Chapter XXV - Contention
"Awaken Lady Zelda, we approach Hyrule's shores."
Slowly I opened my eyes, finding Impa readying a gown for me. Pale sunlight filtered through the small window; it was just after dawn. Hesitantly, I sat up. Though I had slept the entirety of the night after my failed attempt to feel Link's touch in our dreams, I was still exhausted. The Dream Melder was forbidden magic with good reason: it sapped one's own strength instead of the surrounding energy. I looked to my hand and sighed with disappointment. All I desired was to hold him…
Taking a deep breath, I rose from the bed and dressed to prepare for the long day ahead. We would stay with the Lord of Sunset Bay province, Lord Andruis, and no doubt his entire household would inquire after the tale of my abduction, overly concerned for my well being.
Impa escorted me to the deck to meet Ganondorf. Though I knew it was inevitable, I could not help but be dismayed for he would remain at my side until I retired.
"I hope you have rested well, Your Highness. I am certain we shan't have respite from inquisitions of the lords and ladies this night," he said with a slight smile on his face.
The quarrel between us had not been witnessed by anyone, save Link, and each time we met after we were not alone… and not by coincidence.
"Indeed; your concern is appreciated, Prince Ganondorf," I replied with forced politeness. "I am well prepared to divulge the happenings of late."
"Then let us not keep them waiting." He offered his arm to me, which I reluctantly took, and together we left the King of Red Lions.
The moment I stepped upon the land, a sudden chill descended upon me, seeping down into my very bones.
I became very uneasy…
Something was amiss.
I tried to breathe slowly, not wanting to show my wavering confidence, but I could not be rid of this strange sense of fear, as if the state of Hyrule had worsened into my short absence.
A fine carriage awaited us on the docks, along with Lord Andruis and his wife. Ten knights upon well groomed horses stood in perfect formation just beyond the carriage. I was surprised Lord Andruis was this prepared on such short notice of our return.
Beyond the receiving company, the residents of Sunset Bay were gathered around, talking excitedly amongst themselves. As Ganondorf and I neared, the knights dismounted and took a knee. They bowed their heads, holding three fingers to their heart. The crowd fell silent and stared on at us, then bowed as well.
This sight beneath the morning sun nearly brought tears to my eyes and in that moment, memories of Link rushed to the forefront of my mind, quickening my heart.
"I have pledged my life to serve Hyrule, to serve His Majesty and Princess Zelda. I would sacrifice anything for them… I would die for her."
Such loyalty and adoration Link had displayed that day… and these reverent knights had done the same.
"Princess Zelda," Lord Andruis greeted; his head was bowed, honoring me in the same fashion as the knights. "We rejoice in your safe return; we pledge our fealty that we shall serve Your Highness as Hyrule's Queen, and will ride to war in your cause."
I was deeply moved and before I could refute his words of war, he stood and shouted, "hail our honorable king, hail our beloved princess!" The knights shouted his words in unison, the residents repeating in rounds, their thunderous voices causing my flesh to rise.
Truly they saw me as their queen; to trust me so readily in the prospect of war, to be so willing to shed blood for Hyrule…
None here had been poisoned by Ganondorf's words and none here perceived me as a naive child as those in the castle did.
My heart lightened.
Sweeping my overwhelming feelings of gratitude aside, I quickly addressed the matter at hand. "Lord and Lady Andruis, Good Sirs…. I am moved by your words. I am honored to be in such loyal company, but I must quell your resolve for war no longer threatens Hyrule."
Everyone looked to me in confusion and I continued on with a raised voice.
"Fear not, Calatia is not our enemy. I have counseled with their king and he holds no quarrel."
The crowd exchanged glances and murmured.
"…So easily? I do not understand."
"But what of Her Highness's capture?"
"How did she survive?"
"A miracle no doubt."
Locking eyes with Lord Andruis, his brows furrowed. "Your Highness?" His voice was laced with amazement, though hardly audible. I simply nodded and he quickly composed himself and turned to the crowd.
"Silence!" he bellowed. "Indeed we must thank the Goddesses for Her Highness's safe return and these glad tidings, but she has endured a great deal and now is not the time for this."
"How is it that Her Highness lives?"
"Calatia must pay for disgracing us!" The people continued to argue.
"They must learn to fear us!"
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a smirk grow at Ganondorf's lips; he was pleased with their anger? He took his arm from mine, but I would not let him speak.
