Shadows of Doubt
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"Shadows of Doubt", Part 1

Shadows of Doubt

By: DTaige


Things were not right.

Vincent sat alone in his room, sword on his lap, absently rubbing it with a cloth.


The rubbing stopped and the knight looked about him.

"Who is there?" he demanded, looking around the room carefully.

Silence greeted his question.

He rose to his feet and took a better look around the room, sword loosely gripped in his hand.


The voice was louder this time but coming from nowhere yet at the same time everywhere around him.

Come Vincent.

"Show yourself!" he shouted. The knight brandished his sword menacingly as his eyes darted around the room. Nothing moved, yet to the adrenaline-backed eyes of the young man, the very air seemed to be advancing on him. With his sword in a death grip, adrenaline pumping from some hidden reserve, Vincent narrowed his eyes and screamed, "Show yourself!"

The walls of his room shook with the voice's insane laughter, drowning the knight's mind in turmoil.

Link strode through the many dark, cold hallways of Hyrule Castle. They had not always been dark and cold, the boy thought. Ever since Mira had died, things had not been right.

Over the past few weeks, Queen Julia had become nothing more than a ruler in name only. She spent all of her time in her chambers, refusing to allow entrance to any other than her son, Trine. Trine had adopted the throne and had already established himself as the ruler of the Land. Several people of the castle had gone missing since Trine had taken the throne, but it seemed to him that only a few people could see the reason of those disappearances: They had been the supporters of Princess Zelda.

No, Link corrected himself, not princess. Not any more. Zelda had been exiled for the death of her sister, Mira. The girl's rank and title had been stripped of her and she had been cast out of the very land that had given her birth, had raised her, and had been so deeply rooted in her heart that every breath she took was for it. Hyrule had turned its back on Zelda in favour of her young cousin, Trine. As much as it saddened him, Link knew that the people of Hyrule would realize their mistake too late. Trine wanted something. What it was, Link could not say, but he was sure that it was more than just the command of the oldest nation in the world.

Link rounded a corner and almost collided with his sullen companion from Calatia, Vincent.

"Link," asked the man, "have you found him?"

"No," Link said, shaking his head sadly, "I can't find any trace of him. It seems like he has just disappeared."

"Nothing 'just disappears'. Nature does not work that way. Only creatures make things disappear."

Link looked his friend over slowly. Poor man, he thought. He's a wreak.

Vincent had neither rested nor slept in the past two days and the quiet knight looked it. His only companion whom he would call friend had vanished without a trace shortly after Zelda had been banished. No, Link again corrected himself, not friend. Vincent had always treated the moblin as more of a trophy than a friend. A trophy that not all moblins must live in slavery under the mighty Calatian thumb. Unfortunately, Kubo hated him for it. It was one thing to be freed from slavery and quite another thing to be constantly reminded of that slavery.

But now Kubo was missing.

"Come on," Link said, putting his arm around Vincent and guiding him to the kitchens, "let's get something to eat. Maybe we'll think of someplace Kubo could be that we haven't searched yet."

Silently, the knight nodded.

Together Link and Vincent entered the dining hall of Hyrule Castle and found some tidbits of food there. They seated themselves opposite each other and started to eat in silence.

"Link," said the knight suddenly.

Link stopped chewing on a piece of bread and looked to his friend. "Yes?"

"I have been thinking lately, since Kubo vanished, and I have come to a decision. I shall leave for Calatia tomorrow."

"Why?" This was bad news to Link as the lonely knight was the only ally he had in the castle.

"This castle reeks of evil, Link. I know it. You know it. Everyone knows it. I can no longer stay in such a vile place. Sooner or later it will consume me, as it will consume you too if you remain here."

Link sighed. "I understand. I don't blame you. Ever since Trine took over, this castle seems less beautiful and more gloomy. It's as if the spirit has been taken from the walls." Link absently rubbed the table, fondly.

"Then come with me, Link!" Vincent said urgently. "Come with me to Calatia and help me free the slaves! Make a name for yourself other than a king's lackey!"

Link shook his head. "I can't go. I have a duty to the people of Hyrule if not to the royal family. My place is in Hyrule."

"Link, there is a whole world out there waiting for you to come and explore it and learn from it and help it in ways you cannot imagine. You can not stay here all of your life. You could learn so many things from so many people if you came with me."

