Chapter XXIII - Scar
Those golden eyes were upon me.
"You cannot escape."
I trembled madly, blinded by the gleam within the evil gaze.
"All will come to darkness. War shall ravage the earth, swallowing everything into fire. The golden land shall be no more, and you… shall be mine."
Hyrule burned before my eyes, my people molested by beasts of darkness… Link turned to ash at the hand of the hooded man.
I screamed in horror, my soul rending itself to pieces as I wept in anguish.
The golden eyed man laughed, and my hand burned with immeasurable pain, permeating through my entire being. So utterly helpless I was, writhing upon the ground, clutching my hand, wishing I could die to be free of such suffering.
Then the pain subsided.
And there upon my hand, the mark of the Triforce shined with such brightness, I was drowned in its light.
I awoke beside Link, breathing heavily into his collar with an arm wrapped about his waist, his slung loosely over my shoulder. The water lapped at my cheek, my lips brushing against sand as I lay there trembling in the cold wind, trying to distinguish reality from dreams.
He lives; he is not dead.
Gazing upon his face, I was again overwhelmed by disbelief.
I do not dream, he returned… for me.
His breath was faint and ragged, but relief had yet to come; his color was greatly alarming.
He did not stir. I moved myself out of his embrace and weakly I rose to my arms, leaning over him, calling to him breathlessly. His shoulder bled profusely, seeping into the embankment. The sight of the bloodied water caused me to be ill, forcing recollections of terrible visions to the forefront of my mind… even those I had forgotten from so long ago.
A sea of blood and bones, warning of battle as I drowned in the depths... the golden-eyed man conspiring in obscurity, ever reaching with covetous hands; Link in the hands of Raven, calling for me in his bonds; the screams of men permeating through the mist as the ravenous beasts attacked… Link in his shadowy guise, leading me from darkness; Hyrule a blackened landscape, the stench of death and destruction stifling the air…
I blinked them away furiously. "Open your eyes!"
The old hag in the mirror cackling at my fate.
"Foresight," whispered the wind. It stole my breath, stilling my blood as my conclusion of old echoed faintly…
"This may seem impossible but I cannot keep from suspecting foresight… I fear I am seeing what will come to pass, that my dreams are premonitions."
"…How can one suddenly see the future?"
It was indeed because of the Triforce… even then.
I knew now these visions were unmistakably the gift of foresight bestowed from the Goddesses. All had come to pass… apart from the fall of Hyrule. The threat of war had brought clouds of darkness, hence our haste to Calatia's capital; what else would cause those ominous happenings?
Yet this new vision…
I stood unsteadily and struggled to pull Link from the water, careful of his injured shoulder. It was then that I noticed the deep gash upon my arm that the hooded man had inflicted upon me atop the waterfall, however I disregarded it, for Link was in dire need of care. I only managed to drag him a small distance beneath a nearby tree, and knelt at his side, pleading with him to awaken.
His brows furrowed and a moan escaped his lips.
"Hearken to me!"
His lids fluttered, a sliver of blue steadily growing beneath them, but suddenly his eyes closed, clenching in pain as his hand clutched his right shoulder.
I smoothed his face with a shaking hand. "I-I am here."
Link opened his eyes with difficulty. "Where is he?" His voice was nothing but dangerous despite his labored breaths.
"He did not follow, but I must—"
Link seized my hand, struggling to speak. "Zelda… the hooded man, it's him…that count...!" My eyes widened, remembering when I lay upon the altar beneath the mercy of hooded man and the cloak fell from his head: the sight of a man with black eyes and dark hair flecked with gray.
Count Agahnim. I mumbled his name aloud without realizing and Link weakly nodded, cursing him under his breath. My stomach churned, my skin crawling as I recalled his cruelty.
Link's witness coupled with my suspicion were proof enough; Count Agahnim had conspired with the golden-eyed man to take my life… for…
"Give me your Triforce…!"
"Upon first glance, I thought it the Triforce."
"…Chosen by the Goddesses to wield their power."
Those words fell like a great weight, pressing upon my body every which way. I shook my head, trying to concentrate on Link's touch to pull me from distress. Stop, stop this!
"You feel it within your heart… your mind; the truth lies before you, yet you blatantly shun your destiny."
I could not deny those haunting words; I was filled with emotion, knowing I believed the words of Sahasrahla… the hooded man—Count Agahnim.
And the voices of the Goddesses themselves.
If it is my destiny to wield an essence of the Triforce, I shan't shun it, but please… spare Hyrule the fires of war, suffer me to save Link from a second death!
"Those Haladian bastards," Link muttered. "You cannot return to Ganondorf, Zelda. He must be a part of this!" He grit his teeth, grasping my hand tighter. I could not dispute his accusation nor could I believe it either. Ganondorf had saved me from the beast in Hyrule Field… surely he did not wish me dead, nor desire a war with Calatia after an alliance with Hyrule…? Did Agahnim work against him with the golden-eyed man, employing Sakon to kill me upon Calatia's soil?
…I had no answers to this but it was too much to think upon such mysteries now; the count's sword had pierced straight through Link, his life was flowing out of him before my eyes!
