Chapter 1: the light
He’s never going to forget that night.
Candlelight softening the shapes of the hall, unevenly lighting the faces of the gathered crowd. Nobles and foreigners, Mobians and Hylians, Sheikah and Zora, castle servants and maids and stablehands, advisors, royals, knights, ambassadors, all crowding around them. And in the centre of it all, on the podium in front of the throne, stood Princess Amy Rose of the kingdom of Hyrule with the holy sword in hand, and kneeling in front of her was the chosen knight.
It was the first time Shadow laid eyes on him.
He was dressed in a blue tunic a slightly lighter shade than his quills, and he looked very - Shadow thought, even though he’d laugh at it later - that he looked very inadequate . Small. Not like the one single knight appointed to protect the Princess, lead the Champions and wield the holy sword should look like.
Shadow, a Champion of Hyrule himself, didn’t think much of him.
“Sonic,” Princess Amy had said at last, touching the tip of the holy sword to his shoulder, “In the name of the three goddesses, rise as the knight chosen by the sword.”
The chosen knight had stood, and he’d said a vow, shorter than most vows Shadow had heard in his time at court, and then the Princess had given him the sword. He had grinned at the Princess then, and the Princess smiled back, but it wasn’t even half as vibrant or beautiful as Sonic’s smile had been.
The Princess said, “May the light illuminate your path.”
The crowd bowed their heads, Shadow just barely inclining his head, and he murmured along, may the light illuminate your path.
And he sure fucking is illuminated. Illuminating , putting smiles on the soldiers’ faces. Shadow and his fellow Champions are prepared to follow the chosen knight’s every order, of course, because the chosen knight’s every order better come straight from her highness the Princess herself, but - Sonic doesn’t give orders. He talks a lot, but it’s only blathering and joking and humming peasant songs.
He annoys Shadow.
Jet and Blaze, Champions of air and fire respectively, don’t seem to know what to make of him.
And the last Champion, Silver of the light, finds Sonic charming.
This is why all the stupid rumours of Sir Silver being Shadow’s son are wrong: their opinions never seem to align.
Then at last, the Princess sends them all out on their first quest: protect a group of archeologists as they excavate a promising patch of rock in the Gerudo desert. The Princess herself is very interested in the ancient Sheikah culture, and as soon as any new ruins are excavated she rides out herself to take a look. She is, like many of the Sheikah descendants, convinced that the solution to all their problems lies in the past.
Jet, Blaze and Silver go to saddle up their horses, for the journey to the desert is a long one.
Sonic doesn’t seem to have a horse.
Shadow doesn’t, of course, because he’s faster than a horse if he wishes to be.
They wait out in the courtyard together, Shadow in his usual armour, Sonic in only that tunic, boots and gloves. Shadow prays that Sonic won’t take any interest in Shadow, but then, they’ve never spoken a word to each other yet, and Sonic wastes no time in skipping up to him and saying, “Sir Shadow of the lake, am I right?”
“That is me,” Shadow replies, pushing up the visor on his helmet to give Sonic a dead stare.
“Why’s it the lake?” Sonic asks. “If I may ask?”
“My family name is du Lac.” Not like Shadow was raised by his father’s relatives from the Sheikah, nor by his mother’s relatives in Gerudo, but no matter. “I inherited the title from my father.”
“Ah,” Sonic says. “So you can’t manipulate water or anything? Like Sir Blaze commands the fire?”
“I’m afraid not.”
Shadow can’t help it, then. He should kill the conversation right here, but instead he says, “I’d be Sir Shadow of the lightning, in that case.”
Sonic visibly perks up. “Oh, is that so? What can ya do?”
Shadow is showing off but fine , it’s this one time, only, Shadow can be arrogant if he wants to. He pulls of his left gauntlet and draws his hand back, like he’s about to throw a spear, and then he lets the bolt of energy fly.
“Whoa!” Sonic sounds honestly delighted. “That’s so awesome. You should totally get your title changed, Sir Shadow of the… thunder!”