"Sorry, Vincent," said Link sadly, "I have too many responsibilities here. As long as the royal family and the people of Hyrule are living, I will be here to protect them."

"What if the royal family has become corrupt? Will you still blindly follow it?"

When Link did not answer, Vincent shook his head and looked to the nearest door as a man in a long, shrouding cloak walked in and stopped at the sight of the two heroes eating. The knight recognized the man as one of the two who had accompanied Prince Trine from Delabor. As far as he knew, neither had ever said a word to anyone. They could not be trusted.

Vincent leaned closer to Link, one eye still watching the man in shadow.

"Link, you should leave here as soon as you can. This castle is doing more than just feeling wicked, it is radiating emotions of evil." At Link's confused look, the Calatian continued. "Last night I was alone in my chambers and voices started talking in my head. They started softly but quickly became so unbearable that they pounded my head with every word. It went on for hours and I started to lose control of myself. I took out my sword and started attacking everything around me, trying to make the voices stop. I was in a haze of hatred at the voices, every word they uttered rang through my bones and chilled me to the spine!" Vincent paused to steady his breathing. "I killed a woman in that haze." Before Link could say anything, the knight continued. "I heard the door open and I turned to it and saw King Eridanus standing there; the very man whom I have been fighting against for my entire life. I pierced him with my sword, and as soon as I had killed him, the voices stopped, his body vanished, and was replaced with that of the serving girl, Helen." At this, Link could see his friend begin to shake violently in pain at the memory. "She died in my arms, Link! I killed her in cold blood! And the voices started to laugh at me. Shrieking that I was under their control now and would serve them for eternity! They made me kill her!" The knight's eyes seemed to lose focus for a moment before again centring on Link "Even now I can here them. Calling me and jeering me softly. They could again take over my body and mind at any moment! I must leave this castle or risk losing my mind!"

Vincent's body seemed to lose its strength and his head fell to his chest as he held back the stinging tears of shame. Link thought about what the silent knight had just said. It was unbelievable that Vincent, this calm and composed man, could ever fly into a violent fury so uncontrollable that he would kill in cold blood. Link could vaguely remember the girl, Helen. She was always so happy with life, always smiling and willing to help others smile. If he remembered correctly, she was also very beautiful, not a flaw in her perfect skin. Such a waste of life.

Link placed a comforting hand on his friend's shoulder and said, "It's not your fault. The voices pushed you to it. There was nothing you could have done."

Vincent looked up at Link. "But it was my fault, Link. It was. It was because of me that she was even near my room."

Link started to open his mouth to speak, but the knight cut him off.

"Just before dinner last night, she came to me in the gardens and asked about the slavery in Calatia. We talked for some time but dinner time was upon us before we could cover much of the topic. She was expected to help serve the dinner, so we agreed that she would visit me after dinner in my room. It was because of me that the poor girl was there!"

Link slightly squeezed his friend's shoulder reassuringly. "You could never have known what would have happened. It's not your fault."

"Thank y-," Vincent looked slightly above Link's head, his eyes wide, his pity forgotten. "Link look out!"

Link dropped from the chair and spun around just as a dagger sank itself deep into the wood of the table.

The Hero of Hyrule looked up at his attacker to see that it was one of the men in long concealing cloaks that followed Trine about. Link reached down to his side for his sword but only then realized that he had left it in his quarters. The knife was pulled from the table and swung again at Link. The young man rolled away out of reach of the blade and kicked at his attacker's feet. The robed man fell down onto Link and immediately received a fist in the gut. He grunted and rolled off of Link.

Vincent jumped over the table and kicked the knife from the robed man's hand. He drew his own sword and pressed it to the man's neck. Link got to his feet and kneeled next to the robed man. As soon as he saw the man's face, he gasped.

"What is it Link? Do you know him?" asked Vincent.

"Yes I do," said Link, pulling off the hood that covered the man's face. "Auldric! I thought you were in Turka."

Aulrdic spat at Link and missed his face by inches. "You shall die, Link! I'll kill you!"

Link, bewildered, stood up and said, "Vincent, let him go."

Slowly, the red knight removed his sword from Auldric's throat. Quicker than either of them would have thought possible, Auldric launched himself at Link and started strangling him.

Link and Vincent forced the man off of his one-time friend and Vincent held him fast.

"Why are you trying to kill me, Auldric? What happened to you?"

"That is not for you to know, Link."

Link and Vincent looked to see Trine walk into the room followed closely by the other man concealed with a long cloak.

