Chapter XIII - Vow
My eyes flew open and I found Impa standing over me.
I was breathing heavily, my body twisted and dresses strewn about.
My hand was throbbing.
… Those eyes… I had seen those eyes again…
The gnawing feeling returned and alarm steadily rose within me. I prayed that the dream was a lingering affect of the illness as Link suggested.
"Are you alright?" Impa asked seriously as she helped me to sit up.
I evened my breath and nodded my head; I dared not speak, lest the fear in my voice betray me.
Impa raised a white eyebrow and smoothed my hair. "Would some tea calm you?"
I shook my head to agree.
"Come then, I've something for you as well."
I was still shaking noticeably as Impa led me back into the castle. We entered the dining hall, and I found my father and his counselors bidding their goodbyes to one another; it was fortunate the counselors dwelled in the castle so they could be called upon at any time.
They exited with somber faces, acknowledging me as they past; they must have just been told of news from Crescent Harbor. My father left as well, telling me he was due at a hearing with Counselor Raigen.
I sat down and Impa took a chair directly beside me, holding out a rolled parchment to me.
I looked at it questionably.
"It arrived this afternoon from the Haladin."
I hesitantly untied the ribbon and unrolled it, knowing nothing good would be found within.
Greetings Dearest Princess Zelda,
I, as Haladin's Prince, Ganondorf Dragmire, express my deepest desire to meet the noble Princess of Hyrule.
My ambassador, Count Ronan informed me of the graciousness to which his company was received and I thank you for such esteem.
But I must apologize on behalf of King Opeous for his absence and for my own. Consumption has taken hold of His Majesty and Haladin has only recently overcome Illander. Circumstance decree I must remain in Haladin until all is settled.
I regret not being able to personally give thanks, but I am certain, admirable lady, you understand, and it is my hope that we can someday meet as future sovereigns of our respected kingdoms.
I eagerly await you reply.
Crown Prince of Haladin, Ganondorf Dragmire
I set the letter down, trying not to laugh at the exaggerated politeness. "It will be hard to reply to this," I said with an amused smile.
Impa frowned. "This is no laughing matter, Lady Zelda. The alliance has just been born; relations are delicate."
"Yes, I know, but I would like sometime to think about how to respectfully decline his offer."
Impa pursed her lips. "…Very well…"
"Would it please you to oversee my reply?" I asked, hoping to lighten her mood.
"If my guidance is need, but remember, it must meet His Majesty's approval as well."
"Were it possible," I muttered.
Our tea was then brought to us and I quickly reached for a cup, impatient to ease the unease that had come upon me from the letter… and from my dream.
"Does it help?" Impa asked as she stirred her own tea.
Warmth spread to my extremities and the ache dulled in my stomach. "Yes, thank you."
Impa smiled swiftly. "If I may ask… what did you dream of? You appeared most disturbed…"
I suddenly realized I had not confided in Impa the reoccurring nightmares I had. I told her what I had seen and that I rarely slept peacefully.
"Why did you keep this from me?" Impa asked.
I grimaced. "I thought it a mere ailment, accompanying the effects of the poison."
Impa shook her head. "I do not know what you suffer from, but I know for certain that the cause is not from the poison."
"… Then what else could it be?"
"That I do not know."
"And what of this?" I pulled up the cuff of my sleeve, ignoring the embarrassment I felt at the sight of the markings.
Impa's eyes widened. "What happened?"
I shook my head. "… They just… appeared."
Impa gently took my hand into hers. "Do these scars hurt?"
"I've already spoken to Healer Eurick… he thinks I inflicted this upon myself in sleep."
"… That incompetent, brainless—"
"Impa please… honestly, I'm more bothered by the mystery of it all," I said, interrupting her insult.
Impa sighed heavily. "Forgive me, I should not criticize for as knowledgeable as I am in Sheikah healings, I do not have an answer either."
I shrugged slightly. "Do you regret my telling you?"
"No, however there is someone we can ask. At one time, he was the sole instructor of all the nobility children, but now he is a simple scholar, teaching only the older children and at times aids Priest Rauru during special ceremonies.