Goddammit, Shadow won’t be charmed by this knight who speaks like a commoner, he hasn’t even seen him in a fight, he might be an incompetent fool- (like the holy sword would ever choose an idiot to wield it, but nevertheless…)
Shadow clears his throat and says, “And you are Sir Sonic of the…?”
The goddess, or the sword, are common titles for the chosen knight, though some of Sonic’s distant predecessors in the legends have been known as simply the Chosen Knight, or the knight of time, or of the shadow. Haha. The shadow, indeed.
“Sonic of the wind,” Sonic says, grinning. “And that’s because I’m free and fast as the wind.”
Silver arrives, then, the other two Champions right behind him, but the damage has already been done. Shadow has been swayed to Sonic’s side.
They head off on their quest. Sonic does indeed run in front, on foot, easily faster than the horses and with seemingly no effort. Shadow runs right behind him, his enchanted footwear allowing him to skate along the road as if on ice. Behind them the other three Champions ride on their horses, though in a pinch the three of them shall be able to run too.
They leave Castle Town and head southeast.
They take breaks, for the horses’ sake, but Sonic never rests. Instead he climbs a tree and throws down apples to the Champions, forages around in the grass to find a bug, and moves around a bunch of boulders on the grass so they form a circle.
“Why?” Shadow asks him, staring up the apple tree after him.
“Sitting down is a waste of time,” Sonic claims. “If I’m not on the move then I get bored.”
When they make camp for the night however, at the border of Hyrule Field, Sonic unrolls his bedroll, lies down and is out like a light. Silver and Jet gets the horses settled, while Blaze makes a fire, and then they all spread out their own bedrolls and take off their armour.
“Do you think the researchers in Gerudo have found something promising?” Silver asks to no one, pulling up his blanket to his chin. His fur always makes him shine in the moonlight, pale silver - horrible for stealth. He looks terribly innocent without his helmet on.
“It might simply be yet another old shrine,” Blaze reminds him, not unkindly. Her eyes glow with the same hue as the flames she just lit.
“They did find that ancient machine by Death Mountain,” Jet says grudgingly. “Called it a Divine Beast, like the legends, hah! It’s not impossible they’ve found another one, but I highly doubt it...”
“We’ll know when we reach them,” Shadow says.
They go to sleep.
Sonic wakes them at dawn and then they’re off again, spending most of the day traveling through the long and winding Gerudo Canyon Pass, the only way to get through the mountains surrounding the desert. The farther they travel the hotter it gets, but it doesn’t bother Shadow; he’s got Gerudo blood in him even though he was raised by Hylians.
Jet, on the other hand, complains loudly and at length, since the poor bastard was raised next to a snowfield.
“May the goddess take my soul as I wither away,” he groans, slumping over his horse. “And may I be reborn as an ice monster!”
“Man,” Sonic says. “If you think it’s so hot, then why don’t you take that helmet off?”
“Sir?” Jet snaps.
“It looks so uncomfortable, c’mon.” The horses have stopped now, and Sonic stands and grins up at Jet. “The Gerudo who live here don’t even wear helmets, so just take it off.”
“Is that an order?”
Jet sounds harassed, but Shadow is intrigued. What will Sonic do next?
“No, it’s a suggestion.” Sonic squints at Jet. “Seriously, how do you stand to wear that thing?”
Jet takes off his helmet.
They reach the Gerudo desert by the evening, having left the horses at the stable at the mouth of the desert, which is just when the desert starts to turn cold. Jet puts his helmet back on, now the happiest one in their lot, while Shadow digs in his pack until he’s got his cloak in hand, wrapping himself up tightly.
Traveling in sand is slower than on grass, and they quickly make camp in some old ruins. The desert is more dangerous than Hyrule Field by far, so Shadow offers to sit watch.
“Alright,” Sonic allows. “But wake me so I can take second watch.”
The others quickly pack up and roll out their bedrolls, Sonic a bit slower. Shadow takes off his helmet but leaves the rest of the armour on, sitting down on a stone block jutting out of the sand. Sonic spreads his bedroll right next to Shadow, and when Shadow stares he winks at him. “G’night,” he says cheerfully, and turns over in his bedroll.
