By Lyxie

Chapter 8: The Second Night

-Zelda: The Queen's Chambers and Ballroom, Hyrule Castle

-Queen's Gala: Second Night

Watching the tournament earlier had sickened Zelda to her stomach- the way Link disgraced such excellent fighters was nearly enough to put her off her dinner. Fortunately for her, she had much work to do to drive such thoughts from her mind, and after she completed as much as she could possibly cram into two hours, it was time for her to get ready, which provided little room for thoughts of anything but pain.

For all the seeming simplicity and effortlessness in Zelda's appearance at the gala each night, getting ready for balls was an outrageously long and difficult task. First was a long bath to soften the skin that more often than not left her drowsy and stupid, then a thorough (and often painful) scrubbing of her hair, and then several hours of cosmetic hell. For instance, she would be in a reclining chair more often than not- a doctor would polish her teeth and four manicurists would buff her fingernails and toenails, as well as soften her arms, legs, hands, and feet. While all this went on, a hairstylist would be at work drying Zelda's hair, which hung off the end of the uncomfortable chair, and after drying the stylist would curl it. When the doctor finished with Zelda's teeth the reclining chair would be put upright. The manicurists would stay at their work and the hairstylist then had full reign of terror over Zelda's scalp. In addition, a makeup artist would somehow squeeze in and get to work plucking, pinching, and painting- not simply Zelda's face, either. Often, foundation and luminescence cream would go over every available inch of Zelda's body.

Normally the Queen wore a simple slip throughout all this, but as her dress tonight didn't call for much in the way of undergarments (on top, at least) she only had a towel and a thin, waist-down petticoat to safeguard her modesty. She sighed thankfully when she was released from "The Chair" three and a half hours after entering, but was dragged away a moment later to have her ensemble draped upon her person.

The dress Zelda had selected for that night was very simple in appearance but complicated in actuality. First went the petticoats on the bottom to give her skirt shape, though they had to be worn uncomfortably low on her waist so that they wouldn't show above the lines of the low, open back. After that, the bodice was strapped and glued to Zelda's body- it was stiff and sculpted to fit over her breasts and stomach perfectly, and was held in place by thin, sparkling chains that wrapped around back. Though sturdy, Zelda was nonetheless afraid they would snap and disgrace her over the course of the evening, so, for good measure, she had spare chains tucked into the low hem pockets of her outermost petticoat, which also contained a feather-light dagger- just in case. Over the bodice went the gown, which was little more than a skirt. It gathered to a near-shockingly low "V" in the back and was accented with black silk trim- in the front, the skirt draped horizontally down to Zelda's ankles. The top of the waistline was also sculpted in a "V" shape, and, to protect the Queen's modesty, two slim, vaguely triangular panels of fabric hung from her neck, draped modestly over her breasts, and were sewn into the waistline, though they were just the slightest bit long and loose and thus hung elegantly and casually, a classy touch. Zelda wore matching gloves as well- red silk, trimmed with black on top and black laces in the back from hem to elbow. Though the gown fit perfectly, it still took forever to shove Zelda into it, and by the time she was dressed, minutes were running short. The hairdresser put the finishing touches (a ruby pin) into Zelda's hair, which had been pulled back in a knot and then left to fall in sultry rivulets down her back, Malon clipped a bracelet and choker on the Queen and Zelda put her signet ring on, slid into her slippers, and the two women hurried down to the ballroom. It was almost time for the Queen to make her appearance.

"You look lovely," Malon complimented her friend once they stood outside the ballroom together. "Truly, you do."

"I feel naked," Zelda informed her friend simply as they stood outside the doors, waiting to be announced.

"He won't know what hit him," assured Malon, and then, before Zelda could say anything else, the lovely redhead (who was clad in cream and blue tonight) stepped through the doors and into the room. Zelda heard Malon announced, and counted slowly to thirty. Not long after, the trumpets began to sound and the doors opened before her. Holding her head high and praying she didn't fall out of her ridiculous dress (why had she thought it would be a good idea?) she glided majestically into the ballroom.

