Chapter 27: Awakening
Zelda trembled tiredly, her pale face drenched in the soft heat of Artemis' study as the delicate smell of parchment and vanilla wafted to her tired nostrils. Her violet orbs; accentuated by the dark rings around her eyes, stayed trained upon her childhood friend as she grasped his calloused hand with the bit of strength she could still muster.
A warm and creamy pelt came in contact with her dangling left hand, comforting under each weary digit attached to her frail body. Looking down, she found herself locked into the ferocious golden eyes of Artemis' familiar, Ragnarok.
The silver wolf looked up at her with some understanding etched into its now gentle eyes. He whimpered with worry, almost voicing his worry for the fragile Princess. The familiar placed a large paw atop Zelda's lap as his ears flattened against his head and he stared at the woman with concern.
Zelda placed a gentle hand atop Ragnarok's broad head and gave a fatigued smile of reassurance. She was extremely tired; it had been three days since she had come out of her coma from the dream world, and still Link had not awakened from his long sleep. He would murmur feverishly, call out her name, and shout incoherent words into the air as he blindly groped for an invisible individual. All the while Zelda was at his side, sobbing out his name and fervently crying for his return to sanity.
"Link..." she whispered, her voice barely even a whisper. She was done crying, her tears had left her long ago. All she could do now was hope... hope and pray to the Goddesses that she really could believe the words spoken to her by the Sage of Cosmos.
Zelda turned her violet eyes to the heavens, the hope glinting in her eyes as she clasped her hands together.
"Whoever you are... please give him back to me. I... I love him... Please..."
Soon as the words left her mouth, vague occurrences began; the lights flickered, a warm breath was about her fatigued body and soothing her limbs... a dead whisper set itself in her ear.
Ragnarok leapt to his feet, ears poked once more alert by the strange occurrences and taking on the persona of the ferocious silver wolf. A deep and throaty growl released itself from his broad throat as his lamp like eyes glared around the study. Every muscle tightened in anticipation and claws unsheathed themselves. Something was here.
The whisper grew louder in volume, the dull clanking of leather against stone vaguely present in the room. The Princess looked about in panic for the source of the noise as it drew closer... and closer...
Zelda's eyes widened as a torn and bloody hand placed itself atop her mouth and gently held the screams of terror within. The cool liquid slipped past her parted lips, making the Princess' gag reflex react violently to the touch. Ragnarok, who had already caught sight of the intruder, stood far from Zelda, ears pressed once more against his head as a whimper of sadness left him.
"Turn..." a heavy, choking, and rasping voice filled her ears as the horrid hand remained over her mouth. The gentle patter of blood against stone sounded through the blankness and horror that currently filled Zelda's mind as she slowly stood, closing her eyes as she faced the offender.
Who was this, and how did they find their way into the Temple of Cosmos? Did Artemis not know that they were here? No... it was impossible to get into a sacred and well guarded place without Ragnarok or Artemis killing the intruder. Zelda stifled a scream as realization burned through her mind. Was this the person that held Link captive? The one that was even more powerful than Artemis? There was only one way to know, and that was to look. As the Princess opened her violet eyes, she could feel her heart torn with pain and understanding.
A young girl no older than thirteen stood eye level with Zelda, her bloody hand clasped over the Princess' mouth. The remains of a torn royal blue tunic garbed her lean figure as numerous rips and gashes shone red with the gentle patters of blood that leaked from her broken body as sweat. The girl's left leg was defiled; the milky white bone showing through torn black material and weeping brown pus from its jagged edges. Jagged brown hair was matted with a pungent mixture of blood, sweat, and dirt as sun tanned skin shone in the dim lighting. A seven shaped cut wound its way across noble features as solemn blue eyes looked to Zelda with a plea etched within their azure depths.
The girl dropped her hand from Zelda's mouth, the limb dangling uselessly at its owner's side like dead weight. She stood there, staring at the Princess with a message deep within her eyes.
"You're Link's..." Zelda whispered breathlessly, her eyes widening at the dead girl's appearance. So much blood... so much pain and suffering within her eyes. Was this what she looked like before she had died that night eighteen years ago? In the dim light of Artemis' memory, Zelda had seen little except the one thing that burned so clearly into her mind... The sign of the Triforce blazing violently with power in the inky blackness of the night, lighting the deceased corpse's tortured expression of regret and sorrow.
