, trying to get his sandals on his feet. His praying sandals were a little harder to lace up without sitting down, but he made do. He pulled his trousers down to his ankles, holding them there as he zipped his boots up at the back. He gave them a quick once over, and adjusted how his trousers sat beneath the laces before nodding slightly to himself.

 

He gave Seraphim’s neck a quick pat, and walked back towards the Spring, letting his hand run along Zephyr’s back as he walked past.

 

As soon as he parted the curtain of leaves, he could see Keith standing at the other end of the hallway with his back to him. His sword and shield were off of his back, and he was using his sword almost like a cane, leaning against it. His posture looked comfortable, at ease in the cool breeze coming off of the water.

 

Lance stopped just beside Keith, and gave his shoulder a quick squeeze with his hand before continuing on his way up to the dias.

 

Once he reached the stairs leading down into the water, he hesitated, staring out at the spot in the water where he’d be kneeling for the foreseeable future.

 

He could already feel how cold the water would be, seeping into his bones as he knelt, still as a rock, in the softly lapping waves. How cold the wind would feel cutting through his thin ceremonial tunic. He certainly wasn’t looking forward to kneeling in cold water for hours and hours on end.

 

With that thought, he finally stepped down into the water.

 

The water shifted, waves cascading out from where his feet met the surface. He shivered slightly as the bottom portion of his trousers were soaked, and his feet soaked up the cold, sending shivers up his spine. This was the part he hated the most, those first few minutes in the water, but he knew he’d warm up after a while.

 

He took slow careful steps through the water, carefully treading along the slightly uneven surface in the shallow water. There was a stone emblem inlain into the ground before the Goddess statue, marking the place he was supposed to give his prayers. Even without looking, he knew exactly where it was. He was sure his knees had left imprints with how many hours he’d spent kneeling there.

 

He cast a quick glance back over his shoulder, to see what Keith was up to, and was shocked to see he’d moved. He’d followed him up onto the dias, and stood, leaning casually against his sword to kept an eye on Lance’s back. When Keith noticed him looking back at him, he offered him a brief, reassuring smile.

 

Lance turned back and swiftly knelt in the water, pushing down whatever feelings were bubbling up in his stomach. He couldn’t think about them right now.

 

He had to focus.

 


 

Keith watched Lance’s shoulders slowly get tenser and tenser as the day wore on. As the sun dipped past the walls surrounding them, casting them back into shadow, Keith couldn’t feel anything but helpless as Lance knelt in the Spring’s icy waters, praying and praying.

 

His head was bowed, showing off the long line of his neck in the dying light. But, Keith couldn’t really admire it for what it was with how much tension lined his entire body. He yearned to reach out to him, to soothe him, but he wasn’t sure how Lance would respond to that. So, he waited, keeping an eye on his back as minutes turned to hours, as the stars began to grace them up in the sky.

 

Later, when the moon finally peeked out from behind the Goddess statue, Lance’s head lifted, and he spoke out loud:

 

“I came seeking help, regarding this power that has been handed down over time.” Lance began, looking up at the statue staring unseeingly down at him. The statue hid him from the light of the moon, casting him in shadow. “Prayer will awaken my power to seal the Calamity away. ...Or, so I’ve been told all my life.”

 

Keith could practically feel his heart break listening to Lance’s broken tone. He sounded so small, so alone, but he couldn’t do anything but simply be by his side. He’d never felt so useless.

 

“It seems that no matter what I do, nothing works.” Lance continued, sounding more and more broken with every word. “All I do is kneel and pray, yet somehow I still mess that up. What do you want from me?”

 

He knew that his hand was clenching tighter and tighter over the handle of his sword, but it wasn’t until something popped uncomfortably in his hand that he lessened his grip with a wince. The metal buckles clacked against each other as he lifted them up over his head, letting his sword and shield settle on his back again as he cinched up the buckles across his chest.

 

[susan's art]

 

“Father has told me, time and time again… He always says, ‘quit wasting your time playing at being a scholar’. But I’m not playing! It’s the only thing I love doing, but I… Curse you.” Lance cursed heatedly, and slapped the surface of the water. “I’ve spent every day of my life dedicated to praying… And still, the holy powers have proven deaf to my devotion.”

 

Keith took a cautious step down into the water, as quietly as he could to not disturb Lance. He couldn’t believe how cold the water felt, seeping in through his trousers. How did Lance stand this, in his thin praying wear? He paused, still barely in the water, until Lance cried out, “What is it? What’s wrong with me?!”

 

That was all Keith’s heart could handle. Without any further thought, he made his way out to where Lance was kneeling, the water splashing around his legs loud enough that Lance could definitely hear him approaching, although he stayed quiet. As soon as he was close enough, he put a soothing hand on Lance’s shoulder, hoping to offer any quiet comfort that he could. He wasn’t surprised that Lance’s skin was cold to the touch, but it just made him even more worried.

 

“I still have time to pray.” Lance protested quietly, moving his shoulder so Keith’s hand slipped off. “I’m not tired yet.”

 

“Lance, please.” Keith was not above begging to get him out of the icy waters. He knew Lance must be freezing, and enough was enough for one day. “You can come back tomorrow. Let’s get you warmed up.”

 
Lance growled lowly under his breath, and finally spared a glance up at him over his shoulder. He looked tired and frustrated, along with something else Keith couldn’t decipher. “Keith, I can’t.” Lance argued. “I have to do this.”

 

“You’ve been at it for hours.” Keith rebutted, and crossed his arms over his chest, staring down at Lance sternly. “You’re freezing, you can’t tell me that you’re not. Please, just,” he bent down and grabbed Lance’s elbow, “let’s get you warmed up.”

 

“No!” Lance jerked his elbow out of Keith’s grasp, but he pulled too hard, and tipped over, falling backwards into the water with a splash.

 

With a gasp, Keith bent down and reached into the water to help Lance up.

 

But when Lance resurfaced, he slapped Keith’s hands away. “That’s enough!” he shouted.

 

Keith jerked back at Lance’s volume, and gave him space to stand up on his own. Shame wove like black smoke through his lungs, making it hard to breathe, but he forced himself to watch as Lance struggled upright, water dripping down his body.

 

Lance levelled Keith with a fierce look, making Keith shrink in on himself. “I said I wasn’t finished, why won’t you listen to me?” Lance growled.

 

“Because I’m worried about you!” Keith replied just as heatedly, but took a moment to try to smother his ire. Yelling at the prince would get him nowhere. He fought to keep his voice even as he said, “It’s freezing, and I don’t want you getting sick.”

 

“Why do you even care?” Lance bit out, crossing his arms tightly over his chest.

 

“Why do I care?” Keith questioned incredulously. “I care because you’re my friend, and because you’re important, Lance. It’s also my job to care, or have you forgotten that?”

 

Lance’s face went carefully blank at Keith’s words. “So you only care because it’s your job, huh?”

 

Keith’s mind reeled at Lance’s sudden change. “That’s all you took from that?” He fought the urge to slap his palm to his face in frustration. “No, Lance, I--” he cut off with a growl, trying to find the words that would make Lance understand, “I just want what’s best for you. You know that, right?” He reached out to touch Lance, offer him some sort of comfort, but hesitated half way when he saw Lance’s expression.

 

Lance’s face was unreadable, kept carefully blank. His blue eyes searched all over Keith’s face for any sign of deception, but when he found none, his lip trembled slightly. “Doesn’t seem like it.” Lance bit out half-heartedly, and spun on his heel, leaving Keith standing all alone in the Spring’s icy waters.

 

[karo's art]

 

When Lance disappeared through the doorway at the entrance to the Spring, Keith let his arm drop back to his side. The breath he didn’t realize he’d been holding whistled out from between his lips, leaving his chest feeling cold and hollow.

 

He just wanted what was best for Lance, what kept him safe and sane. He was the first to admit he wasn’t always good at showing it, with words or actions, but it was the thought that counted, right?

 

Goddesses, he just wanted Lance to be happy.

 

An idea struck him suddenly, something he’d never really considered doing before. He’d never had any reason to pray, at least, not for himself. But for Lance, he’d do anything. He slowly turned back to face the Goddess statue, standing tall in all her divine glory in the moonlight. There was no reason that she, or anyone , if they were even out there, should listen to him… But for Lance, he had to try.

 

“I, uh, I’m sure you know I don’t usually do this.” Keith began awkwardly, shuffling a bit as he spoke. “But, I’m doing it now. Because Lance… He needs you. He needs you now, more than anything , and…” He paused, biting his lip. He probably sounded ridiculous right now, talking to some statue in the middle of a sacred Spring. “I know I have no right to ask this of you, but… I’m asking it now. I’ve never asked you for anything, not when… Well, you know. So please, help Lance unlock his sealing powers.”

 

The statue’s unwavering gaze stared down at him, giving no insight to if anyone heard him or not. Fireflies danced their own little patterns around him, and the stars kept on twinkling, but no form of answer came to him no matter how long he stared at the Goddess’ face.

 

With a sigh, he turned his back and started towards the dias. Now he knew how Lance must’ve felt, day in and day out, praying in front of unwavering stone. If he had to do this for most of his life, he’d probably go crazy.

 

He left the Spring, his footsteps echoing down the hallway until he came to the wall of ivy. Zephyr’s head perked up when he came out, and Seraphim grazed nearby, his coat shining brightly in the moonlight. If Seraphim was still here, it meant Lance couldn’t be too far.

 

Keith cast a quick glance around the quarry, looking for Lance’s brown head, but when he didn’t immediately see him, he decided to make for higher ground to see if he could find him.

 

As he walked up the natural path leading into and out of the quarry, he spotted Lance sitting on the edge of the small clifface that bordered the path. He slowed to a stop, simply watching Lance for a few moments.

 

His legs were curled up to his chest, arms wrapped over his knees as he stared up at the moon with a sad look on his face. His gold bracelets shone softly in the light of the moon, but the light that they reflected quivered slightly as Lance moved minisculely.

 

He knew that Lance would get cold.

 

Keith made sure to keep his footsteps silent as he approached, so Lance wouldn’t have a chance to flee before he got too close. Fortunately, Lance remained blissfully unaware until he was standing directly in front of him, his eyes on the same line as Lance’s damp shins.

 

“It’s a beautiful night out,” Keith said conversationally.

 

Lance jerked, obviously not having heard Keith approach, but quickly put on a blank face of indifference. “Yeah, it is.” he replied emotionlessly.

 

Keith kept waiting for Lance to say something else, but it quickly became apparent that he would have to take the first step. “Lance, I’m sorry.” he began. He waited for Lance’s gaze to meet his, but when it didn’t, he continued, “I’m sorry for trying to force you out of the water, and for not listening when you told me to stop. I… I care about you, okay? More than you know.” Keith tore his gaze away from Lance when he said that. He more than cared for him, but it was all he could say.

 

“I know you do.” Lance said softly, and finally shifted so he could look at Keith. “I just… It’s a lot, y’know? All of this, and not being able to unlock my sealing powers. I’m just frustrated.” He said with a slight shrug. “Not that it excuses me lashing out at you, but…”

 

“I know what you mean.” Keith assured, and offered Lance a small smile. “I don’t blame you. I can only imagine how you’re feeling about all of this.”

 

Lance offered a small rueful smile, and shifted so he was facing Keith a little more directly, but didn’t offer anything else up.

 

The awkwardness was thick between them, making Keith want to fill it with… Something, he wasn’t sure what. But, he had to do something, or he feared that their relationship would be stilted for the foreseeable future. He tried to think fast, of anything that would make Lance forgive him, but nothing immediately came to mind.

 

As he shifted from foot to foot, letting possible scenarios run through his mind, his sword and shield clacked together quietly on his back, his focus immediately zeroing in on the sound. With it, an idea came to mind.

 

He might look ridiculous doing it, especially if Lance didn’t accept it, but… He had to try.

 

The Master Sword’s metal rang out as he pulled it from its scabbard, causing Lance to jerk back slightly, but Keith didn’t let it stop him. As soon as his sword was comfortably in his grasp, he knelt to the ground in front of Lance.

 

Lance looked shocked, and leaned forwards slightly to watch Keith’s every move, but he did not try to stop him. He looked far too curious about what was about to happen.

 

Keith pressed the tip of the sword into the ground before him, his arm above his head as he held onto the hilt. He forced himself to meet Lance’s gaze as he said, “I swear to you on the holiness of this blade, and the goddesses above… That I give you my loyalty and pledge you my life.” He could hear Lance suck in a sudden breath, but didn’t let it stop him. He pulled the sword out of the ground, twisting it until he was offering it hilt up to Lance as he said, “If ever the day comes where I break that vow, then I ask that you take this holy blade and run me through.”

 

He ducked his head, still offering Lance his sword, patiently and hopefully waiting for him to take it from him. When Lance didn’t, made no sound for a few long moments as the silence stretched between them, Keith peered up through his bangs at the man he was completely pledging himself to.

 

Lance looked absolutely stunned, his jaw dropped down in shock as he tried to take everything in. But Keith waited patiently for Lance to consider his options, to take what he would of the declaration.

 

It took a few moments longer, but eventually Lance sat up, straightening his shoulders back and letting his feet dangle off the side. “For now and always, dear knight?”

 

“For now and always.” Keith swore.

 

A small smile twisted Lance’s lips upwards, and he jumped down from the ledge to grab the sword, accepting Keith’s pledge.

 

Keith couldn’t keep the smile from his face if he tried. He leapt upwards, and wrapped Lance up in a sudden hug so he could hide his smile over Lance’s shoulder.

 

It was then that he realized how cold Lance’s skin felt beneath his still wet clothes. Lance’s arms were quick to wind around his waist to leech some of Keith’s warmth, not that Keith could complain. He would gladly give Lance all of his warmth, if he could.

 

But, building a fire would be much easier.

 

When they detangled, Lance offered him his sword back, which Keith sheathed with practiced ease. “Let’s get you warmed up.” Keith offered, and gestured down the hill, back towards their horses.

 

“Alright.” Lance agreed easily, and looped his arm with Keith’s, still trying to latch on to some of his warmth as they started down the hill together. “I do have to admit, though. You were right about one thing, before.”

 

“Oh?”

 

“I could do with some warming up.” He said sheepishly, his hand trailing down to find skin between Keith’s sleeve and glove, seeking the heat against his fingertips.

