Posted on February 01 2019 by Kat Vadam
She hovered next to the barracks window for a moment too long. She had started to second guess herself. What if he did not want her company? He wasn’t her servant, at her beck and call. She had actual servants for that, and she could call them. He was a knight, bound or not. Ultimately, he served her father, and he did so well. But she didn’t want her servants – they could do nothing for her irrational fears. Her handmaid, though kind, and polite, and gentle, held no answers for her tonight. She did not need to be summoned for Zelda to understand this much. No, best to let her sleep.
But Link? Perhaps he held nothing for her either, but in his presence, she felt…free. No pressures of the King, her father, and no eyes of the kingdom as she stumbled to find and harness her own destiny.
And curse destiny. What had it done for her, ever? Heir to a throne of nothing but failure. Finding the power she was apparently meant to harness as Calamity Ganon drew near had proven completely fruitless, and frustrating, and downright debilitating in her daily life. She spent every waking moment torn between striving to appease the ancient goddess and trying to find a place among the mortals without divine paths. She refused to be helpless, but all her actions, all her trials and tribulations had proven…
She felt hopeless.
Especially tonight. That dream…the woman in gold light, speaking to her without sound. It had to be none other than Hylia herself, chastising her, reminding her that she had a duty to her kingdom, and a gift yet undiscovered, despite her lifetime of attempts. She could see the goddess now, screaming at her, the Calamity comes. You must save them all. No, she had no real way of knowing what words had been spoken, and she was no good at lip reading, but if she were a goddess looking upon herself, she imagined those words to be her own.
And this is why she should not have hesitated. This is why she had snuck from her balcony, in nothing but her sleeping gown, satin robe, and hiking boots, to seek the company of her companion and sworn knight.
She needed to talk to him, about anything else. He had not been much for words before, but he had finally begun to open up to her. She still recalled the chill down her back when he told her he felt the eyes of the world upon him. They had driven him to silence, as they had driven her mad. And together, the two of them had slowly found sanctuary in each other, driven together by the pressures of destiny.
She knocked, lightly, timidly, not sure he could hear.
What am I doing?
What am I thinking?
Run. Run now. Run fast.
She shifted her weight to her back leg just as the window slid up and a blonde head popped out. No escaping now.
“Your Highness?” Link whispered.
“Link…” she stuttered, half wondering if there was still time to bolt into the darkness. No. Just ask. “Ca…can I come in?”
Link glanced over his shoulder back into his room. His status granted him a living quarters of his own, one she knew gave him endless grief as his fellow knights of the Royal Guard ribbed him relentlessly. He held a rank of note before his appointment, at an extremely young age, and no others his equal held quarters as large. His was a living space of a General, and many laughed and poked and shouted “nepotism.” And he, being Link, sheepishly shrugged every time and waved it off without defense.
“Of course, Your Highness,” he turned back to her. “May I have a moment?”
She nodded. I interrupted him. He was busy, and I interrupted him. He disappeared back through his window for a moment, leaving her alone once more with her thoughts. She tried to block them.
Not soon enough, he popped back out and offered his hand. She took it and hoisted herself through.
The first thing she noticed of the room was how very empty it looked. It hardly lacked in furniture, housing a bed she suspected was more plush than his fellow knights’, a desk and chair, an armoire that looked out of place, and a dresser. Yet, where signs of life would normally grace a house, here, they remained conspicuously absent. No pictures of family and friends. No paintings, nor random plush pillows, nor clothes scattered around the room when they should have been in a basket for cleaning. Only a single, rust red blanket on the bed, and a small bookshelf, full of books she was sure he had memorized. She had never really been inside a Castle Town house before, but she had always imagined they’d be full of memories. The barracks should have been the same.
This just saddened her. The Book of Link remained closed, even in his own home.
“Sorry, I was not prepared for guests,” he said, straightening the books on his shelf.
She shrugged and walked a few paces to his desk. “I imagine not at this hour.” What?! “I mean…I am sorry to insinuate…!”
He chuckled softly, an action he never would have done but a few weeks before. “No, you’re absolutely correct.”
“Oh, goddesses, I cannot believe I said that…”
This time, he full out laughed, much quieter than her handmaid when Zelda stumbled over her own words, but a laugh, unrestrained, nonetheless. “Your Highness, you are as skilled with words as I am.”
“Gee, thanks.” She buried her face in her hands. This was not what she had in mind when she sought his company. She searched for anything to change the subject. “You know the Gerudo language…?!”
He smiled as she blindly raised a book pulled from his desk to him, open to a page nearly half way through. “Hardly. I am trying to learn.”
“I can teach you…” she desperately sputtered, hoping to just sink into a puddle on the floor instead. “Urbosa taught me!”
He took the book from her hand and closed it. His warm smile did nothing to calm her embarrassment, and she was sure her cheeks glowed as bright as the lava on Death Mountain. “I would like that.”
She gulped and nodded.
He turned back to his bookshelf and proceeded to continue organizing the contents like an over-attentive servant. “I did not know you speak Gerudo.”
