“What do you mean our supplies aren’t coming through?”
“It’s just as I said, Your Grace. We haven’t received shipment for any of the stone we requested from the Goron’s for the last week or so.” The messenger knelt before the throne, glancing nervously at Zelda.
She sighed, rubbing her left temple with the pad of her thumb, a frown pulling at her mouth. She struggled to reign in her frustration. Why hadn’t they received the shipment? And why hadn’t she been told right away? If she was to be Queen, she needed to be made aware of these things immediately in order to find the best course of action to fix it.
She couldn’t help herself as she snapped at Williams, saying, “Why wasn’t this brought to my attention earlier?”
Her adviser blinked at her, the only show of his surprise. “I assumed there was no need to trouble you with it, Princess, as this should be something I should be able to take care of as your Adviser.”
Zelda could feel her anger begin boiling just underneath her skin, and she shoved it down. “If I am to be Queen, no matter how trivial the matter, I want it brought to my attention right away.”
She turned to the messenger, schooling her face into a mask of calm. “Have there been any further problems with shipments?”
He hesitated a moment, and she could see his throat bob as he averted his eyes. “It may seem silly but there seems to be a, uh…banana shortage.”
Now it was Zelda’s turn to blink in surprise. “Bananas?”
The man nodded, emphatically. “Yes, Your Grace. It appears the crates of fruit had been tampered with, but the only items missing were bunches of bananas. I’m not fully sure if anything else has been taken or messed with, though.”
Zelda tapped her chin thoughtfully. “Was this during travel? Was everything accounted for beforehand?”
The messenger shrugged. “I’m not sure. I’d say perhaps they just forgot to be included, but it just seems odd. It’s happened to the last two shipments.”
Zelda nodded, smiling slightly. “Thank you. We’ll figure out how best to proceed. If you hear anything else, please come to me straight away.”
“Of course, Highness.” He bowed and hurried away, closing the throne room doors behind him.
The princess turned to Williams, her smile having turned to a frown as she crossed her arms. “How far does this put us behind in building?”
Williams glanced at his chart. “Well, seeing as that’s about two weeks worth of shipments. I’d say we’re about three weeks behind, including travel time. But that’s not including getting more shipments to make up for the loss, and the time it takes for it to get here.”
“So we could be looking about a month, if not longer…” Zelda scrubbed at her face with her hands, her frustration slowly welling up once again. “We’ll be getting our first freeze any day now, and over half of the houses are still completely destroyed. Is there any way for us to make up for lost time?”
Williams shook his head, sighing. “I don’t think so, Your Highness. We don’t have that many people to help us.”
“Well, let’s hope our good weather holds out for a bit. Meet with the Gorons, and see who they can spare. Take a gander at the supplies we have. And every shipment coming and going is to have a few soldiers with it. We can’t afford to lose anything else. It’s best we if we are prepared. I fear we have a brutal winter ahead of us. And while I have my suspicions of who’s causing this, I can’t say for certain just yet.”
William’s bowed his head and left, she presumed to write a letter requesting help from the Goron tribe.
Zelda got to her feet and headed towards the gardens, Link following by her side. “I have my suspicions that the Yiga Clan are behind this,” she said, placing one foot in front of the other, listening to the soft sway of the grass as they passed over it.
Link remained silent, letting her get her thoughts out.
“It’s been too quiet,” she mused, “and yet all of a sudden, things are being brought to my attention weeks after they’ve happened. The timing is just all weird.” She pursed her lips, lost in thought for a moment. “What if we set a trap?”
Link glanced at her sidelong. “Like?”
With a quick look around to make sure no one was listening, Zelda hatched her plan.
