Chapter XIV - Subjection
The flow of time is always cruel. Its speed seems different for each person, but no one can change it. It passes, seasons come and go, stars fade, and people move forward. Like the river's flow, it never ends.
In life passing, a childish mind will turn to noble ambition. Young love will become deep affection. Yet through all these awaiting changes…a thing that doesn't change with time is a memory of younger days…
"Rubbish," I muttered. From those melancholy words, the book of songs I had been reading ceased to be interesting. I snapped shut the book and pushed it aside on the dining table.
"What is it?" my father asked as he set his spoon down on his saucer.
I took a sip of my tea and shook my head once. "The content is not to my liking."
My father sighed. "Why do you immerse yourself in such books when you find nearly half of them distasteful? Why do you not spend your time more wisely, Zelda?"
"And what, pray tell, is considered wise in your eyes?"
"Well… for instance," he paused and then said slowly, nearly carefully, "Prince Ganondorf wishes to be in your company more often."
I resisted rolling my eyes. "Were you not the one who implied he finds a woman of wisdom agreeable? Reading leads to such a trait, you know," I said cynically.
"Zelda, you are twenty-two years now, and indulging in those books is—"
"I tend to my duties as expected; is that not enough?"
My father brought his elbows to the tabletop and folded his hands together. "You declared you would give yourself entirely to Hyrule… four years ago—"
"Please," I said, standing quickly. "You need not remind me." Pausing for a moment, I then excused myself. "Pardon me, Your Majesty; it is quite late in the day and I must ready myself for the evening." Curtsying, I left the dining hall without another word. I started towards my chambers, anxious to escape reprimand.
Nevertheless, I cursed myself for my sudden display of impatience. I promised myself I would be more gracious, that I would show kindness to those I cared for.
So many things I had promised myself years ago….
Though I continued to try my best to purge myself of all hindering qualities, my efforts had waned in the past months. I knew the reason for my half-heartedness, yet I did not wish to acknowledge it.
For the reason was the future king of Hyrule.
Prince Ganondorf had come to Hyrule during the week of the Autumn Leaf ball one year ago. He rode in on an enormous black horse, with only a few guards to escort him. He declared he had come to meet the royal family of Hyrule and expressed his deep apologies for not coming sooner for Haladin and the country of Calatia were currently on the brink war.
I was intimidated by him at first meeting; his presence felt hauntingly familiar… as if he were a distant memory long forgotten.
He was like the shadows that wait in the edges of sleep; mysterious, frightening, and unpredictable.
After introducing himself, Ganondorf greeted me warmly and complimented that I was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. My father instantly appreciated his equal formality and invited him to stay at the castle for ball.
Prince Ganondorf was thirty-three years of age, and was large in stature. His flaming red hair was nearly always tied back in an intricate way, revealing his round ears. His clothing consisted of heavy layers of thick cloth and leather, fashioned similarly to that of the Haladin militia. His skin was quite tanned and by his features it was clear that he was indeed adopted by King Dragmire, for his physicality reminded me of a Gerudo. However, Ganondorf did have an expected air of arrogance about him.
But it was his eyes I found most peculiar indeed. They were amber in color, seeming to pierce through me.
He was not a hideous man, nor was he particularly handsome. It was his words that brought his charm to light and had many maids swooning about him. It was as if he were a sorcerer with words, able to detect beforehand what one wanted to hear.
However, I was not swayed by his supposed charm.
He returned to Haladin after the Autumn Leaf ball, and I was relieved of his absence.
Autumn passed, as did the winter, during which he wrote me many letters of interest. My father was glad for our correspondence and it was then that I felt my efforts to keep the promises I made to myself begin to wane.
Ganondorf returned to Hyrule during the week of Spring Moon, by invitation from my father. On the day of the celebration, the same day as the anniversary of the creation of Hyrule's treaty with Haladin, Ganondorf sought me out in the library asking if he might have a word. I hesitantly obliged him and he admitted to knowing his words did not win my favor. He inquired as to what he might do to win my affections and I did not know how to answer.
"You intrigue me, Princess Zelda. Your graceful demeanor and silent disposition are traits of a fine queen. Yet your eyes... a fire rages within your violets and I wish for you to hide it no longer."
"… A fire?" I asked with a raised brow.
He smirked. "It is hidden, suppressed, but it is there. I wish to know of you Princess Zelda… of all your secrets." He bowed then continued. "I would be honored if you would accept my hand in marriage." He then reached for my right hand and before I could pull it away, he noticed the markings.
"Were you injured?" he asked suddenly, his eyes burning with curiosity as he righted himself.
I tugged my hand free when he stood straight and I covered the markings with my other hand. "Nay, it… they have always been there," I lied. The markings on my right hand ceased to develop that day four years ago and had not bothered me since.