"What?" Link asked of his new master, shocked.

Trine looked the three combatants over and said, "What has become of your friend is not your concern. Release him."

Obediently, Vincent let Auldric go and silently the would-be-assassin moved to stand behind Trine.

"He just tried to kill Link. He should be punished," said Vincent.

Trine glared at the red knight. "Do not tell me what to do," he growled, "I am king of Hyrule. You would do well not to overstep your position."

Vincent returned Trine's glare and said, "You are not king of Hyrule. You are just filling in your mother's shoes. You are the ruler of nothing. Perhaps you should not overstep your position."

Link could see the fury building up in Trine's eyes. "How dare you speak to me in such a way! Filling in or not, I am still the ruler of this land and while you are in it you shall obey me! Only your friendship to Link is saving you from the executioner's block." He turned to Link and almost shouted, "This man is under your protection. If he speaks out against me again, you shall be held responsible. I will personally kill you both. Am I understood?"

Link nodded and hung his head in submission. "Yes, sire."

"Good. Do not let it happen again." With that, Trine stalked out of the room followed by his two cloaked followers.

Link and Vincent just stood silently in the hall staring after the lord.

As they left the dining hall, Ashir spoke up from beneath his cloak.

"Sire, perhaps you should not have threatened Link. He might react to it."

Trine did not look at the sorcerer as he replied. "Let him react. I know how to handle him."

"I hope you are right, lord. He could become a problem if he is outright against us. The people trust him. If they see the throne in direct opposition to him, they may follow him."

"Do not worry." Trine paused. "Can my mother be controlled as Auldric here is?"

Ashir glanced at the youth beside him. "Perhaps, though I would be reluctant to try. She is very weak from the potions I have been giving her. She may die from the spell."

"It is a risk we must take. Prepare the spell quickly. I think Link may make his stand soon.

"As you wish, sire."

The trio continued through the many dark halls of Hyrule castle in silence.

The next day was a chilly fall morning. The sky threatened to start raining and a slight wind rustled the leaves on the many great trees of Hyrule City. Somewhere in the great city, a window slat slammed shut, disturbing the early morning peace.

Link and Vincent had gathered all of their belongings and were prepared to leave Hyrule. All that remained was to inform the queen of his plans.

After the threats Trine had made on Link's life as well as on Vincent's, Link knew that the royal family that he had sworn to protect had disintegrated. The man who had been like a father to him, King Gerrik, had been killed while deathly ill. His good friend Mira and her husband Torvus had died under mysterious circumstances and the princess to whom he was protector and friend had been exiled from the land. Link knew that it was only a matter of time before he would be ordered to take part in something evil and he could not allow himself to be controlled blindly by people who surely had the vilest of intentions.

The two companions entered the hall where the royal chambers were held. Link approached the door and was stopped by the guards.

"I wish to speak with the queen." he said simply.

"No one is the see the queen except his highness Trine." said one of the guards.

"I am the protector of the royal family. That title gives me the ability to override the orders of anyone in the land if I feel the need to. Let me in."

The guards looked at each other before replying. "But Prince Trine said-"

"I don't care what he said. I'm overruling him. Let me in."

Again the guards glanced at each other and then stepped aside to allow Link to enter the room.

"Thank you." Link said coldly.

He entered the extremely ornate general room of the Queen Julia. Gems and gold hung off of everything. He looked around for the door to the queen's personal chambers.

He quickly found it and knocked softly on the door.

"Yes?" came a weak voice from the other side of the door.

"Highness, it's me, Link. I need to speak with you."

"Come in, Link." came the voice again.

Link entered the room and saw the ailing queen lying in her giant bed. He gasped at how sick she looked. She looked almost dead. Her cheeks were sunken so drastically that her skull could be easily seen through her skin. Her skin was almost chalk white and her eyes almost glowed yellow.

The frail hand of the ruler waved slightly, dismissing the doctor that was constantly hovering over her. When he had left the room, the queen spoke. "Yes, Link?" she whispered. "What brings you here? It has been so long since I have seen anyone other than Trine and the doctors."

Link started to speak when he caught movement out of the corner of his eye. Out of the corner of the room walked Trine. He sat down on the bed beside his mother and looked at the hero.

"Yes," he said, smiling, "Tell us what brings you here, Link."

Link drew in his breath and said, "I wish to give up my title of Royal Protector."

