A Windy, Blustery Day

Chapter 1: Somewhere In The Throes of A Beginning

Chapter Summary:

In which two or three Links get lost, and chaos ensues.

It wasn't that Wind intended to get split off from the group.

In his defense, Wild's Hyrule was stupidly big for a singular lump of land. Even the other, older times had felt smaller, made of village paths and forest trails; something Wind could pretend was an island, maybe, if he didn't look too closely toward the horizon. Wild's Hyrule, though -- it felt like the Great Sea, vast and undivided, with only the mountains and the curvature of the world to keep the view from stretching into forever.

Getting lost in the jump between worlds was all but a rite of passage, now, too. Nearly everyone else had been cut off from the group in some switch-over or another, whether by surprise monsters, finicky portals, poorly placed geography, or just plain shit luck. It seemed about time Wind had a turn at it, really.

At least they'd been through the Champion's Hyrule before. According to him, those squat little temples (shrines, right) connected to a teleporting system that ran all the way through the countryside; if Wind could just find one, all he'd need to do was call Wild through the pirate's charm to pick him up, assuming he was even that far away. (Between the falling rocks and the flying ambush, there'd been a lot going on, but Time and Warriors liked to take headcount after fights, so they couldn't have gotten too far away.)

Wind picked himself up off the grass, and started up the nearest hill. Might as well get a good look from a higher vantage point. Maybe, if whatever force kept dragging them through dimensions was feeling nice today, he'd find everyone waiting on the other side.



Lore's first words from the far side of the portal were, "Well, that doesn't look right." In hindsight, Wind should have recognized that as a bad sign.

The Hyrule they all tumbled out into looked like nothing so much as an open tract of wilderness, spotted with the foundations of ruined stone buildings all across broad and eerily empty fields. A few reasonably impressive mountains framed the far distance, while happy little trees dotted the landscape in forested clumps.

Wind landed better than last time, at least, and rolled out of the way as Steam, Green, and Red dropped down where he'd just been, all equally scrambling to make way for the rest of the chain. The continuous entrance of Links would carry on for the better part of a minute, by Wind's experience, until Blue or Vio brought up the rear (and landed on someone, usually.)

Dusk stood by Lore's side, sizing up the... whatever exactly it was, in front of them. The portal had dropped them all off at the edge of a collection of crumbling stone walls, sagging with moss, and in the middle of it all sat a lumpy pile of something Wind had never seen before in his life.

Intricate designs decorated the round body of the thing, with loops at the top like ears, and it had a single glassy eye in the top half, glinting blue in the sunlight. The material looked like stone or metal, but Wind didn't have the faintest idea which.

"Alright, whose Hyrule do these things come from? Anyone?" Dusk asked, as Lore made to poke at the mystery thing. Whatever answer he expected got interrupted a second later by a sound too many of the Links knew on instinct -- the sound of something powering up.

Wind braced himself for an attack, but none came. Instead, the mystery thing whirred and hummed, projecting a simple red circle of light that swept over the group, before settling on Lore's chest.

"Oh," said Lore, cheerfully. "I think it's like a Beamos."

A dawning horror fell across the group. Behind them, Blue faceplanted last out of the portal.

"Ohhh," Lore repeated, a little slower, as the charging sound rose in pitch and the circle began to blink. He reached for his bag, and Wind caught Ocarina and Mask whipping out their own mirror shields in anticipation.

Then, as the charging sound reached its peak: "Break!"



Wind had not found a shrine.

For what it was worth, Wind had found a tower, which was basically the same thing for teleporting. He hadn't reached it yet, because Wild's Hyrule was, once again, way too fucking big, least of all for traveling on foot, but he'd found one, which was a start.

The vantage point of the hills hadn't offered anything else, but at least he had a waypoint, now. A ruined stone wall made a nice warm seat to rest on, too, after half an hour of walking on an achey, jarred ankle. Idly, he flipped the wind waker between two fingers, tracing lazy half-patterns in the air to watch the light that trailed after.

A figure caught his eye in the distance -- dark, green, and moving. Wind scrambled to his feet, spyglass instantly in his hands as he balanced himself to stand atop the wall.

