Disclaimer: I do not own The Legend of Zelda or any of its characters. If I did, Sheik would be his own person rather than Zelda in disguise, he'd be in more of the games, and the Sheikah would be more prominent characters. The only things I own are the characters Astar, Inianna and Io, and certain, made-up words of the Sheikah language.

Warnings: Slight spoiler for the manga, mainly in the form of Sheik talking about the Great Betrayal. For the story overall, Sheik is a male and separate from Zelda, there are spoilers for the manga and game, and I played around with the Sheikah culture and Sheik's appearance.

A/N: Ugh, another late update. I am very sorry for the wait, but real life caught up with me these past few weeks, and as much as it pained me, I had to place Bound by Blood on the sidelines. But I devoted all of today and yesterday to finishing the last half of the chapter, and here it is. The translations for the Sheikah language are provided at the bottom of the page. Enjoy!

Chapter 4: Half-Healed Wounds

Roaring. Trembling. The ground was shaking, rattling, buckling as if an earthquake was ripping through the terrain. The sky was shattering, falling to the earth like rain. No... Not the sky, but glass... Twilight-colored glass. My eyes slid closed...

...And reopened, a pair of brown leather boots now blocking my blurry line of vision. Somewhere above me, a beautiful female voice cried, "There is no time for hesitation! The castle is crumbling around us, and I will not leave him here! Now do as I say!"

Something wedged underneath me. The ground fell away, but the shaking and roaring did not cease. It increased. The world swayed and tossed to and fro like a ship caught in a storm. Pain seared through my torso, dragging me back under the dark waters of unconsciousness.

I awoke with my head cradled on someone's lap. A golden power rushed through me. Gloved hands were pressed to my chest. They were stained scarlet with blood. A glow the color of the sunset surrounded them.

"Oh, Goddesses... don't die..." a voice whispered, the same woman from before. "Please don't die..." The voice gasped. "Link, watch out!"

Link... The name echoed in my head. I lifted my eyes. The brilliant light of flames burned them. A ring of fire. Inside was a hulking, black beast. It towered over a splash of green and gold.

"If you restore the Master Sword to its pedestal and return the Ocarina of Time to me, as a Sage, I can send you back to your original time, before all of this hap-"

"I appreciate the offer, Zelda. Truly, I do. But I cannot go back. I have seen too much, done too much. After waking up from my seven year sleep, I found my physical self had aged into a man, but my mind was still that of a boy. If I returned to my own time, I would be an adult trapped in a child's body. It would not be a childhood anymore. I am sorry, but I wish to remain here. Besides, I cannot bear to surrender the friendships I have forged in this time... no matter how painful..."

Daylight. A thatched roof. A familiar bed. Worried eyes, the color of sapphires. Pink lips moved; a high, sweet voice escaped, but I could not understand the words. A sigh. Something cool and wet touched my forehead; a damp cloth...

Nighttime. The same thatched roof. The same familiar bed. Different eyes, these the color of an afternoon sky. Different emotions; hurt, anger, confusion and a hint of something else, something harder to read.

"Why can I not stay away?" a voice murmured softly, as if to oneself. "Why is it, every night, I am drawn to your side, even when I tell myself not to? Why do I still...?"

My eyelids fluttered, and radiant yellow light flooded my sight. Groaning, I screwed my eyes shut and turned my head away, brow furrowed.

There had been sounds of glass clanking together, of someone moving about the room. Those noises ceased, and a tentative voice asked, "Sheik…?"

I knew that voice. Cracking my eyes open to mere slivers, I squinted into the light. As my eyes adjusted, I realized the blinding light actually originated from a single lit candle. Its dim glow only barely lit my surroundings. Opening my eyes a little wider, a blurry face entered my field of vision. Sluggishly, I blinked several times and the image cleared, revealing a worried Zelda peering anxiously down at me. When my eyes finally focused on her, the concern melted from her fair countenance.

"Oh, thank Nayru!" the princess breathed in palpable relief, looking very much as if she wanted to throw herself at me, but was holding back. Instead, she brushed a bare hand across my forehead. Even in my weakened state, I did not miss the slight tremble of her fingers. "You are finally awake..."

"Finally?" I questioned, bewildered, then coughed violently, an ache throbbing through my torso at the action. My voice was raspy and dry as if from disuse; it tickled the back of my throat. Wordlessly, she handed me a goblet of water, which I happily drained in two long gulps. Refreshed, I handed the empty cup back to her and tried again. "What are you-?"

Before the words could fully leave my lips, it all came rushing back to me: Zelda's capture; Ganondorf's torture and final command; the fight with Link; the blood bond's possession; straddling Link's unconscious form, a knife pressed against his throat. Eyes flying open wide, I shouted, "Link!" and shot upright. A painful throb stabbed me in the stomach, and a hiss snaked through my teeth in response.

Laying a gentle hand on my shoulder, Zelda carefully but firmly urged me back down into a reclining position, ordering softly, "Please lie still. You are still recovering from your wounds."

"But Link-!"

"-Is fine," she assured kindly, smiling faintly as she touched my face with a soothing hand.

Relief surged through me as my abrupt panic abated. Breathing in slowly, deeply, I forced myself to relax and observe my surroundings. The small room – furnished with a mirror, a wash basin, a vanity and a chamber pot – was instantly recognizable as the bedroom Astar and I had shared when we were not living in the castle. I was laying naked on one of the straw mattresses, a thin cotton sheet thrown over me more for modesty than warmth. By the bedside was a small table, littered with plates of half-eaten food, bandages, a mortar and pestle, herbs – both crushed and whole – and bowls of water, some bloody, others clean. Zelda sat in a chair beside me, dressed in a simple, brown velvet frock. Her arms were bare to the elbows and her blond hair was piled high atop her head.

There were no guards, no locked doors, no walls of evil magic surrounding us, nothing to suggest the princess and I were being held captive in Impa's cottage, awaiting our doom. Unable to contain my curiosity any longer, I asked, voice dry and rasping, "Were... were we victorious?"

A fatigued, but elated smile lit Zelda's beautiful face. "Yes. Yes, we won, if only just..." she confirmed, then proceeded to regale me with an exciting account of the final battle: how Link defeated the King of Evil with the combined might of the Master Sword's hallowed steel and his Light Arrows; how, in his dying moments, Ganondorf tried to drag them into void with him by crumbling the castle with his Triforce piece; how they were forced to flee the collapsing tower, dodging falling chunks of the ceiling, avoiding panicked monsters, leaping over gaps in the floor.

"Halfway down the tower we ran into you. There was so much blood, I was sure you were dead..." Zelda's voice cracked, but she cleared her throat, and began again, voice wavering only slightly. "But then Link pointed out that you were still breathing and assured me you were merely unconscious. There was even a bandage wrapped around your chest to slow the bleeding of that awful stab wound."

At these words, my throat tightened and a shapeless emotion welled up inside of me. A bandage, huh? I knew none of Ganondorf's minions cared whether I lived or died, and I would have let myself bleed to death there on the stairs, conscious or not. Link was the only remaining, logical candidate. He must have patched me up once he came to... which meant he still held some semblance of affection for me, even in the face of my supposed betrayal. My heart throbbed.

Zelda, who had been wordlessly watching me, started up her narration again, "Once I was sure you were still alive, I instructed Link to carry you out, but... he seemed reluctant to do so, almost as if he was torn… as if he was battling some internal dilemma." Here, the blonde punctuated her story with a pointed, meaningful glance. When I offered no response concerning Link's hesitation, she sighed before continuing, "We thought it was over once we escaped the Castle, but then, Ganondorf emerged from the ruins in the form of a horrible, bestial monster." The princess's voice trembled with remembered fear. "Never before have I felt so helpless, so powerless. Link was beyond my aid, trapped in a ring of fire, battling for all our lives, and you were bleeding in my lap, dying. The worst part of it all was the Triforce of Power would not allow Ganondorf to die. In the end, Link could only weaken him, so the Sages and I were forced to seal him in the Sacred Realm. It was all we could do. But at least it is finally over..."

A drawn-out sigh of relief rushed from my lungs as a sudden, much-missed lightness lifted my heart, like a warm updraft under an eagle's wings. Feeling as if a ten-ton weight had been lifted from my shoulders, I sagged against the pillows, my eyes sliding closed. He's gone... Ganondorf is finally gone… I am free, never to be enslaved by him again...