Julia shook her head slowly. "Why would you want to do that?"

"My duty was to protect King Gerrik and his family, especially Princess Zelda. I have failed at protecting the royal family so far, and Zelda is no longer part of the family. I do not think that I could protect you."

Julia was silent for a moment and then asked, "Are you sure?"

Link nodded. "I am sure. I am leaving the land today."

Julia nodded sadly. "I am sorry that you must go. The people truly look up to you. All of Hyrule will be sorry to see you leave." She paused to gain her breath. "Help me up, please, Trine."

Her son helped her skeletal frame into a sitting position and she ordered Link to kneel before her.

"Link, I hereby release you from all duties to the crown of Hyrule, other than those required of a citizen of this land. I hereby strip you of the title of Royal Protector, of the title of Captain of the Praetorian Guard, of the title of Knight of Hyrule, and of the title of Hero of Hyrule."

Link kept his head bowed as he was stripped of everything that bound him to his homeland. Only now did his actions strike him. For the past few years, these titles had been everything to him. They had made him who he now was. As the Royal Protector, Link had become very close to the princess Zelda, been by her side whenever she needed help or just a shoulder to lean on. As the Captain of the Praetorian Guard, he had led a militia of over forty of the strongest and best knights in the land in guarding the Royal family from any and all harm. As a Knight of Hyrule, he was guarding his homeland from any danger, be it foreign or domestic. And as the Hero of Hyrule, he had fulfilled an ancient prophesy and had the adoration of the entire world. Without these titles, what was he? A rogue? A brigand? A knight without a home? Link thought harder. An orphan? A peasant? After all, his parents had died when he was very young and he had been raised by his uncle as a peasant labourer. If it had not been for these titles, he would probably have died in obscurity among the masses of the land. He would not have seen the things he had seen. He would not have done the things he had done. He would not have met the people he had met. And Zelda. It had been because of the prophesy that he had even met her, yet it was also because oft he prophesy that he had to live in hatred of himself. He may have been the Hero of Hyrule, but he was still just a peasant, and could never have a relationship with a princess. His feelings for Zelda had to be constantly masked, and in doing so, he had to wear a mask of lies and deceit to cover up the real him. A thought struck him. Now that Zelda was no longer a princess, but in banishment, he could finally remove his mask and show her the real person inside her knight. He could be free.

Eventually, the queen finished the ceremonious rights and Link's mind focused on the duties at hand. He rose.

"Link," she said solemnly , "Please hand over the Master Sword."

Link looked down at his sword. It had been with him since the beginning and now he must give it up. The sword had become as much a part of him as his arm, but he must relinquish it along with his titles. It belonged in Hyrule among the royalty, not with a peasant in another land. Reluctantly, he passed the blade and belt over to the frail queen. It was by far the most difficult action he had taken in his life. His fingers refusing to release that which had made him what he had been for the past several years. Eventually, though, he overpowered the sword and relinquished it. Something in the back of his head wept and disappeared. The weight was too much for her to hold and it dropped with a dull clang to the floor.

"Do you have any requests as to who should take your place?" she asked.

Link shook his head. "No, your highness. I have not found anyone worthy enough to take on my duties."

"Well," said Julia, "We must have a Royal Protector." She turned to Trine. "Trine, do know of anyone who could take the title?."

"Mother," he said, "I know the very man. The prince left the room and returned again with one of his cloaked assistants in tow. The hood was pulled back to reveal the face of Auldric.

Before Link's startled eyes, the very man that Link had once called friend and now reluctantly called enemy was given the power to control Hyrule. He was given the titles of Royal Protector, Praetorian Captain and Hero of Hyrule. Link watched in silent horror as the Master Sword, the Evil's Bane, was handed over to a man who surely now followed evil.

Auldric stood up and brandished his new sword. In his hands, the sword flickered with an unusual orange flame, instead of it's normal blue. The young man replaced the sword in it's scabbard and grinned at Link in a menacing way, his eyes burning like coals in a fire with intense hatred.

"Good bye, Link." he said and he sheathed the sword.

Link and Vincent slowly led their horses through the many crowds of early morning Hyrule City.

Neither said a word until they were outside of the great city's walls.

Stopping his mount and looking back at his former home, Link said, "I've been thinking, Vincent."


"I will come with you to Calatia and then I shall go find Zelda."

Vincent shook his head. "The chances of you finding her are next to impossible. She could be anywhere in the Seven Lands."