 

Sparks shot up Keith’s arm where their skin touched, and he could swear that Lance could feel how fast his pulse was racing beneath his fingertips. But he made no move to separate them. He’d relish in the feeling of Lance’s hands on him for as long as he could, even if it wasn’t the way he’d imagined.

 
Even as cold as they were, his hands were soft, and they just felt right against his skin. Besides, who was he to deny the prince?

Chapter Text

14. To Mount Lanayru

 

Things were quiet when they returned to the Castle after Akkala.

 

Lance spent most of his days answering letters that were long overdue for replies, and catching up on other princely duties at the Castle. Keith was bored for most of it, and since he wasn’t really needed to help reply to letters or sit in on meetings with the Castle staff, he spent most of his time in the stables, the kitchen, or practicing on the training deck, usually accompanied by Keely.

 

There was one day that Lance joined them on the training deck, watching Keely practice her sword drills. And when Keely reminded him that he had promised to see what her archery skills were like, he finally came down to join them, watching avidly as she took up a stance and fired a few arrows into the varying targets around the room. Both he and Keith clapped at her demonstration, before Lance offered to help her improve it.

 

Keith didn’t think he’d ever forget how awed Keely looked when Lance picked up a bow for himself and shot the same targets with deadly accuracy. He was sure the same look was mirrored on his own face. He’d seen Lance’s skill with a bow before, but it was different in the heat of battle. Here, he could admire how swift, calm and collected he was, firing each shot straight and true.

 

Lance smiled when he saw Keely’s awed expression, and just missed the matching one Keith wore before declaring he’d ‘better get back to it’, and left them on the training deck.

 

That was four days ago, and it was the last time Keith saw him smile. But, he did have a sneaking suspicion as to why.

 

The day of Lance’s birth was near, practically sitting on their laps. And Lance had a similar stance on birthdays as Keith himself did.

 

As his birthday approached, Keith could feel how frazzled and strung out Lance was. He was more snappish and brisk, but always quick to apologize. Keith understood, he really did, but, it really was putting a strain on their relationship.

 

So, he put a plan into motion for an outing the day before Lance’s actual birthday that would help take his mind off of everything. He’d already sent a letter out to Coran and Ryner, asking for their assistance and time, and asked Sammy if he could use the kitchen before the breakfast rush. Everything was in motion, now he just had to test his baking skills.

 

He was up early in the kitchen, making something he heard was Lance’s favourite. Keely had offered to help out, so they were up before dawn together, yawning and mixing up dough.

 

“So, what are we making again?” Keely asked, rubbing her eyes tiredly.

 

Keith chuckled fondly, and wiped away a bit of flour that was resting right below her bottom eyelid. “Fruitcake, little lady. It’s apparently Lance’s favourite. I’m gonna make two separate smaller cakes, so he can have one today, and then one tomorrow for his actual birthday.”

 

“Ohh.” Keely hummed, and situated herself in front of the freshly cut slices of fruit. “That’s nice of you.”

 

“Well, he needs a little pick-me-up.” Keith explained, dumping a bit of batter into the bottom of the two pans. “And, I thought this would be a nice little thing for him.”

 

As soon as the batter bowl was out of her way, Keely started lining the top of the batter with apple, strawberry and peach slices.

 

“Besides, who doesn’t like cake?” Keith murmured, watching the batter flow out with careful consideration. “I’ve never had this before, but I’m sure it’ll be good.”

 

“We make it every year on Lance’s birthday.” Keely bumped her hip against Keith, silently asking him to move so she could lay fruit in the other pan’s batter. “It’s really good. Light, fluffy white cake with icing, and fruit in the middle and on top.”

 

“Sounds delicious.” Keith agreed, pouring batter over the fruit in the first cake pan. “I’ll have to see if Lance saves any for me.”

 

Keely snorted softly under her breath. “You’ll have to be quick, then. He has a hollow leg for this stuff.”

 

They worked in silence for the next few minutes, finishing off the rest of the batter and putting the cakes in the oven. By then, Sammy was in the kitchen with them, starting on breakfast, and more of the kitchen staff also piled in. Keith took up a stool in the corner to stay out of the way, and Keely joined him moments later, standing awkwardly in front of him.

 

Without putting much thought into it, he pulled Keely up onto his lap so she didn’t have to stand there while the cakes were baking. She was shocked for a moment, but quickly settled back against his chest with a content sigh.

 

An idea swirled around in his mind, one that he’d thought of often in the past few days. He thought about asking Keely her opinion of it now, but nothing would be able to come of it until he turned eighteen. So, he decided to wait until he knew it was a real possibility before getting her hopes up.

 


 

Once he snuck one of the cakes into Lance’s room, the owner sleeping on blissfully unaware, he wrote a quick note so Lance wouldn’t think he got his birthday mixed up. Then, he snuck out just as quietly, closing the door behind him just as King Alfor was leaving his chambers.

 

“Oh, good morning Link.” King Alfor said with a small smile. “Is my son awake yet?”

 

Keith swiftly dropped onto one knee. “No, sire. I was just dropping something off in his room.”

 

“I see…” He made his way over to him, with his usual slow powerful gait that made Keith shrink slightly with every footfall. “Well, when he wakes up, would you tell him that I invited all of the Champions out to escort him to Mount Lanayru tomorrow?”

 

Mount Lanayru? Tomorrow? Keith’s brows furrowed in confusion. He hadn’t heard Lance say anything about going to Mount Lanayru… Or, was his father telling him that he’d be going there? “Of course not, sire. I will inform him once he awakens.”

 

With a nod, King Alfor spun on his heel and started walking away.

 

“Actually, sire?” Keith spoke up, before the king could get too far. “I had a couple questions, that I was hoping you could answer?”

 

He turned back, looking surprised, but quickly masked it with a polite smile. “Of course. Walk with me?” Once Keith stood and made his way to his side, he asked, “What is it you were wondering?”

 

“Well…” Keith began, “Do you know Keely?”

 


 

Lance woke to the smell of fruity icing.

 

He pulled open his tired eyes, blinking blearily at his surroundings, trying to figure out where the smell was coming from.

 

He’d know that scent anywhere.

 

It was fruitcake.

 

He threw the covers back and hopped out of bed, still trying to dislodge the sleep from his eyes, and followed his nose over to his desk. There, sitting where his diary usually sat, was a small slightly unevenly icinged fruitcake.

 

There was a slice already sitting on a plate, prepped with a fork, but the piece out of the cake was bigger than the one he had on his plate.

 

When he lifted up the plate to take his first bite, he noticed a piece of paper with a note. He put the plate back down and picked up the note, reading the carefully written contents.

 

Good morning Lance,                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             

 

I know it’s not your birthday quite yet, but, I thought you could use this (don’t worry, if you eat the entire fruitcake today, we made more for tomorrow).

 

When you’re done eating some (or all, I won’t judge) of your cake and your morning routine, meet me in the stables with your riding clothes. We’re getting out of here for a day.

 

~Keith                                                                                                   

 

Lance smiled fondly at the note, and tucked it away in the back of his diary before picking up his plate and fork again. He wasn’t positive, but he had the feeling that Keith and Keely made this for him. It wasn’t quite Sammy’s level of perfection, presentation-wise, but he was almost positive it would still taste amazing. After all, Keith was a decent cook.

 

He brought a forkful of cake to his mouth, and chewed around it slowly, a smile growing on his face as he swallowed.

 

How was Keith so thoughtful? This was just the kind of thing Lance needed.

 

The horrible feeling he’d had since that dream the night they spent at the citadel hadn’t dissipated, not in the slightest. It was, in part at least, the reason he’d been so snappish to everyone lately. Even Keith, which he knew was wrong. Keith only had his best interests at heart. He’d sworn to it.

 

But feeling like this really didn’t help.

 


 

He made haste through his letters, replying to every single one as briefly as possible before changing and running down to the stables.

 

As soon as he entered the large wooden doors, he saw Keith with Seraphim and Everest all tacked up, waiting for him. He rushed down the aisle as quick as he dared, practically skipping with glee.

 

“Hey,” Keith said with a warm smile. “How much cake did you eat?”

 

Lance narrowed his eyes at him. “Dear knight, you said you wouldn’t judge.”

 

“So, all of it.” Keith answered for him with a knowing smirk. “I see. You ready to go?”

 

Lance nodded excitedly. “Where are we going?”

 

“You’ll see,” Keith said ominously, and passed Lance his reins. He walked ahead with Everest, leaving Lance back with his horse.

 

Seraphim nudged his shoulder with his nose, so Lance gave him a quick scritch before following.

 

He couldn’t believe Keith had planned all of this. Cake, getting away from the Castle… Keith really was the best thing that’d ever happened to him.

 

As soon as they were outside of the stables, they mounted up, and Keith led the way out of the Castle and down towards Castletown.

 

“You really can’t tell me where we’re going?” Lance whined as they exited the gate.

 

Keith shrugged slightly, his eyes darting back and forth between all the hustle and bustle around the fountain ahead. “Not here. Too many eyes and ears.”

 

Lance knew what he meant. He knew they would have to be more careful about who they talked about ancient technology around. They had no way of knowing who would report back to his father.

 

So they rode in silence until they were a ways outside of Castletown’s front gates. Then, Keith turned back towards Lance with a mischievous look in his eye. “Coran and Ryner are going to meet us at the Shrine of Resurrection to do some more research. I sent them a letter just the other day. I remember you saying that you wanted to conduct some experiments there.”

 

Lance’s eyes widened. “Really?!” He exclaimed, and bounced a bit in his seat in his excitement.

 

“Really.”

 

“I can’t believe you remembered!” Lance clapped his hands together excitedly, before picking up Seraphim’s reins again. “Well, what are we waiting for?” He steered his horse away from the road, and spurred him into a fast pace across the plains towards the plateau.

 

Keith made a surprised noise in the back of his throat, before spurring Everest after them.

 

“Look at me, Keith, not taking the road!” Lance jabbed with a playful smirk.

 

“I see that.” Keith replied, edging up beside him and Seraphim. “I’m kind of impressed. Such a rebel.”

 

“I really want to go see the Shrine again, okay? Does that make me a rebel?”

 

Keith rolled his eyes, but didn’t answer the question. Instead, he nudged Everest into running even faster, pulling ahead of Seraphim and taking off across the plain.

 

It was Lance’s turn to roll his eyes. Of course Keith would want to race. He let Seraphim’s reins go looser to he had the room to extend into an even faster gallop.

 


 

Lance hopped off of Seraphim’s back as soon as they were outside the Shrine of Resurrection, and rushed inside without even waiting for Keith.

 

Keith scoffed and shook his head with a small smile. He wasn’t mad, though. Not at all. He knew this would happen. He was just happy that Lance was happy.

 

He took the time to untack both of the horses, leaving them to graze with Coran and Ryner’s horses before following Lance inside.

 

The Shrine of Resurrection was just as he remembered it, nothing out of place, even as he ventured back into the vault where Lance, Coran, and Ryner were huddled around the guidance stone.

 

“So, the long term stasis is the only functioning aspect of this Shrine right now?” Lance clarified, looking to Coran and Ryner for clarification.

 

“Correct.” Ryner agreed. “Until we can figure out how to properly power it, we will only have the long term stasis.”

 

Coran hummed, and tapped something on the Sheikah Slate in Lance’s hands. But, based on the grunt he gave, it was unsuccessful, or didn’t provide the answers he was looking for. “Depending on the injury, though, with the Shrine not in full working order, who knows how long it would take to heal someone.”

 

“It looks like it provides a body with all the essential nutrients it needs to survive for however long, though.” Ryner mused.

 

Lance pursed his lips. “But, what about muscle atrophy? If a person is still for too long, who knows the effect that would have--”

 

Ryner hummed, looking down at the ancient Sheikah technology critically. “Well, I guess it depends on how long they need to be healed for.”

 

Keith’s eyes widened at how fast the three of them were throwing around ideas. He didn’t think his own mind could work that fast, let alone talk with others and hold up a conversation at that eager speed.

 

Lance glanced up just as Keith was realizing how overwhelmed he was. “Oh, Keith! Sorry, didn’t see you there. Have you been there long?”

 

“No.”

 

“Hello, m’boy!” Coran exclaimed.

 

Ryner gave him a big smile. “Thanks for sending us that letter, by the way, and orchestrating all of this.” she clapped her hands together excitedly. “It worked out perfectly. We were hoping to bring Lance and the Sheikah Slate out here one day soon.”

 

Keith gave the Sheikah woman a kind smile. “It was my pleasure.”

 

“You don’t have to stick around, if you don’t want to.” Lance offered. “We’ll be perfectly fine in here.”

 

“I think I’ll leave you scientists to your thing.” Keith said, starting to back away. “But I’ll be close by if you need me.” With that, he turned and started making his way out of the Shrine.

 

Everest had started to wander down the hill, away from the other horses to apparently tastier grass, so Keith ventured down to his side to give him a scritch. His brown steed lifted his head up briefly to snort softly at him, before going back to his grass.

 

Keith breathed in a deep breath of the fresh forest air, letting it seep into his lungs. He always found breathing in a breath of the wild, away from manmade scents that came with towns and big cities to be the most soothing. Hearing the leaves above his head whistle in the breeze, and wild animals live their lives around him was comforting, something he missed now that he lived in the Castle. It was hard to get that connection with nature when there was nothing natural around and about.

 

Even though the Plateau was settled, in a sense, with the Shrine and the four temples over the hill, it still felt raw, wild.

 

Besides, you didn’t get a view like this from the Castle.

 

He hunkered down against a tree near Everest, simply watching him graze. He loved simply watching his horses as they did the most mundane things, like flicking their tails back and forth to ward off flies, or how Everest’s nose scrunched up a little before every nibble of grass. He loved both of his boys so much.

 

It was quiet up here, but in the peaceful sense. Sometimes, the silence was unnerving and unnatural, and made Keith suspicious and wary. But this was the soothing type of silence, the one he could shut his eyes and doze in.

 

Which, he apparently did. The next time he opened his eyes, the sun had shifted from directly above them towards the west, though still high in the sky. Everest had curled up beside him, and even went as far as to lay his head on Keith’s lap, snoring away. Keith snorted softly, fondly, and rubbed his boy’s face for a few moments before shoving him off and standing up.