"S-save your breath. I must dress you wound," I said, my voice breaking in alarm.
Carefully, I moved him to rest against the tree trunk and he gasped quietly. I fumbled with his belt buckle and quickly removed the dressings from one of the belt pockets before tossing it to the side. Mumbling an apology, I removed his black tunic and long-sleeved under-shirt, revealing his tanned skin and firm muscles... inflicted with many scars. My throat tightened at such a sight; the manifestations of the pains he went through pierced me more than ever and I realized how much more he sacrificed for my sake. I cleared my throat silently, doing my best to keep from lingering on the scars.
The wound was far worse than expected and I hurriedly dressed it, hoping the river had sufficiently cleaned it. His blood instantly soaked through the first layer and I wrapped another layer, and another atop it. Not moments later, a pale redness seeped though, staining the white dressings. As I began to wrap the last of the dressings, Link's hands fisted the grass and tore small patches from the ground; he was desperately fighting to keep from voicing his pain.
I bit my lip; I could not use magic for my weakened body was no longer suitable to house any such power. I had nearly nothing within me because of Agahnim's attack…
…No… that mattered not. Link would be angry but I must use my remaining magic; I was determined to attempt to heal him. I would rather risk hurting myself; I could not let him die… or let him suffer anymore for my sake.
I have killed a man by my hand… though I do not deserve such grace, grant me strength to heal him!
I placed a hand upon his heart and behind his shoulder on the other side of his wound, feeling my markings sting dully. I pressed my lips to the front of his shoulder, the bitter taste of iron filling my mouth. Link began to shudder and I cleared my mind, murmuring the incantation against the bandages.
A peculiar coldness coursed through me, stealing the warmth from all parts of my body as it made way from my feet to my hands. Just as it reached my fingertips, the coldness changed into an icy ache, moving out of me into Link. I could sense the wound closing behind his shoulder, the fibers of his skin rejoining ever so slowly.
Then suddenly, I could not see, hear, nor feel anything. I could not breathe, and my heart thudded unsteadily, warning me to cease. Allowing panic to overtake me for but a moment, my concentration wavered, sending all my senses rushing back to me and I became overwhelmed by their intensity. I pulled away, gasping sharply and my head began pound, forming a dull ache beside my ears. I shivered uncontrollably, now colder than when we had first exited the river. I looked to Link's wound, finding that the bleeding had stopped. Gingerly placing a hand upon it, he winced. My hopeful relief turned to disappointment… I had not healed him completely. My body then slackened and I swayed.
Link inhaled deeply, his ragged breath returning to normal. "Zelda…" he said quietly. "What have you done?"
I slumped to my arms, trying to calm myself. "Forgive me Link, h-had I the strength, I could heal you properly," I said shaking, feeling the autumn wind against my wet clothing sap my warmth even further.
"You have done more than enough—" His eyes widened as he glanced to my neck and my arm; a deep scowl formed upon his face. "The bruises about your neck, the slash upon your arm… you should have healed yourself! You've endangered your life further!"
I dismissed the fury in his voice as I attempted to right myself. "T-That wound may have claimed you." My arms gave way and I slipped to the ground.
"Zelda!" Link caught me and pulled me to him, enveloping me in his warmth. I heard him sigh unevenly. "You have my gratitude, but I beg you… no more; your life is far more important!"
"Do not speak such things," I whispered, huddling against him.
His body tensed and I supposed he wished to reprimand me further, but he held his tongue. Suddenly he reached for the hem of my gown and slid it up my leg. Before I could inquire of this action, he ripped the fabric, tearing two strips of cloth away. He then took my injured arm and rolled the torn sleeve back. Using only one hand, he wrapped my arm with the makeshift dressing. Link finished quickly and glanced to my neck, his brows still drawn in anger.
"Sorry," he murmured with an impatient sigh and drew me closer, stilling my shivering. "Are you alright?"
I nodded. "It will pass." I knew his shoulder ached terribly but he held me without complaint. I listened to his breathing and his heart, finding them to be relatively normal, however his pallor remained a concern. I waited for the spell of illness to fade in silence, deliberating whether or not to inquire of what clawed the back of my mind; I wished to know, yet did not. Pressing my fingertips against his skin, I traced his scars "Were you tortured?" I whispered, trying to disguise the break in my voice.
Link paused for a long while, refusing to look to me. "There is no lie that would deceive you."
I closed my eyes, tears dropping from my lids onto his skin before I could catch them. Hurriedly, I wiped them away.
"…Zelda…" Link began quietly, "I do not wish you to further revile yourself… do you regret so much?"
"The scars you see… even a thousand more would I endure for you, so do not weep over my—our sacrifices."
"…There is much I regret but you I could not."
Finally he met my eyes. "Truly?"
"Never again will I allow you suffer for my sake." And before he could reply, I kissed him chastely, the markings upon my hand stinging sharply. As Link leaned further towards me, he shifted uncomfortably with a grimace and pulled back, tenderly rubbing his shoulder.
"Rest a moment more," I said in concern.
