This story is rated M for future content. However, as it starts when Zelda is a sheltered little ten-year-old princess, you won't be seeing anything hardcore for quite a while. I actually have no clue where I'm going with this, but as I started typing and ended up at, uh... -checks- thirty-one pages without even noticing, I figure my muse for this particularly story is well stocked.
I have never once, in either games or manga or fanfiction, encountered a truly well-developed Zelda. She is usually portrayed as... well, insipid. It seems a great shame, considering the whole series is named after her. So call this my attempt at a believable Zelda, one worth rooting for and respecting. One that you can actually believe was Sheik (because we were all thinking "no fricken way she was that bad ass" when she was making embarrassingly orgasmic gasps on the way down Ganon's Magical Collapsing Castle.)
So I hope you like it! If you catch any typos or grammatical errors I will be very grateful if you will kindly point them out to me. Feedback and constructive criticism is highly appreciated.
I balled my silk slippers in my hand and proceeded to add them to the mass that was my silk stockings. Finally barefoot and barelegged, I pulled my long skirt up to my knees and scooted further toward the little moat that circled the private courtyard. I held my heels just above the chill trickling water and watched their wavering reflection below. Spring. It was my favourite season. I think that whatever season a person is born in is bound to be their favourite. The Crown Princess of Hyrule happened to be born in the spring; and her birth happened to mark the death of her mother, too. It didn’t taint the season, to me. I could just imagine that she was in the gentle breezes and that her whispers were the patter of rain.
The Queen’s death provided an excellent excuse for the nursemaids:
“She’s a wild child,” Mima would say. “But she lost her mother, poor dear; she must be forgiven.” I was fine with this arrangement. It meant that I could occasionally stomp on a puddle of mud or run too quickly through the long halls and muss the carpets, and I had an excuse. I had never known my mother, so it was difficult to miss her. I had the endless parade of maids, chambermaids, nursemaids… and Impa.
Impa was a constant. She was my protector in a sense I never fully understood in my younger years, but also my teacher. She taught me history, law, languages, customs… and other, secret things. When I had first begun to see little bits of my dreams manifest in the waking world, it had been she who explained to me the art of prophetic visions and helped me to distinguish prophecy from regular nighttime whimsy. My father’s mother had had them too, she said. It was an heirloom of sorts among the women of the royal family.
While Impa supervised these areas of my education, other aspects were reserved for various instructors chosen for employ by my father. My dancing master, Pierset, was as tall and thin as a reed and flowed as gracefully around the dance floor. I had a Mistress of Ceremonies, who along with her staff endeavoured to ensure that I display only the perfect etiquette at all times. The rest were peripheral and dealt with me very little on a personal level, however hard I sometimes tried to engage them. I had never even met the man who balanced my household accounts.
My life was a progression of days, broken up by the odd event. I was old enough to be brought before my father to give a curtsy and receive a pat, but not old enough to attend festivals or official events. I was the light of my father’s world, but very rarely did he find time to spend with me alone. Even when it was just he and I, our entourages together formed a formidable party. Still, he found time to occasionally supervise my learning to ride and once and a while I was surprised during a lesson; my father would swoop in like a burst of golden light, tall and infinitely handsome, and lift me into his arms and out of the schoolroom to play in the flowers. King Antoneas II was famous for his good looks – golden hair and a trim beard, a strong jaw and sparkling brown eyes, and he was always fit from hunts and sporting – and his kindly nature, but also for his bravery and decisiveness in the face of adversity.
The Civil War of Hyrule concluded a year and a half before my birth. By the time I was old enough to notice, the kingdom was for the most part stable, and quite a bit of rebuilding had already been done. My father had managed, with the blessing of the Goddesses, to conquer and unite the land of Hyrule, which had hitherto been a struggling confederation of small kingdoms. Surprising everyone, he had allowed each respective kingdom to keep their land and their monarchs, their customs and languages; taxes imposed reflected only the upkeep of an armed force dedicated by region in case of attack. I had good reason to be proud of my father. Certain areas, however, remained in doubt. Because the desert to the west – the land of the Gerudo – had provided the fiercest and longest sustained threat to the union of Hyrule, and upsets still occurred there regularly, it was there that reconciliation efforts were directed for most of my life.
I had never before, however, met their King; until my tenth birthday, that is. The dark-skinned Gerudo with their exotic golden eyes and flaming hair are made up entirely of women, save a male who is born every hundred years – this male is destined to become their King. Hylian blood is rampant among the tribe, despite the hostility borne by their women for our Hylian men; it is Hylian men who father these female children with rounded ears and red hair, though they are not allowed access to the Gerudo Desert unless they can prove their worth in battle. I had always been fascinated with the Gerudo, especially their worship of the Goddess of the Sands. Impa said that, essentially, this Goddess was Din; but the Gerudo would not acknowledge the name.
Ganondorf, King of the Gerudo, arrived with his embassy precisely the week of my birthday. Childishly, I was a little disappointed – it meant that I would have none of my father’s attention at all for at least a month. But the dark man with the evil eyes quickly captured my attention… and my concern.
Letting my feet finally fall into the water of the moat with a little ‘plop!’ I gasped at the cold. It was only because everyone was so busy with the Gerudo embassy that I was allowed these moments to myself. Impa was there somewhere, of course, watching from some unseen place. Perhaps I should regard this as my birthday present, I thought.
But the thought of the Gerudo King nagged at me. I’d had dark dreams of late, more frightening than anything I’d ever felt before. They were perfectly clear and crisp in my mind, more like memories than dreams: the dark clouds looming over the kingdom, an ill omen… feeling helpless, cold, a chill rain on my skin… indescribable fear and grief. Although Impa wasn’t one to show much emotion, I could tell that she was very concerned with this latest prophecy. We agreed on one thing: the dark clouds were manifestations of that man from the desert.
My father barely had time for me, but when I said that it was urgent, he made it; but I was dismissed with a heavy sigh when I told him the truth. I think that he needed to believe there was a chance with Ganondorf. While it brought me nothing but frustration, in retrospect I couldn’t fully understand his burden. He had experienced that horrors of war and was faced with the option of peace… and that was something that he was not going to throw blindly after a child’s nightmare. He told me that Ganondorf was a formidable man, and that I was just frightened of his appearance. It was certainly possible. I had never until then been formally introduced to the man, but I had seen him; I’d seen his towering figure, rough hands and dark armour, and the sharp menace of his gaze.
One comfort remained to me. In my dream, the dark clouds would suddenly be pierced by rays of beautiful light from the vast forest to the south. The light would solidify into a greenish shape, the figure of a child, holding a glittering green stone I recognised as the Spiritual Stone of Forest. Flittering around the child’s head would be the bright light of a fairy. Then I would sense Impa’s presence, and I would hear her whistling my lullaby, apparently to the other… and then I would wake.
My excursions to the library informed me that this figure could only possibly be one of the Kokiri, popularly believed to be nothing but myth; yet since no one returned from the depths of the enchanted woods, I could believe that such beings might go undocumented. When presented with my theory, Impa merely gave a noncommittal hum; with her, this can only mean that she is withholding information.
“Your Highness?” The voice called from behind a hedge. I recognised the voice of a younger member of my staff. She could easily be escaped or persuaded, and had thus often been of use; but I really meant her no ill will, and sometimes felt badly for the trouble I had caused her.
“I am here, Tess,” I called, and her head popped around the corner of the hedge to peer at me. Her expression was quickly overcome with horror, doubtless because of my state of undress. Although I was in play clothes, my station demanded that any outfit short of that for bathing or for sleep contain a certain amount of adornment. Although my hair was wrapped neatly beneath a cloth headpiece to keep it from becoming mussed, it was crowned with a medallion of gold; and though, against current fashion, I wore long sleeves close to my arms to ward off the pricks and catch of thorns, these sleeves were layered over with fine silk; and my dress, while loose, was belted with gold and gems. Practicality was supposedly balanced with the needs of my station, though in my opinion the outfit was neither flattering nor practical. It successfully defeated both purposes, play and presentation. Thus, I had no qualms in getting the thing dirty or in hitching my skirt up to the knees to do so.
“Where…” She spluttered, her freckled face burning. “W-where are your stockings?” Realising a little too late that she’d gotten ahead of herself, she curtsied and murmured, “Your Majesty.”
I giggled, tossing my balled up stockings and slippers at her bent form. It rolled over her back.
“Behind you!” I said, standing to prepare to run. She was no match for me – I knew these gardens like the back of my hand.
Although she was smiling (shyly), Tess fumbled after me with a desperate air. “Your Highness, please! We are to prepare you to meet the King from the desert!”
I halted in my tracks, struck by sudden fear and a thrill of… excitement, maybe. However the man worried and frightened me, he was also irresistibly fascinating. Tess gathered my discarded stockings and slippers and went to me, kneeling to replace them. I lifted one foot and then the other mechanically, my mind elsewhere. Why was I to be presented to the King now? This was highly unusual. Foreign dignitaries were not uncommon, but being personally presented at any time other than for a single minute during a feast or festival was unheard of.
“Princess?” Tess was staring at me, concerned, her hand held out to me. I placed my fingers upon her upraised palm as habit dictated, allowing her to lead me daintily from my playground and into the darkening quiet of the castle.
Several hours of bathing, dressing, hairdressing and waiting later, I stood before the entry to my father’s study. He had guests here, played cards, signed documents – obviously he was trying to make his guest feel more at ease and personally attended to. I shivered at the thought of that man spending so much time in my father’s personal spaces, which I had long regarded as impenetrable and sacred. The pages on either side of the door stared ahead and not at me, but I could feel their attention bristling. True, I was not often seen. I had my own household and staff, my own ladies and attendants, in another part of the castle – and young pageboys were very markedly absent from my world. I imagine they were more fascinated with me than I was with them. I was too occupied with the twisted knot in my stomach to give them much thought, and either way I was too young then to give more than a passing thought to the male species. From the corner of my eye I caught a glimpse of Impa, leaning against the wall in a distant shadow. She caught my eye and nodded. I nodded back, gathering my resolve.
The tap of the doorman’s staff precipitated the pages on our side opening the doors before us, and the herald announced me as I – followed by two of my ladies, one thirteen and the other eighteen, each chosen for their noble heritages and sweet dispositions to be my (often unwanted) companions – swept into the room. We curtsied before my father, who sat sprawled in a chair idly walking two fingers across his nearby globe. It was a globular map of the heavens, and one of my favourites. He straightened as we entered and with a flick of his hand, dismissed my ladies. They curtsied again and then backed from the room. The door was closed behind them. While still deep in my curtsy, I darted a quick look around beneath my lashes – and to my horror, found that aside from myself only a single page inhabited the room with the two Kings.
“Come here, my child,” laughed my father, and I felt my heart immediately lighten. I rose and looked into his face; he was regarding me with a half-smile and curiosity, as if trying to gouge my mood and encouraging me to be strong at the same time. I smiled back, going to him and offering my hand. He pressed my tiny hand between his two big ones and gave me an encouraging smile.
“My Zelda,” He whispered, and then faced the massive man who stood silhouetted by the window. I followed his gaze and gulped, my smile instantly fading. Ganondorf stood with his arms crossed, adorned as always in red cape and black armour. It seemed out of place – although the royal family wore certain pieces of armour as parts of our ceremonial garb, this man’s perpetual use of full armour was quite unusual. The Thief King was gazing at me rather intensely, a small smile of sardonic amusement on his face. He seemed to be peering at me with great interest. I felt my heart lodge in my throat. My father had to apply a surprising amount of pressure to my back to get me to take a step toward the stranger.
“Ganondorf,” my father said, jovial as always, “May I present the Crown Princess of Hyrule, the sun and moon of my world.”
Ganondorf seemed especially amused at this; but his eyes never left me. With an abruptness that made me give an involuntary jump he broke his stoic pose and knelt to one knee – though he was still taller than me even then. His face was close to mine. I offered my hand timidly, as was the custom, but found myself entirely incapable of summoning a smile. He cradled my fingers gently upon his, and my hand looked infinitesimal within his huge one.
“I have heard much of you, My Lady…” he said, his voice surprisingly smooth and pleasing. It made a tingle run up my spine. His eyes never leaving mine, he raised my hand to his lips and kissed the air above it.
“Though protestations of your beauty have been plenty…” He freed my fingers but shocked me (and my father too, I imagine) by then lifting his hand to stroke my hair. It was worn free aside from a golden gem-encrusted circlet and hung to the small of my back, in the style indicative of my maidenly virtue. When I was married, I would then wear it up. I gasped and shrunk from his hand, and Ganondorf’s deep laugh reverberated through the room. He smelled of sand, exotic fruit and rusted metal.
I turned my face away, embarrassed and unnerved, and caught sight of my father. He was tense, the lines of his smile a little too deep and his eyes hard. But he maintained a friendly stance.
“I think you’ve frightened the dear modest girl with such flattery, Brother,” he said, but I could tell that he was displeased by the exchange. He opened an arm to me, and I gladly slipped away from the desert man to stand beside him. I was trembling. The King placed a comforting hand on my elbow. The protective gesture could hardly be disguised. Ganondorf stood, that infernal smirk still upon his face and his eyes still glued to mine; when he finally managed to drag his eyes away from me, it seemed with great reluctance.
“You know, my dear, security has once again been increased on your behalf,” my father said, and I started. My warning had been heeded? But why discuss this in front of the very man my warning had concerned?
The King chuckled. “Yet another young gallant has been apprehended trying to sneak into the gardens – to catch a glimpse of you, the man claimed.”
My heart sank, though I smiled prettily. Such a thing was not an odd occurrence. At least once a year, a commoner tried to sneak into the castle (usually the gardens, famously my favourite haunt) to beg an audience with the princess. I felt it had become more of an attempt at making a joke than an actual compliment to myself or to my reputation as a beauty. It was a pity the King still regarding my grievous concerns as the idle nightmares of a little girl.
The two kings carried on an apparently friendly banter, discussing weather and sports and trade as far as I could tell, but I was concentrating far too hard on looking at anything but the man in black. I still caught his frequent glances, though, and they unnerved me. Apparently he was as fascinated with me as I was with him. I doubted he felt the same fear, however.
“What are your views on the matter, Princess?”
My attention snapped to the conversation with horror. What, precisely, was ‘the matter’? I’d missed that bit entirely. I forced myself to look up at Ganondorf. The man was far too pleased with himself.
“I must apologise, my lord. My mind has drifted elsewhere, and you must unfortunately repeat some of the conversation for my benefit.”
“So eloquent! She is a credit to you, Your Majesty.” As an afterthought, Ganondorf murmured, “We have so few women like the Hylians in the desert. These dainty creatures… so… breakable…”
My father looked brooding, but he allowed a small smile. “Indeed.”
I bit my tongue, waiting to be apprised of the topic.
“Your father and I were just discussing the issue of religious incongruity throughout the kingdom. He believes that free practice will bring less rebellion and an attitude of tolerance. I, however, think that we must acknowledge that religious difference has always brought division and strife. Would it not be better for Hyrule to unite under a single spiritual doctrine?”
I knit my brow, tongue-tied for a moment. I had certainly not been expecting this. Impa aside, I was very rarely propositioned for an opinion on such serious matters as law and religion.
My father’s laugh beside me made me grit my teeth. “I don’t think…”
Doing the unthinkable, I interrupted the king. “Surely, as the Gerudo worship the Goddess of the Sands, such a measure would be anything but beneficial to your people.”
The smirk on Ganondorf’s face was finally vanquished. “That may be so. However, it is but my duty as a loyal servant to suggest a successful path to my King. What I would do, you might say…” His eyes were too bright for such a dark colour. “…if I were in his place.”
I stiffened. I didn’t like that. I didn’t like that one bit, however innocent his wording. But best to answer his question before my father interrupted, if only to prove to him that I could give one.
“Ahum,” I said non-committally, in the manner of Impa, before moving on. To be honest, the thought of what he suggested was appalling. My heart sank at the thought of telling the Zora that as worshipping a deity other than the Goddesses, even Lord Jabu-Jabu, was blasphemy they may not make offerings. To do so would essentially destroy the ancient fish. “I feel that as little as possible should be… imposed upon the people. And either way, to put on parchment that one believes something means nothing at all to the heart or mind. Can you honestly say that if the King made it law for you to practice the Hylian religion, you would in truth be anything but a disciple of the single Goddess?”
Ganondorf smiled, crossing his arms again. Maybe the sacrilegious cur believed in nothing at all.
I went on, not to be mistaken in my conviction. “Incongruity would exist as much as ever, except that a great amount of ire would then be directed at the throne and at religious Hylians in general. Such an imposition would cause far more disharmony than religious freedom, I think. No, I am sure.”
My father stared at me with incredulous pride, but Ganondorf merely allowed his smirk to return and let his gaze travel curiously over me… again. Finally, my father slapped the arm of his chair.
“I couldn’t have said it better myself! My daughter has grown into a very wise young woman, I can see.” He turned a positively radiant smile on me. I smiled back, but the shadow of Ganondorf still loomed darkly over my mood.
“Well met, Princess,” he said simply, apparently content with the result of whatever test he had just laid out for me.
“It is growing quite late in the day, my dear,” my father said, and I had to resist sagging in relief. “You should return to your ladies,” he said, and then added as I curtsied, “With my ever-present pride and love, of course.”