 

Keith headed back up the hill towards the Shrine’s entrance to see how Lance, Coran, and Ryner were making out. He could hear them chattering away still, their voices carrying up to the entrance, so Keith decided not to bother them. Instead, he turned and made his way out to the cliffside just outside the entrance to look down over Hyrule. There was a bit of land sticking out that could act like a lookout, and it was perfect for sightseeing.

 

As he stepped out towards the edge, all of his breath came rushing out of his lungs at the sight before him. He’d never seen Hyrule laid out like this before.

 

The first thing he could see was the Castle and Castletown, standing tall and proud near the distant horizon.

 

Then, green. Green as far as his eye could see. As much as he was born in the desert, he did have a fondness for the lush plentiful grass over Hyrule Field. He could see people, small as ants, milling about in Gatepost Town, oblivious to Keith watching over them. He could see the stable that Everest used to be housed at, nestled at the Hylia River’s edge. He could even see the Hyrule Garrison, stretching out along the road to the Castle.

 

And that was only Hyrule Field.

 

He could even see as far as the Akkala citadel to the east and the Hebra Mountain range to the west, standing tall and proud on opposite sides of the land.

 

There really was a lot to see in their vast land of Hyrule. As far as the eye could see was land to explore and make one’s own, and Keith wanted to visit it all. He’d spent six months exploring wherever his horses led him, but it wasn’t enough.

 

He felt like one hundred years wouldn’t even be enough. He didn’t think he’d ever tire of a view like this.

 

He was hit with the sudden reminder that this was what he was protecting when the Calamity returned. He was part of a team of amazing warriors who would have to defeat the beast, but… The whole plan revolved around him. If he failed, who knew what would become of their vast land of Hyrule...

 

A hand dropped to his shoulder suddenly, and Keith whirled around with wide eyes, almost teetering off of the edge.

 

Lance’s eyes went comically wide, and he lunged for Keith, pulling him back to safety. “I am so sorry,” he exclaimed, adjusting Keith’s tunic and checking him over frantically. “I totally thought you heard me, because you always do, I thought you were gonna die there for a second--”

 

“Lance, woah.” Keith interrupted with a chuckle. “It’s okay. You’re right, normally I would’ve heard you. I…” he glanced away, looking out over the plateau as he said, “I was just lost in my head.”

 

A warm hand settled on his shoulder, grounding him despite the doubt and worry rolling in his stomach. “Anything you wanna share, dear knight?” Lance asked, pulling Keith’s gaze back to him.

 

Keith thought about it for a moment, before shaking his head with a small smile. “No, it’s all good.” He had briefly pondered telling Lance what exactly he was thinking about, but, he didn’t want to worry him on a day meant to be worry free. “So, how are you guys making out in the Shrine?”

 

“We’ve done all we can for now. We’ve figured out how to get the long term stasis up and running should we need it, but until we find a suitable power source to operate it at full power, there’s not much else we can do.”

 

“I see.” Keith nodded understandingly. “So, what do you want to do now?”

 

Lance levelled Keith with a look. “ You’re the one who made the plans for today. Didn’t you plan for anything after the Shrine?”

 

“Honestly? I thought you were gonna be in there all day.”

 

Lance hummed consideringly, “Well, you’re not crazy to think that.” he admitted sheepishly.

 

“I know.”

 

That earned him a light shove and a fond snort from the prince. “Well, I think I do actually have an idea.” Lance said slowly. “And it’s sort of on the way back to the Castle.”

 

Keith ducked into an over-exaggerated bow with a smirk on his face. “Well, your highness, do lead on.”

 

“Maybe I should have let you fall.” Lance muttered with a pout, before spinning on his heel and walking over to the horses.

 

Keith didn’t think teasing Lance would ever get old.

 


 

Once they tacked up, and bid farewell to the Sheikah scientists, they left the plateau, following the west bound road.

 

“So, where are you taking me?” Keith questioned, nudging Everest to walk a little faster so they could be side by side with Lance and Seraphim. “Anywhere I know?”

 

“You might.” Lance replied unhelpfully.

 

It was Keith’s turn to level Lance with a look. “...Gonna elaborate on that?”

 

Lance simply shrugged.

 

Keith rolled his eyes, and let his hands drop to his lap. “Fine, don’t tell me. I’m sure I’ll figure it out eventually.”

 

“Probably. It’s the only thing of any notability there.”

 

He started considering the options, based on where they were going. Heading west, they could be going to the coliseum, but, they both know they’d been there before. He really had no idea where Lance was leading him.

 

Not that he minded.

 

“Do you…?” Lance began, but shook his head and turned back to the road.

 

“What?”

 

Lance pursed his lips, thinking for a moment, before continuing, “Do you remember when you asked if I had a place that called to me, that I considered mine?”

 

Of course he remembered. It was the first time they really tried to get to know one another, and started becoming friends. Keith didn’t think he’d ever forget that day, and not just because they were attacked, nor because Lance nearly gave him a heart attack (although he practically did), but… Because it was their first real strides together to become the friends they were now. “I do.”

 

“We’re going to the place I love the most in Hyrule.” Lance declared softly. “Well, at least… I think it is? I haven’t explored as much as you have.”

 

Keith made sure that Lance was looking back at him as he said, “I’m honoured that you want to share this with me.”

 

Lance’s face lit up in a shy smile that made Keith’s stomach flare up pleasantly. He brought that smile to Lance’s face.

 

He knew he’d do anything he could to keep it there.

 

“Hey, Keith! Race you!” Lance exclaimed, before suddenly darting off on Seraphim’s back.

 

Keith squawked, urging Everest to follow. “I don’t even know where we’re going!” he yelled after him.

 

Lance was too busy laughing to hear what Keith said.

 

So, Keith let him win, well, lead the race all the way to wherever they were going.

 

They followed the path out towards the desert for a while, until it forked either to the north, or continued west. They took the northern path, galloping past the coliseum that still held a lot of memories for Keith, before heading down a slight incline and crossing a bridge.

 

There was a steep hill up the other side, and Keith saw Lance let Seraphim have more rein so he could climb it more easily. Keith let his reins slip a bit through his fingers, giving Everest all the length he needed to bound up the hill after the other pair.

 

As soon as they were at the top, Seraphim slowed until he was ambling along at an easy walk, and Everest was more than eager to do the same. They’d worked hard.

 

The sun had descended a considerable amount since leaving the plateau. Keith wasn’t positive that they would make it back to the Castle before dark, but, he couldn’t say he minded.

 

Lance breathed out an easy chuckle, and rubbed his horse’s white neck soothingly with both hands. “Much easier going down that hill, eh boy?” He smiled when Seraphim huffed in agreement.

 

“Are we close now?” Keith asked.

 

“We are!” Lance pointed over the hill, to where a large tree stood beside the path. “That tree means we’re almost there.”

 

The tree in question looked massive from their perspective below it, but as they rode closer, Keith realized it was of more average size. The fading light must’ve made it seem bigger than it was. It leaned significantly, and leaves only really decorated one half of the trunk, but there was still a nest up in its clutches.

 

Once they were past it, however, Lance spoke up again. “‘Be sure to take the time to soothe your mount; that’s the only way it will know how you truly feel’. Do you remember telling me that?”

 

“I do.”

 

“Your advice was quite helpful. You gave good advice.” Lance let his hand run down Seraphim’s neck, feeling how he bobbed along with every step he took. “He and I are getting along quite well now.”

 

Seraphim nickered softly and shook his head out, seeming to agree with Lance’s statement, which made both Lance and Keith chuckle.

 

“Seraphim and I never would have gotten this close without you.” Lance continued.

 

“I doubt that.” Keith disagreed lightly.

 

Lance shrugged slightly. “Maybe. We’ll never know.”

 

They lapsed into comfortable silence, and Keith took the opportunity to get the lay of the land. Satori Mountain was to their left, a massive but widely unknown mountain. Anyone who’d dared to climb it came back changed, but they couldn’t explain what they saw. So, people had stopped trying. Despite the spooky and otherworldly presence that the mountain gave, everything here was still quite beautiful.

 

Small wildflowers, like the ones he and Lance saw by the ancient tech lab, were scattered along the side of the road. Pink, blue, and white, bringing some more vibrant colour to the already green landscape.

 

Suddenly, Lance perked up in his saddle, and pointed further up the road. “There!” he exclaimed. “Do you see it?”

 

Keith sat up straighter and looked where Lance was pointing. Ahead, nestled near a couple trees, was a large statue of a horse.

 

“Welcome to Sanidin Park.” Lance declared. “My favourite place, at least so far, in our great land of Hyrule.”

 

With a smile, Keith nudged Everest into a brisk trot, so they could get to the park faster.

 

There were more wildflowers here than Keith had ever seen, big and tall and beautiful. There were even little yellow butterflies flitting around. It seemed like such a tranquil place. And it was definitely a place he could see a lot of Lance in, if that was possible.

 

The columns lining the park, tall and thin, but beautiful despite the weather they probably went through. Water, and plenty of it, flowed freely from a beautiful fountain. The few trees surrounding the park, how vibrant and lovely they were.

 

And, of course, the staple of the park: the large horse statue.

 

At the very centre of the park stood the magnificent horse statue, standing tall and proud where it reared up on its hind legs.

 

“Woah.” Keith murmured reverently, trying to take it all in. He’d travelled all across Hyrule, been to many different sorts of places, all beautiful in their own way. But he was rendered breathless by the sereness of it all. It’s almost like this little pocket of Hyrule, the park and the land surrounding it, was just as Din intended; natural, wild, and free.

 

This was a place that suited Lance.

 

“Amazing, right?” Lance breathed in a deep breath with a smile. “I feel the most like myself here. And, I knew you would love it.” he steered Seraphim up towards the horse statue, leading him to one of the posts behind the statue. “It’s a horsey place, after all.”

 

“You know me,” Keith said quietly, distractedly. He was still trying to take it all in. It was just… So…

 

As Lance dismounted, Keith’s gaze was drawn to him as he stretched his arms above his head with a soft groan. The fading sun cast a warm glow on him, making him look positively seraphic.

 

“Beautiful.” he whispered.

 

Lance turned to face him. “What was that?”

 

“Nothing.” Keith was quick to say, and hopped off of Everest, leaving him to his own devices beside Seraphim. “So, why are we here?”

 

Rather than saying anything, Lance walked around the statue and out towards the overlook. As the sun was setting behind them, turning everything to vibrant orange and gold as far as the eye could see.

 

“Do you see that mountain?” he asked, his back to Keith.

 

Keith stepped closer, trying to see where Lance was looking. It wasn’t the Dueling Peaks, and Ruto Mountain was hard to distinguish from here, so there was only one other he could be talking about…

 

“That’s Mount Lanayru.” Lance continued. “It takes its name from the Goddess of Wisdom.”

 

With a jolt, Keith suddenly remembered that King Alfor had asked him to relay a message. But before he could say it, Lance spoke up again.

 

“Lanayru’s decree is very specific. It says: ‘no one is allowed under the age of seventeen, for only the wise are permitted a place upon the mountain’.” He breathed out a long sigh, letting his shoulders slump with it. “I’ve prayed at the Spring of Courage, and at the Spring of Power, yet neither awoke anything inside me.”

 

“Who knows,” Keith interrupted, and Lance turned to face him again, “maybe the final of the three will be the one, right?”

 

“Right…”

 

Keith stepped forwards and put a soothing hand onto Lance’s shoulder.

 

Lance smiled slightly at the gesture, but the smile didn’t reach his eyes. He glanced away to say, “But, to be honest, I have no real reason to think that will be the case. I--”

 

“Hey, don’t think like that.” Keith grabbed Lance’s chin, forcing their eyes to meet again. But once he had Lance’s attention again, he was swift to release him. “There’s always the chance that the next moment will change everything, right?”

 

“Right--”

 

“Besides, I’ll be there for you every step of the way. And so will the other Champions.”

 

“What? But--”

 

“Your father invited them out to join us tomorrow on your journey to the Spring.” Keith explained. “He told me about it this morning.”

 

Lance’s eyes widened in surprise, before he blinked and all the shock was gone, replaced with acceptance. “Well, I guess it wouldn’t be horrible to spend my seventeenth birthday with friends.” he admitted with a small sly smile.

 

Keith took a step back, letting his hand from Lance’s shoulder swing down between them. “I’d hope not, your highness.”

 

“So… Tomorrow, we shall go. And make our way up the mountain.” Lance breathed in a deep breath, seemingly to steel himself, before putting on his usual bright smile he wore around his friends. “Well, dear knight… Are you ready to go home?”

 

“Before we go,” Keith turned towards the horse statue again, taking it in, “do you mind if we get a picture of it?”

 

Lance seemed surprised by the question. “You’ve never asked me to take a picture before. Why now?”

 

“Well, you once told me that you take these pictures to look back at all the beautiful places you’ve been.” Keith explained. “And, this is the place you consider your favourite in all of Hyrule. I just thought you’d want to get a picture of it before we head back.”

 

“Oh,” Lance breathed, his eyes wide in understanding. “That’s a great idea!” With that, he pulled the slate off of his hip and brought up the function to take the photo.

 

Keith stepped behind him, to look over his shoulder while he lined up the shot. In the fading light, the sky looked a mix of pink and blue, casting the mountain west of them in shadow. The statue seemed to almost glow in the light, making it seem more majestic. Lance made sure that both Everest and Seraphim were framed well in the shot, and waited to click the button until both horses were looking their way.

 

As soon as the photo was taken, Lance brought up the photo album, smiling at the new photo there. He had a total of ten photos in the album now, from all around Hyrule. They were all vastly different, too, which was really interesting. Most of them were taken during the day when the sun was shining, but a few, like the photo he took in the Gerudo Desert were at different times of day or different weather conditions.

 

“This was a good idea,” Lance declared, and put the Sheikah Slate back on his hip. He turned to face Keith again, smiling, and offered a quiet “thanks”.

 

“I just thought you’d want to look back on this place when you can’t be here.”

 

“You’re too smart for your own good sometimes, dear knight.” Lance said with a sly smile, and turned to walk over to where Seraphim was waiting for him.

 

Keith shook his head fondly, chuckling under his breath. “Fortunately for you, I’m not just good with a sword. I have many talents.”

 

“Oh really?” Lance teased. “Like what?”

 

“Many things,” Keith said with a shrug, and made his way over to where Everest was waiting for him.

 

Lance scoffed softly and shook his head. “Sure sure, dear knight. Whatever helps you sleep at night.”