The sound of splashing water drew me from my thoughts in time to see Zelda wringing out a wet rag before leaning over to lay it across my forehead. "Afterwards, Link and I hurried you to Kakariko to heal." Sitting back in her seat, hands folded delicately in her lap, the princess's oceanic eyes held a haunted expression as she continued, "You barely survived. Sealing away the Black King exhausted me of my magic, so I have been forced to rely almost solely on natural remedies. It has been a challenge. Nearly every time I tried to administer the potion to you, either as it was or mixed with broth, you would vomit it back up. But now that you are awake, hopefully we can make some real progress. Do you think you can keep down some bread?"

"I cannot guarantee it, but I am willing to try," I warned, suddenly aware of a gnawing hunger in my stomach at the mention of food. Grudgingly, I allowed her to pile the feather pillows behind me and guide me into a half-sitting position. Even the slight shift from laying flat on my back to reclining sent a pulsing ache through my stomach. A pained hiss issued from between my teeth.

"I know it hurts," Zelda murmured consolingly, tearing off a chunk of bread and watching me intently as I nibbled cautiously on it, trying to pace myself. "You took quite the blow to the stomach. I cannot tell you how long I toiled in order to stanch the internal bleeding. What little reserves of my magic I had left were poured into that injury. It was almost beyond my ability to mend, especially in my weakened state. You are lucky to be alive, Sheik."

Suddenly, the bread tasted like ash in my mouth and my ravenous appetite evaporated. Swallowing thickly, I lowered my eyes, taking in the foreign sight of my long, naked fingers clutching the hard bread in my lap.

"No. I am lucky to be in one piece," I amended dryly, recalling my wound's origin. "I have seen Link break bodies in two and snap spines with his Megaton Hammer. I count myself abnormally fortunate that an ugly bruise and internal bleeding was all I suffered. Remind me to thank my tailor for sewing dragon-scale armor into the fabric of my battlesuit. It saved my life."

Twice in fact, I recalled on the side. When I broke the blood bond, I would have pierced my heart with the dagger had the armor not impeded its penetration.

However, I decided not to voice this as Zelda's sapphire blue eyes widened. Horrified, she whispered, "Link was the one who inflicted this wound?"

Speaking abruptly became painful as my throat closed around itself, so instead, I nodded reluctantly, biting off a piece of bread simply for something to do. To this, the Hylian princess said nothing, choosing to sit in brooding silence as she crushed herbs and mixed them into her potion. Knowing I would catch hell if I stopped eating, I quietly choked down the bread, fighting the painful memories and nausea.

When the last bit of bread vanished between my lips, Zelda poured the medicine into a roughly hewn wooden goblet and handed it wordlessly to me, still deep in thought. Peering warily down at the thick, blue tonic swimming in the cup, I sipped tentatively at it... and pulled a disgusted face. It tasted like mushrooms, scummy lake water and roasted frogs... ironically enough, a supper Link and I had shared at the edge of Lake Hylia before plunging into the Water Temple. The meal itself had been disagreeable when separate, but combined, it was putrid.

"It's no wonder why I kept vomiting this up. It's vile," I muttered under my breath, but nevertheless, held my breath and chugged the slimy tonic as quickly as I could without gagging. A revolted shudder crawled down my spine, and I swallowed thickly against the bile rising in my throat.

"Now is not the time for jokes, Sheik," Zelda reproached sharply, thrusting another hunk of bread into my hands. I tore into it more to rid my mouth of the potion's rancid aftertaste than out of a desire to eat. "I must know. What happened between you and Link? How did you defy Ganondorf's command and break your blood bond with him? Link has not been to see you since we arrived in Kakariko, nor will he speak anything of it."

A different kind of pain stabbed at my chest. As my eyes drifted closed, I saw again the furious battle between us, heard the anguish and betrayal in his voice, felt my own heartbreak and desperation. Sighing through a mouthful of bread, I swallowed before meeting my lady's eyes and responding in a hollow voice, "I never told Link anything of blood bonds. He knows nothing of them; not what they are, what they entail, what they can force the Sheikah to do, and most certainly not that I shared one with you and Ganondorf."

Covering her mouth with one hand, Zelda's eyes widened in dawning horror, as if she could sense what direction my tale was taking. I stared at the wall straight ahead and even though I kept my exposed face emotionless, I felt my jaw tightening as I spoke, "When Link and I met on the stairs, it was all I could do to keep my own body from fulfilling Ganondorf's. The blood bond had already forced me to unsheathe a dagger and poise it over Link's heart. Yet, I had enough strength left in me to fight it, to keep myself from stabbing him... that is, until Ganondorf called out to me and reinforced his order. I... I lost myself... The blood bond seized control of me, like a parasitic demon, and did battle with Link while I was trapped within my own body. All Link saw was me – his friend – attacking him… betraying him…. He could not see past his pain to see the puppeteer pulling on the marionette's strings. He believes me a traitor..."

The princess opened her mouth to respond, but a knock on the door cut through the bitter silence. Straightening up in surprise, and in a knee-jerk reaction, she called out, "Enter."

The door opened and Inianna backed into the room, carrying a silver tray laden with fruit, soup and wheel of goat cheese. "Good evening, my lady," she greeted in a hushed tone, turning to face Zelda as the princess stood to retrieve the tray. "How is-?" The sweeping arc of her ruby gaze traveled from Zelda to me. The minute our eyes met, she froze, scarlet irises widening. Then...


A surprised, pained grunt pushed past my lips as Inianna all but threw herself at me, the tray of food falling from her hands. With incredible, nimble speed, Zelda caught the tray in midair, saving it from crashing to the floor. Only a few grapes and a bit of soup that sloshed over the bowl's rim had been sacrificed to gravity.

"Oh, foh'dwar!Oh, thank the Goddesses! You're awake! Sheik!" Inianna was sobbing hopelessly into my shoulder, the full weight of her body pressing forcefully on my bruised torso.

"Ow, ow, ow! Inianna, that hurts!" I grunted roughly and pushed on her shoulders to ease her away from me, wincing painfully. "Damn, girl... Be careful..."

Scandalized, she bolted upright, her fist pressed to her lips, tears streaming from her eyes. "Sheik... I'm so sorry... I did not think..." she whimpered, then buried her face in her hands as she burst out crying. "I was s-so scared! I f-feared you would never w-wake up! When… when…"

"When Her Highness told us what you did for her up in the Tower, we were sure even one as strong as you would perish from the extent and severity of your wounds," finished a voice I had not anticipated to hear. Surprised, I shifted my gaze from Inianna's silver head to stare into Astar's maroon eyes, half-hidden by his shock of white hair. Though his expression was grim, there was no coldness in his voice as he addressed me, "After all, your blood bond with the Black King was what prevented your wounds from killing you. Until you had fulfilled Ganondorf's final order, it would not allow you to die. At least, that is what Her Highness, Mother and I have concluded. But once you shattered the bond and the magic empowering you vanished, your injuries drove you to the brink of death. You had us concerned, htram'dwar."

My breath caught at Astar's affectionate term, and I stared at him in confusion. Not once, in all the years I had lived with Impa, had he called me htram'dwar. His nicknames had always consisted of dafiddma, chab'uhcac, or bam'dirac. And he certainly had never spoken to me with a complete lack of scorn and contempt as he did now. There was respect in his voice, the kind of admiration a man obtained when he had been humbled.

However, I bypassed my amazement for the moment, turning my eyes to Zelda instead. "Princess…" I began slowly, watching her as she set the tray down on the little table. "When we were in the Tower, did you… honor my request?"

At first, she remained mute, silently handing me the wooden bowl of soup. I accepted it, but did not drink; I was awaiting my answer. Inianna and Astar looked between us, evidently curious. Finally, Zelda's ocean blue eyes locked with mine, her expression tormented as she whispered, "Forgive me, Sheik, but I did not." A sigh issued from my lips, but before I could scold her, she continued, "I tried to avert my eyes, yet I found myself unable to... My conscience screamed at me every time I looked away, bellowing at me for my wrongdoing, reminding me of your sacrifice and how if you had not stepped in, I would have suffered your fate. I could not, in good conscience, turn a blind eye while you were tortured on my behalf, especially when it was I who brought such a tragedy upon you. I viewed it as my penance for thrusting you into the lion's den and so I might suffer along with you, even if only a little."

"And here I thought only the Sheikah were masochists," I muttered under my breath, frustrated. "Princess, I am your Guardian. It is my duty to protect you from all harm, physical and mental. That is why I took your place and that is why I asked you to look away; to protect you, to fulfill my blood oath to you and to save my most beloved friend. Enough with this talk of penance. It was not you who suggested my role as a double agent, but Impa."