He glanced over his shoulder.
“Is that bragging?” Her mind was a whirlwind, and she was caught deep within the storm.
“No,” he shook his head. “If you do, then it’s the truth.”
“It was my second language. Urbosa taught me; I didn’t know she spoke Hylian until I was six. She believed in complete immersion.”
“And it worked.”
“It worked.” She smiled shyly and glanced down at the desk once more. Please, I am not bragging.
You were privileged.
The corner of a sheet of paper lay tucked beneath another book, this one a tale of Hyrule old. She pulled it out…
Her own eyes stared back, black against yellowing parchment. Her face portrayed an expression of glee almost alien to her, one she barely recognized. Her hands, more delicate surely than in life, clasped loosely beneath her chin, offering a gift. The realism struck her like a slap in the face, like she looked at a black image taken by the Shiekah Slate itself.
“Did you…draw this?”
It was Link’s turn to blush. He scratched the back of his head and avoided her eyes. “I did.”
“It’s amazing. It looks so real.”
“Thank you,” he whispered, still not meeting her gaze.
“Is this how you see me?”
He did not answer right away, shuffling to his bed, head hung in shame. Guilt racked her for a moment; he had never looked so heartbroken. His entire posture had slackened, and she could feel him slipping away from her into himself once more. She made her way to sit next to him, hoping to bring him back. The drawing sat between them, smiling radiantly.
“No,” he finally said. “Not often, anyway. And that’s why I drew it. I had never seen you look so happy than when you were telling me about the flowers of Hyrule. When you caught that frog, you just…changed. For a moment, all your burdens had left you as you relished such a small success.”
“I tried to make you taste it,” she snickered, recalling the events some weeks prior.
“I know. And I never wanted to forget it.” He finally looked at her, bright blue irises glimmering in lantern light. Is he trying not to cry? “Not the whole force-feeding-me thing, but your smile. It’s so rare, and getting rarer with every passing day. I was afraid that, one day, I might never see it again. So, I drew that to remember.”
She shattered. Deep within her chest until her own eyes pricked with the threat of tears and her hands went numb, every wall, every barrier, every defense she held to keep herself going dissolved beneath his words. In that one statement, he would never know, but he destroyed her.
Not with malice, not with hate, but with truth.
He saw more of her than she ever knew.
“I am sorry,” she said, before she realized he had said it with her. They stared at each other for a moment. “I’ve been-“
“I didn’t mean-“
They paused, waiting for the other to finish.
“Go ahead,” Zelda said, voice cracking. A tear slipped down her cheek.
“I did not mean to hurt you. I should not have drawn that.”
“No!” she stammered, wiping her face. She could not look at him any longer; her eyes defocused and turned to the window. “No, it’s fine. I just did not realize how blind I have been. I never meant to hurt you.” She wanted to run. She always wanted to run, to just go and never have her failures thrown in her face again. And now, she had hurt Link. He had never been anything but loyal to her, and she had only ever been selfish. She did not deserve him.
She felt the bed shift as he stood and put the drawing back on his desk. Soon, he appeared once more before her and knelt, until she was forced to look at him once more. Her hands shook, her whole body shook as they took each other in, completely fragile and exposed. He took her leg and proceeded to begin unlacing her boot.
“What are you doing?”
“You wanted to talk, yes?”
“You would…you would still talk to me?”
He pulled her first boot off and set her foot back on the floor. “I would do anything to help you.”
She sobbed. Gently, he removed her other boot. She heard him set them off to the side, then shuffle off, then return. Something wrapped itself around her shoulders and a small weight came down in her lap. She sniffed and wiped her eyes until she could see again.
The Gerudo book sat waiting. She sniffed again and looked at him, patiently sitting next to her. He reached out and hesitantly rubbed his hand in small circles between her shoulders, over the red blanket.
“Why…” she began, her voice barely anything at all now, “why are you always so kind to me?”
He shrugged and dropped his hand. Part of her mourned the separation. “Because you see me.”
He shook his head. “I know it has not been easy for you to watch me with the Master Sword. But while everyone else saw only the Hero of Hyrule, you fought to look past the sword, and what everyone else told me I needed to be.”
That was the second time she ever sensed doubt from him in his own destiny.
“I drew that because it saddened me to think I might never again see you. The real you. Not the Princess of Destiny, but Zelda, the girl who smiles at flowers, who gets excited to catch a frog, who excels in ancient engineering. Who gave me shelter in my own storm. If I can keep her alive for a little longer, then I will do whatever it takes.”
Without thought, she threw herself on him and wrapped him tightly in her arms. Link gasped in shock, going rigid, then relaxed and returned the embrace. This was right. The gossip mongers may have said otherwise, crying “scandal,” but curse them, too, right along with destiny. This embrace, feeling him so close to her, his heartbeat against her own, emotions combined in a tidal wave to sweep them off their feet, this was right. Where she needed to be for the rest of her life.
He held her for what could have been eternity in silence, running fingers through her hair, while the outside world carried on. She wanted to stay there forever. Just let me stay here forever.
