Twilight might’ve been a country boy at heart, from a removed, close-knit rural village – but he could still appreciate the coastal respite of Outset Island, and all its blessings.
Watching the eight most unlikely friends he’d ever make get to wind down and afford themselves a break was the best gift of them all, even with the stunning view and warm breeze right at his fingertips. Pleased, melodic humming and soft laughter waltzed its way up to where he sat on the stoop of Wind’s house, clear to him even over the rolling waves and seagulls swooping by.
Just below his perch, on the grassy slope, Sky hugged his sailcloth tight around his shoulders and chuckled in mirth at some joke Twilight had missed, leaning back to rest against the ranch-hand’s legs. The skyward hero had spent the majority of his day alongside Hyrule, wanderlust connoisseur, out exploring the little island and all it had to offer. They’d returned grass-stained and grinning, upending armfuls of multicoloured wildflowers onto the lawn and getting to work on everything from daisy chains to dry-pressing the little blossoms, for journals and scrapbooks.
Twilight suspects he spotted Hyrule setting aside a beautifully preserved kind of herb, for Wild’s cookbook-turned-sketchbook.
Warriors was alongside them now too, glancing between a scrap of old fabric in his lap and a couple of the flowers he’d picked out for reference. Between careful, fastidious stitches and tying off the embroidery floss to switch colours, the captain kept one ear on the chatter around them and offered up a spare chuckle every now and then, cracking a grin as he worked.
Legend, who had moaned and whined about being forced to wear a daisy-chain bracelet – but had yet to take it off – was snoozing off to one side, a blanket from Wind’s grandmother thrown over his face to block out the late-afternoon sun. He looked cosy enough, having insisted on staying outside for his nap to make the most of the sunshine, but he’d definitely be griping later about the flowers Four and Wind had managed to knot into his hair whilst he slept.
Time was much the same, having long since dropped the charade of being irked by his wildflower crown. He sat a little ways along the stoop from Twilight, knee propped up so he could pen a letter to Malon – and they caught him letting the odd smile slip whenever Legend managed a particularly impressive snore, startling the troublemakers trying to lace pretty perennials into the veteran’s fringe.
It was the most indulgent they’d all been in a while, kicking back and drinking-in the serene island life together. The skies were clear, the waves were calm, and Twilight smiled.
Cheers erupted from the group, and when he turned back to face the door into Wind’s home once more, there stood Wild laden with bowls and spoons, all balanced expertly in his arms. Time got up to help share the load just as Twilight did, and the three of them sat up on the porch together once everyone was tucking in.
The champion seemed to watch Aryll for a little while, taking well-paced bites of his fish pie as she babbled happily to their grandmother about her day – gushing about the fun she’d had spending time with her brother again. Wild seemed lost in thought, eyes glazing over as he zoned out a little, and Twilight leant over to nudge him gently, sneaking in another mouthful of pie pastry and tilting his head in question when his protégé looked up at him.
Well-familiar with Twilight’s brand of mothering, Wild huffed out a chuckle after a moment, a small smile gracing his face as he glanced down. “Nah, I’m fine. Just missing home, I guess. It’s been a while.”
“Where’s home?” Time had clearly taken notice, shooting them an interested glance before having another bite of his dinner, curiosity maintained. Wild seemed sheepish for a moment, shoulders rising toward his ears.
“It’s only small, in a little village called Hateno.” He explained, staring off at the view again. “Zelda should still be there, looking after my horses.”
“The princess lives with you?” Twilight said, surprised.
Wild simply nodded. “I wouldn’t really call it house-sitting, but that’s what it’s become. We crammed another bed in eventually, so I guess she’s kind of... a housemate, at the moment?”
“Well I’ll be.” Twilight teased, lightly ribbing the boy with a smirk. The champion merely rolled his eyes, chasing off a rising blush.
“Stop that, it’s not like she’d stay with me if she had anywhere else to go,” He said, guarded and wan all of a sudden. “I just miss the simplicity of it. I miss the horses.”
And after a little prompting from Time and Twi, Wild let himself open up more about his steeds as they all finished eating, pleased to answer questions when some of the others took notice.
“You have a horse the size of a Lynel?” Legend checked, incredulous.
“Yeah! He’s really obedient– practically carried me through the mounted archery challenge.”
“You’re honestly so fucking nuts, kid.”
Chimes of laughter saw them through to dinner’s clean-up effort, right up until early evening when Wind spoke up out of the blue.
“I’ve got a feeling we’re switching tomorrow.”
Eight heads snapped to him in surprise, attention caught. Wind took a deep breath. He seemed a little shocked by the admission himself, hefting his weight forward to slouch cross-legged and fiddle with the grass.
Four leant in too, setting his journal aside. “What makes you think that? I can’t feel a pull yet.”
“It’s just,” Wind looked conflicted, a little disappointed maybe. “-We’ve been here for over a week now. I know that isn’t that long really, but we cleared out the area around the fairy fountain three days ago. I can just tell we’ll be moving on soon.”
“So let’s make the most of the time we have left!” Sky said, hefting his weight forward and clambering to his feet. The Skyloftian rested both hands on Wind’s shoulders, leaning down with a grin. “I want to squeeze in one more swim. Four, Hyrule? Wild, you joining us?”
They met Wild’s meek refusal with whines of dismay.
“But you haven’t come for a swim all week!” Wind pointed out, pouty.
“It’s just not my thing,” The champion insisted, flapping a hand to wave them away and curb the group’s fixed attention. “Go have fun. I want to pack anyway.”