"Yes, but I agreed to it!" Zelda argued vehemently, her voice breaking as tears welled in her eyes. "When I ordered you to work as a spy, being bound to me, you had no choice but to obey! I am as every bit responsible as Impa and Ganondorf for the pain you endured in that wretched hell-pit! You are not just my Guardian, Sheik, but my friend and I condemned you to five long years of vile torture at Ganondorf's wicked hand! So, yes! I needed atonement for what I did! I wanted to punish myself for all the pain you endured!"

"Zelda…" I murmured gently, my heart aching as I watched the dignified Hylian princess weeping helplessly behind the shield of her hands. "You could not have known. Even with your gift of foresight, you could not have known Ganondorf would have been as… taken… with my appearance as he was. A double agent was necessary and Impa approved of none but me. In her mind, combat skills, cool disposition and undying loyalty to you and Link made me the perfect candidate, one who would never betray you or compromise our position. If offered the chance to take back any of our actions in these past seven years, I would have changed nothing and endured Ganondorf's abuse all over again if it meant bringing about his downfall."

Silence greeted my pronouncement, all three of them at a loss for words. Though tears continued to stream down her face, Zelda's sobs had ceased and she watched me with speechless gratitude, beautiful even with red, puffy eyes.

"We would not be sitting here today had it not been for you, Sheik..." Inianna observed pensively, snuggling against my side like a long-haired, silver kitten. "Hyrule is ignorant of all you have sacrificed for her..."

Crooking an arm around her shoulders, I kissed the side of her head softly and said quietly, but firmly, "And she will remain ignorant. Only the Hero of Time and the Princess of Destiny shall be credited with defeating the King of Evil. Hylians outside the Royal Family and native Kakariko villagers view us Sheikah with fear and disgust. Double agent or not, Hyrule's people would not look kindly upon me knowing I worked within the beast's lair. All they would see is a Sheikah who was in league with Ganondorf and as far as they are concerned, shadows and evil are one in the same... Hyrule can never know."

"But the Sheikah can," Astar interjected suddenly, unhitching himself from the wall to kneel by the bedside. "The other races of Hyrule may remain forever ignorant of your sacrifices, but that does not mean your own people must remain uninformed as well. Sheik… brother… all these years, I have been cruel and intolerant towards you… jealous, even, for the attention Mother invested in you and the talent you, a mere orphan boy, possessed. I never accepted you as part of my family, blinded by my bitterness towards you. But after Princess Zelda informed me of your heroic deeds in Ganon's Castle and of the pain you willingly, silently endured without the faintest waver in your loyalty, I finally saw the error of my ways. You are indeed worthy of belonging to this family and you deserve to be heralded as the hero you are. Please, htram'dwar, accept my apologies and allow me to preach of your noble sacrifices to all the Sheikah none will ever speak ill of you again!"

For a moment, I could only stare at my foster brother in awe, eyes wide and expression frozen. I could barely believe my ears. Then, a smile split my face, softening my expression, and I reached around the gaping, openmouthed Inianna to clasp Astar on the shoulder. "Your acceptance was all I ever asked of you, brother," I told him honestly. "Of course I accept your apologies. As for my deeds, I would rather keep that knowledge between the four of us..."

Gripping my arm in return, Astar flashed his filed canines at me in a toothy grin as he corrected, "You mean six. I have already passed the information on to Mother and Kiah."

I frowned at the mention of Impa and his fiancée. "Then why ask my permission if you already proceeded to spread the word around?"

"Family doesn't count, Sheik."

"But Kiah cannot be counted as family until you two are officially wed..."

"Boys," interrupted Zelda, wiping away the last of her tears. "As thrilled as I am to see you two finally acting like siblings, there are still matters from the night of Ganondorf's fall I must discuss with Sheik." Turning to me, she questioned, "You said the blood bond seized control of your body... if this is so, then how did you disobey Ganondorf's direct order?"

At these words, my elation at finally being accepted by my step-brother promptly burst like a dying Dodongo. Sighing, I drank deeply from soup bowl, ignoring how the onion broth scalded my tongue. "It is complicated..." I confessed heavily. "Link had gained the upper hand in our battle, but hesitated before delivering the final blow, thus allowing the blood bond to retaliate. It forced me to knock Link to the floor; he must have hit his head on the stairs fairly hard, for he was unconscious when I stood over him, dagger drawn. Realizing the blood bond would force me to kill him, panic overcame me, so powerful that when I threw my mind against the bond's mental barrier, it broke. I was able to regain partial control over my body, enough to stop myself from cutting his throat. However, I was in no better position than I had been before I was possessed, for the blood bond remained, compelling me to obey and threatening to overshadow me again if I refused. Then, a strange thing happened... In the midst of fighting the blood bond's compulsion, the memory of my first encounter with Link sprang to mind."

Seeking out Zelda's eyes, I inquired softly, "Do you remember it, my lady? The day you and I snuck out of the castle dressed as peasants? You were the stable boy, Adlez, and I was, Shekinah, the princess's lady-in-waiting."

A fond smile spread across Zelda's shapely lips. "Yes, I remember. The memory often lent me joy when the horrors of the war brought me despair." Covering her mouth with one hand, she giggled, "Link's expression when he learned 'Adlez' was actually Princess Zelda was priceless."

Smiling faintly in agreement, I continued, "Well, this unbidden memory strengthened me, much to my surprise, allowing me to slightly withdraw the knife from Link's throat. Inspired and encouraged, I forced myself to recall every incident and adventure Link and I had shared, and the progression of our friendship. The more I remembered, the more the blood bond's influence over me weakened and the closer I drew to conquering it."

In a spur of the moment decision, I cut my eyes toward Zelda, and tilted my head slightly to the left; a wordless, childhood signal that I wished to communicate telepathically with her. Keeping my eyes trained on my mistress, I allowed my true thoughts flow to her through our connection as I continued, "I am not entirely sure, but I believe the loyalty and friendship I felt for Link was ultimately what enabled me to shatter Ganondorf's blood bond. Without it, I doubt I could have openly defied Ganondorf by stabbing myself in the chest rather than Link..."

Zelda gasped as the memory of my true feelings washed over her: the love, the fear, the agony and the outright devotion. Though Inianna and Astar no doubt heard her intake of breath, thanks to the nature of my tale, neither of them questioned it. They probably assumed the revelation of my self-harm had startled her... not admittance that my secret love for Link was what truly helped me conquer the blood bond. It was a truth I could share only with Zelda.

As our culture demanded the birth of children so they might one day serve the Royal Family, homosexuality was strictly forbidden amongst the Sheikah. Those who, like me, were born with same-sex tendencies were frowned upon, but as long as we did not voice or act upon our "unfortunate" preferences, there would be no consequences. With the exception of the time my secret was discovered – when Kiah, before she and Astar were courting, openly admitted she fancied me, and I politely informed her I held no desire for women – I had always been careful to keep it concealed. Sheikah champion or not, voicing my love for another male was punishable by law. Doubly so, considering Link was the Hero of Time. If the removal of my tongue was the only punishment for my transgression, I would be fortunate. Furthermore, as my sexuality had always been a sore spot with the strict Astar, I was reluctant to bring attention to it now, particularly when he'd finally accepted me. Even my beloved sister, Inianna, would have been aghast by an open declaration of love. So I revealed the truth to Zelda alone, not because I was required to be honest with her, but because Hylians were in full acceptance of homosexuality. Hell, they even promoted it to reduce overpopulation.

"I cannot believe it…" Inianna murmured beside me, tearing my gaze from the princess's enlightened blue eyes. "You must be the only Sheikah Warrior ever to defy a direct order and break a blood bond. Most of us remain bound until either we or our masters die... Sheik, you will be written into Hyrule's history books for sure. To think the bond of friendship you have with the Hero of Time is so strong it helped you overcome Ganondorf's evil control over you..."

Pain stabbed at my heart, and I lowered my gaze from the faces of the trio surrounding me. "I fear what kinship Link and I once shared is now gone," I confessed wistfully, my fingers tightening around the wooden bowl. "Like most, he is ignorant of blood bonds and so, naturally, he assumes I voluntarily attacked him. If I know Link – and I do – in his pain, he will likely have forgotten how I struggled with myself and pleaded with him to kill me. All he remembers now is how his friend cleverly pretended to be wounded just to draw him in so I could kill him..."

"Sheik," Zelda hedged, her voice faint and eyes wide, still shocked my mental confession. "Why did you not tell Link of blood bonds? You said yourself how curious he was of you and Sheikah life. Why not tell him you were bound to me, acting on my orders?"