Tall, dark green tunic, light brown hair. The fur was missing, but maybe he'd lost it in some chaos Wind had missed. It wasn't like Wind had a monopoly on getting separated from the group. That didn't explain why Twilight would have started wearing his old adventuring hat again, but most of the other heroes liked their secrets a little too much for prying to be anything but a pain in the ass.

"Hey!" Wind yelled, waving his free hand in the air. "Rancher! Over here!"

That got his attention, at least. Twilight waved at him, after a moment, and then gestured for him to... come over? Wind shook his head.

"Over here!" he repeated. "I found a tower!" After a few seconds, he added, "Is the Champion with you?"

Twilight didn't answer, probably too far away to hear, but started making his way up over the hills in his loping, wolfish stride. (One day, Wind was going to be that tall. That, or he was going to challenge the old goddesses to a fistfight. One of the two.)

As he approached, Twilight looked Wind up and down with a curious eye. "You changed your outfit?" he asked, after a moment.

Wind glanced down at his shirt. "... this is just my normal clothes?"

Twilight raised an eyebrow, but didn't comment further. He'd lost his magic tattoos at some point, Wind noticed -- he'd mentioned they faded over time, but they'd still vanished quicker than Wind had expected. Something about his face looked younger, without them. "It's good to find someone, at least. Did you see where the others went?"

"Nope. I got split off earlier. You?"

"We all got scattered when the death lasers started, honestly." Twilight shrugged, and shaded his eyes with a hand as he scanned the field.

Wind nodded. Guardians, then. They honestly weren't so bad when stationary, but the wandering ones were a nightmare to deal with, especially in groups. Their only saving grace was that whatever the black blood came from hadn't worked out how to infect them... yet.

"Do we at least have somewhere to meet up?"

Twilight looked thoughtful for a moment. The expression felt strange on his face -- or maybe it was the lack of markings. "It sounded like the plan was to regroup near that tower, once the fighting was over with. Assuming I was hearing anything correctly at that point." He shrugged again. "It's probably as good a place as any."

Wind followed Twilight's gesture toward the tower, still a twiglike figure in the distance, rising mockingly over the west horizon.

"Oh, yeah, that's where I was going, too." Wind scooted down off the wall, dropping into the grass feet-first with a satisfying thump. He raised his arms overhead, stretching -- he'd been sitting there too long, really.

Twilight hummed in agreement, and started off toward the tower. A few paces later, he stopped and looked back over his shoulder at Wind.

"Let's try not to get split up again," Twilight reminded him. Wind darted over, crossing the distance in a few more steps than he would have liked, but still quick enough.

"It's not like you're leaving me behind," he joked. Twilight shook his head.

"I'd just rather bring up the rear, I guess."

Wind laughed. "You're saying you want me going first so you can hide behind the kid? Man, if only you guys were cowards more often!"

A few seconds passed in silence.

Shit. That was such a dumb thing to say. Why did he say that?

If experience with Time was any lesson, Twilight was already writing the lecture in his head about protection and it's not about you and we know you're a hero, but you need to be careful, and Wind had just signed up as captive audience for the whole walk back. Wind winced, glancing back at Twilight again to find... genuine surprise and concern?

Had he actually taken that to heart? Or had Twilight just not realized how much they all babied him?

"Goddesses, I don't mean anything by it!" Wind tried to reassure him. "You guys just still keep treating me like a kid sometimes, y'know?" He flailed his hands a little, struggling for words. "Ugh, just-- it was just a joke that came out bad. Never mind."

"No." Twilight shook his head. "I know I'm a big brother type, but I hadn't thought any of us were treating you younger heroes any less seriously than the rest of us, so I'm... sorry if we have? It would be pretty unfair, when the rest of us aren't much older." He frowned, clearly thinking again. "I mean, it's not like you're even the y--"

"You know what," Wind decided, frantically cutting him off, "just forget it, okay? We can air out grievances and shit later when the others are here."

Somehow, Twilight being so genuinely apologetic came across weirder and more patronizing than the over-protectiveness Wind expected. The whole thing felt like some kind of elaborate practical joke, and Wind couldn't tell if he was meant to be the butt of it, or the audience. Either way, it made his skin crawl, like he was talking to some kind of bizarre impostor.

Actually, scratch that. The way Twilight had just begun staring at him felt weirder than either of those things.

"What?" Wind asked, continuing on a few paces before realizing Twilight had stopped in his tracks, as well.