"Help him..." the girl whispered to Zelda, "Let me go... Help him, please... So this can stop..."
Zelda stepped back, looking toward her unconscious friend to his dead sister speaking to her now. She was asking Zelda to help her brother move on, to help him so that her soul might move on to the next world rather than dwelling in purgatory between the land of the living and the dead. Link's sister was suffering with worries, and now needed to know for sure that her brother would be safe.
"You're in pain from dwelling, are you not?" Zelda whispered, looking at the gristly scene displayed before her. "You can't rest yet... not until you know that he's in good hands. You suffered in the last moments of your life, and now you suffer beyond death..." Wait a moment...
"You're the one that's speaking to him, aren't you? You're helping him move on... to get him to accept things... You want me to look after him..."
The dead girl gave no response to Zelda's words, staring into the woman's eyes with the same pleading expression. A bloody hand came up and grasped the Princess with the strength of several warriors. The flesh was cold... dead.
The two girls stood with locked gazes with the same pain and wisdom closing the gap between the dead and living. A link of communication sparked between them as they conversed within their minds and formed a mutual agreement.
Zelda spoke, words steady once more. She was unafraid of this girl before her now. The two of them shared so much… their wisdom, suffering, and different forms of love for one person.
"I'll take care of him, I promise. You can rest knowing that he is going to be alright, I swear it to you, my Lady."
An instant change took place within the dead girl's facial expressions and presence. The smoldering plea melted from her feral eyes, the overwhelming stench of death replaced with the pure aura of righteousness. The weary expression was gone from her face as eyes closed over her azure orbs.
Zelda covered her violet orbs as an eye throbbing light overtook the silent study. The cold grasp of her dear friend's sister dissolving into nothingness. Warmth enveloped her like a blanket and spread to every nerve in her tired body, revitalizing her from her intense fatigue.
After a few moments, Zelda dropped her dainty hand from her orbs, looking about the once more silent study. She looked about, seeing no trace of the visitor within the study. Was it a dream, a figment of her imagination due to fatigue? Zelda could have sworn that it wasn't a dream. The way they spoke… the cold grip of his sister's hand… the smile the dead girl gave her within the last few moments… It was all so real.
A putrid iron smell met her nostrils, flooding out the pleasant smell that was uniquely the Sage of Cosmos'. Zelda looked about, unable to find the source of the stench until she felt something cooling upon her arm.
Taking a pale and shaking hand, Zelda put it gently to the spot to meet the familiar stickiness of a crimson substance: blood. This was not hers, she was sure of it... This was the girl's...
A deep groan made Zelda's eyes snap away from the oozing liquid, her nerves on end as she recognized the voice... She couldn't get her hopes up; perhaps it was just another fluke...
"Zelda... is that you?"
The mixture of emotions the Princess had felt locked inside her mingled together and burst free in one violent shove. Before she could process the occurrences, she was in his strong arms, face buried into his tunic as she cried out his name in jubilation and relief.
"Link... Link... Link..."
The days following Link's sudden awakening were slow and painful. Artemis had told them that the recovery of their souls from the images they had experienced would take a number of days. Even though they hadn't been physically harmed, their bodies needed to reacquaint themselves with reality and begin to function as they had before.
And then there was Link...
Zelda had observed a great number of changes in her friend's demeanor within the first moments he had held her in his arms. Instead of silently holding her with no emotion evident in his caresses, Link had whispered soothing words into her weary ear, rocked her to and fro, and even kissed her atop the head as he rubbed her back comfortingly. His eyes had taken on a lighter shade of blue, and the intense hatred and guilt was gone from their azure depths. There was understanding, gentleness... kindness emanating from them rather than the smoldering glare she had accustomed herself to. Her childhood friend had been resurrected into the body of a cold and heartless man.
He told her of his dream, how he was finally able to meet his sister and tell him to live on without worry. There was little else he said, but the Princess knew who was to thank for the sudden change in Link. She prayed and exclaimed her gratefulness to the dead girl whom had visited her every moment she could. It seemed as though things were finally starting to turn around.