He shook his head, attempting a feeble smile. "I am well enough to travel; we must hurry to Orihm before nightfall."
"You push yourself too far, Link, as you always have done."
He raised a brow and shook his head. "The count knows I have seen his face. He will stop at nothing now to ensure our deaths."
Link tried to stand and I took his hand to stop him. "Rest," I said firmly. "We are both nearly spent." He looked deeply into my eyes, as if trying to determine my thoughts. "He will not come for us again." His hardened gaze softened if only a little, and I felt my face shade.
How hopeless was I; I was completely smitten with him.
Link glanced about with unease and hesitantly sat against the tree, gathering me into his arms to continue to warm me. He then took my hand and studied it. "Tell me… why do I feel such pain at your touch… just as I did all those years ago?"
I gave him no answer, wondering whether or not I should divulge into my new found belief.
"I wish to know why I cannot hold you so freely." Link's head tilted ever so slightly to the side, and a smile tugged at my lips at the childish mannerism he still possessed. I inhaled deeply, the scent of water and earth filling me. The sun was beginning to sink in the west; only a few hours of daylight remained. It had been three days since I had been captured and a day and a half since I had any sort of nourishment. We were both exhausted beyond measure, Link more than I, yet we persevered. I simply wished to sleep in his arms and dream of better days, but it was imperative he knew the truth.
"The markings ceased to develop the day you were… declared dead, and I thought nothing more of it until…"
"Seven days ago, Prince Ganondorf attempted to steal affection from me and I could not turn from him. His eyes… they held me against my will, as if I had become enchanted. Yet somehow your voice came from afar and I was freed from him."
Link looked away from me, his eyes darkening even in the glow of the sunset. "It sickens me that he has touched you so… without reserve."
"There is nothing to envy," I said quietly. "He treats me with feigned politeness and false flattery… hiding his true demeanor of contempt and that is where he deviousness lies." Link scoffed but I continued on. "Upon hearing your voice… my hand began to burn just as it did all those years ago, and since then the markings have begun anew."
Link closed his eyes and sighed. "When I took your hand as we fled… I felt it return; I know not what to think of it, for it only manifests at your touch."
Nervously I divulged further. "There is a great scholar who lives in the basements of the castle named Sahasrahla and he revealed to me that my—our markings may mean something greater than a trivial ailment. He spoke of the Triforce, claiming the markings resembled its shape."
"… The Triforce?" Link asked, clearly astounded.
I nodded. "A legend speaks of the Triforce breaking into its three essences: the power of Din, Naryu's wisdom, and the courage of Farore. Those chosen by destiny were granted an essence, wielding great power."
"Zelda… you cannot believe the Triforce truly exists…?"
"I have seen it upon my hand; what else can explain my visions, the whisperings of the unseen, the reason we live when we should be dead?"
"Nor do I understand yet—"
"It is the reason Agahnim pursues us."
Link fell silent, his mouth falling open slightly. He furrowed his brows, and blinked slowly, as if remembering something.
"What is it?" I asked.
"…He called me Triforce Wielder."
"Your powers shall be mine!"
I took a deep breath and looked to his left hand. The markings were clearly visible, following after the same pattern as my own. "Do you remember… after I recovered from the wolfo's poison, you thought me stricken with nightmares?"
Link nodded his head. "You were delirious, speaking of visions and foresight."
I frowned. "I was not delirious. What I have seen has come to pass."
Link said nothing, waiting for me to continue.
"The beast attack on the carriage towards Haladin, I dreamt it, and of you as Raven's prisoner. I saw you cloaked in shadow, taking me and leading me from the darkness." I shook my head, feeling slightly dizzy as flashes of those memories clouded my mind. "The nightmares of the man with the golden eyes… it was I he wished to kill, who seeks after me still. Agahnim is under his command, I am sure of this."
Link's expression darkened. "And you are sought for… the Triforce…?"
"… You have been given an essence of the Triforce, just as I have; that must be why you were pursued alongside me."
"Given? I did not ask for this, I do not even know if I believe such things! If we truly are chosen by destiny then why did the Goddesses allow us to be parted, to suffer so greatly? I am faithless to those who are so cruel."
I closed my eyes, understanding his animosity, yet wishing it would be abated. "I do not pretend to comprehend their ways, but I would not heed their warnings and suffered in my ignorance."
"I know you did not think such a gift as foresight existed all those years ago… but please, you must believe me now," I pleaded. "I am afraid of what will come to pass… I have seen Hyrule burn as beasts roam freely, killing at will… the golden eyed man commanding destruction." I looked to my lap, the familiar feeling of foreboding accompanying my words. "But I willnot let my kingdom fall into ruin."
Link remained silent for sometime. "…I knew not you were plagued so heavily with such frightful dreams."
"As much as I wish I did not believe in any of this… I cannot deny it."
He inhaled deeply. "It is too much to consider; I am greatly conflicted."
"…I cannot bear this burden alone." My whisper was hardly audible.
"I will not forsake you," Link sighed against my hair. "But do not expect me to believe so readily for I am pained at every touch… it's as if we are purposefully being kept apart," he said forlornly.