It was almost spooky how accurate the sailor had been. Not long after the first of their group stirred – Four yawning as Time stretched – did Wind’s grandmother shuffle into the room they’d all been allowed to sleep in.
Slowly, she gestured behind her. “There appears to be some kind of dark, strange-looking apparition out on my front lawn,” She explained with a sad, resigned smile before whispering conspiratorially. “-Must be here for all you strong, brave boys.”
“Come now,” Time quipped, tip-toeing between the sleepy heroes strewn about to take the old woman’s hands into his own and press a quick kiss to her knuckles. “-I see no reason why the portal on your doorstep couldn’t be here for you?”
“No no,” She laughed, patting his elbow fondly before turning back to shuffle out. “-Adventures don’t happen-upon old girls like me I’m afraid, those days are well past me now. I leave that sort of excitement for my dear grandson.”
“Regardless, we really can’t thank you enough for your hospitality,” Time pressed on as he turned back to start packing away his bedroll. “-It’s only a shame we have to leave you so soon. It’s been wonderful here.”
Wind’s grandmother stopped in the doorway, leaning against it to face the room once more and scan the boys still sleeping. After aiming a kind nod and a smile in Four’s direction, she refocused on Time, gratified. “There’s really no need to thank me, dear – I am indebted to you after all.”
“Debt?” Four asked, confused. “There’s no debt between us– if anything, we owe you for your time and lodgings.”
“So selfless, it’s no wonder you’re all Farore-blessed.” She took on a serious countenance for a moment, pensive and honest. “My only grandson is safe and well-loved under your watch. That is something no stretch of hospitality can ever repay; it’s a realisation that creeps up on you with age, I’m afraid.”
Her parting goodbyes with Wind, as the little sailor hugged her tight and wore the bravest smile he could manage, pulled at the heartstrings of everyone present. His poor sister found herself teary-eyed and quieted by the prospect of her brother leaving again for no small stretch of time, and Wind scooped her up into a bone-crushing embrace – one she returned with fierce affection.
“At least you’re giving us warning this time,” She mumbled, pointing a little finger in his face sternly. “-But you’d better come back soon, okay?”
“I’ll try,” He whispered, stealing one more hug from her before straightening out and hefting his bag up with a heave. “-But you’d better promise to defend the island while I’m gone. ...And say goodbye to Tetra for me, ‘kay?”
“It’s a deal.” She nodded, with a determined thumbs up as he walked backwards toward the others. Warriors’ bracing clap on the back followed one last shouted farewell, and the nine of them were heading on through another portal – endless possibilities across time and space stretched out before them.
Shifting was always going to be somewhat unpleasant, but treading from Outset’s white-hot sands onto the characteristic cobblestone of Wild’s ruins felt particularly peculiar.
“Woah, okay,” Hyrule breathed, shaking off a brief dizzy spell and glancing around. “-That… never gets any easier, somehow.”
Dismayed agreements rose from the group as people got situated, and Twilight found himself beside Wild – the boy sat stop a crumbling brick wall getting his slate recalibrated.
“Where are we?” The ranch-hand asked, peering over his shoulder. Their map booted up in the next moment, hundreds of tiny pins and glowing waypoints leaping into place with a soft ping. Wild fiddled with it for a moment, taking note of the predictive weather forecast and calendar date.
“Here.” He leaned closer to Twilight for a moment, indicating their position. He was pointing at a little yellow triangle facing a large cliff that, when Twilight glanced up at the sheer rockface opposite them, seemed to rise up and disappear into a mist. The plateau was impossibly elevated; he was very glad they’d not been dumped up there just yet.
“We’re at the foot of the Great Plateau. This is what’s left of the Garrison.” Wild explained, standing up with a slight stretch and settling his weight to one side, tapping away at the slate.
Something about the way his protégé was holding himself – with his back to the group as he tapped an idle foot, fiddling with the slate – felt very off all of a sudden. He’d been a little homesick and withdrawn the previous evening of course, something that hadn’t flown under their radar, but Wild normally perked up a little upon arriving back in his era; Last time he’d been so relieved to see the open plains and rolling fields, visibly relaxing.
He just looked… small, right now. Like he didn’t know where to put his feet, or what to do with his hands. Cautiously stepping closer, Twilight noticed he was flicking back and forth between the slate’s map and photo album – not really looking at the screen at all.
“Talk to me cub,” Twilight murmured, bringing a guiding hand up to Wild’s jittery elbow. It stilled under his touch, tense shoulders deflating as the boy lowered the slate back to his side, brows furrowed. “-Big or small– what’s up?”
For a moment Twilight was dismayed, certain that Wild was going to brush it off as distracted fingers twisted into the hem of his tunic. When the ranch-hand glanced back at the others to make sure they didn’t have seven sets of nosy, prying eyes making the boy uncomfortable, only one gaze was trained their way.
Time shot them a questioning frown – a clear but silent, ‘He okay?’
At a loss, Twilight found himself shrugging. He quickly returned his focus to the champion when the boy spoke up though, hushed and self-conscious.
“We’ve been dumped in a bit of an awkward spot.” Wild began with a sigh. “Going north from here is a bad idea, that’s guardian territory – and in every other direction, there’s nothing significant that isn’t a good trek away.”
“Okay,” Twilight accepted, considering. “-We’re all perfectly fine camping along the way, if that’s what’s worrying you. Feels like that’s not what’s on your mind, though.”
The boy pushed his hair out of his eyes, frustration evident. “I just don’t want to influence where the group wants to go, okay?” He looked tired. “We can’t really justify the trip, it’s a fair distance...”