"Did... you just...?"

Wind gave him a puzzled look. Twilight shrugged and shook his head, like a dog clearing water from its fur.

"Never mind," he said. "I think I just heard you wrong, is all."

"Okay then," Wind replied, resuming his pace toward the tower. Twilight started again, catching up, and didn't say anything else.



Well, Wind thought to himself as he stumbled uphill, that could have gone better.

The first not-quite-a-Beamos, to be fair, hadn't been the problem. Ocarina's mirror shield had deflected the shot quite nicely (even if the whole thing had a great deal more firepower behind it than the average Beamos had any right to), and it turned out sending a giant death laser directly back at the machine did quite the number on it. Reasonable enough, no surprise there. A solid ninety percent of important bosses were weak to their own overpowered death beams.

The problem had come up when it turned out the not-quite-a-Beamos had friends.

Several friends. With giant tentacle legs. That could run very, very fast.

After that, everything had gotten a bit more complicated.

The field was so large (and the group so scattered) that Wind had honestly lost track of everyone else amid trying not to get hit with the aforementioned giant death lasers. The open field provided next to no cover, and the death lasers had the annoying feature of locking on to their targets, which made dodging an utter pain. The others must have moved in the opposite direction, judging by the lack of literally anyone else nearby, but Wind didn't have the slightest clue where they had ended up after that. And of course, with none of the other Heroes claiming this place as their own, nobody had a map to offer, either.

It wasn't too big a problem to find cardinal directions, at least. Wind raised a hand to shade his eyes, scrutinizing the sky and estimating. The sun looked to have shifted more toward the horizon, which meant it must have been afternoon, and if it was more on that side, that mean north would be...

Well. It didn't tell him where he was, but at least it was something like having a compass. Plus, that weird, tall tower in the distance had looked closer before he started running, so if he really needed to, he could always just walk that way. As it was, he was pretty sure he needed to head... west, now, to get back to where the portal was, assuming the group hadn't already headed off somewhere else.

After another forty minutes of walking, thirty seconds of praying to Farore and/or Hylia for some kind of useful happenstance, another twenty-five minutes of walking, a solid minute of praying again, this time with the stipulation that yes, even running into Realm would be helpful, three minutes of contemplating atheism while walking, five minutes unsuccessfully climbing a scraggly tree to get better bearings, and another near hour minutes of just plain walking again, fortune smiled upon him at the far side of the field, in the form of Dusk emerging from the treeline.

... or, someone who was probably Dusk, anyway.

Wind wasn't sure where Dusk had gotten a wolf pelt to start wearing, but it had been a few hours, and there were a lot of Links to keep track of. Changing up the outfit was a good idea, though, really; Wind had long harbored the quiet notion that more of them should have started doing it. Wind himself probably could have swapped out his green tunic for his old blue shirt from back home, now that he thought about it. The green one may have been traditional, but the fabric had clearly been meant for temperate forests, not the open, sun-soaked sea.

Distracted by the thought, Wind began rummaging around in his spoils bag. He could have sworn he had tucked his old tunic away in there, back before the whole Helmaroc thing -- ah, yes, there it was! Ducking behind a tree for a moment, more for cover in case of another walking Beamos than for modesty, Wind peeled off his sweaty green tunic and undershirt, wadded it up, and shoved it into the bag, before pulling his old tunic over his head and wriggling into it. He had to do up the belt again over it, but his old shirt's fabric breathed so much better than the green one did, and it had all the softness of clothing properly broken in, rather than something freshly starched, soaked in sea-salt, and then worn for three weeks straight without washing.

In hindsight, he really should have done this sooner.

Wind relished the gentle breeze through his looser, far less sweaty sleeves for a moment before stepping back out to greet Dusk, who had now gotten close enough to shout to at ship-board volume, rather than across-a-canyon volume.

"Wind?" Dusk called, slowing to a walking pace as he got near.

"Right here!" Wind called back, with a wave.

Dusk's whole expression relaxed at the sight of him, but Wind's didn't. A smear of blood ran across Dusk's forehead, matting in his hair, though Wind couldn't see a wound beneath it. Had the fight gotten that much worse, or had he just not had time to patch up? At least he was walking, and he didn't look concussed, but Wind couldn't help frowning.