A week passed, and Zelda waited patiently. Their normal shipments arrived intact, a small group of guards and Gorons following behind. Everyone threw themselves into their work, though Zelda could hear the grumbling from some of her people. Rumors began to spread like wildfire, the latest being that the princess planned on eloping, leaving her kingdom to fend for itself. Zelda couldn’t help but roll her eyes at that one. And while most people didn’t believe that rumor, knowing her to be better than that, almost everyone believed she was having her own quarters fixed first. There had been many a time where someone had stopped her on her path through the town, hands flying and voices raised as they expressed their anger and frustration. Zelda had done her best to calm them, but soon, it had gotten to such a point that Link had had to escort her back the castle. She was no longer allowed to leave without an armed guard as well, and she soon began to wonder if the Yiga Clan had been planning this far before she and Link had met with the girl on the path.
“The people are getting restless, Princess,” Williams had told her when she and Link had gotten back from Castle Town, the people’s shouts still ringing in her ears. She hadn’t responded, simply retiring to her room early, hoping beyond hope that their plan would work.
She slept fitfully that night, with the “what ifs” plaguing her mind. She tossed and turned until the sun was just beginning to peek over the horizon, finally giving up and flinging her blanket off her. She dressed hurriedly and strapped on her sword before making her way down to the garden where Link had promised to meet her.
She stretched as she waited, reaching her arms above her head and twisting her wrists this way and that to loosen them. She unsheathed her sword, feeling the comforting weight of the hilt in her hands.
After a week of training, Link had the blacksmith fashion it just for her.
Supple leather wrapped around the hilt, and a blue sapphire glimmered in the diamond shaped pummel. The blade itself was long and thin, double edged and dangerous.
While most people wouldn’t see it as a sword fit for a royal, it was perfect to her. It was clean and simple, without all the unnecessary jewels and frills. It meant even more to her simply because it had been a gift from Link.
Gravel crunched behind her and she spun around, her heart pounding. But her nerves would be quickly relaxed. She sighed in relief as Link came closer, the Master Sword strapped to his back.
Zelda took a deep breath and nodded grimly. It was time.
Zelda could hear the keel of the bells as the people of Castle Town slowly began to wake up and start their chores of the day. The sound of horses whinnying as they were let out into their paddock reached her ears, and soon the sound of hammers and shouts echoed along the landscape. She took a moment to stare at her home, at the people working so hard to help her repair it. If thing’s went badly today, this could very well be the last time she saw it.
She shook her head, casting away the dismal thoughts. Her plan was simple. She and Link would lure the Yiga out by pretending to be training in a small field a away from the castle. Depending on how many there were, they should be able to defeat them quickly. And if things took a turn for the worst… well, she wouldn’t let that happen. She knew there were flaws and holes in her plan, and while she had hoped to have more time to figure out how to settle this, it just was not to be. Her people were getting more and more restless by the day, and she feared that, soon, they would revolt against her. She knew action needed taken now.
“Ready?” Link asked her, his expression neutral.
She licked her dry lips and nodded, unsheathing her sword and wrapping her already sweating hands against the leather hilt.They slowly began to go through their normal exercises and warm ups. Link would thrust, Zelda would parry, and then they would reverse roles. Link’s eyes flicked over her shoulder at some point, and when she cocked her head, he didn’t let his eyes stray.
“It worked,” he said simply.
Her hands shook, and she could feel her heartbeat picking up speed at his words. The fear begin gnawed away at her, and she swallowed against it.
“Don’t let the panic in. Be confident in your ability. And most important… “ His blue eyes finally slid to hers. “Rise above your fear.”
Zelda gave him a sharp nod, and with that, the group of Yiga launched themselves at the Champion and Princess.
The group of Yiga wasn’t large, by any means, but for Zelda, who had never really been in any real fight before, seeing the Blade Master and the five other foot soldiers sent a chill down her spine.
“I see you’ve started training, Princess,” one of the Yiga soldiers sneered, stepping forward. Zelda recognized her voice from their run in at the bridge all those weeks ago. “Too bad you’ll soon see it’s all pointless.”
The girl cocked her head towards her companions slightly. “Leave her to me… you can deal with the Champion.”
They nodded, and Zelda barely had time to pull her sword up to block the Yiga girl’s wicked cutlass. Steel clashed against steel as Zelda felt herself being pushed back already, her arms straining to keep her blade upright.