Chapter Text

15. The Return of the Calamity

 

The ride back to the Castle was quiet, for the most part, only their horse’s breathing with every stride to break the silence. Even Castletown was quieter than normal, only noise coming from the tavern at this time.

 

So they made it through town quickly, since they didn’t have to wait for any foot traffic to move aside for them. They only passed a stray white and black cat with bright green eyes on their way to the front gates.

 

The gates parted for them without question, and they didn’t even have to slow to wait for them to open. Even the Castle was quiet, with most of the servants gone home for the night. Nat was still in the royal stables when they ambled in, but she looked just about ready to leave.

 

They made quick work of untacking and grooming Seraphim and Everest, and Keith took a minute to look in on Zephyr. The horses were all fast asleep on their feet in their stalls by the time they doused the torches and closed the big doors behind them.

 

“I’m just about ready to turn in for the night,” Lance announced, stretching his arms above his head as they walked. “Don’t want to be tired tomorrow.”

 

“Fair enough,” Keith said, loosely scanning their surroundings. It was pretty dark, the sun long gone now, but his eyes were quickly adjusting to the lack of light. “I might train for a bit before retiring myself.”

 

Lance bumped his shoulder against Keith’s as they walked. “Don’t stay up too late," he said. His eyes glanced over to the open door that led down to the training deck. There were lights on inside, which he couldn’t help but find a little odd, but if Keith was going down there, he’d want the lights on anyways.

 

“I’ll see you up bright and early, birthday prince.” Keith promised with a smile. He slowed to a stop, and when Lance stopped and turned to face him, he gave a deep bow, his smile unwavering. “I hope you’ll be ready for more fruitcake.”

 

“I’m always ready for fruitcake.” Lance assured.

 

Suddenly, Keith registered that there were quick approaching footsteps rushing towards them. His first instinct was to pull out his sword and meet the assailant head on, but he’d recognize those footsteps anywhere.

 

He whirled around just in time to see Pidge flying at him, knocking the wind out of him when she crashed into him.

 

“Pidge?!” Lance exclaimed, looking suitably shocked to find his knight with an armful of the Zora princess. “What are you doing here?!”

 

“Your father invited us out here!” Pidge exclaimed. She giggled again when Keith pressed a quick kiss to her scaly head. “We figured it’d be easier to just come here, rather than rendezvousing somewhere on the road to the mountain.”

 

Heeled clicks followed at a much calmer pace. Keith hadn’t heard them before, probably because they were masked by Pidge’s webbed feet slapping against the stone, but he knew Allura wouldn’t be coming to greet him. He was quick to give Pidge a smile and swing her around until she giggled before putting her down.

 

The clicking stopped when Allura reached Lance’s side and wrapped him up in a hug, whispering something to him that was too quiet for Keith to hear.

 

“Is it just you two here?” Keith asked.

 

Pidge shook her head. “Nope, Shiro and Hunk are here, too.” She gestured back to the open door, “They’re down on the training deck. I was just sparring with Shiro when I heard you two talking.”

 

“Is he terrified yet?”

 

“He’s starting to realize who he’s up against.”

 

Keith chuckled, smirking at the thought. Pidge looked small and cute, but he knew all too well how deadly she was with and without her spear. “Guess I have some sparring partners, then.”

 

“Say ‘hi’ to everyone for me,” Lance spoke up, bringing both Keith’s and Pidge’s attention back to him. “I’m still gonna head up to bed. I’ll see them in the morning.”

 

“I’ll go with Lance,” Allura declared. She offered Pidge a kind smile, but pointedly avoided looking at Keith. “Have a good night.”

 

Pidge echoed her sentiment softly, glancing back and forth between Allura and Keith.

 

But Keith was busy watching Allura leave to focus much on his best friend. He watched as Lance looped his arm around Allura’s waist as they walked, and Allura threw her arm protectively over his shoulders. Lance leaned heavily into her as they walked, chatting quietly, probably telling her all about his day.

 

He turned back when Pidge’s hands tightened on his arms, looking down to meet her strong gaze. “What?” He asked.

 

“Does she still hate you?” she asked bluntly.

 

“Yeah.”

 

Still?

 

Keith could only shrug.

 

Why?

 

“We haven’t exactly had any time to talk, Pidgeon, to smooth things over.” Keith turned, and looped his arm in one of Pidge’s, starting to pull her towards the door. “I’m not super eager for a repeat of last time.”

 

Pidge let herself be dragged, but Keith knew their conversation was far from over, even before she opened her mouth. “What she did was horrible,” she relented softly as they started down the steps, “but her feelings might have changed.”

 

Keith scoffed, shaking his head. “I doubt that.”

 

“You won’t know until you ask her.” Pidge sighed.

 

“Yeah, sure, I’ll get right on that.”

 

“You need to talk to her.”

 

“Why? It’s not like I see her every day.”

 

“We’re a team, so we need to--”

 

“Keith!” Hunk exclaimed, making the both of them jump in surprise. But Keith quickly masked his surprise with a kind smile towards his friend.

 

Hunk and Shiro were squared off to each other, standing a few feet apart on the mat, appearing ready to spar. Shiro waved up to the pair with a kind smile. “Nice to see you again, Keith.” Shiro said as they approached.

 

“Good to see you,” Keith smiled. “You’re whiter than when I last saw you.”

 

A mischievous look made Shiro’s eyes twinkle almost impishly. “I see the training dummies are safe from you this time around.”

 

“Training dummies?” Pidge and Hunk questioned at the same time.

 

Keith could feel his face heating up at the memories of when they last spoke. “Nevermind that,” he dismissed, and stalked forwards to square off against Shiro. “Spar with me.”

 

“As you wish,” Shiro quickly lunged at Keith, but Keith was quick to sidestep and cuff the back of Shiro’s head as he darted by.

 

Pidge and Hunk stepped back, watching the two of them circle each other. “You know I’ll ask about it later,” Pidge said loudly, staring pointedly at Keith.

 

“And you know I won’t talk about it,” Keith retorted, ducking under Shiro’s wing.

 

Shiro huffed, and tried to sweep Keith’s feet out from under him. “Don’t worry, Pidge, I’ll tell you.”

 

Keith’s eyes widened, and he couldn’t jump up and out of the way in time, falling back to the floor with a grunt. Shiro quickly pinned him, looking quite smug with himself.

 

[karo's art]

 

“I’m counting on it,” Pidge asserted, clapping at Shiro’s victory.

 

Fear flooded Keith’s veins at the thought. With a grunt, he kicked his feet out, destabilizing Shiro, and made quick work of reversing their positions, so he was pinning Shiro to the mat. “You will do no such thing,” he hissed, glaring down at Shiro.

 

“What? You scared of the little Zora princess?” Shiro asked innocently, as if he didn’t know the answer.

 

Terrified.” He got up, and offered a hand down to Shiro to help him up.

 

“As you should be.” Pidge declared, standing up a little taller. “I am a force to be reckoned with.”

 

“This little darling?” Hunk wrapped her up in his arms, pulling her up to his chest with cooing noises. “She’s so cute, she wouldn’t hurt a fly.”

 

Keith and Shiro shared a look while Pidge fought and squirmed against Hunk’s hold. “You don’t know her well enough, do you?” Shiro questioned incredulously.

 

“Oh no, I know she’s a great warrior.” Hunk was quick to say. “But, look at her!” he spun around, sending Pidge’s feet flying outwards. “She’s adorable!”

 

“I am a terror!” Pidge declared loudly.

 

Hunk simply cooed at her, and squeezed her tighter.

 

Keith couldn’t help but chuckle at the sight of them; a big hunking Goron hugging the tiny Zora princess to his chest, oblivious to her kicking and clawing.

 

Only Hunk would have the rocky constitution to do something like that to the feistiest Zora.

 

As soon as Hunk released her, Pidge danced away, glaring at him all the while.

 

With a smirk, Keith darted towards her and hefted her up over his head. When she squealed, he adjusted his hold on her before dropping her firmly onto the mat. “Spar with me?”

 

“I hate you.” she declared, but was quick to get up and square off against him.

 


 

Lance felt safe and warm curled up beside Allura, his head resting against her shoulder. Her arms were wrapped around him, making the most of sitting together on his wide seated chair. It’d been too long since he last sat with Allura and just breathed.

 

They hadn’t said much since coming into Lance’s room. Allura simply sat down and opened her arms for him, and Lance melted into her like he always did. He wasn’t sure how long they’d been sitting here, but he wasn’t positive that he hadn’t dozed off for a few minutes.

 

“Are you nervous about tomorrow?”

 

Lance lifted his head off of Allura’s shoulder to look at her expression. She looked a little closed off, hesitant to ask, but sincere. “Nervous?” he questioned.

 

“Going up to the final of the three Springs?”

 

He knew that just going to the Springs wasn’t what she was asking about; she wanted to know if he was nervous about trying to access his sealing powers. She knew as well as he did that there weren’t too many new places to train at that might unlock his sealing powers. “Nervous is one word for it.”

 

Allura pressed a kiss into his hair. “I wish I could tell you that there’s nothing to be nervous about, that you’ll be fine. But…”

 

“But you don’t want to lie to me.”

 

“Exactly.”

 

Lance let a long sigh whistle out between his lips. He wished she could say that everything would be alright, that he’d finally be able to unlock his sealing powers… To tell him everything he wanted to hear, needed to hear, but… He didn’t want her to lie to him, either. “I understand. All I can do now, is hope that praying there will do something. That it’ll be enough.”

 

“Is there anything I can do to help?” she asked, adjusting so they could look into each other’s eyes. “You know I’d do anything and everything I can for you.”

 

“I don’t think you can help me with this, ‘Lura.” Lance shrunk in on himself, pulling his knees up to his chest. “I’d love it if you could, but, I don’t think you can.”

 

Allura breathed out a long sigh, looking down at Lance consideringly. “I hate seeing you suffer alone with this.”

 

Alone? Lance thought. But I’m not alone. “I have Keith. And all of you guys.”

 

Allura stiffened at the mention of Keith, but was quick to murmur a soft agreement.

 

“I know you, Hunk, Pidge and Shiro are a little further away. But, Keith’s always here for me.”

 

“Yes…” Allura said with a fair amount of distaste.

 

Lance really wanted to comment on it and call her out for how she’d been treating Keith, but, he was tired when they got back to the Castle, let alone now. They’d have to have a talk about it tomorrow, on the way to Mount Lanayru.

 

With an exaggerated yawn, he stretched his arms up above his head, and Allura was quick to lean back. “I’m getting tired,” he announced, with a pointed look to Allura, “I think I’m gonna turn in for the night.”

 

“Of course,” she was swift to say, and stood up. She brushed his hair back from his forehead, and pressed a kiss there. “I’ll see you in the morning, then, little bluebird.”

 

“Have a good night, ‘Lura.”

 

“You too.”

 

Once the door to his chambers shut behind her, he stood up, stripping his shirt and tossing it over the arm of his chair. He walked over to his desk, putting the Sheikah Slate and its holster there, and took a moment to look at the notes up on his wall.

 

He thought he heard the door creak open, but when he turned around, the door was just as shut as it was before, so with a shrug, he made his way over to his bed to change and finally get some shut-eye.

 


 

Keith bid Pidge farewell from the door of her chambers, before starting down the hallway to his own room.

 

But, as he reached his door, he walked right past it, his feet taking him towards Lance’s rooms before his head caught up with him. Once he realized it, though, he made no motion to stop and head back to his own rooms. He didn’t want to. He rationalized that it was because he wanted to wish the prince a good night before they both fell asleep, but he knew it was more than that.

 

As he rounded the corner, he almost walked directly into Allura. Fortunately, years of combat training on both their parts made them both jerk out of the way before colliding, but when Allura realized who she almost walked into, she leveled a fierce glare down at him.

 

Keith quickly schooled his expression into something blank, so she couldn’t read anything into it, but her gaze remained intense, even as she rounded the corner and disappeared from sight.

 

He let his shoulders slump once Allura was gone, slowing to a stop for a moment. He was pretty happy that they hardly saw each other, because he wasn’t sure how long he’d last having her hostility aimed so completely on him. Then, he carried on to the end of the hall, where the big double doors to Lance’s chambers awaited.

 

The door creaked slightly as he opened it a crack, to see what Lance was up to. He was surprised to see Lance shirtless, his back to him, standing at his desk. Keith quickly closed the door, putting that barrier between them.

 

He couldn’t recall if he’d ever seen the prince shirtless. The sight made his heart race. How strong and lithe he looked, how tight his waist. And it would forevermore be branded into his mind’s eye.

 

Not that he was complaining.

 

Shaking the image from his mind, he spun on his heel and made his way back to his own chambers.

 

They had places to be tomorrow, and he couldn’t afford to be tired on their journey.

 


 

Dreams were fleeting for Lance that night, despite the fun they had yesterday. He didn’t dream of anything in particular, not like he did the night at the citadel, but he couldn’t shake the feeling of grave foreboding. He wasn’t sure what to make of it, and it made him toss and turn all night.

 

He woke up to someone sitting on the edge of the bed, grabbing his shoulder, and giving him a light shake.

 

“Mmmno,” Lance groaned, and tried to burrow deeper into the warm embrace of his bed. He hadn’t been asleep for nearly long enough.

 

Laaaaaaance,” Keith whispered in a sing-song voice. “Happy birthday.”

 

Lance groaned even louder, and threw his blankets up and over his head. “No.” he grumbled petulantly.

 

Keith sighed and leaned into his shoulder shaking more firmly. “Wake up, sleepyhead. You can’t miss your own birthday.”

 

“Can too.” Lance muttered. “When it’s all over, will you come and wake me up?”

 

“Nope,” Keith replied, popping the ‘p’. “It’s time for your royal ass to get out of bed.” He suddenly pulled back the covers, making Lance shriek, before hauling him up and tossing him over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes.

 

Suddenly, Lance was very awake. Being upside down had that effect on a person. “Keith!” He shrieked, and kicked his legs about a bit at the treatment. “Put me down!”

 

“Alright.” Keith relented, before dropping Lance unceremoniously on his desk chair.

 

As soon as Lance gathered his bearings, and adjusted so he was sitting a little more comfortably in his chair, he glared heatedly up at his knight. “That’s some way to treat the future king of Hyrule.”

 

“Meh, you’re not king yet.” Keith shrugged, and turned away to start packing up some of Lance’s things. “Eat your fruitcake, birthday prince.”