I concluded it was merely a passing ailment, and did not care for the matter any longer.
"You truly are a mystery," Ganondorf smiled. "A mystery I wish to understand." As I looked away from him, I saw that he flexed his right hand. It was then I noticed that he always wore a gauntlet over that hand. I became immensely curious but did not inquire of it.
"What is it Her Highness is reading?" His asked, amused. He reached for one of the many books behind me and flipped through it absentmindedly. As he did so, I recognized it to be one of the myth and legend books I had occupied myself with.
He suddenly stopped on a particular page and stared at it for a moment. "May I borrow this?" I tentatively nodded my head and he smirked. He shut the book sharply, causing me to flinch and then took my hand in his again and brought it to his lips.
I shuttered inwardly; his touch was ice.
"Please think upon my offer, Princess Zelda." Tucking the book away, he then left me alone in the library.
He was a strange man indeed.
And he did not return the book.
The months passed, spring flew into summer and my father and the council pressured me into accepting Ganondorf's hand in marriage.
I did not wish to for some unknown force compelled me I should not. Albeit I had nothing personally against him, some part of me remained suspicious. Coupled with the warning I was impressed with, I blatantly refused.
However, my father harshly reminded me of my place. "You are offered security, Zelda. Your future will be made sure and my mind can rest easy. Do not pass up this opportunity. I have no desire to command you, but please do not tempt me. As future queen, you are obligated to obey your duty to Hyrule."
After many tear-filled, sleepless nights, I conceded.
Or rather… I was defeated.
And once Ganondorf and I became engaged, the unwanted dreams returned.
However, I only dreamt of a despairing darkness; a bleak landscape, riddled with black clouds and distant screams.
But I ignored these nightmares, for that is all they were; I had grown used to them. I would not acknowledge the reoccurrences to have a purposeful meaning. I simply concluded I was destined for a life of solitude; the Goddesses made it clear that I was not to indulge in my own desires; doing so had only created a wound that would never fully heal.
But I would not dwell on the past, nor would I let myself regret my decision.
It was as the book read: the flow of time is always cruel… and no one can change it.
As I reminisced upon my depressing logic and the events of late, I finally found myself at my chamber door and saw that it was already slightly ajar. I walked in to find my handmaids inside.
"Good afternoon, Your Highness."
I smiled half-heartedly. "I did not expect you so early…"
They exchanged guilty glances. "Lady Impa requested we work above expectations… given the occasion."
I laughed lightly. "Do as you please." I sat down at my vanity and waited for the discomfort to begin. They set my hair down from the messy twist I had pulled it up in and let the curls dangle on my back. They outlined my eyes with a thin piece of charcoal and brushed white powder on my face. They then stained my lips with a crushed, red substance.
As they set about fixing my hair, I heard the door latch click, and Impa entered, her impassive face hiding a smile.
"I am glad to see you are not resisting."
"You do not wish to attend?" Impa asked with a raised white brow.
"Not in the slightest," I answered stiffly.
"The people wish to see you, Lady Zelda. Your four and a half-year confinement to the castle has not gone unnoticed."
"You know perfectly well I detest parties," I said as I stood from the cushioned stool. "Celebrating Hyrule's five-hundredth year of peace is one matter, but for His Majesty to insist on announcing my engagement to Lord Ganondorf this same night... " I trailed off.
Over the past year, the reports of attacks from malevolent beasts had increased dramatically. The militia was doing all in their power to keep these incidents quiet, but I knew the truth. Traveling merchants now carried weapons with them as they journeyed through Hyrule Field for fear of their lives.
I shook my head inwardly. Celebrating Hyrule's five-hundredth year of peace seemed contradictory; we did not deserve to be so arrogant when monsters were knocking outside our windows.
"Do not fret," Impa said, interrupting my musings. "I will be beside you—the entire evening if you wish,"
I smiled. "Thank you, Impa."
"Now quickly, we must get you dressed." Impa disappeared into my dress closet and emerged some minutes later with an emerald colored gown with a wide neck that nearly reached the shoulders. The sleeves were long and cascaded down to the length of the knee and a transparent train draped down the back onto the floor. Intricate designs were sewn into the hem and bodice of the dress. This would prove a challenge to wear indeed.
"Let me see it on you; it may be a tight fit," Impa encouraged. I obediently stripped off my other dress and stepped into the gown. Impa pulled it up and fastened the clasps in the back. She backed away and studied me intently. "I forgot how thin you have become," she commented. I kept my eyes to the floor and said nothing. "Nevertheless, it suits you well." Impa then opened one of the drawers to my vanity and pulled out a small, silver crown. She placed it on my head and then turned me to the full length mirror. "You look lovely, Lady Zelda. His Majesty and Prince Ganondorf will be most pleased."