“Well, would you look at that? She learned how to block! How cute…” The Yiga’s voice dripped with disdain, and before the princess could respond, she felt her feet being knocked out from underneath her. Her head smacked into the grass and as stars swam against her vision, the Yiga girl’s cutlass came arching towards her. Zelda gasped and rolled out of the way, the blade cutting into the sleeve of her tunic.
She scrambled to her feet, her sword still clutched tightly in her grasp. As she sank into a defensive stance, the unmistakable sound of a child’s laughter floated up to her ears. Horror welled up as she watched a small child running towards them, chasing a small blue butterfly, skirts flying. The Yiga girl turned her head towards the child, and Zelda could almost see the smirk beneath the cream colored mask.
“No!” She yelled, her eyes panicked as the girl disappeared in a cloud of smoke, only to reappear right in front of the young girl. The child blinked and looked up at the red uniform, her eyes wide as she shoved her wispy blonde hair out of her face. “U-uhm… that’s a scary mask,” the child stuttered, taking a step back to get a better look at the stranger. “But that’s okay… mommy says we shouldn’t judge people, even if they’re kinda weird lookin.’”
The child gave the Yiga a toothy grin, shoving out her chubby hand. “I’m Marla! What’s your name?”
The Yiga girl bent down and took the girl’s hand. “I’m called Azazel.”
Marla cocked her head again, a small frown pulling at her lips almost comically as she lisped, “Athathel? That’s a hard name.”
“Don’t worry, kiddo. You won’t need to remember it.”
Zelda watched as the Yiga raised her cutlass into the air. “Marla, run! It’s not safe!” she screamed, her lungs protesting as she raced towards them.
Marla’s little face whipped towards her, taking in the frantic look as the princess scrambled towards her, her eyes wide with fear. As Marla looked back towards Azazel, the cutlass already racing down towards her, a highpitched scream ripped from her throat.
Zelda hurtled herself towards them, slamming herself into the Yiga soldier just as the tip of the weapon connected with the little girl’s cheek, leaving a long red cut along her skin. Marla fell backwards with a cry, and Zelda and Azazel landed in a tangled heap close by. The air whooshed out of Azazel as her back connected with the ground. Zelda didn’t even think though as she leapt off of her and rushed over to the child, her face stricken.
She fell to her knees and gently helped Marla up, her hands clasping the girl’s frail shoulders.
“Marla! Are you okay?! Are you hurt?!”
The girl continued sobbing, throwing herself into her princess’s arms.
A feeling of helplessness washed over Zelda. How could she have let a child get hurt? If she had been a second to late, that child’s blood would be on her hands.
She shook her head, squeezing her eyes shut. No. How could anyone have tried to hurt a child, just to get to her? Anger replaced her fear, her feeling of hopelessness. Her anger coursed through her veins, red hot and boiling, ready to erupt at any second.
A killing calm stole over her and the shaking of her hands stilled. She kissed the top of the girl’s head and gently extracted herself from Marla’s death grip.
“Marla, you stay behind me, okay? And if anyone else tries to grab you, you kick and hit with all your strength, you understand me?” Zelda peered into the girl’s watery eyes, finally looking away once she had nodded in agreement.
Zelda got to her feet turning towards Azazel, who was finally stumbling to her two feet. She was vaguely aware of Link battling the Blade Master, the other foot soldiers moaning on the ground as they clutched at their ribs or sides. She hefted her sword, the comforting warmth of the leather seeping into her skin.
This girl was going to pay for what she had done. She wouldn’t kill her, especially not in front of a child. But she would make her regret ever having lifted a weapon to strike Marla.
Zelda launched herself at Azazel just as the girl was bracing herself. Steel struck steel, and Zelda pushed the offensive as the Yiga girl tried to hold her ground. She feignted to the left, whipping her sword up to the right as Azazel moved to block the fake out, ripping open the red uniform and drawing blood on her right arm.