"I know," admitted Link, "but I just have this feeling that Zelda is destined to rule Hyrule. I've got to find her and bring her back."

The silent knight shrugged and mounted his steed. He waited until Link had done the same before asking, "What if the princess is dead?"

"She isn't." Link replied, fixing his gaze southward. "I can feel it."

Vincent stared at his companion for a moment, shook his head, and kicked his steed into movement. A second later, Link followed. Neither one of them noticed Trine and his two hooded associates watching them from the battlements of the castle walls.

As soon as the two heroes had faded from sight, the prince turned to Link's former friend.

"Follow them and report to me everything they do. Do not let them notice you. Understood?"

"Why can I not just kill him?" asked Auldric.

"You are not strong enough to kill him. Wait and I guarantee you will slay Link." came the reply.

Auldric nodded and tightly grasped the pendant hanging loosely around his neck. In the centre of the pendant was a small blue crystal that would allow him to speak with Trine over long distances. Such powerful magic was almost unheard of to normal people. Only a magician or sorcerer could make such a device.

As the young man raced out of the city in pursuit of his prey, Trine turned to his other cloaked companion who also held a pendant.

"The pendants will work?" he asked.

The cloaked one nodded. "Yes master. I assure you. My former master used these crystals often. They work perfectly."

Trine grunted happily. "Well," he said, "If they were good enough for the great Agahnim, they are good enough for me."

The sorcerer nodded.

The chamberlain, Roland, wandered the halls of Hyrule Castle aimlessly.

Ever since Julia had been crowned queen and her son had essentially taken over, he had nothing to do. Trine used all of his own personal servants to do his bidding. Especially those cloaked ones who follow him everywhere. The new lord had no use of a chamberlain.

Roland let out a heavy sigh. Things were not going well for him. Not well at all. Not only had his position been downgraded from one of considerable power within the castle walls to one barely high enough to aid the cooks in preparing meals. And his ambitions for more power in the royal family's troubled times had been thwarted. He had intended on blackmailing Sir Rampt to make some leverage for power, but that plan had broken as soon as the fat pudge of a man had hung himself.

And Link! What had possessed that boy to give up everything he had? He had been assured of a life of luxury the moment Ganon had been killed and now he had left it all behind him! And for what? For that wretch of a princess, probably. Who knew what Link saw in that girl? To everyone in the castle she had been a royal bitch, yet the Hero constantly protected her and would hear of nothing against her.

And he had given up the sword! What a fool to give up such a lovely and powerful weapon! It was possibly the only thing that kept him a cut above the rest.

Roland stopped his skulking of the halls just long enough to realize his joke. He chuckled lightly and continued on his way.

Really, now that he thought about it, Roland knew that giving up the sword was the right thing to do. Not the smartest, but the only right option the boy had if he wanted to leave the land without guilt. That sword belonged in Hyrule; belonged to the people of Hyrule.

The chamberlain was still in confused argument with himself when, as he passed a window, he saw an unusual sight. Stopping to get a better view out of the window, Roland could not help but wonder for what reasons a Calatian would be riding into the castle.

The rider was ushered into Trine's personal dining room just as the prince was sitting down to eat. The Calatian stood silently, patiently waiting to be recognized by the young ruler.

After what seemed like hours to the poor soldier, Trine finished his meal and looked up at him. Fingers steepled before him, the prince reclined in his large throne and waited.

Drawing a deep breath, the Calatian began the message that had taken him countless miles from his homeland. "Lord Trine, it has come to the attention of his highness King Eridanus that you have in this land the apprentice of the evil Wizard. This Ashir is commanded by my lord to be turned over the Calatian authorities for termination at once. Any failure to comply to this order shall leave Calatia no choice but to declare war with Hyrule."

Trine's eyes seemed to bore into the young soldier's heart as he stood waiting for an answer to the ultimatum.

The prince gestured to a servant lurking somewhere in the shadows of the hall and his goblet was promptly filled. After he had taken a long sip and smacked his lips in appreciation of the drink, Trine spoke. "Tell your king that Hyrule does not make deals with lords who would send underlings to do stately business. Tell you king that Hyrule will not have any business with those not of this state." The Hylian's voice rose in pitch and he stood up from his chair, leaning his hands upon the table. "Tell your king that Hyrule will not be threatened by some pitiful weakling human nation that thinks itself better than that which has been destined to rule over all of the Seven Lands! Hyrule will not bow down to a ragtag nation of disgusting, putrid humans! There will be no agreement. Tell your king to prepare himself to feel the might of Hyrule!"