"What hit you?" Wind asked, which wasn't perhaps the best way of putting it, but he wasn't asking anyone to call him eloquent. Leave that to someone else, like Ganondorf. (He had been awfully good with words, now that Wind thought back on it, but this really wasn't the time to be reminiscing, so he dropped that train of thought for the moment.)

Dusk shrugged. "A rock, mostly. Y'know Guardians? The shooty ones? Turns out Wild's version of the castle town is crawling with them."

"Guardians?" It sounded like the others must have found this era's Hero, then. That was a good start, Wind supposed.

Dusk raised a bloody eyebrow. "Why so surprised? They're all over the place here. You've seen them."

"No, just--" Wind paused. "Nevermind. Are the others alright, or are we still scattered? I kind of got split off earlier, so I've been out of the loop..."

"Last I heard, the others were trying to head for the stables across the river," Dusk explained. "Or at least, that's what it sounded like. I was sent out with Wolfie to go see if we could find you. We're planning to try and regroup at the bridge."

"... with 'Wolfie'?" It was Wind's turn for a raised eyebrow, now. Dusk sighed, as if resigned to some regrettable fate.

"Well, dang. Guess that's five," he declared, cryptically. Nobody answered, but Dusk moved on with surveying the horizon like nothing was out of place. Midna must have been talking to him, then.

"Did you really name your wolf form Wolfie, though?" Wind asked.

"No, that was all y'all's idea. Back home he's just 'the wolf' if they call him anything. Or 'Link', if you're..." Dusk trailed off. "If you're certain somebodies."

"Yeah, but he's still you, though, isn't he? It feels weird calling it a nickname." Wind paused. "Also, 'all y'all'?"

Dusk gave him another look, more amused, this time. "Hey, you can take a man out of Ordon, but you can't take the Ordon out of the man."

Dusk's voice had taken on a bit more of an accent, now that Wind was really listening, though it didn't sound new or unfamiliar. He must have been trying to disguise it when they met. Was it because Zelda had been there, maybe? Wind could sort of understand, if Dusk had been trying to sound more proper, to make a good impression when she woke up -- but why bother around the rest of them?

"Huh," Wind said, after a bit. "Well, good on you for loosening up, I guess. Don't feel like you have to hide it around the rest of us."

Dusk, it turned out, had a low, soft sort of laugh. It sounded strange coming from him, but like the accent, not too much so -- after all, Wind hadn't known him long enough to hear much of it. It was a nice laugh, Wind decided.

"Not like I could've for long," Dusk said. "Not surprised to hear you don't mind, though." He paused. "Anyway, we should get going. The others'll be waiting on us."

With that, he scanned the horizon again, turned on his heel, and started walking. Wind dashed forward to close the gap between them. "So, how'd you end up dealing with those um, Guardians?"

Dusk shrugged, and kept walking. "I'm sure the others will have some stories when we get back, but I'm not much for it. It wasn't that bad, really. The Lynel was worse." He looked out into the distance again. "We should pick up the pace, though, if we want to reach the stables before nightfall."

Wind grimaced at his already aching feet, and followed along.



Realm touched the earring, very, very cautiously.

He had been sitting on a log in the middle of the woods for the better part of an hour, he was fairly sure, and so far, no other Heroes had arrived to regroup.

To be fair, he imagined that the middle of the woods was not, in all likelihood, the designated regrouping point. Lore had been a bit hard to understand in the middle of all the explosions, but he had said something about a tower, and Realm had been trying very hard to find one before sitting down on a log to contemplate certain unpredictable poor decisions.

The earrings tempted him again. If he just took one off, and made sure he was holding it the whole time, or put it in his bag, or something, and then just... tried taking a few steps, to see where he ended up... well, his odds weren't spectacular, he was sure, but maybe they would end with him somewhere slightly more convenient than the middle of the woods, walking past the same inviting fallen log for the seventeenth time?

In a fit of resolution, he fumbled at the catch of the earring, and pulled it out. It was easier said than done, since Realm had never worn earrings before in his life, but he worked it out after a few moments, and then sat there, staring at the tiny jewel between his fingers for a long second before standing up.

Right. No letting go of the earring. No losing track of the earring. Just taking a step, and thinking about his destination--

A broad open field flickered into view, stone ruins emerging from nowhere, and a pair of young travelers passing -- wait, was that Wind? And Dusk? Realm turned to shout at them, but turning around became another stumbling step into a riverbank, and the moment his other boot met the ground, he was standing alone again on an island in the middle of a swamp.

