Chapter 5: Hope Reborn
-Hyrule: Queen's Office, Hyrule Castle
-Seven years and three months since Ganondorf's defeat
"Alyz, I'm of a mind to have a gala," the Queen said to her good friend and head of affairs. Alyz was one of the members of Zelda's trusted panel of impartial advisors, and he was a blessing to have, truly- he had a very useful network of people assembled about the country that reported to him on every detail that happened- from parties to terrible storms to murders, and that which Alyz deemed important enough he reported to the Queen, and advised her in her course of action. However, Alyz had another job as head of affairs that many in Hyrule envied- he personally coordinated many of the events held in honor of the Queen.
At the Queen's words, the man looked up from the book he was perusing and smiled at her. He was charming in an unkempt sort of way- messy black hair, big brown eyes, glasses, and (more often than not) rumpled clothing. The reason for his state of disarray was not overwork (though the Queen often worried over it anyhow) but his love of books, which he often stayed up late reading.
"A gala would be splendid," Alyz agreed. "The Palace has been quiet and empty for far too long."
"It has been a lazy sort of year thus far," noted Zelda. "Not much has happened... bless the Goddesses," she added, signing the holy triangle over herself. "I am gladdened by our lack of troubles, but it would be nice to have a social event of some sort to stir up a little excitement within the country."
The little man scratched his head. "I would be up to coordinating a gala," mused Alyz. "Did you have a date in mind? A theme, perhaps?"
"Three months hence, I was thinking," replied Zelda. "As for a theme... it doesn't matter. I'll leave that up to your discretion. You always plan the most excellent galas," the Queen added with a disarming smile. Alyz flushed red to the tips of his pointed ears and shut the book he was holding with a slight thump.
"Well, Highness, I'l see what I can do. Do you have any certain dates you prefer?"
"I know that as far as plans go, I have nothing the first week of the month of fire. Sometime within that time frame, if at all possible."
"Several days long?" asked Alyz. He'd pulled a quill and scroll from nowhere and was hastily scratching away.
"Preferably, with both day and evening activities."
"Exclusive invitation list?"
"For the evening events, each member of the gentry may bring a single guest. Day events should be open to the people- the people love a good tournament just as much as the gentry do."
"Typical guest housing?"
"Yes, in the palace, of course… first come first serve," Zelda agreed. Alyz nodded and pushed his glasses up the bridge of his nose as he wrote something else.
"That should be enough to start with," he said in satisfaction. "I'll get back to you in a few days with the rough plan."
Zelda smiled again and stood, taking Alyz's hand in both of her own. "You really are a Goddess-send, Alyz," she told him warmly. "I do not know where I would be without you."
"You'd still be the best Queen this country has ever had," Alyz told her simply. Then he smiled and bowed, sensing his dismissal. "Have a good day, Highness."
"Good day, Alyz," she responded kindly, and then nodded as he left the room. She sat roughly back down in her chair and looked at the mountain of paperwork before her. She contemplated doing it for a moment, but, with a sigh, decided it could wait. Zelda gazed longingly out the window, letting her mind drift.
Yes, a gala would be wonderful, and the people needed something to do, but that wasn't why she'd asked Alyz. She'd had a dream the night before, which had been startling in its clarity- it was almost as though it were a memory or a premonition, but Zelda simply knew it could be neither. For, after all, Link had been in it, and she was almost entirely certain Link was dead. He hadn't come back, though he'd promised he would, and what would prompt Link to break a promise but for death itself?
Still, she thought, wrapping her arms around her and closing her eyes, tilting her head into the sunshine streaming in through the window, it had been such a wonderful dream. She'd been dancing with Link in the ballroom, which had been decorated most lavishly. They'd spun together under the golden chandeliers, and then Link had leaned in close to whisper something in her ear...
But then she'd woken up, of course. Frustrated, Zelda pulled herself from her dream memory and forced herself to pick up the quill and start her paperwork.
Work first. Then she could play. Then she could dream. But not until she'd done her duties for the day.
-Hyrule: Snowpeak Ruins, Snowpeak
-Seven years and five months since Ganondorf's defeat
"Yeta! Yeto and Yeta's family has visitors!" Called Yeto the yeti.
"Visitors!" called Yeta happily, and she toddled outside bearing a small bundle in her arms. "Visitors, uh! Yeta is so happy! Who is visitors?"
"Link," said Link, stepping forward with a smile. Yeta beamed brilliantly and moved forward to give him a soft, one-armed hug.
"So long since Yeto and Yeta see you, uh! Yeta still needs to thank you for what you did for her. You saved Yeta's life," declared the yeti warmly. "Link always welcome at Snowpeak, uh."