"No amount of pain will keep me from you," I replied. "For under the impossible… we are together again."
He granted me a smile. "All I desire is to stay at your side."
I held him, overwhelmed by his devotion to me. "And I yours."
Pulling away, Link stood up to gather his tunic and belt, still damp from the river.
I stood as well and helped him redress. "Do not give up… do not lose yourself as I did, that is all I ask," I said quietly, looping the belt around his waist.
Sighing with slight amusement, he replied, "You are persistent as ever."
I glanced up at him, searching his silvered blue eyes, wondering if he would come to believe he possessed an essence of the Triforce as well.
"Worry not; such things will never happen whilst you live." Link brushed his lips against mine briefly and took my hand.
It is my duty to save Hyrule, my destiny to wield an essence of the Triforce… my desire to live in peace with Link at my side. Goddesses I implore you…
"Let us go, it will be dusk soon."
Do not suffer him to be taken from me.
Leading me forward, together we continued southward to Orihm alongside the river. Passing through brush, a small wooded area appeared before us. The trees were ancient and thick, growing sparsely from one another. Through them, the sea and the capitol could be seen on the other side.
I sighed in relief, moving towards the trees but Link tugged me back. I turned to him in question, but his eyes were darting about warily, holding a finger to his lips. The wind itself seemed to still, yet the crackling of dead leaves could be heard. A soft whine of a horse reached our ears and my heart sank.
Link cursed under his breath, clutching my hand and commanded me to hide behind the brush. He unsheathed his sword and held it at the ready. "Show yourself!" he called out angrily. "I know you lurk near."
Atop a black horse, Ganondorf emerged from behind a tree wearing an unmarked brown cape, his face drawn in triumph.
"I commend you for evading me so skillfully, brave assassin, but now you will surrender."
"Surrender?" Link scoffed. "I think not…"
"I acknowledged your bravery… don't be a fool," Ganondorf growled.
Link raised his sword to him. "I will not give up so easily, especially to the likes of you."
Ganondorf smirked. "You dare challenge me, boy?" His sword flashed in the sun as he drew it threateningly and in one swift movement, he dismounted. "I do not duel with rogues, but I will make an exception; you have taken my princess bride after all."
Link twirled the handle of his blade. "You steal my words."
Ganondorf raised a brow in question and Link suddenly lunged. I watched their swords clash violently, the ring of metal piercing the air. They were evenly matched but I knew Link's injury and exhaustion would defeat him. Ganondorf raised his heavy sword and let it fall, but Link blocked it, trying to push him away as Ganondorf continued to press down.
"For the last time surrender!" Ganondorf growled through gritted teeth.
Link was now using both hands to keep his sword from wavering above him. "Death first!"
Suddenly from behind the trees, armed guards appeared with crossbows raised, aiming them towards Link.
We had been trapped.
Ganondorf's lips curled in fury, his face contorting into something fearful. "So be it." He moved away from Link, his amber eyes darting to his right as he gave a slight nod.
Hearing the click of the knocked arrow, I rushed forward out of the brush. "Stop this!"
They paused, Ganondorf staring at me with mild surprise.
Gathering my courage I stepped in front of Link, shielding him from the aim of the arrows. "Do not harm him!" I commanded, the mask of my title emerging; I must suppress my feelings if I were to fool Ganondorf. "He is no assassin, but Raven of Labrynna and has saved me from captivity and certain death; he deserves your gratitude." I heard Link breathe my name as Ganondorf lowered his sword reluctantly, glaring at Link as he did so.
Ganondorf backed away further and motioned towards the guards to lower their weapons. He turned to me, putting a hand to his heart and gesturing it to me as he bowed his head quickly. "Princess Zelda… I am relieved you live, please come away from—"
"This man risked his life for my own and shall only be accorded the highest honor."
Impa then came forward from behind Ganondorf's horse upon a russet mare, her red eyes softening as she looked upon me; but as her eyes fell to Link, they widened in disbelief. I shook my head ever so slightly in warning. Ganondorf cannot know who he is.
"Regretfully, Your Highness, if even he saved you, he has willfully kept you from me, and is no better than a common thief."
My face flushed by his offense. "He was guiding me to Orihm so that I may speak with their king, on Your Highness's behalf; it is well known Haladians are banned from Calatia."
Ganondorf's brow twitched and he was silent for a moment. "I am grateful of your consideration, Your Highness, but I cannot let him go free."
My temper began to best me and I felt my fingernails dig into my palm. "All of Hyrule, even Prince Ganondorf, are indebted to him, he is—!"
Link's arm glanced against mine, forcing me to silence. "Your words are kind, My Lady," he said with sudden politeness. "But this prince is incapable—"
"You dare address her so informally?" Ganondorf bellowed.
"—of acknowledging one of lesser birth—"
"Enough!" Impa interrupted, her sudden severity startling the guards. "Good Sir," Impa said to Link, "Though we are grateful for you sacrifices, you will show respect." Link nodded his head, a smile twitching at his lips.