With that, Trine waved his hand and the Calatian found himself surrounded by guards. "Take him to the edge of the land and kick him out!"

With a yelp, the soldier was dragged away by the guards.

Trine steadied his breathing and sat down again in his throne. Behind him, a figure stepped from the shadows.

"Was that wise, master?" asked Ashir.

Trine again sipped from his goblet. "It is all part of the plan, my friend. Now I am sure that Eridanus will arm himself if he has not already done so. Do we still have the moblin in our custody?"

"Yes, master. He awaits only your command to die."

"Good." Trine said, rising from his chair and walking from the room. "Make sure you are prepared to complete the spell on my order."

Ashir bowed his head and followed his master. While he had no idea as to the final plans of the prince, he was sure that Trine had everything under his control. Everything.

Was the entire kingdom going insane?

Again wandering the halls of the mighty Hylian castle of Hyrule, Roland was having serious doubts as to the sanity of Trine, his new master.

Only a matter of hours ago, the high lord of Hyrule had decided to tell the castle chamberlain about the fact that Hyrule was now at war with Calatia. Preparations were to be made concerning a public announcement of the declaration of war. Roland had to call the attention of all citizens of the city to attend.

The chamberlain stopped and leaned heavily against a wall. He was getting too old for all this running around. After all, that was what pages were for.

Why war? Why with Calatia? What was Trine thinking, declaring war upon the most powerful nation in the Seven Lands? It was suicide to do that!

A stray thought struck the man: How would the people react to the news? While Hyrule and Calatia had never been on the best of terms for years, they had never been enemies. Why, many citizens have relatives from Calatia. Surely the citizens will realize the insanity of their new ruler and refuse to follow him.

Roland shook his head sadly. Was revolt the best choice? Many people would die if the peasants revolted, probably even himself! Is that not what was reported to be happening in Forhas? The people were rebelling against the crown and targeting royalty and royal servants for murder! Could the same happen in Hyrule?

No, he told himself resolutely. The people would never rebel. They follow their traditions too strictly, though they would certainly be upset at the news.

He was safe for now.

The king was going to give a speech!

The peasants of Hyrule City ran along in their busy lives, many unaware of the momentous occasion on hand: the Hylian monarch was to speak in public! Such a thing had not happened for decades. Even the oldest men could only just remember seeing a monarch speak.

As one, a young boy and his friends raced through the narrow twists and turns of the many alleyways of Hyrule City heading for the castle. One by one, the boys jumped nimbly over barrels and broken glass and the sewage of a city and finally emerged from the dark caverns of the city into the open piazza of the newly remade castle gates that was now crowded with other citizens. Standing atop each other's shoulders, on boxes, and anything else that would allow them sight of the monarch, the boys craned to see the balcony where His Highness would come from.

They cried gleefully as the king emerged from the depths of the castle and waved to the people amid a chorus of cheers from the crowd. The roar rose to deafening heights and finally calmed as His Highness raised his hands for silence. Behind the man stood several men of the inner court. While many peasants had never seen any of the royal court, the young lad knew who some of these men were. How did he know? Growing up on the streets of a major city tends to grant heightened senses and skills that one either learns or he dies. It is as simple as that.

This boy, however had put his talents to uses that most Hylians would have been horrified to know of. One such use was the habit of sneaking into the castle grounds at night. Through these lunar excursions, the lad had learned to match faces with reputations. This was how he recognized those around the monarch on the balcony.

The tall, thin man who looked like a big scarecrow was the chamberlain. He always looked scared of something, the boy thought. Next to him stood Fleming, the man in command of the Hylian armies. He was a big, burly man with a large beard that looked, thought the boy, much like an octopus. Next to him was the minister, Varburg, leaning heavily against the balcony rail. This man scared the lad, for his face was always in a scowl and the man's piercing green eyes, long hooked nose, and raspy way of breathing made him seem more like a monster than a man.

Before Varburg stood a man whom the boy had not seen before; a man dressed in the robes of the desert from what he knew. He was dressed in a bright blue habit that looked at least two sizes too big for his small stature, draped in red scarves that reached his feet, and wearing a large blue turban that hid his face from view. On his habit was an emblem in the shape of a golden circle with several points around it.