I scoffed inwardly and looked away from my reflection. That was all I ever heard whispered about me, how fair and beautiful I was. I was once angered by the pettiness of people until I realized… it was far better to marry for beauty… than for…
It was only on special occasions such as this that the people of Hyrule were permitted to enter the grounds of Hyrule castle. As Impa escorted me down to the entrance hall, my eyes would pause at the windows we passed. Hundreds and hundreds of people from all parts of Hyrule had gathered down on the lawns. I started to become very anxious. I feared traveling past the courtyard… it had been far too long.
Impa and I made our way through the corridors in silence and when we reached the stairs of the entrance hall, I found my father and Ganondorf waiting for us. We descended and as we neared them, I could hear their conversation.
"I trust your preparation was to your liking?" my father inquired.
"Yes, Your Highness is most gracious."
"I must admit, I am relieved you were able to arrive in time, Prince Ganondorf. I thank you on behalf of Hyrule for your sacrifice."
"It is no sacrifice at all, Your Highness. I would not forfeit this celebration for anything."
"That is well enough, but I am deeply troubled to hear of King Dragmire's passing. If there is anything you need aid with…"
"Your Highness is too kind. If it pleases you, I invite you to attend his services on the decided day."
"Yes, I would like to pay my respects."
"Very well. All affairs aside, I hope we can enjoy the evening together as future kin."
My father opened his mouth to reply until the sound of our footsteps caught his ears. He and Ganondorf turned to us and I quickly looked to the floor. I could feel their eyes upon me as we moved towards them, but I did not meet their gazes.
"Zelda," my father sighed, "for a moment I thought you were your mother. Truly, you are a queen," he said kindly.
I glanced at him and curtsied. "I am honored."
"Yes, a vision indeed…My Lady," Ganondorf said with a bow.
I suddenly felt a tremor travel from my feet to my head…
And the upset loosened something within me.
A flood of annoyance drowned me and I was amazed by his audacity.
Why did he address me so casually?
Truly he was proud man, for even though we were engaged, I had not and would not ask him to call me by such a familiar… and pain invoking title.
I curtsied to him stiffly and replied, "You flatter me, Prince Ganondorf. 'Tis my handmaids whom you owe gratitude."
He paused before answering. "I admire your humility," he said with a smirk. "I daresay you define perfection." I met his amber eyes and suppressed a shiver, simply forcing a smile to hide my discomfort.
My father chuckled and motioned for us to continue on. "Come, let us greet our people."
Ganondorf took my arm and together we followed my father across the courtyard.
Impa followed silently behind, and numerous times, I glanced back to ensure she remained true to her word.
The drawbridge had yet to be opened and we climbed the stairs beside it up to the curtain wall, my father's numerous robes trailing behind him as he made his way to the middle. I stayed against the inner portion so I would not be seen over the stone barrier; I laughed at my childishness for I was frightened of seeing so many people who had in turn come to see me.
The horns sounded and a hush fell over the crowd.
"My people," my father began, shouting loudly. "Today we give thanks to our makers above, beloved Goddesses Nayru, Farore and Din, and gather to celebrate Hyrule's five-hundredth anniversary of peace!"
The crowd burst out in cheers and whistles.
My father raised a hand for silence and continued. "But there is more joy to be found this day for the daughter of Hyrule, Princess Zelda, has become betrothed to Prince Ganondorf Dragmire of Haladin!"
The crowd began to murmur excitedly.
As my father spoke those words, I felt my heart sink. Now that it was spoken aloud… it was all but solidified. My throat tightened and I did my best to ignore the sharp pain in my chest
"A month from now at sundown, they shall be married in the Temple of Time, thus forever binding us to the noble country of Haladin. Allow me to introduce you to your future King of Hyrule!"
The crowd erupted in applause and cheering once again as Ganondorf left my side and went to stand beside my father. He bowed and gestured politely to the crowd.
He then cleared his throat and said in a low, booming voice, "people of Hyrule, I am honored to receive such a gracious welcome. My kingdom extends its hands in welcome to you in return. We are humbled to be a part of this great country of Hyrule and I swear to you, when my time comes, I will follow in the footsteps of your great King Harkinian."
The multitude burst into yet another round of applause and my face paled; we were now to join the celebration below. Ganondorf took my arm once again and we followed my father down to the drawbridge. It lowered ever so slowly, and the guests waiting on the lawns had fallen deathly silent.
I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. Keeping my gaze to the ground as we crossed the drawbridge, I could feel the stares of the people beyond the inner gates. The inner gates opened and a path cleared for us. I heard my father warmly greet the nobles and the councilmen who waited for us and shook their hands. Ganondorf also greeted them from beside me and I slowly looked up.
"It's her… it's the princess!" I heard hushed voices say.
My face burned and I nearly stumbled.
"Princess Zelda you say? I can't see!"