"And compromise our position?" I retorted sharply, perhaps a bit harsher than intended. Softening my voice and smothering my frustration, I explained, "Hyrule had ears, Princess. It was not safely to confess outright that I was your servant for fear of being overheard by one of Ganondorf's minions. Even if such a threat did not exist, I would still be bound to secrecy. Ever since Dlynos de Irc'deaw, we Sheikah have vowed to keep as much of our culture secret from outsiders, especially the blood bonds. The less people know of us, the better. Secrecy is our only chance of saving our race from extinction…"

None spoke in response to this. My siblings and I silently mourned the lives lost on that bloody night in Sheikah history. Zelda's ashen face and rigid stance told me, she too, was thinking of her grandfather's – the sixteenth King of Hyrule – horrid betrayal of the Sheikah, in which he was single-handedly responsible for wiping out half our population.

Suddenly snapping out of her trance, the Hylian princess ordered, "Inianna, Astar, I would like to speak with Sheik alone for a time. You are dismissed."

Inclining their heads, they murmured in respectful unison, "Milady." Astar rose to his feet, clapping me on the shoulder one last time, and Inianna kissed me affectionately on the cheek before following her brother out the door.

The moment it swung closed behind them, Zelda slid the deadbolt into place and sat on the edge of my bed, a roll of clean linen bandages in her hand. As the princess carefully unwound the bloodied cloth encasing my torso, I suddenly realized it hurt less to move than it had previously. Now that the tonic was in my stomach rather than on the floor, it was actually starting to work. Yanking the final bandage from my chest, Zelda muttered in an annoyed tone, "You Sheikah and your damned secrets. Sheik, why did you not tell me you loved Link sooner?"

"You know why, Princess," I responded with weary patience. "For fear of what my people would do to me if word spread. Besides, I had no reason to. I had a duty to perform and could not have acted on my desires, even if I had nothing to fear of my Tribe. I could not allow my feelings to interfere with keeping you and Link safe. As I heard a merchant once say, business before pleasure."

"Yes, well, your 'business' has been completed," Zelda argued, smearing a cool, stinging salve onto my half-healed injuries. "There is nothing stopping you from telling him now."

"Princess, were you not listening to me?" I demanded, irritated and frustrated. "If the Sheikah ever find out I openly confessed my love to another male, they will mount my head on a silver plaque. The Shadow Folk are not as comfortable with homosexuality as you Hylians."

"Sheik, you spent five years as a double agent in Ganondorf's lair without him ever doubting your fealty to him. And when he did learn of your true loyalties, it was when you openly declared your allegiance to me. If there is any man in this world who can maintain a secret, it is you. If you truly love Link, you will find a way to make it work."

Zelda paused in the midst of wrapping the clean bandages around my abdomen to cup my cheek and turn my head to her. In a whisper, she said, "Sheik, all your life, you have sacrificed yourself for others. The only time I have ever seen you act selfishly was eleven years ago when you stole that loaf of bread so you would not starve. After Impa adopted you, you were always thinking of me, of Inianna and Astar, of Impa, and later, of Link, but never yourself. My dear friend, please, for once, do something for yourself. Let yourself love... and be loved in return. You must go to Link. Let your heart be free."

Lowering my gaze, I gently removed Zelda's hand from my face, pressing a kiss to her soft palm before releasing it. "I appreciate the wisdom, my lady, but I fear what futile hope I had of being with Link is now gone," I confessed mournfully. "He believes me a traitor, and thus, I have destroyed both our friendship and his trust."

"Gain it back then," Zelda argued stubbornly, tying the loose ends of the bandages into a knot. "Bend your inflexible Sheikah code just once and explain blood bonds to Link. He will understand." Before I could retort, the blonde cut me off with a curt statement, "If you refrain from informing him, then I shall. Sheikah laws do not bind me."

I closed my mouth with a sharp snap of teeth, only to open it again. "Fine. But there is still the nature of my confession. I will not make a fool of myself by confessing my feelings to a man whom many believe – myself included – is destined to wed you and become the future King of Hyrule. I am doomed to love the light, but the light will never love a shadow."My voice sounded bitter even to my own ears.


My eyes sprung open in utter shock as the Sheikah curse left the princess's lips. Blinking in surprise, I found myself unable to respond, allowing Zelda to continue on hotly, "Sheik, I saw the look on Link's face through your memories, heard the words he spoke and blind fear of his voice when he saw you were wounded. Even the most powerful friendship does not exude panic and affection on such an intense level. Furthermore, after the final battle, once most of the chaos had settled down, I offered to send Link back to his original time, back before all of this happened... and he declined. He claimed he could not regain his childhood after all he'd seen, nor could he bear to surrender the friendships he's forged along his adventures. However, I can see the deeper meaning in his words. He fell in love, and he does not want to sacrifice those feelings by returning in time, no matter how much pain they might bring him. But he does not love just anyone. He loves you, Sheik; not as a friend, but as a man. I know it. And I know once you explain everything to him, he will forgive you and remember his love. Now…"

Standing, she moved to the trunk at the foot of the bed and flipped open the lid. A moment later, she tossed me my battlesuit, wrappings and tabard. "Do you think you can wear that without your wounds ailing you or should I provide you with a looser outfit?"

With a heavy sigh, I pursed my lips, glaring mildly at her. I knew there would be no reasoning with the princess. She was dead set on me reconciling with and confessing to Link. While I had no scruples with repairing my friendship with the hero, professing my love to him sat like a rock in the pit of my stomach. Yet, I knew if I did not heed her wishes, she would simply command me to confront Link and spill my guts to him in the most mortifying manner she could think up. Surrendering with another sigh, I said, "No, I will be fine. Besides, if I show up in clothing different from my usual, Link will not know who I am."

Satisfied that I was obeying her request, Zelda respectfully averted her eyes from my naked form as I stood gingery. As I dressed, I could not help but wonder why the princess even bothered to look away. After all, my nakedness was no longer a new sight to her. I could only assume she wanted to provide me with the comfort of privacy.

Every muscle in my body protested as I moved, and my injuries throbbed as the skintight fabric of my suit pressed uncomfortably against the half-healed wounds. However, thanks to Zelda's healing salve and tonic, the aches and pains were tolerable. Overall, the sense of comfort and power being in my suit lent me with overshadowed my discomfort. Even though Sheikah law required all unmarried Warriors conceal their bodies, hair and faces, I embraced these rules with more gusto than most, having always been self-conscious.

As I was drawing my cowl into place over my nose, soft arms wrapped around me from behind, a warm body pressing against my spine. "Before you go, Sheik, I should warn you..." Zelda murmured quietly, her voice vibrating between my shoulder blades. "After the final battle, after Link declined my offer to return to his own time... Navi... Navi left... Now that his mission is complete, there was no reason for her to stay, so she just left, completely oblivious to Link's pleas for her to come back. The Kokiri no longer recognize him, the ocarina Saria gave him is in pieces, and Saria herself is the Sage of Forest; since he rejected my offer, Navi was the last connection he had to his childhood... and now she's gone... When you go to see him, please, do not mention her absence... It will only hurt him further."

"Of course, my lady," I said, extracting her hands from my midsection and turned around to face her. "Now, where can I find him?"

"Link has taken to spending most of his days and nights in Kakariko Graveyard," she responded. "Chances are you will find him there. Good luck, my friend. All will be well. I swear it."

Fixing her with an icy stare, I threatened mildly, "If the Sheikah discover this transaction or if Link rejects me in any way, Princess, I will personally strangle you in your sleep."

"I love you, too," she retorted, smiling cheerfully and completely ignoring my threat.

Praying to the Three that I had not lost all sense of my sanity, I yanked a handful of shadows over my body, cloaking myself in darkness. With a final glance at Zelda's beaming, encouraging face, I quietly slipped out the bedroom window.

The clear night air was comfortably warm and dry outside Impa's cottage, the stars winking down at me from their unbroken plane of black sky. Despite the remnant signs of celebration – emptied kegs of ale, discarded scraps of food, and patches of grass trampled and worn down to dirt from dancing feet – the village itself was deserted. All its civilians, even the most rambunctious party-goers, were asleep in their beds... or on the tavern floor. In any case, either instance suited my purposes just fine. I did not want to be disturbed.

As only the full moon and a few flickering torches lit Kakariko, for once, I did not have to cling to the shadows. Even with the moon's light pouring down on me, her glow did not dispel the shadows I had gathered around myself. Unlike the sun, the moon was gentle on the darkness, allowing it to spread its wings rather than chasing it into corners and alleyways. I was free to walk a direct path to the graveyard without fear of light breaking my concealing spell.

