Posted on June 08 2018 by Kat Vadam
Chapter Nine: The Informal Oath
Zelda counted the stars, five to the left, three down, to find the constellation she sought. After a moment more of squinting, lines drew themselves between seven random celestial bodies, and she could vaguely make out the Sheikah Eye. It took some imagination, or perhaps the lost, directionless mind of a seafarer, but she could kind of understand where the connection lay.
Of course, she admitted to herself, picking out patterns in stars might have been easier if her vision wasn’t so blurry and her eyes didn’t sting so much. But, crying could cause these things, and that’s all she felt she had been doing in what little spare time she had, between finding out exactly what it takes to build a village during the day, and her silent, desperate, almost hateful prayers to Hylia at night. One thing was for sure: she certainly wasn’t sleeping, not much, anyway. Every time she tried, she relived the fall of Ordon, waking in a cold sweat, only to spiral into a cycle of blame and pity and more hateful prayers.
Why couldn’t you just be clear to me?!
Still, that had never been how it worked, and Zelda knew it. Who was she to question the acts of a goddess?
I am that goddess. Sort of. I think I should be able to. Yet answers evaded her, unlike the stars she now tried to focus on.
She sniffed and wiped her eyes, but no tears remained. She felt pathetic.
An approaching scraping sound just below her perch on the roof caught her attention. She sat up and scooted her way to the edge.
“Link?” she whispered.
The boy looked up, clinging to the wall dangerously far from the ground. He grinned and waved. “May I join you, Your Highness?”
“Um…” she hesitated. She didn’t really want him to see her like this, but if she stayed alone in her own head much longer, she might just drive herself insane. “Sure, but, isn’t there an easier way to get up here?”
He shrugged and finished scaling, taking her offered hand at the top to help hoist himself up. Once he was settled in, he turned to her and smiled again. “How did you get up here?”
“I…well, I suppose the same way, but I at least came from my study window. It’s a shorter climb.”
“You told me that I am, under no circumstances, to enter your room. I assumed, by extension, that included your study, considering the only way to your study is through your room.”
“Point taken,” she conceded.
They fell into an awkward silence, taking each other in. He seemed rather awake for this late hour, not even changed from his green tunic that he wore to train in. She liked the color – it was her favorite, and quite a nice change from the royal blues she constantly got stuck in. As if her name and status did not do enough to make her stand out, why not add something so mundane as a color requirement?
He also seemed fully healed from his wounds of just a few days ago. The castle’s medics truly were amazing in their healing abilities. His arm had been shattered; she had seen it happen herself…
Had it already been so long? Nearly a week with him as her knight, at her side as she tended to the people still currently living wherever they could find room. So natural in his new duties. Once more, the memory of him collapsing at her feet in exhaustion tore into her, and her stomach lurched as she remembered he could have died.
And it would have been your fault.
Zelda jumped and looked away, suddenly very aware she had been staring, and aware that he had been, too. She had momentarily forgotten her blotchy face and swollen eyes.
“Still beating yourself up over Ordon, then?” he asked, somewhere between a playful jab and genuine pity.
“You know, my father would ridicule you on your informality, Knight,” she replied, leaning back once more to watch the stars. He followed suit.
“I apologize, Your–”
She cut him off. “I actually appreciate it. Just don’t let anyone else hear, lest they lose their blessed minds. Goddesses forbid someone sees me as more than a sparkly golden headpiece.”
She sighed. “And if by ‘beating myself up,’ you mean ‘rightfully bearing guilt for my failure to the villagers of Ordon,’ then yes. I am.”
“What do you mean?” she turned her head to look at him.
He returned the look. Nothing remained of his playfulness, only pity. He scrunched his forehead and drew his eyebrows together. “How is it your fault?”
“Are you serious?” she laughed humorlessly, shaking her head in dismay.
“Absolutely, I’m serious.” He propped himself on his elbow, still watching her. She wished he wouldn’t, regretting her choice to allow him up here. This wasn’t helping her at all, only making her feel worse. He truly did not understand how she was at fault, and his kindness dug into her heart with a greater pain than his sword. She almost wished he would just run her through with that and spare her.
Oblivious, he continued. “The way I see it, the attack would have happened no matter where you were. Ordon just got in the way.”
The blade twisted. Somehow, her body found more tears, and they brimmed, just waiting.
“So, it’s not like you asked to be chased down. You did not ask for what happened to Ordon. You cannot control those who wish to usurp your throne and the choices they make. What you did, though: finding us temporary living spaces, giving us food and a roof, ordering the building of an entire new village? That’s what sets you apart. You did not leave us to fend for ourselves. Not knowing what you would do or where we would go, you have worked tirelessly for us.