It was difficult to keep my face impassive and as the crowd parted for us, I heard more whispered conversations.
"Look mummy, is she the Princess?"
"But she looks nothing as I remember, are you quite sure?"
"Aye, I could not forget such a beautiful face as hers."
I was lead to a platform that had been built for nobility with a large oval table in the center. A chair was pulled out for me by a servant and I glanced over the crowd before I sat.
And my eyes fell upon blue silvered irises.
My breath caught. So hauntingly beautiful they were, I could not look away. An overwhelming feeling of nostalgia enveloped me and my eyes widened.
Do not think of it… do not dare compare…
"Zelda?" my father called to me as several nobles suppressed their laughter. I blinked and the eyes were gone. I desperately searched the crowd from where I stood, yet they were nowhere to be found. I started to breathe again and shook my head.
Apologizing, I sat down, and joined the table in a toast.
As the night wore on, my face began to ache from all the forced smiles. Many people had approached the platform and left flowers for me, and each time I would nod politely at them and smile. However, my spirits were falling more and more the longer I stayed and observed the guests at the table.
My father was laughing merrily with Lord Talon, and Ganondorf was speaking intently with the members of the council, no doubt charming them with his twisted words.
I sighed inwardly. This was to be my life once in the shackles of matrimony. I would be expected not to notice the fronts and masquerades of the lords, the ladies, and my own husband.
My gaze wandered across the merry crowd and I saw a large group of the gentry dancing. An odd ache formed in my heart as I watched their grinning faces and suddenly I remembered Lady Malon, and that I had not seen her the entire evening. I politely cleared my throat and interrupted my father's laughter.
"Forgive my interruption, but if I may ask Lord Talon, where is Lady Malon this evening?"
He scratched his head and grinned sheepishly. "Forgive her absence, Your Highness, but I must inform you that Malon desired to wait for her fiancé before arriving here. However, I expect them any moment now."
My eyes widened slightly. "She has become engaged?"
"Yes, only last week, Your Highness. She is promised to Lord Grogen Romani of Termina. We have had close ties to the Romani Ranch in Termina for generations now, and it was only natural to consider marriage between them, given the closeness of their ages."
"How wonderful," I commented.
"Indeed, I am delighted to say that this union is forged by love. She is most happy and I'm sure would enjoy speaking with Your Highness on the matter."
I suddenly felt a prick of anger. Though I knew he did not mean his words to carry such a sting, I could not help but feel irritation for his ignorant words. "That would be lovely," I said quietly.
He smiled at me once more and turned back to my father.
In that moment, I wanted to escape from this company, if only for a short while. I looked around for Impa, and found her standing beside a guard by the platform stairs. I kept my eyes on her until she glanced in my direction. I pleaded with her through my eyes and she started towards me. I tilted my head to the side ever so slightly as Impa neared and she nodded.
She leaned over to my father and said quietly, "excuse me, Sire, but I must insist I take Lady Zelda for a turn about the grounds. The guests wish to greet her personally."
My father looked to me and smiled approvingly. "Yes, of course, but do be careful."
I excused myself and as I stood, the men at the table did so as well. I took Impa's arm gratefully and together we left the platform. I let out a haggard sigh as I stepped onto the soft grass.
"What ails you, Lady Zelda?" Impa inquired.
I shook my head. "I fear I shall never become accustomed to this arrangement," I lamented.
"Though a necessity, sacrifice is never easy."
"Yes, I know, I simply wish—" My words died on my tongue.
For a garment of familiar dark green and golden hair appeared before me.
My heart leapt for the second time that night.
"Lady Zelda?" I faintly heard Impa call.
My breath grew shallow and as I took it step towards this mysterious person, they vanished into the crowd.
"Whatever are you looking at?"
"I… I do not know," I whispered.
I had forsaken hope… I could not trust my eyes.
Suddenly memories of a distant past slammed against the prison I kept them in.
No… do not remember… please…
I realized something truly had loosened within me.
And my control faltered. "I must go," I said suddenly to Impa.
"Forgive me; I cannot stay a moment longer." I tore myself from Impa and rushed towards the inner gates. The guards allowed me passage and I crossed the drawbridge quickly.
I could feel the bonds begin to unravel; the bonds I had so carefully… so tightly woven.
I fisted my hands and stormed to my room. I was angry at myself for displaying such weakness, when I had worked so hard to rid myself of all undesirable and hindering emotion.
I fumed silently until I reached my chambers and ripped off my dress. I tore the crown from my head and discarded it onto my vanity with a loud clang.
It was still quite early in the night, for it wasn't even midnight yet. I knew my father and Prince Ganondorf would be disappointed in my very untoward manner of leaving, but I was not considerate of the coming consequences.
I needed to escape my mind… my heart.
The world around me ceased to exist as I slipped into a numb sleep.
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