"What did he instruct?"
"History, culture, religion… and some small magics until he was prohibited from teaching it.
"His methods were questionable."
"I see." I put my cup down. "And the name of this heretic?"
A smile tugged at Impa's lips. "Sahasrahla, but I must warn you of his sharp tongue."
"…I should very much like to meet him."
"I will see what I can do."
Three days passed, becoming a week and a half since Link had gone. Another week and some days remained until his return.
I was going mad with worry, for I had not heard one word from him since. I continued to distract myself with many tasks yet… deep with me… I sensed something was amiss.
I sat in the study, staring out the window, watching dark clouds encircle the town below.
Soon the storm would be upon the castle.
I sighed, and brought my mind back to the matter at hand. I had forced myself to sit and think of a correct reply to Prince Ganondorf's letter. After sometime, I dipped a quill into a bottle of ink and began my reply.
Addressed to His Highness, Prince Ganondorf of Haladin,
Written from the hand of Hryrule's future queen, Princess Zelda.
It would be my honor to meet with you, Prince Ganondorf.
It is unfortunate that unrest has come upon both our kingdoms and I must inform His Highness that I am needed here until peace returns.
It is my sincere hope that the future will allow a chance for the crowned sovereigns of Haladin and Hyrule to meet in good graces.
I pray that peace will come swiftly and that His Highness, King Dragmire, will recover.
I thank you for your kind words and the respect you have shown, not excluding Ambassador Ronan.
My deepest gratitude,
Princess Zelda of Hyrule.
As I finished the letter, a spell of dizziness came over me. The black ink swirled before my eyes, and I blinked forcibly, but the blurriness did not cease.
No, not again… I was not even weary enough to sleep!
I closed my eyes, muttering an incantation to help me stay awake…
I couldn't let these silly visions control me…
I opened my eyes again, but this time, I found myself in a darkened chamber.
I heard ominous creaking all around me and I stood where I was, trying to adjust to the lack of light.
I took a step forward, when suddenly something warm brushed against my hand. I gasped and turned.
There was a man beside me, strung up by rope.
His breathing was faint, and had cuts and bruises on his entire body.
"…Sir…?" I called to him.
He did not stir.
I looked around for something sharp to cut him loose, but only found a splintered piece of wood.
I tried cutting the rope, but to no avail.
The man groaned.
"Can you hear me?"
The man let out a sigh and raised his head, his eyes opening slowly.
My breath stilled. "…Link…?"
He did not reply.
"Link," I called brokenly. "How… why are you…?"
Still he said nothing and simply stared around blankly.
I tried cutting him loose once again, but the rope would not break.
"It will not give, tell me what to do," I pleaded desperately.
"…Zelda…?" he breathed.
I gently took his face into my hands. "I am here."
"… I promised…" His voice cracked… sadly… defeatedly.
"Link, please look at me!"
"…I will not…give in…"
Suddenly footsteps sounded behind me, the shift of weight causing the creaking to echo all around.
…Where were we?
"Ah, so you're awake?" An amused voice inquired. "Well… it's late in morn…but I've come to kill you… again."
I stood in front of Link, not able to see the person who spoke. "What have you done to him?"
The mysterious figure ignored me. "Any last request?"
"…Please… allow me one more day. I can nearly hear her voice… and feel her warmth."
The mysterious figure paused. "You'll have to do better than that." The sound of steel being drawn echoed in the dark chamber and suddenly the floor rocked beneath us.
I called out for Link as the mysterious figure moved towards us.
Then… I saw blue eyes gleaming beneath a shroud of shadow.
A knock at the door shook me from my dream state.
I had slumped from the chair onto the floor.
"Lady Zelda?" A somber voice called.
I quickly rose to my feet and righted myself in the chair. I did my best to even my breath, trying not to recall Link's torture.
"Dire consequences await you down the path of ignorance."
Why… why did I see Link on the verge of death whenever I dreamt of him?
