Never After

"Some choose to note the Sheikah were loyal guardians to the Royal Family.

Others choose to note they are all dead, probably as a result."

- Various Histories of Hyrule

It began with a rumor.

In fact, it began with a mere whisper. Hardly even a whisper actually, more a partial utterance, a tiny half-heard utterance. The faintest murmur of the very same delicious glee that typically restrains itself to elderly old biddies – gossiping over their neighbor's unhealthy fondness of hair tonics, or the questionable orientation of the latest minstrel in the district. Nevertheless, very same infectious nature seeped over into the discussions of everyone, young and old alike. However, the theme inherent in this particular whisper held no frivolities but a solid, series sense of perverse urgency. The kind that accompanies bad news, ill-omen or the arrival of in-laws.

Peculiarly, it made for a good conversation-starter over drinks and dinner during the night. All over the city it was heard, flitting like a swarm of humming birds betwixt the people, incorporating the basics of the tale into children's hand-games and seeping into the cracks of every home and establishment: "Have you heard about the rumor? About the Queen?" To which people would reply, faces vivid with consternation and delight, "Oh yes! I have, exceedingly. The latest is they've seen the assassin. In Hyrule even. Isn't that dreadful?" And right back again. "Dreadful! Dreadful!" even while children only yards away were chanting to the rhythm of their jump-ropes:

"Princess Zelda, sick in bed,

Scared the Sheikah'll get her head,

With a burlap sack he'll wait,

How many seconds does it take?

One, two, three, four…"

The aspect of his race oscillated between Hyrulian and Gerudo in adult conversation. Children ignorant of the word 'genocide' insisted he was Sheikah. The details varied intrinsically within each version of the story, ranging from the obnoxiously unbelievable to the frighteningly accurate. The most chilling rendition was recounted in the Castle Town Café by an Ordon goat-herder headed to market, the version where a masked man, cloaked and bandaged so heavily as to be mortally wounded, intercepted travelers at random, inquiring of them information as to the health of her Highness the Princess of Hyrule. When corrected on the young ruler's new title – her coronation had been four months prior – the speaker would laugh then turn on his heel and vanish completely into nothing.

But everyone agreed. The truly remarkable thing was not the ghost-like disappearing act, the report of his strange scarlet stare, or even the alarming number of sightings in the Faron Province. No, the truly astonishing thing was the unprecedented amount of time this snatch of gossip had remained in circulation, far longer than some stray ghost-story deserved. Every passing week that it continued, an increasing number of people came to think perhaps there was more to the rumors than rumor.

Either way, like any really good rumor the thing got some momentum built up and sooner than later – the usual duration for idle chit-chat to work it's way up into high places – the bits and pieces of the tale had compounded indefinitely into a half-coherent story. No one could say for certain what it was that reached Princess Zelda's ears, who told her or how vastly correct or incorrect it was, but within the hour everyone knew exactly how she reacted. In less than a single evening, every ranking rider for the Queen's Royal Messengers had been deployed to Ordon, each riding their mounts like hell itself bayed after them.

She sent all fifteen of them at once, each strategically staggered from varying points of entry into the forest provinces, as if something might bar their path and such a strategy would be needed.

And the Queen? She took to her duties and went about her business as usual, the only distinction of her anxiety being the involuntary tension in her every expression as she worked. The castle laundresses and kitchen staff frequented the city taverns nightly with daily reports of the young ruler's latest apprehensions, that she'd taken to bland meals and ate little and next to nothing throughout her day. Every time a messenger returned she would rise almost unconsciously to her feet, eyes fierce and urgent, only to sink back down again – as if pulled into her seat by an incalculable weight – when he reported his failure to find his intended target. Slowly each and every one of them returned. None of them found who they were sent to bring.

No one is exactly sure who it was she sent for.


Meanwhile, some several Realms over and a little to left if one were to be particular about the details; several other messengers were having a hell of a time making sense of their own mistress's orders. Far be it from them to protest anything requested of them by their beloved, if not capricious, princess (she'd declined to accept the full title as of yet. The marriage arrangements struck her too bothersome a task to be dealt with at the time.) but she'd become something of a pain to tend to of late.