"Good to see Link," agreed Yeto, clapping the adventurer on the back so hard he nearly toppled over. "Very good, uh. Yeta and Yeto have family now! Have baby named Yetu, uh. Boy! Will be big and strapping like Yeto!"
"I'm quite sure," agreed Link warmly, eyeing the wrapped bundle with mixed apprehension and happiness.
"Who is other human, uh?" Yeto asked Link, turning to look at Valin curiously.
"This is my friend Valin. He travels with me, and is also from Hyrule. We're coming home for a while."
"Oh! Valin! Friend of Link! Good you are here, uh!" declared Yeto, also clapping Valin on the back, who visibly staggered. Yeta smiled at Valin, and a little of his friend's tension eased, to Link's eyes.
"Valin very welcome here," Yeta informed him sweetly. Then, as though noticing the chill air and the bundled up humans, she perked up. "Oh! It cold out here! Link, Valin, come into house. Humans not so warm as yetis. Get cold, uh."
"Thank you," Valin replied genuinely, following the two proud parents (one tall and one tiny) up the long stairs to the house. Link led the horses along a ramp on the side of the house, and then in through the front doors. (It was another of many yeti quirks that the horses ought to stay in the house with the people and yetis, though it was a very welcome quirk.) "This is a lovely house," the young earl complimented the yetis. "Possibly one of the biggest ones I've ever seen. How did it come to be built all the way out here?"
"Yetis like buildings, but nature too, uh," explained Yeto. "This house old- built by yetis, always belong to yetis. Was home of Yeto father. Now home of Yeto. Will someday be home of Yetu, uh. Good house," added Yeto, thumping his chest.
"Have you ever seen the Gorons who live on the other side of the mountain- they call it Snowhead?" asked Valin. "They, too, have some amazing buildings."
"Oh, yes! Gorons very nice, uh!" chirped Yeta. "Make good stew! Teach Yeto how!"
"Oh, is that where you learned the recipe for that amazing gourmet soup?" asked Link as he came out of the side room where he'd left the horses. Yeto and Yeta had made it for the travelers that came through with pack animals from time to time- it was a horse heaven of hay, oats, and carrots.
"Yes! Gorons good teachers, uh. Yeto give them stories in return."
"The Gorons do love stories," mused Valin, remembering how the friendly rock people had kept the adventures awake nigh until dawn asking them for stories of their travels.
"Yeto, Yeta," said Link, clearing his throat, "is there anything Valin and I can do to repay you for your hospitality? Any exterminations you need performed?"
"Uh," grunted Yeto as he thought. Then his glassy eyes lit up. "Yes! Annoying den of Frozen Lancers close by, in mountain! Annoy Yeto and Yeta when sledding, uh. Scare Yetu," he added darkly.
"We'll take care of them," affirmed Link with a warm smile at Yeto and Yeta. Just then, little Yetu let out a great squall.
"Yeta go take care of Yetu now, uh," Yeta stated, and disappeared off into a side room, precious bundle in tow.
"Yeto make food, uh! Link and Valin, make selves at home!" boomed Yeto, and he set off for the kitchen. Link and Valin found themselves quite alone then, standing in the great foyer of the yetis' magnificent home.
"Well," said Valin, shifting his weight from one boot to another as he looked around at the house, which was in a much better state than the last time Link had seen it. (The staircases were all complete! Joy!)
"Right. Let's see to those lancers, then have dinner. I'd like to stay here a few days," Link added. "It's going to take us a few more weeks to get back down the mountain, and I wouldn't mind sleeping in a real bed for more than one night."
"Seems like the happy family would like that," said Valin with a glance to the doors the two yetis had gone through. His fingers seemed to itch a little, and he shrugged. "Come on. Let's go do our thing."
The two adventurers left the relative warmth of the building and set off, hunting around the mountain until they found the lancers' den. They proved more pesky than difficult to eliminate, and by the time the adventurers trooped back to the ruins for a well-earned dinner, they were dripping with half-frozen snow and nursing a few irritating little scrapes.
"I despise those things," Valin grunted irritably as he stepped on one of the many lances scattered about the icy battleground with an obnoxious crunch. Valin was rather worse for the wear than Link- indeed, it seemed as though Link hadn't taken a single hit, while Valin was already lamenting how much mending it would take to repair his rather tattered overcoat.
"You just need to know how to deal with them," replied Link amiably. "The first time I was up at Snowpeak, Yeto and Yeta's home had been completely overrun by all sorts of nasty monsters. The worst of it was... hm. Actually, a lot of it was nasty at some points, but I very vividly remember battling an entire room full of those blasted Frozen Lancers."