I gave him a hesitant smile as I rose from my second curtsy – one more and then I should back from the room, for it was formally forbidden for anyone to turn their back on the King – but couldn’t suppress my worry about leaving him practically alone with the obviously dangerous Gerudo King. He gave me a reassuring pat and then stood as I made my exit. As the doors were closed I heard my father say, “Care for a brisk afternoon ride, Ganondorf?”
Rejoining my ladies and retiring to my private rooms, I couldn’t help but wonder why I had been summoned to meet the dark King in such an extraordinary fashion. My father had a good reason for everything. Sensing my brooding mood, the six young ladies that made up my entourage kept to their books, games and stitching. They knew when it was unwise to disturb me.
Nearly a week had passed since our formal introduction, and I seemed to be catching sight of Ganondorf everywhere. I ran into him in the gardens, in the hallways, coming out of the schoolroom – far more than I had in the days before that strange meeting. I suspected he was arranging these fleeting moments, though we never spoke. I would curtsy and he would bow, sometimes going so far as to kneel as I passed even though his station very much removed him from that necessity. Then, without a word, I would move on… with the feeling of his eyes burning into my back.
I had to admit, I spied on him with equal fervour. My interest lay primarily with his negotiations with my father. I feared the King was being far too lenient with this dark stranger and his questionable embassy. As was to be expected, his entire entourage was made up of women. Most of them obscured the lower halves of their faces and yet their bellies were scandalously bare. Not a single one of them wore a dress, nor curtsied, nor sewed… and I had an ever-present feeling that they were poised on the edge of attack.
The male members of the staff, castle guard among them, seemed concerned with the women in only one aspect. This aspect (that at this time I hardly understood it) had them very much excited. I had overheard a chambermaid say that the soldiers could hardly be bothered to be on guard when Ganondorf brought nothing but a pack of females with him. Such a thing was terribly disconcerting. I, who had not lived during the war, knew from my studies that the Gerudo – every last one of them, barring one exception, a woman – had been a formidable force against the Hylians. So why relax now? Spite? Pride? My discontent mounted every day. I vented much of it through spying.
I was peering in a very undignified way through a garden window – this was a courtyard that ran alongside the throne room, where I hoped to catch a glimpse of Ganondorf and assure myself of his continued complacency. I was in my play clothes (as yet unsullied, which was quite unusual for me), hair tucked firmly away. And no one, save a lurking Impa, to catch me in the act… or so I thought.
Someone cleared their throat behind me. I jumped and whirled around with a gasp.
“Who…?” poured out of my mouth in my guilty surprise, but I was stunned silent.
“Who are you?” I felt breathless. I couldn’t describe the feeling of déjà vu that poured over me in that moment, staring at the strange boy in green. He had no right to be there; it made no sense that he was. Yet… there he was. He wore very strange clothing: odd short trousers and a tunic, and a pointed hat. What really stuck in my mind, however, was that his entire outfit was green. Something clicked in my mind.
He was extraordinarily handsome, in the way that boys can be at that age; almost feminine. He had large blue eyes and high arching brows. His hair was a wild mess of gold, sticking out every which way – I spotted a tiny twig stuck in his bangs – and yet it shone in the sun. Despite all of his oddities, his expression was the most memorable of his features; it was so serious, unyielding… and yet curious, and perhaps a bit reverent. He was staring at and examining me with the same intensity I imagined I was gawking at him.
I swallowed my momentary panic in order to ask, rather uselessly, “How did you get past the guards?” What my father said earlier about the increased security came to mind. Indeed, I had spotted far more guards making their rounds lately. But if the quality of the watch is lacking, I suppose a small, nimble boy like this could have made his way through without much trouble. The soldiers had been overly preoccupied with the desert women, it seemed. But this was an entirely new situation for me. I’d never actually conversed with a commoner before, nor been alone (I was sure Impa was somewhere, but she didn’t count) with a boy.
I felt my nerves creeping up on me, especially as he continued to stare at me so intensely. A flicker of movement caught my eye and I finally broke our locked gazes in order to find the source… and I gasped.
“Oh! What’s… that?” The floating orb of light seemed to defy all of the light around it. A thin shape could just barely be made out moving darkly about in that bright and shining light, but the web-like wings sparkled in the sun as clear as day. “Is… that… a fairy?” I must sound like blathering idiot; but the thought barely occurred to me as my heart lodged in my throat.
It all made sense. A rush of excitement came over me, and I forgot myself.
“Then, are you… are you from the forest?” I didn’t give him time to answer, though he probably wouldn’t have. He seemed disinclined to form polite replies to my ridiculous questions. Either way, he nodded. It was something that, instinctively, I had already known. Perhaps it was the green of his clothing!
“Then… then… you wouldn’t happen to have… the Spiritual Stone of the Forest, would you?” Maybe he didn’t know what that was. “That… green and shining stone?” Good Goddesses, I was about to burst.
He stared at me in a moment of suspicion, it seemed. I schooled my features, biting my lower lip. Maybe this was going too fast. But then, he finally spoke.
“Yes,” he said, his voice hushed but pleasant.
But I laughed, unable to contain my joy. “Just as I thought!” Although a mere stretch of days, the time under which I had lived in a shadow of fear and worry had seemed endless. I had felt helpless, voiceless, without credibility – even I had begun to doubt the validity of my prophecy. My joy at seeing him was in no small part due to the lifting of that doubt. It is a wondrous thing to be able to have faith in ones self and ones convictions.
He lifted one blonde brow and said nothing, but there was a question in his gaze. Obviously he knew a certain amount, for here he was… I was certain he had been sent to me. But he couldn’t possibly know that his coming had been prophesied.
“I had a dream,” I began, trying not to be embarrassed, “In the dream, dark storm clouds were billowing over the land of Hyrule…” A shiver went up my spine. That feeling of dread and despair threatened to come upon me, wakened by the dream’s very memory, even in the bright warmth of the familiar garden. “But suddenly, a ray of light shot out of the forest, parted the clouds and lit up the ground… The light turned into a figure holding a green and shining stone, followed by a fairy.”
I lifted my chin, prepared for some scepticism, but he didn’t look surprised in the least. He averted his gaze suddenly. I let my voice soften.
“I knew this to be a prophecy… that someone would come from the forest.”
His eyes flickered back to me and he smirked briefly.
“What a coincidence,” he said, almost muttering. Despite the mockery, his smile seemed genuine. He was including me in the joke. I laughed, surprised at my own sudden light spiritedness.
“Yes,” I chuckled, “I thought you might be the one.”
We smiled at each other silently for a moment – he hesitantly, as if his lips didn’t know how – before I suddenly coughed, remembering my manners.
“Oh, I’m sorry!” I blushed, horrified at my own behaviour. “I got carried away with my story and didn’t even properly introduce myself!”
His serious demeanour returned once again. It was awkward having to introduce oneself… especially when my identity seemed fairly obvious. But there was no one here to do it for me, and I felt instinctively that we must be introduced to be able to speak properly. And… I wanted very, very badly to learn his name.
“I am Zelda, Princess of Hyrule.”
His expression remained solemn; if anything, more so than before. I would have to prompt him, I found, and did so as politely as I could manage. “…What is your name?”
“Link,” he said, clearer than he’d spoken before. His eyes trailed over my face and I wondered what he could be thinking. Link certainly did have a powerful presence. It seemed odd to me that a princess should feel so cowed by a common boy… but I did. And his name?
“Link… strange… it sounds somehow…” I rolled my lower lip between my teeth thoughtfully, and he stared. I abruptly stopped, purely out of instinct. I was constantly being reprimanded for that little habit, as it chapped my lips. “….familiar,” I concluded, still wondering why it did. He was probably named for some historical figure or another. He offered no suggestions, so I decided to move on. The threat of his discovery loomed over me darkly. There would be a heap of trouble if he were found here.
“Alright, Link. I am going to tell you the secret of the Sacred Realm, passed down through the Royal Family of Hyrule,” I said, surprised even as I said it. I had sworn upon learning a number of secret histories that only under the most dire of circumstances would I reveal them. Any of them. But this was dire, even if no one else saw it. Link, though a ray of hope, was a confirmation of a very dark prophecy. It needed to be stopped. Ganondorf must be stopped.
“Please,” I said, my expression hard. “Keep this a secret… from everyone.”
He nodded, and the way that he did it left no doubt in my mind. I straightened, glanced about (then felt silly) and progressed to the story. I would have to keep it brief. We probably didn’t have too long before someone came along.
“The legend goes like this…” He leaned in close, for I was whispering. “The three Goddesses hid the Triforce containing the power of the gods somewhere in Hyrule… the power to grant the wish of the one who holds the Triforce in his hands. If someone with a righteous heart makes a wish, it will lead Hyrule to a golden age of prosperity…” I thought of my father. “If someone with an evil mind has his wish granted, the world will be consumed by evil.” I thought of Ganondorf stroking my hair and shivered. Link knit his brows and lifted his hand to hover over my arm… and then quickly dropped it.
“That is what has been told,” I said, glancing over his shoulder. The movement of his fairy (who seemed not to wish to be addressed, though I gladly would have should an introduction be made) had worried me of discovery, but the garden was still blissfully empty.
“So, the ancient Sages built the Temple of Time to protect the Triforce from evil ones.”
Link seemed to be holding his breath. “So,” He said slowly, “The Temple of Time…”
“That’s right,” I confirmed, not wanting to take much more time. My heart raced at the risk. “The Temple of Time is the entrance through which you can enter the Sacred Realm from our world. But the entrance is sealed with a stone wall called the Door of Time. And, in order to open the door, it is said that you need to collect three Spiritual Stones. And another thing you need…” I hesitated. This was my best-kept, most precious secret. I made my hands into fists and pressed on. I trusted Link. I had to. “…is the treasure that the Royal Family keeps along with this Legend: the Ocarina of Time.”
I leaned forward, urgency in my voice, and laid my fingertips lightly on his arm. He jerked as if I’d electrocuted him.
“Did you understand well the story I just told you?” I asked, withdrawing my hand. My hand felt almost burned as well, and it tingled.
“Yes,” he said, very abruptly. His expression was all consternation, but he was still attentive. We stared at each other for several seconds and I felt my throat tightening. The distant sound of a herald’s call jolted me.
“I forgot to tell you,” I stuttered, moving aside from the window. I took a glance within and saw, from my side, the approach of Ganondorf down the aisle. His eyes were fixed firmly upon my father; I flinched at the well-concealed malice glittering within them.
“I was spying through this widow just now,” I said, blushing as I looked back at him. Link narrowed his eyes and stepped forward, peering through. His lips were turned down in a frown. “The other element from my dream… the dark clouds… I believe that they symbolise that man in there.”
Link firmed his jaw and stepped further forward, laying one hand on a side of the window and peering in even as I leaned one hand on the other side and watched over his shoulder.
“Do you see the man with the evil eyes?” I asked breathlessly.
“Yes,” Link said, his voice tight. He stared at Ganondorf as if recognising an old memory. “Who is he?”
“That is Ganondorf, the leader of the Gerudo. They hail from the desert far to the west. Though he swears allegience to my father, I am certain of his insincerity. The dark clouds that covered Hyrule in my dream… they must represent that man!”
Link’s expression was harsh. He seemed inclined to believe me. Suddenly he jerked back away from the window and into a… fighting stance? His hands were clenched tightly into fists. Seeming to catch himself, he straightened.
“What happened?” I asked, concerned. “Did he see you?”
Link nodded mutely, crossing his arms over his chest. His eyes were still fixed upon the window, but when I turned and glanced through, Ganondorf was no longer within sight.
“Don’t worry. He doesn’t have any idea what we’re planning… yet!” I smiled. Link seemed surprised, but he flashed his hesitant smile in return. Perhaps Link didn’t know what we were planning, either, but he seemed willing enough.
“But haven’t you told the King… about…?” He seemed unsure of how to phrase his question, but I understood.
“Yes. I told my father about my dream. However, he did not believe it was a prophecy.”
Link looked down at his feet and kicked at the turf in a distracted manner, looking embarrassed. Was my father’s lack of faith in me so terrible? I bit back the urge to defend him, fighting a feeling of insufficiently. But I didn’t need to supply excuses. I turned away and knit my brows, crossing my arms over my chest in exactly the way I had been told not to do by my Manners Mistress.
“What Ganondorf is after must be nothing less than the Triforce of the Sacred Realm. He must have come to Hyrule to obtain it.”
“Is his land not a part of Hyrule?” Link asked. I turned and stared at him. Did he truly not know this? With the war so recently behind us, the parts and boundaries of the Kingdom were very much common knowledge – and often heatedly debated.
“It is a part of the Kingdom of Hyrule, along with many other domains once independent from Hyrulean rule. And yet this original land of our forefathers is still referred to as the land of Hyrule.”
Link nodded, unabashed at his lack of knowledge. The Kokiri were a mysterious and isolated race. Perhaps I was being unfair.
I leaned against the wall, staring out over the garden. Spring was in full swing. The flowers were blooming, the butterflies flitting from one to the other, the bees buzzing… the sun shone down upon Link and I with perfect harmony and gentleness. I felt its transience acutely.
“I… I am afraid. I have a feeling that man is going to destroy Hyrule. He has such terrifying power!” I shuddered again, the feeling of his hand on my hair replaying again and again in my mind. “But it’s fortunate that you have come. We must not let Ganondorf get the Triforce! I will protect the Ocarina of Time with all my power. He shall not have it. If you were to acquire the two other Spiritual Stones…” I turned to look at him. He looked anything but frightened or daunted. He looked… determined. As if the matter had already been settled long before I’d make the proposition. “We could get the Triforce before he does, and then defeat him.”
What was I asking of this boy? It had the sound of some sort of child’s game, though it was far from it. These were grave things hanging in the balance. The quest would involve much travel and quite a bit of diplomatic wheedling. I knew that the Princess of the Zoras had the Spiritual Stone of Water. The Goron’s Ruby could be found on Death Mountain, so it was probably in the care of Darunia. The Goron was my favourite dignitary – despite custom, I always received a big hug from Darunia, sworn brother to my father. He called me ‘little golden head’. I wished then, fervently, that I could go with Link. But I couldn’t. If I tried to so much as step outside my garden walls, a search party would be sent and Link would likely face dire consequences.
“One more thing,” I rummaged in the large pocket hidden across the front of my skirt and pulled out some parchment and a short stick of charcoal, usually reserved for snippets of poetry when out at play. It would have to do. I quickly penned a rather pathetic-sounding missive and folded the fancy parchment, handing it to Link. “Take this letter. I’m sure it will be helpful to you.”
He took it and unfolded it, reading through it quickly. Strange that the boy could read; were the Kokiri truly taught read Hylian? It was odd to think that this boy was not of my kind. I couldn’t wrap my mind around it and so a part of me persisted in rejecting it.
I looked once more over his shoulder as he knit his brow, reading the letter again and heaving a sigh. Perhaps he too realised how little tools I was giving him to accomplish this seemingly impossible task, but it was all that I had to give. Would he refuse the quest? I doubted that very much. There was something about him that made me believe he’d already accomplished the impossible to get here and wouldn’t so much as think of stopping now. Impa stood at the entrance to the courtyard. She nodded at me. Had she heard the whole thing? I smiled. Of course she had.
Link suddenly knelt, bowing his head. “Princess,” He said softly, “I will not fail you.” I stared at his bowed head and felt worry swell up in my soul. I could be sending him straight into the mouth of hell with this fool’s errand. But… I had to. Still, I couldn’t muster the words to reply. Abruptly he stood and turned, walking cautiously toward Impa.
They exchanged a few words, and then I saw Impa put her fingers to her lips… and the royal lullaby drifted across the garden, echoing from the walls. I smiled. It was the déjà vu again, except this time I knew exactly from where it came.
A month and a half had passed and not so much as a word of Link reached me. Summer was overtaking spring. Dread grew in my heart day by day, though I felt deep within it that he was alive. But was he successful? Was he hurt? Was he lost? I could have beaten my head upon the walls in agony with the worry that, at times, seemed ready to overtake me.
Ganondorf continued to appear in unlikely places in order to cross my path. I increasingly felt that he was watching me, and was merely allowing me to catch him in order to fuel my unease. He had seen Link at the window and yet I heard nothing of it from either he or my father, so obviously he had kept the incident to himself. Why? If he was so determined to torture me, why not blow the whistle on my improper secret meeting with the young commoner? I was fast approaching an age at which such a scandal would be truly terrible.
I was pacing the halls, accompanied only by one of my ladies, Mindela, who was thirteen. It was a quiet day, as usual, and Mindela (who I preferred very much for her quiet, gentle nature) read through a little book as we walked. I glanced over. It was likely religious. Mindela was exceptionally devout. As we passed one room I heard my father’s voice and I halted, holding out my hand to stop and then direct my companion to the wall. We both pressed there by the doorway, listening. Mindela blushed, looking nervous. She obviously didn’t want to do anything as clandestine as eavesdropping on the King of Hyrule, but I was hardly in a position to take that fear into account. I had been listening around corners for several weeks now, hoping for news. It seemed that I was in luck. The Goron Ambassador’s voice answered my father’s, and I managed to make out his words.
“Your Highness,” The Goron started, his accent manifesting a groan-like quality to his words. Even so, his voice carried as most Goron voices did. “I assure you, this is no problem at all! The problem has been fixed – entirely fixed! Whether the boy that did it was sent by you or not, he accomplished a great feat in clearing Dodongo’s Cavern and he did it in the name of the Royal Family. Big Brother Darunia has accepted Link as his sworn brother and given him the Goron’s Ruby.”
