Sacred Flesh

By Shadsie

Chapter 1: Loss

The sky was unbelievably blue, like a cut sapphire, clear and flawless. The birds chirped in the gardens below and the wind kissed her skin cool from the open tower window. Zelda sat in her bedchamber, leaning with her arms crossed upon the stone windowsill. An open book lay on the bed behind her. There was no need to hold formal court today and she’d told her guards that she’d wanted to spend time working on the story she’d been writing. She had worked on it a little today – a strange, “fantasy-style” tale about a city of steel and glass and people who’d conquered the skies with machines. It was based upon some dreams she had, but none that she’d considered prophecies. They’d felt too distant to be premonitions.


Everyone knew her real reason for wanting to be alone. The north tower bedchamber was the highest room in the palace, the perfect place for watching for a person waiting for someone. Construction the palace was still going on, particularly around the south tower and the main courtyard. The first palace, and Ganon’s Tower after that, had been destroyed years ago. The new palace, based upon the plan of the first, was very near completion, but the young queen insisted that it be a perfect replica of the original castle down to the last detail. This created much work for the nation’s craftsmen and artists and did quite a job of raising national morale.


Peace reigned, for the most part, though there had been those that cropped up to try to destroy it. There was a cult group out of the desert that was known as “The Children of Guinan.” Aside from a few assaults and robberies attributable merely to a few individual members, they had yet to make any major move. Zelda, in her wish to be an equitable queen, broke with longstanding tradition and allowed a small measure of political dissent in her kingdom – as long as it was voiced and not acted upon. She also allowed for religious freedoms, and by her own honor, could do nothing but have members of this group watched.


Then there was Agunim, which was the reason why she was waiting and watching at the window. Agunim was a bold wizard who had been causing a great deal of trouble in western Hyrule. He’d made an attempt at opening the Gate of Time to take the Triforce and had fled with his followers and army of magical beasts to the desert. He was building his power there and it was said that he’d been taking human sacrifices. Most of Hyrule’s army was off fighting him, including the exalted Prince Link.


He never would become king. Since Link had not been born of nobility, he could only take the title of prince upon marrying Zelda. Even that wasn’t a title he’d wanted and he’d said that he did not feel special enough to take it. There were men in the palace that said the Hero of Time was possessed of an overabundance of humility. Though he admitted that he looked very good in royal dress, he never seemed to be comfortable out of his commoner’s tunic.


Zelda had received a letter by messenger-hawk the day before last from General Kenyon marking that the troops had been victorious and that they were on their way home. She’d been receiving his reports from the front for well over two months, as well as letters from Link. The poor dear – she could tell his letters well before seeing the signature at the bottom because of the way he wrote. He tried, but Link’s letters always awakened the writer in Zelda, her inner editor.


The letters themselves were always drawn very neatly, but the grammar and the sentence structure were frequently off. Link knew that he wasn’t a good writer and Zelda often gave him small lessons. Growing up as a Kokiri, he’d told her, he didn’t learn to read. The Kokiri had fairies for that. When she asked him how he gotten through his quests, he’d told her that Navi (and then Tatl when he had been in Termina), had read for him. He’d said that he didn’t get any formal lessons until Kafei and Anju had taken him in during the years he’d stayed in Termina. Common Terminian script was essentially the same as Hylian, and Link made it a point to read extensively to increase his skill and knowledge in the art, but the fact remained that he’d began to learn to read well after most other children in Hyrule did.


Writing, itself, is a skill that even the most avid of readers must practice much in order to do well. In addition to that, his lack of a royal education left him at a loss for vocabulary at times, so he never wrote eloquently. In the time that he was away, Zelda had made a game of his letters. She would take one that he’d sent her, dip a quill in a well of red ink, and make edits to his letter. She would send it back to him along with a letter of her own. Sometimes, he would send her a re-written copy of the old letter along with a new one. In this way, they continued their lessons together, even as he was away. Link’s last letter had given Zelda a great deal of sorrow and fear. In addition to reporting some friends that had fallen, Link detailed a disturbing power that Agunim wielded. When soldiers got into a certain range of the wizard’s stronghold, they’d stagger back, their blades and bows out, and attack the Hyrulean front. Apparently, Agunim’s magic had the power of possession. Link had written that they did their best to incapacitate and capture the possession victims. He was adamant that he would not kill his own men, whatever state they were in.


According to General Kenyon, that was over now. They’d be bringing back the fallen to be given honors, and the majority of the soldiers were alive and well. The General had written nothing of Link, and it had been two weeks since his last letter. Zelda told herself that, in the last push of the fighting and in organizing the homecoming, he did not have the time to write. They’d be in each other’s arms soon enough.


Their children, girl and boy twins, were with Impa and Mr. Hildebrand, their teacher. It was important to Link that his children have the education he never had. They were five years of age, having celebrated their birthday just before the army left. They wanted their daddy back and it broke Zelda’s heart every time she had to tell them he wouldn’t be back for a while. Their names were Kafei and Anju, after Link’s adoptive parents in Termina. Anju was actually “Zelda Anju,” because they both wanted to continue the name in the royal line, but the little girl was called Anju except in formal introductions. As far as the kids were concerned, they were “Fei” and “Ju.”


