Posted on March 15 2019 by David Nystrom
A calm rested over the city. Trumpets blew out the final notes of the Song of the Hero and every heart and mind in Castletown rested on the tale of the Hero of Legend. At dawn, the biggest celebration since the beginning of the era would begin. Banners, streamers, tents, and flags from every corner of Hyrule were already adorning the streets in honor of the 100th Swordsman Festival.
Merchants from all over would sell their trinkets and goods, butchers would bring out their finest cuts of meat, bakers would have prepared their richest breads from the finest grains, and every citizen of the kingdom would take part in the revelry.
This year’s celebration was to be the greatest and grandest of them all, or at least that was the hope of King Daphnes Nohansen Hyrule. He had known since his coronation that, barring an early and untimely death, he would be the King that received the honor of this momentous occasion. One of the longest periods of peace in their land, and he had the honors and burden of upholding such a meaningful celebration.
“Daph,” the Queen beckoned her husband from their bed, “when are you going to be satisfied with that speech?”
Daphnes looked up from the small writing desk and into the mirror where he could see his wife laying, “soon my dear.”
“You said that an hour ago,” she smiled glancing at the clock on the mantle, “please, let it rest.”
“It must be perfect though.”
“You fired six of the wisest writers in our kingdom, then spent a month writing it yourself. I’m confident that what you have will be perfect. Now please, come to bed.”
Daphnes took a deep breath, dipped his quill in its ink well, then scribbled something near the bottom of the top page. He put the quill in its holder and leaned against the back of his chair. He looked up again and back at his wife through the mirror. After a moment of watching silently as she flipped a page in her book, he smiled and shook his head.
“Zelda, I love you.”
He blew out the candle and sprinted with the enthusiasm of a much younger man to her bedside. Then with catlike reflexes, swiped the book from her hands, set it on the table beside their bed, and leapt over her to his familiar side of the bed.
“You’re right, maybe I had spent too much time working on that tonight.”
“I’m always right,” she smiled as she snuggled close to him under the blankets, “I’m the Queen.”
* * * * *
“Osmond, have you begun sweeping up for the night?” A gruff and stern voice called from the back room of the carpentry.
“Nearly finished uncle Henry,” Osmond said as he scooped a bit of sawdust into a pan and dumped it into the nearby trashcan.
Henry leaned back on his stool and looked through the doorway, peering over his small glasses that rested near the bottom of his round nose. He smiled, then stood up and leaned against the door as he watched his nephew in the storefront. Some wood shavings from the carving on his bench fell down to the floor, and he quickly knocked them away, not wanting to make any more work for Osmond.
“My goodness, I don’t recall you ever being this quick to clean up. Wouldn’t have anything to do with the festival tomorrow would it?”
Osmond leaned on his broom and gave a casual shrug to hide his overwhelming enthusiasm, “well I suppose having the afternoon off tomorrow would be nice…”
Henry let out a hearty laugh that made his round belly jiggle a bit, “yer just like your mum was, my boy. Clever and cunning, but ya can’t hide yer true feelings. Take the whole day, I’ll manage the booth on me own.”
“Uncle, are you sure? I’ll gladly work the busy period during the morning and after lunch even if you-“
Henry raised his palm and waved his beloved nephew off, “the day is yers. Go, have fun with Aldwin and I’ll get that boy Timothy from down the street to help. I’m gonna be needing a new apprentice soon anyways, training you ain’t gonna be worth much. You practically out pace me these days.”
Osmond dashed over and embraced his uncle with an excited, “thank you!”
After a few more minutes of cleaning together, they walked down the alleyway to their home and talked about previous festivals and their hopes for this year’s. Osmond hadn’t been at every one of the seventeen festivals he’d been alive for, but since living with his uncle for nearly ten years, he’d been able to attend at least a portion of each one.
As he laid in bed that night, he imagined what sort of exciting things he would see and do over the next three days during the celebration.
* * * * *
Dawn in Hyrule was one of the most beautiful scenes ever witnessed according to the songs and stories written about the land. On days where there was little not no cloud cover, the sky would transition from the purple and navy blanket, dotted with the thousands of little white stars, through bright oranges and yellows, before settling in on the light blue always associated with the sky.
As the first rays of the morning sun burst through the streets of Castletown, the day was just like the ones described in the songs.