My father was laughing. He said something, and I think it was, “How old is this boy again?” But the conversation was moving on. I couldn’t hear my father so well as I could hear the ambassador. I moved closer, and Mindela gave a whine of warning. “That isn’t the point. The point is that he is acting in my name and that I haven’t the slightest idea who he is. I must have him brought here,” my father said.
The ambassador cleared his throat. “Actually, my messenger says that as soon as he received our thanks he set off for the village of Kakariko, and from there was seen travelling along the Zora’s River.”
I could barely contain my giggle of joy, instead grabbing Mindela by the wrist and dragging her off at a run down the hall. We rushed passed confused servants and courtiers all the way to my rooms, where I burst in and immediately flung my arms out, spinning in a joyous circle. He was okay! And not only was he okay, he had the Goron’s Ruby! I wasn’t sure what the ambassador had meant about clearing Dodongo’s Cavern, but I was sure to find out.
And he was okay. He was alive. He was… safe. I collapsed onto the floor in a pool of my skirts, still grinning, amidst the curious stares of my ladies.
“My lady,” The voice intruded on my sleep. It was soft and feminine, and echoed in the stillness of my dream. Who was it speaking? One of the ladies? “There is fire below.”
Through the dark I could see that a fog had flooded the field, shot through with blue. It was the light of the moon that lit the swirling tendrils as they danced about me, draining from the world all colour and replacing it with watery shades. My very bones seemed brittle as ice. My flesh burned against the coldness around me. I could scarce see an arms length ahead of my face.
I soon became aware of dark shapes flittering by me through the fog – they were people, I was sure. I tried calling out but I found I had no voice. No one stopped to talk to me. Not one figure emerged from the darkness and showed a kindly face – all was black shadows.
“Zelda…” My name was whispered in my ear.
I whipped around to see Link. Was it Link? He seemed somehow different. I knew that it was a vast difference, but my mind failed to place anything. He lifted a hand and placed it against my cheek. Burn scars riddled his palm. I gasped, pulling away to examine his hand. I could only stare, appalled at the evidence of such agony.
“Lie to me,” He whispered, as if tormented. I started. His face was obscured by a shadow. I had no voice to answer him, but I wanted to. I wanted to ease his suffering.
A huge shadow loomed up suddenly behind him, a demon of great proportion with eyes of flame.
I woke suddenly, gasping for breath. My heart raced. This was a nightmare I had not had before. What did it mean? I could feel that it was prophetic. It had been too real… I had felt the cold of the air and the warmth of Link’s flesh. My cheek still tingled where his hand had been.
“Is something wrong, Princess?”
I jumped, but relaxed as I saw that it was only Impa. She had materialised out of the shadows and now sat upon the edge of my bed, staring at me with those red eyes of hers. I pulled my knees up to my chest and hugged them.
“I had another dream,” I said, closing my eyes against the image of the frightful demon.
“The prophecy from before?” She asked, her gaze attentive. I shook my head.
“No. A different one.”
“But it is a prophecy?”
“Yes. Without a doubt.” I swallowed hard, feeling my heart rate return to normal as the feeling of the dream receded. Impa continued to stare at me, obviously waiting for me to tell her about it. I glanced at her from under my lashes and shook my head. Something about this felt… private. She hesitated, but then I saw her nod and withdraw. My hand immediately shot out.
Impa stopped and after carefully observing my face nodded again, sitting back down. I turned around and curled up, pulling the blankets up around me tight. Impa might not stroke my hair or croon, but her presence was infinitely more comforting than any matronly nursemaid. She had been my constant shadow since birth, instructing and protecting me with unquestioning patience and humility. She had been a young woman when my father was born and had been the same to him. I did not know how long the Sheikah lived, but she did not have a single line on her face. Impa was ageless.
Impa put her fingers to her mouth and soon I was drifting back into dreamland upon the whistled notes of my lullaby.
Dusk. All was quiet in the castle. A light trickle of rain hit the window. Time enough had passed since receiving word of Link’s success on Death Mountain for me to start to worry again, but not enough for the sheer panic that had seized me before.
That would take longer, now. I had discovered that the boy’s feats included defeating a number of monsters, navigating the fiery pits of Dodongo’s Cavern and vanquishing a giant dodongo: feats fit for the most accomplished warrior. It was nothing but sheer miracle that a child his age – our age – had managed such things, so I had no doubt that he would manage to accomplish anything he set his considerable determination upon. My father had a sparse few messengers out looking for him; he wanted to meet this child hero. So far no one had even so much as glimpsed him.
I smiled down at my needlework, but gasped as I suddenly stabbed myself with my needle. I was terrible with needlepoint. I could never concentrate long enough on the task. I sucked on my injured finger, waving to my ladies to continue their own work when they continued to stare at me in concern.
I had been spending less and less time with them and more time avoiding everyone so that I could wait in the garden for Link. Nearly every day now I was in the same courtyard garden, passing the time with dreams and letters to the venturing hero in my head. Even now I was in my garden clothes, ever ready to return there once more.
Gloria, a seventeen-year-old and daughter of a Duke, was sitting upon the window seat engaged in a novel. Her voice broke the silence of the room.
“My lady,” She said, her voice full of concern. I lowered my embroidery hoop into my lap and looked up, preparing to avail her of the insignificance of a needle prick. But she wasn’t looking at me; rather, her worried stare was directed down into the courtyard. “There is fire below.”
A chill went through me. Most of my ladies stood then and rushed to the window to see for themselves, murmuring, but they parted when I approached. I stood beside Gloria and looked down.
Torches burned, carried by soldiers as they rushed beneath the window in obvious haste. Commands rang out into the gathering gloom. My stomach dropped. Today was the day that Ganondorf was supposed to be departing. I had hoped… for one brief, lovely moment, I had hoped that maybe the immediate danger had passed.
My young companions flew into a panic. Tieri, who was my age, burst into tears. I felt calm, but ice ran through my veins. Every heartbeat seemed slow and immense in my ears.
“Your Highness,” Impa’s voice broke into the din suddenly. Animation returned to me and I grasped her hand, allowing her to lead me into my bedroom.
She quickly whistled the short tune of my lullaby and pressed the wall behind my headboard. It slid back and then away, letting fly a cloud of dust. She lifted me coughing and spluttering over the headboard and then followed into the dark passage, then pushed the wall shut behind us.
Again she gripped my hand. I couldn’t see a thing, but Impa never hesitated in her fast navigation of the dusty tunnel. There were many twists and turns. After only a few minutes I was aware of sounds on the other side of the walls. I heart shouts and commands… and then screams of agony. The clash of swords and falling bodies, something being smashed to bits… glass shattered. I could hardly believe the sheer horror of it. I thought of the soldiers. I thought of the servants. My ladies. My… my father.
Gradually the noise dimmed and then ceased entirely. We went down many stairs, me stumbling behind Impa blindly, and then eventually up a steep slope. Finally, Impa pushed a wall free and we emerged in the small guardroom by the outer gate.
The guard there glanced up at us in surprise, quickly entering a fighting stance and then halting. “Lady Impa!” He cried, and then his eyes fell upon me. He immediate dropped to his knee, bowing his head.
I let out a shout and covered my mouth, feeling my stomach churn. Another guard’s body was propped in the corner, obviously dragged there by his friend. He was missing his helmet. He was missing his head and most of his arm, for that matter.
The surviving guard stood quickly, indicating the ladder. “I shall go first,” he said quickly, and leapt nimbly to the wooden fixture. He climbed quickly for one in armour and I followed, saying a prayer under my breath for the deceased soldier. Impa followed me. Together we ran up the hill, followed by shouts. The female voices, I assumed, were Gerudo.
We came down the hill practically rolling and Impa quickly directed (in my case, dragged) us to what appeared to be a stable. We entered to find a strange man holding the reins of Lampos, my white stallion. He was fully saddled. I could hardly focus on this oddity in the presence of the grinning man holding his reins. He was oddity enough to overshadow all others. With red hair neatly smoothed back and bright purple robes, he stood out – but it was his enormous grin, so large his eyes squinted, that confused me. He bowed deeply before me as Impa lifted me onto Lampos’ back.
She mounted behind me and the soldier – I didn’t know his name – now held the reins. He was also clutching his side and his face was twisted into a look of bravely contained pain. He was quite young and handsome… seventeen at best. My heart ached at the sight.
Impa bowed her head deeply to the red-haired man, saying, “Daimu,” with an air of respect she reserved for very few people.
“Impa,” he returned, his eyes widening briefly – just enough for me to note, with immense surprise, that they were red – and then he chuckled. “Here we are – best make the best of things, yes?”
Impa managed a small smile. “Of course.”
Daimu turned to me. “I am the Happy Mask Salesman,” he said, as if the title were something more akin to ‘Renowned Mage of Something-or-Other’, “and it is my great pleasure to finally meet you, Princess Zelda.”
I could merely nod in return, too stunned and frightened to speak. I regained my voice as Impa took the reins from the soldier. I reached out my hand and laid it upon his armoured shoulder. He looked up at me with surprise and… reverence?
“What is your name?” I asked, finding myself nearly breathless.
“Hirrou, son of Glorst,” He said, and I saw blood on his teeth.
“Hirrou. It is of grave importance to me that I get a message to… to a boy, from the forest. He should be coming to Castleton soon. Tell him… tell him that I was waiting for him, and that I have something to give him – I will find a way. Once he gets it, he should go directly to the Temple of Time.”
Hirrou nodded, and then lifted his bloody gauntleted hand to his chest and made it into a tight fist. His face was full of pain, determination and admiration.
“My lady,” He ground out, “You are our hope and our joy. My life is made glorious for this single moment in your presence. Will you… will you bless me?”
My breath caught and tears stung my eyes. Impa stirred behind me, obviously eager to be off. I pressed my hand to Hirrou’s bloody forehead and drew a shaky breath.
“Hirrou son of Glorst, I call the blessings of the three Divine Ones upon your head and upon your house. You have conducted yourself with the bravery and honour of a true Knight of Hyrule. May fortune go with you.”
Hirrou seemed to sob and grin at the same time. As Daimu threw open the stable doors and Impa kicked Lampos into a gallop, I glanced back at Hirrou one final time. He had replaced his helmet with a look of pure determination and was no longer clutching the bloody mass that was his left side.
We galloped through Castleton, leaping over crates and barrels, taking sharp turns that made my stomach flip. But Lampos was well trained. I looked behind us as I recognised another set of hoof beats rolling along the street. Close behind was Ganondorf, leaning forward as he urged his black steed after us. My heart leapt in terror. “Impa!” I cried, but my voice was lost in the rush.
People scattered, leaping out of the way of the speeding riders.
As we neared the drawbridge, Impa’s voice boomed (I could only assume magically) as if across a vast empty space: “Lower the drawbridge! The Princess must pass!”
There was a great rush and the drawbridge began its gradual descent. I squeezed my eyes shut, unsure if it would make it. Just before Lampos’ hoofs hit the wood of the bridge it hit home with a loud metallic clang.
I saw a streak of green as Link jumped out of the way. My heart leapt at the sight of him, however brief. I leaned around Impa to see his stricken face.
Withdrawing from my skirt pocket my ocarina, I hurled it with all my might in his direction. Impa moved her shoulder quickly so that it could pass unhindered. I was fairly sure that the ocarina reached the moat. I could only turn back then and huddle against the horse’s neck, my eyes squeezed shut against the rain, and pray.
I had fallen asleep by the time Lampos slowed. I was surprised upon waking – how long had I rested? Where were we? My groggy mind throbbed against the influx of fear and guilt. I couldn’t remember my dreams, and for that I was almost grateful. The castle was under siege, my father in grave danger, and Link... How could I possibly have slept?
Impa slid from the horse without a sound. I was accustomed enough to her silent way of moving about that I avoided surprise when she placed her strong hands beneath my armpits and lifted me from the horse. Lampos snorted and pawed the ground, tossing his head. Impa’s sharp eyes flickered to him briefly and the animal quieted, as if in reaction to some silent exchange between them.
“You are exhausted, Princess,” She said in that blunt way of hers, barely raising her voice over the dribble of rain, doubtless having sensed my unease. She offered her hand and I laid my little white one upon it, letting her lead me to a great rock face on which the moon cast a whitish glow.
Impa put her fingers to her mouth and out poured the familiar melody of the royal lullaby, though the ringing notes sounded oddly haunting in the vast darkness that surrounded us. The notes fell off into oblivion and a moment of silence passed. Suddenly I became aware of a peculiar sense of movement to the play of moonlight on the cliff. The more I stared the clearer it became, very gradually forming bright white symbols glittering upon the rock; yet still I felt surprised when it glowed before me, as if its coming had been as quick and natural as to take me completely off guard. Impa held her palm up once more, waiting for me to offer my own.
Impa… always standing upon ceremony no matter the situation. I placed my hand delicately upon her hand and followed to the nucleus of the swirling, unfamiliar designs, unsure of what she meant to do. Lampos trotted after us obediently, but when Impa urged us toward the rock, we both hesitated. With her usual reserves of infinite patience, she went to the cliff in a few strong strides – and disappeared through it! Both the horse and I reacted strongly, but Impa was back out in a moment and, gently cradling my elbow with one hand and gripping Lampos’ reins with the other, guided us insistently toward the wall. I squeezed my eyes shut as we passed through, but I felt nothing. When I opened them we were apparently on the other side, where there was no light at all. I stared into infinite blackness, startled.
“Impa,” I whispered, balling my hand into a fist upon her well-worn palm.
“Yes, Princess.” She did not bother to whisper as I had.
“If the rock there doesn’t really exist, how can it block out the moonlight?”
With a little click a flame was lit, and my eyes were drawn to the light resting in Impa’s palm. She seldom used magic around me, so I took the opportunity to observe as thoroughly as I could. However, the strange flame was quickly transferred to a little glass lamp hanging from Lampos’ saddle.
“But it does exist,” She said, dusting what must be ash from her palms and nodding for us to continue along the path – it was small and winding, riddled with flickering shadows upon archaic carvings in the walls. “It is as a veil of mist disguised as a wall of stone. A thing may be something other than what it seems, but that does not mean that it does not exist.”
I remained silent, digesting her words as we made our winding way through the narrow passages, occasionally stopping to quiet the nervous whinnies of the horse or allow me some rest. I don’t know how long we went on like that, but it must have been several hours. My legs ached and my feet stung with every heavy step, but I held in my instinct to complain. This was important; but even if it weren’t, I felt embarrassed by the ease with which I tired out. Princess or no princess, I wasn’t a sissy.
The tunnels often branched out, sometimes heading up and sometimes down, varying in their breadth. Chill, damp winds would sometimes gust from somewhere beyond my ability to detect, stirring my skirts and confusing me all the more in respect to our direction. Despite this, Impa never faltered. She obviously knew the place well. It was in a broad section of tunnel that she finally halted.
“By your leave, Your Majesty, we shall stop here to rest until dawn.”
Although I knew that it must be very near dawn as it was, I couldn’t disguise my sigh of absolute relief as I plopped down unceremoniously onto the hard floor.
“Very well,” I said empirically, and Impa’s hard expression lightened for a moment in amusement before she turned away, removing Lampos’ saddle and blanket and beginning to lay them down on the ground.
I watched her quietly as she laid out a makeshift bed, reflecting on all that had been lost. All that may yet be lost. I bit my lower lip, rolling it between my teeth in worry; at least Link had the ocarina. Surely he would succeed in protecting the Triforce. But what would happen to the people of Castleton? To the courtiers? To father?
Everything I owned was gone, possibly forever. Every comfort, every security… I glanced up at Impa and steeled myself against the threat of childish tears. At least I wouldn’t have lost every loved one. I held this firmly in my mind as I curled up on the makeshift bed, resting my head on the side of the saddle and trying to adjust my pampered body – I had never slept on anything short of a full feather mattress – to the hard lumpiness of the ground beneath the thin blanket. Impa sat against the wall, apparently unperturbed, staring off into space. I knew that she was waiting for my permission to turn out the lamp.
“Where are we going?” I asked, unable to hold the question in any longer.
Impa continued to stare ahead of her, as if into another world that only she could see.
Finally, she answered. “To the protection of my people.”
I propped myself up, staring. This was important. Impa simply did not discuss her past or her origins. When I had learned that she was Sheikah, I had stopped asking lest I open old wounds (despite the fact that nothing seemed to disturb Impa.) I had thought she must be the last one left. Yet…
“The Sheikah. So they are not…?”
“No, Your Majesty, not entirely. We are few, but strong.”
“So… why hide?”
“We do not hide; we are as we have always been. We are not seen because few have the skill to seek us, and fewer the will.”
“Was that man… Daimu? Was he one of your people?”
Impa shook her head. “No. He is not of the Sheikah, though… very close. Very close indeed.”
I decided that I could question her about that later. She may not show it, but she must be at least as exhausted as I.
“So the Sheikah have been here all the time. I suppose that many unexpected things may pass unnoticed simply by merit of being unexpected,” I said, imagining more fierce figures like Impa wandering about Hyrule unseen… and shivering. But I was excited.
“That is true, Princess,” Impa said with a small smile, holding her hand out over the lamp.
I watched her and then let out a long sigh, anticipating the silent, crowded silence and the worrisome thoughts that would creep in to fill it. Clenching my jaw, I lifted my eyes to her red ones and nodded. She snuffed the light.