"You're a madman," Valin stated plainly. Link shrugged one shoulder modestly, and then sighed with relief as the house came into view.
"Not so much madman as a sucker," Link told his friend. "Poor Yeta was sick and Yeto was worried about her, so I agreed to clean out the house while she got better. It was the monsters that were making her sick," he added.
"You seem pretty comfortable with them," Valin noted. "I can't help it- Yeto makes me a little uneasy."
"Me too, at first," Link admitted as they began to climb the stairs. "Don't worry too much. Yeto and Yeta are some of the nicest people... err, beings, that I've ever encountered. You don't need to be uneasy. Once you taste his cooking, you'll be fine with him, I'm sure."
"Better," affirmed Link, and the two adventurers pushed through the doors of the mansion.
-Hyrule: Snowpeak and Zora's Domain
-Seven years and five and a half months since Ganondorf's defeat
The adventurers had stayed at Snowpeak a few days longer, but set out after Yeto told them that he could sense a nasty snowstorm about a week off. Hurrying as though hell was at their heels, the adventurers made their way down the mountain, after (of course) thanking the yeti family profusely for their hospitality. At long last, the adventurers escaped the clutches of the ever-cold Snowpeak, and found themselves in Zora's Domain. Summer was blanketing Hyrule in warm contentment and lethargy, and Link and Valin were quite content to stay a few more days at Zora's Domain, enjoying the hospitality of the Zora King, Ralis.
"Link, Valin," Ralis said to the two adventurers kindly over dinner one night, "I take it you intend to journey fully into Hyrule soon?"
"Yes," Link replied, setting down his fish kabob. "The weather is good, and the roads are always clear at this time of year, so we'll most likely depart within the next few days."
"If you would but stay a week longer, I myself will be going to Hyrule Castle, and would be glad to have you in my entourage."
"You're too kind, Highness," deferred Valin.
"Not at all," replied Ralis with a wave of his hand. "I am going for the Queen's Gala. Lord Leonas, you are one of the gentry, are you not? You should also attend. And Link, I'm sure you'd be welcome as well."
"Gala?" the two adventurers asked at the same instant- Valin with anticipation, Link with dread. "What sort?" asked Valin with curiosity, just as Link asked, "for what reason?" At this, Ralis chuckled and held up a hand.
"The Queen is throwing a Gala for the people of Hyrule. It has been a very uneventful year, to the extent of being boring, and some of the people are restless. There is to be a ball every night for four nights, and tournaments and festivals during the day. Truly, it will be a fete beyond fetes. You both should attend."
"We'd love to!" exclaimed Valin. Link remained silent and pale, but neither the young earl nor the Zora King took note of it. "Is there a theme?"
"Only on the second to the last night- there is a costume ball," he explained. "History brought to life. There will be a vote for various costume awards, all of which will be announced on the final night. The costume that gets the most popular votes wins, and the winner will be rewarded by the Queen."
"What kind of reward?" asked Link blandly. Neither Ralis nor Valin even spared him a glance.
"Nobody knows," Valin said simply. "Right? That's how these things have always worked- the reward is always a surprise."
"Correct," affirmed Ralis. "I myself am not entirely sure what I'll go as- perhaps as the legendary God of the Zoras, Jabu Jabu."
"Link, what should I go as?" Valin asked, turning to his friend. Link was still very pale, and did not appear to be paying any attention at all to his surroundings. "Link? You alright?" Valin queried, puzzled. The adventurer stood, pulling his feet from the shallow dining pond in which they sat, and mumbled something along the lines of "nafeelinell" before beating a hasty departure.
"Ah," sighed Ralis, sitting back in the warm water. "Yes, I had quite forgotten. Link is a little sensitive about matters in which the Queen are concerned."
"He's never said anything about his life in Hyrule to me, and I've known him for several years," Valin stated. "Does the Queen have anything to do with it?"
"You are aware of who he is, or, rather, was, are you not?" The Zora King asked, picking at the seaweed salad that sat on the elaborate coral table before him.
"He was the Hero, right?"
"Correct," affirmed Ralis. "Savior of Hyrule. I was young at the time, and upset- my mother had been murdered- but Link helped to guide me into manhood, and for this, I respect and love him as I respected and loved my parents. Even given my closeness to the Hero, though, there are many details that I don't know... what I do know is that the evil lord who led the invasion against Hyrule was nothing more than a pawn for some greater, darker power, and it was against that power that Link had to battle to end the war. Something terrible happened in the process, though, as I've said, I don't know what. I believe he lost someone very, very dear to him that day, for after that he closed up, in a sense."
"And the Queen was involved?"
"Somehow. You recall the rumors that they were in love?"