And it clicked.
“Hmm, show me the map again.” Twilight plied, sinking to sit beside him on the low wall and prodding at the slate hung on his protégé’s belt.
With the screen angled his way once more, he studiously scanned the little pins and notations. Last time they were here, they’d been at a stable beside a twin-peaked mountain. Finding that, he followed the path they’d taken before– heading north to a village called Kakariko, noted on the map in Sheikah but labelled with a distinct symbol. Ahah! And if he remembered correctly from Wild’s scattered mentions the previous night, that meant…
“You live out here, right?” He hazarded a guess, pointing to a little village icon indicated east of the Dueling Peaks. Wild looked up at him in surprise, grip slack as he let Twilight fiddle with the slate, zooming in and out to gauge the distance. “It doesn’t look like an unreasonable walk, in all honesty. We walked the road from the stable to Impa’s village in one afternoon, right?”
“I-It’s not the distance I’m worried about,” Wild murmured, nibbling his lip anxiously. “-I don’t want to drag the group all the way over if we don’t have to.”
“But what if they want to go?” Twilight said simply, head tilted in suggestion. “There’s no harm in asking. Let’s see what Time says. Hey, Time!” He called, ignoring Wild’s fumbled sleeve-tugging with a grin. When the man parted from Hyrule and made his way over, Twilight leant over to pat the low wall on Wild’s other side, making sure the champion was sat between the two of them.
“Hard to choose where to go, really,” Time mumbled, angling his chin towards the map with a frown, leaning in ever-so-slightly. He looked up for a moment, studying Wild’s face. “-We could make our way over to your village, if it isn’t weeks away. I see no reason to keep you from home if it’s nearby and waiting.”
With a supportive arm slung around Wild’s shoulder, Twilight felt the boy relax under his weight, tension unwinding itself along his frame. “It’s three days east of here,” He explained, taking the slate back. “-that reads ‘Hateno Village’. Are you sure you’re okay going all that way?”
“Cub, it’d be hypocritical of me to deny you that.” Time’s smile softened sadly. “Last time we were back in my era, I dragged you all home with me. I think it’s long past time that we returned the favour.”
The weather was kind to them as they walked, gifting warm sunshine and a light breeze that toyed with their hair and clothes alike. The seasons had continued to shift in Wild’s absence, melting into the fiery hues of mid-autumn – and when they stopped for lunch after a few hours of walking, Wild left his things by the group and picked his way through the woodland underbrush just behind them, on the hunt for the odd mushroom or wild herb.
A call from back towards camp had him turning sharply to face the bright treeline, looking for whoever it was that had shouted out to him. Hyrule jogged into view with a sunny smile and a little wave, Legend at his heels. The veteran seemed focused on the forest floor too, already scanning for edible fungi and plant life.
“You guys alright?” Wild called with a questioning thumbs-up. Their nods settled his nerves, and he returned his gaze to the deeper parts of the woodland, where the trees became denser and the light more dappled and scattered.
“Warriors thought it best to go around in little groups,” Hyrule explained, huffing slightly as he pulled up to walk beside him. “And I wasn’t going to pass up the opportunity to explore with you.”
“Did you neglect to mention the promise we made to be back within the hour?” Legend reminded the traveller, pinching the bridge of his nose. “Honestly you two, let’s just get going.”
It didn’t escape Wild’s notice then how Hyrule seemed to deflate at the reminder, and he made up his mind – grabbing both boys by the hand and pulling them further in.
“C’mon,” He chuckled, ignoring Legend’s vehement protests. When Wild extracted a rattling, chiming leaf-shaped mask from his slate, the veteran’s cursing only grew in fervor, and Wild laughed. “-An hour is plenty of time to have some fun! Let’s go.”
They managed to make a game out of their slim window of freedom, splitting up to go korok-seed hunting before they had to make the trek back – Wild, with the Korok mask, pitted against the other two in a little team of their own.
Legend had no idea how they were going to win when the kid had a mask that literally told him where Koroks were, but Hyrule was happy and Legend could never stay too grumpy with that smile in his periphery. He resolved himself to just holding any griping to a minimum and keeping his eyes peeled for the little forest-dwellers instead.
“How do we know when we’re looking at one?” He mumbled, slowly feeling more and more stupid as time ticked by. “He’s going to flatten us.”
“Oh hush,” Hyrule laughed, sunny disposition never leaving him. “I saw him find one last time we were here– he said they tend to hide in ways that stand out. We just need to look for something... odd.”
Legend couldn’t help it. He let a derisive snort slip, scoffing to the heavens. “Something odd? Have you forgotten already, we saw him just a couple minutes ago – a stupid leaf on his face, about this tall? He went that way, remember?”
He probably deserved the slap Hyrule aimed at him for that, ducking out of the way with a smirk as he continued to scan the woods.
Something ‘odd’, huh? Well that small ceramic jar sat within the hollow of that cedar tree certainly looked out of place. Worth a shot, right?
“Am I going crazy or is there a pot sitting in that tree?” He cautioned, guiding the boy’s line of site to the hollow with a point. Hyrule gasped, eyes alight with the thrill of discovery as he pulled Legend over. The veteran had to give him a leg up, but when they got the little pot down and Hyrule had it cradled in his grasp, they exchanged one last wary glance.
“Can’t hurt, right?” Legend hazarded, and after a quick shrug Hyrule threw caution to the wind and tugged the lid off.