The graveyard unfolded before me, quiet and indifferent. Bathed in the moon's radiance, the cemetery possessed a serene kind of beauty in the way headstones glowed heavenly in the silvery white moonlight, cutting long, black shadows in the ground. Unlike most Hylians, the graveyard did not unnerve me. Quite the contrary, I felt soothed of all my worries and pains. Slowing my pace, I strolled leisurely among the gravestone, eyes closed, bandaged fingers brushing the tops of the limestone tombs. My skin prickled, feeling the spirits of the dead brushing against me like tendrils of smoke, welcoming me, a fellow shadow. Amongst the lingering ghosts, I felt a familial sensation and knew Sheikah souls were mingled among the dead.

Cracking my eyes open to narrow slits, I whispered softly to my Sheikah ancestors, "Souls of past Shadow Folk, do not think poorly of me for what I am about to do." Then, to play it safe, I offered a prayer to the Goddesses, asking them to restrain the Sheikah spirits should they decide to attack me.

As I shifted from my measured stroll back into a brisk, purposeful stride, sound twinged at my tapered ears. At first, I could not identify it and had to strain my ears to detect the noise. However, the deeper I ventured into the graveyard, the clearer it became, until I at last recognized the sound as music. The song had a low-pitched, creeping, haunting melody, and consisted of only a few notes that repeated in a never-ending cycle. The song was as familiar to me as my own body: the Nocturne of Shadow – played on the sweet, airy music of an ocarina.


Heart pounding in my throat, I abandoned my fast-paced gait, and broke into a gentle jog through the cemetery, guided by Link's music. The wispy, transparent spirits swirled around me like disturbed mist, almost indignant that I was ignoring them. As the nocturne's melody lulled me closer and closer to the Shadow Temple, my mind reeled.

If Link hated me for betraying him, then why was he here of all places, so near to the place that had once been a Sheikah stronghold, playing a song of shadows? Was it in remembrance of the time we spent in the Shadow Temple, when fear and horror brought us closer than I had ever dared to dream? Was Zelda right in her prediction of Link's feelings for me, and this place and song brought him solace in remembering how I'd been before my supposed betrayal? Or was it both?

The Royal Family's marble tombstone materialized from the gloom, behind which rose the lofty entrance to the Shadow Temple. And there – sitting cross-legged on the stone platform bearing the emblem of the Shadow Medallion – was Link. His back was to me, playing the Nocturne of Shadows in a continuous stream on the Ocarina of Time. He was alone.

It is just as Zelda said, I mused, watching his fingers drift skillfully over the musical instrument. Navi is gone...

For a long while, I merely stood below the raised entrance, cloaked in shadow and staring longingly up at the hero, brushing away the occasional, curious spirit. I wondered what I would say to him, but my vocabulary in both the Hylian and Sheikah tongues seemed to have run dry. Every greeting I considered sounded ill-suited for the seriousness of our situation. In the end, I decided to revert back to the methods of the early days, back when Link and I had only a budding friendship. It seemed fitting, considering I was, in a way, starting over.

Clutching the shadows tighter to my body, I dug my fingers into a crevice in the high, dirt-and-stone wall and stealthy scaled up the side. After a minute or so of silent climbing, I reached the top and perched lightly atop the fence barring the Shadow Temple entrance. For a moment longer, I gazed at Link. Even with his eyes closed, I could see the lingering traces of hurt and betrayal in the crease between his golden eyebrows, in the stiffness of his posture, and in the taut anguish on his face.

This will be no simple task, I told myself with an inaudible sigh. Drawing upon my reserves of courage, I brushed away the shadows clinging to me like spiderwebs, allowing myself to become visible once again, and produced my lyre from its wrappings. When Link returned to the beginning of the song, I fell back into my old role as a Shadow Guide, plucking the notes of the Nocturne of Shadow in time with Link's ocarina. Only after the first refrain had been completed did the hero fully register the addition of my lyre. He ceased his playing and opened his eyes, turning his head to look at me, face hard and unreadable. Despite the nervous hammering of my heart in my chest, I continued to play through the second refrain and on to the end of the song. Only when the melody's final note faded into silence did I lower my lyre to meet Link's accusing stare.

"What are you doing here?" Link demanded harshly, his voice cold and bitter.

Behind the cowl, I flinched at the callousness of his tone, though outwardly, I exerted nothing but stoic indifference. Willing the throbbing ache in my heart to subside, I slowly lowered myself onto the grass, laying my lyre against the side of the fence. While Link had not moved from his spot, his gauntleted hands tightened around the Ocarina of Time, his sunlight eyebrows slanting down in a vicious V over stony aquamarine eyes.

"What do you want?" he repeated icily, his scowl deepening in response to my silence.

"To explain myself," I answered calmly, relieved my voice did not betray my fears by breaking.

Link let out a glacial, derisive bark of laughter, setting aside the Ocarina to stand and face me. "Explain yourself?" he questioned, his humorless smile quickly fading into a fierce expression. "Oh, you mean how you tried to kill me atop Ganondorf's Tower? If so, you may leave now. I need no explanation, for it was quite clear to me what happened that night."

"No, Hero. Your feelings of hurt and betrayal are blinding you to the truth," I told him, heart heavy in my chest. "You only see our battle, when Ganondorf forced me to duel with you, and therein, this supposed treachery you believe me guilty of. Have you forgotten how I struggled against the Black King's commands, how I begged you to kill me before I was forced to harm you? Do you not see? There were other powers at work, bending my will-"

"No!" Link yelled, violently slashing his hand through the air, cutting me off. "No, do not try to confuse me with your lies! My heart cannot weather further anguish! I have not forgotten the events before your betrayal, but it was nothing more than a ploy, a cowardly ruse to lower my defenses! You knew I would not hesitate to help you if I believed you injured and you used my affection for you so you might murder me for your master!"

My heart sank to my stomach. "I was afraid you would think this," I murmured morosely, bowing my head. Shoving the white-blond strands of hair from my eyes, I raised my chin and again attempted to breach Link's stubborn defense. "Hero, listen to m-"

"No!" the blonde Hylian spat venomously, tensing into a fighting stance as he drew the Master Sword, gripping it with both hands as he angled it at me. "I am through listening to your twisted lies and falling for your dark tricks! You will leave! Now!"

Even though I felt as if my beating heart had been torn from my chest, I could not stop the icy hardening of my expression as I stared down the wicked, gleaming blade pointed at me as if I were an enemy. "You would draw your sword against an unarmed man? One who is your friend, no less?"

"You are no friend of mine," Link hissed, twisting the figurative knife all the deeper into my chest. "The Sheik I knew does not exist. He was nothing more than a beautiful lie, a creative figment of your imagination. The true Sheik is the man who betrayed me, the one who boldly stands before me now, falsely preaching to me of his innocence. You are no better than Ganondorf or Dark Link. You are Ganondorf's evil shadow and nothing more!"

Without warning, Link hefted his sword over his shoulder and charged, bellowing a war cry. Eyes narrowed, I firmly stood my ground, watching as the hero rushed at me, raising the Master Sword high into the air, preparing to strike. The blade swung in a downward arc, aimed for my neck. However, I sensed hesitation in the movement. Link's heart was not in the attack. His rage was fueling it, yes, but he did not wish to kill me. Somewhere, beyond his hurt, Link still cared for me. He just needed to be reminded.

My prediction turned out to be accurate, for at the last possible second, Link angled the sword ever so slightly, veering its course toward my shoulder rather than my throat. Seizing advantage of the opening, I caught the flat of the blade between my palms, stopping it dead in its tracks. On the other end of the Master Sword, Link's cerulean eyes widened, shock scribed across his face. Slowly shifting my gaze from the sword tip to his eyes, I glowered fiercely at him through the fringe of my pale hair.

"Tell me, Hero," I intoned coldly, fragments of the hurt and rage his insult brought undercutting my words. "If I am as you say, then tell me why I am able to lay my hands on this sword of holy steel, the Blade of Evil's Bane, which no evil being can touch without being cleaved in two."

Curling my fingers around the sword's edge, I slid one hand down the blade, feeling the sharp metal's stinging kiss against my skin. Crimson blood trickled from my hand over the polished steel. When Link did nothing to free his sword from my obviously weakened grasp, I boldly thrust its pointed tip under my chin, showing him I did not fear its bite. Shocked as he was, the warrior remained frozen, staring wide-eyed at me as I hissed, "Never compare me to Ganondorf's filth. You have no idea what I have suffered at his hands. For you. Now…"

Wrapping my bloodied hand around Link's wrist, I jabbed my thumb into the pressure point below his pulse point and twisted his arm. He yelped in surprise and his grip on the sword hilt broke, leaving the Master Sword in my hands. Before he could react, I chucked the blade over the fence, where it plummeted to the cobblestone walkway with an ear-shattering crash.