"Calm yourselves," I said loudly as I stepped forward, touching Lord Andruis's shoulder, his face shading red as he moved back.
The crowd quieted.
"Calatia is not to blame for my abduction. This was the doing of a twisted man intent on igniting our lands in the flames of war; he deserves your wrath."
"One man?" they whispered.
"How is it possible?"
"He must have been one of great skill."
"Was he killed?"
I paused, waiting for them to hush themselves before continuing on. "The Goddesses smiled upon me and I was saved by a knight of Hyrule." I could feel Ganondorf's eyes upon me, displeasure emanating from them, but I cared not; I would not give him the chance to disgrace Link further.
The crowd murmured in wonder, and the knights before me nodded with pride.
"I was fortunate enough to have Prince Ganondorf ride to my aid as well before I met with Calatia's king. Rest assured, my people, our ties shall remain peaceful. Nevertheless we must be vigilant, for while there is good in the world, there shall always be those seeking to destroy it."
The crowd clapped politely, until a single voice shouted, "Hail the Queen!" They began to offer their cheers and thanks but I shook my head and held up a hand.
"The Goddesses deserve your gratitude, please do not—" my voice drowned in their chanting and Lord Andruis stepped beside me.
"Princess Zelda." He took my hand and touched his lips to my glove. He was quite older than my father, yet he did not act as such. "Your words are wise, Your Highness. We are all pleased to see you well."
"Your concern is deeply appreciated, Lord Andruis," I said, placing a hand to my heart humbly.
"Come, this way." He led me back to Ganondorf's side, the crowd beginning to disperse as I walked away. "We are honored to have you with us."
"I offer my thanks for your hospitality," I smiled.
"Yes, Lord Andruis, your generosity is great indeed," Ganondorf stated. "I am pleased to meet with you again; the Celebration of Peace seems an eternity ago."
The corner of Lord Andruis's mouth twitched at Ganondorf's words and he nodded… reluctantly. "Prince Ganondorf," he greeted, hardly glancing to him. "Allow me to introduce my wife, Lady Genevieve of Tolston."
Ganondorf and I inclined our heads. "I am pleased to make your acquaintance, Lady Genevieve."
Lady Genevieve stepped forward and curtsied. "Please, the pleasure is all mine. I too am pleased to see your safe return to Hyrule, Your Highness."
"I do not recall your presence at the Celebration of Peace, Lady Genevieve; I would remember such a beautiful face," Ganondorf said in a low voice.
The corners of Lord Andruis's mouth twitched again, his brows furrowing ever so slightly; displeasure perhaps?
"Please pardon my absence, I was quite ill," Lady Genevieve replied.
"I do hope you have recovered."
She curtsied with a slight grimace.
Lord Andruis let out what seemed a forced chuckle as he cleared his throat. "We have prepared a small feast in your honor, Princess Zelda. Shall we ride to the castle? We are all anxious to hear your tale, if that is well with you."
I smiled, pleased he had addressed me solely and treated me above Ganondorf's station. "Thank you, Lord Andruis. We are in your care."
All eyes were upon me as I told of my abduction. I said nothing of Agahnim— the hooded man, nor of his master, the man with the golden eyes. I spoke of Link with high regard, taking great care not to mention his past life, but Ganondorf interrupted with his falsely spun suspicions of Link's intentions, swaying some of the knights to his opinion. Before I could contest his words, I was interrupted by Lord Andruis.
"Dangerous you say this former knight may be, however, he saved our queen from certain death… one might suggest his role was crucial in preventing war with Calatia," he countered.
My respect for him grew ten-fold. "Well spoken, Lord Andruis."
A shadow of a glare flickered over Ganondorf's face. "Until Her Highness is safe in Castleton, and that knight is questioned by the king, vigilance is needful, Lord Andruis."
Lord Andruis raised a brow. "Indeed."
I felt their courtesy toward one another was heavily forced, and I quickly changed the subject to prevent any offense from either side.
"I must admit, Lord Andruis, I was impressed with how quickly you acted upon hearing of my abduction; you have done well to keep the King of Red Lions in such pristine condition."
Lord Andruis nodded. "When Prince Ganondorf rode to the castle so determined to find you, my men readied the ship right way. I admired His Highness's determination; against all odds he found you so quickly… it could have only been the Goddesses that guided him to you."