And next to this man stood he who must be the monarch. This young man stood tall and proud, even though he was a good head shorter than the others (except the desert man, of course). This man wore the most elegant clothing made from what looked like the most expensive of fabric. His young features portrayed a man of wit, intelligence, cunning, and guile; a man who had power.

His shaggy, shoulder-length, dusty blonde hair fell roguishly across his ice-blue eyes. His pointed ears poked slightly through the mass of hair, proving beyond the shadow of a doubt his Hylian ancestry. Atop his head sat a circlet of gold that shone brilliantly in the afternoon light.

The crowd fell silent in expectance before the young king.

"People of Hyrule," he said, "I come before you this day with grievous news." A few worried whispers pierced the expectant silence. "As many of you know, your glorious Hyrule has never been at peace with our southern neighbour, Calatia, yet we have always managed to keep just short of war. For decades, we have known that a conflict between our mighty nation and the dirt-crawling land of Calatia would be inevitable, only the time has remained in question." The king paused to gain his breath. "That time is now."

The crowd erupted in a hysteria that only ceased after several minutes of the monarch calling for calm.

"The Human king has declared war on his honourable neighbours because he wants our land, our money, our lives, our children. Yes, our children. You see, my loyal subjects, Calatia is a typical Human state in all aspects of those vermin: they seek greed and power and blood; yet these vulgar rodents are unique in the Seven Lands in that they endure slavery! Yes, the Humans keep slaves. Every Human in the land has at least one slave. They keep moblins and Zoras under the whip, so what is to stop them from taking the noble Hylians too? Nothing! Nothing, that is, except the very people of Hyrule! That is right, my people, only you, the Chosen of the Gods, can stop these Human creatures from enslaving the entire world and keep our children safe from the Calatian slavers! We must not allow the Humans to rampage the Seven Lands for eternity, looting and plundering the landscape to their heart's content! They must be stopped; they will be stopped! They will be shown the error of their ways by those who have the divine right to guide the lesser species of the land: The mighty and noble Hylians!

The monarch paused for his words to sink in with the people before continuing. "At this very moment, the Human king is preparing his armies of scum to march into our beautiful land and defile it. Are we going to submit and allow these Humans to dominate the world?"

The crowd roared in fury at the thought of Humans ruling their wonderful land of Hyrule. The sound was deafening.

"People of Hyrule, my people. We must defeat these Humans at their own game! We must defeat them in the battlefield and show them the true might of Hyrule! The true might of the Hylian! The true might of those chosen by the Goddesses themselves; the true might of those destined to rule the Seven Lands! We must prepare for this Holy War!"

Trine threw up his hands in triumph as the crowd of citizens exploded in a fervour of anger and hatred and pride.

As Roland looked at the sea of faces, he was chilled to the bone by what he saw. The features of those who could have been family, friends, or just people passed on the street looked disfigured and evil; the faces of murderers or those cursed with insanity.

What were the people doing? the chamberlain thought. They did not seem to care that Trine had lied as to the reason why Hyrule and Calatia were going to war. They did not seem to care that Trine was not even the ruler of Hyrule yet was making a declaration of war. They were following him blindly; like sheep to the slaughter. They had no idea what they were doing and, somehow, that frightened Roland more than anything he had ever known.

Thud! Thud!

The staff of the doorman struck the floor twice as he announced the next visitor of the king of Hyrule.

"Kasube, the leader of the Merchant's Guild!"

The great doors of the throne room of Hyrule Castle opened with the obligatory creak and a small, fat man waddled in dressed in what looked to be the finest robes money could buy. Beneath his light brown, bushy hair were a pair of beady little black eyes. Masking these eyes were a pair of glasses; very expensive.

Trine clucked to himself in disgust. The royal family had never invested money in such things as glasses for they firmly believed that the Gods made every Hylian as they should be. To improve upon the body was as good as sacrilege.

His purse clinking with the sound of many rupees, the man, Kasube, came and knelt before the king.

"Highness," he said, "I am honoured that you would want to see me."

Trine beckoned and the man rose. "I have agreed to see you because you have many questions to ask me concerning our war with Calatia. You may start."

The man blinked in surprise and began.

"Highness, many of my fellow merchants and clients are wondering what it was, exactly, that caused this declaration of war?"