A creature – rounded, earthy and larger than he was expecting – sprung from the jar with all the fanfare it could muster. Both heroes almost jumped out of their skin, and if Legend hadn’t been so busy trying to settle his racing heartbeat, he’d have put more heat into the glare he aimed at a cackling Hyrule.
The korok giggled and trilled at them, and when they’d settled down Hyrule crouched to accept the little seed the creature had clutched in its grasp.
“Why thank you!” The traveller beamed, parting from the Korok with a fond pat to its head and a wave. Legend could appreciate the seed’s golden, iridescent shine – despite it’s little worth – and he pocketed it as they made to continue searching.
After one more seed and remembering their time-limit, Legend tore them away from another Korok and back to where they’d parted from Wild. The image of Hyrule practically hurling himself through the grass to tackle one of the giggling, scurrying creatures was going to have him snorting into his sleeve for weeks to come, he was certain of it.
That was nothing compared to what they stumbled upon when they finally found the champion.
Stood within a ring of lilypads that floated atop a small reeded pond, Wild was halfway through wrestling a korok seed from a lone forest-dweller when they arrived. The champion was drenched, head to toe, in pondwater, having taken most of his clothes off to wade out into the shallows. He seemed to be struggling to get the seed handed over.
“Just– Just give it to me!” He gritted out, one foot pushing against a stone outcropping behind the lilypad circle as he tired to prize the seed away. “I found you already, what the hell?!”
If Legend didn’t know any better, he might have thought Wild was trying to cheat his way through a puzzle for one of the seeds. The cackles of the little Korok told otherwise though, malicious glee ringing out across the clearing.
“Need some help there, Wild?” Legend drawled, sauntering over to the pond-side with a wicked grin. The champion whirled around, one hand still clamped on the unclaimed seed as he aimed a threatening finger in Legend’s direction.
“Don’t you fucking dare.” He hissed, eyes narrowed. “I don’t need your snark too, I get enough from these guys.”
Hyrule leaned forward, innocently curious. “Maybe that’s because you dump their rocks on their heads?” He suggested. To Wild’s absolute delight, when the traveller waved excitedly to the Korok, the forest-dweller forgot itself for a moment and returned the wave with equal enthusiasm.
Wild cheered, tumbling backwards with an almighty splash and doing all he could to keep his head above the water. Scrambling back out of the pond, he shook off a slightly dazed look before aiming a sharp grin Legend’s way. “Ready to accept defeat?” He taunted.
“I wouldn’t be so sure.” The veteran smirked, revelling in the way all the blood drained from Wild’s face.
“No. There’s no way.”
“Two?! How did you find two in this woodland alone?”
“Probably because we didn’t have a dumb mask obscuring our vision?”
“Hey– Give that back!”
Cackles and shrieks of laughter followed them all the way back to camp, and only grew in volume when the others turned to find a sopping-wet Wild, down to his boxers with his clothes tucked under one arm, bursting from the treeline in chase after a grinning Legend and a huffing Hyrule.
“Did you actually manage to forage anything?” Time asked eventually, leaning back with a knowing smirk aimed their way. Wild froze from where he’d been wringing out the end of his hair, and the other two shared guilty looks.
“What are these ruins, Wild?”
Their journey had taken them further east as the sun steadily sunk across the horizon, clouds overtaken by a fiery, strawberry underglow. They’d taken Wild’s warning seriously, sticking as close together along the trail as possible around any dilapidated settlements.
“East Post Ruins,” He answered quietly, eyes never leaving their surroundings. Looking to their eldest, Twilight saw his own worry reflected in Time’s expression, both of them trying to keep their mounting apprehension under wraps.
‘Monsters like to make their camps among the ruins,’ Wild had explained, a powerful-looking bow clutched in his dominant hand. His other palm hadn’t left the slate for a while, hovering over it reassuringly. ‘It shouldn’t be hard to get past if we’re quiet, and we’ll be clear once we get over Proxim Bridge.’
So they’d stayed quiet and kept their distance from the trail’s edge, but their caution did nothing to ease the tense line of Wild’s shoulders, or his too-measured breathing. Twilight was beginning to worry again. He’d seemed fine again at lunch, cracking the odd smile as he took a break to sketch the sprawling landscape. Had he been ambushed here in the past?
Whatever it was, one thing was clear; Wild wanted to get out of the area as quickly as possible. It looked like he was floating forward on autopilot.
They tip-toed past shuffling moblins and bokoblin groups settling down to eat, and everything seemed relatively normal until a shout broke through the air from ahead, nine heroes whipping their attention forward.
Further along the trail, dirt and soil gave way to the dishevelled-looking cobble of a stone bridge – parts of the siding missing where large blocks had fallen away under years of weathering and neglect.
And along from them on the bridge was a Hylian man, brandishing a spear, shouting to intimidate a hunched figure. He was slowly herding a rogue bokoblin towards one of the crossing’s exposed ledges, thrusting the weapon menacingly whenever it got too cocky and tried to rally back. Warriors took a sudden pace forward, clearly wanting to step in and lend a hand – but Twilight threw out an arm catching the captain across the chest.
The ranch-hand couldn’t tear his gaze from Wild. Gauging the boy’s reaction oftentimes proved difficult – because if anyone could read you like a book, and knew exactly how to stop you reading him, it was this kid – and it was no different in that moment. The champion’s face was carefully neutral as he stared out at the bridge, making no move to step in and intervene.
Whether Wild truly had faith in the Hylian man, believing him capable, or just didn’t know what to make of it like the rest of them, was moot at this point. The group gradually crept forward.