Osmond moved quickly through the familiar streets and smiled as he looked up at the banners hanging from nearly every balcony and overhang. The vibrant colors were almost muted in the shadows as they awaited those early morning streams of golden sunshine. Some vendors were making their final arrangements, preparing for the first waves that would clamber through in only a few hours.
Osmond came to a stop at a familiar yellow door and raised his hand to knock when a crash erupted from the other side.
“By Din’s Fire, this mess couldn’t be cleaned up!” A nasally but kind voice hollered out.
“Everything alright in here?” Osmond pushed through the door and laughed as he saw the middle-aged scholar laying under a pile of books and papers and broken clay.
“Of course, you would show up now,” Aldwin rolled his brown eyes and pushed his way out from under the pile.
Another crash of clay came as a fluffy gray and black cat leapt from the top of one bookcase to another, then perched itself unamused.
“I’m swear, I’m gonna wring that bloody thing’s neck.”
Osmond reached up and coaxed the feline down into his arms, then scratched behind its ears. “Oh no you won’t. You’re a softy, and you’d sooner be blinded by the flash of a Deku seed than let Maple here get hurt.”
Aldwin again rolled his eyes and set to picking up the broken pieces of the jars that had fallen. “I suppose you’re right.”
Aldwin was a solid two decades older than Osmond and walked with a sturdy cane. He had wavy brown hair that he frequently pushed back but somehow would find its way back before his eyes. He was thin, but by no means weak. Aldwin had once dreamed of being a swordsman in the Hylian Guard. However, that dream came to an end during his training when his ankle was broken, and it was determined he’d never walk normally again. In his stubbornness, he committed himself to studying everything he could, devising the plan that he could assume some sort of war council position, and then in turn take up the sword again. When this conquest of his ultimately failed, he accepted his lot as a professor, but continued to practice with the sword in his free time. He quickly gained the humorous title as the most dangerous librarian in Castletown. A title he rather enjoyed, and more so once he’d started Osmond’s training.
“What have you been working on?” Osmond asked, looking at some of the papers on Aldwin’s desk.
“I’m actually writing a book,” he smiled and puffed up his chest. “I’m doing some research into the Hero of Time and trying to find out what I can about his life.”
The Hero of Time was the reason for the Swordsman’s Festival in the first place. It celebrated his victory over the Demon Lord Ganon, that had manipulated his way onto Hyrule’s throne. The Hero, the Princess, and the six sages of the era rose up and stopped Ganon, freeing Hyrule once and for all.
“There’s so little known about his life before the great battles, and I want to discover all I can about him. I figure if I could just get a meeting with the Sage of Wind perhaps, I could have a breakthrough. You know, he supposedly was around back then!”
Osmond laughed, “that would be something. You with a sage!”
Adlwin scowled, “no loftier than your dream of being Swordsman Champion.”
“At least I can train to be better, you have to be lucky. I’ll take skill over luck any day.”
“And how do you plan to train if you keep offending your instructor?”
Osmond’s shoulders slumped, “you wouldn’t really stop training me… would you?”
“No not likely, but your Uncle might have a thing or two to say about it.”
Henry had always disapproved of Osmond’s desire to be a swordsman. It was, however, good fortune that Aldwin had met Osmond, or else he would likely have never learned to wield a blade.
Aldwin had come in to Henry’s shop looking to get some bookcases built for his study. While Osmond and Henry were at Aldwin’s home taking measurements, Osmond had wandered off and discovered Aldwin’s stash of swords. When Osmond, who was roughly eleven at the time, asked his uncle if he could train to use a sword and become a knight one day.
“Now why would you go and want to do that? You’d best just work on your skills around the shop. Lots to be done ‘round here.”
Aldwin having overheard the conversation, went and befriended Osmond under the guise of being his school tutor. He did, in fact, tutor Osmond with his schoolwork, but as rewards for high marks, Aldwin promised him that he would also train him to use a sword.
“Wisdom begets power, and power begets courage. You have the courage to seek wisdom, and that wisdom in turn tempers your strength. All things, in balance,” he would say.
After a few years of simply being eager student and prudent instructor, the two became friends. Aldwin genuinely enjoyed teaching, and Osmond’s willingness to learn kept him inspired.
“Can you tell me the six elements the sages of that era represented?”
Osmond thought on the question. Before any sort of sword practice could be done, there was always a question or two he had to answer.