We’d been travelling for hours when I started to notice the distant roar. I mistook it at first for the wind, but it was too constant and too deep. As we drew closer, the sound began to make me nervous.
Oddly, our noble white steed seemed to pick up his pace in anticipation. His many fine garnishments, appropriate for a procession but not for a desperate flee from the castle, had long been removed and wrapped within his saddle blanket, now a lump of rich things upon his back.
In most places the ceiling was too low for me to ride him, and before long I was walking on slippers of badly tattered silk. I removed them without a fuss, though perhaps with a bit of despair, and Impa said nothing. When I had finished, we recommenced our journey as imperturbable Sheikah and barefoot Princess.
The roaring grew louder and louder, and when eventually we came to a long section of tunnel down which tiny droplets of water slid in slow succession, I understood where we must be.
“We are beneath the Zora’s River?” I asked, glad that I finally recognised our subterranean placement.
Impa nodded, now holding a flask to the wall in order to collect water from the rivulets. I wanted to press my face to it and remain for as long as I needed to catch several mouthfuls, but I refrained with the natural instinct of a girl who has had propriety drummed into her since birth.
“We are beneath a waterfall… far below it. And below us rest other great chambers.”
I was astounded. “What are they?”
“We walk upon the Shadow Road. It winds beneath rivers and vast caves of ice, the traveller’s path between the world of light and the temple of darkness.”
“Temple… of Darkness?” I asked, unsure of whether I liked the sound of that. Surely she was referring to the Shadow Temple, the study of which had been excluded from my curriculum.
I remembered the argument. Apparently Impa had thought me ready to learn its history, yet my father had intervened. He had thought that I should wait until I was older. Of course, anything that my father deemed unsuitable for young girls was a matter of immense curiosity to me. The castle library had been my first stop, and Impa had willingly turned a blind eye. What I had learned had given me nightmares for weeks, but I had been careful not to mention it.
She surely knew that she was frightening me; but her demeanour had changed from previously. She was now freer with her words and less careful and doting towards my person. Even as a part of me struggled against the slow slip of my authority, I preferred it. Impa had been as a mother to me, however odd a mother she made. I had always desired if not her affection (for the display of it seemed beyond her) then her equality. I may have been a Princess, but I was always, regardless, a little girl. I sought to be on equal ground with her as surely as she insisted on maintaining distance, standing upon ceremony, treating me as her superior but not her better. This sudden openness, allowing me to ask questions, to hear something that might frighten me… it gave me a chance to be something other than the default receptor of her loyalty.
Impa watched the emotions flicker across my face, seeming to judge my reaction. I hardened my expression. She needed to know that I was no baby. I could handle this… all of it. I had to. She nodded imperceptibly and then, replacing the flask’s stopper, motioned that we should continue.
It wasn’t long before we turned a corner, entering a beautiful chamber with a shining pool in the centre. Stalactites – which up until then I had never before seen or heard of – hung from the ceiling, lit up in flashes of white-blue lamplight reflected off of the water. The water was an aquamarine blue and perfectly clear. I could see to the bottom – perhaps five or six feet down – and partly into the entrance of what must be a tunnel. Light streamed from the tunnel in slowly dancing rays, like when sunlight hit dust.
Lampos went to the pool and immediately began to drink greedily. I was eager to do that same.
“Upon your will, Your Majesty, your dress must be removed for you to swim.”
I gasped, turning to Impa with wide eyes. We were going to swim in that freezing winter? I had often been permitted little excursions in the various ponds decorating the castle’s many gardens, but only in the summer and with a thick wool blanket waiting for me.
Her gaze was steady and unyielding. I sighed, turning back to face the water. Perhaps I was looking at it the wrong way. The more I thought about it, the more the idea appealed to me – to delve into that beautiful, glittering pool, which seemed so much a portal into a better, brighter world.
I made quick work of my filthy dress, for my jewels had already been unhooked and tucked into the pack on Lampos’ back. I also pulled my headdress from my hair, letting the full length tumble down. It fell past my back lower back, a wavy waterfall of platinum blonde that I was rightfully proud of.
Left in nothing but my white shift, I shivered, turning back to Impa. She had already removed her armour, leaving her in her strange skin-tight dark silk which seemed to always move with her. I heard father once call it obscene, but from the way that he said it I had known that he was joking – though father did have a very strict viewpoint on the role of women. Imagine a warrior like Impa being called a nanny! She was my teacher and protector, but she left the work of maids to the women employed for such.
I gasped as I submerged my feet into the freezing water, watching in fascination as my skin took on the white pallor of death.
“What shall we do with Lampos?” I asked, slowly inching in further. If I jumped in quickly the whole process would be less painful. I took in a deep breath and let it out, preparing myself mentally.
“We shall be in the Domain of the Zoras only briefly; he will wait here,” Impa replied, stroking the horse’s nose. She watched me idly from the corner of her eye, obviously waiting for me to go first.
I clasped my hands in front of me and gulped in a deep breath, diving toward the deep centre of the pool. I was hit with a shock wave of cold, but quickly became numb and could manage without too much discomfort.
I flexed my fingers to work out the stiff joints while watching the bubbles from my entry drift up around me, followed by glistening tendrils of my own hair. Impa’s face rippled above me, and if I didn’t know better, I would think that she was laughing to herself. I turned in the water, now almost enjoying myself, and began to swim down toward the tunnel.
I emerged from the other side into a burst of unexpected light and swam upward as fast as I could manage, nearly out of breath.
I emerged with a gasp, followed a moment after by Impa, who began to swim quite rapidly toward a nearby shore.
I tread the water, shivering but absolutely transfixed. The cavern was massive, rising up in a great dome over the veritable lake in which I swam. Around the rising dome wound and crisscrossed pathways of pale stone, lit by torches ornately carved into the walls. Into the far side of the lake poured a towering waterfall, dispersing its spray – full of rainbows – across several islands that rose from the water.
I yelped in surprise as I turned to follow Impa and came face to face with a Zora. The Zora were strange, if not handsome folk. With generally pale, bluish skin and well-defined features, they cut an impressive figure; but the aquatic appendages could be distracting to those not accustomed to seeing them.
The Zora gentleman smiled in embarrassment, his large black eyes shining, and offered his hands.
“Your Majesty,” He said, his smooth voice like butter and honey, “A thousand apologies for startling you. I am Laru. Might I request the honour of assisting you to the shore?”
I smiled, trying to hide my blush at the fact that I was in nothing but a soaked, filthy shift and must look a mess. Kicking my feet to remain upright in the water, I offered my hands. Diplomacy was what I had been bred for, and the Zoras took it very seriously.
“I would be much obliged, good Sir.”
The young Laru did indeed look honoured; in fact, downright speechless. He took my hands reverently and turned, gingerly placing them on his shoulders. I inched closer so that I could wrap my arms about his neck partially, not wanting to lose my grip, and he made a funny noise in the back of his throat. I had to struggle to contain my amusement.
With that he was off, gliding through the water with the ease of an arrow through the air. It took us a mere few seconds to reach the shore, where he turned and backed up slowly until my feet could touch the bottom. I stood then, pulling myself shivering and blue-lipped from the water to join a smiling Impa. I turned and executed a small curtsy in the elaborate Zora style for the benefit of Laru, who grinned and returned the gesture from the water.
Impa laid a hand upon my shoulder. “You have an appointment with King Zora,” She said quietly, and I nodded, sending a smile in the direction of the four noble-looking Zora that stood nearby.
They advanced upon my acknowledgement, each kneeling before me briefly before rising. I was introduced, the air above my hand was kissed, and we were then escorted up the winding pathways of the Domain. I lifted my chin and walked with grace, ignoring the stares of the citizens. Although most Zoras did not wear clothing, I felt my cheeks burning at the thought of being nearly naked before them.
A long staircase led us ever upward until we reached a lovely chamber. The others fell back and Impa and I took this as our queue.
Mustering every ounce of my ten-year-old royal dignity, I ascended the steps to a platform facing the royal dais. Before me sat the massive figure of King Zora and beside him stood the much more diminutive Princess Ruto.
She and I had exchanged letters before, being of the same age and position among our people. The correspondence had been suggested; and once suggested, expected. However, we had never before met in person. Now as I avoided her amused stare, I knew that she was mocking me: a dishevelled, ousted Princess subject to the Zora’s hospitality. I tried not to narrow my eyes. She always had been spoilt and uncouth.
“I welcome you respectfully, Princess Zelda,” said King Zora, his voice much higher than I would have expected from a person his size.
I curtsied, glad for once of the endless drilling that I had received in the court etiquette of the free peoples.
“I thank you with a grateful heart,” I replied, ignoring Ruto’s unconcealed giggling.
Completely out of line, the Zora Princess piped up: “Princess Zelda! My friend! What a mess!”
A nervous hush fell on the residents of the chamber. I straightened, meeting Ruto’s eyes. Despite the clear insult, I admired her bravery. I allowed myself to smile.
“A mess indeed, my friend! Unfortunately, I have not the skill at swimming boasted by the noble Zora.”
It looked as if the courtiers gathered wanted to clap. They murmured among themselves, and it sounded approving. Ruto smirked, looking me up and down once more.
“You will excuse my dear Ruto, I hope,” said the King, casting a nervous glance aside to his headstrong daughter. “On what business have you come, Royal Daughter?”
I glanced at Impa. I’d been playing by instinct since we arrived, but I really didn’t know what her purpose was in bringing us here. She nodded to me. Yes, yes, of course. Trust her. I turned a smile upon King Zora.
“With respect, Your Majesty, I would have my attendant, Impa, speak on my behalf.”
King Zora looked at Impa and seemed to shudder. Her red eyes were brazen and cold. “Very well,” he acquiesced.
Impa held a fist to her mouth, clearing her throat, before folding her arms in front of her. The Zoras shifted and mumbled.
“Her Majesty, the Princess Zelda, has this last night escaped imprisonment at the hands of the Desert King, Ganondorf.”
A chorus of gasps broke out, followed by a swell of murmuring voices. King Zora lifted one thin arm and the voices were silenced.
Impa continued, “Hyrule Castle was infiltrated and attacked. We expect that the land of Hyrule will soon be under siege. I request a safe haven until my village of Kakariko can be assured secure enough to house Her Royal Highness.”
I was confused. Why go to Kakariko? It was Impa’s home and the most obvious hiding place. Impa would never make a decision so foolish! There was more tittering, but King Zora seemed lost in thought. Suddenly Ruto stomped her foot, enraged.
“I knew it! That evil man poisoned Lord Jabu-Jabu! Trading, pah! If he hadn’t been rescued…” She huffed, letting her unspoken threat drift. No one responded.
I felt my stomach turn. If anyone had rescued Jabu-Jabu… it had to have been Link. Suddenly I understood Impa’s reasons for coming here. We weren’t going to Kakariko and we weren’t waiting around for anything. We were here to find out if Link had acquired the Spiritual Stone of Water. The King was unimportant; it was Ruto we were here to see. The Goron ambassador had spoken of the incident with Dodongo’s Cavern months ago, so we knew that Link had two stones. But the third?
Eventually the King stirred, turning his attention upon me.
“We will be honoured to provide a safe haven for the night, Your Majesty.”
Yet the meaning was clear: for the night. He didn’t want to draw Ganondorf’s eye upon himself, though he should know that if Hyrule were attacked, the Zoras could not remain neutral. They, too, would feel the Thief King’s tyranny.
However, he was obligated to oblige me, and he knew it. To turn away the Crown Princess from his doorstep would be inhospitable at best and treasonous at worst.
I curtsied again, pleased. One night was all we needed. We were led from the throne room and passed through several passages and rooms on the way to our appointed chambers.
Our guide gestured into a grand bedroom, obviously intended for Hylian guests of honour – the decoration was in the latest Hylian style. Our guide, presumably a maid, curtsied deeply.
“Lady Impa, your rooms shall be prepared shortly.”
Impa waved her hand dismissively. “Do not bother. I do not leave the Princess’ side.”
Obviously unsure of what to say, the Zora maiden rose, curtsied again, and then hurried from the room. I let out a sudden laugh, and Impa turned to me with a curious look on her face.
“Oh, the ridiculousness of it all!” I said in response to her silent question, pressing my palms to my eyes.
I was laughing, but I felt a tightness in my throat that surely meant tears were forthcoming. Impa gave me a short pat on the back and then exited to the hall, likely to merely stand behind the door. Finally alone, I allowed myself to collapse upon the rich carpet and cry.
I was a child of ten; though up until then I had had my fair share of restrictions and loss, I was unused to feeling so entirely… helpless. I wept for several minutes before finally straightening, combing my fingers through my hair and blotting at my tear-stained face. It seemed, at last, that it was time to grow up.
I sat on the edge of the bed, brushing out my long hair and watching Impa. She seemed deep in thought, staring off into the middle distance. A bath had been drawn up for me and I had luxuriated in it, never until now having understood what it meant to be consistently and disgustingly dirty. Playing in the mud had once been a luxury, but then I’d always have a bath and fussy maids waiting to clean me up afterward.
Now we were merely waiting. Impa, always direct, had wanted to send for Ruto immediately. I had declined this idea; I had some insight into not only Ruto’s character but also what it was like to be the royal pet of the court. Little rebellions were often too good to pass up. Either way, sending for Ruto would earn only a curt refusal to see us born of pride and a feeling of superiority. But if I was her co-conspirator… that would be a different story entirely. But to turn a simple meeting into a rebellious act it needed to be late and secret… and I would spare no theatrics.
“The cloak, Impa?” I asked, holding out my hand. The Zora had supplied me with a sparse few clothes, a nightgown and some drawers blessedly among them. Impa, however, had a black riding cloak – this would do far more nicely for the effect I was trying to achieve than the blaring, frilly white of the old-fashioned nightgown.
Impa lifted an eyebrow at me and I balked. She was not a nursemaid; well, I’d always had one before, so we’d never had this problem. I guess I just wasn’t used to doing things for myself yet. I gave her a sour look and stood, dropping the brush on the vanity and snatching up the cloak from the back of the chair. She went back to staring into the distance while I draped the far-too-large thing over myself and pulled up the hood.
I slipped out of the room without a word. I’d already gotten directions to Ruto’s private chambers – Impa had scouted them out for me – and I’d spent the duration of my bath reciting them under my breath, over and over. Still, the thrill of being out late, in a strange place with a strange people, without the court to guide my movements, sneaking about in the dark… I thoroughly enjoyed it. Hopefully, so would Ruto. We were still young girls, after all. Only twice did I have to slip past anyone. The Zora spoke a strange and flowing language that rippled like a song heard from under the water. I knew enough to stumble through a basic conversation, but the rapid and highly accented way that these passing folk spoke eluded me. Still, it was beautiful. I pressed on.
Ruto’s private chambers were high up in the domain at the eastern edge, near to the Zora’s Fountain. She was, as Crown Princess, the official attendant to the city’s patron deity, Jabu-Jabu.
Pages stood alert outside of the rooms. I leaned around the corner, watching them. They did not speak to each other, rather standing silent and erect on either side of the ornamental door. My mind raced. What was I to do? I knew that if I presented myself I would be granted entry. However, if they knew and let me in, the knowledge of my suspicious secret visit would be all over the Domain by morning and my pretence of rebelliousness with Ruto would be ruined. I needed to get her attention somehow. I grit my teeth, bending ever so slowly to pick up an array of little wet pebbles that lay on the stone at my feet. Straightening, I peered again around the corner at the pages, the black cloak allowing me to blend into the darkness.
After a moment’s hesitation, I tossed a pebble against the door. One of the pages jumped, but his lack of movement from his position suggested that some protocol was keeping him from reacting. The other page seemed not to have noticed. I pelted another tap, and another, and another in quick succession. I didn’t have to wait long. The doors were thrown open from the inside and a very annoyed Ruto emerged, lit from behind by the light of the chamber. I sank back quickly into the retreating shadows, but I needn’t have bothered. The guards had quickly dropped to their knees and bowed their heads in the direction of their princess.
“I can’t sleep with that infernal tapping!” She whispered fiercely, crossing her childlike arms.
I chose this as my moment. Moving forward quickly and raising my finger to my lips, I progressed as silently as I could until I was sure that the princess had seen me. Her head snapped up in my direction and an expression of surprise faded into one of curiosity. She seemed to mull over the situation before nodding. My answering smile was mischievous, mirroring her own. I slipped back into the dark, tugging at the too-long sleeves and hood to make sure that I was concealed.
“You two. Find the source of the noise; I heard it down that hallway. Return only when you are sure that I shall not be woken again.”
The two rose at the command, bowed two times while backing away from her, and then turned out of sight down the hallway. I waited for a moment before rushing forward at Ruto’s quiet urging. I entered what appeared to be her private parlour and she shut the door quickly behind us, giggling uncontrollably.
“I like you!” She exclaimed, turning to me with arms crossed as I pulled back the hood of the cloak. She looked me up and down with a smile, as if sceptical. “I had you pinned as a pushover. Well, I suppose even I can be wrong sometimes. But you better have a good explanation.”
“There is a matter of urgency that concerns us both… and our people. If we leave it to the adults and their ridiculous ceremony our enemies are likely to spring upon us at supper,” I said, keeping my voice more hushed than she had. I was apparently more concerned about discovery. Ruto laughed, still making no effort to be quiet.
