Sidon has a plan.
It coalesced in his mind as he stroked the Lynel’s soft, pointed ears, thinking about the confusion that was sure to result when the next patrol sent to investigate the Hinox situation finds the beast dead — and not merely dead, but slain, by a bladed weapon.
He stays close to the central parts of the Domain — his father’s throne room, the council chamber — waiting for word that a patrol had been sent to check on the Hinox situation. It doesn’t take long; a group of guards are sent the very next day, and their return causes all the furor Sidon had expected.
No one questions his presence at the ensuing council session; Mipha is there as well, which probably helps.
The report is what Sidon expected it would be — the Hinox has been slain, but whoever had accomplished the deed has taken no credit. The guards swear that it was dead when they arrived at Ralis Pond, bloated and stinking. There are several rounds of suggestions put forth, and Sidon stays silent until most of the others present have had their turns to speak.
“If I may?” Sidon begins politely, and it is the King himself who acknowledges his son and bids him to speak his thoughts.
“My thought is only this,” he says, “That I wonder if the beast may have been slain not by any soldier or guard of our people or another, or even by a passing traveler,” all other suggestions that had been put forward by the various elders, “But perhaps by the Lynel that also resides on the cliffs above us?”
There is silence, for a long moment, and in the silence, Sidon’s heart fills with a bright spark of hope. Surely, if he can get them to realize the truth of this suggestion, they’ll also come to realize that the Lynel means them no harm, that it wants to help.
The silence is broken by Muzu, the royal tutor. “The Prince’s suggestion is not without merit,” he says slowly, considering it. “We all heard the beast’s roaring only yesterday. Many of us commented that it seemed the sound, at one point, came from the west rather than the east.”
There are nods at his words, murmurs of agreement, and the hope flowers within Sidon before being crushed as surely as if the Hinox had fallen upon it.
“If the Lynel has extended its territory to the full breadth of Upland Zorana,” Sergeant Seggin says, his voice stern and serious, “Then we are all in great danger.”
The council explodes into noise again, and Sidon can’t manage to form the words to explain that no, no, that’s wrong, they’re wrong, the Lynel isn’t a danger to them, it keeps them safe— but a glance at the faces of the elders, all shouting over one another, tells him it would likely as not have made no difference.
Eventually, both he and Mipha are escorted from the room as more of the guards are brought in to discuss the Domain’s defenses. It’s late, and the council session is expected to continue for many hours, possibly into the morning. Sidon slips into his sleeping pool and decides that, in the morning, he’ll slip away and explain what’s happening to the Lynel. His dear friend may not speak, exactly, but he's certainly intelligent, and clever. Together, they’ll find some way to fix the mess that Sidon has inadvertently created.
He awakens to chaos.
There are guards everywhere, all in full armor, armed with the finest silverscale weapons. The plaza is a forest of glinting spear points, and Sidon, despite being unusually tall, has to fight his way through to reach the stairs to the throne room. By the time he makes it there, he’s already frantic. The guards aren’t being quiet about the reason for this marshalling — every fighter in the Domain has been called out to put an end to the Lynel, once and for all.
He tries to convince himself, as he rushes up the steps, that his Lynel will be fine; it’s smart, and quick, and strong; it will find a way to survive, to get away.
“I will go to prepare,” Mipha is saying, “Vah Ruta and I will be ready.” She bows to their father, and nods to the elders gathered there, turning with her trident in hand to leave — to prepare Vah Ruta to bring its power to bear. Even his Lynel, as powerful and capable as it is, is no match for the might of a Divine Beast.
“Mipha. Sister, you can’t—” Sidon chokes out as they reach each other, but Mipha gives him a sweet, sisterly smile.
“Oh, Sidon. You don’t have to worry about me,” she tells him, placing a hand on his earfin like she used to do when she was the one who had to crouch down for a hug. “I’ll be safe inside Ruta, and both of us will be too far away to come to any harm.”
She’s gone before he can figure out how to explain, to tell her that none of this is necessary.
Even when Sidon finds the words he wants, no one will listen. His father is fully occupied with the bickering council, and his weapons masters with organizing the guards.
His efforts come to an abrupt end when Sergeant Seggin comes to the conclusion that Sidon is trying to join them. Too quickly, he’s marched to his room under the King’s orders, with guards positioned for your protection, or so his father says, though the two elderly guards will be scant protection if the Lynel truly were a marauding beast and managed to make it all the way to the Domain.
Not long ago, Sidon would have been most angered by being treated like a child, sent to his room to be nursemaided while others not so much older than him were permitted to play their parts. Now, he can’t spare a thought for himself.
His guards — for all that they are, charitably, past their prime — are alert and attentive, and Sidon can’t risk catching the attention of the whole of the assembled guards if his plan goes awry. He’s forced to wait, to hear the guards marching out, and the quiet that follows. His stomach churns, sour with anxiety, in the long minutes before he deems it safe to act.