His words hinted strongly of sarcasm, bringing to mind Link's claim in the ravine.
"How did he find us so quickly? It's as though he knew where to find you."
It was peculiar indeed for even now, I knew not how Ganondorf came to find me.
Just then a page entered the room, and made his way to Lord Andruis. After whispered exchanges, the page left the way he came.
Lord Andruis cleared his throat. "It would appear Commander Virnen and Informant Cidreth wait outside the gates." He looked to me, his green eyes softening. "They have come in behalf of your father. I sent a messenger bird last night after receiving word of your rescue. " Motioning to the guards at the door, he ordered, "Send them in."
Lady Genevieve gently touch my arm, offering me a comforting smile and I wondered if all of Hyrule now knew of the beast attack and my abduction.
The guards returned not minutes later, Commander Virnen and Cidreth at their heels. They were slightly breathless; they must have ridden in great haste.
I stood from my chair to greet them, as did the rest of the table.
Commander Virnen and Cidreth rushed toward me, quickly bowing and taking a knee. "Your Highness!"
They stood slowly, looking at me with knotted brows.
"Forgive me, Your Highness," Commander Virnen began. "I should have escorted you to Haladin; ordered more men to follow, or—"
I held up a hand. "Do not cast the blame upon yourself; the beast attack was unexpected."
"Your Highness, I am sorr—"
"I will not have you apologize anymore, commander."
He fell silent and bowed his head. "Understood."
"…Are you well, Your Highness?" Cidreth inquired, his eyes heavy with concern.
"I am, Sir Cidreth; worry not."
He sighed and nodded, looking to the ground.
"Sir Cidreth and I are here on behalf of Lord Counselor Iras and Warnock… and His Majesty; we have come to ensure Her Highness's safe return back to Castleton on the morrow."
"I am much obliged."
"Please, gentlemen," Lord Andruis said, "join us. Princess Zelda and Prince Ganondorf were just telling us the events that transpired in Calatia."
"Thank you, Lord Andruis." They then turned to Ganondorf and greeted him politely and he merely nodded in acknowledgement.
As Commander Virnen and Sir Cidreth dined with us, I again divulged the story. When I mentioned Link—not by name—Commander Virnen's head snapped up.
"This knight had come from the Great Sea to save you? What is his name?"
The blood drained from my face; he could not know it was Link for if he did—
"Link of Ordon, or so I am told from one of the guards," Ganondorf said offhandedly.
I closed my eyes, trying to keep my face impassive. Link had told me Ganondorf knew his identity, but how? How had anyone known? Do not inquire further; say nothing…
Commander Virnen looked to me wide-eyed. "Your Highness, the lieutenant—your Royal Guardian lives!"
I cursed inwardly and reluctantly nodded.
Ganondorf glanced to me. "Lieutenant?" He asked, amusement hidden in his voice. "To think he abandoned such a high ranking for a life of piracy…"
"Was he not captured by the Dread Pirate Raven?" Commander Virnen continued on in excitement. "What divine fortune this is; His Majesty will be greatly astonished our princess was saved by Sir Link! I must see him, where is he now?"
"That is impossible, Commander Virnen," Ganondorf interrupted shortly. "He is being held prisoner for the time being; a deserter is not to be trusted... no matter his title."
"He was deemed killed in action, taken against his will—"
"But it is clear he did not return by his own will. He is a pirate using the princess to regain his station—"
I stood from the table in anger, my hands shaking at my sides. "Enough of this," I commanded. "Do not spin your suspicions into truth yet to be proven, Prince Ganondorf. He is a Royal Knight of Hyrule and his fate is in my hands and His Majesty's alone. This matter shall not be spoken of further."
The entire room stared at me wide-eyed, daring not to speak, stunned by my sudden outburst. Ganondorf clenched his hands, his amber eyes hardening; I knew he was offended by my manner but I cared not. No longer would I let him abuse his authority in mykingdom.
"Pardon me, Princess Zelda," Prince Ganondorf said softly… dangerously. "As I said before, I care only for your safety."
"And I acknowledge it," I replied, slowly sitting back down.
The room remained silent until I turned to Commander Virnen. "What news do you bring of His Majesty?"
He glanced about the room uncomfortably before answering. "His Majesty recovers slowly, Your Highness, but Healer Eurick assures me he will return to full health."