Zelda saw figures moving on the horizon. She rushed out of the bedroom and she heard bells tolling. The guards on the palace watchtowers had seen them, too, and were calling the people of Castle Town to greet their loved ones, and, more importantly, the physicians to be ready to take care of the returning wounded. She ran into Impa in the hallway.


“They’re returning!” Zelda said breathlessly, “Where are the children? Their father is home.”


“They are still with Sir Hildebrand, my lady,” Impa replied. “Do you not think it is best that they not see the men when they first arrive? There are dead and there are wounded.”


Zelda nodded. “A wise judge as always, Impa. It is best for them to be kept from the horrors of war. I am sure they are eager, however, to see their father.”


“There is a time for everything. Go on to the edge of the city. Minister Ayato and I can handle affairs here. Go see Link.”


Zelda nodded in thanks and ran out onto the palace grounds and past them, to the edge of Castle Town. The crowd that had gathered parted to let their queen through. The approaching figures were now visible. Zelda caught sight of General Kenyon riding his armored white mare. Many men walked on foot, some of them armored, some of them not. A few of them wore bandages around their heads or had their arms in slings. Wagons rolled up behind them, pulled by horses, and some soldiers led horses without riders.


Zelda looked for Link. She caught sight of a horse that looked like Epona, sword and shield buckled to her empty saddle. Kenyon dismounted, struck his sword into the ground, and bowed before her.


“Queen Zelda, we have returned. Hyrule’s enemy has been defeated.”


“Excellent… General Kenyon,” Zelda said shakily. She motioned for the palace and town doctors to see to the wounded. “General? My husband… he’s not on his horse…he’s…”


“Over here, my queen,” Kenyon said, gently taking her by the hand. He walked her to one of the wagons. “I’m afraid he’s been gravely injured, but he is alive.”


Zelda peered into one of the covered wagons to find Link lying on a pile of blankets next to medical supplies and tins of salt pork. For a moment, she thought he was wearing his red Goron tunic before she saw the patches of green that showed otherwise. Zelda shivered. Link’s eyes were closed and his skin was pale. His breathing was heavy and his face was etched in lines of pain, even though he didn’t look fully conscious. Kenyon jumped up into the wagon’s bed and crouched down next to him. The general put a hand on the prince’s shoulder.


“Link... wake up, Link. We’re home. Zelda is here.”


“Zelda?” Link said, sitting upright in a bolt before grabbing at his middle and hissing through his teeth.


“Careful!” Kenyon scolded.


Zelda climbed up into the wagon and put an arm around him gently. “I’m here,” she said, “I’m here. Lay back down.”


She helped him lay back and she held his hand. He looked up at her, smiling. “What happened to you?” She asked. “Your last letter was two weeks ago.”


“Thanks….for….the…editing,” Link said weakly, squeezing her hand and trying to express mirth without being able to laugh.


“I watched it happen,” General Kenyon explained, “I was too late. One of our men who became possessed by Agunim’s magic engaged him and got him cornered.”


“Blake…” Link whispered.


“Yes,” Kenyon continued. “And Link played defense as long as he could. We tried to get at Blake, but…”


“Not gonna….kill… one of mine… Blake wasn’t himself.” Link said.


Kenyon sighed. “Blake slashed him good a couple of times, right across the chest there, then ran him right through the gut. We quick-patched him and have been giving him what potions for pain we can, but he’s been suffering the last three days.”


Link gulped and grit his teeth. “I’m fine, Kenyon. Don’t worry about me.”


“Says the man with the hole in his gut. Most men wouldn’t be alive as long with the wounds you’ve got. You are one tough kid, but you’ve gotta let us take care of you… and her.”


Link looked up into Zelda’s sad but smiling face. “Where is Blake?” she asked General Kenyon.


“He’s with us,” Kenyon answered. “He’s back to himself. Link laid a few cuts in him, but he’s really none the worse for wear physically. He’s taking what happened pretty badly, though.”


“Full pardon,” Link choked out. “He’s not a traitor, he was just possessed. He needs to know I don’t blame him.”


A pair of palace physicians came with a stretcher. Kenyon helped them to lift Link onto it and Zelda followed him all the way into the castle infirmary, holding his hand. She was asked, politely, to vacate the room to give the doctors space to perform surgery. Many soldiers in varying states of poor health were being seen to, there, as well. Queen Zelda sought out the counsel of Impa and paced about the castle halls. She explained to little Kafei and Anju that their father was not well and they could not hug him and ask him for piggy-back rides yet.


It was early evening when Link awakened after surgery. By his request, he was moved to the bed in the royal bedchamber. He was dressed in a multitude of bandages and a thin, loose robe left open at the chest. Impa took care of the children while Zelda was left to care for him. Left upon a table next to the bed were herbs for him to chew on to dispel pain, potions to make him drink to give him strength, minerals and chemicals in pill form to fight infection, and fairy tears. The potions were the very same that Link customarily carried into battle, but he’d told Zelda that their ability to “give life” was a myth: they merely killed pain and boosted stamina and alertness. They did work to seal up things like internal bleeding, but they were not as magical as most of the salesmen would have one believe. They’d saved his life many times, but he still carried scars.