His personal guards were not expecting to be attacked by their charge. Sidon takes a silverscale spear from one, just in case, and offers a quick prayer to Hylia that the worst they’ll suffer is a couple of bad headaches.
Then, he runs.
At least one of the elders spots him, but not in time to catch him before he’s sprinting down the eastern bridge toward Lake Mikau, as fast as he can go, hoping he won’t be too late. How he wishes now that he had the Lynel’s speed!
It feels like an eternity before he crests the trail, his chest heaving and gills aching from the quick transitions between water and land, heart clenching with the fear of what he might find.
Sidon nearly collapses with relief to see his Lynel still standing, still alive, thank Hylia he wasn’t too late after all— but a second look brings the fear rushing back.
The Lynel is standing, but only barely. It’s bloodied from dozens of wounds both deep and shallow, its golden stripes dyed an awful red-brown. The shaft of a silverscale spear is sticking out of its haunch, the tip buried deep inside the muscle, and it’s favoring that leg, the hoof lifted off the ground as if the limb won’t bear weight. It limps as it turns in a slow circle, keeping the guards back with swipes of its strongest sword. They’re being kept at bay for the moment, but Sidon can tell the guards are getting bolder, the circle tightening even in the few moments of Sidon’s observation. They’ve got the Lynel surrounded on all sides.
The plateau is littered with the bodies of fallen guards, but there’s almost no blood, save what’s dripping down the Lynel’s sides. Even in the face of this, Sidon realizes, it doesn’t want to hurt anyone. When the Lynel turns enough that Sidon can see his face, he can see the pain there, and horrible resignation, and he knows that if it comes down to it, the Lynel will simply let them win, even though it could still have a fighting chance if it were willing to kill the guards as it certainly could.
A trumpeting call sounds from the southeast, and everyone — guards and Lynel and Sidon alike — look across the plateau, to where Vah Ruta has reached the top of Tal Tal Peak and turned its head, and the cannon in its trunk, toward Ploymus Mountain.
A cheer goes up among the guards, but Sidon isn’t watching them.
He’s watching his Lynel, as it simply… deflates.
There’s no other word for it. The guards are still at a watchful distance; no blow strikes it. But it drops its sword and sinks to its knees; hobbled even in this by the spear in its haunch, its head bowed low.
There’s a sudden flurry of movement — the guards have noticed the Lynel’s vulnerability; how could they not? — but Sidon is already flinging himself forward, tearing through the ranks of the guards before their can bring up their spears, and he sees when the Lynel sees him, its blue eyes flying wide open in a momentary flash of fear and oh, oh no.
Sidon wraps himself around the Lynel’s bent head, clutching at its shaggy golden mane, and presses its face into his chest. He can’t wrap his Lynel up safely the way it had done for him, that day as the lightning crashed down, but he’ll do his best.
It takes him a moment to realize that it’s his own voice screaming stop! stop!, but it is.
“I am your Prince and I order you to STOP!” he yells, finding deep inside himself some reserve of authority, as yet untapped. It very nearly sounds like his father’s voice. And it’s enough to make the guards pause. Even if he’s only managed to confuse them, it’s enough.
No one moves. Sidon’s gaze sweeps across the encircling guards. They haven’t relaxed at all; spears and tridents are still held at the ready, but they’re keeping their distance for the moment. Once he’s reasonably sure they’ll stay that way, Sidon turns his attention to his Lynel.
He bends to press his crest against the top of its head, caring not at all about the murmurs he can hear building around them.
“I’m sorry, my dear one, I’m so sorry,” Sidon says, quietly, for his Lynel alone. “I should have tried harder to stop them; I should have realized what they would do.” His voice breaks a little, and the Lynel shoves its face into his abdomen (eliciting dozens of startled gasps and the readying clatter of weapons before it becomes clear that Sidon has not been disemboweled). It gives him the smallest kitten lick, just the tip of its tongue lapping out, surely invisible to the encircling guards, and a purr that further makes the nearest of them jump in startled surprise. Forgiveness, though Sidon can’t be certain he’s earned it yet.
Another trumpet call from the adjacent peak reminds them all of Vah Ruta’s presence. Sidon doesn’t know how much detail Mipha can make out from her vantage point, but whatever she can see must be quite confusing.
The Lynel turns its head slightly toward the sound, toward that distinctive shape, then closes its eyes and whines. It’s a horrible, hurt, mournful sound that Sidon has never heard before and immediately wishes to never hear again.
Sidon takes a deep breath. He is a prince of the Zora. He can do this. He has to do this.
He turns to one of the younger guards, one of the ones who had jumped when his Lynel purred — who still looks a bit jumpy, as a matter of fact.