After a particularly hard shove with the spear, the bokoblin was sent shuffling backwards, tripping over a loose stone and pitching out of sight over the crumbling ledge. It’s gurgling shriek pierced the air like a whip, making most of them flinch as it crashed into the waters of the River Hylia.
Despite having a better view of the river itself from atop the crossing, they failed to see the bokoblin resurface. It unsettled Twilight suddenly – to realise that the river possessed a deceptively-strong undertow. The bokoblin had fought its battle with mother nature and lost.
Most of the group shared curious shrugs and furtive glances before resuming their trek, the Hylian man panting slightly where he stood. He only noticed their party after straightening his posture and hanging the spear at his back, but it was with a cheered wave and a friendly nod that he approached.
“Hail, travellers! It’s good to see you armed.” The Hylian jogged over to greet them with a shake of the hand for Warriors, at the front of the group. “Just clearing off the bridge again, can’t get too complacent ‘round these parts.”
“Glad to see you’re unharmed,” The captain offered in return, craning his neck past the man to peer at the opposite riverbank. “We need to stop for the night soon, though. You seem familiar with the area, where’s best to make camp?”
Getting lost in their back-and-forth chatter, Twilight remembered himself a moment later with a jolt, conducting a quick headcount in search of his protégé. And there he was, right at the back beside Time on the northern face of the bridge, staring out across the sunset-bathed waters of the River Hylia. Motionless. Eyes unseeing.
Twilight made a move. Something was really getting to Wild about this place, and it almost looked like it had triggered another memory for him. He didn’t know what to do.
“Cub?” He asked, cautious and quiet.
“Mhm?” Was his reply, and Twilight’s next sigh of relief came unbidden. Not a memory, then. That’s a start.
Before he could work out what was wrong though, the Hylian stranger spoke up from the front, projecting in their direction with a startled tone.
“Link? Is that you?” He asked, every head turning to face them at the bridge’s northern edge. Wild seemed to snap out of his reverie with the abrupt mention, shaking off whatever had been clouding his awareness. He smiled, realising who had spoken.
“Brigo, it’s been a while.” The group parted to let the locals step toward one another, Wild’s little awkward wave drawing out fond grins all round. “Sorry I couldn’t visit sooner. Have you… have many others stopped by to say hi?”
The man – ‘Brigo’ it seemed – merely shook his head with a bark of laughter, drawing Wild into a rib-cracking hug that the champion returned with fervor. After a pregnant pause they pulled away, and the bridge-guard brought both hands up to pat the boy’s shoulders before cupping his cheeks, gaze searching Wild for something.
The warmth that had bubbled up in Twilight’s chest, as fiery and bright as the sunset, took on a shade of blue when a long sigh escaped Brigo.
With an affirmative nod, he patted Wild’s jaw a couple times. “No apology needed,” Brigo insisted, relieved but firm. “-And no, thankfully not. Just me and the bokoblins.” He chuckled, strangely pleased as he admitted it. “It’s wonderful seeing you again, though. Are you doing well?”
“I… I am,” The champion assured him, reaching up to squeeze one of Brigo’s wrists gently. “...Thank you, Brigo. I wish I could visit more often.”
“Nonsense! As long as you’re taking care of yourself that’s all that matters.” And with that, the moment passed. The Proxim Bridge watchman stepped back with a grin and a cheeky salute, reaching for his spear once more. “You boys had better get going then. Come and say goodbye to ol’ Brigo before you set off, come sunrise!”
So they crossed the bridge and made to settle down on the pebbled riverbank, Wild’s odd exchange with the Proxim watchman weighing on Twilight for much of the evening. Even as the gorgeous sunset cooled into a deep, star-flung canopy of dusk, the feeling that he had missed something refused to budge.
The sentiment crested when Twilight returned from helping Sky rinse out their laundry to find camp one member short. Astute as always, Time met his immediate panic with a calming, raised hand and a reassuring word, beckoning them over to join him beside Warriors – removed from the others all clustered by the fire.
“We finished cleaning up from dinner not ten minutes ago.” He assured them, leaning heavily on his knees with a sigh. The two newcomers shared a private look for a moment, concerned. “He slipped away shortly after.” With a nod back towards Proxim Bridge, Time met Twilight’s level gaze. “It was… obvious Wild needed some space.”
Silence settled over the four of them then, the soft chatter of the other heroes drifting over from the main part of camp. Warriors shifted, restless. Sky fidgeted with his sailcloth.
Twilight tried not to worry at his lip. Old habits die hard.
“But we all noticed, right?” Sky murmured eventually, glancing at each of them in turn.
With a furrow of his brow, Warriors spoke up. “It’s something about the route we took, leading to Proxim,” He said, Time’s slow nod spurring him on. “–some kind of history he has here. Dealing with that alone isn’t easy. In a group? …That’s really tough.”
Twilight’s heart sank, frowning at the mud caking his boots just for something to look at. He felt so… clueless, fumbling in the dark for a way to help and finding only more questions.
Was it this area causing him grief, or just something about their current position? Had Wild anticipated struggling along this route, or is it hitting him as suddenly as it has them? ...Did Twilight push him into this, suggesting they come this way?
A hand at his shoulder wrenched him from his thoughts, the pressure from Sky’s palm firm and reassuring. The Skyloftian nodded to Time, and their eldest spoke up.
“You should go check on him,” Time suggested, assertive. “–None of us should be alone after dark anyway.”
“Shouldn’t… Wars, wouldn’t you be better for this, though?” Twilight asked, hoping he wasn’t overstepping in his assumption.