 

At the mention of cake, Lance whirled around to face his desk, where, sure enough, a fruitcake was waiting for him, just like yesterday morning. He was quick to pick up the cutter, but just as quick to put it down and just use his fork instead. No sense dirtying a utensil that would be useless in the long run; Lance knew he’d eat the entire cake in a sitting.

 

“You gonna save any for me?” Keith asked, suddenly appearing by Lance’s shoulder.

 

Lance glanced up, but didn’t pay him much attention as he shovelled another forkful into his mouth. “Maybe,” he said with a shrug once he’d swallowed. “Maybe not.”

 

As he brought another forkful up to his mouth, he was intercepted by Keith’s hand on his wrist. Lance stilled, looking up at his knight with wide eyes as Keith used his grip to bring the fork up to his own mouth, stealing the cake right from him. But Lance couldn’t even be mad, not when he saw a few crumbs lingering on Keith’s lips as he chewed. The white crumbs stood out starkly against Keith’s pink lips, and even more so when Keith’s tongue peeked out to drag them into his mouth. He was even at the perfect angle to watch Keith’s throat bob as he swallowed the cake down.

 

“I did good,” Keith hummed consideringly, eying up the cake Lance was massacring with his fork. “Wasn’t sure it’d turn out, since it was my first time making it.”

 

“Y-yeah.” Lance stuttered, still staring at the corner of Keith’s lips, where a crumb had escaped his tongue. “You did good.”

 

Keith took the fork for himself, grabbing another quick bite before putting it back into Lance’s lax hand. “I’m glad you like it,” he said around the cake in his mouth, and left to continue packing.

 

Lance sat there in a daze for a moment, trying to process what just happened, before shaking his head and continuing to eat. He couldn’t help but feel the phantom sensation of Keith’s lips against the fork as he brought it to his own mouth, which made his cheeks heat up. But he shook that ludicrous idea from his mind as he continued to eat, and pulled out his diary.

 

“I’m gonna run down to the kitchen and grab us some food for the trip.” Keith called from the doorway. “Do you want anything in particular, or, is anything I grab okay?”

 

“Whatever you want.” Lance turned and replied. “Say ‘good morning’ to Keely for me while you’re down there, okay?”

 

“Will do.” Keith gave a slight smile at the mention of the girl. “When I come back, I expect you changed and ready to go. The others are meeting us down by the gates.” With that, he turned and disappeared.

 

Lance leaned heavily into his chair with a sigh. He wasn’t sure what to make of what just happened, or of his rapidly beating heart and flushed cheeks. So, he turned back to his desk, opened up his diary.

 

Normally, if he was in a hurry he wouldn’t sit down to write in his diary. But, with how he was feeling, and what day it was, he felt like he needed to get a few words down before they left.

 

Writing about his feelings, getting them off his chest did help a little, but not as much as he was hoping it would. He made sure to keep his fork away from his book as he ate and wrote at the same time, lest he get crumbs in the pages. He’d done that before, and food didn’t like to come out of the pages, and it left a greasy stain he hated to look at.

 

But, he’d have to be quick. Who knew how quick Keith’d be?

 


 

As soon as Keith returned, finding Lance dressed and ready to depart, they went down to the stables, tacked up Zephyr and Seraphim, and started on their way.

 

“You don’t have your shield.” Lance noted as they ambled towards the front gates. “It’s weird seeing you parted from it.”

 

Keith shrugged slightly, making the Master Sword shift against his back. “Didn’t think I really needed the extra weight, especially with us climbing Mount Lanayru.”

 

“I was thinking the same about my bow.” Lance leaned forwards in his saddle, reaching through Seraphim’s ears to braid his mane as they ambled along. “Besides, I have you to protect me, dear knight. It’s why I keep you around.”

 

“Gee, thanks.” Keith replied dryly. “I thought it was because of my charm, wit, and devilishly good looks.”

 

Lance rolled his eyes, chuckling fondly. “Whatever helps you sleep at night.” But, he could admit to himself that Keith’s words did ring true.

 

Especially the bit about his looks.

 

The ring of their horses’ shoes across the cobblestone alerted the guards at the gate that they were approaching, and the gates opened without any further prompting. As soon as the doors were open enough, Keith and Lance were met with the sight of the rest of the Champions waiting for them.

 

As soon as Lance caught Allura’s gaze, he spurred Seraphim faster, half-braided mane be damned to get to her faster. He could hear Keith doing the same in his wake, but his eyes were only on Allura.

 

As soon as he was close enough, he pulled Seraphim into a quick stop and jumped from his back, right into Allura’s waiting arms.

 

“Good morning, my little bluebird,” she cooed, and pulled him tight to her chest. “Did you sleep well?”

 

“I did.” he whispered.

 

They embraced for a few moments longer before they separated, and Lance was almost immediately wrapped up in another hug. This one from Hunk.

 

“Happy birthday, little guy!” Hunk exclaimed, swinging him around in a circle.

 

Lance giggled at Hunk’s enthusiasm. “Thanks, big guy.” He could see Allura smiling fondly at him from over Hunk’s shoulder, but she didn’t repeat the same sentiment. She knew how he felt about his birthday.

 

“Happy birthday, Lance.” Both Pidge and Shiro echoed, but Pidge was busy being wrapped up into a hug from Keith.

 

“Other than the obvious,” Shiro began, “anything special for your birthday?”

 

Hunk finally put Lance down, still grinning a big smile.

 

“Not much, I’m afraid.” Lance said with a small smile. “Keith made fruitcake for me, but that’s about it.” He couldn’t help but notice Pidge elbow Keith’s side with an evil grin when he said that, and tried not to think too much about the blush that flared up on his knight’s cheeks.

 

“Well, at least you’re spending your birthday with friends.” Shiro smiled.

 

Hunk laughed heartily. “It’s the best way to spend your birthday!”

 

Lance couldn’t help but agree.

 

“Well, we should get moving.” Allura announced, and stepped back over to her horse, a beautiful black steed with a dished face, long neck and a highly held tail. It looked like it could run fast. As soon as she mounted up, Keith and Lance were quick to follow in her footsteps. Seraphim pranced a bit in place, so Lance gave him a pat on the shoulder, and they started making their way through Castletown.

 

Chatter was easy between the Champions as they made their way through the hustle and bustle of Castletown at mid-morning. Lance slowed to put a coin in a beggar's cup, which didn’t go go unnoticed like he’d hoped. The beggar smiled kindly up at him, wishing him a quiet ‘happy birthday’ as they passed. Keith offered a hand down to Pidge to let her ride with him, but she declined, saying she was gonna swim ahead to meet them at Mount Lanayru.

 

Hunk and Shiro had similar sentiments, saying they would go ahead with their own method of travel to meet Lance, Keith, and Allura at the Lanayru Road.

 

As soon as they split to go their separate ways, Lance inserted himself and Seraphim between Keith and Allura. He knew that Allura still harboured ill feelings towards Keith due to his heritage, which he hoped to dispel in the near future.

 

“How is everything with you, little bluebird?” Allura asked with a smile. “You’ve been brief in your letters as of late.”

 

Lance chuckled and rubbed at the back of his neck. “Sorry, ‘Lura. We’ve been, uh, busy.”

 

“Oh?”

 

“We travelled to Akkala just two weeks back.” Keith spoke up. “Spent some time at the citadel there before visiting the Spring.”

 

Allura’s face darkened as Keith spoke, and she didn’t dignify him with a response.

 

Lance frowned slightly, but didn’t comment on her attitude change. “You remember the Spring, right?” he asked her. “It’s been a while since you’ve been there, though.”

 

“I do!” Allura’s face brightened up significantly. “It’s a beautiful place, with all those waterfalls and pretty flowers.”

 

“It is a beautiful place.” Lance agreed. He noticed Keith rein Zephyr in a bit out of the corner of his eye, and glanced over to see him pulling back from him and Allura, letting them do their thing.

 

He could understand why. It was obvious to anyone that Allura didn’t like him, even if they didn’t know about the scar she gave him. And he could honestly understand why Allura disliked Keith, in theory; the Yiga Clan had been the Gerudo’s sworn enemy for as long as history remembered. And Allura had more reason to hate them than most.

 

But it didn’t mean he had to like it.

 

So, he bided his time. He chatted easily with her until they were riding up the ridge to Kakariko Village, before suddenly leveling her with a serious look. “You and Keith have to talk.” he declared. “You’ve got to work this out if we’re all going to work together.”

 

Allura bristled under the sudden change. “You-- But, he’s from the Yiga Clan!”

 

“He was born into it, yes.” Lance relented, but didn’t give her the time to interject. “But, he was never a part of the violence you associate with them, ‘Lura. He didn’t do anything.”

 

“But he’s a part of that vile organization!” She exclaimed, throwing an arm out wide. “They killed my mother! And, their mission is to kill you, Lance! They won’t hesitate, you know that!”

 

Lance breathed out a long sigh, closing his eyes in frustration. He really wanted to yell and scream at her, but he knew it wouldn’t do any good. He’d have to try to reason with her, somehow.

 

He opened his eyes again, and watched her closely as he said, “You realize they’d kill him too, right? He’s the man with the soul of the hero, and their purpose is to wipe out any who oppose the Calamity. They wouldn’t hesitate to kill him, either.”

 

A look of realization came over Allura’s features as she registered what Lance was saying. It was obvious that she hadn’t considered that before.

 

“And, he saved my life when the Yiga Clan tried to attack me. And a bunch of times since.” Lance glanced back over his shoulder at Keith, seeing how he was doing. He was far enough back to be out of traditional ear shot, even though he knew Keith had really good hearing, but was still close enough that he could be at their side in the blink of an eye if need be. “He’s a good guy, ‘Lura. He’s my best friend.”

 

She still looked conflicted about it all, but after a long moment she breathed out a resigned sigh, and finally looked back over her shoulder to the man in question.

 

Lance looked back just as Keith glanced over and met his gaze. He looked surprised to see both Lance and Allura looking back at him, but was quick to give Lance a flash of a smile before meeting Allura’s strong gaze.

 

He watched Allura as she gave Keith a brief flash of a smile, and his knight looked suitably shocked by that. But, he was quick to offer her a tentative smile of his own.

 

“You need to talk to him.” Lance urged again.

 

Allura looked extremely hesitant, but not for the same reason as before. She’d been mad earlier, furious at him and where he came from, but now she looked more sheepish and tentative than anything. “I know I do.” she admitted lowly. “But, what if he’s mad at me for how I’ve treated him?”

 

“I don’t think he will be.” Lance soothed. “He’s never held it against you. I think if you explained why you’re mad at him about his heritage, he’d understand where you’re coming from.”

 

Allura’s eyes widened. “He doesn’t know?”

 

“I don’t think so.” Lance pursed his lips, pondering. “I know I’ve never told him, and it’s not something that’s common knowledge here in Hyrule Field. I don’t think he’d have any reason to know.”

 

“Hmm,” Allura hummed consideringly, and glanced back over her shoulder at Keith again. After a moment, she nodded, as if she’d come to a decision. “Alright, I’ll talk to him.” she reined her horse in, letting Lance walk on ahead, waiting for Keith to catch up with her.

 

Lance watched the two of them for a moment, as they approached each other with the same cautious hesitance.

 

It was up to them, now.

 


 

Keith straightened up in his saddle when he saw Allura pull her steed back, waiting for him and Zephyr to get closer. She didn’t look as hostile as before, fortunately. Whatever Lance told her seemed to do the trick.

 

But, he was still a little hesitant. He rubbed at his shoulder absentmindedly as he approached her.

 

“Hey,” she said awkwardly as soon as they were nearer.

 

“Hi.”

 

“Look, I,” Allura paused, looking hesitant. She breathed in a deep breath, steeling herself, before continuing, “I wanted to apologize. For, well, the tournament, and for how I’ve treated you since.”

 

“It’s okay--” Keith was quick to say, but Allura raised a silent hand, making his mouth shut with an audible click.

 

“It’s not okay.” she rubbed her thumbs along her reins nervously. “I was cruel and unkind to you, when… Well, it was unfair of me to do so. I’m sorry Keith, for treating you the way I have.”

 

Keith leaned back slightly in his saddle, processing. She sounded sincere, truly, but he didn’t know her well enough to know if it was genuine or not. “Thank you for that,” he replied carefully. “But… If I might ask, why do you hate the Yiga Clan so much?”

 

Allura went quiet at that, her gaze focused down towards her horse’s mane as they ambled along.

 

“If you don’t want to talk about it, that’s--”

 

“No, I do.” Allura cut in. “I just… it's hard for me to talk about. And...”

 

Keith tilted his head, confused about what she could mean by that. “And?”

 

Allura sighed, and rubbed at her temple. “Well, it’s just… Nevermind. Alright. As you know, the Yiga Clan are the sworn enemy of any who oppose the Calamity, and all it stands for.”

 

“Yes.”

 

“But, they are also the sworn enemy of the Gerudo, my people. We’re constantly at war with them, chipping away at each other’s defences. We managed our biggest hit on them with the support of the Hyrulean army about fourteen years ago. It was a huge success, and we nearly wiped them out entirely.

 

“We celebrated our win, in the aftermath of that battle. It was well earned, and a needed boost for morales. But…” Allura sounded pained, as if just talking about it deeply hurt her. “The Yiga Clan retaliated, storming Gerudo Town and wiping out any who came in their path. And, my mother happened to be one of them.”

 

Keith stilled, a horrible feeling settling in the pit of his stomach.

 

“She was protecting my little sister, Romelle. A Yiga soldier got a lucky hit, and… I managed to get there in time to protect Romelle, but… I couldn’t protect my mother.”

 

Keith tore his gaze away from her, and stared down unseeingly at his hands. While he was grieving the loss of his parents after the raid, Allura was going through the same thing, with the loss of her mother.

 

Why was there so much violence, anyways? It never solved anything. And it just made people unhappy.

 

“I’m sorry you couldn’t protect her…” Keith said lowly. “I know a little about how you feel.”

 

“How could you?” Allura snapped, but was quick to start whispering an apology.

 

How could I?” Keith lifted his head up to look at her with a hard gaze. “I watched both of my parents be put to death before I was dragged to Hyrule Field to become part of the army that dealt the death blow.”

 

A look of confusion flashed over her features, but was quickly replaced by a look of understanding. “Goddesses, you were the child the army brought back with them.” Allura whispered incredulously.

