A Champion’s Burden (BotW Fanfic)

This is a repost of a Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild fanfic that Six wrote on 12/19/17.

It was easy to get lost in your thoughts when sharpening your weapon. The traveler knew this better than most, as they were both more prone to sinking into memory, and to sharpening a blade in any quiet moment of waiting. Rain was the most common reason, as was the case now: rainfall meant slippery handhelds, making climbing impractical if not dangerous. And so they sat at the bottom of a cliff, underneath a small underhang, sharpening a sword and waiting for the rain to let up.

The Master Sword barely needed sharpening to begin with, as the magics within it kept it keen through years, with only centuries being enough to dull its edge. Still, for the traveler it was prayer and meditation both to sharpen the blade of evil’s bane: respect paid to the ancient artifact, and the tradition it represented, as well as a chance to remember all those the blade had seen fade away. It was nice to think that once the Master Sword was found, evil was done and gone, but reality wasn’t that pretty. Even in skilled hands, countless died before the sword was finally able to seal away the darkness each time. This time… well, that sealing had yet to occur.

The sound of footsteps outside, barely audible through the rain, was still enough to break the traveler from their trance. A gloved hand held the Master Sword by its sheath, and then secured it via backstrap. “It will be Bokoblins, I expect,” mused Mipha, pushing back the hood of her cloak, and grabbing her trident. On her back, the Master Sword gleamed: well maintained, ready for battle, and useless to the Zora. She narrowed her eyes, and rushed out to meet her enemies.

The battle was short, and uneventful: the Zora Princess had fought a dozen such groups of roaming monsters on this leg of her journey alone. The only blessing was that just before she struck the last blow, the rain finally let up. As much as Mipha liked the feel of rain on her skin, she had somewhere to be, and no longer hindered by precipitation, she summited the cliff in short order. 

From there, it was a short walk to the stream that ran parallel to the cliffside. Before her journey started, years ago, she mostly stuck to water-based routes: after all, swimming was so much faster than climbing for a Zora. It was around this natural advantage that the Zora had built their kingdom and trade routes, and their princess had never had a reason to stray from it in her youth. But a lot of things changed when Calamity Ganon rose, and Mipha’s travels since took her away from water more often than not. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, and it was with warmth and comfort that she slipped into the stream, and made her way down its length.

The monsters were only getting bolder with the passing years. They still didn’t dare attack a settlement directly, but camps and trading outposts were once safe, and were no longer. Roads that Mipha used to walk in peace were now places of danger, where she had to remain alert for an ambush at all times. The water was the only place where she still felt truly safe. There were monsters that took to the water as well, of course, but none could even dream of the speeds a Zora could achieve. Water belonged to the Zora, and it would be many years yet before Ganon’s minions had any way of challenging that. She was loathe to leave its tranquil depths, but she had reached her destination, and dawdling wouldn’t solve anything… tempting as it was.

Her arrival in town was always a strange affair. The children were always excited by the sight of a visitor, especially a non-Hylian. The adults, on the other hand, had seen her visits before: they’d been children for one visit, teenagers for another, young adults for yet another. In every Hylian village, every few years, she would arrive, and her visit was a somber moment. None resented her for the visits, as far as she knew: they all seemed to understand the necessity, and hoped for the same outcome she did. Yet when it did not come, year after year, they grew distant and wistful. They treated her with kindness and pity, but her visit was not a cause for celebration. It was a reminder that the world was about to end.

“Hey! Hey! What’s that sword?” asked one child enthusiastically, hopping up and down.

His friend flicked him behind the ear. “You dummy: that’s the Master Sword,” declared the friend irritably. “Don’t you know who that is?”

The first child rubbed the side of his head unhappily. “Don’t call me a dummy! How should I know who that lady is?”

“Do your parents never tell you anything? That’s Princess Mipha! She’s a hero!” The know-it-all’s eyes shimmered. “And she goes around looking for the next, uh… sword person!”

Mipha smiled. “That’s right. I’m looking for someone who can wield the Master Sword. Because if I find them, they can save the world.” She dropped to one knee, and pulled the Master Sword off her back. She cradled it in both hands by its sheath, careful not to directly touch the grip. “You two are a little too young, but if you have any big brothers or sisters, they’re welcome to see if the Sword finds them worthy.”

A young woman stepped forward hesitantly, her eyes uncertain. “I want to try. I want to… to help. What do I do?”

“Simply reach out to the Master Sword, and place your hand upon it. If it starts to feel wrong as you get close, don’t fight it: if you touch it and it doesn’t want you to, it will give you a piece of its mind.” Mipha’s eyes looked sad. “It is not a pleasant experience.”