"My sword!" Link cried out in alarm as he snapped out of his stunned trance. Whirling around to glare hotly at me, his mouth moved, yet no sound came out. Apparently, he was at a loss for words.

I returned his glower with a wintry one of my own, and pantomimed dusting off my palms as I said coolly, "Let us talk about this matter like civilized beings, shall we?"

For a moment longer, Link's speechless astonishment persisted. Then, he threw a punch at my face. Lighting fast, I caught his fist, and ducked under his arm, twisting the limb behind his back. The blonde yelped in pain, his spine stiffening as I applied a steady pressure to his bent joints.

"Or not…" I countered dryly before lowering my shielded mouth to one long ear, and snarling, "It seems I need to teach you a lesson in ethics, Hero."

"What you need to do is release me," Link shot back angrily, jabbing his elbow into my midsection, exactly where his Megaton Hammer had left a half-healed bruise. Pain immediately flared through me. Grunting, I released Link to double over in pain, clutching my stomach as the agony drove me to one knee.

Spinning around, Link whipped his foot at my head. Instinctively, my hands flew up, snatching his ankle in both hands and twisted his foot, yanking downward. Link's surprised cry was cut off when he landed stomach first onto the hard earth, the sudden, violent compression of his lungs expelling the air from his body. While he was winded and stunned, I staggered to my feet with a pained groan, clutching my aching midsection.

"Use your head, Hero," I grunted hoarsely, limping over to extend a helping hand. "I know there is an intelligent brain somewhere beneath those long ears and blond hair. If I were truly working for Ganondorf, would I have fought beside you in the Temples, helped you recover from your more grievous injuries, or rescued you from the Gerudo?"

Link slowly lifted his head from the grass, staring first into my eyes and then at my proffered hand. Slowly, he reached up, the leather of his gauntlet wrapping around my bandaged fingers. But before I could lift him to his feet, his eyes blazed and he bared his teeth at me in a ferocious grimace. With an almighty jerk, the Hylian yanked me head-over-heels to the ground, and I landed solidly on my back, a grunt pushing past my lips. Before I could regain my bearings, a booted foot dug harshly into my chest, pinning me to the earth.

"You aided me because Zelda ordered you to," Link hissed, looming over me like a feral beast as he increased his foot's pressure in my breastplate. "Disobeying her wishes would have revealed your traitorous nature to her."

Glowering up at him, I punched Link in the back if the knee, and twisted out of the way as his legs buckled. He slammed to his knees, and I rolled behind him, locking him in a stranglehold before he could recover. Startled, his hands flew to my arm, trying to tear it away from his throat. In response, I tightened my arm, constricting his airflow enough to control him, but not enough to sever it completely.

"No," I disagreed sharply, ignoring the way he clawed at my arm. "Princess Zelda requested that I teach you the Temple songs and guide you toward the next Sage. Not once did she instruct me to interfere directly. For my own reassurance, I waited outside the Forest Temple for your return, wanting visual confirmation of your success. But when you did not emerge by the third day, I began to fear for your life, and so I entered the Temple to find you struggling to defeat Phantom Ganon. Then, when I saw how terribly burned and wounded you were after the Fire Temple, I decided to join your adventures through the Temples to protect you from enemies... and from your own, reckless behavior. Only after I returned from the Water Temple did Zelda discover my direct involvement, but even then, she neither condoned nor encouraged my actions. She left me to my own devices. If you think I am bluffing, ask her yourself."

"Your own devices? I highly doubt that," Link spat venomously, head-butting me. Staggered, I stumbled away from him, but regained balance with a sequence of back handsprings. However, my gymnastics came with a price when I felt a muscle tear in my stomach. A whole new level of pain seared through my already aching wounds, and my stance wavered. It was slight, but it provided Link with the opening he needed to slam me against the rock wall by the Shadow Temple entrance. Pinning my hands above my head, Link's face was inches from my masked one, his hot breath warming the fabric of my cowl as he growled, "If what you speak is true, then you must have been operating on Ganondorf's orders. He wanted you to help me so you could gain my trust and learn my secrets so he could defeat me."

Forcibly stomping down my body's reactions to Link's intimate closeness, I met his raging, lightning blue eyes with a fiery stare of my own, and deadpanned, "Hero, why would Ganondorf instruct me to assist you in increasing your strength? The Black King wanted you dead, not more powerful. If he had wished me to distract you and lure you into his hands, he would have commanded me to seduce you, and you would be a liar to claim I ever acted as such. Think, Hero. If I was honestly a traitor, would the princess have insisted on saving me?"

"How am I to know what happened in the tower?" Link demanded hotly, tightening his grip on my wrists and pressing closer to me. "It is probable you and Ganondorf staged an act for Zelda's benefit in which you pledged to defeat him and rushed off to 'help me,' when in actuality, you intended to murder me."

My eyes narrowed, and I allowed the full spectrum of my anguish and fury to color my tone as I goaded him, "You truly are still a child trapped in a man's body, Hero. Such a fantastical, overactive imagination."

Using my pinned hands as leverage, I lifted my legs to my chest and wedging my knees between our torsos, kicking Link away from me. He lurched backwards, reeling to regain his balance. Spiriting at him, I intended to knock some sense into his thick skull, but the Hylian recovered quicker than I anticipated, and lunged headlong at me. A resounding thud reverberated throughout the graveyard when our two bodies collided, and crashed to the earth. My back slammed against the hard-packed soil, and Link's muscular body crushed into mine, hot and heavy. There was no doubt I had reopened a few wounds. In addition to the renewed stabbing pain in my stomach, wet warmth dampened my battlesuit above the throbbing pains in my chest, thigh and shoulder. Winded and gasping for breath, I did not struggle when Link held me to the ground by my throat, sitting on my chest.

Gazing up at him and tramping down the swell of heat in my belly at the sight of our compromising position, I asked dryly, wearily, "Do you question Princess Zelda's wisdom, Hero? Do you truly believe the Triforce of Wisdom would not enable her with the power to detect hidden treachery?"

"You are a Sheikah," Link growled in a scathing, accusatory tone. "Many Castle Town refugees spoke tales of how tricky and untrustworthy your kind is. It is possible you are powerful enough to fool even Zelda and her piece of the Triforce. Nothing you say can convince me of your innocence, for if you were truly on our side, you have turned against Ganondorf the second he ordered you to kill me!"

White-hot rage and pain swept through me. My anguished fury must have been apparent in my eyes, for Link recoiled slightly in shock, sky blue irises wide. Fueled by the potent emotions coursing through my veins, I grabbed the hand at my throat and twisted, simultaneously kicking him in the back of the head. Grabbing the dazed Hylian by the forearm, I wrenched him to the side, dislodging him from my chest and throwing him to the ground. Before he could recover, I was over him, shackling his wrists above his head and trapping his legs between my knees.

"Foolish boy!" I snarled furiously, slamming him back into the ground when he tried to sit up. "Had I control of my own body, do you not think I would have defied Ganondorf? You asked me once if I was a slave. Well, the answer is yes, I am."

Abruptly, Link stopped struggling, lying still beneath me. An unreadable emotion flickered through his celestial eyes. Now that I had his wary attention, I explained, panting harshly, "As you know, the Sheikah loyally serve the Royal Family. Most tribe members are free to come and go as they please, but not the Warriors like Impa and I. Unlike the other Sheikah, we are born with a number of special attributes that differentiate from the rest of the tribe… and with them there is a whole separate set of rules and restrictions set upon us from birth. The Warrior Code relevant to this conversation is our most closely guarded secret, the secret of the blood bond.

"When a Sheikah Warrior becomes the Guardian of a Royal Family member, he or she is required to pledge their body, heart, soul and blood to their new master. I will not delve into the ancient binding ritual we must endure, for the most important aspect is the end result: an unbreakable bond of Sheikah shadow and blood magic that ties the servant to his master. Only death can sever this bond. Any direct command by the Sheikah's master must be obeyed, whether the Warrior wishes to oblige or not." Meeting Link's eyes, I said slowly, clearly, "If we try to defy our masters' orders, the magic of the blood bond will seize control and force us to obey, even against our will."

