Disclaimer: The Zelda characters are not mine. They officially belong to Nintendo. The song lyrics aren't mine either, but I'm not making money off of this harmless fanfic, so I doubt anyone cares. :O)
"I did not believe because I could not see
Though you came to me in the night
When the dawn seemed forever lost
You showed me your love in the light of the stars.
Cast your eyes to the ocean
Cast your soul to the sea
When the dark night seems endless
Please remember me."
~*~Loreena McKennit, Dante's Prayer
~*~ ~*~ ~*~
Someone was waiting for me. I had to hurry; I no longer had all the time in the world.
Once again I entered the Temple of Time, expecting to see her there. But the cavernous room was silent and cold as it had always been, never changing, not even over time.
I didn't actually hear her enter, it was more like I sensed it. Whatever it was, I knew she was there. I spun around, and froze.
It was not Zelda I saw, but Sheik, the boy who had been following me ever since I had entered this strange new realm. His intense amber-brown eyes burned into mine, full of endless wisdom.
He spoke. "Once you find the answers, you will learn to ask the questions."
I nodded, understanding at last.
A flash of light blinded me. I threw my arm over my eyes, then looked back at Sheik. Standing there, in his place, was none other than the Princess Zelda.
She had changed immensely, but then again, so had I. Princess Zelda of Hyrule was no longer the slight ten-year-old girl she had once been. She had the same golden hair and smooth skin, but her eyes now sparkled with admiration and wisdom and a hundred other things she had acquired in the time she had been known as Sheik. She was noble and humble, happy and sad, wise and naive, all at the same time. And as I gazed at her, I realized I was actually seeing my own reflection in her. We were both the same, half-grown teenagers, both who had taken heavy burdens upon themselves.
Seeing the Princess had yet again awakened in me emotions I had never known existed. She was the only one who knew what I had been through. I had been stripped of my identity, handed a burden that only I had that strength to lift. I could see right through her, see the other half of me. It was like time had stopped completely, and we were the only ones capable of listening to the silence.
Zelda was smiling at me, but her voice had a serious tone to it. "I'm sorry I had to lie to you, Link. I have been hiding these seven years from Ganondorf. Had he found me, our attempts to save Hyrule would have been lost. But now that you have freed the Sages, we can defeat the Evil King together --"
She was interrupted by a loud rumbling. We stared at each other, confused, but then the truth became clear all too soon. We had been found out.
Suddenly, a pink light began to shine around Zelda. She held up her hands in horror as she realized what was happening. She was being trapped inside a large, pink crystal.
"No!" I looked around to see who had shouted, but then realized the cry had come from me. "You can't take her --"
But it was useless, we both knew. Ganondorf Dragmire was going to take her away.
"No! No!" I kept screaming. Not here. Not now. Not after all I had been through to find her. . . I could do nothing. Zelda's frightened blue eyes stared back at me from within the crystal. I banged on it in a futile attempt to release her, but to no avail.
But then the crystal began rising, higher and higher into the air. I could hear more rumbling in my ears, and I realized that it was the Evil King's voice. . .
"You want her, come get her."
Zelda was still watching me. I glanced up, and our eyes locked. Her pleading sapphire eyes burned into mine, and for a moment I thought I could hear her voice over the rumbling.
"Help me, Link. Please, help me. . ."
~*~ ~*~ ~*~
As I had done nearly every night for the past few months, I awoke with a start, half-expecting Ganondorf to leap out at me from the shadows of my chamber. Then I remembered with annoyance that he was gone, trapped in the Temple of Time for Din knows how long. He can't come back, I told myself for the millionth time. He's gone for good.
And even if he did manage to escape, I would be waiting.
I rolled out of bed, knowing that there would be no more sleep for me tonight. The dream would just come back again, and then I'd lose her again, over and over. . . I couldn't stand to see it. Even when I blinked, I could still see Zelda's eyes, her plead for help. Only I wouldn't be able to.
I shuffled toward the window of my room, pondering the events that had led to my living in the castle. After Zelda had sent me back to my real time, I had continued to live in the Lost Woods for several more years. When I turned fourteen, however, I left the forest forever and had come to stay at the castle as a royal guard. Eventually I was knighted, and now I was known around the castle as "Sir Link of the Kokiri" and nothing more. No one suspected that I had ever been called the Hero of Time.
Sometimes I wished I could go back, but the feeling was fleeting. I would quickly remember the hell that Zelda and I had gone through. Why would I ever want to face all that again? Still, the lure of adventure had and always will pull at me.
I banished these wistful thoughts from my mind and focused on the beauty that lay before me instead. My room was rather small, but I never needed much. All I really cared about was the stunning view of Hyrule from my window. From my viewpoint, I could see past the twinkling lights of Hyrule Castle Town to the silhouette of the silent trees far into the distance. At night, I would watch the stars cascading through the sky, wishing I were out there with them. And at dawn, I would watch as the scene was slowly stained with the colors of the rising sun.