“Your guilt is understandable, Your Highness. But it is not necessary. Not a single one of us blames you.”
“Have you asked all the survivors?”
“Would you call me a liar if I said yes?”
He chuckled. “Then no. But I do know them.”
She chanced another glance at him and could not resist smiling back at his own dopey grin. She had seen him wearing that same expression at the end of the knighting competition, when he forgot to kneel. It disarmed her, made her feel…secure. Not necessarily from blades and fire, but from her own self-deprecating thoughts. He reached out and nudged her shoulder, much in the same way Impa did when her advisor sought to provide her with forward-moving encouragement.
“We believe in you.”
“Thank you,” she breathed, wiping her leaking eyes. “I still feel it’s misplaced, but…thank you. Truly.” She sat up and wrapped her arms around her knees, resting her chin in the valley between. “I just wish I had figured out what Hylia meant sooner. I am so sick of her games.”
She sighed. Might as well break the ice now. “You’re going to think me crazy. The nobles certainly do, and I think my father might, at least a little.”
“Look,” Link sat up with a sigh of his own, “I have never known much in the way of destiny or fate. I have not really considered myself among the faithful elite. But when I first saw you, I just…knew you. Somehow. I can’t really explain it, but…”
“It was like we’ve met before,” she finished his thought.
She nodded. “I believe we have, in another life and another time.”
He agreed. “From your reaction, I judged you felt the same?”
“You were why I had been sent to Ordon. Hylia wanted me to find you.”
“So,” he nudged her again, “at this point, you could tell me just about anything and I would believe you.”
Zelda considered him, searching his face for any sign of judgement or disbelief like she saw in others, or even the slight pity that her father showed whenever she spoke to him. But his eyes remained steady and true: he meant every word he had said. And now, he waited for her answer. She wondered if, once he had it, he would feel the same way.
“Ok…” she said, more encouraging herself to just take the plunge, “but don’t think I did not warn you.” Deep breath, just talk. “I am well aware of who I am. I have been since I was a little girl and first discovered that not everyone had that strange symbol thing on the back of their hand, and the power of light in their blood. Not even my mother, who held a sort of magic of her own. I looked into it, into the annals of Hyrule old, and developed my suspicions, but never really said anything to anyone about it.
“When my mother died, though, that’s when I first saw her, and when she first truly spoke to me. Hylia. And I realized that she was me. Is me. It’s like thinking thoughts, but not knowing where they come from or why you thought them. They’re your own, but they’re not, you know? And whenever I see her, I feel like I am looking at my own reflection, and she’s talking, but I am not. Then, I started dreaming, and my dreams started to come true. Sometimes, I was able to make sense of them, to see things coming. Other times, I did not understand them until they actually happened. That’s what happened…in…in Ordon. She had tried to tell me to find you, and the consequences when I did. And I did not understand completely until Ordon fell under attack.”
A hand found its way to her back, gently cupping her shoulder. The nobility inside her reacted to just how forward the motion was, but she did not want to be “Princess” right then. She had not realized how badly she needed to just unload until it all came out. The dam had broken, and now, everything had been placed at his feet. She searched his face once more for any suggestion that he did not believe her. He smiled sadly, sapphire eyes purely comforting.
“So, am I crazy to you?”
Link shook his head. “Not at all. I think you just need someone to listen every once in a while.”
She laughed out loud. “Know anyone?”
“Well, I recently got a job protecting a princess, but I think I can make time, as long as she doesn’t find out I’m moonlighting.”
“I don’t think she will mind.”
He grinned and shrugged. “I hope not.”
“You never actually took that job, by the way. Not officially. We had only just gotten to the oath.”
“Well,” he dropped his hand, and she mourned the separation, “how about I do it informally, right now? Princess of Hyrule, I pledge to you my loyalty, my sword and shield, and, should you need them, an ear and a shoulder.”
“I accept this oath and will hold you to it.” She smiled.
He nodded and stood with a stretch. The starlight cast dappled patterns across his lean, muscular body, and she found herself engrossed in admiration. “I suppose I should let you sleep.”
She agreed, regretfully, and watched as he lowered himself back down the side of the tower. “Use my study window this time, please.”
“As you wish, Your Highness.”
“And Link?” He waited. She chewed her lip, wondering how to say her next words. Nothing did her thoughts justice, though, and all she could come up with was a feeble, “Thank you again.”
He nodded and disappeared from sight.
Featured Image by MuddyMink.