The captain only shrugged, sighing momentarily. “Maybe, maybe not.” He answered honestly, turning to stare out at Proxim Bridge. “My men often found themselves shaken by one thing or another, but I’m trained formally for when it comes up on the field. This isn’t that.”
“Just make sure he’s okay, Twi.” Sky breathed, reassuring and kind. “I don’t think we have anything to worry about – he’d just probably appreciate having someone he’s close to, right now.”
And so Twilight got to his feet and fixed his pelt back in place, heading out from camp with a reassuring pat from Time. Navigating his way back onto the bridge wasn’t difficult – they’d settled down for the night near the river’s pebbled shore, well-removed from the treeline and protected on one side by the water.
The moment he left the group and trudged back up the short hill to the lane, Wild was easy to spot halfway down the bridge. His cloaked silhouette stood out against the horizon, framed in silvery moonlight, from his seated perch on the low wall bracketing the bridge’s northern face. The breeze was a little stronger up here too, toying with Wild’s hair as his legs swung back and forth overtop the river, hands buried in his lap. Twilight made his cautious approach, dragging his feet over a pebble or two to make his presence well-known.
There wasn’t really anything to lead with, conversationally, as he clambered up onto the parapet and settled in beside the boy. He got his clothes situated, made sure his pelt was draped correctly, and double-checked he still had access to his sheathed sword. All the while, Wild stared out at the view, legs swinging back and forth.
Back, forth. Back forth.
When Twilight cut short his fidgeting and relaxed into place, Wild huffed slightly and leaned into him – head coming to rest on his friend’s shoulder.
For a while they just breathed together, Twilight’s hugging his protégé across the back as he waited. And then Wild sighed, and spoke up.
“I love this view,” He admitted, gesturing out across the vast plains and impressive mountaintops. “–I’ll never not love this view. But when I woke up, it was so… daunting. Like I was meant to be familiar with it and I just wasn’t.”
Twilight hummed in understanding, despite having no way to truly empathise. What else was there to do, when you were just there to be there for someone? He let Wild continue, content to just listen.
“I don’t like putting my head underwater, not fully.” The boy said, matter-of-fact in his tangent. “I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned that.”
“It’s not like it ever came up,” Twilight reassured him, letting his head rest atop Wild’s where the champion was still leaning on his shoulder. “Is that why you didn’t go swimming with the others on Outset?”
“Mhmm,” Wild hummed. “...Feels like reliving my time in the shrine, I guess. There’s a lot I could hate about that shrine, but I still owe it my life. I mean– I owe it for my health,” He corrected, fiddling with the hem of his tunic once more, picking at the pale stitching. “–But it’s hard to associate my life with whatever came before, because I just don’t remember it. And when I woke up, it was like my body just didn’t get the memo.”
Wild seemed to struggle with his point for a moment, fitfully clenching and unclenching his hands in his lap. “There was this… heavy grief that persisted past the amnesia.” He murmured. “–This guilt that I couldn’t blame anything for, and a sworn silence I had no reason to uphold. It was all muscle-memory... and it was suffocating.”
A pause, and Wild let out a shaky exhale. “My heart was still mourning something my brain didn’t even remember, and I just didn’t know how to live with it.”
Side by side – perched overtop a fierce, invisible undertow with one of the people he cared for most in the world – Twilight felt his heart stutter in his chest, finally realising what had been eating away at his cub since earlier that afternoon. He squeezed the boy just a little tighter, hugged him a little closer, and shifted his head to breathe in his comforting scent – the one that told him Wild was here, and okay.
“It ate at me until I decided it wasn’t worth living with, and I came out to Proxim. It’s famous for having a strong undercurrent.” He gestured at the river, letting his hands fall back to his lap. “–But Brigo’s been here for years,” He finished with a chuckle, picking at his tunic. “–And I wasn’t the first. I think he’s lost track, by now.”
“You’d better arrange a proper house for him down here, once your kingdom gets to rebuilding.” Twilight snorted, burying his face in Wild’s hair so he didn’t have to look at the churning waters below. He didn’t want to be reminded of the bokoblin that’d failed to resurface. Didn’t want to give his brain the macabre chance to ponder on ‘what if’s, and ‘what could have been’.
Wild laughed, patting his knee. “Trust me, Brigo is easily top of the list.”
When Twilight raised his head once more, no longer feeling the immediate tug of tears, Wild was smiling out at the landscape. “Zelda knows, by the way.” He revealed, expression wistful. “–And I’m honestly okay now. I’m so grateful that Brigo talked me down. ...I didn’t necessarily have to free the Divine Beasts, y’know. But it helped me… ‘place’ the grief, and once I had a reason for the feeling, it became much more manageable. Like I could reconcile with it.”
Twilight found himself nodding, letting his eyes fall closed as a pleasant breeze played with their hair and caressed his cheek. “Doesn't hurt that the Divine Beasts look really fucking awesome perched up there. That’s always a bonus.”
“Right?” Wild giggled, picking his head up and shooting a playful smirk Twilight’s way. “I still can’t believe I managed it, even now.”
“Are you kidding?” The ranch-hand scoffed, leaning back incredulously. “I sure as hell can, you’re the best of us cub. Kind, resourceful, whip-sharp, and apparently the last commander of four archaic leviathan machines. Don’t tell the others, but you’re easily the coolest one here.”
“Are you forgetting that you can literally shapeshift?” Wild snorted, leaning back in to hug Twi around the waist. “Divine Beasts or not, nothing’s cooler than that.”