Valin inhaled sharply. "You think they were true?"
"I don't know. It might explain his behavior now. He had a devastating loss, and was in love with a woman he could never wed. So he left the country..."
"And didn't come back until dragged," muttered Valin, downing a glass of wine in one swift gulp. "Would make sense, wouldn't it?"
The two were silent for a while, pondering in the silence of eating. The main dish was brought out to the two of them, and Valin picked at his fish for a few minutes before looking back up at Ralis.
"He's going to go to that ball," Valin stated with steely determination. "Even if I have to drag him by the skin of his teeth."
Ralis chuckled at this, nodding his head. "You most likely will. He can be very stubborn."
"I have blackmail," Valin replied casually. "And there are people who matter to him in Hyrule, so it would be effective."
"He has no formalwear and won't stand for a fitting," Ralis murmured thoughtfully. "Do you know his measurements?"
"His clothes are baggy on me, but only a little," Valin informed the Zora King. "I'm sure if we took some of his clothes to a tailor, they could do something."
"Yes," agreed Ralis, and then he smiled his Zora smile. It struck Valin that, for a male, Ralis was very beautiful, and he wondered that the Zora King had not yet married. But then, he turned his thoughts back to Link, and pondered for a few moments.
"What should he go to the costume ball as?"
Ralis turned his head to the side in thought, biting at his lower lip. Then, with a smile that was purely devilish, he turned back to Valin.
-Hyrule: Guest Quarters, Hyrule Castle
-Seven years, five months and four weeks since Ganondorf's defeat
-Queen's Gala: First Night
"Link, you've got to come out of there," Valin said with an irritated sigh, rapping his cane against the door of their shared bedroom, which Link had kindly barricaded shut with furniture. "It's just a ball."
"Go away, I'm sick," called Link from within, sounding hale and healthy indeed.
"I've seen you fight your way through a swamp with a raging fever. Get out here," Valin commanded.
"You're sulking," warned Valin. "You're starting to make me think you're actually afraid of going down to that dinner."
"I'm not afraid of anything!" called Link defiantly from behind the door. "I am the very picture of courage!"
"You're hiding in your bedroom and you've blocked off the door with furniture. That's pretty cowardly, not to mention if you really were too sick to go to a ball, you'd be too sick to move... what is it, anyway? A desk?"
"A dresser," replied Link stubbornly. "I'm too old to go to a ball. I'm a crotchety old goat."
"There will be people three times your age there, Link. You're only twenty five."
"I'm not going!"
Valin sighed, and then leaned against the wall by the door, brushing off his nice trousers. "Ralis is going to think you ungrateful. He invited you as his particular guest and paid for you to have new clothes- and those didn't come cheap, either."
"I didn't want to come! I didn't want clothes!"
"And I didn't want to take that desert job with you back in Holodrum last year but I did and I made the best of it. Open the thrice-damned door, will you?
There was a long pause, and just as Valin was getting ready to truly be angry, the sound of shifting furniture. A few moments later, Link opened the door looking haggard, unkept, and generally gutterworthy. Valin grimaced- the legendary hero was definitely not material for a ball in his current state.
"Shave that stubble, brush your teeth, and get dressed," Valin commanded imperially. "I'll fix your hair for you when you're ready."
"What are we, girls?" Link asked, though he dutifully complied. Valin shut the chamber door behind him as Link stalked off to the bathing room to groom himself, and Valin drew Link's formalwear from where it had been carefully folded and deposited within the trunk. Link came out of the bathroom and began to struggle into the clothes- leaving the hapless hero to wrangle with his buttons, Valin commenced beating the adventurer's hair into something respectable. He finally gave up and contented himself with a sort of styled unkempt, then swooped in to save Link's formalwear from being ripped.
"For once, I have my uses," commented the young earl as he settled Link's jacket properly on his shoulders. He then stepped back and admired his handiwork. "Though, I do have to say, Link. You cut a rather dashing figure in green."
"Shut up," replied the adventurer with a sulky glance into the mirror. With a long-suffering sigh, he moved towards the door, visibly steeling himself for what laid ahead. "Let's just get this damned thing over with."
Though Valin could suspect the reason why Link's behavior was so bad this particular night, he would've fallen over in shock had he known what his friend was planning for the evening ahead, and that his surliness had nothing to do with a wanting not to go, but rather, a wanting not to do the inevitable. But Valin would find out, and soon, thought Link grimly, as he thought back to his resolution of half a year ago. He was going to face his fears and hurts alright, but that didn't mean he wanted to... and he knew, in the process of confrontation he would indubitably hurt and quite possibly alienate the one person in the world that still, even after seven years, was the sole being in possession of his heart.
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