"I am relieved to hear this," I said evenly. My eyes burned but I suppressed mounting heaviness in my heart. I wanted to believe he was well and cease my worrying, but I knew I would not until I saw him with my own eyes. My impatience to return to Hyrule Castle was unbearable.
"We are all anxious to see His Highness recovered," Prince Ganondorf agreed.
At the mention of my father, I was reminded of the day of my capture, the entire reason we left the castle.
"Prince Ganondorf," I addressed him without a glance. "This ordeal has prevented your return to Haladin; I am sorry but what of His Highness, King Dragmire's funeral?
Ganondorf looked to me, his face unreadable. "Her Highness has been endured much hardship. You need not concern yourself for I have already sent word to Count Agahnim to proceed. My people will understand their future queen's life is of greater importance." He said this lightly, the lack of sincerity lost in the seemingly heartfelt words.
For a moment I considered telling him about Agahnim's treachery yet… I felt compelled to remain silent. Ganondorf's actions of late caused me to lose all trust in him…
"Be wary of ones you deem friends, be wary of ones you deem enemies."
I would find a way to break our engagement, to keep him from Link. I would find a way to keep Hyrule from his kingship.
"All of us here offer our condolences, Prince Ganondorf," Lord Andruis said. "And we are grateful you brought our queen back here alive."
Ganondorf grimaced, and nodded once.
The conversation between all at the table slowly returned to its former liveliness, yet there was still an underlying tension. As the hours passed, Lord Andruis divulged the affairs of Sunset Bay province, and revealed that he had recently decreed a city wide curfew; it had become too perilous for any to wander about from twilight to dawn. The people had been dealing with the threat of beasts in Hyrule Field, and the sea was nearly just as dangerous. The fisherman complained of the curfew, for night was the prime time to catch the rarest fish.
Though Lord Andruis had done nothing blatantly offensive to Ganondorf, I knew he was greatly displeased with Lord Andruis speaking so freely of things Ganondorf himself had ordered the ministers and the militia to keep their silence of. But it mattered not for Commander Virnen and Sir Cidreth exchanged tales of their own, and the most efficient way to dispatch the beasts.
All I could do was offer words of hope; now that the threat of war was abated, perhaps some of the darkness that filled Hyrule would soon pass. The only thing of concern now was my engagement and the golden eyed man… and his quest to take my and Link's life.
The sun began to set and servants entered to light the torches but Lord Andruis waved them away. "Ah, forgive us Your Highnesses, the time has run away and you must be very weary; allow my servants to show you to your rooms. If there is anything you need, please to do not hesitate to call upon me."
I thanked him warmly, Ganondorf simply nodding to him stiffly. Lord Andruis and the rest of the table stood from their chairs as we did, and bowed. Commander Virnen and Sir Cidreth bid us goodnight and the servants then guided Ganondorf and me from the dining hall to our chambers.
Upon reaching the guest chambers, I bid Ganondorf good evening in a courteous manner.
"I would ask you speak with me," Ganondorf said bluntly with a forced smile; he remained in a foul disposition despite his ability to hide it.
"Perhaps later," I lied, opening my door. "I am quite weary."
He paused. "… of course, princess."
I glanced to him, irked by his mockery but said nothing and shut my door. Letting out a sigh of relief, I found Impa standing cross-armed at the long windows on the other side of the room, staring out into the darkened sky.
"Sir Link is well guarded in the dungeons below, but I made certain he was given a meal."
I laughed inwardly; she knew of my inquiry before I could ask it aloud.
"I would advise you not to see him despite your capability to."
I nodded; Impa did not know of my using forbidden magics. "I wish to free him, to relieve him of all the suffering he has endured yet…his fate remains uncertain." I paused, inhaling deeply as I joined Impa at the windows. "I know not how to move forward; I cannot marry Prince Ganondorf, Impa. It is impossible."
Impa remained silent for some time, her eyes closed and her breath still. "You feel responsible for all that has befallen him." It was not a question. "Your regret… I can sense it."
My eyes burned, the guilt I attempted to force back weaving its way into the recesses of my mind and heart. "I do not deserve him… the crown, the unwavering loyalty of my people for I..." Memories of my life before Link disappeared flashed behind my eyes; if only I had listened to the whisperings of the Goddesses, seriously pondered the warnings of my dreams… of the foresight I possessed. Had I done so, perhaps Link might have not earned recognition from my father as my future consort but at least he would not have suffered so; at least he would have remained at my side. I could not contemplate the horrors he must have endured, forced to live as a pirate. Did he lie when he said he did not kill anyone? Did he suppress such awful memories just as I?