I watched shooting stars for a while, then turned my gaze toward Zelda's room, which was situated in the highest tower in the castle. Through the curtains of her balcony I could see that a light was still burning despite the late hour. She was obviously still awake, probably preparing for tomorrow's festivities.
I turned away, my heart suddenly heavy. More than anything I wished the dawn would never come. I realized with a sigh that there was no point in denying the inevitable any longer. I had known for years that this day would arrive, but I hadn't expected it to be here so soon.
Tomorrow morning Zelda would be gone forever. From that day on she wouldn't be the person I had always known her to be. She would have to become Queen Zelda VII of Hyrule, the noble wife of young King Bernard IV of Sosaria. Tomorrow she would grow up.
And I would still be Link, the lowly peasant boy who had faithfully honored the princess for all these years. I knew I wasn't worthy to meet her gaze, but Zelda had always treated me as an equal. Now that I think about it, I really wish she hadn't. Maybe then I would not have fallen in love with her.
I don't know why I allowed myself to do that. I had known there was no way I could ask any princess for her hand. A princess was supposed to be ladylike and learn how to greet nobles and throw banquets and other royal stuff. But Zelda was completely different from any person I had ever known. She rode horses, was amazingly good at archery, and she could slide down a stair rail faster than anybody. And we talked about everything, from philosophy to fishing to castle gossip. She was beautiful and funny, and I enjoyed making her laugh. I knew her better than I knew myself. And even though I frequently reminded myself how stupid I was being, I couldn't help but think that if the King knew what I done, he might have considered me. . .
But that was a whole other time, in a different world. And he doesn't know and he probably won't ever know. It was too late, anyhow. The wedding was tomorrow. And I had to go say goodbye.
~*~ ~*~ ~*~
I walked silently toward the tower stairs, my heart growing heavier with every step. I stopped at the bottom of the stairway, just staring into space for a moment, already overcome with memories. I gripped the railing with one hand, fondly remembering how many times she and I had slid down it, despite Impa's reprimands. Just the thought of these happy times stabbed at my heart and caused more pain than any blow the Evil King Ganondorf could have given me.
Why was I doing this to myself? I had known all along that this would happen, ever since I had gazed upon her that fateful day in the courtyard. And if I had known, why had I allowed myself to fall in love with a princess, of all people?
I began to ascend the spiral stairs, my feet as heavy as blocks of stone. With every step, another memory came back, each one more vivid than the last. Maybe in another place, another time, we could have been together.
Presently I reached the door to Zelda's chambers, but I couldn't bring myself to knock. When I did, she would answer the door and ask me why I was visiting so late. Then I would have to tell her.
There was no other alternative. I couldn't stay here in Hyrule and watch Zelda and her new husband rule together. I couldn't bear to see it; I'd be too busy torturing myself, thinking of what might have been.
Candlelight spilled through the crack at the bottom of the door, bathing the corridor in dim light. Zelda was still awake. I hesitated for a moment, but then approached the door. I had to accomplish what I had set out to do. There was no turning back.
I raised my fist. It was better to get it over with, I decided. Quick and painless, or so I hoped it would be.
My knuckles just grazed the wood when I caught sight of the glimmering golden symbol on the back of my left hand. There it was, clear as day, the proof that what I had done for Hyrule etched into my skin, into my soul. The proof that what had happened seven years ago was not part of some glorious dream. . . proof that I had once been known as the Hero of Time, and Zelda the Princess of Destiny.
Oh, Nayru, give me strength. . .
I took a deep breath. This was definitely hardest thing I would ever have to do. And that was saying something.
I quietly knocked. And waited, heart pounding in my ears.
I was rewarded with nothing but silence.
I knocked again, louder this time. "Princess Zelda? Are you awake?"
From within I heard a noise. I grabbed the brass doorknob and jiggled it, remembering how it always got stuck if turned the wrong way. Zelda had been locked in her room this way at one time or another. Fortunately, I had years of practice with the stupid thing. It opened easily.
"Zel . . ?"
The room was empty. I stood there, looking at the familiar objects of her room. There was her elegantly carved mahogany four-poster bed with its embroidered bedspread, the colorful tapestries that hung on the walls and provided extra insulation, the thick carpets that covered the wooden floor. Hanging on a hook by the window was the gilded cage of the little brown nightingale Bern had given Zelda. She loved it even though it refused to sing for her, or anybody for that matter.
And there, by the balcony, hung the beautiful windchime I had given Zelda when she turned seventeen. I had made it from sparkling white crystals that the Gorons had once given me because apparently they tasted bad.