However, as her strength grew, with it came the time to return home and marry Edward. Ever since the venture began, these worries had been the farthest things from Zelda's mind. She knew that she wholeheartedly loved Link, and that love had grown since his awakening and his change. Her love was too great now to restrain behind spell locks; if she married Edward, then there would be no stopping the dagger that had already thrust its way into her fragile heart. Her people were counting on the marriage, though. Vandellus would surely overthrow them if the alliance did not take place, not to mention the uproar that the people of Termina would surely bring about from the break-off. Zelda would have to marry Edward, there was no purpose dodging her inevitable fate.
The Vow had been broken already, Artemis said. While they were unconscious, the Sage of Cosmos had worked her magicks upon them. They were both freed from one another.
There was an emptiness when Zelda learned of this. The bond that they had shared had been strengthened and retained by the Vow that they had unknowingly made to one another. Now that it was broken, would Link grow more distant from her?
"Thank you so much for all that you have done for us, Lady Artemis," Link said, bowing before the Sage of Cosmos with a dashing smile etched into his features.
It was the break of dawn, the tall pine trees surrounding the Temple of Cosmos releasing their pine scent into the air as dew drops twinkled in the dim morning light. Link stood beside Zelda wearing a tunic of rustic green, crème pants, and an oddly shaped cone hat atop his messy golden locks. He looked every bit as handsome as Link the First in the proud colors that he was so fondly named after. Beside him Zelda stood wearing a simple light blue dress, her hair flowing languidly down her delicate shoulders as her violet eyes flashed with thought.
The blue stone walls of the Temple of Cosmos flashed brightly as the sun crept further out from its wake. Birds began to chirp their cheerful songs and the world came alive once more.
Artemis smiled, gray eyes flashing with light. "It was a pleasure to see you once more, Link. Take care of Zelda... Guard her with your life." Turning from the Hero, the Sage turned her gaze upon the crestfallen eyes of the young Princess.
"Keep hoping, Zelda. There is always a way for things to work out. Don't accept your fate if it does not please you, fight it."
Zelda's eyes snapped up, her lips parting to say one final thing to Artemis. Her plea, however, was unheard.
For as soon as she was to speak, she found herself on the grassy plains of Hyrule field once more, her white horse and Link's chestnut mare saddled and ready to be ridden home to Hyrule.
The first night was dark and cool. The stars shone brightly in the sky as little bursts of light, the delicate chirps of nighttime animals forming a beautiful song. Link and Zelda had pitched up their camp, the fire blazing brightly in the inky darkness, the smells of the warm beef stew bubbling away inside the tiny pot on top of the crackling flames as they snuggled underneath their warm fleece blankets.
Link stoked the fire, adding a bit more wood to quench the fire's bottomless hunger. He lifted his blue eyes to meet Zelda's, only to see her saddened expression. He frowned, his brow creasing with worry as he sat back and smiled in an attempt to lighten the mood. "Are you alright, Zelda?"
Zelda jerked back to reality, a dazed expression on her face as she recovered from her daydream. "I'm fine, Link."
"You're not telling the truth."
Zelda sighed. Even if she kept insisting, she knew that Link would continue to press her. He knew her too well to know that she was lying...
"I don't think I want to go home," Zelda confessed. This was it, she was going to tell him how she felt and he could not run now that they were alone. They had both changed so much, now it was time to
Link's eyebrows rose in surprise, his blue eyes lighting up with confusion as he stood from his place beside the fire and placed himself beside his childhood friend. Putting a gauntled hand to her arm, he looked at her with the same puzzled expression still mapping his face. "You don't want to return home? What's wrong?"
Zelda took a deep breath, gathering all her thoughts to form the sentences that would undoubtedly make or break their relationship for the rest of their days. "I... don't want to marry Edward, Link. There's just so many emotions running through my mind right now, and the strongest one of all is love..."
Before Link could protest or say the words that might truly break her heart, Zelda grabbed Link around the neck and gently pulled him forward till they were eye to eye. Without another second gone by she drew him closer, Link stiffening considerably as she did the most desperate and intimate thing she'd ever dreamed of occurring.
She kissed him.
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