"Your Highness," Impa then spoke to Ganondorf, "Nightfall is upon us and we must return to the ship. I suggest bringing this man along for questioning; His Majesty will want to know what has transpired here." I questioned Impa's intent for but a moment, but then realized only my father would be able to silence Ganondorf and award Link the honor he deserved.
Ganondorf continued to glower at Link as he sheathed his sword. "Indeed. Very well, Lady Impa, I charge you with his care." Snapping his fingers, the black horse trotted to his side.
I nearly embraced Link, but quickly stopped myself, settling for an inconspicuous touch of his hand. "I will not let any harm come to you," I whispered. "I shall claim you as my prisoner if I must."
Link simply looked away. "…I failed to keep you from him."
My heart ached for I could say nothing in this company to ease his sorrow. Ganondorf mounted and offered his gauntlet covered hand to me, prompting me to come to him.
Inhaling deeply, I was only just able to control my anger. "Avow to me you will not harm this man."
He paused, glancing to Link with narrowed eyes. "I swear it."
Hesitantly I took his hand and he pulled onto his horse with ease. An uncomfortable shiver ran down my spine at his closeness and I looked to Link in apology.
If Ganondorf came to know of the loyalty and the love I held for Link… he would surely attempt to charge him wrongly and perhaps kill him, for he was a possessive man. I knew suspicion had already been born, and I did not wish to give him a reason to investigate. I must find a way for Link to escape safely until I could sever my engagement to Ganondorf.
Ganondorf spurred the horse on, leading the way towards the coast. I turned around, watching Impa help Link onto the saddle as she eyed the bloodied hole in his tunic. As much as I did not want to, I tore my eyes away from him and looked forward stiffly. Now that Link and I had fallen into Ganondorf's hands, the will to fight my weariness had dissipated. I struggled to keep correct posture upon the horse as he snaked an arm about my waist, pulling me closer towards him; I could not recoil.
"It is a miracle you live, Your Highness; I feared I would never see you again. Calatia will pay for this, a Hyrulean fleet is making its way here now, and I have already sent word for Haladin to join them."
I shook my head. "You are mistaken, Prince Ganondorf; the captors did not hail from Calatia; they conspired against us all, intending to start a war. It is a trap, you must not attack them!"
He paused. "…You knew of their plans?"
"Assassins are strangely arrogant."
"How did you escape them?"
I agreed with the ghostly voice; I would say nothing of the Triforce or magic."That man you so despise intervened and stayed their hands."
"Where are the assassins now?" He pressed. "I will ensure their miserable deaths."
"…They are dead." The remembrance of Sakon's death caused my flesh to rise, and I tried to shake the memory from my mind. Though I despised such a wretched being, I had not wished to kill him. I prayed Darmani and Igos were truly as penitent as they seemed and hoped they would renounce their lives of bloodshed.
At my words, I sensed Ganondorf smirking behind me. "How fitting, your savior killed all witnesses? You trust him too readily, Your Highness. How did he know of your capture and your whereabouts?" I then felt his cold hand skim over the ripped fabric of my sleeve, traveling towards my neck. "I suspect he is an accomplice and means you harm; your wounds do not go unnoticed."
Alarm rose within me; how could I convince him? "You do not believe my word?" I accused. "I could inquire how you found me as well."
"Assassins are well versed in the art of deception… I only remain wary for your safety. " Ganondorf then laughed humorlessly. "Besides, are you so faithless in your future king? The Calatain banner upon your horse was proof enough; it must be destiny that you live under the impossible. As I pledged in Hyrule Field, I will protect you; I shan't let you fall into the enemies' hands again."
His words rang with sincerity, but the feeling of a hidden meaning crept into my heart, just as before in Hyrule Field. I did not know what to make of it.
"Enemy?" I repeated. "Indeed not, I must assuage the Calatian king before matters escalate for I am certain Your Highness's presence has been discovered."
"A weak country such as Calatia is no threat to Haladin; Hyrule need not fear its wrath."
"With all respect, Prince Ganondorf, Hyrule's relations with Calatia are peaceful, and I will do all in my power to keep this peace; I will not allow a false charge to spur a war."
Ganondorf chuckled beside my ear, tightening his grip about my waist. "A noble queen indeed; we shall make a formidable monarchy."
At that moment, I considered denouncing our engagement just so he would cease touching me, but a heavy warning descended, whispering it would be unwise.
"Be wary of ones you call friends, be wary of ones you deem enemies."
Link and I were brought aboard the finest ship in Hyrule, the King of Red Lions. Impa charged the first mate with Link's care, ensuring he was given food, bedding, and a set of clothing, for which I was grateful. Disregarding Ganondorf's final plea that we leave for Hyrule immediately, I sent a messenger to Orihm to request an audience with the king on the morrow. Impa scolded my rashness, claiming such short notice may offend him and was not enough time for adequate rest, but I would not concede. She then ushered me into the officer's cabins, and just as the door shut behind her, she pulled me into a fierce embrace.
"Lady Zelda, you cannot fathom my relief… I feared…"
Instantly I was overwhelmed with emotion and I wept her name, deeply touched by her concern for me, for I could only remember her taking me into her arms thrice in my life. "I am glad you came for me," I mumbled.