Zelda had loved it even more than the little nightingale. She hung it right by the balcony where it caught the light and sent colors dancing over the walls. When she left the doors open the chimes made a sound sweeter than any nightingale's song.
The doors were open tonight. A small breeze sent the curtains billowing and set off the tinkling melody of the windchime. I smiled when I heard it. So many memories. . .
Then I heard something else. It was a snuffling sound. . .like someone crying.
I silently walked toward the balcony and pushed the curtains aside. There, sitting on the wide stone rail of the balcony with her feet dangling over the edge, was Princess Zelda. Her long hair was streaming out behind her like a golden flag as she sat, shivering in her long nightdress. I felt a pang of sadness, wishing I could soothe her fears, that I could always be her loyal friend. I wished that this moment would last forever. I wanted it to be like this -- always. How I wished that I didn't have to go. . .
But I had to, for her sake as well as my own.
She spun around. "What -- Oh! Link, you frightened me!"
Zelda tried to pretend she was rubbing her eyes, but it was too late. I had already seen her tear-stained cheeks. That was a typical Zelda thing to do. Always trying to hide herself behind the regal mask of a princess. Still, I didn't want to embarrass her by asking about it. She was so sensitive about things like that. If she wanted to tell me, she would. It was no use pushing it.
"Hey, how come you're out here?" I asked her. "It's freezing. Come on, let's go inside." I held out my hand to her, and she took it. Her small hand was soft but cold. I squeezed it without thinking.
She squeezed back as I pulled her through the door and shut it behind her. "Thanks, Link. I guess I didn't notice how cold it was out there," she said.
I gave her a sad smile. "You don't want to catch cold, do you? You have a long day tomorrow."
Zelda grimaced. "I know, but I needed some time to think, and. . ." She looked tired.
"Come on," I said, pulling her toward her bed. "You need sleep. You've been up late all week."
Letting go of my hand, Zelda obediently walked over and collapsed on her bed. "I try, but I can't. I can't stop thinking about tomorrow."
I came over and settled myself in the high-backed chair that had been placed next to the bed, trying to think of something to say that would calm all her fears.
"Don't worry," I said, although I knew she would anyway. "Impa will be there, and so will I."
"Of course," I said teasingly. "You actually think I'd skip something like this?"
She didn't answer right away. "I don't know what I was thinking."
A wave of guilt washed over me. So she knew I had wanted to leave.
"Bern is a good man," I said finally.
"You think so?" Zelda asked hopefully.
"Of course," I said firmly. "Your father would never have given him your hand if he wasn't a good person."
"I suppose not."
She was twisting the edge of the bedspread nervously. "Link, I have to tell you something, but you can't tell anyone as long as you live."
I smiled whimsically. It felt good to be trusted. "I swear on the Triforce that I will never tell a soul."
She sighed, as if the weight of the secret was too heavy for her to divulge. "I don't want to marry Bern."
That was plain to see. "I know."
"You seem so surprised," I said.
"I'm -- well, I'm not, I guess," she said. "Bern is nice and everything. . .but I have to grow up tomorrow, and I'll never again be able to go back to yesterday."
"That's the problem with time," I said seriously. "Always moving, always changing. Life goes on, even when you don't want it to. Even if you don't want to be where you are, you're stuck."
She jumped out of her bed. "Exactly what I was thinking," she said. Crossing the room, she approached the nightingale's cage.
"What are you doing?" I asked, but I already knew.
"Something I should have done a long time ago," she answered tersely, throwing the balcony doors open.
I watched as Zelda opened the door of the cage and the little bird seized its chance. It spread its wings and flew out through the balcony doors towards freedom.
She turned and smiled at me. "Bern will understand," she said, walking back to her bed.
I smiled back, sitting there in silence with my own sad thoughts.
She got into bed and pulled the heavy covers up to her chin. "Thanks, Link. You always know exactly what to say. Maybe I can sleep more peacefully now."
I took this as my cue to leave. I rose to my feet.
"Link, wait . . ."
I slowly turned around. Her wish was my command.
Zelda was biting her lip nervously. "Will you stay for a little while longer?"
I stared at her. On her face was the same pleading look from my dream. The same wide blue eyes, the same fearful expression. She didn't want to be alone when her fears returned. I instantly made my decision. I would be there when they came back.
I smiled and sat down again. "I'd be glad to," I told her.
She smiled back and rested her head on her pillow once more, closing her eyes in repose. She was gone into the land of dreams within minutes.
I shifted uncomfortably on the chair and stared out the balcony windows. Soon it would be morning. A new day in Hyrule was swiftly approaching, and I would still be here to see it. I had been asked to stay.
A soft wind blew through the room, filling my ears with the sweet music of the windchime. The candle flame flickered and went out. From somewhere outside, I thought for a moment that I could hear a nightingale singing along.
The End :O)
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