Posted on August 03 2018 by Jarrod Raine
A Moment’s Rest
Zelda tried her hardest to keep her attention on Queen Lorisu and her words, but her mind wandered, as it tended to do in formal meetings. Since she turned thirteen, she had been sitting at her father’s side during such diplomatic meetings, and often walked out with a perfect imprint of Impa’s knuckle in her upper arm. But…she couldn’t help it. Formal meetings were just so boring. The Zora Queen was kind, and beautiful, and regal, and intelligent, and a slew of other admirable qualities, and Zelda, for the life of her, could not stop her mind from wandering to anything, literally anything, other than the words her generous host spoke.
Impa discreetly rapped her arm again. Zelda inwardly growled. I’m listening, I swear. Relations and trade, maintenance of peace, same old, same old. Yes, lovely to see you, thank you for putting us up for the night. If I spent one more night sleeping on the ground, I don’t think I would ever feel my butt again.
Her boots were soaked. She could feel the wrinkled skin of her toes against their worn leather, and they chafed uncomfortably. She stretched her toes as far as she could, longing for the chance to free them of their binds and prop them up somewhere dry. As if anything in Zora’s Domain could be dry.
And everything smells so weird.
I never want to eat fish again.
Where’s Link? I’m starving.
Oh, Goddesses, it’s only midday…!
Impa’s knuckle struck again, this time digging deep enough to drag Zelda’s attention to her advisor with a glare. The Sheikah stared, eyes driving daggers straight ahead, cold, stone expression betraying nothing.
“Your Highness?” Queen Lorisu spoke. Her voice, a sort of melodic symphony all its own, drew Zelda back to the meeting. “Is everything ok?”
“Forgive me, Your Majesty,” Zelda bowed her head in apology. “I think, perhaps, I am tired from my travels.”
“Of course,” the queen nodded, leaning on the arm of her elegantly curved stone blue throne. The diamonds on her equally brilliant golden headdress tinkled like little chimes with every move of her long, slender-finned head. She fingered them momentarily, as though embarrassed, then stood. Unlike many of her subjects, the queen wore a sleeveless gown of fine pearlescent silk over her tall, thin form, flowing as naturally as the fins that grew from her elbows. The material, specifically woven for her alone, had a slightly see-through quality to it, hinting at the seafoam green humanoid figure beneath. Under the light of the luminous stone ceiling, she appeared an ethereal goddess, far beyond the reach of aging and mortality.
A timeless goddess of fish.
Er. Sharks, I guess.
The teeth behind Her Majesty’s smile certainly spoke to her carnivorous appetite. Not to mention, the two had engaged in a friendly eating competition after a couple glasses of wine during her father’s last birthday celebration – much to the horror of the ladies of the Court. The queen had been the only person Zelda had ever met who could keep up with her appetite, but Zelda had retained her crown as “Heaviest Eater in the Land.”
“Jabis?” Lorisu beckoned to her son.
Compared to his mother, he was rather bulky, all muscle and bright-eyed mischievousness, and had reminded Zelda of herself in many ways since the two met. Jabis stepped from the throne’s side to his mother’s, and side by side, the two could have been confused for siblings of equal age. He bowed to the foreign emissary, then glanced at his mother, waiting for instruction.
“Please escort Princess Zelda and Lady Impa to our guest chambers and see to it that they are comfortable.”
“Of course, mother,” he said happily, glimmer of a dashing smile flickering across is long jaw; it was clear to see which of his parents he took after. He bowed again and raised an arm in a gesture for Zelda to take the lead.
Zelda thanked the queen for her generosity and turned to leave. A slender hand fell upon her shoulder, gently holding her back. She glanced down at the fingers.
“And when dinner comes, prepare to be dethroned,” Lorisu whispered in her ear.
“Bring it on, Shark Lady.” Zelda smiled wryly.
Impa shook her head, pinching the bridge of her nose. Jabis just kept on smiling, like it was all just another day in his family, and he was excited for the potential of a new contestant.
When Zelda and Impa arrived in the royal guest hall, nestled in the tail of the stone fish that made up the centerpiece of Zora’s Domain, Zelda thanked the prince and watched as he sauntered off, swinging his thick arms like tree trunks. His silver rapier clinked against the golden belts on his waist with every step, ridding him of any chance he might have at stealth. The moment the top of his head disappeared down the massive stone staircase, she relaxed and went to untie her boots.
“Not going to do that in your room?” Impa asked.
“I need them off now. Ugh.”
“I told you to pack more than one pair.”
“And I did not listen. Clearly I regret that now.”
Impa chuckled and ruffled her hair. “I’m going to go find the others. I think they got lost in the pub on the way from sheltering the horses.”
“Probably,” Zelda shrugged, tugging her first boot off and setting her foot down on the gloriously dry floor. “Let them have some fun.”
“Oh, I will, but someone will need to be there to pick them up and carry them here when they inevitably reduce themselves to a blubbering mess.”