"I was returning from Kakariko when I came upon the carriage. I hurried to Castleton and learnt of your capture… and of your father."
I pulled away, wiping my eyes. "And how does he fare?" I asked with heavy concern.
"He will live, but his injuries are serious; he will not be fit for his kingly duties for sometime."
I bit my lip to keep from weeping further. "It is just as I feared."
Impa then took my face into her hands, blinking back the unshed tears in her red eyes. "Come, you look dead on your feet."
Entering the room across from the captain's, Impa promptly forced me to eat and drink as she ordered a bath to be prepared by one of the handmaids.
"I must ask why your actions concerning Calatia's king are in such haste," she questioned, peeling my dirtied gown from my body and cutting away the cloth Link had tied upon my arm.
"I was captured so that I might be killed on Calatia's lands to start a war; I must do all I can to stop it," I sniffed, drying my eyes.
Impa furrowed her white brows as she eyed the slash. "Those bloody captors were not Calatians?"
She muttered some indistinguishable words, cursings I suspected, and forced me into a porcelain tub in the corner beneath a window, commanding the handmaid to leave us; she curtsied and left without a word.
"How did you escape them? And Sir Link… how is it possible? I watched his grave filled myself," Impa asked with disbelief as she helped me bath, massaging my weary limbs and gently cleaning the deep cut.
"He was spared by the Dread Pirate Raven… then become Raven himself. He rescued me single-handedly."
"He is a fortunate lad."
"Impa… I believe it was divine intervention that saved him, and I for that matter; such impossible circumstances cannot be by fortune alone."
Impa paused. "I feel that you have come to realize a great truth."
I nodded; there was none to rival Impa's Sheikah intuition. "Indeed… I have." Taking a deep breath, I continued. "You have a greater knowledge of history than most and I have kept this from you… I feared to delve into its true meaning."
"Lady Zelda, you speak in riddles."
"…Do you believe the Triforce truly exists?"
She searched my eyes carefully before answering. "…Yes… I do."
I felt a smile grow at my lips in relief.
"The Sheikah knew of its existence before Hyrule was founded but it has been many centuries since its last manifestation."
Hesitantly, I lifted my hand from the water to reveal the markings.
Impa's eyes narrowed in question, then widened. "It cannot be."
"I believe the Goddesses have granted me an essence of the Triforce… Link as well, for he bears the same mark upon his hand."
"How did lowly bandits know of this sacred legend?"
"Twas not they for they were employed by a man who works in deceit. It was Count Agahnim, Impa," my voice quivered as I recalled the fear I felt against his great magic. "The assassins were under his orders to kill me and he… he tried to take my Triforce!"
Impa scowl deepened. "You are sure it was he?"
"Link has seen his face, but he is subject to another… a man with golden eyes, cloaked in shadow. I have seen him… in visions no less."
Impa sighed heavily, staring into nothing for sometime. "Visions, you say?"
I nodded and asked with hesitance, "Do you believe me?" Impa was the one I trusted most; she must believe me…
Finally she turned to me, looking into my eyes. "Yes, Lady Zelda. I trust your words, but these matters are grave indeed; I fear it shall be hard to convince others of Agahnim's treachery." Her immediate disregard for honorifics was proof enough she believed me; my heart lightened.
"The future is uncertain, but I will not let him cause a war. You must sense it just as I… the darkness that has fallen upon Hyrule."
Impa nodded. "I have been troubled for sometime… it is what summons the roaming beasts." A heavy silence descended as I recalled the crimson eyes of the wolfo, the bounding charge of a crazed bullbo, knowing nothing would slake their lust for blood.
"Who else knows of your powers?" Impa asked suddenly.
"Link and Agahnim alone but… whilst you were away in Kakariko… I went to see Sahashrahla."
Impa raised a brow and helped me out of the tub. "Given the circumstances, your disobedience does not concern me but you must not speak of these things to any other. Though the power of the Triforce has become legend… there are still those that may seek its power."
I nodded in agreement. "Before, I thought the markings to be simply an ailment, but Sahashrahla was the first to speak of the Triforce. He compared it to the ancient mark of those chosen by destiny to wield the power of the Goddesses."
"He is a knowledgeable man and I daresay he knows a great deal more of Hylian lore than I." She then dressed me in the sleeping gown. "However, you must use the utmost vigilance; even the wisest have fallen victim to deceit."
"I am greatly disturbed as to how Agahnim… and the golden eyed man, came to know, nay believe in things long since forgotten. They nearly succeeded in obtaining my essence; what if they…" the words died on my throat.
"It is because of the fabled wish. It is said a wish is granted from the heavens themselves if one obtains the Triforce."
"We Sheikah have witnessed history from the shadows… our legends warn that if one of evil design possesses even a part of the Triforce, great calamity shall ensue and only those possessing the remaining parts can subdue the evil. But if the Triforce is made whole… there will be none to challenge such power."
Bile rose to the back of my throat, hitching my breath. The room spun and I could see a vision of old.
"Once this piece is swept off the board, none shall stand in my way."