 

“I was.” Keith spit out. “So you don’t get to talk to me about--” He cut off, and took a moment to breathe in a calming breath. Once his anger dissipated, he continued, “I know how you feel.” he said slowly, calmly. “Don’t you think I resented the people who took me away from my family, killed my parents? Of course I did. For a long time. But…”

 

“But… What?”

 

“I forgave them.”

 

“How?”

 

Keith shook his head and shrugged. “I’m… Not sure. Honestly, I’m not. I think...“ Keith pursed his lips, considering, and looked out through Zephyr’s grey ears as they levelled out again. They were almost to Kakariko Village now. “I think I just woke up one day tired of being angry. So, I forgave them. But, that doesn’t mean I’ll ever forget.”

 

“I’m sorry, Keith.” Allura reached out and put a soothing hand on his arm. “I never really considered your circumstances of joining the army. But, it makes perfect sense. I just never put the pieces together.”

 

Lance turned in his saddle and met Keith’s gaze, offering him a smile that Keith was helpless to do anything but return. When Lance turned away, Keith faced Allura again. “You were more focused on where I came from than anything else. I understand that.”

 

“So… Do you think we could be friends?”

 

Keith’s brows disappeared behind his bangs in surprise. He never thought Allura would be the one to offer an olive branch of friendship, but he was not one to look a gift horse in the mouth.

 

Besides, it would make Lance happy. And, it would be good for their dynamic as a team. He and Allura were the only two that were at odds with each other, and it would put a strain on the rest of the team if it dragged on.

 

All in all, now that he knew why Allura was so quick to hate him, he couldn’t blame her for reacting the way that she did. He couldn’t say that he wouldn’t do the same, if their positions were reversed. As much as he loved and missed his parents dearly, he was only four when they were separated. Allura had a life with her mother, had grown up and built a relationship with her. Allura’s mother’s death was more devastating to Allura because she actually remembered her. Keith couldn’t remember the first thing about his parents, not anymore.

 

“I think so,” Keith gave her a small smile, and offered her a hand. “I’d like us to be friends.”

 

Allura’s smile to him was practically blinding.

 


 

From thereon out, Lance rejoined them, and they made good time through Kakariko Village on their way to Lanayru Road.

 

Pidge, Shiro and Hunk said they would meet them at the eastern gate, closest to the base of the mountain. So, that is where they were headed.

 

“I’ve never been out this way,” Lance said conversationally, twisting the ends of Seraphim’s mane between his fingers.

 

“Me neither,” Allura looked around at all the gorgeous architecture curiously. “It’s beautiful here. What happened?”

 

“It just fell out of use.” Keith explained, casting a glance at their surroundings. “Since the royal families of Hyrule, both Zora and Hylian, stopped using it for sacred rites and renewal ceremonies, it fell off the radar. I don’t think it even gets much foot traffic anymore, with broken walkways and higher water levels.”

 

The Lanayru Promenade, situated just beside the Lanayru Road, sat directly between the east and west gates. The gates were large archways made of opalescent stone, making any who stood in their presence feel like the tiniest of ants. But, the location as a whole was a beautifully ruined window into the past.

 

It was mostly aquatic now, only a few areas accessible to foot traffic. With the rising water levels over the course of history, the place had fallen out of use to most, other than the Sheikah and the Hyrulean royal family. But, even they only used the road as a quick route to the base of Mount Lanayru.

 

Massive marble pillars and walkways took up most of the space, but at the very centre, down at the water level, was an exquisite fountain. It looked like a giant water lily, perfectly fitting the location and the rising water level, and it’s silver lustre was still breathtaking, even after all these years. It didn’t appear to be very weathered, despite being over a thousand years old.

 

Pidge suddenly popped up from out of the water beside them, grinning her usual shit-eating grin when Allura’s horse snorted and danced sideways. Allura was quick to get her mount back under control with soft whispers and a rub to its neck.

 

“Always one for the dramatics,” Keith said with a knowing smile.

 

Pidge rolled her eyes, and hopped up onto the ledge, still partially submerged in water. “I think you’re mixing us up, little wolf.”

 

“Are Hunk and Shiro already waiting at the base?” Allura asked.

 

“They sure are,” Pidge stood up, water dripping off of her body and shawl, joining the water lapping up onto the road. She wrung out the end of her shawl as she walked over to Keith’s side, and put a soothing hand on his knee. Keith’s hand was quick to reach out and cover hers in turn.

 

Lance watched the two of them for a moment, before telling everyone that they should keep moving. “Keith and I still have to get up the mountain.”

 

“Lance is right.” Keith agreed. “We should keep moving.” he offered a hand down to Pidge so she could get a ride up. After she gave her shawl one more wring, she took Keith’s offered hand and jumped up onto Zephyr’s back.

 

They picked up the pace the rest of the way, going at an easy canter until they reached the second large archway, framing the path to the base of the mountain.

 

Shiro and Hunk were standing there waiting, but as soon as they pulled to a stop and started dismounting, they turned to face them with smiles.

 

“You ready to climb up the mountain?” Shiro asked, looking to Lance.

 

Lance shrugged. “It’s not a climb so much as a hike. There’s a set of stairs up the incline, so it shouldn’t take us more than an hour to get to the Spring.”

 

“There’s stairs?!” Pidge exclaimed, jumping down from Zephyr’s back. “That’s sort of lazy.”

 

“It’s a sacred place, Pidge!” Hunk gestured up to the snowy peak. “It’s not sacred if you’re freezing and sweating when you get there!”

 

“I, for one, am glad there’s stairs.” Keith interjected. “I wasn’t sure how Lance and I would make it up to the top, pray, and come back down the same day if we had to scale the side of the mountain.”

 

Lance huffed loudly, glaring over at his knight. “I resent that. We could have done it.”

 

“Oh, I know I could have. Not so sure about you, though.”

 

“Who says I wouldn’t have you carry me?”

 

“As if I would carry your ass up a mountain.”

 

Lance rolled his eyes, finally dismounting from Seraphim. “You would, and we both know it.”

 

Keith kept his mouth shut, but the small smile on his face said it all.

 

“You need to bundle up.” Pidge reached into Keith’s saddle bag, pulling out his big coat. “You’re not built for winter, desert boy.”

 

That brought a laugh out of the entire group, sans Keith, who flushed red and yanked the coat out of her grasp. Even Lance couldn’t help but chuckle, the uncomfortableness in the pit of his stomach lightening as he watched Keith throw his coat over his arm with muttered grumblings.

 

“You’d better bundle up too, little bluebird.” Allura whispered, mirroring Pidge’s earlier actions. “At least until you get to the top.”

 

“Will do.” Lance promised with a smile, and took his big Rito down feather coat from her hands. “I’ll put it on as soon as the air starts getting colder.”

 

Shiro offered Lance a smile when he saw the coat. “That’ll be nice and warm for you,” he said with a twinkle in his eye.

 

“You know it!”

 

Hunk looked back over at Mount Lanayru, and visibly shivered. “I’m cold here, let alone on a freezing white mountain.” he grouched.

 

“You’re cold anywhere that’s not Death Mountain, Hunk.” Lance replied dryly.

 

“Because Death Mountain is perfect! I call it ‘home’ for a reason!”

 

“Boiling hot magma in your backyard? Sounds fantastic.”

 

“It is fantastic!”

 

Pidge huffed and crossed her arms over her chest. “Anything is better than the dry heat of that horrible place.”

 

Keith shrugged slightly. “It’s not that bad.”

 

Shiro, Allura, and Pidge turned to level a look at him, while Hunk looked extremely pleased with Keith’s support. Lance could only shake his head. Of course Keith would think the mountain named after death would be ‘not that bad’.

 

“You really are a crazy desert boy,” Lance said dryly.

 

Keith narrowed his eyes over at him, lips pursed in a pout. But he didn’t say anything to the contrary, which was good in Lance’s books.

 

Shiro stepped forwards, putting a wing on Lance’s shoulder. “You guys should move out; don’t want it to be after dark when you’re coming back down the mountain.”

 

“He’s right.” Hunk agreed, and slapped a hand to Keith’s back, making him stumble forwards a good few steps before righting himself. “We don’t want to be waiting here all day.”

 

“But we will,” Allura interjected, “we’ll wait here for however long it takes for you two to come back down.”

 

Lance nodded slightly, and turned to gaze up at the mountain in question.

 

Mount Lanayru was one of the highest places in Hyrule, only shorter than Death Mountain, the Hebra Mountains, and parts of the Gerudo Highlands. The grey stone was completely covered in snow, but still managed to look blue in some areas. There were massive pillars of ice sticking up and out from random places along the side of the mountain, most of which were visible even from their distance away.

 

Looking at it just made Lance feel the heavy weight of dread in his stomach, sitting like a rock in his gut. He wasn’t overly eager to visit the Spring to see if he was worthy, or if he’d finally unlock his sealing powers, but… He knew he had to try.

 

Even though the sight pressed down on the anxiousness sitting heavy in his stomach, he was the first to admit that this is the kind of picture he wanted to look back on. He pulled the Sheikah Slate off of his hip and brought it up to his face, sighting the shot.

 

Most of the mountain was visible, but some clouds had gathered around the peak, concealing the top of it. In the shadow of the high walls surrounding them, the greenery growing on the walls of the gateway seemed even brighter, contrasting against the grey and blue of the mountain. And with a mid-morning sky so bright it almost hurt to look at, it made a nice picture. He pulled up the album to take a look at it, and was pleased to see that the result looked just as good as the scene in front of him.

 

“Hey,” Lance said suddenly, turning to face Keith. “I just realized, that I never thought to check if the Master Sword was in the Hyrule Compendium.”

 

“In the what?” Hunk queried.

 

“Something on the Sheikah Slate, apparently.” Shiro answered, equally as curious.

 

Keith was quick to pull his sword from its scabbard and offer it up to Lance to get a photo.

 

With a simple click, Lance brought the camera function up on the slate again. He could hear and feel the other Champions gathering behind him, either to look over his shoulder or just stay out of the way as he took the photo.

 

As he lifted the slate up, sighting the shot, Keith brought his sword up towards his chest, the tip pointed skywards. Lance had to pause at the sight it made. The winged handles of the sword were visible now, and the wider side of metal faced him, but the sword wasn’t what paused him. Where Keith was holding it, so the sword cut his face in half, looking so calm and picturesque that Lance couldn’t even breathe.

 

The way Keith’s hair blew slightly in the breeze, fanning around his face, making his jaw look even sharper and handsome flooded breath back into Lance’s lungs. As he zoomed the camera in, he couldn’t help but notice how vibrant Keith’s eyes looked against the blue reflective surface of his sword.

 

He could admit it to himself; his knight was handsome. And having a handsome man following him around really was nice.

 

A knowing cough came from over his shoulder, and he glanced back to see Pidge snickering at him with an all-too-knowing look. He could feel his cheeks flare up, but turned back to the slate to take the picture.

 

Fortunately, the Master Sword seemed to be something in the compendium. An orange square appeared around the sword, following the shape of it even as Lance’s hands shook minisculely. Lance quickly snapped the photo before he could focus on it much more, and clicked to add it into the compendium without even checking the photo.

 

Then, he turned back to Keith with a slightly forced smile. “Well, then. Are you ready, dear knight?”

 

“Always.”

 


 

After quick hugs and well wishes from the other Champions, Lance and Keith set off towards Mount Lanayru. The walk across the small plain before the Naydra Snowfield was quiet, only the soft thump of their boots on the cobblestone between them. Even birds were quiet, unusually so, Lance couldn’t help but notice.

 

As soon as they climbed up a small ledge at the entrance to the snowfield, Keith instantly started shivering and shouldered on his coat as quickly as he was able.

 

Lance couldn’t help but chuckle at his knight’s inability to handle the cold. But, he was quick to follow suit with his own down-feather coat.

 

“Why is it so damned cold here?” Keith muttered, shoving his hands deep into his pockets once he adjusted his sword on his back.

 

Lance could only shrug. “Some places are warmer than others. It snows here more often than not.”

 

“But we were so warm only five minutes ago. What happened?”

 

“Dunno. The weather’s wild, eh?” Lance smirked, and started ahead of him.

 

The snow was deep already, a good couple of inches, and it crunched pleasantly under each step Lance took. He could hear Keith trudging along behind him, muttering under his breath all the while about how cold it was and how much he hated snow. Lance could sympathize with that; snow could be a nuisance. But, it was incredibly pretty, and made the wooded area around them seem so much more.

 

All the trees here had leaves that looked like green pins, thoroughly coated in snow and ice. As they followed the paved path towards the base of the mountain, it almost seemed like the landscape around them was tailored to make the journey easier. But with how jagged and natural the sides were, Lance quickly ruled that out.

 

They walked past a tall wall, and were finally met with the sight of the mountain looming over their heads.

 

Keith staggered to a stop, looking up at the mountain with wide eyes. “That’s what we’re climbing?”

 

“You must’ve realized it was a tall mountain.” Lance looped his arm in Keith’s, dragging him along.

 

“I mean, yeah, but, this tall?”

 

“C’mon, dear knight, you can complain about it while we’re walking up to the Spring.”

 

Only while we’re walking up?”

 

Lance levelled a dry look over to Keith, before unlinking their arms and walking ahead on his own again.

 

Soon enough, the path led them to the base of the mountain, where stairs started curling up the slope. Made of the same stone as the cobbled path they’d walked across, they were weathered with time and heavy snowfall. Not all of the steps were exposed, he noticed when he glanced up the incline, but he was sure they were just buried under the snow.

 

“Well,” Keith muttered, putting a foot on the first step of the stairs, “at least it’ll be an easy climb.”

 

“C’mon, desert boy, you might warm up once we get you moving.”

 

“I’ve been moving, and it’s still freezing. I’ll never get warm again.”

 

“I’ve never known you to back down from a challenge.” Lance smirked. “Maybe I should send you back to the other Champions, to keep warm until I return.”

 

Keith scoffed, and pushed ahead of Lance, starting up the incline without him. “Yeah, right. You’d get into trouble as soon as I turned my back on you.”

 

“Do you really have such little faith in me?” Lance grouched, following a few steps behind. “The power of faith goes a long way, dear knight. Your faith in me would be nice.”

 

“Faith isn’t why you brought me along, though, is it? No,” Keith smirked back at him over his shoulder. “If you had your bow, I’d have a bit of faith. But you don’t.”