“Yes, yes. That is always the case. So what really happened at the castle?” Despite her posture of nonchalance, curiosity and concern were clear on her face. I told her about Ganondorf’s arrival, and also of my dreams – at these she gave me an expression of amused disbelief. When I arrived at the part about Link, however, her face was a picture of intense interest… and even, I thought, displeasure.
She seemed far less friendly toward me now, drawing herself up in a regal manner and looking at me down her nose. Several moments of silence passed between us before she spoke.
“I see,” She said, wrinkling her nose. “You had bad dreams and so you thought it acceptable to send a mere boy on a probably fatal fool’s errand for the stones, which aren’t rightfully yours to send anyone after in the first place.”
I had to fight to contain my temper, but knowing that to retaliate – or to remind her that though Princess of her people, her father swore fealty to mine – would mean that I would never find out what had transpired between she and Link. I too lifted my chin, refusing to back down even as I refused to return the insult.
“I did. And I was right about Ganondorf, wasn’t I? He blocked and infected the Dodongo’s Cavern, nearly starving the Gorons. Link was able to clear the Cavern and gain from Darunia the Goron’s Ruby.” I realised as I said it that I was outrageously proud of the boy. Not only my subject and vassal, I considered Link my friend. He’d done things I never could have imagined someone our age doing. I had a right to be proud.
I emerged from my private reverie just in time to catch Ruto’s expression – she, too, looked proud. And smitten. I forced back the thought in favour of business.
“And now you suspect that he has poisoned Lord Jabu-Jabu, May His Scales Never Dry.”
Ruto came out of her thoughts and stared at me as if she was surprised to see me still in her rooms. “Yes… yes. Ganondorf and a limited embassy came to the Domain; they were allowed entry for purposes of trade. Desert pottery, I think…?”
I smiled. Despite Ruto’s stubbornness and pride, she took her position very seriously and possibly paid more attention to affairs of state than her own father. She was a bold and courageous leader, and I admired her for that… whatever our petty differences.
Ruto continued, “Lord Jabu-Jabu became agitated and squeamish after his departure. I was in the middle of performing the traditional ceremonial offering when suddenly he opens his mouth and sucks up the entire alter… myself included.”
I gasped. How was she alive? Lord Jabu-Jabu… ate her? It seemed so absurd. Ruto smirked at my distress.
“I’ve been in and out of Lord Jabu-Jabu’s belly since I was barely a tadler – that is, just about the time I got my legs. He was more than poisoned, though. There was a strange beast inside of him.” She paused here, idly crossing to a chair and sitting down. Propping her elbow on the back, she rested her face against her fist and fixed me with a curious stare. I waited, too agitated to sit. So… had Link…?
Finally she saw fit to continue. “So you sent Link, huh? For my Sapphire?”
I looked up and saw that, despite her hard expression, her eyes contained some amount of hurt. I simply nodded. She looked away, seeming to mull that over.
“Well, I suppose that takes some of the romance out of it – but still…”
I waited once again for her to complete that thought, but that was one sentence I found myself unable to hang upon for long.
“Still what?” It sounded sharper than I’d intended.
Ruto turned a sly smile on me, and the triumph in her eyes made my stomach squirm. Why was I so worried? There were larger issues than whether or not something had happened between Link and Ruto, and furthermore we were merely children. Any possessiveness I now felt could be ascribed to simple childishness; and I was a Princess of Hyrule in a time of crisis. I couldn’t afford to be girlish. I steeled myself for what she had to say, but she still managed to knock the wind out of me.
“He and I are engaged.”
I knew that my face must have registered pure shock – and I dreaded to think what else – because Ruto promptly burst out laughing, holding to the back of her chair and kicking her legs gleefully over the side. I felt my face flush.
“I see. So he has the stone, then,” I said, knowing the traditional role of the Sapphire among the Zora.
So Link had rescued Ruto… and she had awarded him with her Engagement Stone and with it promised her hand. It did sound incredibly romantic. And that… burned. But I couldn’t let it, not now.
“Oh yes, he has the stone,” said Ruto, apparently satisfied that her position had been asserted. “And I have his promise.”
It certainly was shocking. I couldn’t imagine the stoic, quiet Link being the romantic type… or the type to particularly enjoy Ruto’s antics, for that matter. And the fact that King Zora XVI had agreed to the union was even more farfetched. Link was of common blood, yes, which would be a deal breaker even if he were a Zora.
“Does your father know?” I asked, and regretted it as soon as it left my mouth. I had found out what I needed to know. Link had the three Spiritual Stones and my ocarina, and would therefore be able to complete the task that I had given him. There was no need to dwell on this delicate issue of his apparent engagement to Ruto.
The princess’ expression hardened, which said enough on its own.
“I don’t need his permission,” She said, and I wondered if she was right. I was well versed in the laws, customs and history of the free races of my father’s kingdom, but that little detail was unknown to me. Hylian women could not respectfully marry without their father’s permission (especially a princess), but it was legally possible to form a union without the consent of the maid’s closest male relative. The lady would likely be steeped in shame and scandal, however. Was it the same for Zoras? I imagined so. But I also knew that if Ruto had decided to marry Link, she would gladly throw convention to the wind; and I also knew that if Link had given such a grave promise as marriage, he would keep it.
But why was I even worrying about this? Ruto was my age. It would be at least four more years before she even reached marrying age. And it isn’t as if I, myself could marry him… or wished to, for that matter! I pushed thoughts of their union aside and finally, finally, concentrated on the here and now.
“I offer my blessings and best hopes for your happiness,” I said, replacing both my dignity and Impa’s cloak upon my little shoulders.
“I wish to depart… as your friend and royal sister,” I said, and quite sincerely. I didn’t want to fight with her.
She softened, looking almost sorry – I suspected she now regretted having so bluntly sought to injure me earlier. She stood slowly and approached me, frowning. She hugged me quickly, taking me off guard.
“I really do wish you the best of luck,” She said, and with that we parted ways. I hurried off down the hall, head swimming with all that I’d learned.
Impa and I had slipped out during the night after only a few hours of rest and rejoined Lampos in the cave. The horse had risen up and pranced excitedly upon seeing us. Somehow Impa had acquired feed and a carrot for him, but they needed to dry out before he could be gifted with them. We walked quickly, me shivering under Impa’s cloak and the saddle blanket the whole way.
I didn’t know what time it was or how long we’d been walking, but Impa finally decided that it was time for us to rest in a particularly wide section of tunnel with smooth walls. As we prepared our bedding I took time to examine the strange writing on the walls in the lamplight.
“We should conserve the wick,” Impa said for the second time that day. I sighed, reluctantly killing the little flame. All was darkness once again.
As I settled against the saddle I wondered how long we’d walked. Despite the fact that I’d barely gotten any sleep, braved extreme cold and trudged miles without shoes all under considerable stress, I somehow felt less tired than I had previously.
My muscled ached and I was, admittedly, exhausted – but I didn’t feel the same all-consuming pain in my feet or the nagging urge to whine. I reached down and felt my feet. They were rough and calloused.
“Impa,” I said, rolling onto my side.
“Yes, Princess?” Her voice answered from the dark.
“If Daimu is not a Sheikah but is close, what is he?”
“That is a long story.”
“We have a long night ahead of us.”
“It is not night, Princess.”
How did she know that?
Surprising me, Impa laughed. It was a strong and pleasing sound.
“His is Minean.”
“What is that?”
“To understand his race, one must first understand the Sheikah – we were created simultaneously,” She said, and I propped myself up on my elbow, listening attentively. That was strange. Created… simultaneously?
“You know the history of the Knights of Hyrule,” She continued. “The tribe of chivalrous warriors that first brought order to this land, from among whom rose our first King, who with the aid of the sacred Triforce formed the Kingdom of Hyrule.”
I smiled slowly. I couldn’t help but imagine Hyrule’s first king, Glamus I, in the image of my father. Impa continued her story.
“Many, many centuries ago, the land of Termina was a part of the first Kingdom of Hyrule. A tribe of dark sorcerers inhabited the canyon beyond the desert to the west. One day a very special boy was born to their ranks, and they named him Majora. His extraordinary magical power grew with every day. Being a child, he used it for mischief and for selfishness and soon became a terror to his own people. As a young boy his power began to approach that of the tribe’s leader, who was viewed among his people as a god, and a decision was reached: he must be stopped before he could cause any more damage… and before he was beyond the power of any living person to stop. Majora was given a ceremonial mask the day of his execution and unknowing, faced his leader; but when he realised what was to be done he fought tooth and nail.
“He managed to kill his attacker but sustained fatal wounds in doing so. Before he departed this world he managed to impart his soul to the ceremonial mask, filling it with his childish malice and inhuman power. The tribe laid the soul of their leader to rest but from his remains gained a mask containing his power, in order to preserve their hope against Majora’s Mask. Yet they continued in their dark ways of sacrifice and blasphemy, praying not to the goddesses for salvation but to their male gods. Even so, the Goddesses answered their prayers by locking the land of Termina away from the rest of the world. It became a dark place – a dark mirror, one might say. The relationship that Termina has to Hyrule is a complicated one… I hardly think that I am qualified to explain it.
“The mask fell into the hands of a greedy chemist and helped him to create a vast mirror capable of facilitating travel between many dimensions. With it, the mask managed to orchestrate its escape from Termina; and in Hyrule it continued Majora’s quest for chaos, spreading knowledge of and greed for the Sacred Triangles to the various peoples of the land. This greed would slowly escalate into a full-fledged war – a war that ended only a year before your own birth.”
I was silent a long while. It was all a little difficult to take in. This seemed to be a very important piece of history; so why hadn’t I been told earlier? I was beginning to feel that all that I had learned about Hyrule had been glazed over.
Eventually, Impa continued.
“Long before any war could be declared, at a time when knowledge of the Triforce was still extremely limited, the Knights of Hyrule learned of Majora’s treachery and sought out the mirror. They used it to expel Majora’s Mask back into Termina where it had been sealed and then shattered it. The largest part was installed in the Spirit Temple for protection, but another fragment the Knights kept for themselves. They discovered that this bit of the mirror could call forth a warrior’s shadow into life and being, all of the darkness in his soul magnified. In their ignorance the Knights used this power of the mirror for their own means; a warrior would only be considered a true Knight when he – or she, for there were a few female Knights, despite what the books try to tell us – could successfully defeat his own darkness personified and send it back into the abyss. This continued for many, many years before the Gerudo managed to steal the artefact.
What no one had guessed was that Majora was still connected to his creation and felt their actions. He waited many long years before deciding to enact his revenge. He fused together the Knights and their Shadows… what was born was the Sheikah. Majora himself is said to have named the others, the Minea, who were the fusion of the Gerudo who had gazed into the mirror and their Shadows. So you see… we are quite similar.”
My eyelids were drooping and I could no longer keep them open, but images of masks and mirrors and dark sorcerers drifted through my head.
“I see,” I managed, but I was near sleep… despite my fascination.
“So how… there were Hylian Knights of Hyrule, and they didn’t die out until the war…”
“Not all Knights had yet had the chance to look into the mirror. The Sheikah trained the remaining Hylian Knights but withdrew into darkness and seclusion. The Mineans, well… they would come to play a major role in the unfolding history of Hyrule.”
“I… I see…” I said again, yawning. Impa sighed.
“Sleep well, Princess.”
I was nearly blinded when, at long last, we encountered light.
The light filtered down through the narrow shafts was thin, but we had walked so long in complete darkness that my eyes burned. The light grew gradually, until finally we turned a bend and met with a bright portal carved at a slant in the ceiling.
I lifted my arm over my eyes as Impa pressed me forward, her hand lodged firmly upon my back. She bolstered me as I climbed clumsily from the dark tunnel, my hands grappling at the dry dirt and my eyes squeezed shut tight.
I stumbled as my feet hit the dry earth but two strong hands were suddenly upon my elbows, holding me upright as I sagged.
My eyes opened slowly and I blinked into the bright light of the sun, the stinging of my eyes slowly fading away.
I lifted them at long last to meet a pair of red ones. I was in the arms of a young man. He was tall and thin, with wiry muscles apparent beneath his strange clothing. His golden hair fell into his exotically shaped red eyes and was covered with a thin layer of dust, as was the rest of him. His hands on my lower arms felt calloused and rough. He had a strong, beautiful face. My eyes fell to his lips. They were pale and badly chapped, set into a firm line of calm indifference… exactly like Impa, I thought.
This boy had to be at least two years older than me. I blinked rapidly as I lifted my eyes to his once again and jerked slightly as he suddenly took my chin, firmly but gently, between his thumb and forefinger. He lifted his chin as he examined my face, particularly focusing on my eyes. He seemed to be looking for damage.
He released my chin and cradled my hands, lifting them to examine them as well. I looked down and saw that they were calloused, bruised and dirty. There was dirt and blood beneath my broken fingernails from the occasional steep climbs and a couple of slips within the tunnel. Funny. I hadn’t felt my fingernails breaking.
The Sheikah boy lifted his face to someone behind me. Impa, I imagined.
“I imagine she is unaccustomed to such a state,” He said. His voice was low and smooth but contained its fair share of roughness, perhaps in his cold tone; it reminded me of smooth, clear waters flowing over jagged rocks deep below.
“You would be correct,” Impa said behind me.
I looked over the boy’s shoulder and saw a small gathering of people standing about, observing us closely. All were tall and lithe, well muscled. Most wore the same skin-tight, silky material as Impa in dark shades of purple or blue – this was fashioned into leggings that ended just below their knees or at their ankles. Their lower arms and the middle of their feet were wrapped in long strips of white cloth. Some wore loose pants in a similar dark, silky material – these were in style like the pants of the Gerudo except thinner and shorter, ending just below the knees. Panels of decorated cloth in the Hylian style, all bearing the Sheikah symbol of the evil eye weeping, were draped front and back. Short caftan shirts seemed to be a staple, with all sleeves ending before the elbow. Their hair colour ranged from dark gold to white but all had the same exotic red eyes and tanned skin, and all were covered in the same film of pale dust. Their faces were smooth and pleasing but hard and cold as well.
“We cannot pamper her. She must learn to live without such luxuries,” I heard Impa go on. My heart sank – did she really see me as so spoiled?
The boy’s hands tightened on my lower arms reflexively and he lifted his chin once again, turning his intense gaze back to my face. I wanted to shrink away from his unnervingly direct scrutiny but his hands and his eyes held me frozen.
“You must suppress your instincts, Sheik,” Impa warned in a dull monotone as he lifted one rough hand and let it skim lightly over the frayed material of my sleeve and up to my shoulder. I watched his face. He followed the movement of his own hand with his eyes as if puzzled by it, his brows drawn tightly together, and then made it into a fist, lightly nestling it into my neck beneath my ear. I tried to shrink away but his other hand was then buried in my hair, gripping it with gentle firmness and turning my head to the side. His hand upon my neck drifted over a tender spot at the base of my skull.
“She’s been injured.”
I mustered my strength and drove the base of my palm into his hard stomach. He released me abruptly, backing up with an expression of extreme surprise.
“Merely a scrape. If you please, refrain from discussing me as if I am not present in the future,” I bit out, my heart (and my now sore fist) pounding. I cradled my aching hand near my middle. He was still staring at me as if I’d grown a second head. “And never again make the mistake of handling me like some… some livestock to be examined at your will… Sheik.”
He let out a quick breath and then schooled his features back into impassivity.
“Your Highness,” He returned, bowing.
I stood staring around at the rest of the Sheikah, counting heads. My count may have been a bit rushed, but at the time I estimated around thirty. When Impa had said few… My heart ached at the thought of their looming extinction. They had been a limited race to begin with, I reminded myself. The Knights of Hyrule, while a group as opposed to a race, had been entirely wiped out. The Knights and their families – men, women, children – had been slaughtered during the war, the targets of a genocide that had also been directed at the powerful Sheikah. I had always wondered why they in particular had been targeted and who it was that had had the power to destroy them, but my questions had been withheld in a likely misguided sense of sympathy for Impa’s feelings on the subject.
I felt Impa’s hand press firmly on my shoulder and turned to look at her. She met my eyes and jerked her head in the direction of the rest of the Sheikah, who each bowed their heads as we passed. I noticed the boy, Sheik, watching me intently from a distance of several yards.
We journeyed through a silent crowd to a collection of low buildings carved into the rock. The village was built upon a plateau cut into the side of the mountain, overlooking but cleverly hidden from Kakariko Village. The buildings were carved into the rock face itself, stacking upon one another to create a honeycomb effect of windows, doors and twisting stairways. I’d never seen anything like it… a vertical village.
Impa led me to one of the buildings, pulling aside a thick curtain made of a rough material the same colour as the stone walls. I stepped through the opening into relative darkness and she let the curtain fall, sealing out the sunlight; but as she did I became aware of a dim light – I couldn’t make out the source, it seemed to come from the walls themselves – that allowed me to see the sparse details and furnishings of the room. There was an ornate tapestry hung upon the wall and a rough wooden chair. A massive fireplace took up one wall. A door to another room was obscured by another thick curtain. Impa motioned for me to sit and I did so without argument, glad to be off my aching feet.
“You should get some rest,” She said, crouching beside the fireplace and taking up the flint, although I knew that she could summon fire with a snap of her fingers.
The sun shone harshly upon the dry land of the plateau, but the winds that swept through it could chill a person to the bones. I was grateful for the fire.
“We’ve had two days of hard travel and you are not accustomed to such hardship,” She said, holding one of her hands to the warmth as the fire flickered to life.