“Sleep well,” Shadow answers after a moment, almost hoping Sonic doesn’t hear it.
Sonic... is odd and simple and kind, he’s no noble, absolutely not, but he’s not stupid, he’s puzzling to the point of annoyance, he’s so charming. He’s the chosen knight and Shadow wonders how , how did that happen?
Shadow looks at Sonic, one last glance, and then he stares out into the desert.
Chapter 2: cut chunks out of the summer
Rito - bird people
The next day they reach the archaeologists’ plot of sand, which is a completely unremarkable stretch of desert apart from how there’s... unmistakably something big buried in the sand. The same shade as the desert stone, the construction is far bigger than a Molduga - and Moldugas are already enormous behemoths, monsters of the dunes. Shadow stays on his guard even as Silver joyfully exclaims, “Look! They’ve found something, they have!”
“We can’t know for sure that it’s something good,” Shadow says, even though it does look incredibly promising.
“C’mon, let’s go talk to them!” Sonic tells his knights, and together the Champions approach the researchers. The archeologists are a mix of Hylian and Mobian, from the Gerudo and from the Sheikah, but every last one of them is carefully digging and note-taking and brushing away sand with the same rapt, curious attention.
Shadow shakes off the memory of Gerald and Maria wearing those exact same expressions, and takes a step forward to turn his focus onto the ruins instead.
“How’re you doing?” Sonic asks a researcher, and soon he’s surrounded by them, chattering pleasantly about their progress and reports of monsters on the move, holding a cheerful little court.
Jet scoffs, sweating in the heat. Silver looks like he would very much love to go up and poke at the dig site, but doesn’t want to accidentally ruin anyone’s hard work. Blaze simply waits patiently, as unbothered by the heat as Shadow.
Shadow just watches Sonic.
Sonic looks more vibrant than ever in his blue pelt among all this dust. He slings an arm around the shoulders of a Sheikah researcher, leans on another from the Gerudo so that he can peer closer at the notes she’s showing him. Whispers something in a thirds ear.
Shadow doesn’t exactly want to stare like this, catalogue every little move Sonic makes, but he cannot bring himself to look away either.
Eventually Sonic turns back to them and declares brightly, “This - is another Divine Beast! They’re almost completely sure of it already, but with just a little more digging then any doubts will be squashed.” He grins. “They’re already talking about naming it Vah Naboris , like that old story…”
“That’s so wonderful!” Silver exclaims, clearly delighted. He grins at Blaze.
“Hmm,” Jet allows.
“Hmm,” Shadow echoes, but Sonic’s joy is infectious. He tries to keep his very proper and regal knight expression on, but it’s slipping.
“We’re also invited to Gerudo Town,” Sonic adds. “Or well, not all of us I suppose. But we oughta go and check it out anyway! They might have more information for us there, and the Princess would no doubt appreciate it.”
“Yes,” Blaze agrees. “The opportunity to buy some more food could be beneficial as well.”
They spend the rest of the day loitering around the dig site, where the Divine Beast still slumbers beneath the sands. Jet finds a place to lie in the shade and look like he’s dying, while Blaze dutifully keeps an eye on the horizon, on the look-out for monsters. Silver eventually manages to sign up to help with the digging, carefully moving heaps of sand away with his abilities. Sonic socialises.
Shadow circles the dig site, keeping watch.
When the day is at its hottest, even the researchers take a break. Sonic goes to sit with Jet, then, and Shadow tries not to spy on them too much. They’re not saying a lot, anyhow...
And soon, the day is over.
When the sun sets, the Champions all head for Gerudo Town. “ No men are permitted within the city ” is an ancient rule of Gerudo Town, which Sonic now reads out loud, looking at Silver with a puzzled expression, as he and Blaze walk through the gates.
“He’s not a man,” Shadow feels like he can explain, since Silver has always been open about this. “He just uses ‘ he/him ’ to refer to himself.”
“Ah right!” Sonic says. “Well then.” He looks at the gates, then back at Shadow and Jet. “What do we do now?”
Jet says, “We should make camp, don’t you agree?”