I may have defended my life… but I took another's in doing so. Why did I feel such remorse for Sakon's death? He was a cold-blooded murder, desiring with all his heart to serve a master of darkness and ignite war between three kingdoms.
"Impa," I continued, my voice shaking. "I….I killed a man… atop the Scarlet Crag. It was quick yet still…"
Impa placed a hand upon my shoulder. "'Twas unintended."
I nodded my head. "Yes, but—"
"You fought in defense of your life; there are none who can dispute that."
"Then why do I feel such guilt? He was an evil man who deserved his fate."
Impa paused before replying. "The sorrow you feel for taking his life is repentance enough; had you rejoiced in his death, perhaps you would not be so innocent."
I closed my eyes, feeling comforted by her words.
"You must move on from this… but do not forget it."
"…I understand." A few minutes passed in quiet contemplation. Impa was right; I could not let the past hinder me. War had been prevented, and now I must move forward.
Just then, a knock sounded upon the door and a slip of paper slipped from beneath the crack. Impa and I glanced to one another in confusion and she quickly picked it up.
"It is addressed to you."
I opened it, finding hurried scrawl upon the paper.
There is a pressing matter I wish to discuss with you, and you alone. Please come to the drawing room as quickly as you are able.
"This is peculiar indeed," I whispered.
Impa nodded. "I shall keep watch outside the room; Lord Andruis is respecter of decorum; this matter must be of great importance for him to call upon you in secret."
"I concur. Let us hurry." Without a sound, Impa and I snuck from my chambers, careful not to disturb Ganondorf on the opposite side of the hall. We came upon the drawing room and she opened the door for me. As I entered, I found Lord Andruis standing in front of a fireplace and Lady Genevieve sitting at a small table. He turned as I cleared my throat.
"Lord Andruis, what ails you?"
He swiftly bowed. "Ah, I am glad you have come, Your Highness; forgive the hour."
I made my way to them and Lady Genevieve stood and curtsied.
"These are strange times; one cannot be too careful," Lord Andruis said, beckoning to the seat beside his wife and I sat down. "The matter, Your Highness… is Prince Ganondorf."
My brows furrowed. "Speak freely."
He sighed and began to pace slowly about. "My words may displease Her Highness, but as a former member of the court, and a lord His Majesty trusts, I cannot ignore my suspicions."
I nodded silently, waiting for him to continue.
"Upon first meeting Prince Ganondorf at the Celebration of Peace, I sensed something amiss. I observed him the entirety of the evening, and though he flattered all present… I could not trust him."
Our impressions are as one.
"And the Haladians… some of his guards remained behind when he sailed for Calatia, and demanded that they be given shelter free of charge until his return. Their crude demeanor and disrespect is most offensive."
"This is greatly concerning, Lord Andruis," I said quietly.
He clasped his hands behind his back, coming to a stop at a window. "When he told me of your abduction, his composure was calm, something I found rather peculiar… but there is more…" He took a deep breath. "I pride myself on watching the northern waters of the Great Sea, yet your captors slipped past so easily… I am greatly shamed."
"Lord Andruis please—"
"I was certain Calatians had never stepped foot in Sunset Bay… they have no reason to for we are not enemies nor allies. I tried to convince Prince Ganondorf of this, that we must send word to Calatia's king for diplomacy's sake, before he seemed too sure… and he appeared so quickly claiming you had been abducted the day before…"
I closed my eyes, my mind taking in his words and remembering events of the past.
Ganondorf was so eager to fight against Calatia, risking everything… for my sake?
"…Are you so faithless in your future king? The Calatian banner upon your horse was proof enough… a weak country such as Calatia is no threat…"
He will not become king.
"He claimed to find a Calatian banner tied to my horse," I said mostly to myself.
"Curious, is it not?" Lady Genevieve interjected, barely above a whisper.
"I do not trust him, Your Highness," Lord Andruis said bluntly. "His condescension and mockery do not go unnoticed. Others may not see as I do, but I humbly ask Her Highness reconsider her betrothal to Prince Ganondorf."
I was slightly a taken back by his bold request. Though his suspicions were well founded, and I felt nearly the same as he, I knew not how to speak of this to the council… to my father. "We are on dangerous ground, Lord and Lady Andruis," I began. "But nevertheless, I am grateful for your honesty; pray, what is your counsel for the next course of action?"