I left the chair and went to my knees on the dusty rush mat beside her, thrusting both my hands forward to absorb the warmth. Impa withdrew her hand and watched me with a sullen expression.
“Come, I’ll show you to your bed.”
My dreams were ordinary, drifting from thought to thought seamlessly and with the careless sense of normalcy that accompanies light dreaming. A fracture split my dream like glass, and then another stemmed from it, and another. I was becoming aware of an intruder into my consciousness. Voices flooded into my head like water to a seaside cave.
Link was screaming my name. Everything was white and the light was blinding, pouring over the edges of the people present and blurring our lines. I reached out for Link and tried to pull him to me but he was insubstantial, hard to grasp. My arms looked like a smeared painting.
I suddenly became aware of an intense pain, ripping through my veins like lava and hardening so that my heart tugged desperately for oxygen, my lungs ached, my body rendered useless. Had this pain been there all along? It felt as if I’d been enduring it my whole life.
There were two others with us, and they were fighting. Through my haze of pain I watched them, horror growing in my heart. The dark one turned to me, a haze of blackness in this white world, and his glowing golden eyes set upon me like those of the demon from my nightmare. Then I felt another behind me, dragging me away, and everything ripped apart.
I woke gasping for air and covered in sweat. It seemed the entire Sheikah tribe was gathered around me, most watching grimly but a few of them kneeling with heads bowed in deep concentration. Impa gripped my upper arms, her face a mask of sadness. She lifted my right hand and I winced, for it still felt as if I’d been badly burned. Silence fell as all eyes turned to the back of my hand, upon which a single triangle glowed gold. It looked as if the light had crept beneath my skin, a strange bioluminescent polygon buried between flesh and bone.
One of the Sheikah lifted his head suddenly from trance. He looked like the oldest of them, the only one with any lines on his face; and these were slight. He addressed Impa. “He is secure. But we have to hurry. Rauru can only shield him so long.”
Impa was quick to give orders. “Sarusah shall lead a small party to retrieve him. You must leave at once.”
The older man nodded and called four Sheikah to him from the group that had gathered round my bed. Sheik was among them.
“Not Sheik,” Impa said quickly, “Nor Lena. They must stay.”
No one questioned her. Instead, the man I assumed was Sarusah and his two remaining warriors left abruptly. After them trailed, slowly but surely, the rest; I was glad for it. I still felt frightened and a bit feverish, and the pain in my hand was excruciating. I wanted to be alone with Impa, to ask my questions.
“Link,” I managed, and found that my mouth was exceedingly dry. “Is he dead?” Tears gathered in my eyes. At that moment I could imagine nothing worse. He had to be alive. His voice still rang through my head, my name called in desperate pain and horror. My fault. All my fault.
Impa put a cool hand on my forehead, testing. I imagine she didn’t like what she found, for the corners of her lips tugged into a slight frown. “No, Princess. He is not dead.”
I managed to sleep fretfully after that, tossing and turning and cradling my hand. I remained in the clutches of a deep fever that night, barely aware of the shifts that were taken to tend to me. While I had no strength to fight him, Sheik tended to the knot at the base of my skull and gently combed the dried blood from my hair.
“You are one of us now,” Impa said, just as Sheik and another Sheikah, a young female, entered. They said nothing, merely stood back and watched me.
My fever had broken midday and now, late in the afternoon, I had finally begun to feel somewhat like myself again. My hand still hurt, but the pain was nowhere near what it had been. It was my mind that was in torment.
No one would tell me what had become of Link. They had explained to me another legend which had until now been excluded from my education: that if the heart of the claimant is not balanced, the Triforce will split and its pieces will disperse to those chosen by destiny to wield them. I was obviously one of those people.
Link had received the Triforce of Courage. That, at least, was no surprise. But… I squeezed my eyes shut as I thought about it, guilt washing over me in waves underneath which I would surely drown. My plan had backfired. All of Link’s effort, his bravery, exerted in pure trust of me, had only served to open the door to the Sacred Realm for Ganondorf himself. He had tried to claim the Triforce, but it had split. His hunger for power had earned him Power… but I knew that it would not be enough. Enough to conquer the kingdom? Regrettably, yes. But never enough to slake his thirst for more.
The female leaned close and whispered something in Sheik’s ear and I turned away quickly, not liking being whispered about. But what Impa was saying was important. I just wished that it could be said in private.
“As such, you are also now the weakest among us,” Impa went on, forcing my thoughts back to the issue at hand. “Ganondorf is bound to search for the Princess of Hyrule, rightful heir to the throne and holder of the Triforce of Wisdom. He will find what he seeks as long as there is a Princess to search for.”
I stared at her, shocked. So it was to be this as well? My name, my birthright, my very identity? And become a Sheikah. I felt a stab of despair. How could I become a Sheikah? The people of this village were warriors, and... Sheik was right. I was pampered. Merely the journey here had seen me near collapse several times.
I firmed my jaw, staring at a place above Impa’s head. The journey here had also made me stronger. Impa was right. My only other option was surrender. I thought of Hirrou’s bloodied face, full of hope and fear; I thought of my father’s laughter as we rode through the bright fields of Hyrule together; I thought of Link’s determination in the face of so much impossibility. And I knew that I had to do this.
“I need a new name, then,” I said, breaking the silence.
Sheik tensed and looked away and the unnamed female stared at Impa incredulously. Obviously neither of them had thought that I would accept. But as I looked up and met Impa’s smile, I knew that she had known all along that I would. She glanced at the woman and then nodded toward me.
“Lena, meet your sister… Malina Penka.”
I turned to look at Lena. I didn’t think that her eyes could possibly get any wider. She looked… shocked. And enraged.
“This,” She hissed, seeming to choke on her own words, “is why I have been summoned?”
Impa nodded, serene in the face of Lena’s barely contained anger. Sheik ‘s face was as impassive as ever, but I noticed he had taken a step out of Lena’s path.
“You will teach Penka our ways and the history of your family,” Impa said, her tone allowing no room for argument. Lena’s breathing was harsh and her hands were balled into fists, but she didn’t challenge Impa. The atmosphere in the room was tense.
“And Sheik,” Impa said, turning to the brooding boy in the corner. He looked up as if surprised to be addressed, though from what Lena said I gathered Impa had specifically asked them both to be there. “You shall instruct Penka in the use of Sûlcú.”
“No!” Whispered Lena hoarsely, her eyes filling with tears. I couldn’t understand what was going on. What was Sûlcú? Why was Lena so opposed to me playing her sister? Was I such a burden? Impa turned a fierce look upon her.
“Be strong, Lena. You buried your sister and are now being given another chance. Penka must have a weapon; only Sûlcú makes sense. You cannot be selfish.”
All at once I understood. Impa had not invented Malina Penka. I was to become Lena’s sister – Lena’s dead sister. If Penka had been my age, then she had certainly died young. Of course Lena did not want to forget her sister’s death, or who she had truly been; in her mind, and in fact the minds of the whole village, I would be replacing her. I felt a stab of guilt. Lena would surely hate me for being the instrument of such a thing.
Lena turned her fierce gaze upon me and I held it, my teeth clenched. Finally she said, in a low voice, “You have made a brave choice, however foolish.” Sheik looked like he was going to say something, but she spoke before he could. “I accept you as my sister, Penka, from this day forward… though I must turn my soul inside-out to do it. In the morning you will begin instruction. No one is going to go easy on you from here on out. Do you understand?”
I continued to hold her gaze. The idea frightened me. What in the world had I agreed to? What hardships awaited me come morning? But I lifted my chin and nodded. “Yes,” I said, “…Sister.”
Lena let out a quick breath and stared at me for several seconds more before she turned on her heel and, throwing the curtain aside violently, made her exit.
“Sheik,” Impa said, wasting no time. The boy turned his attention back to her. “You understand what you must do?”
Sheik looked at me with no expression whatsoever, seeming to size me up. “Yes, Impa. I understand.”
Impa nodded and looked me over. “Show Penka her house. And make sure that she gets cleaned up.”
I hesitated. This was it. For the first time I stood without being offered a hand and walked beside a man without taking his arm, and I knew that it was what was expected.
Sheik was blissfully silent, staring straight ahead as we walked; I had the distinct impression he was avoiding looking at me. I wondered if he was angry about my renaming as well; or about the punch to the stomach, for that matter. We climbed many stairs and passed through many rooms in silence. As the sun sank the village was lit up in red; the rock sparkled as if littered with gold dust. Sand and pebbles crunched beneath our feet.
When we reached what I assumed was to be my new home Sheik stopped and merely gestured for me to enter. I hesitated, leaning my shoulder against the doorframe instead and looking at him. He stared over the plateau in silence, neither questioning me nor returning my gaze.
“Sheik seems a rather redundant name for a Sheikah,” I said finally, and although my voice was quiet and respectful, I cursed internally at the inappropriateness of that comment as an opening remark.
“It is a hereditary name,” He said. “All first sons of my family are named Sheik. When the Sheikah came to be their leader was named Sheik; the tribe gains its name from him, and so do I.”
“So that makes you…” I swallowed hard. I’d barely stepped onto their land and I’d already proved myself the instrument of the splitting of the Sacred Triangles, stolen the identity of one of their fallen and socked their prince in the stomach. How in the world was I going to get along now?
“Impa is our leader, I her successor. However, as she must instruct the Princess and I am not yet of age, Sarusah acts as my regent.”
“Impa is your… your mother?” The thought struck me hard. I couldn’t imagine Impa actually having children; and either way, as she spent every moment of my life watching over me, she could not possibly have been present in his life.
Sheik smiled slightly, as if amused by the thought. “No. My aunt. My parents both died in battle.”
I stared at his profile silently, decided upon saying nothing at all. If I were in his situation, I would have preferred it that way. Even though the lack of a mother figure provided a convenient excuse for occasional bad behaviour, I hated it when people expressed their sympathy for her death. For all intents and purposes it had been I who had killed her.
“Every eldest daughter of my family is named Zelda,” I said, breaking the heavy silence. “King Glamus I had a son and also a daughter. However, he doubted his son’s capability. Glamus did not want to pass the Triforce on to his son without being sure, so he split the Triforce of Courage into many parts and scattered them throughout the land. He gave the Triforce of Wisdom to his daughter, who was renowned for her virtue. The King’s plan was for the Prince to complete a quest for the Triforce of Courage and to be given the Triforce of Wisdom when he had proven his virtue to his sister. When he died his son lacked the bravery and skill to seek the pieces of the Triforce and tried to gain the information from the Princess by way of magic… but the sorcerer in his employ made a mistake, and the spell he set upon the Princess was so powerful that it put her into an immortal sleep and took his life. The Prince was so grief-stricken and ashamed that he declared that all Crown Princesses of Hyrule would be named Zelda thereafter, for his sister.”
Sheik nodded silently, still staring out at the sunset. I flushed.
“You knew the whole story, didn’t you?”
He nodded again, still silent and expressionless.
“It seems unfair that you should know so much about me and yet remain a complete mystery.”
He finally turned to look at me, his brow knit slightly in confusion.
“Your people have made the ultimate sacrifice for Hyrule and for my family,” I went on. “Your devotion to us is complete and unyielding. And yet so little is known of your people or of your legends; you are thought to be extinct. The Sheikah have not received the honour that they have earned.”
Sheik sighed and turned away again, leaning against the wall on the other side of the door. “Long ago, the proudest warriors from among the Knights made a grievous error. And they paid the price, and all of their descendents after them. In our hearts lurks a dangerous shadow, ever-present and thirsting. We cannot concern ourselves with such things as glory or renown, nor power or wealth; too easily would we then succumb to the lust that torments us. To protect is our purpose, so that we may not be led to destruction. It is not a sacrifice… but a salvation.”
My breath caught. I watched as he pushed away from the wall, nodding to me without meeting my eyes. “And from now on, remember that that is not your family. This is.” He indicated the house with a motion of his head. “Impa is right. There is much power in names. You must not again speak the one that you have discarded… Penka.” He departed swiftly, leaping and swinging nimbly from stairwell to ladder to rooftop without a sound. Had he climbed so slowly for my benefit? I huffed. Penka.
I turned and took a deep breath, preparing for the worst, and then pushed aside the curtain and entered. As there was a window open to the west, the last of the day’s light poured in and illuminated the eastern wall: it was covered in an ornate woven blanket, like the one I had seen before yet different.
Lena seemed to have calmed considerably. She was at a large fireplace, handling a kettle. “Penka,” She said, and I was shocked at how naturally she said it – without so much as a flinch. “Your change of clothes are there,” She indicated a pile set on a chair in the corner.
I picked them up, looking around the place curiously. It was no more than a hovel, and yet… I was oddly fond of it. There was only one other room, smaller than the other; in it was a large, worn wooden chest, a clay pot of water and two straw beds. I entered this room and undressed, glad for the curtain drawn over the only window.
I dressed slowly, as the clothing was new to me and I’d never before dressed on my own. The dresses that I wore in the castle had been too complicated to put on by oneself, so a lady’s maid had been required. These were not built in such a way. The pile Lena had left me consisted of four long strips of white linen, a dark blue caftan shirt, and light, loose black pants of a silky material that closed with thin cuffs beneath my knees. Once I’d dressed, I still felt naked. I wore no underpinnings, no girdle whatsoever, and the thin, loose material fluttered around my naked skin like it might drift off in the manner of a spider’s web at any moment.
I jumped as Lena entered suddenly and brusquely began picking up my discarded clothing. I followed her quick strides into the other room and my eyes widened as I saw her toss the tattered material of my clothing into the fire.
“What are you—”
“They are the clothes of a dead girl,” Said Lena, poking the burning mass with a stick. I hugged my torso, feeling the cloth beneath my fingers as I watched the last remaining article from my former life curl, dance and turn black. The clothes of a dead girl. It took me several long moments to realise that she meant Zelda.
That's not an error. "Feed" can be a noun as well, generally referring to oats or grains that you feed to animals.
It's very good. I like how the conflict is presented as a more or less conventional war with political elements behind it, and Link is just an odd wild-card. The only thing I might suggest is that, in my opinion, with Zelda's only reason for putting so much trust in Link being her prophetic vision, I think it would make more sense for her to continue to think of him sort of abstractly, as the mysterious prophesied hero, rather than to so quickly think of him on a personal level as just a boy doing whatever he could to help. But perhaps that's an intentional piece of characterization, showing Zelda's ability to look at everything in a personal and empathetic way.
That said, you did ask for any typos or grammatical errors to be pointed out. There were a few, but only two come to my mind after finishing reading.
“Come here, my child,” laughed my father, and I felt my heart immediately lighten. I rose and looked into his face; he was regarding me with a half-smile and curiosity, as if trying to gouge my mood and encouraging me to be strong at the same time.
I think the word you meant was "gauge", meaning to measure or estimate. Whereas "gouge" refers to stabbing or digging something out in a violent way. The other one I remember is:
My heart sank at the thought of telling the Zora that as worshipping a deity other than the Goddesses, even Lord Jabu-Jabu, was blasphemy they may not make offerings.
I didn't notice until it was red-flagged when I copy-pasted the above quote, but "worshiping" should only have one 'p'. But the reason I mention this sentence is that it seems that you're trying to express the thought two different ways at once, and ending up with a sentence that doesn't fully express it in either way. The 'as' before 'worshiping' is out of place, and particularly the phrase "they may not make offerings" seems simply tacked on the end. Perhaps a better wording would be:
"My heart sank at the thought of telling the Zora that worshiping a deity other than the Goddesses, even Lord Jabu-Jabu, was blasphemy and that they may not make offerings to him."
Anyway, overall this is definitely very good and I hope you continue it.
Thank you very much for the corrections and input. I really appreciate it!
Link isn't quite just a wild card, though it would appear to Zelda that way at first. More of the 'legend' element gets revealed later in the story. Her view of Link is complicated, because she meets him unexpectedly while feeling quite vulnerable and being a rather naive and lonely little girl, the presentation of a handsome young man as an only chance for salvation weasels its way into her romantic little head. Her feelings will chance as she grows older, learns more, and is forced to watch him struggle through endless adversity; but that is how they stand when she is little Princess Zelda. Thank you for noticing, by the way. ^^
I've been hesitating with the next chapter because the end of Chapter 4 presents a perfect opportunity for a time jump, yet I still have a lot to reveal to little Zelda. If I were to continue to develop the story and characters as I'd like to, with more like three smaller time jumps instead of one big one, the story would end up a lot longer and I'm afraid that it would drag.
Anyone have any opinions? I've got three versions of the next chapter written, and I'm... well, completely stuck.
I'd suggest the smaller time jumps. I'd do it a chapter for each jump. Say, x years jumped, sum up that piece of her life, jump tothe next chapter. But I'm not about to tell you how to write your fanfic.
Bigger jumps, we'd miss out on the development, I think.
Originally Posted by Buu
Also it's nice to be able to enter my bathroom without the toilet looking like; "FEED ME, HUMAN. "
Originally Posted by José Carioca
So are we in the downfall timeline of ZU now? like a "what-if" scenario for if things went differently after november 2012?
I think shorter jumps would be better as well. If you're worried about keeping the action moving, there are several events that must have happened during the 7 years that you can use. The total destruction of Castle Town and the subsequent migration to Kakariko Village comes to mind. We also know that at some point Zelda had to come up with sealing Ganon away as the plan B since getting the triforce failed as plan A. So concocting that plan and finding out who all the un-awakened sages are is another possible story.