Zelda sat beside the bed and stroked her husband’s hair. She stroked his ears, too. He usually hated it when people tried to touch his ears, but when Zelda did, he found it soothing. She always touched them “just the right way.” He spoke to her of the campaign and of the sights he’d seen while she spoke to him about palace life, politics and the children’s activities. He wanted most to hear about the children.


Reading at that level already?” he asked. He smiled with pride. “My kids are smart.”


“They are,” Zelda replied.


“I’m cold,” Link softly complained.


“You have all the blankets….I know what,” Zelda said, rising from her seat. She climbed into bed and lay against him. She very gently laid her head upon his bandaged shoulder and held his left hand with her right. “Is that better?”


“Lots!” he said.


“You…” Zelda said, almost but not quite laughing, “You’ll never grow out of your silliness. My silly Link.” She kissed him gently on the lips, a quick, loving peck.


“Zelda,” he began.


“You don’t need to talk if it’s wearing you out,” Zelda replied. “Just rest, I’m right here.”


“Zelda,” he continued, “even though I’m in pain…. I’m hurting, but…. Even though I hurt, I am happy right now. So happy. You’re here, next to me. I missed that so much. I can feel your warmth and smell the perfume that you wear, and you’re just beside me, holding my hand. It doesn’t matter that I hurt, because I’m content. I’m with you and it makes me so happy.”


Zelda felt the tears running down her cheeks and she was sure Link felt them, too, as they soaked into his bandages. She felt his warmth against her and listened to his breathing. He was soon asleep. She followed him into the world of dreaming shortly afterward.


The young queen awakened the next morning, her hand still clutching Link’s. “Link?” she said softly. “It’s morning. I’m sorry I… fell asleep. Do you need anything?”


She noticed something strange and cold against her body beneath the blankets. The only thing her mind could compare the sensation to was “cold meat,” and she wondered why she thought that. She hadn’t yet opened her eyes and Link had not answered her.


“Still asleep?” She sat up and blinked the sleep away. She noticed a silence in the room, as if she were alone. There were none of the little snores and grunts Link often made while sleeping. Then she noticed she didn’t hear his breathing. The hand she held was cold.


“Link? She asked. She looked down at him. His skin was pale and he was still… impossibly still. She squeezed his hand and let her tears flow freely.


The night had taken him.




To his highness, King Zora of the Zoras,


The great Goddesses have seen fit to take from us a most exalted and valued person. Link, our Prince and Hero of Time has died from wounds received in battle. I am sure your heart bleeds at this news, as our hearts have been bleeding. His wounds were honorable in nature and Queen Zelda was at his side as he passed into the next world. We are preparing to give him full honors in the manner befitting our royalty. If it is possible for you, your presence and that of your court is requested for the funeral in a month’s time.


Sincerely and sorrowfully,


Lady Impa Samara,

Royal Assistant to Her Royal Highness, Zelda Hyrule.



Impa sighed. She’d written to Goron elders, to all the nobles and dignitaries within Hyrule and neighboring lands. She’d even written to the current queen of the Gerudo. She would have these letters delivered by the postal service, as the royal hawks were trained to deliver only to certain people.


The funeral would be in just over a month. It would take that long to prepare Link’s body. Since ancient times, nobility in Hyrule mummified their honored dead. It was not remembered how the tradition started, but it was no longer believed that the body had to be intact for a soul to be received by the Goddesses. Now, it was merely a tradition, and considered a very high honor. In this way, a noble family could, in a sense, keep a beloved member with them forever, preserved in their tomb.


Some said that gibdos and even redeads were corpses that had been treated in this way, re-animated by magic as bodies without souls. A few tales had it that such creatures were the mummified dead, body and soul, unhappy about being forgotten by their descendants. No one in Hyrule Palace believed the latter was true, at least.


It had been two days since Link’s death. His body lay on marble slab down in a cool area below the palace, where the embalmers would work. None of them had begun working on him yet. He had been the Hero of Time, and, as they’d told Impa, they were hesitant to cut into “sacred flesh.”


Impa picked up a fresh piece of parchment and lifted her quill to write another painful letter. Most of the nobles would assume that Zelda should be the one to write them, but Impa did not mind taking up the task. Her mistress was in no state for it. Zelda wasn’t in much of a state for anything.


The queen had been lying in bed over the last two days, her arm resting over the place on it where Link had been, weeping into the sheets. Even the small bloodstains from where he had leaked through his bandages remained, and Zelda would let no one change those sheets. Mr. Hildebrand had been taking care of the children, and the castle’s mind-healers had not yet decided whether they should do something about the queen or to just let her mourn in her strange, private way.


A knock came upon the door of the drawing room. “Enter,” Impa commanded.


“Lady Impa?” A cloaked figure inquired, “I have… I have news.”


“What is it, messenger?”


“It is about Prince Link’s body, my lady.”


“What about it?” Impa asked, “Have the embalmers finally begun?”


“They cannot,” the messenger answered. “It’s missing. The body is missing.”


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