The girl nodded, and began to reach out towards the sword. Closer, closer… and then she stopped, and jerked her hand back. “Ah…! It… it shocked me a little….”

The princess smiled again. “You were wise to pull your hand back so quickly. Perhaps it thinks you’re still not ready. If I come back in a few years, you’re welcome to try again.” She didn’t know if that was how it worked, of course. Did the Master Sword change its mind with time, or did it know if you were the one, or if you weren’t, once and for all? She’d never once seen anyone be found worthy, so the rules were hard to know.

Her eyes downcast, the girl stepped back. “Wasn’t there… didn’t this sword belong to a champion? What happened to him?”

Mipha’s thumbs ran idly across the surface of the sword’s sheath. “That man… was my husband. He fell protecting me from the Calamity. That is why the duty is mine, to find the new bearer.” He only died because I wasn’t strong enough, she thought. A few more tried their luck with the sword, and then Mipha looked around at the small crowd around her. “I had heard there was a young boy in this village training to be a knight… is he here?”

“Link?” asked one of the kids. Mipha’s heart skipped a beat at the name. “No, he’s off training, I bet- probably over behind the general store. He’s always there.”

“Thank you,” said Mipha, rising to her feet, and securing the sword on her back. “I think I will go see if he wants to try the sword.”

The crowd parted to let her through, the children disappointed but accepting. Passing through town, she felt like a ghost: the adults of the village would step out of her way without word or eye contact, silently letting her pass. No one had anything left to say to her: she’d done this so many times now, to the same results. The rare occasion where someone reacted to her was worse: people had cried for her, begged her to stop, like she was some tragic figure. Like her visits were pointless, and only serving to prolong pointless hope. Mipha knew better. It had been decades… coming on a hundred years now, actually. But even still, one day, she would find the Master Sword’s destined wielder. Perhaps even today.

“Are you Link?” she asked. The boy turned to face her, and for a moment, Mipha froze: it was uncanny. Dirty blond hair, piercing blue eyes, a practice sword clutched in one hand. The young Hylian was the absolute spitting image of the boy who’d walked into Zora’s Domain a century ago. The boy she’d fallen in love with.

The boy studied her for a moment before answering. “…Yeah.”

With practiced ease, Mipha dropped to one knee, and offered the Master Sword. “My name is Mipha. I have been traveling for years to find the one destined to wield the Master Sword. I was wondering if you’d be willing to try.”

“I… I know who you are,” answered the boy, taking a step back. “I’ve heard stories… about you, and about the Champion.”

Mipha smiled comfortingly at him. “Will you try? Will you become our new Champion?”

The boy closed his eyes, and Mipha heard him trying to get his breathing back under control. “I… yeah, I… oh, goddess, I thought I was ready for this.” He put a hand on his chest, as if to suppress his racing heart. “What… happens? If I… if it really accepts me, what will it look like?”

“Well, the first sign will be that it doesn’t try to shoo you off,” noted Mipha in what she hoped was a reassuring tone. “But then… when you place your hand upon the grip, you should feel its warmth, and then the sword should start to glow blue, as though with flame.”

“Okay.” The boy nodded, and didn’t move. “Okay. Okay. I can do this.” He took a huge breath, opened his eyes, and stepped forward. “I can… I can save everyone. I can be a hero. I just… need this sword.” His blue eyes locked on the Master Sword’s blue hilt, and he reached out.

There was a crackle in the air, a shift of pressure, as his hand drew nearer, and Mipha’s eyes grew wide. A centimeter away, his hand stopped, and drew back the slightest bit… then he grabbed the sword by the grip.

There was a beat. Then there was a bang, and the boy was sent flying away from the sword with a cry of pain.

“My hand!” he gasped, his legs sprawled out on the ground. He stared at the burn on his hand for a moment in disbelief, and then he closed his eyes, and began to cry as Mipha rushed over to him. “I’m sorry… I’m sorry… I’m sorry…” he sobbed.

“Shhh… shhh, it’s okay,” said Mipha softly, and she reached out, healing magic flowing from her fingers. “It’s okay. You tried: you were very brave.”

“This was supposed to be it!” he cried, distraught. “I’ve been practicing all this time, and my parents told me stories… about the Champion, about the sword. They named me after him! I was… I was supposed to save everybody! I was supposed to be able to help!”

The burn on his hand healed quickly under the watery glow of Mipha’s magic. “It wasn’t your burden to bear, young Link,” she told him, her eyes fixed on the wound unblinking. “It’s okay now. You can still help. You can still be a hero. The Sword is just one way. You can find another.”