There's also Impa eventually leaving Zelda/Shiek to take care of herself, while Impa watches over Kakariko. That would be an important moment of development. And, while it would need to be in the later portion of the 7 years, showing Ganon's intimidation of the Gorons and Zoras would be interesting as well.
There's a lot of ground to cover in turning child-era Hyrule into adult-era Hyrule, and all of it can be used to keep the action going while you continue to develop Zelda.
Thanks for the advice, guys! I've decided to go with shorter jumps, because no matter how I tried I couldn't write a condensed version that I was satisfied with. I'm not so much worried about action; I've got plenty of ideas. I was just worried about people not wanting to read as much as I have to write.
Well, here's (the first part of) the fifth chapter!
V. The Hero of Time
Impa had insisted that my education continue in addition to the physical training I received from Lena. Which lessons I would receive depended on Impa's schedule, it seemed. She was often away with scouting parties or supervising the continued development of Kakariko. For days at a time I would have nothing but bruising, exhausting fighting exercises dawn to dusk and then suddenly Impa would return and I would rest my aching body in favour of my mind. Despite her use of the word 'continue', it seemed as if Impa had truly meant 'accelerate'. Over the three weeks that passed since the splitting of the Triforce, my head was pumped full of more geography, botany, cultures, languages and history lessons than had been covered in three months' time before.
During one such lesson, I lay on Impa's bed letting a salve soak into my bruises while she lectured. Today's topic was Gorons, and after several hours of gruelling study and practice of their language (the grunting and groaning of the Goron tongue seemed ill suited and laughable when it came from my mouth) we were discussing naming practices. The sun was already down, so I was anticipating being able to retire. When Impa began quizzing me, I sagged in relief. She always ended the day with a small test, to be sure that I had absorbed the lesson.
"Translate:" She said, leaning forward in her chair and placing an elbow on her knee. "Gor."
"Mountain," I said. That was easy.
"Of the mountain."
"That is correct. Dar."
"These words share a significance in Goron culture. What is it?"
"They are each common in names." My head throbbed. I couldn't tell if it was from information overload or being thrown several feet backwards into a wall by Lena the previous day.
"Which word, when present in a name, does not denote an earned status?"
"Good. Before the Great Exodus, where did the Gorons live?"
"On a cluster of volcanic islands."
"What surviving traits connect them to their former environment?"
"They can withstand extreme heat and can breathe underwater."
"What precipitated the Great Exodus?"
"A prophecy of a great flood…"
"But historians cannot be sure of the true cause, as accounts of the Exodus exist only in oral tradition."
"How can Goron females be distinguished from Goron males?"
Impa stood suddenly, leaning to gaze out the window. I hauled myself up painfully and watched her, sure that something important was about to happen. After only a moment she left the window and exited in a few long strides, leaving me without so much as a word of explanation. I stood on sore legs and followed her, stumbling out into the night to see the silhouettes of many Sheikah filtering over the plateau in a tight cluster.
I followed them into a small room on the first level of the village, tucked away into a corner. I had to push through them at first, but they soon parted for me and I entered just as the torch was lit. It was a tiny room. In the centre was a stone platform, obviously a crude sort of table. The torchlight glittered on Link's hair as Sarusah laid his limp body on the cold stone.
My heart climbed into my throat as I stumbled forward, bracing my hands against the table's edge as I leaned over the fallen hero. On his left hand glowed the sign of the Triforce of Courage. I stared into his peaceful face with disbelief, every ounce of my being rejecting what seemed to be fact. His skin was riddled with thin white scars that hadn't been there when I'd last seen him. His hair was slightly longer and if possible more unkempt. His clothes were frayed, worn and in a few places singed.
Impa's voice broke through my wall of silent grief. Vaguely I realised that she was sending the others away, and that they were retreating quietly. If one of them had brushed me, I was sure I would have shattered.
"Penka," Impa said, coming to stand beside me. She watched my stricken face closely while I stared down at Link.
"He is not dead," She affirmed for the second time.
I let out a breath I hadn't realised I'd been holding and slid to the floor, feeling far more drained than any amount of training or lessons had been able to achieve. Impa took in a deep breath and I tensed, recognising somehow that I was about to receive the bad news. I was right.
"Link freed the Master Sword from the Pedestal of Time," She said, and I managed a small, ironic smile. Of course. It made sense. I managed to stand and pull myself onto the platform, dangling my feet off the edge. I had prophesied his coming, this Kokiri from the mysterious southern woods; and though he had meant the world to me, I failed to see what he might potentially mean to the world. It hadn't occurred to me that this very age in which I lived might be the time of strife told of in legend. Link was the Hero of Time.
"Although the Sacred Sword recognised him as the Hero, it deemed him as yet unready. And so his soul was sealed in the Sacred Realm. He is… sleeping. Until he reaches an age at which he might wield the Sword effectively."
I glanced up sharply. Unready? Sealed away? Sleeping? I turned my eyes back to Link, finding myself unable to keep them away for too long. If I looked hard enough, I could see that his chest was rising and falling with shallow breaths. It took me several long moments before I could collect my thoughts sufficiently to form words.
"But… the Kokiri do not age," I said, all of my considerable cognitive power fleeing in the presence of my remounting sorrow.
Beside his head lay his fairy; her bluish light had dimmed just enough to be able to see her tiny form, though as she was no more than the length of my palm one had to squint to see any detail. She looked like a young woman, with the obvious exceptions: her size, of course, and the pale bluish colour of her skin and hair. Her ears were wide and soft looking like those of a mouse, except they were also long and pointed. Her eyes were closed, her lovely wings spread out beneath her.
"That is true," said Impa, "but Link is not a Kokiri."
I nodded, able to accept as much despite the evidence otherwise. The fairy, his coming from the woods, his possession of the Spiritual Stone of the Forest; they didn't add up, but I had always felt that he was Hylian.
"He is named for a Hylian hero," I said offhandedly, still a bit addled. "I did find that rather odd."
After meeting Link I had done some research and discovered why his name sounded so familiar. An ancient legend told of the Hero of Men, who had rescued Hyrule with the aid of the mythical Picori. In some versions of the story, this Hero was given the name Link.
I very gently shifted the fairy's arms so that they lay along her sides instead of sprawled out above her head. The Picori, who came from the same world as the fairies, were said to be tiny creatures, no bigger than my thumb. They thrived not off of food or water but causing happiness. A popular children's song detailed how the Picori could not be seen by any save children who had been very good, and how every century a door in a garden of Hyrule Castle would open into their world. I used to search endlessly for that door; once I'd thought I'd found it, a door leading out of the castle that had rusted firmly shut; I'd commanded two guards to pry the thing open immediately and was crushed when it revealed nothing but a dusty broom closet. Every year the Picori Festival was held in Castleton, a joyous celebration featuring tournaments, feasts, games, and dancing. I realised now, with a pang of regret, that the festival would have been at this precise time of the year.
"Actually," Impa broke into my thoughts, "He is named for another, though that other was named after the Hero of which you speak."
I stared at her, uncomprehending. How did she know all of this? She seemed to understand my confusion, for she nodded and held up her hand in acquiescence.
"Do you remember the story that I told you, of the origin of our people?"
I nodded, unsure of how this related to Link's history.
"When the Knights shattered Majora's Mirror, it broke into three pieces. The largest fragment was installed in the Spirit Temple, deep in the Gerudo Desert. The Temple has long served as a prison for the truly dangerous and depraved, and the mirror fragment was turned into a portal through which the darkest of them could be condemned to a fate worse than death - into the gap between dimensions. When the Mineah were created, they immediately took possession of the fragment that the Gerudo had stolen from the Knights. Through it, Majora was able to gain control of many of them, luring them with promises of power and prestige.
"They became his servants and pupils in the dark arts and helped him to continue his mischief, though he kept his secrets closely guarded. With their help Majora orchestrated the creation of the Fused Shadow, a helmet filled with powerful dark magic into which his Mask was to be forged; the wearer would bear his soul, allowing him to live once again in a complete form. Before Majora's plans could be completed, however, the Mineah betrayed him; they hid the mirror away and took the Fused Shadow for themselves, though they lacked the knowledge and the power to use it.
"Centuries would pass and greed for the Triforce would spread. The war of our time would eventually break out and would continue for eight long years. With the mastery of the Sheikah and the Knights behind the armies of Hyrule, it seemed that your father would have a victory. Yet after five years of war, a new power emerged: they were the former servants of Majora, and they had at last mastered the great power of the Fused Shadow. We called them the Dark Interlopers. At first their goal seemed to be the assassination of the royal family, but our combined efforts held them off. It was then that the genocide shifted to the protectors instead of the protected, for they judged us their greatest threat."
I shuddered, horrified. The great Sheikah and the Knights of Hyrule… eradicated in only three years?
"They slaughtered warriors and then sought out their families in an effort to end us. In the final year of the war, the bloodline of the Knights of Hyrule had been completely destroyed… save for one. Their Captain was survived by his wife and unborn child. A party of Sheikah warriors, myself included, provided a secret escort to smuggle her into the only region that war had failed to touch: the Sacred Forest. The child was born during the journey and was named Link, after his father."
I stared at her, incredulous, and then back down at Link's sleeping face. There was so much more to this boy than had appeared at first. The noble Knights of Hyrule, the source of the Kingdom's birth and prosperity, lived now only in memory… and in this boy.
"We were attacked before we could enter the forest," continued Impa, "his mother was injured but ran with her son into the woods. We sensed that the boy was alive long after we were sure that Link's wife had passed away. We were able to watch him grow by way of a gossip stone. Navigation of the forest is risky at best, even for us."
There was so much that I still didn't understand. "Gossip stone? And if Link is not a Kokiri, how did he survive the magic of the forest?"
"Gossip stones are carved rocks magically imbued with certain cognitive powers. We Sheikah use them to watch and to listen at all times, and also as portals on occasion; they have many functions. They are scattered throughout Hyrule and beyond it; you've seen them, of course, though you wouldn't know what you were looking at."
I knew what she was referring to immediately: the strange stones that bore the symbol of the Sheikah, seemingly no more than decoration but apparently far more complicated.
"As for your other question: the Great Deku Tree extended his protection to Link, sensing that he would play a major role in the destiny of Hyrule. Apparently he was right."
"So the Great Deku Tree truly exists," I murmured, bowing my head and rubbing my temples. Had I learned as much years ago, I probably would have been far more enthralled. But I was running out of the will to ask questions; all but one.
"How long must he sleep?" I asked quietly, lifting my head to fix tired eyes on Impa. Her expression softened minimally; I could only imagine the extent of the despair that she saw on my face.
"We are not sure," She replied, and I let my head fall again. I let myself fall sideways and then lifted my legs onto the stone tablet, inches away from the sleeping Link. I turned onto my side so that I might watch his chest rise and fall, a constant reminder that he was not dead… I had not gotten him killed. Not yet, at least.
"Tomorrow you will learn the history of the Seven Sages and of the creation of the Hero of Time," Impa said behind me, and then there was silence – I assume that she'd gone.
I remained on the large stone table, curled up beside Link but careful not to touch him. If he was the Hero of Time, was this truly my fault? Or was it destiny? How long would he have to sleep? How much of his life would be taken from him? Several years, obviously. And that… that was indisputably my own doing. Was my destiny, the entire purpose of Nayru's gift of visions, really to cause the tearing asunder of Hyrule and the Sacred Realm itself?
I don't know how long I stared at his peaceful face, or the line that had formed between his brows from all his frowning. This wasn't how it was supposed to end up. He should have been feasting in my father's hall by now, honoured and revered, perfectly safe and healthy.
"I'll fix this," I whispered passionately through a haze of tears, my hand drifting closer only to come to rest mere centimetres from his. "I'll fix all of it. I promise. Somehow… I'll make it right."
When I woke the next morning to the rooster’s crow I found that I was still curled up on the stone table beside Link, though a woollen blanket had been draped over me sometime during the night. With bleary eyes I swept it off and shivered against the cold air, kneeling to drape the blanket over Link instead. I spared one quick glance as his face before exiting, making my way toward Impa’s rooms. They were on the lowest floor and built into the northernmost portion of the mountain’s side. It afforded her a good view of the other buildings in the village, as well as a sweeping view over the rooftops of Kakariko.
I paused in front of the curtained entrance, hesitating. The Sheikah didn’t knock – in truth they had nothing to knock upon. The rock was dusty but hard; I’d hurt my fist if I tried. I’d noted the Sheikah’s complete disregard for privacy; the heavy curtains drawn over windows and doors seemed to be purposed more toward keeping out wind and dust rather than prying eyes.
When I pushed through the curtain and glanced around, I was surprised to see not only Impa seated at the little table but Lena, too. Usually Lena’s presence here meant that the day’s training would be physical, but I was sure that Impa had said something about today being dedicated to religious lessons.
They’d obviously been conversing, but as I entered they fell silent. Lena scowled and leaned forward, grabbing onto my pants and using them to pull me toward her. She turned me with firm hands on my shoulders and began rapidly re-braiding my hair. I imagined it was a bit of a mess…
“Today you will seek out Sarusah and begin your instruction with him,” said Impa, gesturing when Lena had finished that I should sit. I did so, rolling my sore shoulders back, and knit my brow. So now I was to learn from Sarusah? What else could I possibly stuff into my poor overworked brain? I said nothing, however, merely nodded wearily. I was also supposedly to start weapons training with Sheik when Lena deemed me ready. It seemed more than I could manage; but then again, so had what I’d accomplished so far. After a period of silence, Lena nudged my back.
“Well, get on, then,” she said, and I found myself stumbling back out of the hut into the first light of the morning sun.
Sarusah, Sarusah… where would I find him?
“Young Penka,” a voice called, and I turned to see the old man himself standing several yards away, gazing out at Kakariko over the edge of the cliff that formed the village border. Strange, I thought, for his voice had sounded so very close by my ear.
I made my way to his side and watched in silence as the sunlight crept slowly over the rooftops. Already I could hear the sound of shouts and hammers drifting up to the mountainside; my heart swelled with sudden unexpected pride. These were industrious people, hard-working and optimistic people: my people. And this land, beautiful and lush, was as much my mother as its King was my father. The feeling ripped through me, intense, bright, leaving me breathless.
Sarusah watched me quietly, seeming to sense my awe. He spoke only after a long time, though when he did, his voice was calm and quiet. It seemed to blend in with the ambient morning noises around us.
“Here,” he said, holding out a painted wooden mask that resembled the face of a hawk. “Wear this and look into the village.”
I took the mask and, tentatively holding it to my eyes – it was too big for my child’s face – gazed toward the village. When I jumped, holding the mask away from me in surprise, Sarusah chuckled. Dark little lines formed at the corners of his ruby-red eyes. I gazed at him in surprise.
“It is magic, yes?” I asked, lifting the mask to look through once more. Now I took my time, smiling with glee as the very distant figures of the villagers came within my sight, surprisingly detailed. The effect was very much like that of a telescope.
“Yes,” said Sarusah simply, taking the mask from me as I handed it to him and tucking it away into a little reddish-brown bag that looked far too small for it – surely a Jabus Bag. Rare and quite coveted, the bags were made from the elusive Jabus fish (Lord Jabu-Jabu was a very old and very large specimen from among that breed); these fish had the natural ability to magically shrink whatever they swallowed in order to make more room. As such, bags made from their stomachs had the same effect.
With a nod of his head, Sarusah indicated that I should follow him back toward the village. We walked together in silence, and I noticed that although the old man employed a thin wooden staff while walking, he seemed to have no difficulty outpacing me. I had to hurry to keep up with him.
My eyes drifted instinctively to the sleeping hero as we entered the small dark chamber in which he rested, but Sarusah pressed on, leading me through another doorway and into an even smaller room. Against the far wall was a crudely made wooden table on which rested a small reddish pouch, a bracelet of gold inscribed with the symbol of the Goron race, and the small sword and wooden shield that Link had been wearing when I’d met him months before. Beneath the table, leaning against the wall, was a familiar Hylian shield bearing my family’s crest.
Sarusah pulled up a wooden chair beside the door and sat, indicating that I should turn my attention to the left wall. Along it ran a low shelf; across it, shining and fierce, laid the Master Sword. I bit down on the inside of my cheek and stared, openly fascinated. It looked so new, even though I knew that it was ancient… and it seemed to crackle with an eager energy, though I could not detect any physical manifestation that might have given that impression.
“The Hero,” began Sarusah, and I turned to show that he had my full attention. “Chosen One of Farore…” He smiled slowly, his red eyes glittering in the strange, dim light cast from the stone walls. “Appropriately, he always seems to appear wearing green.”
I laughed at the unexpected humour; it was definitely the first I’d heard from a Sheikah’s lips, and I’d been here almost a month.
“In Legend, the Hero of Men is also called the Chosen One of Farore,” I said, still smiling. I settled myself onto the dust-covered floor and crossed my legs. I’d definitely been picking up some unladylike habits… but then, that wasn’t entirely new.
“It is because they are one and the same,” said Sarusah, as calmly as if it were no great news. My eyes widened.
“So, wait – you mean to say that… that Link is also the Hero of Men from legend? He can’t possibly be that old!”
“But he is. Though his physical form has regenerated and his memory has regressed, the Hero is an immortal being who will live many lifetimes and fight many battles. Allow me to explain.”