 

“Oh, hush you. I’m not completely useless, I’ll have you know.”

 

They walked in silence for a while, climbing up as the path slowly curved. A large pillar of ice, the first one they’d come across up close, loomed over the path above their heads. It cast a kaleidoscope of colours onto the snow from the light shining through it, making it feel like they were walking on a rainbow. Lance couldn’t help but giggle at how cool it was.

 

Some of the stairs were hidden under a lot of snow, making it hard to find traction. Lance slipped and fell forwards onto his hands at one point, but Keith was there as quick as a flash, helping him up so they could continue.

 

When the path finally curved, leading them up onto the mountain itself, Lance took a moment to gather his bearings. The path walked the line between the rocky ledges, protruding out of the snow. There was even some pale grass poking up, trying to catch the light. He was pretty surprised that any could grow here.

 

Keith jogged ahead a few steps, and crouched down beside a small flower. The buds were small, no wider than one of his fingers, and a beautiful lilac colour, fading to white near the tips. They reminded Lance of the bluebells in the Castle gardens, only they stood upright on their own like tulips.

 

“How are these able to survive in the freezing cold?” Keith reached out to touch one of the petals on a flower gently.

 

Lance could only shrug. “Nature finds a way, I guess.”

 

Keith hummed agreeingly. “They’re beautiful.”

 

“They are.”

 

With that, Keith stood up, and they were off again. It was much easier to walk on this part of the path, since all of the stairs were visible and, for the most part, exposed. Lance could hear Keith’s teeth chattering as they trekked up the path, but didn’t comment on it. He knew that Keith didn’t like to look weak in any sense of the word, and letting Lance see that side of him was big for him.

 

When they were a little over halfway to the top, they could finally see the top of the mountain. They hadn’t been able to see it before. It gave them hope.

 

“Where is the Spring, exactly?” Keith asked, breaking the silence.

 

Lance shrugged. “I’m not sure, exactly, since I’ve never been up here. But, I’m sure the path will lead us to it.”

 

“Hopefully.”

 

Ice pillars got more and more frequent the higher they climbed, and each one looked bigger and taller than the last. If they were in the sun, the light shone through them and cast vibrant colours onto the ground in its shadow. But, even the ones hidden from the light were beautiful.

 

The path wove like a gently coursing river up the side of the mountain, eventually bringing them around to the opposite side than what they started up on. When they realized that they were nearing the top, they picked up the pace, eager to see what laid ahead, waiting for them.

 

Finally, on the other side of the the largest group of ice pillars they’d seen yet, stood the Spring of Wisdom.

 

Lance stopped so suddenly that Keith had to jerk sideways to avoid running into him.

 

For the first time in what seemed like forever, Lance felt awed by the sight of a Spring in front of him. There were massive ice pillars everywhere here, mostly behind the Goddess statue, covering most of the peak of the mountain. And in the sunlight, the ice reflected vibrant coloured light every which way, making the entire Spring glow almost magically.

 

Similarly designed like its sister Springs, there was a small set of stairs leading up to a dias, before leading out into the water before the Goddess statue. The pillars lining the path here were in the worst condition of them all, though, since the heavy snow toppled them over and reduced the remainder of the bases down to stumps.

 

Even in the freezing cold temperature, water flowed freely here, trickling down two small waterfalls on either side of the dias and into a small reservoir below. It was soothing to hear it flowing, slapping against fallen pillars rhythmically.

 

Looking at it, Lance felt calmed, awed, and inspired by the sight of the place. Everything looked to be shades of blue, all his favourite colour, from the mountainside, to the water, even the snow in the reflected light.

 

This was surely how he was supposed to feel every time he went to a Spring to pray.

 

Keith was quiet beside him, letting him take in the sight at his own pace, which Lance appreciated. But he also knew that Keith took in the entire sight in a fraction of a glance, and probably felt the same way he did.

 

“It’s beautiful.” Lance admitted quietly.

 

Keith nodded, and offered a small smile. “It is.”

 

He looked at it for a moment longer, before breathing in a deep breath, and letting it out. His breath made a white cloud in front of him, and he walked through it, dispersing it. “Time to pray.”

 

As he stepped up onto the dias, he started shedding his coat, shivering at the bite of the cold when his layers were removed.

 

Keith was at his side again in an instant, adjusting the coat back up onto his shoulders again. “It’s too cold, Lance. You can’t--”

 

“I have to.” Lance argued, turning to face Keith. He had to look down at him, since there was a step or two between them. “I’m about to engage in a sacred ritual, with specific instructions and traditions.”

 

Keith still looked extremely skeptical, but his grip on Lance’s coat did lessen.

 

“Besides,” Lance said, shrugging off his coat, revealing his ceremonial praying tunic, “I’m not the first to partake in this ceremony here. If my ancestors did it, so can I.” With that, he carried on up the steps, and slipped his sandaled feet out of his boots before heading to the water’s edge.

 

Before stepping in, he hesitated, bracing himself for frighteningly cold water. But when his toes dipped in, he was shocked to find the pool warm to the touch. He stepped in quickly after that, latching onto the warmth of the water.

 

“Woah,” Keith exclaimed, scrambling up after Lance. “You okay?”

 

“It’s warm,” Lance explained incredulously, turning back to his knight. “I promise, I’m okay. The water’s keeping me warm.”

 

Keith’s eyes widened, and he knelt down by the edge to dip his hand into the water. But just as quickly, he pulled his hand out, shaking the excess off. “It’s freezing, Lance, are you kidding me?!”

 

“What?”

 

“Don’t play jokes,” he shoved his hand deep into the pocket of his coat, trying to warm it up. “The water’s freezing, you can admit it.”

 

Lance cocked his head, confused. What was there to admit? “I’m serious.” he urged. “The water feels warm to me, and it’s the only reason I’m not shivering in the cold.”

 

Keith looked at him skeptically for a long moment, before seeming to realize that Lance was serious. He wasn’t shivering, even in a thin ceremonial tunic, trousers, and sandals in the coldest weather they’d ever experienced. “How…?”

 

“I have no idea.” Lance admitted with a shrug. “But, I’m not gonna look a gift horse in the mouth.” With that, he turned and made his way further into the pool, to where he’d spend the forseeable future praying in front of the Goddess statue.

 

As he knelt in front of her, warmth seeped into his bones as everything up to his waist was submerged in the water. He was still confused about how that could be, despite the freezing temperatures and how Keith swore it was anything but warm, but pushed it from his mind so he could focus on praying.

 

This was his last hope. Right here, right now. If he couldn’t unlock his sealing powers here, he’d run out of options. This had been his back-up plan for months now, his excuse for why the Springs of Power and Courage didn’t do anything. If this didn’t work, he had no other back-up plan.

 

This had to work.

 


 

Keith settled himself against the one mostly upright pillar on the dias, crossed his arms tightly to his chest, and kept watch.

 

Something felt different, this time. Lance was different. More focused, determined, almost desperate. He knew why, but it still didn’t sit right with him, watching over Lance’s back as the sun moved across the sky. He was silent the entire time he prayed, not muttering a peep. He didn’t even adjust his stance to give his knees a break. He was just as still as the statue he was praying to.

 

As the sun started dipping down in the west, starting to change the sky from blue to orange, Keith steeled himself to step down into the freezing waters. Just before he stepped down into the water, though, he hesitated.

 

“It’s okay,” Lance said suddenly, making Keith jerk upright in surprise. “I’m coming out. No need to step into the water.”

 

Keith breathed out a sigh of relief and stepped away from the water’s edge, suppressing a shudder. He really hadn’t been looking forward to that. His fingers still felt tingly from how cold the water was hours ago when he braved touching it.

 

Lance rose slowly, water dripping from his lower half as he stood, casting ripples outwards and distorting the reflection on the surface. He kept his gaze on the statue for a moment longer, as if it would help in any way, before breathing out a sigh and finally turning to face Keith.

 

Keith’s breath caught in his throat at the sight of him. There were tears in Lance’s bright eyes.

 

Without a thought, Keith jerked into action, quickly wading out into the knee-deep water to where Lance stood. He paid no mind to the biting sting of the icy cold soaking his pants, just pushed forwards until he could wrap Lance up in a hug.

 

It was a little awkward, since they’d only hugged a few other times in the past, and Lance was a little taller than him, but he wasn’t above stretching up onto his toes to pull Lance’s head under his chin to curl around him as much as he was able. He wanted to protect this boy, this man, from the world. But he couldn’t. Not in the way that Lance needed to be protected.

 

“I’m sorry,” Lance whispered brokenly, arms hanging limp at his sides. “I’m sorry.”

 

Keith quietly shushed him, and rubbed a hand up and down his back soothingly. “There’s nothing to forgive, my prince.”

 

“I couldn’t do it. I don’t know what I’m doing.” Lance’s shoulders started to tremble slightly beneath Keith’s embrace. “I’m sorry, I--”

 

“Don’t apologize.” Keith interrupted firmly, and pulled back slightly, just far enough that he could look Lance in the eyes. “You have nothing to apologize for, do you hear me?”

 

A tear finally slipped down Lance’s cheek, running quickly down his face and off his chin. Keith wiped the tear track away, before gently wiping under his eyes, collecting any moisture there. “I promised you that I’d be here for you every step of the way.” he shifted his hands down a bit until they were cupping either side of Lance’s face, ensuring he had his full attention. “I don’t plan to break that promise.”

 

All Lance could do was nod slightly, his blue eyes darting back and forth between both of Keith’s.

 

Suddenly, Keith realized that if things were different, he would have leaned in to kiss the doubts away. To make the man before him forget about all of his troubles by melting into the kiss, as it turned into another and another, however many he could steal before they backed away. But things weren’t different. He was who he was, and Lance was a prince, someone galaxies out of his league.

 

With great reluctance, he pulled back until Lance’s warmth was gone from his fingers. The space made it easier to breathe, easier for his heart to settle back into its normal rhythm. But his heart still ached, and it was painful to back away. Not that it should’ve been.

 

It’s not like he’d had Lance and lost him. He was never his in the first place. But, somehow, not having him hurt just as much as having had and lost him. Stepping away from him felt like he was pulling off one of his own limbs, or something. Like losing something important. But that was crazy. Lance was still right there.

 

Lance crossed his arms tightly over his chest, shivering slightly. Keith quickly darted out of the water, fighting a full body shudder as he grabbed Lance’s coat and brought it over to him.

 

“Thanks,” Lance whispered, and quickly put his arms through the sleeves and put it on over his shoulders, pulling the front closed with a shiver. He turned back to look at the Goddess statue one last time before leaving the Spring’s waters.

 

Keith followed a few paces behind, watching Lance’s back as he walked ahead. He held his head high, but the tension in the line of his neck revealed exactly how stressed he was about the whole situation. He really wished he could do more for him, but… The Spring of Wisdom had been his last hope.

 

It had been his back-up plan for months, the thing that kept him going despite all of the failures and setbacks. Even when the frustration and seeming futility of his dedication filled his head, the reminder that they still had the Spring of Wisdom to try was there. But now it was gone.

 

For whatever reason, the gods or goddesses or spirits, or whoever the hell was out there deemed that Lance still wasn’t worthy.

 

And Keith didn’t have any more suggestions for him. As much as it hurt him to see Lance hurting, he had no ideas. Nothing to alleviate his pain. All he could do was stand back and watch him spiral.

 

“We should head back,” Lance said lowly, looking out towards the setting sun. “It’s getting late. There’s no reason for us to stay here any longer.”

 

“Are you sure?”

 

“Yes!” Lance snapped, whirling around to face him. But as soon as soon as he saw Keith’s face and realized what he did, he breathed out a long breath and offered an apology. “I’m just--”

 

“I know.” Keith interrupted. “Believe me, I get it.” He offered him a quick rueful smile. “You’re handling this a lot better than I would in your situation.”

 

Lance chuckled a humourless chuckle, “I don’t think I’m handling this very well at all.”

 

“You’re doing the best you can, Lance.” Keith stepped out of the water, suppressing a shiver and stopping beside Lance, putting a soothing hand on his shoulder. “Nobody can ask any more of you.”

 

“My father can,” Lance muttered bitterly.

 

That he could.

 

“But, that’s for future me to deal with.” Lance said with a sigh. “For now, we should head back to the group. We’ve kept them waiting long enough.”

 


 

The trip down the mountain seemed so much faster than going up did, but not just because it was easier going down. Keith’s mind ran with trying to find potential answers for the question ‘what next’, so he wasn’t as focused on the path ahead. But, the truth was, he had no idea what their next steps should be.

 

There was nothing written down about the royal family’s sealing magic. Nothing. Not a single letter, scroll, or formal document. They couldn’t do any research, couldn’t find any hints to access the magic, no step-by-step instructions. And with Lance’s mother gone, his only possible teacher, he had no way of learning from an elder.

 

So, that left whatever sort of plan they could conceive. Not that there were any options left that they hadn’t already tried. There was only so much they could do. Lance could pray to his heart’s content, performing sacred rituals and offering himself up to the gods, but that could only get him so far.

 

And Lance was nearing his wits end with how fruitless his training was going on his own. The weight of failure pressed his shoulders down, shrinking him when he should have walked tall like the prince he was.

 

Keith really wished he knew what to say to make everything better, to help him finally access his sealing powers after so long, but he didn’t. He knew nothing about magic.

 

“They’re back!” He heard Hunk exclaim. When he glanced up, he realized they were almost back to where they started, by the large archway on Lanayru Road. Hunk, Shiro, Pidge and Allura we’re standing beneath the arch, eagerly awaiting the return of the prince and his knight.

 

Lance made no motions to move at any faster pace, not eager to let the Champions know that their trip up the mountain was in vain. Just like every other attempt at unlocking his sealing powers. Keith followed behind him at a little bit of a distance, giving him some needed space. He knew that Lance was probably thinking about future actions like he was.

 

“Well?” Hunk asked as soon as they made it through the archway. “Don’t keep us in suspense. How’d everything go up there on the mountain?”

 

Everyone was looking to Lance expectantly, but Pidge was quick to direct her attention over to Keith, looking to him for answers. He gave her a subtle shake of his head, his lips turned down in a slight frown.

 

Lance merely shook his head, looking down at the ground as he did.

 

Keith watched as everyone’s heads fell in sorrow and disappointment. They all knew how hard Lance worked trying to unlock his sealing powers.

 

“You didn’t feel anything?” Shiro asked. “No power at all?”