They both settled into a comfortable quiet, equally relieved to have made it through the blues together. When Wild clambered to his feet atop the northern parapet, Twilight followed suit, stepping back onto the stable cobble of the main bridge and bending down to retrieve a loose brick when Wild asked for one.
The boy took a second to scrutinise the waters, gaze firm and calculating, before he wound his arm back and hurled the stone into the undertow with a crashing splosh, satisfied smile working its way onto his face.
“It feels good,” He finished with, clambering down to join Twilight on solid ground once more and letting the ranch-hand pull him into a tight, one-armed hug as they started walking back to camp. “–It feels good to be here again, seeing the same view from the other side. And seeing Brigo was nice, too. He’s such a sap.”
“Might of Din, cub, if he’s a sap, what does that make me?”
“I’ll live with it. I’ll take that any day.”
Time was glad he didn't have to rouse anyone awake when he noticed Twilight and Wild leave their perch at the bridge’s northern ledge. Sky had stayed alert over at his bedroll, keeping busy with a journal, and Warriors hadn’t even tried feigning sleep despite not being on watch, leaning up against a log and watching the stars pass as the minutes ticked by.
With a clearing of his throat, both men were looking up and attentive, following the nod of his head and gazing up at the two figures walking back towards camp.
Sky let out a sigh of relief, turning back to his journal just as they rounded the parapet, and Warriors made a show of stalling his return to bed by shaking out his blanket and setting his bag aside. Soft, gentle chatter from the two boys met them as Twi guided Wild back into camp, and Time looked up, twisting in his seat.
“Everything alright?” He asked, prompting Twilight with the weight of a considering look. The sincerity of the ranch-hand’s answering nod was good enough for him, and Time got up to abate the fire for the night.
Wild, astute as always, took one look at a sheepish, lucid-looking Sky, and tip-toed over with a hushed admonition.
“You shouldn’t have stayed up!” He whispered, sinking down beside Sky to pull him into a brief hug before moving to do the same for Warriors. “We’re leaving early tomorrow, get some sleep.”
“Alright alright,” Warriors grins, ruffling the boy’s hair and pushing him away playfully. “-You too though. Time’s on watch.”
“And I’m not going anywhere,” Time huffed, getting to his feet after crouching by the fire and stretching out his back. Wild picked his way over and offered Time a crushing hug too, sinking into his arms before pulling back with a smile. It took more restraint than he cared to admit, letting the boy go again and returning to the log he’d been stationed at.
“Sleep well, guys.” Sky mumbled, already dozing off with the covers pulled up to his chin. He smiled sleepily out at them, offered up a little thumbs-up and rolled over, clocking out. Tearing his eyes from the scene just as Wild settled down to sleep, Twilight headed to his own bedroll – between Wild’s own and the spot Time was stationed at.
“Will he be okay?” Time asked, careful to keep his voice low as Twilight got situated for the night. The ranch-hand looked up, meeting his elder’s even stare with a reassuring nod and a smile.
“I think he already is.”
Hateno was bustling and alive when they arrived three days later, the group immediately beginning to bicker about where to go and what to do first. Twilight shared a fond eye-roll with his protégé, the boy returning it with fervor.
“Wh– Wait, where are you guys going?” Wind cried, whirling to face the two already trudging up a hillside lane without a word. Sky watched them retreat and moved to follow, shrugging back at Wind.
“You can visit the dye shop after we dump our things with Wild.” Twilight called back, and the remaining heroes all leapt to follow them up the path, eager chatter resuming right away. Twilight sniggered just as Time sighed, pulling up to walk beside them.
“Will there be enough space for us to sleep too, or will we have to move our things to the inn eventually?” He asked, sensible as always.
“Plenty of room, don’t worry.” Wild assured him, just as Wind bounded past them and scurried ahead to urge the group forward, skidding across the dirt in his excitement. “Alright, alright. We’re coming. But stay close, okay!”
When they crested the hill, Twilight immediately knew which house was Wild’s. If the horses in the barn and the girl feeding them outside hadn’t been the dead-giveaway, then Wild’s own reaction to seeing the little cottage certainly was.
He stalled for a moment – breath caught at the foot of the bridge leading over to his home – before a shining smile lit up his face and brought out the dimples he refused to admit were there. Wind stepped aside to let him race over the wooden footbridge, and with a gleeful shout Wild dumped his pack on the grass in his sprint over to the girl, who turned with a startle.
“Link?!” Was all they heard before he went barrelling into her with a hug, face buried into her shoulder and arms wrapped tight around her middle. The straw sunhat she’d been wearing, with a pale blue ribbon tied at its base, went flying in his haste to pull her into the hug – and she laughed and laughed, delighted to return the embrace.
“Where have you been? ” She was saying, as the others came into view from over the crossing. When Wind darted forward to retrieve her hat from the grass and return it with a cheery ‘Nice to meet you, miss!’, she pulled back with a start, hand flying up to her mouth.
“Oh!” She accepted it back uncertainly, clearly searching Wild for answers to the thousands of questions beginning to form in her head. “Thank you, it seems we’re not acquainted mister, uh…?”
Twilight stepped forward, sensing an oncoming catastrophe otherwise. Wild was too busy flitting between smiling at his Zelda and bounding over to hug his horses, to be of any use explaining their situation.
“We’ve been travelling with Link for a while now,” He offered up, taking her hand in a polite greeting. “It’s a rather complicated tale, and I’d rather have him here to help explain it. Hey, cub?” Twilight called, leaning past her to catch the boy’s attention. Zelda turned too, stifling a laugh into her palm as Wild pressed eager kisses all over the snout of a chestnut-coloured horse.