They make camp.
They trek to a ruin close to the city, a few stone blocks almost buried in the sand with a few desert bushes sprouting up around them, and Shadow starts a small campfire. Jet spreads out his blankets and just lies down on top of them, wings and legs spread out, seemingly basking in the chilly night air. He lets out a long sigh. “I hate the sun,” he then says without prompting. “Why couldn't the researchers have found something in Hebra instead?”
Hebra, the snowy region in northern Hyrule from which the Rito, like Jet, hail.
“They’ll probably find something there too, eventually,” Shadow says. Goddess knows there’s enough relics buried in Hyrule to keep the archeologists digging for centuries.
Meanwhile, Sonic is uncharacteristically… absent. That’s not right. Shadow stands up, maybe a bit too quickly, and surveys the area and there - Sonic’s standing out in the sand, far away enough to not hear them, standing and holding his sword. Shadow grabs his own blade, and makes haste over to him. He moves swiftly across the sand, and is quick to ask, “Is something the matter?” Shadow scans the horizon. “Sonic? Did you see anything?”
“What- no, no, I was just-” Sonic holds up his sword and waggles it a little.
“You were…?” Shadow trails off, but relaxes enough to lower his own sword. You were…? Sparring? Polishing it?
“Talking a bit, you know.” Sonic inexplicably says, and holds the sword up to his face and says, “Yo, Caliburn, this here is Sir Shadow of the thunder! Say hi.”
Then the holy sword says, a mouth opening in the fucking hilt, “Pleased to make your acquaintance. I do hope that you’re here to keep Sonic out of making stupid decisions.”
Shadow stumbles back, completely graceless in his horror, and curses. “What- the legends never said that - the holy sword talks -”
“Well,” Sonic says. “This sword sure does! And people call him ‘the holy sword’, so I figure they know better than me what’s up.”
“I’m afraid Sir Sonic isn’t the sharpest tool in the shed,” the holy- Caliburn says.
“Oh man, that sounds so weird,” Sonic says. “Feel free to call me knave again, ‘cause let me tell ya, ‘sir’ sounds like more of an insult than knave in your mouth.”
Sonic’s grinning. Caliburn harrumps. Shadow stares helplessly.
“I bid you goodnight, sir - Sonic,” Shadow finally says. “Wake me up- when you want me to stand watch.”
The short journey back to camp feels very calming, sane and normal, and when he gets there and lies down on his bedroll, free of his armour, what he feels the most is wonder. Almost childlike, almost like sneaking into Grandpa’s lab with Maria, just for a peek at his work.
Shadow thought that part of him dead.
But talking swords and Divine Beasts…
The Champions’ first quest isn’t exactly difficult work, so it’s no surprise that it ends up a success. Sonic befriends nearly all the researchers and workers and archaeologists, Blaze and Silver get even more information from the people in Gerudo Town, and not a single monster crosses their path. A week after they first came to the desert they’re preparing to leave, and they reach the edge of the desert just as the sun sets.
They stop, then and there, because from the sands a pillar rises. No - large, carved out of ancient stone, but still it’s unmistakably a neck and a head.
The Divine Beast rises.
It’s tall, and just keeps rising and rising until it’s standing up on four legs. On its back are two large lumps, looking almost like two dome shaped roofs, and its neck is as tall as one of its legs. High above the desert it holds its head with no discernible face, but Shadow still feels as if it’s looking at him. Sizing him up.
It’s nothing but his imagination but still he shivers-
“Naboris.” Blaze says softly, and then there’s not really anything else to add, is there?
They stop at the stable in the Gerudo Canyon Pass to pick up their horses. Any traveler coming on a horse has to drop it off here before continuing into the desert, because the horses can’t run on the dunes. Blaze, Silver and Jet go to talk to the staff of the stable, and meanwhile Sonic and Shadow wait outside.
Through the narrow gap between the canyon walls high above them, Shadow can see the stars.
“They say that if you see a star fall,” Sonic begins, quietly. “Then you should remember the spot where it fell, because you might find treasure there.”