She laughed openly at this, an actioned mirrored by Impa’s grin. The Sheikah waited for Zelda to remove her other boot, then leaned down and pecked her on the forehead. “Don’t sleep through dinner, Little Princess. I think that might constitute a forfeit, and you must preserve your honor.”
“I won’t, I promise. Want me to save you some?”
“No, thank you. I will raid the kitchen later tonight.”
With another peck on the forehead, Impa took her leave, leaving Zelda to pick up her boots and proceed to the end of the hall, where, behind an opaque blue glass door, the largest room – her room for the evening – lay. She threw open the door, tossed her boots to the side, barely processed the vaulted luminous stone ceiling and scattering of glass and gold furniture, and hurled herself face first on the waterbed. It undulated beneath her, tossing and catching her head and legs, until it settled in a cool, enveloping embrace around her. She sighed, feeling the muscles in her back accept that, for the next couple of hours, she was alone, in a bedroom, without demands or cares to command her attention. Her brain almost immediately turned to mush as she rustled her way under the thin silk covers, not even taking the time to take off her wet-hemmed dress.
You have to be kidding me…
“Oh, forgive me!”
Zelda sat up with a groan, realizing before she saw that she had forgotten to close her door. Rylan stood in the doorway, fist raised just inside as though she was about to knock. The young guard immediately averted her eyes and stepped back.
“No, it’s fine. Come on in.”
The guard tilted her head; Zelda motioned to her to come sit on the bed. After another moment’s hesitation, she obliged, sending waves through the bed once more. The two looked at each other, then chuckled lightly as they rode it out and waited for the water to settle.
“This will take some getting used to,” Zelda admitted.
Rylan nodded and carefully lifted her legs to a crossed position. “I have never slept in one before, so it will be an experience.” She tilted her head, and her long, onyx hair fell over her shoulder.
“Huh,” Zelda said. “I don’t think I have ever seen you with your hair down.” The Sheikah seemed to blush, and reached to sheepishly tuck it away. “No, no, that’s not what I mean! Leave it; it’s pretty!”
“Thank you, Your Highness.”
“Please, just call me Zelda when we’re alone. I can’t stand formal personal conversations.”
“As you wish, Your – Zelda.” Rylan glanced at her nervously. Zelda smiled with encouragement and sat back to take the young guard in. “I apologize for intruding on your nap.”
“It’s fine, really. I probably shouldn’t try to sleep right now, anyway. Impa’s right: I’ll probably just sleep through dinner on accident.”
“Have you not been sleeping well?”
Not since Ordon. Zelda shrugged, trying to avoid the thought, begging to stave off the memories. “It’s the ground. Doesn’t suit me.”
“I imagine it’s not what you’re used to.”
She barked a laugh. “Not at all, no. But I am sure you are.” Rylan tilted her head; to the Sheikah’s credit, she didn’t seem perturbed, but Zelda buried her face in her hands, cheeks burning in embarrassment. “That didn’t come out right.”
A moment of awkward silence fell between them, with Zelda just wishing she could melt into her bed. She could feel her entire being crawl into itself, shrinking until she was nothing, and that stupid statement erased itself from the history of spoken word.
“Oh!” Rylan exclaimed. “I get what you’re saying!”
“Because you’re a Sheikah warrior?”
Rylan nodded; an understanding had, indeed, been reached. “Yeah, I have been trained since I was a little girl to survive in pretty much any condition. This isn’t the first time I have slept on the ground for an extended period of time.”
“Impa has told me stories of the training she’s gone through. Seems…rigorous.”
“That’s one way to put it.” The two laughed together in perfect harmony. They stopped, stared at each other, then burst out in another fit of simultaneous giggles, like little girls. Like old friends. Zelda suddenly realized she felt completely at ease in the Sheikah’s company, and whether it was desperation for female companionship of her own age or a true connection, she didn’t much care. Rylan filled a hole she hadn’t known was there, and she was thankful for it.
“Is it true that you are basically escorted to the outer edge of Hebra and you have to make it back to Kakariko alone, fending for yourself with nothing but a knife and a fire-starting kit?”
Rylan stared incredulously. “Impa got a fire-starting kit?”
They laughed again.
Hours passed with conversation, real conversation, exchanging stories of Impa’s training, comparing it with Rylan’s own and Zelda’s very posh upbringing amongst arrogant lords and worthless ladies. Zelda had only just begun regaling her…friend…with a tale of her first attempt at shooting a bow – she had nearly taken the hat off of a nearby, oblivious guard – when Prince Jabis appeared once more in the hall. He didn’t come completely up to the door, but he could see in just fine.
“Dinner is ready, Your Highness.” He glanced from one girl to the next. “Shall I ask the cooks to set an extra plate?”
Zelda turned to Rylan, who had relocated to sitting next to her, back propped up against a pillow. “Hungry?”
Rylan shrugged. “Sure, I could eat.”