 

Lance shrunk in on himself a little as he confirmed Shiro’s suspicions.

 

Allura was the first to recover and say something. “Then let’s move on.” She stepped towards Lance, and wrapped an arm around his shoulders. “You’ve done all you could. It’s not like your last shot was up there on Mount Lanayru. Anything could spark the power to seal the Calamity away.”

 

“Exactly,” Keith agreed, and he could see Hunk nodding along com the corner of his eye. “We just have to keep looking for that,” he waved his hand vaguely, “thing.”

 

“Yeah,” Lance said lowly, distractedly.

 

Pidge looked thoughtful for a second before bring thing attention to herself. “Well, what do you do when you’re trying to access your sealing powers?”

 

Lance’s eyes widened at the question. “Well, I… uh—”

 

“Like, what do you usually think about?”

 

All Lance could do was shrug. “I dunno? Think about where the root of my powers could be? Something divine, hidden deep inside me?”

 

Pidge pursed her lips, thinking. She looked a little perplexed by his answer, Keith couldn’t help but notice. Why? What was she thinking?

 

“Maybe you’re not approaching this right? I was just thinking about what I do when I’m healing.” Pidge wondered aloud. “Whenever I think about my magic, I don’t think about the root of it.”

 

“What do you think of?” Hunk and Shiro asked at the same time.

 

“Well, I think about the people that I lo—”

 

A massive tremor shook the ground they stood on, sending Allura sprawling to the ground. Keith was quick to right Lance before he could follow in the same path, and he could see Pidge, Shiro and Hunk fighting to stay upright through the shaking. A loud roar sounded out, echoing through the land. Everyone froze, eyes wide as they tried to process what was happening.

 

Shiro was the first to act. As soon as the tremors stopped, he launched high up into the air, trying to see what was going on.

 

But Keith already knew what was happening. He’d heard something similar to that in his worst nightmares.

 

Seemed today was the day that his nightmares were coming to life.

 

The Calamity has returned to Hyrule.

 

Shiro dropped back to the ground like a stone, the dark look on his face the only answer Keith needed.

 

Allura glared towards where the roar came from. “It’s here.”

 

“This is it, then…” Hunk declared.

 

“Are you sure?” Pidge asked, a little nervously.

 

“Positive.” Shiro confirmed.

 

Malevolent magenta clouds were fanning towards them, seeming to come from the Castle’s direction. Keith breathed in a deep breath, before addressing the group. “Let’s stop wasting time. We’re gonna need everything we’ve got to take that thing down.”

 

The only person who’d been quiet the entire time, was Lance. Keith looked over to him, surprised to see him nearly shivering in fear.

 

“That’s right,” Shiro agreed, turning to face the rest of the Champions. “Champions, to your Divine Beasts! Let’s show that thing who’s boss.”

 

“Keith needs to meet it head on when we attack.” Pidge spoke up. “It needs to be a unified assault.”

 

Hunk nodded, looking determined. “You get to Hyrule Castle, little guy. You can count on us for support. It’s up to you to pound that thing into oblivion!”

 

Allura stepped over to Lance’s side, wrapping a protective arm around his shoulders. “C’mon, we need to get you someplace safe.”

 

Lance jerked up, finally seeming to come to his senses. “No,” he argued, stepping out of Allura’s embrace, “I’m not a child anymore, and I can fight. I will not hide away while you guys take this thing head on.”

 

“Lance, no offence, but what do you plan to contribute?” Pidge interjected.

 

He opened his mouth to defend himself, but was just as quick to close it and slump in defeat.

 

“No, Lance is right.” Keith spoke up, coming to stand beside him. “You’re not defenceless. I’ll need you by my side when we attack the beast.”

 

The Champions all whirled around to face Keith with varying looks of shock, prepared to argue, but Lance spoke up first. “I’m not defenceless, guys. Keith and I are supposed to do this together, and the more time we spend arguing, the more time that thing has to prepare for us.”

 

With a sigh, Allura nodded her head, facing her fellow Divine Beast tamers. “Champions, stick to the plan. Keith will need us for support. We’ll give that thing hell!”

 


 

The team split up to go their separate ways to their destinations. Shiro had the furthest to go, but flying gave him a bit of an advantage. Allura’s horse was fast and nimble, and she wasn’t afraid to push him as fast as he’d go to get to Naboris. Pidge and Hunk were luckier, since their Divine Beasts weren’t too far away.

 

Keith never pushed Zephyr so hard in his life. They had to get to the Castle as soon as possible, to stop the Calamity, whatever it looked like, before it could cause too much damage.

 

He could hear Seraphim’s fast footsteps behind him, so he wasn’t too worried that Lance was falling too far behind. Lance would understand, he had to.

 

As they rushed through Kakariko Village, they didn’t even stop to tell the Sheikah what was going on. By the way everyone was rushing around, it seemed like they already knew.

 

Keith kept a frantic watch on the sky, watching for anything. He couldn’t see anything suspicious other than the ominous magenta sky above them, which worried him. He nudged Zephyr to run even faster as they approached the end of the natural tunnel leading out of Kakariko Village, hoping to see how the Castle was faring.

 

Once they finally entered open field, and Hyrule Castle came into view, Keith reined Zephyr into a sudden stop, staring at the sight.

 

Hyrule Castle and Castletown were enshrouded in a thick magenta fog, coiled around it like a snake around prey. Near the tallest peak of the sanctum was the head of a creature, but Keith couldn’t identify what it was. Five gigantic pillars erupted from the ground around the city, encircling the area. Spots along their length glowed the same malevolent colour as the Calamity, pulsing like a heartbeat.

 

Lance pulled Seraphim to a stop beside him, gazing in horror down at their home.

 

The beast rose, rising above the Castle and roared. Hundreds of tiny balls of malice rained down towards the town, plaguing anything they touched. Lance gasped, a hand flying to his mouth in horror.

 

“We have to keep moving,” Keith gritted out, and spurred Zephyr forwards again.

 

They rode hard across the plain, crossing a small bridge over the Hylia River and entering Hyrule Field without slowing down. Glittering ash spiralled through the air, getting thicker the closer they got to the city. A piece landed on Keith’s cheek, and he hissed at the contact, brushing it away quickly. It wasn’t cool like normal ash, it almost felt poisonous, sinking into his skin and making it burn.

 

As they finally approached the walls of the city, that’s when they heard the screams.

 

Castletown was on fire.

 

People of all races, mostly Hylian, of young and old fled the city, running away from the horrors within. They carried nothing with them, only their lives and loved ones as they fled on foot as fast as they were able.

 

Suddenly, a beam of light streamed out from between the gateway, annihilating people in its path. Keith’s eyes widened in horror, watching people fall and not get back up. He looked around frantically for the source, but couldn’t see anything. He could feel the hair on the back of his arms standing as fear settled deep in his chest, making it hard to breathe. He tried not to look at the bodies as he rode past, but it was hard to ignore the smell of burnt flesh.

 

He could hear Lance riding behind him still, despite the chaos and death surrounding them.

 

The large gates at the entrance to Castletown finally loomed in front of them. He could see guards, people he trained with, running around trying to do their jobs. But in the chaos it was difficult to maintain order above or below the gate. The falling ash was thickest here, and Keith could feel its poison tainting the air around them, sinking deep into his lungs. More and more flakes touched him now, he could even feel the burn through his clothes, despite not leaving any physical marks on the material.

 

As he steered Zephyr through the gateway, he was met with a sight he wasn’t expecting.

 

Guardians. Hundreds of Guardians, all the ones lingering around the Castle for experimentation and studying were active, scuttling around Castletown like spiders. Their usually orange glowing veins were infused with the same malicious magenta as the Calamity, and their glowing blue eyes pulsed angrily. He was helpless to do anything but watch as a Guardian shot a bright blue beam at a house, blowing in the door and the brickwork surrounding it.

 

Chaos and destruction was everywhere, all at the hands of the Guardians. They climbed rooftops, burst through buildings, and destroyed anything that got in their way. Even themselves. Keith watched as a Guardian’s beam caught another Guardian, sending it sprawling to the ground, bright blue sparks sparking out of the damaged armor. It was hell on earth, and all Keith could do was sit there and gape.

 

He’d been trained as a soldier, to act when things got tough and do what needed to be done.

 

But this?

 

This wasn’t something he’d been trained for.

 

Lance gasped suddenly and pointed up towards the Castle. “Keith, look!”

 

Keith jerked his head up to look to where Lance was gesturing just in time to see the enemy rearing up.

 

He still wasn’t sure what it was, but when it’s large mouth gaped open, four massive balls of calamitous energy were sent sailing in four different directions, far from the Castle.

 

One went west, another south, and the other two split off in slightly different directions towards the east.

 

When he realized their trajectory, his stomach dropped through his feet. “Oh no,” he whispered in horror. Zephyr sidestepped nervously beneath him, but he hardly noticed. “The Divine Beasts.”

 


 

Hunk emerged from the belly of his Divine Beast just in time to hear the enemy roar again.

 

With purposeful determination, he made his way back to Rudania’s head, keeping an eye on the sky. As the day went on, growing darker, the malignant colour looked more and more unnatural, casting the world in shadow. It put him more ill at ease than he liked to admit.

 

Suddenly, something slammed into his Divine Beast, sending him sprawling to the floor. With a groan, he got back up on his feet, looking around frantically to see what hit him.

 

Rudania was completely encased in thick magenta fog, just like what he’d seen enshrouding Hyrule Castle. Slowly, he reached behind himself and pulled his Boulder Breaker from his back, scanning his surroundings for any enemies.

 

It was eerily quiet all of a sudden. He couldn’t hear any of the chaos from the other side of the fog, not Death Mountain breathing below him. All he could hear was his own breathing, and his heart pumping loudly in his ears, adding to his fear. He knew he wasn’t the bravest Goron, not even close, but when he was threatened like this, he knew he could hold his own.

 

He tread carefully along the uneven floor, looking all around him for any signs of trouble. Something didn’t feel right, and the sinking feeling in his gut only solidified that. Just because he couldn’t spot any trouble didn’t mean there wasn’t any.

 

A loud roar came from behind him, and Hunk whirled around to face a massive ambiguous monster.

 

Long spindly limbs made of malevolent spiralling liquid, the same colour as the fog appeared before him, and clawed hands sat on the end of both limbs. A mask made of familiar looking material gave his assailant a face, with a glowing blue target as an eye. Long red hair grew from the back of the mask, fanning out in the breeze the Divine Beast’s vents breathed. It screeched again, forcing Hunk to cover his ears as a ball of fire appeared in its hand.

 

It was big, bigger than anything he’d ever seen, and he wasn’t afraid to admit that he was afraid. Seeing something easily five times his size appear in front of him, practically screaming ‘enemy’ and ‘dangerous’ was horrifying and he was terrified.

 

From behind its back, a short sword appeared, made of a material Hunk couldn’t place. But it didn’t matter when the thing started approaching him. The flame it held was brought to the surface of the weapon, housing it inside and casting an eerie glow on its face. Hunk stepped back for every inch it advanced, trying to figure out how best to escape.

 

Suddenly, the floor disappeared from under him, and he fell through to the belly of Rudania, landing inside with a harsh thump. With a groan, he looked up just in time to spot the attacker jumping down towards him.

 

Hunk tried to get up and move, but unimaginable pain shot up his side, making him hiss and curl in on himself. The horrifying fog was closing in on him. “No, no no no--” He glanced up again just in time to see the flash of the fiery sword swinging down towards him.

 


 

Pidge whirled around, spear extended when a roar echoed through the land. Something didn’t sound right, but she couldn’t figure out what exactly.

 

She just knew that something was wrong, horribly wrong. That something worse was going to happen, even if she wasn’t sure what could be worse.

 

She looked back over her shoulder towards her home. If she squinted, she thought she could see her brother running around trying to make sure everyone was safe while instructing the soldiers where to go. She knew her parents would be in the throne room, trying to keep everyone calm while their soldiers did their job, and their daughter fought from the back of a giant mechanical elephant.

 

Something slammed into the side of Ruta, sending Pidge sprawling from Ruta’s head and into her belly. She managed to twist in midair and aim for one of the water reservoirs inside her, but it was close. Her body made a loud splash hitting the water, and pain flared up along her side when she breached. That wasn’t something that had happened to her in ages.

 

Well, she hadn’t been thrown from that sort of height before, either.

 

As she hefted herself up and out of the water, a large shadow jumped down from a higher perch, landing behind her with a loud thump. Spear up, she whirled around to face it, and cowered back in fear when she laid eyes on it.

 

A viscous body made up of the same mass swirling around Hyrule Castle, with thin spindly limbs and a large horned mask stared down at her. It looked like it was made up of Guardian parts; the mask, a shoulder, and a hand that appeared behind its back brandishing a glowing blue spear. The fog seemed to be coming from its body, cascading outwards in waves and swirling up into the air. With a howl, it threw its spear arm out, extending the weapon fully.

 

Pidge back pedalled hastily, retreating from the adversary. But it was just as quick to follow, swiping at her feet with high pitched shrieks.

 

She caught one of its swats against her spear, deflecting it away from her temporarily so she could get some space between her and it. With that, she turned tail and ran as fast as she was able, constantly glancing back over her shoulder.

 

Once her enemy recovered, it reeled its spear arm back, aiming before sending it flying after her. She threw herself sideways with a loud curse just in time to miss the pointed end spearing her. It impaled itself in the floor a good few feet ahead of her. With a sigh, she resumed her retreat, swiftly trying to find somewhere to hide until she could gain the tactical advantage.

 

Only to be impaled in the back.

 


 

Allura paced along the forehead of Naboris, watching the Castle avidly as the sky turned darker and darker. Waiting for a signal to act was infuriating. She could only imagine the hell that the people of Castletown were going through, while she was standing here, practically twiddling her thumbs.

 

Suddenly, the beast encircling Hyrule Castle rose up. Allura narrowed her gaze, watching it closely as it threw its ugly head back, preparing for something. When it opened its mouth and bellowed, four flaming balls of energy flew out, one flying straight towards her and Naboris.

 

She took off at a run towards the elevator, leaping onto it before it got too far down the back of the Divine Beast’s neck. She tapped her heel anxiously as she quickly descended, and pulled out her sword and shield for good measure.

 

Had to be prepared for anything.

 

The energy beam struck Naboris, causing violet tremors to shake through the beast. Allura was sent