Sarusah lifted his hand and swirled it in the air; after it trailed a puff of smoke that hadn’t been there before. A few more flicks of his hand and a formidable cloud had been formed. I leaned back and watched with wide eyes as he snapped his fingers, and many coloured sparks lifted into the cloud, lighting and moulding it. I could swear that… just almost… I could see…
I gasped as the picture became clearer. I saw, shimmering on the smoke, a gathering of grim men in ceremonial robes. Four of the men stood with arms outstretched, creating four corners around two men, facing each other, and another who stood beside them holding a shining blade.
“You see the Ancient Sages, the first of the Seven appointed by destiny to serve the Goddesses as guardians of their creation. Since then, as you know, their destined successors have been awakened to the duty whenever great evil comes to Hyrule. But the Sages anticipated that in times of crisis, their successors may need some extra help.”
Although I couldn’t hear anything, I saw the lips of the four moving in what appeared to be some sort of chant.
“The four who stand in the four points are the Sages of Forest, Fire, Water and Spirit. Now look to the three. The two that face the centre are the Sages of Light and Shadow. Their leader faces them; he is the Seventh Sage, the Sage of Time. He will take his dagger—”
I covered my mouth and flinched as the dagger sliced through the air, but with a wave of his hand Sarusah dispersed the smoke and the image with it.
“The rest is a little gruesome, so I will spare you. Legend has it that Kaepora Gaebora, the first Sage of Shadow, gave his Timeless Form; and that Rauru, Sage of Light, gave his Bright Spirit. With these, the Ancient Sages created a man – a Hylian, who could live and die but who was blessed with extraordinary strength and courage – to be the Hero, who would be reincarnated when the Sages would be in need of him.
“Kaepora Gaebora was cursed to roam as a formless spirit until the Fairy Queen granted him the form of an ageless owl. Rauru, now but an empty shell of power with a shadow of a consciousness, could only exist within the Temple of Light in the Sacred Realm.”
I shook my head, picking at the end of my braid. Did that make Link… less than human? More than human? Or was he simply a human brought into the world for an express purpose… like me?
“How did you show me that, if it happened so long ago?” I asked, pushing away the subject of Link for now. Were they telling me these things to educate me, or to make me feel less that Link’s predicament was my fault? As much as I could see the logic, my chest still felt hollow and ached when I thought of it.
“Strong thoughts or feelings can often be imprinted upon an object, particularly when powerful magic is present. The memory that was imprinted on the White Blade that split the Sages’ souls from their bodies was strong enough to present a clear image. I once touched that legendary blade and saw the memory; I have replayed what I remember to you.”
“But how?” I blurted, then bit down on my tongue. I didn’t want to seem too eager. Nonetheless, Sarusah smiled slowly; obviously he saw right through my sudden seriousness.
“Ah. I see. Magic, of course, as you well know – and I imagine that you are eager to learn. But first, pray tell me… what is Impa teaching you?”
I lifted my eyebrows at the question. Didn’t he know? Were Impa’s plans and motives also being withheld from the rest of the tribe? Anyway, she’d never told me not to speak of it; and I could see no reason why I shouldn’t tell him now.
“History, geography, languages… as she always has,” I said, then thoughtfully tapping a finger on my knee I added, “Although now she also teaches me tactics.”
Sarusah knit his brows and nodded with a thoughtful “Hmmm.” His eyes skimmed over my face, seeming to search for something, before he asked casually, “And has she told you why your education in these things is so important?”
Education was always important. Yet had she given a specific reason? No. I shook my head, expecting Sarusah to tell me; but he didn’t, merely smiled and nodded as if his questions had meant nothing at all.
“Impa has asked me to instruct you in religious matters and in the use of magic, as well as natural botany,” He said, idly stroking his short white beard. “Are you agreeable to this?”
Of course, I thought, what other option did I have? I had to trust Impa. Either way, the idea of learning to use magic was understandably thrilling. I nodded my ascent.
Sarusah nodded in answer and held out his hand. “Teaching you will be far different from teaching any other, I suspect,” he said as I placed my right hand in his; he gripped it and leaned forward, squinting. The mark of the Triforce of Wisdom was like a pale scar on my hand, barely visible.
“And with that, we begin your first lesson: that this is only one of three sources of power hidden within you.”
VI. Seeing the Truth
“Power is present inside of every living thing; it is the power to breathe, to think, to exist. All power is derived from the Goddesses and is of its own merit neither good nor evil; it is the heart of the being that serves as a filter, twisting the power within to either create or destroy. Magic, then, is in itself a sort of neutral life energy – do you understand?”
I watched Sarusah intently, my mind going over and over the words he spoke, mulling and handling with careful concentration. Slowly, without my realizing it, I began to unwind the white linen wrap that guarded my feet. The first sentences out of his mouth had turned my existing concept of magic completely on its head; now I felt disoriented.
“So even insects have magic?” I asked, just to clarify. My teacher nodded.
“All living things contain life force – and magic is a part of that life force. However, not all beings contain the ability to bend it to their will or to draw it from other things, and those that do have varying talent and skill.”
“Draw it from other things?” I asked, horrified – the thought of anyone being able to steal the energy of life and will from any fellow creature was terrifying.
“Thank Farore, life energy must always be given willingly; thus, it is most often transferred through receptacles… artefacts. Though they are living things, they are like algae; they are not created to think, but to contain and channel magic energy. Energy, channelled steadily from the Goddesses and through willing donators, can eventually create an awesome well of reserved power.”
“Like the Triforce,” I said quietly, rubbing my hand.
“We will get to that,” Sarusah said, holding up his hand. “The example that I was going to give is the Light Force, specifically. It is a golden triangle, specially made to fit within the Triforce of the Gods. It was made by the Minish long ago; when a great evil threatened the land, they gifted to the Hero of Men the Picori Blade and the Light Force itself. With it, he sealed the armies of evil into the Bound Chest that has been guarded by the Royal Family ever since. It is commonly believed that the Light Force was sealed within the chest as well, but… our legends say that it passed into the Princess Zelda of the time and was inherited in succession by her descendents.”
I held a hand to my chest, raising my brows. How many golden triangles could a girl be expected to harbour in one little body? I was starting to feel like the Sacred Pincushion.
“The Light Force was made to compliment the Triforce, but it does not approach its power by a fraction. This is because the Triforce was created by the Goddesses themselves and therefore serves as a direct, unlimited channel from them to the holder.”
“Wait,” I said, holding up my hand to halt the bombardment of information, “Am I to believe that I have at my disposal a store of magical power so great that I could wipe out an army if I so wished?”
Sarusah knit his brow, looking truly concerned. The frown made his features sharp, and I wanted to flinch away. He could be soft and grandfatherly one moment and fierce as a hawk the next.
“Hopefully,” he said sternly, “You would not so wish it. An army is made up of many individuals, each not necessarily fighting against the cause of goodness and peace. To wipe out an army with such flippant will would be the act of a thoughtless child.”
I raised my chin, my pride hurt. What was he suggesting? “I was merely clarifying; I never suggested that I would wish to do it. In fact, I would not. Rest assured.”
“Either way,” Sarusah began again, speaking slowly, “You lack the knowledge and the skill to harness that energy. As you are now, you are like a swordfighter with a perfect blade and no arms.”
“But you will teach me,” I said, trying to soften my stance. I’d tensed with defensive indignation when he’d seemed to suggest that I would thoughtlessly exterminate thousands. The result could be called peace, but it would truly only be a silence: one filled with blood, resentment and shame.
Sarusah seemed to study my face for a long moment and then relaxed as well, nodding solemnly. “I will teach you,” he affirmed, “starting with the basics. Using magical objects with caution and discretion, first; magical objects are designed to draw on your own energy as you make use of them and so will guide the process on its own. And then… meditation. You shall not be able to draw out and shape any energy at all without the proper ability to concentrate.”
Meditation? That sounded easy enough. And as for artefacts…
“What kind of magical objects?” I asked, smiling. My curiosity had been roused by the mask that morning; obviously that was what he had intended.
“There are countless magical objects of varying power and purpose scattered throughout the kingdom. Some occur naturally or are made from natural things, like a jabus bag; others are created, crafted to serve a specific purpose. The Goron’s Bracelet, for example,” he said, gesturing to the golden bracelet resting on the nearby shelf among Link’s other possessions. “Increases the physical strength of the wearer. It has other magical properties as well, as most objects will; namely, it can expand or shrink to fit the wrist of the one who wears it.”
“Who makes these things?”
“Magical items are exceptionally difficult to create, as they require absolute focus of attention and will while simultaneously sculpting a physical shell. Thus, only very skilled sorcerers will have any success. Many artefacts, you will find, have been made by the Sheikah in Kakariko.”
“The gossip stones,” I said, “will I learn to use those?”
“Yes, but only to watch. We have often used them as portals in the past, but we are sure that they are being monitored by Ganondorf’s minions. We cannot be too careful in times like these.”
“Ah, yes…” I said, my mood immediately sinking at the unexpected reminder of my current predicament.
“Hmm,” Sarusah said, observing my sinking spirits. “Perhaps we should start with meditation after all.”
This time, I didn’t sigh. I didn’t squirm or frown or whine. I knew, by now, that it would do no good. It was a pattern that we’d established and repeated, over and over, at least fifty times now: I would recite the nine tiers of the Sacred Hierarchy of our religion, never considered an easy task, and he would direct me to start over again. My voice was growing hoarse. The scripture was ingrained in my brain by now, more so than it had ever been. In my head rang nothing but levels and names and numbers, bouncing around and formulating as they poured from my lips.
“The Three Goddesses: Din of Fire and Sand, Farore of Earth and Wind, Nayru of Sea and Time.
“The Four Spirits of Light: Eldin the Owl, Faron the Monkey, Lanayru the Serpent and Ordona the Goat.
“The Seven Sages: of Forest, Fire, Water, Spirit, Light, Shadow and Time.
“Seven Elemental Guardians: Great Deku Tree, Baron, Jabu-Jabu, Valoo, Sun Fish, Devil, Cyclos and Zephos.
“Two Sages of the Master Sword: of Earth and of Wind.
“Spirits of the Elements.
Suddenly Sarusah stretched one hand out over my head and with the other indicated the Jabus bag on the nearby shelf. “Retrieve that bag,” he said quickly, before I’d even drawn a breath to begin again.
With my droning pattern (so fully the object of my concentration for the last two hours) suddenly removed, my mind wiped blank and all that remained was the impulse to follow the order. I directed my will to retrieve it but found in a confusing moment that I could not move a muscle; and yet I watched as, wavering and dragging, the bag flopped from the shelf and made its way jerkily across the dirt-covered floor to tap my bare foot.
Sarusah let his hand fall back into his lap and relaxed back into his chair, watching as my body sagged in the absence of his magic and shock and amazement registered in turns across my face. I was too preoccupied with the idea that I’d moved something without touching it to care that, essentially, he’d just tricked me. He was a competent teacher… and I felt exhausted.
“You are still drawing on your own power, which is limited. That will be your natural instinct. You must learn to empty your mind of all but will; then you shall be able to do far more than move a bag a few feet.”
I smiled wearily at him, beginning to take up and rewrap the linen strips I’d removed from my feet earlier. Tonight would be my turn to cook. Lena herself was hardly a top chef herself, but she was obviously doing her best at teaching me. While we worked around the house she would quiz me on ‘our family’; and that was the worst bit, however simple, of all of this training. ‘Who is your father?’ she would ask, and I would have to swallow all of my sorrow and worry and answer that my father was Morik, even as I missed and longed for my real father. Denying him stung like a swarm of bees trapped in my ribcage. I imagined that calling me Penka caused Lena a similar sensation and so forgave her for her harshness with me.
“Where do you think you’re going?” Sarusah asked, and I halted near the door.
“Aren’t we… done?” I asked, sagging. As exciting as the prospect of learning magic was, I had found that in fact it was exhausting work.
“Not by any stretch of the imagination,” he laughed, gesturing for me to sit back down. I did so with a heavy sigh, which he ignored completely.
“Now, let us see if you can put the bag back…”
At dusk, I managed to climb my way to Lena’s doorstep with a gait that much suggested that I was dragging my own body behind me. She didn’t turn to look at me as I entered, just gestured to the produce she’d gathered on the table.
“It’s your night,” she said simply, “and I thought that a stew would be appropriate.”
I groaned. Stews and cereals, cereals and gruel, every single night. If I’d known that the shadow guardians of the kingdom had so little to feed themselves, I’d have had a firm talk with my father. Well, I thought firmly, there will be time for that yet.
When we finally sat down to eat, Lena pointedly sniffed at my gooey creation and made a face. I narrowed my eyes but said nothing, enthusiastically digging into my own bowl and struggling as I did not to make a face myself.
When we were finished and I sat on the floor scouring the kettle, Lena did the unthinkable: conversed.
“How went your training with Sarusah?”
I looked up at her, staring with a far-away gaze out the window, in surprise. She gave me a sharp glance at the long silence and I quickly went back to work on the cleaning up.
“Well enough,” I shrugged, “though for such a supposedly powerful entity, I have an outrageously difficult time so much as moving across the room magically.”
“That’s no surprise,” she said, once again staring out the window. A warm breeze, strange for autumn, wafted up to ruffle strands of blonde hair that had come loose from her braid. “My talent never lay that way, but Sarusah always said that learning magic was like…”
“Learning to dance with two left feet,” Sheik said as he entered, pulling the curtain firmly shut behind him. His eyes swept over me and then went to Lena. Something silent seemed to pass between them, and then Sheik jerked his head toward the door. Lena nodded, almost imperceptibly.
Feeling left out of the loop, I said quietly, “You’re just in time to witness a miracle. Lena’s decided to be chatty tonight,” and laughed nervously. Sheik smiled at me, but it seemed distracted and unnatural. Forced. Lena was busy rewrapping her wrists, and she too looked distracted. As another warm gust of air blew the curtain of the door open, Sheik held out his arm to hold it – the red light of the failing sun briefly illuminated their features.
A cold stone seemed to drop suddenly into my stomach. My smile disappeared. “The sun went down hours ago,” I said, my throat constricted. I turned to Lena, feeling somehow… betrayed. “You were trying to distract me,” I added needlessly, my voice rising in volume.
I leapt up without hesitation and charged toward the door, but Sheik caught me in his arms. “Penka, stay inside!” He said, trying to hold onto me as I struggled against him.
Realising that there was no way that I would be able to overpower him, I straightened and glared into his eyes.
“Sir,” I said darkly, my voice no longer that of a scared little girl. “Release me this instant.” He stared wide-eyed into my eyes silently for several moments and I held his gaze, unwavering. “That’s an order,” I snapped, and he released his hold on my arms abruptly.
No one tried to stop me as I raced toward the cliff on which I’d stood just that morning with Sarusah, now lit up with the red light of fire below. The Sheikah village was almost entirely empty, populated overwhelmingly with the rising echoes of screams and shouts from below. I skid to a halt beside the edge and fell to my knees, staring down at the sight of Kakariko aflame. From a distance I could see the specks of running citizens, the sprinkling of fallen bodies, and beyond… I sobbed as my eyes trailed outward and found that the carnage was not reserved for Kakariko only. Blackness covered the fields of Hyrule, broken up by pinpoints of flame; it was the seething, glittering mass of armoured bodies. Of war.
“Come away from the edge.” I jumped as Sheik gently gripped my elbow, trying to pull me away from the scene.
“Has the capitol already been taken?” I asked, aware of how very sparsely the village below was populated by soldiers as opposed to citizens. Many citizens had taken up arms and could be seen weaving among the quickly falling masses. A clumsy evacuation was being executed by those still living and unengaged. If so few had been spared for Kakariko, it meant that the rest were either engaged elsewhere or slaughtered.
“No,” said Sheik, “the people still fight. Our allies in Labrynna march to join them as we speak.”
Aside from the surprisingly small amount of defenders, clearly something was off. However thoroughly I searched with my eyes, I could not locate a single Gerudo in the village. The Hylian soldiers seemed to be falling to some… invisible beast.
“What is it?” I asked, breathless. My voice seemed too loud and close in comparison to the distant cries that echoed up the mountainside.
“An ancient demon,” said Sheik, still holding my elbow. “Resurrected by Ganondorf.”
“Resurrected?” I asked, shaking his hand from my elbow. He only stepped closer, but this time he didn’t touch me. I wasn’t sure that I really wanted to know; but I had to keep him talking. I needed a voice of reason. I needed to feel something other than powerless.
“He was once one of our kind, a drummer, and lived in this village. He had a strange ability to always, unfailingly, see the truth… and it drove him insane. He was condemned and executed for murder. Bongo Bongo… to remove the hands that committed the deed and the head that conceived of it.”
I don’t know how long we stood in silence, gazing down at the wreckage that was the budding village of Kakariko.
“Sheik,” I finally said, still staring as soldiers and Sheikah fought to contain the beast. “I should be down there helping them.”
“Someday you will be strong enough,” he said, his voice just as flat and cold as it always was despite the comforting words. “Someday the Hero of Time will awaken, and the fires of this war will cool.”
I closed my eyes against tears, my eyes stinging from the smoke.
“Someday… I think that that is the saddest word in our language. There is so much longing and false promise in that word, whether you are waiting for something pleasant or unpleasant.”
Sheik took my elbow again and tugged, but I refused to budge.
“Someday,” I said sadly, turning at last to look at him with bloodshot eyes. “But people are dying today.”