Trine smiled slightly. "My friend, Calatia has been vying for the power that we possess for many years now. You know that. I know that. Why else have trade relations been so small? It is because those Humans do not want us to become rich. If we become a wealthy nation, it will be that much harder to conquer us when the time comes." The merchant nodded slowly, as he worked his mind over these words. Trine continued. "Also there is the fact of slavery. The Humans have used slavery for as long as anyone can remember. They subjugate those inferior to them. If they conquer us in battle, what is to stop them from enslaving our families? From enslaving our children. Do you really want some Human lord forcing your son to work in his fields from morning to night? Do you want your daughter sent onto the streets to earn her keep? Do you want your wife to become his mistress? I should think not. That will happen if we allow these creatures to conquer Hyrule. Now do you understand why we must fight? To preserve our way of live and to ensure our children have a bright and happy future."

Kasube had narrowed his eyes and his face was distorted by anger. "I understand, Highness. Never let it be said that Hyrule has never stood up for what is right and good!"

"It comforts me to hear such things," the king said, taking a drink of his goblet. "Anything else?"

"Yes, Highness. We of the Guild of Merchants are concerned as to what will happen to our neighbour nation after the war. Up until now, we have had limited access to Calatia to trade our goods. As soon as war was declared, we have been cut off. So we were wondering..."

As the merchant trailed off, Trine picked up the thought.

"Do not worry. As soon as Calatia is conquered, I shall declare it a colony of Hyrule. As that will make it in effect a part of Hyrule, there will be no restriction of trade whatsoever."

Kasube grinned before continuing. "Yes, after defeating Calatia. We of the Guild would very much like to know exactly how you intend to defeat the Calatians? From what we know, Hyrule has a very small army compared to Calatia, and that army has been very ill-equipped since the rule of your grandfather."

Trine smiled. "Hyrule does not need to rely upon such things as numbers to win a war with Humans Has it not always been that Humans rely more on size than strength? They may have a large army, but we have a smart army- a smart army that will destroy anything that it comes up against, I assure you."

The merchant sighed a little and opened his mouth to speak, but Trine cut him off.

"I am right in assuming I have the support of the Merchant's Guild in this war? I would dearly hate to have to, how can I put it, 'repossess' some property in order to finance this endeavour of mine."

As Trine's eyes bore deeply into Kasube's, the merchant swallowed hard and nodded quickly, his hand unconsciously grabbing onto his purse protectively.

"Good," said the king, "I trust there are no other concerns?"

"No highness." He paused. "You can be sure that I will tell all you have said to my companions and have them tell others. All of the land will know of our duty to stop the Human animals!"

Trine smiled. With that, the monarch turned back to some scrolls by his side and the meeting was ended.

In the weeks following the declaration of war between the powerful nations of Hyrule and Calatia tensions among the surrounding nations rose.

Troops were drafted from the Delaborean regiments to aid it's sister country of Hyrule in the Holy War against the Humans. The northern nation of Turka had flat out refused to aid in the war. It's logic was very sound to the rational citizens of Turka. No matter which nation won the war, the land would be surrounded on two sides by that nation, on a third side by ocean, and the fourth side by the impenetrable mountainous arctic of Erus Egredi.

The mainly Human South of the Seven Lands had banded together to stop what might be the downfall of their civilization. Calatia had been preparing for battle long before the declaration had come, yet still requested aid from it's neighbouring nations of Arkhas and Forhas, both of which were human controlled states. Arkhas gave it's willing support in Eridanus' campaign, but the nation of Forhas had troubles of it's own. Civil war had ground the nation to a halt, as peasants continually raided royal property. The nation had been torn in this massive revolt, as the royal held lands dwindled under the pressure of revolutionaries.

The drawing room of Hyrule Castle had been converted into a war room to aid the Hylian leaders in planning their strategies. The ornately designed furniture had been pushed aside to make room for a giant map of the Seven Lands, which dominated the floor space. Chairs and small tables had been aligned along the walls.

Looking down at the map of the known world, General Fleming of the Hylian armies had a concerned look upon his scarred features beneath his large, unruly beard.

"Does something trouble you, General?"

Fleming turned around and saluted to his lord and master.

"No sir!" he said in perfect military fashion. "I was just thinking of the best strategy to attack the Humans, sir!"

Trine nodded. "Good." The king walked to the map and stood beside the general.

"I suggest we send some regiments through the western pass to circle down on the Calatian capital from the north, while we send the rest of the army through the southern pass to directly attack Calasta."