Realm tried take another step back, but this time, the swamp became the shore of a muddy pond by a strange round house with a glowing chimney. No! Take me back to the field! he tried, frowning as the next step delivered him to the rocks beside a gloriously picturesque waterfall.

Another step. The swamp returned, but from the vantage point of a different island. Or possibly the same one -- Realm wasn't sure. He hadn't gotten a very good look at it the first time.

Darn it all. He was going to have to take the long way around, again.



Somewhere, Farore let out a long, deep sigh into her hands.

"At least he did something?" Din tried to reassure her.

"I don't know what I expected," said Farore.

Behind them both, Nayru made a sound like a transforming remlit. "Well, I don't know how somebody did such a shoddy job overlaying the timelines! They're incompatible, they barely function in parallel even as they're actively trying to overlap, it's twice the work to keep portal destinations straight, and I can't even merge them without risking further damage to both!"

Both sisters turned around to watch Nayru lift a skein of the foreign timeline between two fingers at arm's length, as if expecting it to twist around like a snake and bite her.

"I'm going to pretend I understood that," Din announced, after a few seconds of tense silence between Nayru and the timeline. "Also, while we're here, I'm going to say fuck now."

Farore jolted in her seat at the reality window, jerking her head around to stare at Din, now. "Din! You can't just--"

"Like Nayru explained to us earlier, we're in a different continuity here. The rules are different, at least for now. And I am going to take full fucking advantage of it."

"Nayru!" Farore gestured between her sisters, flailing. "She can't just say that while they're watching! Back me up on this!"

Nayru looked at the reality window.

Nayru looked back at the timeline.

And then, at the top of her lungs, Nayru declared: "Fuck!"



One minute, Hyrule Field was Hyrule Field. The next, it was absolutely not.

"Did we just teleport?" Wind asked nobody in particular.

"Huh," Twilight observed, staring blankly at the ground. "That's a riverbank."

The river in front of them stretched farther than Wind could wade -- far enough to need a bridge, assuming any real current, unless someone fancied a dance with drowning. The land still looked like Wild's Hyrule, but the geography had clearly changed: the tower had disappeared completely, and they sure was hell weren't anywhere near those ruins.

"I think that might be the river Hylia," Wind hazarded, inching closer to the riverbank to watch the waters below. He couldn't remember half of the place names from the others' Hyrules, but he knew one of the others had said something about the river feeding Lake Hylia, to the south... or east. Somewhere.

Twilight stepped closer to join him. "It does look like it." He raised his head and glanced out to the probable south. "I don't remember those stables, though. That must be new."

"Wait, stables?"

Wind didn't even need a spyglass to spot the now familiar horse-head over the roof of the building in the distance. The smoke of the cooking fire wafted up from the far side, and he could even make out a small crowd of travelers clustered just outside, who looked an awful lot like--

"Twi! We found them!"

Twilight looked over at Wind, then to the sun sitting low in the western sky, and then finally back at the stables. "... y'know, I could have sworn we were going in the exact opposite direction."

"I mean, yeah?" Wind shaded his eyes with his hand for a better look. Yep, definitely the rest of the heroes over there. He'd know Four's patchwork tunic and Warrior's dumb scarf anywhere. The scent of curry wafted over on the breeze, too; Wild must have settled down at the cookpot to make supper by now.

"Not to mention, back in the field--" A look of realization crossed Twilight's face. "Oh. Realm."

Wind tilted his head at Twilight, silently waiting for him to elaborate. Twilight only shook his head.

"You know what? It's probably fine. We'll find him later." The realization melted away into a wry smile. "Maybe they've even figured out what era we're in by now."

"I'm pretty sure we're still in same Hyrule as before," Wind informed him, picking out a path north along the riverbank, still puzzling over Twilight's latest nonsense in his head. "Dunno what that weird shift was, but I haven't seen stables like these in anyone else's times, so..."

"You've seen this time period before?"

Wind stopped short, some thirty paces from the stables, to turn around and look Twilight straight in the face again. "What do you mean, I've seen it before?"

"I mean, I've never been here, but you and Sketch ran into each other before you met the rest of us, didn't you?"