“I tried that once,” Shadow replies. It’s a small confession. “Me and - my sister. We never found the place where it fell.”
‘Shadow, Shadow, it’s the chase that’s the most fun!’ Maria had said, after they finally gave up and sat down, two hours of fruitless scavenging through the woods having put mud on her dress and her face, and her poor frail lungs shouldn’t have had to endure that but she insisted on the adventure nevertheless.
“You have a sister?” Sonic asks, soft and curious, finding Shadow’s weakest spot without ever trying.
“She’s dead.” Shadow says bluntly. “We weren’t related by blood, either way.”
“I’m so sorry,” Sonic says, and-
Then Jet comes with his horse, Silver and Blaze behind him, and that’s that, done with the emotions, time to head out. They mount their horses and get going, Sonic running first. Shadow follows close behind, trying to stop himself from wondering whether Sonic has any family. He’s not a noble, doesn’t have any valuable ancestry - Shadow would’ve known. Shadow would’ve met him earlier, in that case. Doesn’t stop Sonic from having family though, or maybe… a partner.
Thinking about this any more would be pointless, very pointless, so Shadow resolves to only focus on the quest at hand for now. Travel back to Castle Town, report to the princess, get assigned a new quest; as usual…
The road winds onward, and they travel until dawn, at which point they’re nearly out of the canyon. The dry grass whispers at them where they’ve chosen to make camp, desert insects chirp and screech, and after running all night Shadow can’t even imagine trying to go to sleep anymore today. The whole canyon is a dangerous territory, and Shadow would prefer to keep watch himself. That way he’ll know for sure that nothing will ambush them.
(has he always been this wary, or was it Maria and Gerald’s deaths that made him like this?)
The Champions sleep, and Shadow keeps watch.
Sonic chooses to curl up next to Shadow’s sitting stone of choice again, and Shadow forces himself to not read anything into it.
He’s flattered anyway.
When the afternoon sun stands high in the sky Shadow deems them to have slept enough, so he grabs Sonic’s shoulder and shakes him lightly.
Sonic’s eyes fly open, green like young grass, and then he promptly rolls over with a groan and buries his face in his bedroll.
“We should head back,” Shadow says, perhaps a bit more gleefully than proper, and then he raises his voice to say, “Champions! Get up.”
Onward: to the castle in the distance!
Castle Town greets them happily and they’re quickly ushered up to the castle by the royal guards, through halls and corridors up to the king’s throne, where Princess Amy Rose leads them away to the dining hall and tells them to sit down and tell her about what they’ve learned. “They’ve found a Divine Beast, your highness!” Silver blurts out first, eyes shining.
“We saw it wake, my lady,” Blaze adds.
“Yes, I knew it!” The Princess exclaims. “I knew it, I knew, take that , Father-”
The Champions tell her all they know while the Princess gushes and listens and makes theories, a light in her eyes that Shadow hasn’t seen before. Some castle servants eventually serve them some food and drink, and Shadow is content to eat bread rolls while Sonic entertains Amy and charms the servants. She talks about what the researchers found in the Gerudo desert, how it fits with the other Divine Beast that was found near Death Mountain, and then she trails off into talking about the future and ends her long and passionate speech with saying, “I’ve sent another group to Hebra, so that is where you shall go next.”
“Alright,” Sonic begins, but then Amy cuts in.
“Sorry,” she says, sounding unhappy, “But my father wants you to accompany me to the Spring of Courage. The Champions will have to get by on their own.”
The Spring of Courage in Faron, far in the south of Hyrule - while Shadow and the others will be in Hebra, as far north as you can go.
Shadow does not want to see Sonic leave.
“Oh, that’s no problem,” Shadow says, with forced cheer and a fake smile. “I’ll just take over the command, like old times. May you find courage at the spring, Princess.”
“Thank you, Sir Shadow.” The Princess’ smile seems just as artificial. “None of the praying I’ve done so far has done a single thing, but…”
But her father forces her to go on pilgrimages all year round and pray to the goddess every single day so that she may unlock that ‘ability’ of the princesses of old legend, yes, yes.
Fate is a cruel being.
“Have a safe journey.”