Horror widened Link's eyes. His breathing was so shallow he seemed to be waiting with baited breath to hear my next words. Finally, I had his full, cooperative attention. Although it was hidden to him, I smiled bitterly behind my cowl. "As you can imagine, normal slaves have more free will than us bound Sheikah warriors."

"Are you… are you bound to Zelda?" Link asked suddenly, speaking the first civil words to me since I entered the graveyard, since the blood bond forced me to fight him even.

"I am," I confirmed grimly. "And, up until the night of his fall, to Ganondorf as well."

When Link did not attack me for admitting a connection to the Gerudo king, I deemed him calm enough to release. Freeing his hands, I stood and Link sat up, watching me intently. I crossed my arms over my chest and turned my back to him, speaking to the Shadow Temple. "With the princess, I seldom felt the restriction of my blood bond, particularly during the early years. She rarely ever issued a command when we were children. But when Ganondorf launched his bloody coup d'état on Hyrule Castle and seized the Triforce, everything changed. Two years after you vanished, Impa insisted we could no longer afford to wait for you. Ganondorf had very nearly discovered our whereabouts on multiple occasions, and she believed immediate action was necessary. Impa decided we needed a man on the inside, to lead Ganondorf astray and uncover his secrets. She volunteered me... and only me. Princess Zelda was opposed to the idea, but in time, she agreed and issued me her first true command: infiltrate Ganondorf's castle."

Sighing, I bowed my head, closing my eyes. "We could have never predicted what happened next. At first, Ganondorf was wary of me, for I carry the Crest of the Royal Family on my flesh. My story was that I once served the Royal Family, but a betrayal turned me against them and I longed for revenge. He was skeptical and insisted that if I truly wished to serve him, I must forge a blood bond to him. What shocked me even more than his knowledge of our most closely kept secret and the capability to serve more than one master was learning a blood bond could be forged with a non-Hylian race. Before, we believed the feat to be impossible. But I had no choice. Backing down would have cost me my life, and more importantly, Princess Zelda's freedom. So I reluctantly agreed."

Turning around the face Link once again, I met his wide eyes as I narrated, "Being bonded to both Princess Zelda and Ganondorf caused a great deal of strife and finagling to keep my true loyalties secret. I became a master of finding loopholes in Ganondorf's commands or interpreting them in my own way to fool the blood bond. Until the night of his downfall, my bond with him never created any severe consequences."

At these words, Link visibly stiffened, and sat up a little straighter. His eyes frosted over slightly. However, they were no longer the twin chunks of ice they had been when I first arrived. His distrust and anger at me was beginning to melt away. The knowledge heartened me.

Lifting my eyes to the full moon, I silently prayed for strength: from the moon, from the Goddesses, from my Sheikah ancestors… any supernatural entity who would listen, really. For I knew if I was to regain Link's trust and friendship, I would need to be truthful and reveal all the atrocious events of that bleak night. Only the whole truth would convince the Hylian of my sincerity, my sacrifices and my innocence. Arms tightening over my chest, my hands balled into fists against my ribs. I had never planned to reveal to Link what I had endured, but coupled with the blood bond's possession, the knowledge of my sacrifice would offer a much stronger, convincing defense.

"That night, I awaited the princess's Light Arrow to signal the time when I was to meet you at the entrance and guide you through the Tower. But when Ganondorf kidnapped her, I hurried to his quarters to help in any way I could. Initially, I did not know what to do. Ganondorf still did not know of my true allegiance, and Princess Zelda revealed nothing of my loyalty to her, letting the King of Evil delude himself into thinking he held all the cards. So I clung to the edge, awaiting an order, a word, a glance, anything. Then, to my horror, Ganondorf advanced on the princess, intending to force himself upon her."

"What?" Link demanded in outraged alarm, springing to his feet, tensed for battle. "Ganondorf…! He… he… raped Zelda?"

"No," I cut in smoothly, stemming the Hylian's appalled stammers. "No, Princess Zelda's honor remains intact. I swiftly removed that threat from her." Breathing deeply to steady myself, I confessed, "I was the one who weathered Ganondorf's lusty advances in the princess's stead."

The infuriated red flush permeating Link's handsome face abruptly drained, leaving his sun-kissed skin unhealthily sallow. All the ice melted from his crystal blue eyes, leaving only horror and dumbfounded shock in its wake.

"You... that cannot be..." the warrior whispered, shaking his head slowly, aghast. "He didn't... you could not have... could not have let him..."

"But I did," I confirmed resolutely, meeting his horrified gaze unwaveringly. "It was either me or Princess Zelda. The choice was a simple one. I am speaking the truth, Hero. Only a fool would bluff twice, especially when there is a person who could easily call them. As much as it pains me to admit, the princess can also confirm the authenticity of this claim. She witnessed the entire... punishment."

Suddenly, Link's alarm cleared away to stormy anger, his expression turning deadly. For a moment, I feared he did not believe me and the anger was a return of his distrust. But then, he shouted furiously, "That filthy, evil bastard! How could he do that to you? It is deplorable! Does his wickedness know no bounds? Farore's Wind, if only I had known! Sheik, I-"

Holding a hand up, I cut off Link's words, and he seemed to relax a little, watching me expectantly. Behind the cowl, I smiled softly, my heart soaring at his indignant, concerned reaction.

"Please, do not pity me, Hero," I murmured quietly, lowering my eyes from the moon to meet his eyes. Unconsciously, I reached out to touch his shoulder, but withdrew, unsure if I was allowed to touch him again. "I appreciated the sympathy, but there is no need for it. It is my duty to protect you and the princess, and I would gladly sacrifice myself for you two, no matter the situation. Besides, in the five years I served under him, I have grown accustomed to Ganondorf's preference for sexual punishment. It was nothing I had not already experienced."

By the time I finished, the Hylian's face was ashen. Again, he feebly tried to speak, "Sheik…"

Swiftly, I interrupted, completing my tale, "Afterwards, Ganondorf ordered me to kill you, and although I fought against his command with all my might, the blood bond was stronger. Weakened as I was, I could not resist." Gazing directly into Link's eyes, I explained, "I found only one loophole in Ganondorf's command: he never ordered me to stay alive long enough to kill you. That is why, when we finally met each other on the steps, I spoke such harsh words to you, begged you to run or to end my life. I was trying to chase you away from me, or else infuriate you so you would abandon or kill me. Anything to stop the blood bond from murdering you. But you would not leave, and when Ganondorf called out to me again, the blood bond seized control of my body. It possessed me, and I was helpless to stop myself from attacking. Then, at the last possible second, before the final blow could fall, I regained control. Then, I did what no Sheikah had ever done before… I defied a direct command, and shattered my blood bond with Ganondorf. The next thing I knew, I was waking up in Kakariko, bandaged and bruised, hearing Princess Zelda allude to how you hated me."

Turning to face him, I took a hesitant step toward Link, my gaze never once straying from his blue eyes. "Please forgive me, Hero. Yes, I betrayed you, but it was not me. Every second of our fight, my heart and soul screamed and bled, torn to shreds for what I was forced to do. Every second of our battle, I fought against the blood bond, trying to stop myself. Now I see I should have warned you of my bondage prior to that night. Had I not been so secretive about it, none of this would have happened and-"

Suddenly, Link grabbed me and bodily yanked me to him, his arms closing around me in a bone-crushing hug. Blinking in surprise, I could only stare in alarm at the long, pierced ear by my nose, numbly feeling his strong arms encircling me. Then my mind caught up with the situation, and my body immediately relaxed, my heart tripping over itself. I could have cried with joy. I had succeeded; Link forgave me. The aching weight in my heart lifted, filling me with such an intense lightness I felt as if I could sprout wings and fly. Smiling, I locked my arms around Link's back, and I dropped my forehead to his broad shoulder, holding to him to me like I would never let go. Drinking in the moment, I savored every sensation of his embrace, the power of his arms, the heat of his body, the smell of his skin.

"I cannot tell you how sorry I am, Sheik," Link whispered, voice thick with chagrin. His arms tightened marginally around me. "You were right. I let pain and feelings of betrayal cloud my logic. I should never have doubted you. I am so sorry. Please forgive me."

Reluctantly, I withdrew from the Hylian to lay a tender hand on his shoulder. "You already have my forgiveness, my friend," I told him kindly. "There is no need to apologize."

"No. There is," Link insisted urgently, stepping closer to me, our bodies brushing. My heart fluttered, beating at a frenzied pace. "What I said about you and your tribe… how you were nothing but Ganondorf's shadow… I apologize. I did not mean any of it. I was merely lashing out, acting like a child by trying to hurt you to ease the ache in my foolish heart."