"... what are you talking about? And who the fuck is Sketch?"

Twilight's eyebrows rose higher than Wind had ever seen from him before, and he blinked. "Okay, this time I definitely just heard you say f--"

"Sailor! Goat-boy!" Warriors's voice cut neatly through Twilight's sentence, carrying clear over the short distance between them. "Good to see you back!"

"We got lost!" Wind yelled back, by way of explanation. "Also I think the Rancher's concussed, maybe?"

"I'm not concussed," Twilight objected, sounding more confused by the minute. "And I thought we were going with Dusk, as a nickname." He squinted at the stables. "How many new Links did we pick up while I was gone?"

Okay, so maybe Twilight was less concussed so much as just he'd just lost all his fucking marbles, apparently.

"Bring him over," Legend shouted back, sitting on the fence next to Warriors, "and get your asses over here so we don't have to keep shouting."

Wind grabbed Twilight's hand, and tugged, hoping to catch him by surprise before Twilight put up any actual resistance to being dragged along. Luckily, he didn't bother, keeping easily in step with Wind like his mind hadn't quite caught up to his legs, and moments later, they had reached the outer fence.

Legend hopped off to approach, and shot Wind a look.

I don't know what the hell is going on, Wind did his best to convey in awkward hand gestures. Legend rolled his eyes.

"What happened to your stupid wolf pelt?" Legend demanded, because he had half the tact of Wild on a good day, and didn't care at all on the rest.

"My what," Twilight replied, eyes darting around the stables as if taking it all in for the very first time.

"Oh, goddesses," Wild gasped from over the cookpot, in a voice too loud to count as a whisper. "Rancher has amnesia."

Warriors scoffed. "I'm sure there's a better explanation than that."

"Is he injured?" Four asked, straightening up from leaning against the far fencepost.

Wind twisted his hands around, fidgeting with the hem of his shirt. "I didn't think so earlier, but..."

Twilight closed his eyes, and drew in a deep, slow breath. The others all fell silent to watch as he let it out again, equally slow.

"Okay," Twilight said, in an impressively even tone. "I think I have a guess at what's going on here."

"Spit it out, then," said Legend. Twilight sighed.

"I may be the Hero of Twilight", he said, "but I'm not your Hero of Twilight."

A short pause rolled through, like a passing breeze.

"What the hell is that supposed to mean?"



In the end, Wind and Dusk found the rest of the group before they found the tower. This was probably for the best, since this Hyrule was still absurdly spacious -- according to Dusk, they hadn't even left Hyrule Field, and Wind was already exhausted.

"Wind!" Mask yelled from atop a pile of stone rubble, about two dozen yards away. The ruins had taken on a more building-like shape as they approached, arranging themselves into something like a town or a camp. Some of the structures were still standing, even, though obviously damaged.

"Oh! Mask! I found Dusk!" Wind shouted back, pointing to Dusk behind him. Dusk gave him yet another strange look. He'd been doing that a lot, today. "Do you have anyone else with you?"

"Sailor, what are you--?" Dusk began. Then he froze, fixed on Mask waving in the distance. "Wait, since when did we pick up another kid?"

"Where'd you get that cool wolf pelt?" Ocarina shouted, popping up from behind the Mask's seat in the rubble pile. Dusk started to say something, then closed his mouth, and then open and shut it again for good measure.

"Oh, is Wind here?" another voice asked from the distance. "That's good-- if Dusk's with him, I think that's everyone, actually."

"Everyone except for Realm," the Four's several voices replied.

A sigh. "... everyone except for Realm, yeah."

A moment later, Steam stepped out from behind the pile and neighboring wall to wave them over. "Come on! We figured out how to kill those walking death laser things now! Also, there's food."

Wind darted ahead through the grass, ignoring Dusk's weird fish-mouthed flapping behind him. As he reached the wall, it became clear that the rest of the group had collectively taken cover in the ruins, and in the absence of anywhere else better fortified, had gotten to setting up a campsite.

"You've changed your outfit," Lore observed, turning a skewer of roast something-or-other over a "campfire" of several fire rods. "Is it a holiday?"

Wind shrugged. "I just got tired of wearing my old coming-of-age tunic all the time. I think blue suits me better, anyway."