"Her Royal Highness, Zelda Ellerimere Nohansen deHyrule, the Queen."

-Link: The Royal Ballroom, Hyrule Castle

-Queen's Gala: Second Night

"Don't worry chap, you look great," reassured Valin as Zelda's name was called, though he was smiling as though he knew some sort of secret. "Poor Queen won't know what hit her."

"I feel like a frilly," grumbled Link, tugging irritably at his imperious black and white ensemble. Black dress boots, black trousers, white doublet but black tie and liverycoat- he looked like some sort of marauder-frilly, and had loudly proclaimed it to his friend. Though he never would have said it aloud, though, deep down Link did acknowledge that the starkness of his outfit made his tanned skin and blue eyes and sun-bleached golden hair more striking. Maybe Zelda would find him handsome. Maybe- just maybe- she'd even be without words.

Then again, that was assuming that she didn't-

All thoughts were knocked from Link's mind as Zelda entered the room. She was resplendent in a flowing dress of red and black silk that flowed around her like dark fire. Contrasting with her dress, with its dramatic sweeps and drapes, was the softness of her skin- her shoulders and arms were bared, and the under-bodice openly flaunted the beauties of her body. As if Link wasn't at enough of a disadvantage, though, Zelda turned- and he saw that the beautiful gown she wore had no back. The skirt began in a knot daringly low around her waist, and higher up there were two thin glittering chains that clasped firmly around her back, presumably holding that bodice in place.

He inhaled sharply and looked at Valin as though to say "help!"

"Think you lost tonight, friend," Valin said, eyes running over Zelda briefly before he turned to look at his friend. "Best of luck to you."

"What am I going to do? I'm not going to be able to fight with her when she looks like that…"

"Then drag her off into the garden and declare your undying love," replied Valin with a shrug. At this, Link blanched.

"No. No way."

"Then suck it up. Be a man. Just because she looks good doesn't mean you don't. Probably you two will stand there and stammer at each other for a few minutes before some charming man sweeps Zelda off to dance."

"Dance?" At this, Link's eyes darkened with possession. "No sir. Not on my watch."

"Good. If you need me, I'll be with that gorgeous redhead over by the punch bowl," Valin reassured Link. Ralis, who had watched the whole exchange with typical Zora stoicism, grinned at Link pityingly.

"Good luck," he told his friend.

"I'll need it," murmured Link as he watched Zelda move smoothly through the crowd. Though her path was weaving, it was obvious to him that she was coming his way.

"Don't panic, don't panic, don't panic," murmured Link to himself. "You've lived through a thousand worse things than seeing the woman you love in an outrageously seductive dress…"

And then, quite suddenly, Zelda stood before him, looking up at him with a serene smile. "Good evening, Adventurer," she said, and though her eyes swept over him, he could read no emotion in their depths. He felt suddenly very silly standing before her in all her beauty, whilst he was nothing but a confused peasant in a monkey suit. Dammit, though, he was a confused adventurer in a monkey suit who was going to win the Queen's heart, no matter what- and maybe, just maybe, he would take Valin's advice and be charming.

Couldn't hurt, right?

"Your highness," murmured Link, bowing before her. He caught her hand up in his and brought it to his lips for a kiss, eyes burning into hers the whole while. "You look ravishing this eve." He held her hand for a few moments longer than was necessary and released it. Don't make a quip, don't make a quip, Link screamed at himself on the inside, for he yearned to sully his compliment with a well-aimed insult. That wouldn't work, though- it would just make her hate him more.

"You are looking nice yourself," replied Zelda, showing no response to his underhanded flirtation save for the faintest of color in her cheeks. "I confess, though a suit of armor becomes you, you wear it perhaps too often and inappropriately."