“Please go and bring my sister back here. You can let her know that Vah Ruta will not be needed, but her healing skills will be.” His Lynel is still bleeding, and even if its wounds aren’t severe, they’re plentiful.
The guard looks around wildly for a moment, landing on Sergeant Seggin, who is approaching with an angry sort of caution. But no one contradicts the order, so the guard gives Sidon a hasty salute and rushes off, the ranks of armored Zora parting to allow her passage.
“You can put your weapons down,” Sidon addresses the rest of the guards. A few do. Most don’t.
Sergeant Seggin keeps his spear ready as he approaches; not in an attack position, but Sidon knows from experience that the Demon Sergeant is extremely quick. He’s clearly wary of being within arms’ reach of the Lynel (though its hands are weaponless at the moment, and its arms are very loosely circling Sidon), but he approaches closely enough that he can look Sidon in the eye.
Sidon looks back. The copper tang of his Lynel’s blood is in his nose, its breath warm and damp against his stomach, and for that, Sidon refuses to look away or back down, even against the only Zora to be able to withstand shock arrows, the Zora who had been responsible for most of Sidon’s own training with a spear. He stands his ground.
“I don’t know what you think you’re doing, your Highness,” Seggin says tightly, “But that monster has already killed several of my guards today—”
Sergeant Seggin looks if he’s just bitten into a rotten blueshell snail as Sidon cuts him off, but Sidon will deal with the consequences of that later.
“It hasn’t killed anyone,” Sidon repeats, then raises his voice so the surrounding guards can hear him clearly. “Check them. All of them; check them! They’re not dead.”
His heart is pounding, but probably only the Lynel can tell. Sidon hopes he’s right; hopes that it hadn’t hit any of them too hard, or caught one with the cutting edge of its blade.
Sergeant Seggin narrows his eyes, scrutinizing Sidon for a few long seconds before gesturing to the guards. They hadn’t checked on their fallen comrades yet; a sensible thing, when they had been certain that a moment of inattention would cost them their lives. They move eagerly now, though Sidon keeps his focus on Seggin, and on comforting his Lynel.
The word comes back quickly, a stocky guard with green scales plucking up the courage to approach and give his report to Seggin.
Prince Sidon is correct. The “fallen” are or had been merely unconscious; the worst anyone has suffered seems to be a broken rib or two. One has a laceration of the headfin, but that seemed to have been caused by a run-in with a sharp rock, not a blade.
Sergeant Seggin’s expression lands somewhere between confusion and constipation as he looks between Sidon and the Lynel, who has yet to move from Sidon’s embrace. It’s barely moved at all, save for the heave of its labored breathing.
The confirmation that no-one has died seems to be all that most of the guards needed to convince them to lower their weapons as Sidon had asked. Those on the far side of the Lynel from the mountain trail start to slowly flow back toward the rest of the group. As the encirclement breaks, Sidon can feel a little more of the tension ease out of the Lynel’s shoulders. He keeps stroking its mane, scritching at its ears, trying to soothe it as much as he can.
The mass of guards parts again, this time to admit a small red and white figure, clad in a shawl the color of the clear sky.
Sidon lets out a sigh of relief as he spots his sister coming up the trail, his own tension ratcheting down.
Mipha, on the other hand, takes an involuntary step backward when she gets close enough to see what’s going on, her hand flying up to her mouth to cover her gasp of shock.
“It’s still alive?” she asks, a note of fear in her voice. Sidon knows that, for all she was chosen to be a part of the greatest fight any Zora would face during any of their long lifetimes, his sister isn’t a warrior at heart. And had his Lynel been … well, any other Lynel, Sidon would have thrown himself into Death Mountain before he would have allowed Mipha to get anywhere near it. As it is, he just wishes he’d sent a more reliable guard with his message.
“It’s all right,” he tells her, ignoring even Sergeant Seggin now. If he can convince Mipha — there’s not a Zora in the Domain who would go against her wishes, beloved as she is by all of their people.
“It won’t hurt you. We’re—” Sidon searches for an appropriate term, though none fit exactly. “We’re friends,” he decides after a moment. He does not look at Sergeant Seggin’s face.
Mipha hesitates, but visibly steels herself — she really is so brave, his sister! — and then steps forward carefully.
Sidon expected that the Lynel might at least turn its face to take a look at her, but it just tries to bury itself even deeper into Sidon’s abdomen. Perhaps it’s a show of trust.
“Can you heal it?” Sidon asks — begs, really, and Mipha can hear it in his voice, the way her eyes go wide even before she’s taken an assessing look at the bloodied Lynel.
“I will try,” she says, determination in her voice, and oh, Sidon does love her so. Truly, Hylia blessed him with the best of all possible sisters.