Somewhere in Wind's peripheral vision, Blue cheered. "I'll drink to that!"

"We're not of age to drink," Vio pointed out.

"That's just by the laws of modern countries! We're in a quirky pseudo-medieval fantasy setting, nobody--mmffgh!"

"Thank you, Green."

"Are either of you injured?" Gen asked, from the bottom of a stone stairway. He had his bag already open, rifling through the bottles.

Wind took a quick mental tally: small burns from a close brush with a death laser, some cuts and bruises from rolling down a hill, an achey ankle from a bad landing out of that tree... rather abruptly, he remembered Dusk, and whirled around to check on him.

Dusk hadn't followed Wind into the campsite, so clearly either he knew exactly how much trouble he was in for not dealing with a bleeding head wound (even sans concussion), or he had run off to take a leak. Even odds, really.

"Uh, I'm mostly fine, but Dusk said he hit his head on a rock in the whole thing with the guardians, and he looked pretty bloody, so--"

"He ran into Guardians?" Gen interrupted, his eyes wide. "I thought those only existed in the Silent Realms!"

"What?" Wind made a face. "No, I mean the death laser Beamos things from earlier."

"Oh, is that what they're called? Who did you ask?"

"Did you bring them with you?!" Lore's eyes sparkled with a manic light.

Wind tilted his head. "I thought the Link from this era told you? Dusk said--"

"Actually, no, back up a bit," said Gen. "Dusk had a bloody head wound and he hasn't come into camp yet?"

"I can go get him?" Wind offered. Gen stood up, instead.

"I thought he was one of the sensible ones, but clearly, I'm going to have to talk some sense into him myself. Excuse me."

With that, Gen stormed out of the camp with all the pent-up rage harbored by all designated medics for egregiously uncooperative patients, and disappeared around the corner. Wind winced.

"So what was this about this era's Link?" Green asked, as Blue peeled Green's hand off his mouth.

Wind frowned. "Haven't you all already met him? Dusk was calling him a nickname and everything."

"No?" It was Green's turn to frown. "We haven't met any new Links yet at all."

"Unless..." Blue proposed, raising a hand to point at the camp entrance, "... you mean that guy? Because I'm pretty sure that's not Dusk."

Lore nodded, with his usual air of utmost confidence. "That's not Dusk at all!"


Wind followed Blue's hand, and watched as Gen dragged "Dusk" into the camp. "Dusk" stopped short at the corner, gawking at the fifteen-odd other heroes all scattered around the camp, while most of the camp gawked back, and Gen continued to scold him for neglecting a head injury.

"... how can you be sure?" Wind managed, at last. Surely he couldn't have mistaken an actual total stranger for one of his fellow heroes? A stranger wouldn't have known to call him Wind, after all. And if he wasn't Dusk, who on the Goddesses' green isles was he, and how did they look so much alike?

"I don't know," Sketch deadpanned, eyeing the apparent stranger being unexpectedly mother-henned in their midst. "Maybe the nearly everything except his face?"

"He's not wearing a hat!" said Lore. "Also, he looks about six years older, his outfit's different, he's at least a few inches taller, and I don't think Dusk had time to get face tattoos without anyone noticing between now and that whole bit with the laser death beams. But mostly, he doesn't have a hat."

"He could have lost the hat?" Wind suggested, weakly. "And... wait, what do you mean, face tattoos?"

"Yeah, they're pretty neat," Ocarina chimed in. "I wish I could get a tattoo."

"Don't," Mask warned him. "You will regret it."

Wind turned his attention back to see that Gen's efforts to wipe the blood off of not-Dusk's face had revealed an intricate design of dark, spiraling lines over the new Link's forehead and brow. It look suspiciously like the patterns on Dusk's wolf form's fur, but Gen seemed more interested in fussing than questioning.

An idea sparked across Ocarina's face. "Wait, what if the new Link is future Dusk? Like how Mask is future me?"

"He doesn't look as confident as Mask is," Sketch observed. "I think he's just confused, mostly? He keeps giving us all weird looks."

Wind waited for Lore to pipe in his own two cents before realizing, rather abruptly, that Lore was no longer sitting by the campfire.

"It's absolutely ep'm'frtgik to meet you, mister Wolf Pelt! I assume you've already met Wind; I'm Lore, and that's--"

"By the spirits," said Steam. "Poor guy looks ready to pass out."