Upon her return from the Realm of Light, having cast down the usurper king, Zant, assisted in the downfall of a great evil, and all-and-all proven herself more than capable of ruling whether anyone liked it or not (mostly they didn't mind) she gracefully reclaimed her throne. She'd changed almost beyond recognition; the indolent and impudent princess replaced by a woman every inch a queen in her bearing. The Light had wrought horror upon the Twilight, but somehow had changed her for the better, strengthened her love and dedication to the people of the half-lit world.

Aside from her sudden energetic enthusiasm for ruling, the members of her 'court' – the Twili do not have rank and title as Hyrulians do – found that she'd developed some oddities to stack upon her previously known oddities. Though her principles and disposition toward the light-dwellers and the people of Twilight had matured beyond their wildest dreams, the Twili found their young ruler still had a few emotional kinks to work out before they could expect any kind of reliable daily schedule from her. Thus, the pain previously mentioned.

She'd taken to long secluded walks through the Twilight, often lingering in a places were the barriers betwixt this world and the next grew thin and (if one were readily available) find a high cliff, or a morbid statue upon which to posture herself for hours. Such lonely escapades were typically followed by an enthusiastic – somewhat manic – bout of productivity, during which she made duty to her people her number one priority for a few weeks, occasionally slipping away again for another session of melancholic reflection. Those less kind would call it moping. The Twili could only speculate what precisely she was 'reflecting' upon, but those brave enough to hazard a guess to her face usually got backhanded across the Dark Horizon.

Proving that Midna had not quite lost all her old vices – One of which was the appalling habit she had of giving orders without explaining to her underlings the reason for giving them in the first place.

Thus, nearly twenty odd members of the Twilight court found themselves busily delivering letters of summon to the most peculiar places possible and having not a clue why. She insisted at a single letter be sent through any gap big enough to allow passage from the Twilight to Hyrule, regardless where it might land. (Several popped out over lakes, volcanoes, rural forests and other places no reader could possible venture in search of postage.) Odder still, she addressed them not to any of the expected people – the Princess Zelda, or the Hero of Twilight – but rather to a one 'Sheik'.

From what they could tell, she seemed to be in great need of contacting this Sheik person, who was apparently a denizen of the Light. However, she lacked a reliable means of getting in touch with him or her and could only jam arbitrary letters through holes in the dimensional rifts and hope that they were found by the correct person, much to the irritation of her postmen. Cramming a letter through the dimensions is not easy, it takes much straining and pushing and more than a little bit of magical encouragement to get an envelope to successfully cross over.

If anyone had been brave enough to demand who this 'Sheik' was they may or may not have received an answer (read: back-handed across the Horizon) but Midna had gone mysteriously MIA. One of her late suitors had discovered a scrawled note in her throne reading: 'Be back soon. Tell everyone to behave while I'm out.' This alarmed her courtiers obviously but not half so much as what occurred next.

Through one of few gaps that her letters had been shoved…one was shoved back.

'Dear Midna,

I apologize for my tardiness in replying, I've been preoccupied with matters in the Dark Realm (matters of which I'm sure you're aware) and it took me some time to find your letter. I hope you didn't send too many. I find I can't bring myself to write the crux of this letter for fear you might throw it down in your panic and scamper off to do something you'll regret. I know how fond you are of action, so I'll say this now:

Do not attempt to save him. This is a matter between shadows, true shadows, Midna. You cannot get involved.

Wait for my next letter.

- Sheik'

The letter ended there. No one was exactly sure who it was he meant, or (for that matter) if Midna had already done exactly what he'd advised against.


Author's Note: Did they ban these yet? I've forgotten. Either way, I'm writing one. I just had to write something about TP or I'd go mad. This is just a prologue Real story begins next chapter. Feed back would be much appreciated. I haven't written a thing for ages.