My hands slip through strands of black, through hair belonging to a face I no longer recognize. All that I learned from Zelda, I have applied to myself. My eyes, my body, my birthright, all are hidden so that I might walk among my companions without scrutiny. My given name I no longer remember it. So long has it been since any who mattered knew me by it.
They call me Ashei.
Auru, Renado, Shad, three who would think to call me their friend, three who would seek to thwart the King of Darkness without need for the cycle. They are the bravest people I have ever known. They stand defiant in the face of an overwhelming power, a hunger that would stretch across fields, across deserts, across mountains.
Were the cycle to falter, were the hero to fall, I would trust the future to them.
Yet here I stand: An imposter.
I wear armor of gold I'd like best never to use. In my hand, a blade I shall never touch. The cycle binds us all. Only I understand this, only I can comprehend the power it holds over us. We will never change it. We will never come close. So many times have I thought to end this façade, this charade, this mask of defiance.
My life remains an unending chapter, a story with no resolution. Those around me will die with grace. They will die surrounded on all sides by loved ones, by family. I will have no such luxury. I will have no such death. I shall walk beside them till the end, only to continue into the next generation as the old one passes into the earth.
Why must I live while others perish?
My mothermy fatherthey aged as they should have, passed into the final years as one. They lived as one. Fought as one. Loved as one. Never were they forced to extend their lives for the sake of another, for the sake of a kingdom. Why do I remain in my youth, some unnatural of the fey?
The sword is drawn back to its sheath.
I exit the room with the practiced routine of a mountain woman. I stand tall; I dominate whatever room I enter. But as I enter this room, as I see my companions gathered around the map, my gait slackens.
I've watched him since he was a boy, watched as his life followed the same twists and turns, watched as he came close to love, but hungered for something more. But I could not prepare myself for first sight, for seeing my father once again in the flesh, once again taking on the hero's mantle.
He casts a gaze across the room, passing over Telma, ending on me. Blue eyes. My father's eyes. He is the spitting image of the great hero, tunic's natural green darkened by blood stains and dirt smudges. It is so familiar, a callback to another time, another age, another cycle.