"Maybe we should go rescue him?" Red offered.

"Eh, it looks like Gen's already adopted him," said Mask. "He'll be fine." He winced as Lore shook the newcomer's hand, very, very energetically. "Probably."



I'm adopting all of them, something deep in Twilight's brain decided.

You just can't adopt fifteen random children! his more rational brain protested. They all probably have families back home. And you've never even had kids before!

I don't care, said the less rational part of his brain, which had been struggling at the bindings of common sense since the day he first ran into eight strangers with his soul in their chests and the world on their shoulders. They're family now. No exceptions.



"Who are you, and what have you done with the Rancher," Wild demanded, through gritted teeth. Not-Twilight grimaced, seemingly caught between trying to fight back and inviting combat with eight other heroes at once, or weathering Wild's initial rage and letting them question him without further harm.

The second instinct won out, by the looks of it. Not-Twilight's voice stayed placatingly low and level, barely a trace of Ordon accent to be heard. The longer he stayed and the more he spoke, the more Wind wondered how the hell he had ever mistaken this guy for Twilight. (Well, aside from the fact he still looked like Twilight's younger identical twin.)

"I know this will sound weird, but I think the situation I've been in for the last few weeks is very similar to what all of you are going through."

"And that would be?" Time asked, speaking up at last. He'd walked out of the stables half a moment after Not-Twilight's confession, and settled into place as if he'd been following the conversation from the start. Wind wondered if he had been listening from indoors, or if it was just the old man's usual unflappable nature.

"You're all heroes from different eras of Hyrule, brought together by some greater power, traveling together on a quest. Is that wrong?"

Nobody spoke for a moment.

Legend scowled. "I mean, anyone here who knew their history well enough could guess--"

"You've been hopping between different eras by portals or some kind of magic, which is why you're all here in this Hyrule right now. Also, you've been going by nicknames, because all of you are named Link and it gets confusing."

"... well, he isn't wrong," Four pointed out. "That has all happened. And unless we've been spied on the whole time we've been here, I don't think someone living in this era would have the resources to find all that out, either-- no offense, Champion."

Wild shook his head, finally remembering to stir the cookpot. "None taken."

"So, you're doing the same, then?" Time asked.

Not-Twilight nodded. "My group has a lot more people I think might be in yours? Including a second Hero of Twilight who isn't me, apparently." He glanced down at Wind. "And a second Hero of the Winds, too. We've all been traveling through these world-eating holes in reality, basically, created by the demon... Demise, apparently? I admit I haven't gotten the whole explanation of how, but long story short the holes are sort of eating reality itself, and we've been traveling back through the eras to fight him."

"Demise, huh?" Legend made a face. "Didn't Sky say something about a guy called Demise once?"

"He was pretty cagey about it," said Four. "But I do remember him saying he fought a demon king, instead of Ganon."

"He's from the Chosen Hero's era," Not-Twilight confirmed, "but according to Gen -- my group's Chosen Hero, I mean -- most of the villains we fought were incarnations of him, in some form. He's been employing them to try and stop us, after he failed to kill us all the first time."

"Speaking of the Chosen Hero," Warriors butted in, "shouldn't we have him down here to be part of the discussion? Where is he?"

Time gestured to the stable window. "Upstairs, taking the gear to the bedroom."

Legend scoffed. "Probably napping, too."

"I'll go get him," Four volunteered, already disappearing through the stables door.

"If you're going to explain yourself, we'll want everyone here to hear it," Time explained to Not-Twilight. "I'm sure he'll be down in just a minute, and--"

An indecipherable emotion passed over Time's face. A moment later, it had spread to Legend and Warriors and then Wild like a growing shadow. Wind raised an eyebrow at them all, but only for a moment before the realization reached him, too.

"Traveler's wandered off into the swamp, hasn't he." Legend's voice spoke of nothing but plain despair.

"Is that your hero of Hyrule?" Not-Twilight asked. Legend nodded, grimacing, and Not-Twilight sighed a long-suffering sigh. "If it's any consolation, ours is like that too."

Chapter End Notes:

me realizing i forgot to include sky in a scene: he's in bed. he's asleep. we're gonna just go with that.

Lore language translations:

  1. ep'm'frtgik (Holodese) wonderful