But it was not to be so.
He eventually let her go, and she sat back, wiping her cheeks dry.
“So,” she said, voice shuddering, “want me to teach you, then?”
He smiled lightly and nodded. She settled against the headboard and propped the book open to the first page over crossed legs. “Where were you?”
“Honestly, I am not sure. I don’t think I have gotten much of the story to this point.”
She read the title and laughed. “Oh, wow! This is quite the endeavor to take on, even for natives!” The book, titled Saa’kar’al Vae Mei, had been written at least three hundred years before in a dialect hardly spoken anymore, save for a few small, rural regions of the desert. She had read it once, and it had taken her the better part of a season to barrel through it: she wasn’t even sure she had gotten the story in fine detail. It may have been considered an example of classic Gerudo literature, but trying to learn the language by reading it was something akin to learning Hylian by reading ancient Sheikah. The roots were the same, but the tree had grown and branched. “I think I have something better in the castle that I can bring you. A children’s book.”
“Thanks,” he winked, settling next to her. She nudged him playfully.
“I mean, I can teach you with this, but I don’t think I would do a very good job. Best to start with the basics.”
“Whatever you say.”
She turned the book over in her hands and ran her fingers down its spine. “Where did you even get a copy of this?”
“She’s evil!” Zelda grinned. The Gerudo Champion had to be having a laugh, most definitely at Link’s expense. She’d have a stern talking to with her friend, right after she laughed and expressed her humor in the joke. “I am impressed you made it far at all.”
“Like I said,” Link scratched his head, once more embarrassed, “I don’t think I really have gotten much.”
She thought for a moment, then got to her feet. “Do you have any parchment and ink?”
Link directed her to the desk. She glanced down at the drawing of her, then pushed it aside for a clean sheet and a quill. She brought it over, and using the book as a surface, scratched out the twenty-one characters of the Gerudo alphabet. “Let’s start here.”
Hours passed, and Zelda had all but forgotten her nightmare that had brought her to Link’s quarters in the first place. His warmth comforted her, from the glow of his cheeks as he fought to write out the alphabet of a language he did not know, to the way he sat a little straighter when he successfully spoke his first rough, slow sentence.
“Perfect!” She said, in Gerudo, and clapped her hands. “Now write what you just said.”
He did, hovering over the ink-covered parchment like he was studying a sacred text. She lay her head against his arm and watched his slow, precise movements, until the newest lines on the page introduced himself as a Hylian Knight of Castle Town. He smiled at her approval.
“Urbosa will be pleased,” she said happily.
His gaze lingered on her, something unspoken behind his eyes. She waited to see if he would express it, but he remained as studiously silent as ever, and the thought faded away. She wrapped the blanket tighter around her shoulders and carried on.
It was not until his voice broke through a haze that had settled in her brain that she realized she had dozed off. He shook her gently. A groan escaped her lips, and she snuggled deeper into his blanket. It smelled like him. Was that weird? She hardly cared. The scent of wood and musk soothed her tired mind. She sank a little farther back into the haze.
“Your Highness,” he shook her again, “it’s almost sunrise. Don’t you think you should return to the castle before your servants come to wake you and see you’re missing?”
No. “I suppose,” she grumbled. It took great will, but after another moment of hovering on the edge of twilight, she reluctantly sat up and blinked the sleep from her eyes. I don’t want to leave. But he was absolutely correct: her servants would come to wake her, notice her absence, and undoubtedly sound the alarm. And then the King, her father, would hear about it, and she would have to admit she’d spent the night in the company of a man. That man being Link, and the rumors that followed them enough as it was, would certainly not help. “Just call me Zelda.”
“You need not refer to me by title when we are alone. Just Zelda is fine.”
He smiled and brushed a stray hair from her cheek. “As you wish, Your Highness.”
His smile broadened as he helped her to stand. She put on her boots, taking her time to squeeze out every last moment she could with him. Even as he watched her without word, she felt safe and content, like nothing else mattered. He laced her boots as he had unlaced them, and she beamed to herself. His careful movements, precise and delicate, betrayed the strong, noble warrior he showed to the world. His hands could wield any weapon, they guided the Sword that Seals the Darkness in a dance passed down through ages, and then they tied her bootlaces to get her safely home. He knelt before her not as a knight, but as a boy, just caring for a girl. As he rose, she lay her head in the crook of his neck for one last embrace.
“Good night, Zelda,” he said as she slipped one leg out the window. She turned back to him and offered his blanket back. He held up his hand in refusal. “It’s chilly. You take it. I will get it later.”
“Thank you, Link.”
Her voice died. She stared for a moment, mouth agape, willing for the courage to speak her heart. Just say it. Just tell him.
It never came.
“Good night, then,” was all she could muster. He smiled and helped her out the window to the ground.
Featured image by Sophie.
Kat Vadam is a Copy Editor for Zelda Dungeon. She is incapable of writing Zelda fan fiction without a little Zelink love. Sixteen-year-old her is so proud. Follow her on Twitter.