She starts with the worst of the wounds: the spear still embedded in the Lynel’s haunch. Mipha has to direct two of the guards to help extract the silverscale spear, as it had stuck into bone. Eventually, the spear comes free with a sickening schluck and a gush of blood, and the Lynel roars in pain, its arms coming up to clutch at Sidon’s back while he whispers soothing nothings to it. It trembles, but it doesn’t move when Mipha’s hands begin to glow with her healing magic, the flow of blood beginning to slow almost immediately.
Sidon breathes a little easier as the wound knits together. He’d worried, for a moment, that Mipha’s healing may not work on the Lynel, and he’s glad to know that particular fear was unfounded. The Lynel breathes a little easier as well; Sidon hopes it’s because its in less pain as its wounds are seen to.
Once the largest and deepest of the Lynel’s injuries are mended, Mipha settles into healing the smaller ones, and with less of her concentration needed for the healing itself, finally speaks again.
“I would,” she says mildly, “like to know how you became friends with a Lynel, Sidon.” It isn’t exactly a question, but Sidon knows better than to think he can get away without answering.
He pets the Lynel’s horns.
“I came up here to kill it,” Sidon says truthfully. The Lynel gives him another tiny kitten lick — all forgiven — but Mipha pauses her healing to turn and face him fully, giving him the sort of Look that only a disappointed elder sibling can.
“Sidon. You didn’t!” It’s as close to raising her voice as Mipha ever gets, and Sidon bows his head in the face of it. “Do you know how dangerous—!” She cuts herself off, then, seemingly realizing that it perhaps wasn’t actually very dangerous at all.
“What were you thinking?” She shakes her head, giving Sidon a long-suffering sigh and lays her palms against the Lynel’s side once more. “No, never mind. I’ll be angry at you about it later. You’ve yet to answer my question. Obviously you didn’t kill it.”
Sidon winces. He is certainly in for many, many Disappointed Sister Lectures in the future.
Worth it, he decides, giving the Lynel an extra firm ear rub and getting another tiny lick for his trouble, a light squeeze of its arms around him.
“No. It could have killed me,” Sidon admits, and Mipha says, “Sidon,” and yes, yes, he knows.
“It didn’t, though. It just threw me back down the mountain like a disobedient child,” he grins down at it, and the Lynel huffs, its laughter hot against his stomach.
Sidon recounts the rest of it — the Lynel makes a startled noise when Sidon tells Mipha about how he’d seen it looking so lonely and sad. He realizes only then that he’d never actually told the Lynel the extent of his spying. It doesn’t seem upset, at least.
He can tell Mipha is saving up her lectures when he tells her about the thunderstorm, and how the Lynel had taken a bolt of lightning for him —- Sidon points out the scar, long healed over but where the fur still hasn’t grown back in — and, more importantly, what he’d learned that day.
That not only could the Lynel understand their speech, but that it had been protecting the Domain since it arrived there.
That the Lynel is the reason Upland Zorana is no longer plagued with Lizalfos.
That it’s been teaching him how to fight.
Mipha gasps appropriately when he tells her about the Hinox at Ralis Pond, and by the time he’s finished relating the tale, the Lynel’s wounds are almost completely healed.
The Lynel gives him that pleased, approving rumble as Sidon finishes the story, repeating his lesson about Hinox-killing to its satisfaction. Mipha jumps at the sudden noise, and the few guards who have stayed close to defend the Princess should something happen jump as well, but Sidon only smiles as the Lynel’s rumble fades into a low purr.
The only injuries remaining are small scrapes, and the Lynel would probably be fine to heal those on its own, but Mipha has that determined look on her face and, so far at least, her healing magic hasn’t run out. There’s a long cut on the Lynel’s bicep (not far from the nearly-faded scar left by Sidon’s teeth, months ago), and Mipha moves toward it cautiously.
“May I?” she asks, lightly touching the Lynel’s arm where it’s bent around Sidon. She’s looking at the Lynel and not at him, which is how Sidon knows that, thank Hylia, he’s convinced her.
Sidon steps out of the way slightly, in a small way trying to encourage the Lynel to know his sister. It feels important, somehow, for his two most important people to know each other.
The Lynel allows Mipha to take its arm, lifting itself slightly from where it had been hunched down to wrap itself around Sidon. Even with its hooves folded under it, it’s much, much taller than Mipha, but she doesn’t back away in fear as she had at first. She holds her hand over the cut, letting the healing magic flow.
The wound closes quickly, and Mipha smiles, satisfied.
“There,” she says, looking up at the Lynel. “All bett—”
Mipha’s mouth drops open as the Lynel turns its face to meet hers, and her words cut off with a gasp.
Sidon knows the Lynel’s eyes are startling — stunning, really — but Mipha looks as if she might cry, and Sidon has no idea why that should be.
“Oh my Hylia,” Mipha whispers, reaching upward, and the Lynel bends down to let her touch her palm gently to the side of its face as she studies its features.