"He wishes to conquer Hyrule," I whispered. "…All of Hylia… with the Triforce." I begun to feel faint, and Impa helped me to the bed and put a hand upon my forehead. "Everything that has happened… it is because of the man with the golden eyes: the beasts, the disturbances of the lands, the clouds of darkness… Impa, the Goddesses themselves are heralding a warning!" My heart was racing fearfully; how could I have been so blind? It was he… not war that spurred this. Eyes burning, I hung my head in disgrace; I had wept so much the past two days, it seemed impossible that I still had tears to shed.
"Lady Zelda, calm yourself, you are feverish. Focus on the matter at hand. There will be time to discuss this during our journey home, but for now you must rest." As I lay down upon the bed, Impa took my arm and smeared a strong smelling salve over the wound before covering it with bandages. "I care for you as if you were a child of my own," she said in a near whisper. "Come what may, I shall always protect you… and Sir Link."
I smiled weakly at her kindness. "Thank you." I said, my eyes growing heavy. "Say nothing of Link to anyone… Prince Ganondorf cannot know he was—is my Guardian."
Impa nodded swiftly. "I understand. Sleep now."
My body was exhausted beyond measure but my mind was restless, nevertheless, I fell into a deep, dreamless sleep.
I was awakened by Impa just a few hours before midday, informing me the messenger had arrived late last night with the King of Calatia's reply. Handing me the letter, I hastily tore it open.
Addressed to Princess Zelda of Hyrule,
King Neildar of Calatia hereby accepts your request for an audience with His Majesty. You will meet an escort upon the shores of Orihm when the sun is highest in the sky, accompanied only by four guards of your own. Under no condition is Prince Ganondorf of Haladin allowed upon Calatia's lands; His Majesty's mercy allows his presence and yours, even upon the waters of Calatia.
Written by Scribe Selvy
Pursing my lips, I handed the letter to Impa. "He is most displeased," I commented. Usually amongst royalty, superfluous flattery and welcome embellished the written word, but King Neildar's anger was apparent; there was no request for a reply; he was demanding my presence. I knew assuaging him would not be an easy task, especially now that it was confirmed Ganondorf's presence was known to the Calatians.
Impa sighed and tossed the letter to the table. "I should have attempted to convince Ganondorf from riding upon their lands; now Haladin and Calatia have forced Hyrule into their web of hatred."
I shook my head. "He is unyielding; he would not have heeded your council had you given it."
Impa said nothing more and helped me ready for my audience with King Neildar. I dressed in the most suitable gown I could find, one that would cover my arms and neck, and wore a circlet for ceremonial purposes. Impa did her best to help me look the part of a princess but I knew my appearance would have brows raising at the sight of me… yet another thing I would have to apologize for.
I wished to see Link before I departed, wanting to ensure he was taken care of and to hear words of support, but Ganondorf would not allow it, claiming he knew for a surety that Link was cared for and that I should not be consorting with such a person of low-birth. I nearly lashed out at him, wanting to reveal Link's true status, but I bit back my anger for Link's sake. Impa helped me into the row boat with six Hylian guards and we set off towards the Calatian shore. As we neared, I could see an armed escort of fifteen Calatian soldiers and a small carriage.
I took a deep breath, trying to calm myself. Soon enough, the boat scraped up against the sand bar and Impa helped me out.
An older man dressed in muted colors of silken fabric then stepped forward. "I am Duke Velduin Rancor, King Neildar's trusted advisor and Calatia's ambassador to Hyrule. I am here to receive Princess Zelda as her escort to Orihm castle." His pale eyes met mine briefly before bowing his head rather stiffly in respect.
I nodded politely. "I am grateful to His Highness for such consideration. I am in your care."
"Four of your guards may come if you so desire."
"I believe I am in trusted company, Your Grace. I shall bring two of my men and my lady in waiting if permissible."
Duke Rancor looked to Impa, his eyes swiftly moving over her peculiar clothing; her concealed weapons went unnoticed. "Yes, she may come. Please follow me."
Impa turned to four the guards and quietly ordered them to stay. They appeared rather displeased, but I did not wish King Neildar to be of the opinion I was frightened. Even if my life was endangered, it mattered not for Impa was more skilled than the six Hylian guards combined. She and I followed after the duke to the carriage and he waited for us to enter before following suit.
The ride to the capital was nearly an hour's time, and it was spent in silence; it seemed the King's displeasure with me had extended to his advisor as well. My anxiety grew each passing moment and when the carriage came to a halt, my heart sped. The duke stepped out first and Impa and I followed. The castle was quite smaller than Castleton's, its design more rounded, made with beautiful blue stones; a homage to the Great Sea. The duke then led us through the courtyard and across a small drawbridge into the entrance hall. A single staircase led to the throne room, and a guard was posted at each step. I could feel their eyes on me as I followed the duke and I knew they had been posted specifically for my audience; had expected me to bring an entire armed force?
Years ago they were on the brink of war with Haladin… is Hyrule in such danger now?
We reached the top of the stairs and following protocol, my guards stopped outside the throne doors just as they opened. The doors were made of metal, embossed with intricate designs of Calatian culture.