"You're angry at me for entering in the tournament," observed Link. He was glad he'd understood her insult- for a while there, he'd been worried that spending seven years away from the impossible woman had dulled his perception of wittiness and such.

"Only in part, Adventurer. I speak, too, of the armor of your cruel words and ostentatious blade."

Or maybe Link was just an idiot.

"Dance with me," he said to her as the music struck up. Zelda looked at him with an expression on her face that plainly read 'you MUST be joking.' "Dance with me, Milady, please," he said, voice a little softer, though he smiled. "It would be an honor, would it not?"

"And why might I bestow honors upon you?" she asked him with a quirked brow. "You've shown me that you're all too ready to shirk them."

"You did promise me certain honors before I left," Link reminded her. "I'll not call you on your promise to make me a Duke, but it would be nice to at least be able to get a dance from a lovely woman in red."

"The Comtess of Smallpeak is a lovely woman in red. Mayhaps you should entreat her for your amusement."

"Fine!" said Link, throwing his hands up in the air. "I see how it is, you exasperating woman." As people around them looked at him quizzically, Zelda looked as though she might laugh.

"My, my, good Adventurer," said Zelda levelly, though laughter showed in her eyes. "You are far too hotheaded."

"Oh most beautiful and gracious Queen," he said, rolling his eyes, "bestow upon me the infinite honor of allowing you to stomp on my feet for the next three minutes. Please."

"Hm…" murmured Zelda, tapping a silk clad finger against rosy lips. Just looking at them made Link's blood run hotter. "No." She turned to go and Link hurried around to stand in front of her.

"What do I have to do to get you to dance with me?" he whined. Seeing her eyes beginning to light with anger, he repressed the urge to fan the flames of her wrath and instead took a deep breath, looking at her with humility. "Please, Zelda?" he asked quietly.

"Will you leave me alone if I do?" she asked in exasperation. "I swear, Link, you're the most obnoxiously persistent of men," she chastised, even as she took Link's elbow with her hand.

"It's my dogged persistence that lets me accomplish astounding feats," replied Link with a charming grin. Zelda visibly reacted to this, as well as the touch of his hands on her waist as they began to dance. "How else might I have saved Hyrule?"

"Sheer, dumb luck," grunted Zelda. "You could have cheated. You have the marking of the Goddesses, after all."

"As do you," pointed out Link as they spun. "Did I ever tell you what Ganondorf said about us? He believed that we were chosen by the Gods to wield absolute power, and that those wielders would be the most suitable leaders for this world."

"Too bad you never put down your feet for long enough to lead anyone or anything. You just wander…" stated Zelda.

"I lead a different sort of people," corrected Link, spinning Zelda about. "You rule a kingdom. guide those who might yearn to make a difference along the path of change."

At this, Zelda was silent. After a while, she spoke. "Why did you enter the tournament, Link? You disgrace many of the best fighting men in my country. They are all outmatched- it is unfair to them. You have nothing to prove."

"It was something to do. I didn't think there would be much to occupy my time here in the castle- at least, nothing as distracting as a tournament. Perhaps I'm wrong, though- why, only this morning I took care of a nasty Poe infestation…"

"You can kill things," stated Zelda flatly. "I am just so impressed with you, Link."

"At least I don't sit around passively when there's problems," he shot back before he could stop himself. Thankfully, the song ended, and Zelda pulled herself away from him.

"Try creating something instead of destroying," she stated coldly, causing Link to wince. "Good evening, Adventurer." She curtsied, and turned and left, leaving Link standing in the middle of the floor, alone, feeling rather dumb. He was seized with the impulse to go grab his sword and hack at something, and that only made Zelda's words sting worse.

Things had been going almost well, too, he thought regretfully as he moved to linger at the punch bowl. Valin was dancing with a redhead and Ralis had taken the Queen, and Link was, he thought to himself, glad to be alone with his thoughts… for a time.

But he vowed he'd make Zelda fall in love with him, even if he broke every bone in his body in the process.

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