“Right, well–” She coughed, gathering her thoughts and pushing the straw sunhat back into place over her hair. “Why don’t you all come inside. Shall we?”
It wasn’t hard to fall in love with Wild’s little house, well-furnished and well-loved. Zelda had clearly been keeping it clean in his absence, slowly filling it with her own belongings and clutter to sit alongside his own. In places it was hard to tell who’s knick-knack was who’s.
Several of the weapons hung up were clearly Wild’s, the fiercer-looking Lynel ones screaming his brand of daring lunacy. But the gleaming golden one on the far right – had Wild mentioned Zelda using it before? How many of those books on their shelf belonged to him, and how many had she brought back with her from the castle? Which photos were his? Which sketches?
The kitchen was clearly all Wild though, so Twilight resigned to poking around the cupboards, saving his nosy, domestic questions for later.
“Pass me that knife, would you?” The champion asked, poking Twilight first in the side, and then pointing to the utensil stand. Prodding his protégé right back, Twi reached over and passed it along, watching him slice up a large hydromelon.
“That’s fascinating,” Came Zelda’s voice, from her seat opposite Time at the dining table. The rest of the group had ventured down into town, and they were the only ones remaining up at the house. “-And to think even the Royal historical records are so incomplete… I’m dismayed to hear there are such woefully large gaps in our record-keeping.”
“I wouldn’t blame the record-keepers,” Time reassured her gently. “We are beginning to suspect there exists a branchpoint in the Hero’s timeline, and we’re not sure where this era sits exactly.”
“We’re a lot further along from you guys, though.” Wild chipped in, hoisting a tray of fruit and baked goods over to the table, Time and Zelda hurrying to clear a space for it as he and Twi sat down. “–And it’s hard to know which bits of history existed in which timelines, and so on.”
“Gosh, the implications of it are astounding.” The princess muttered into her palm, head propped up on one hand as she gazed off into space. Only when Wild poked her with a slice of apple did she return to earth and join them with the snacks. “But anyway, tell me about your trip. When did you get back to this era?”
“Three days ago now,” Twilight said, taking a hesitant bite of a small, unfamiliar berry. When it proved sweet and tangy, he quickly reached for a few more, pointedly ignoring Time’s fond smile. “We arrived at the ruin of a Garrison, right cub?”
“Surely not out at the greenbelt?” Zelda said sharply, setting down her melon slice. Wild hurried to placate her, scootching closer in his chair.
“No no, not that far north. Near Kolomo.” He explained, avoiding her eyes as he took an apple and began to shine it on his shirt, nervous. “We came via the East Post ruin. We camped just past Fort Hateno last night.”
She stared at the table between her and Wild for a moment, clearly trying to map the route in her head. Then, she settled on the one realisation Twilight had known would come from this line of logic, and he watched her gaze shift to Wild’s face. She gave him the same searching look Brigo had. A little cautious. A little hopeful.
“Via Proxim, right?” She murmured, reaching for a biscuit and breaking it in half to offer Wild a portion. He accepted it gratefully, taking a nibble.
“I got to say hi to Brigo,” He smiled, meeting her gaze at last. “...A-And the view was nice. Sat on the parapet for a bit in the evening.”
Twilight’s heart did that stupid little proud flip-flop in his chest, seeing how brave Wild was being in spite of his wobbly start on their trip. When Time leaned in a little closer to Twilight then, a comforting presence to all at the table, he saw the same pride mirrored on the eldest’s face.
The ranch-hand’s attention returned to the table when Zelda reached across to Wild and squeezed his hand tight, a radiant smile aimed his way through a soft chuckle of relief. “Remind me to knight Brigo one of these days or something. Hylia only knows he deserves it.”
“He might prefer better lodgings in all honesty,” Wild snorted, tension bleeding from him with every passing second. “He’s still sleeping under that little awning.”
“He’s not, is he?” Zelda gasped, hand at her mouth in sudden guilt. “No, that’s terrible! I’m still going to knight him though. Who else deserves a knighthood?”
As the conversation devolved back into their playful back-and-forth, Twilight got to his feet and resumed poking around the house, content to be nosy with the backdrop of their warm laughter. Time rose not long after to make a start on the dishes, and soon enough the house was bustling once more, three heroes and a princess pottering around spreading out bedrolls and drying cutlery.
“Hey Twi, do you want your bedding laid out or would you rather curl up at the end of my bed?” Wild called from upstairs, making him fumble with a loose book and hastily put it back, heart racing.
“Cub, what the hell?” He hissed up at the boy, pointedly glancing at the princess who had paused on the stairs to watch the exchange with mounting curiosity.
“What?” Wild stage-whispered back, eyebrow raised. “–Did you really think you could hide it from her during our stay?”
“Well- I don’t know,” Twilight huffed, grimacing his apologies at the girl. “Would have been nice to try?”
“Hide what?” Zelda asked innocently, flattening the front of her dress as she tiptoed up to Wild on the upper floor, suddenly eager. “Link, does he have a special ability, like the champions?”
“Give it up, pup,” Time laughed, clapping him on the back suddenly. “She’d clearly have figured it out either way.”
“Fine, whatever,” He grumbled, channelling his annoyance into being nosier than ever. He picked up a battered old journal, scrutinising the cover, and after a pause, finally turned back to an expectant Wild.
“–And yeah, set out my bedroll in case the others get suspicious. But don’t be surprised if I choose to curl up and suffocate you in your sleep for this.”