"Y-yes?" I answered, trying to hide the tremor in my voice.
Impa entered the room and slowly made her way to me.
I forced a smile and stood. Beckoning to the letter, I asked, "do you think this sickening politeness will be enough to satisfy His Majesty?"
Impa did not look at the letter. She studied my face for a few moments and then put her forehead to mine. "I am sure… it will be alright," she said softly.
I looked at her curiously. I knew she cared deeply for me, as I did her, yet it was rather uncharacteristic of her to show such affection. I put my hand over hers and gently patted it.
Impa pulled away and cleared her throat. "His Majesty has summoned you."
She led me to the throne room without a word, and as we approached the doors, a man I recognized as High Officer Fayden, left the throne room with a soldier, both their expressions gaunt and grim.
Officer Faydin met my eyes for a moment before bowing with closed eyes. He placed three fingers over his heart, then saluted. He flew down the stairs and did not look back.
The other soldier quickly mimicked Officer Faydin and followed after him.
I looked to Impa for an answer but she was already heading inside the throne room.
Something… was not right.
I took a deep breath and followed.
I found my father standing by the window with a rolled parchment in his hand.
"You summoned me, Your Majesty?" I said as I neared.
He turned, but did not meet my eyes. He motioned for Impa to shut the doors and made his way to his throne. I looked to Impa, then to him, confused by their peculiar and silent demeanor.
"I kept from you, that a messenger arrived yesterday, informing me that Lieutenant Ordon's first officer was returning here."
I said nothing, waiting for him to continue.
A deep unspoken fear seized me.
My father put a hand to his forehead, taking a haggard breath. "Zelda… lieutenant…Sir Link… he was…"
My eyes blurred. "Y-yes?" I whispered.
My father stood from his chair and took my hands into his… then looked sorrowfully into my eyes. "During the battle… Captain Kurion was taken by the pirates. Sir Link set out to rescue him and he succeeded…however…"
"He was taken in his place," Impa finished.
My face paled
My father looked away. "I am so very sorry," he said quietly.
I withdrew my hands. The air felt toxic and my breath came in sharp gasps. "Then… then he is still alive, h-he's just been taken prisoner." My voice was not my own; foreign, hysterical… breaking. "Father, you must hurry and send out a fleet to search for him! They cannot be far…" my voice died in my throat.
One glance upon their faces sufficed for an answer.
"His captor was the Dread Pirate Raven."
My blood turned cold. "The one who… never leaves survivors," I whispered, staring into nothing.
Link… he was—no… no, how could this be?
…You knew. Do you regret not heeding the warnings? Such fear within… pitiful.
"He served loyally," my father began as he started to pace, "and will be honored for his courage. He completed his duty the moment he agreed to serve under Captain Kurion." He stopped and looked at me with knotted brows. "You must know, Zelda… truly, I had already decided to give my con—"
"Do not say it," I said harshly. "… Please." I would not suffer his words to be voiced, to hear his approval would be unbearable.
I took a step back, and stumbled.
Impa was at my side in a moment and steadied me.
I pulled away. "I cannot… I will not give up hope so easily… I vowed…" Impa reached for me, but I stepped back again. "Do not ask me to believe it!" I cried. "I will bring him back myself, even if I must journey the far reaches of the Great Sea."
"Zelda, please," my father began. "see reason—"
"I must go." I fled from the throne room and hurried down the grand stairs to the entrance hall. Swinging the heavy door open, I emerged into the main courtyard and saw that the drawbridge had been pulled up.
Black clouds hovered over the castle and I ignored the shiver that ran down my body.
"Open the bridge!" I shouted to the guards above.
They peered down at me, and in the darkening sky, they could not determine my identity. "Who goes there?" one questioned.
"Your Princess! I demand you lower the drawbridge!"
Lightening flashed across the sky as the other replied. "With all due respect, Your Highness, it is well after dark, and your escort is not—" His words drowned in the thunder and my composure slipped.
"That is an order, gatekeeper!" I shouted.