He looked at me with slight surprise before beginning to pace again. "Your Highness?"
"As you said, His Majesty trusts you; I wish all the counselors were as intuitive as Lord Andruis."
A smile tugged at his lips and he inclined his head. "His every move must be watched; we must find concrete evidence to rightfully dissolve your engagement. For now he remains Hyrule's future king, but somehow you must sway the council and His Majesty to wary of their dealings with him."
I sighed. "Many of the councilmen heed his command… even the lords of court."
"You must rally those who will see reason to your cause. His behaviors, his actions do not sit well with me. To not attend your own father's funeral… 'tis unheard of."
"Such lack of compassion is not found in a righteous ruler," Lady Genevive added.
I stood suddenly, remembering when I followed Ganondorf to the basements of Hyrule Castle and he spoke of death without remorse in that dark, menacing voice. I could see his impassive face at every encounter of danger… the calm, nearly pleased look buried deep in his eyes.
Had he… had Ganondorf played a role in my abduction? Was he in league with Agahnim? I scarcely wished to believe it, yet there was no denying his eagerness for battle, his hatred of Calatia… his unquenched desire to be king
Lady Genevieve's words stirred something else in my mind, in my heart… yet I could not recall.
"…Your Highness?" they both called to me.
I shook myself from my thoughts; I was impatient to put these mysteries to rest, but were my conclusions perhaps wrong because of it? "I-I will consider all you have told me and speak with His Majesty. I respectfully ask for your continued support in his matter. "
"Of course, Your Highness; you are wise indeed and you have my gratitude. Again, forgive the late hour, please rest well."
I thanked him and Lady Genevive and quietly left the drawing room. Impa appeared from the shadows and as we walked back to the guest quarters, she whispered, "I agree with him."
"I am relieved to know I am not alone in my suspicions; Lord Andruis's devotion is admirable."
"Indeed. What will you do, Lady Zelda?"
I sighed, still unsure of the next course of action to take… with Ganondorf and Link. "I will bring attention to Prince Ganondorf's abuse of power to my father in the council. If he is guilty of malcontent and warmongering, then our betrothal shall be annulled."
"And if he retaliates by marching on Hyrule?"
My heart grew heavy; marriage or not… Hyrule would suffer the outcome.
"Let us hope it does not come to that."
Impa nodded and said nothing until we neared the guest corridor. "I will keep an eye on the Haladians and question the Hylian guards for any information concerning this matter."
"Thank you," I said quietly, and with that she was gone.
As I turned the corner, I heard the click of a door latch, finding Ganondorf exiting my room. A flash of anger flooded through me and my steps faltered.
"Such lack of compassion is not found in a righteous ruler."
And then I remembered.
Through the river of time, one truth yet remains; righteous ruling brings the sun's light whilst the wicked brings the moon's darkness. All shall be warned from this day hence, if such an evil befalls the land of the Goddesses, creatures of the night will bring to pass its ruin.
My breath stilled.
How could I have been so blind?
Everything… the threat of war, the golden eyed man… Ganondorf's prospect of kingship…
I was warned many a times yet I still did not see…
Should a righteous heart and an evil heart join under the crown, chaos will reign across the lands and beasts shall roam in warning. It is assumed that there may be a way to redeem the righteous heart that committed the folly. Alas, No path to redemption of such a union has been revealed.
All the evil that had befallen Hyrule was because of my foolish decisions, what I had allowed to transpire.
"I know not how to undo what has been done… is there hope for redemption?"
Ganondorf then turned, his eyes tracing me from afar. "It is dangerous to be out alone, Your Highness."
I had been deceived but…
Goddesses, protect Hyrule; I shall do what I must to ensure your blessing but I implore you… show me the way.
I took an unsteady breath, taking a moment to find my voice. "What is the meaning of this, Prince Ganondorf?" I said crossly, starting towards him.
He reached for my hand but I did not extend mine.
He merely chuckled. "My apologies, Your Highness, I took a walk about the halls to clear my head and the many turns confused me." He then forcefully took my hand and placed a cold kiss upon it. "And what of you, Princess Zelda… your former weariness vanished so easily?"
I attempted to tug away, but he would not have it.
"Will you not speak with me now?" As took a step towards me, I could smell ale on his breath.