He looks just like him, she thought. He has the same name. He should have been the one. How could he have not been the one?

“Is everything alright?!” exclaimed a man with a large backpack, poking his head around the corner. “I heard the bang: did something happen?” His eyes fell on the Master Sword, and then slid to the boy. “Oh… oh. I see…” he declared in hushed tones.

“There,” said Mipha, “you’re all better now.” She helped Link to his feet, and handed him his practice sword, that he had discarded. “You’ve got a lot of talent: I think you’ll be a real hero one day. Keep practicing, and make your family proud.” The boy nodded, but he was clearly still in shock from his failure.

“Is it always like this?” asked the man with the backpack as Mipha gathered her things. “Everywhere you go, people trying, failing, and the failure destroying them? I’m just a traveling merchant, I’ve never been in a town at the same time you visited before, but this seems… grim.”

“I wish they could keep their hope,” said Mipha sadly. “As long as you haven’t tried the Sword, you can always believe that maybe you’d be accepted. It’s very hard on them to know, definitively, that they’ve been rejected.”

“And hard on you, I have to imagine, if it’s like this everywhere you go!” exclaimed the man. “Why don’t you take a day or two at the inn? Get some rest. They wouldn’t charge you, I’m sure: you’re a hero, on a quest to save the world. You have to take care of yourself. A burden like this will kill you, if you’re not careful.”

Mipha shook her head as she re-secured the Master Sword. “I really can’t afford to. Maybe… maybe at the next town. But there’s so much to do, and so little time.” It was impossible to see the castle from here, but wherever she was, Mipha knew the direction of the castle. Her eyes looked toward it. “Princess Zelda can only hold the Calamity back for so long. We need a new Champion. I cannot dawdle.”

“No, please. Take a load off. I’ll have… to insist!

Of course. She should have known. The Yiga Clan hadn’t bothered her in almost a month: they must have been waiting for an opportunity. The allies of Ganon wouldn’t have given up on stopping her journey. Time seemed to move more slowly as the merchant’s disguise fell away to reveal the assassin, lunging forward with blade in hand. Her trident was too far away. Without thinking, her hand went to her back, and closed on the grip of the Master Sword.

Link’s stunned daze ended as he saw the assassin lunge forward, and he opened his mouth to shout as he saw the Princess reach up for the Master Sword. The moment her hand closed on the Sword, it happened: the entire weapon lit up bright blue, flickering with an intense aura as though wreathed in flames. The Sword was answering its destined wielder. It was ready to fight.

The sword was on the Zora’s back: she saw none of this. Flinching, she let go of the sword, and rolled out of the way of the assassin’s attack. “HEY!” yelled Link. “GUARDS! A BANDIT!”

The assassin swore, and stared at Mipha, who had managed to grab her trident. “We’ll have to finish this later, princess. The Master Sword will not escape Yiga Clan hands for much longer!” There was a puff of smoke, and he was gone.

Mipha let out a sigh of relief. “Thank you for scaring him off. I didn’t want to fight him.”

Link nodded carefully. “You probably know, since you’ve visited before, but… this town doesn’t have guards. So you’re okay: no one’s probably coming. Especially this close to the edge of town.” He hesitated: he knew what he’d seen, but if the princess hadn’t seen it, there’s no way she would believe him. “Have you ever tried to wield the Master Sword yourself?”

Mipha’s slight, sad smile came back. “It’s not my place to. The prophecy says that the Calamity will be defeated by a Hylian bearing a sword that banishes the darkness. I am no Hylian: the sword is not mine to wield.”

“Y-yeah, but…!” exclaimed Link, frustrated. “But what if the prophecy’s wrong?! What if they made a mistake? It could be you all along, and you never tried it!”

The Zora bent down toward him, her eyes soft and comforting. “I know it’s frustrating to have to wait for the true wielder to appear. But the prophecy has kept Hyrule safe for thousands of years. It would be silly of us to start doubting it now, just because things have gotten hard.” She patted his head. “Thank you for believing in me, though.”

The boy didn’t know what else to say, and was silent as the princess turned to leave. “I do hope I find the new Champion soon, though,” Mipha admitted. “Princess Zelda can only hold the Calamity back for so long, even with my brother and Ruta’s help… but I suppose that’s all the more reason to hurry.” She looked back at the boy, her eyes compassionate. “I’ll be back in this village in three years, if I don’t find the Champion by then. Maybe you’re just not old enough. Maybe you’ll be ready then.”

The princess walked out of town slowly, her steps heavy but inevitable. And on her back, the Master Sword rested… waiting for her to understand.