The girl grunted and took a step back, glancing at the cut. “You’re gonna pay for that.” Azazel rushed forward, swinging her cutlass at Zelda.
Zelda blocked the attack with the flat of her blade, but her arms stung as blows reigned down on her. She hadn’t been prepared for just how fast this girl would be, and before she knew it, she was once again on the ground, scrambling backwards, her chest heaving.
“Godesses, you just have to butt your nose into everything, don’t you, Princess? You just have to try and be a ‘deserving Regent,’ trying to fix whatever problems come your way. It makes me sick.” Azazel spit at the ground, placing the blade of her cutlass just under Zelda’s chin, knicking her skin and watching as a drop of blood began a lazy trail downwards. “You wanna know what my plan was, Princess? I was going to make everyone in this Goddess forsaken place come to hate you. I was gonna let the rumors fly like wildfire, burning everything in the path. And then, I was going to use the death of a child… any child really, to finally break you.” She sneered at her, her hands shaking with ill-repressed anger. “But I guess killing you right here will just have to do.”
Azazel lifted her cutlass once again, the sun glinting on the tip of the blade as it came hurtling down towards her. But Zelda was not done, not just yet. She summoned her last bit of strength, channelled her last bits of rage and fear, and felt the world around her slow.
She surged to her feet and with a yell, she plunged her sword into Azazel’s abdomen.
Azazel’s attack stopped in midair and her eyes bulged. She stumbled backwards, and Zelda watched as the girl looked down at the sword protruding from her. She let out a low, disconcerting chuckle, wrapping her hands around the hilt of the weapon. “You realize you missed, right? This blow won’t kill me. It seems your training has failed you.”
Zelda shook her head, watching as the girl removed the cream mask and pulled back her hood, letting her brown hair tumble around her shoulders. “No. I never planned to kill you. I don’t want your blood on my hands.”
Shock registered on Azazel’s face and her mouth parted in surprise. Zelda glanced at Link as he came up beside her, his tunic ripped in some places and a few scratched on his face, but otherwise unharmed. Marla stood, half hidden behind him, watching the Yiga girl.
Zelda turned back, hesitating, before saying, “You could leave that life behind, you know… The whole killing and exacting revenge. I think there’s more out there for you than that. And to be honest, even though what you’ve done is wrong, I have you to thank for helping me realize how helpless I was. That day on the bridge… it helped give me that push to take my life back. So. Thank you.”
Azazel sneered at her, though the normal bite to her words wasn’t there. “What are you saying, Princess?”
“What I’m saying is, if you’re willing, I would like for you to live at the castle. Make a life for yourself. We could use you in the guard.” She replied, shuffling on her feet but not looking away.
The girl was silent and her face softened just barely.
“I suppose I should ask why you’re offering this, but I won’t.” Her fellow companions limped over to her, one of them wrapping an arm around her waist to support her. They turned, and as they began walking away, Azazel glanced back towards Zelda, the sword still where she had been stabbed. “I’ll think about it… Princess.”
With a puff of smoke, the Yiga clan disappeared.
Zelda and Link slowly made their way back to the castle, neither one of them speaking. Marla walked between them, picking flowers as she went. Just before they reached the castle gates, she turned towards them and offered the small bouquet to Zelda. “You were super brave, Your Highness.”
The princess smiled softly, kneeling down as she patted the young girl’s head. “No, Marla. I think you were the bravest of us all.”
The little girl’s face lit up and she grinned. “Really?”
“Really. And you can call me Zelda. Your Highness seems way too stuffy.” Zelda winked at the girl, and Marla giggled before turning and scampering towards the gates.
Link helped the princess to her feet, resting his hand on her elbow. Marla turned one last time, eyeing them. “You guys are cute together. I hope you get married one day.”
Zelda’s mouth dropped open and a blush spread along Link’s cheeks as he quickly dropped his hand. Neither said anything as they walked back to the castle, dirty and tired, but full of hope.