“There’s a few easy ones because there’s still a sage for that… There’s light, shadow, fire, and water… The other two then were… Spirit and forest?”
“Very good. When they passed away, forest was replaced by wind, and spirit by earth. Now, can you name at least three of the sages of old?”
Osmond’s mind went blank.
“There was… Madame Impa. Ummm… Queen Ruto, though I don’t remember if she was a queen then or not… And… and… Lady Saria!”
Osmond felt rather ashamed that he’d struggled with Lady Saria’s name. She was the last of the sages from that era to pass away, and it had only been three years ago. The day had been met with a dark and solemn period of mourning as she was escorted from Hyrule Castle to the Kokiri Forest in the south where she was laid to rest not far from the Great Deku Tree. It had rained for three weeks following her death, and many took it as a sign that the Hero of Time was in mourning for the last of his friends.
“Can we practice now?”
“Yes, I suppose we should if you’re going to be ready for the entry exam this afternoon,” Aldwin said looking at the clock on the wall.
The entry exam was for the Swordsman Champion Tournament. Part of the celebration was a sword competition in which swordsmen from across Hyrule and beyond would test their skills with a blade for the chance to be named the Swordsman Champion. There were two parts to the tournament.
The first, was qualifications. In that portion, contestants would destroy special totems in a certain order competing for the fastest time. The top eight would then qualify for the next round.
That was where things got truly exciting. Contestants faced off in one on one combat in the grand Hyrule Colosseum. Each contender was given an invisible magic shield that covered their entire body and fought until one member had been struck cleanly three times. When three hits were landed, the victor moved on.
In the small courtyard behind Aldwin’s house, he had rigged up a dummy with a barrel for a body and a bucket for his head. An old grimy mop made up the arms and a pair of rotted planks from Osmond’s uncle’s storeroom were used to make the legs.
“Alright, get four strikes in five seconds,” Aldwin handed Osmond a wooden sword. “Ready, go!”
Osmond hacked and slashed as fast as he could. When Aldwin called out time, Osmond stepped back and smiled.
“Six hits. Good. Now do the same and defend yourself from my attack. I’ll call stop when you’ve six good hits or I’ve struck you.”
Osmond readied himself between Aldwin and the dummy.
Osmond thrust his wooden blade at the dummy, then ducked as the horizontal slash from Aldwin’s cane came in. Osmond turned and struck Aldwin’s next attack attempt away, then continued turning and struck the dummy again. Aldwin came in with a thrust next, and Osmond nimbly hopped around behind the dummy so that the attack hit it instead. He hacked twice at it then rolled away as Aldwin moved around to strike. With the dummy still in between them, Osmond stabbed it again. Aldwin took a swing at Osmond’s legs from below the dummy and connected with his shin.
“Ouch!” Osmond hopped back and sat on the step.
“You hit me after! What gives?”
“I didn’t hit you after. You only had five strikes. I said six.”
Osmond recounted in his head and on his fingers.
“I parried one of your attacks into the dummy, that should count. Right?”
Aldwin shook his head, “in the tournament, it’s one versus one. There won’t be a chance to parry one attack into another opponent. However, I want you to be ready for what the Hyrulean Army does as well as the tournament.”
Osmond huffed and rolled his eyes, “right. Let’s go again then. And I’ll get eight hits!”
Aldwin grinned, and they repeated the dance with more speed. When Aldwin swung at Osmond’s legs this time though, the young competitor launched himself up onto the makeshift shoulders of the dummy, brought his wooden blade down into the bucket head and broke it to pieces.
“Well I suppose that’s gonna end the morning’s training,” Aldwin chuckled.
Osmond hopped down and thrust his sword towards his instructor, “that is unless you wanna have a go!”
Aldwin shot the enthusiastic young man a sideways glance, then quickly jabbed the end of his cane into Osmond’s foot. As Osmond hopped backwards and fell onto his backside, Aldwin turned and went inside.
“Sure, I win.”
David Wayne Nystrom is a Staff Writer for Zelda Dungeon. This story is an imagining of the final days of Hyrule prior to the Great Flood as talked about in the opening cinematic of The Wind Waker. His top three Zelda games are Ocarina of Time, The Wind Waker, and Link’s Awakening. He enjoys playing Smash Bros. a lot also. Follow him on Twitter. Every Era Has Heroes…