“So could I,” she grinned. “Yes, please; thank you kindly.” Jabis bowed, showing absolutely no resentment at suddenly being reduced to a servant – in fact, Zelda recalled, he had never seemed anything but in the best of moods at all times. He disappeared again, a spring in his gait, and Zelda stood with a stretch.
She turned, meeting the Sheikah’s eyes. They had softened considerably over the afternoon as Rylan’s guard had loosened and finally fallen away. Now, her face held a content expression that looked strange on her, contrasting with its sharp angles and pale, almost translucent skin; she looked completely different. Hardly like a guard at all. Zelda was reminded of her thought that Rylan would have made a wonderful lady of the court, and all the rest would be surprised when contralto words cut them down.
“Do you fear another attack like the ones at Ordon?”
Zelda did not even need to consider her answer. “With you, Impa, and Link? Not at all.”
Rylan smiled, pleased.
Queen Lorisu met the two at the bottom of the stairs, looking as tall and other-worldly as ever. Zelda had to crane her neck to meet the queen’s gaze, but when she did, she was met with the same mischievous grin her son wore.
“Did you sleep well?”
Zelda bowed her head, back in Princess mode for a moment. “I chose not to sleep. I did not wish to be rude and sleep through a meal so graciously prepared for me by my hosts.”
Lorisu glanced at Rylan, then around them at the empty hall, then lowered her voice. “You mean you did not want to forfeit the challenge?”
“I have a title to defend.”
The Zora chuckled lightly and proceeded to lead them to the pools just below the throne room, where often members of the public and of the Zora court gathered to swim, mingle, and eat. Everything about Zora’s Domain felt so much more open and inviting than the stiff, ritualistic, enter-only-when-given-permission atmosphere of Castle Town. In fact, in all her years meeting people of other races, the only particularly uptight race seemed to be Hylians. Even the surly, duty-bound Sheikah and the notoriously serious Gerudo would let loose from time to time and engage in friendly competitions of skill and game.
We could stand to learn a thing or two, that’s for sure. Too busy walking around with our heads up our own-
“Oh, a visitor arrived for you not too long ago. I asked that he wait for you to finish resting, and he’s been kept busy with several plates of food. He seems quite exhausted.”
A rush of excitement nearly swallowed her – but there was just no way. “A Rito?” Please, say it’s a Rito.
“Ah, he was expected, then?”
“Not this soon…” It hasn’t even been a week, what more could Deya have? Whatever it was, it was either very good, or very bad, and she fretted the latter. Especially since shadn’t even made it to Necluda as she had told the Rito she would. In fact, she had stopped in Zora’s Domain for advice from Queen Lorisu on her way down, and the queen had provided her with several stops along the way, pushing her time to her destination back at least two weeks. “No wonder he’s famished; he had to have been frantically searching everywhere.”
“So he says,” the queen nodded as they stepped into the open room with the community gathering pools.
Sitting on the edge of the farthest one, stack of several plates next to him, a familiar silver Rito sat, preening the feathers in his wings. He took note of royalty entering the room and stood with a great deal of effort. Zelda could see the strain and discomfort in his face every inch that he moved, from pulling his feet out of the water to his slow, precise bow. He groaned.
“I appreciate you traveling so much to find me,” she said, motioning for him to rise.
“Her Royal Highness demands haste, and I willingly oblige,” he grimaced, pulling a rolled up parchment from the leather pouch on his hip.
“Well, see to it that you remain in Zora’s Domain tonight and rest at the inn. I will pay for it.”
“You are kind, Your Highness.”
And rich, let’s be real here. Money may not have bought everything, but it had its advantages. Zelda promised she’d use it to help the Rito tonight: he had certainly done his share and more to earn it.
In the meantime, though, Zelda unwrapped the parchment. She became aware of Rylan’s eyes on her. “It’s Deya,” she explained.
“Is he well?” the Sheikah asked. “Has he found the man with the Rito bow?”
Zelda read the letter.
She read the letter again.
No, no, no…
This cannot be…
Her heart stopped. Her breath caught. She read the letter again. Her hands shook so much, she could hardly make out the words. Her knees nearly buckled beneath her as the world spun. Every word of every history text she had ever read. The voice of Hylia rang out in her mind, an ancient warning through the eons.
I have to get him out. I have to find him.
What have I done?
“This isn’t good.”
“What is it, Your Highness?” Was it Rylan that asked? Lorisu? Zelda couldn’t tell. The world around her faded.
The world around her burned as it had burned so many times before.
Hylia stood before her, screaming something she desperately tried to understand, but nothing made sense. Nothing ever made sense. She was floundering. In a tower. Lost in time. Raising the lands to the skies. She was…
“Princess, I have a name! I know who we need to find!” Link scrambled up to her from nowhere, blowing through the illusion of the goddess to take her shaking hands and draw her back.
“Tell me,” she whispered, but her voice was not her own. “Tell me who it is…” I think I already know.
No, this wasn’t good at all.
Featured image by MaskedGolem.