They stared at me in disbelief for but a moment then opened the bridge. I began to cross it before it was fully down and just as I started towards the stables beyond the inner gate, I came upon the solider whom I had seen accompanying Officer Faydin earlier.
The world ceased to turn when I saw what he led behind him.
Lightening blinded my eyes, yet I did not blink.
I could not look away from the white mane of the auburn horse.
My breathing stopped and I shook my head.
No… it was a mistake… a lie...
Link was not taken… he was alive and well… he would return.
Epona simply may have been injured. My hand suddenly burned so intensely, it felt as if it were encouraging me.
But I was not convinced. Fear still cultivated my mind… my heart.
…This had to be one of my nightmares… it was too terrible to be true.
Yet…why could I not move now? Why did I not wake?
"Link…" I breathed with trembling lips.
My hope faded and I fell to the ground.
The guards called out for me.
Impa shouted my name.
And thunder rolled once more.
I returned to consciousness and found myself at my door in Impa's arms. I tried to sit up, and her red eyes narrowed.
"Lady Zelda, please do not struggle. You are in no condition to walk."
I did not answer and tried harder to free myself, finding that my hand still burned as I did so.
She finally conceded and gently set me down. She opened my door, but I remained where I was.
"Thank you… for aiding…" I said, hardly aware of my words; I did not feel a part of my body. "…Well enough. Please leave."
"I will not let you—"
"Leave me," I whispered, my voice cracking.
Impa stared at me doubtfully, but I would not meet her eyes.
…You do not deserve comfort…
"As My Lady commands," she said quietly.
I lightly touched her hand as I passed her into my room and she finally averted her eyes. She shut my door once I was inside, but I did not hear her go.
I locked the door and ventured into the darkness of my chamber. I looked around aimlessly, lost in my own confines.
Lightening flashed outside, the reflection from the balcony door windows blinding me.
It was the last place Link and I had been alone together.
Unknowingly, I started towards the balcony.
"..Alone, forever in darkness, cursed to live with a tainted heart."
Suddenly I tripped over my skirts and fell to my knees beside the door windows, my hair falling from place, sprawling about my shoulders. My arms shook as I righted myself and I grabbed the handle, trying to pull myself up.
"There will be no redemption."
My strength left me.
The burning in my hand faded to a dull tingle and I shivered uncontrollably.
I fell back to my knees.
Any moment now, I would feel his arms around me, feel his breath on my cheek… bidding me to stand. He would take my hand and whisper silly reprimands for my clumsiness.
I bit my lip and shut my eyes.
But deep within me… I knew the truth…
"I will always come for you."
He promised… he promised he would return. He swore to me…
I called for him.
"Simply by speaking your name… I couldn't… not with…"
Only now did I understand his meaning.
"I've loved you… I do love you."
I became undone.
I covered my mouth, trying desperately to deafen my cries.
But tears streamed down my face uncontrollably.
Knowing we could have been bound together… just as the Princess of Destiny and the Hero of Time… it was agony.
Disgraceful. Fairytales are nothing more than that… they have never existed.
But he and I were already connected… I had felt it…
Your suffering is born from such wasted hope… of broken promises and petty desires.
"Suffering is inevitable. Without it, we would not know joy."
But I cannot be without you!
"A glance upon your face would last me a thousand years."
…I am nothing without you…
"I would die for her."
I did not mean for yourdeath…
"Even death cannot sever my bond to you."
Your life was mine… as mine is yours.
"I swear to you, Zelda..."
I implore you, no more… no more words… for you… for he had…
"Why do you question my loyalty?"
Link had lied to me… he was gone.
I would never see my guardian again.
Heavy sobs escaped me, and despite my cries of pain… I could still feel my heart beating frantically… determinedly… mockingly.
The blame lay within this foolish heart. If I had ignored its promptings… he would still be alive. My suffering, nay his suffering, would have been spared.
"As you wish."
…What I wish…
Never again would I listen to this heart. I would rid myself of this burden, for love truly was nothing more than that.
The burning in my hand… and I… then faded away into nothingness.
"…I will never love again…"
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