Unconsciously, my back stiffened, and a sigh pushed past my lips. "It is quite alright, Hero," I assured him blandly, wearily. "Insincere or not, your comment is, in reality, startlingly accurate. The Sheikah are beings of darkness, and as such, we are doomed to forever walk behind creatures of light, our casters, the Hylians. As a member of that Tribe, I, too, am a shadow, and therefore do not possess a will of my own. My body, blood and soul belong to my masters. Though I am not evil, I am nothing more than a shadow."

Darting forward, Link seized me by the shoulders tightly by the shoulders. I winced slightly as his fingers dug into my bruises, but the alarmed, stricken expression on the hero's face banished the pain from my mind.

"How can you believe that?" he demanded, voice anguished. "You are a person, Sheik, same as me! To say you have no will of your own, no body, no purpose but to serve the Hylians... it's just... it is just so sad..."

I smiled forlornly behind the cowl, gently prying Link's hands from me. "You are kind, Hero," I murmured fondly, gazing into cerulean eyes swimming with childlike sadness. "Kind, but naïve. A slave is nothing more than property, an object. And make no mistake, I am a slave. Perhaps not to Zelda, but I was to Ganondorf and I am to the Hylians. Even the poorest civilians of your race hold a higher social status than I. You would be hard-pressed to find a Sheikah who does not think of himself as a mere shadow. We all suffer from an identity crisis of sorts, particularly us Warriors. We are born with our own personalities, yes, but then we must obey the rigid codes of our Tribe, conform to the expectations of the Royal Family, abide by Hylian customs while remaining true to our culture, and endure the stereotypes and the distrust of the other races. And for us bound Warriors, the blood bond reduces us to mindless, obedient slaves. With all the different personas thrust upon us, it is a rare find indeed to meet a Sheikah who has firmly-grounded sense of self."

"But why?" Link questioned, bewildered and intensely distressed. "Why must the Sheikah suffer this way? Why are you not free to do as you please and are bound to serve the Hylians?"

"Because that is the way Farore created us," I responded simply, lifting my gaze to the darkened heavens. "You have heard the townsfolk refer to us as the 'Shadows of the Hylians.' Well, this is not merely a phrase; it is in the history of our creation. The legend goes, back when the world was young, after Din had cultivated the land of Hyrule and Nayru had implemented the natural law, Farore filled the world with living creatures. After plants and animals, she created Hyrule's great races from the elements – the Zora from ice and Water; the Gorons from stone and Fire; the Gerudo from sand and Spirit; Kokiri from trees and Earth; the Hylians from Light and her own flesh.

"However, she could not master Shadow. Nothing concrete would form from shadows and night. When she tried to bind Shadow to a piece of herself as she had done with Light to create the Hylians, the golden brilliance of her body burned away the darkness. She then attempted to combine the elements together, hoping it would give Shadows a form. Instead of a Shadow race, her experiment yielded the creation of humans, a weak race containing a fraction of each element. Then, Farore suddenly noticed how the sun cast shadows upon the ground, and realized that Light and Shadow were two parts of a whole, that one would not exist without the other. Her body might have been too radiant for Shadow, but her race of Light was a far dimmer version of herself. So, she dove in again, this time combining Shadow with the blood, flesh and bone of a Hylian man and woman. And thus, the first Sheikah man and woman were created: the antithesis of Hylians, their shadows in every way, a washed-out version of Farore's chosen race. In an unforeseen consequence, rather than existing as an independent race like the others, the Sheikah clung to the Hylians – their substance, their parents, their masters – as servants and protectors, following them as our shadows follow our every move."

Returning my stare to earth and to Link, I finished, "That is why we are bound to serve you. Without the Hylians, we would have never been born. Without substance, we cannot exist. You are our essence, our creators, and as such, we obey you as a child obeys his parents, as we all obey the wishes of the Goddesses. We are all born with the sole purpose to serve the Hylians. But while other Sheikah are free to pursue their passions, we Warriors have no choice but to become soldiers. We are not allowed to have dreams of another life, and we are all conditioned to behave the same. Throw in the blood bond and what little of our own identity we still retain is eradicated."

Gripping Link tightly by the arms, I peered intently into his celestial eyes, immersing myself in their aquamarine depths, as if I had flung myself from a mountain peak and was surrounded by nothing but blue sky as I fell to earth.

"That is why I was so desperate not to lose your friendship, to lose you. Other than Princess Zelda, you are the only other person who does not look at me like an object. To you, I am not the Guardian of Princess Zelda, the favorite spy of Ganondorf, or the Guide of the Hero of Time. To you, I am Sheik. You have always seen me as a person, even though I cannot see it myself..." I released the warrior, turning away from him and murmuring pensively to myself, "With so many different, contradicting personas I… I do not even know who I am… which identity is the real me…."

Though I could not see him, I could feel Link's eyes on me, gentle and meditative. A warm, calloused hand touched my arm, and I peered over my shoulder at him. His blue eyes were bright and eager. "Perhaps we can find out together."

Confused, I frowned behind my cowl, and asked, "What do you mean?"

"The many roles you have played over the years have confused you, and you lost yourself. You cannot see beyond your nineteen-year-old interpretations, opinions and conceptions of your past, and therefore, cannot see your true self. But I – an outsider with no prior knowledge of your past, unburdened by the troubles and concerns that cloud your vision – can help you cut through the fog hiding your identity. Share your past with me, Sheik, so I may create my own opinions and pick up on details you have overlooked so you might rediscover yourself, and see you are not just a shadow." When I raised a skeptical eyebrow, Link urged. "Trust me."

Sighing, I lowered myself to ground, crossing my legs and balancing my elbows on my knees. "Very well," I surrendered, "Make yourself comfortable, Hero, for my past is no short tale."


foh'dwar = an affectionate term for an elder brother, like the Japanese onii-chan.

htram'dwar = little brother

dafiddma = orphan

chab'uhcac = an offensive name, literally means "little shit."

bam'dirac = a derogatory name for homosexuals, literally means "boy-lover."

Dlynos de Irc'deaw = "The Night of Bloody Tears."

wrat'uhcac = a curse similar to bullshit

This chapter was originally much shorter than it is now. The first version of it focused merely on Sheik waking up after the night of Ganondorf's fall. It ended when Sheik hopped out the window, bound for the graveyard to speak with Link. However, I thought I'd be nice and give you guys a little Link and Sheik action so the chapter wouldn't be quite so boring. =)

I case you all haven't noticed yet, I have a bit of a love affair with the conflict of shadow verus light. It has always fascinated me, and I am thoroughly enjoying exploring it via Link and Sheik's relationship, since it falls perfectly into this.

I got the idea of the Great Betrayal from the Ocarina of Time manga. What exactly it is that caused Zelda's grandfather to kill off the Sheikah... well, I won't reveal that secret in this story. I am planning on writing another Sheik and Link story, a sequel of sorts, only in the Twilight Princess world, as that betrayal (in my world/interpretation of the Zelda world) directly correlates with the plot of the TP game and my fanfiction. However, as I plan on that being an even longer fic than this, have a Mortal Instruments oneshot in the works, have the real world to deal with, and am a notoriously slow writer, it all depends on whether or not I have time to write it. Ideally, I'd like to, but realistically, I don't know if I can, since I also have original works that need my attention (especially since I'm hoping to publish them so I can make a living =P).

The end of this chapter was particularly difficult to write. I'm still not sure I properly explained why my version of the Sheikah are bound to serve the Hylians, but that's the best I can do. As for the story of their creation, I totally pulled that out of my ass. There was NO Wikipedia referencing with that one. That was all out my head and my mythology-obsessed brain.

Also, now that I've reached this point, I'd like to take my time to explain my vision of the Sheikah. Since, in my world, they were created from the Hylians, I didn't want to make their appearances the 'negative' so to speak of the Hylians, even though their elements opposite. As in, I didn't want to give them black hair and such, because that's too clichéd for Shadow creatures. Instead, I wanted them to literally be a shadows of the Hylians, a washed-out, almost invisible version. That's why I give them white or silver hair, since those colors are the "washed-out" version of the vibrant blond and black hair of the Hylians.

One more chapter after this. And then you all get to read the yummy lemon scene between Link and Sheik, the sole reason this fic is rated M. I will admit I'm a bit nervous about posting my first yaoi lemon, and I sincerely hope I do not disappoint you, my lovely, cherished readers. As always, if you enjoyed the chapter, leave a review to let me know. Your comments always bring warmth to my heart =)