Finally they scraped to a halt and the herald promptly announced my presence. "Presenting before His Majesty, Princess Zelda of Hyrule."
I drew a breath, and squared my shoulders as the duke moved to the side. I stepped forward a few paces before curtsying fully and bowed my head in reverence, waiting for King Neildar to address me.
"Rise Princess Zelda, I wish to properly greet Hyrule's future queen." His voice was aged, yet rang of forced gruffness. I looked up and met his eyes, seeing a man ten years my father's senior. He was thin, yet his heavy robes carefully disguised it. A white, well-kept beard outlined his jaw, yet his hair was gray and a lavish crown sat atop his head in attempt to disguise his early baldness. His advisors were seated behind grand tables on either side of him, staring at me with accusation, intrigue, and disapproval.
"Your Highness," I began clearly. "I am truly honored to make your acquaintance; you have my deepest gratitude for receiving me into your grand halls."
He nodded with a slight frown. "Please come hither."
I saw Impa shift her weight uncomfortably out of the corner of my eye and I made a hidden gesture for her to stay. I stepped forward, following the deep blue carpet that led to the king's throne. I halted a shy distance away and bowed my head once again.
"Your humble guise is unexpected," he said.
"My apologies, Your Highness; the past three days have been unexpected, that is why
I come before you now."
He paused for a moment. "There is no need to plea for pardon; it pleases me." I knew not what to say but thankfully he continued on. "However, I wish to know why Hyrule's forces sail upon my waters, with Haladin's prince at the helm."
King Neildar's bluntness was anticipated but I was surprised how quickly he demanded an explanation.
"I am betrothed to Prince Ganondorf, Your Highness; he risked his life to come to my aid for I was captured naught three days ago."
"…Captured?" the king questioned with a scowl. "And you were brought here?"
"Indeed. You must know, Your Highness, Calatia was to be faulted for my capture and—"
"Outrageous! How dare anyone charge my kingdom with such disgrace?"
"Please, Your Highness, I will ensure this fair kingdom retain its innocence. I am being conspired against… it is my deepest regret Calatia was pulled into such affairs."
King Neildar inhaled deeply and stared at me. "Why were you captured, pray tell?"
"….To start a war."
The room suddenly hummed with murmurings from the advisors, sneering at me with disdain. I paid them no mind and continued to look upon the king.
His eyes fell from mine and he sighed. "I must admit, I am offended Hyrule did not seek confirmation on this matter, nor request aid. It is well known Haladin and Calatia are bitter enemies… I cannot overlook that prince's breach upon our shores."
My heart grew heavy, trying to convince me that favorable relations with Calatia were fated to be severed…
"He and unmarked soldiers stepped foot upon my lands, riding about the countryside like cowardly bandits. What have you to say of this, Princess Zelda?"
….But I could not give up. I closed my eyes and bowed my head as I clasped my hands together. "Your words are fair, Your Highness, your offense does not go unwarranted. Permission should have been sought with Calatia, and for that I implore you forgive me and Hyrule for such an offensive oversight."
He said nothing, waiting for me to continue.
"I was captured in order to be slain upon the Scarlet Crag, faulting Calatia with my death to start a war between Calatia, Hyrule, and Haladin. That is the truth, Your Highness. Prince Ganondorf did not cross your lands with malicious intent; he only wished to prevent my demise."
I looked up, feeling my emotions stirring but I kept them at bay. King Neildar's narrowed eyes softened ever so slightly as I gazed upon him.
"And that is my desire, Your Highness. I do not wish for a war between us; As Hyrule's queen, I would do all in my power to prevent it. The fault lies only with me… my weakness has caused a great misunderstanding."
I then bowed fully. "Humbly, I entreat Your Highness's forgiveness." I whispered.
The room was stiflingly silent and I prayed with all my might that my words had assuaged the king. The murmurings from the advisors began anew and the king listened to them intently. What seemed an eternity later, King Neildar held up a hand for silence. He turned to me, a scowl no longer upon his face.
"Your words are full of wisdom, Princess Zelda. It is regretful that you were captured for such a malicious purpose and it is well that you were spared. You have proven your honor this day, and I hold no quarrel with Hyrule."
My lips parted with a smile. "Your Highness, you have my eternal gratitude."
He simply nodded his head and continued. "However, if Haladin's prince breaches Calatia's lands ever again, he shall not be shown mercy, nor his kingdom. If any further attempts to charge Calatia with any crime arise, I will defend my kingdom's honor even if I must march against Hyrule."
"I understand, Your Highness. Your compassion shall not go unheard, nor your wise words of warning."
"The royal family of Hyrule has always held favor with Calatia; you and your father both have demonstrated to be worthy of such esteemed honor. Pray, how does he fare?"
I curtsied in gratitude. "He was injured upon my capture, Your Highness; he recovers at the present."
King Neildar frowned. "I am sorry to hear of this, but I wish to know more of this matter; I invite you to dine with us, Princess Zelda, your tale must be grand indeed."
I had no choice but to accept. I could not let Calatia be further offended and if I were to make allies of them in the future I must leave on agreeable terms.
"It would be my honor and pleasure, Your Highness."
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