"You are intoxicated."
"…Am I?" he smirked, sending a chill down my spine. "Do you too suspect me of ill-intent?" he breathed, his face nearing mine.
"Your actions lead me to."
He raised a brow… amused. A low chuckle then escaped his lips.
I stepped back, feeling the wall against my heel. "Are you not aware of this breach of conduct?"
"I cannot touch the woman I am to wed?"
Forcibly, I removed his hand. "No," I nearly whispered. "You know my quarrel with you."
"… Because of that knight?" He moved closer, splaying his hands on either side of me, trapping me against the wall.
My ability to tolerate him diminished each passing second. "This matter shall be discussed in the council, not in darkened hallways with none to witness." I turned away stiffly, but he would not move.
"You are trembling," he stated, his lips at my ear.
I suppressed another shudder. "I must retire. Release me."
Ganondorf let out another chuckle and lifted a lock of hair from my shoulder, placing a soundless kiss upon it. Hesitantly I met his eyes and they flashed gold for but a moment.
And once again… I was prisoner to his gaze. When he attempted to steal affection in the dining hall of Hyrule Castle, I did not recognize that he was using sorcery; I was witnessing his magic Link had spoken of aboard the ship.
In that moment, I realized I had not been wrong in my judgment.
Ganondorf possessed magical abilities… as did Agahnim.
…Was he truly…?
Could I move, I would have collapsed to my knees. I cursed myself inwardly at the insurmountable fear that filled me; was Ganondorf indeed the man with the golden eyes, seeking only the Triforce's power?
All of Hyrule?
I could not breathe. It was apparent he had used magic to ensnare the minds of those at the castle… perhaps even that of my father. Why had I not realized this before?
"Your attempts to listen have been half-hearted."
My hair fell from between his fingers and his face neared my own.
"Poor, faithless child, such weakness does not deserve the crown."
I could see the minute details of his eyes, the light of the torches on the wall dancing within the black centers.
Was there hope to prevail against this deceitful, power hungry man?
His cold fingers slipped against my neck and I panicked.
Link… I am sorry.
"…Amidst the darkness, I was able to endure because of you!"
His words echoed clearly, keeping me from drowning in those black eyes.
"Do not give in… let not your doubts sway you with their wicked tongue."
Conjuring all of my will, I repeated Nayru's Love silently.
And I blinked.
Stunned for a moment that I had used magic without words, I almost allowed Ganondorf's lips to graze my own. I raised a hand to strike him but he grabbed my wrist.
"You refuse me still?" He asked dangerously, his grip tightening.
I could not yet find my voice.
His eyes narrowed, his heavy brows furrowing as he released me. "This is his doing."
I shrank against his wrath, yet I feared lashing out at him and giving myself away. "D-do not accuse me so dishonorably," I spoke through my teeth.
He glared at me for a long moment before a smirk twitched at the corners of his mouth. "My deepest pardons, Princess Zelda."
Without another word, I fled to the safety of my chambers…
My heart racing.
Inhuman screams pierced my ears. I grabbed my head in attempt to muffle the painful echo, yet it continued to ring so clearly, it filled every part of me. I became numb with realization.
No, no, why was this happening? Link… please do not be…
I looked around blindly, trying to determine my surroundings. I could feel jagged rocks, yet the surface I stood upon was fairly smooth stone. The screaming then faded, and my search turned desperate.
A single flame lit the blackness.
Silence. Link lay upon a wooden table, bound at the hands and ankles.
"You are just as willful as your pathetic princess… but no matter, you will break soon enough… just as she did."
The snap of a finger sounded sharply and Link cried out once again, writhing upon the table, breaking the skin upon his wrists and ankles. Blood dripped from his ears, ran from his eyes and seeped from his mouth. I reached for his hand, tears running freely as I tried to loosen his bonds despite knowing this was a vision.
Suddenly he stilled, his voice dying in his throat.
I called out to him but no sound came from me.
"Do not die, please, spare him!"
Laughter rang through the blackness… and golden eyes appeared before me.
I gasped audibly, knowing why Link was tied and tortured just as I was.
He could not have it; I would not let the golden eyed man claim Link's Triforce. Gathering up all my courage, I moved in front of Link to shield him. I trembled terribly with fear, but I would not leave his side; I must save him!
"Now, Agahnim," the golden eyed man commanded. Agahnim appeared on Link's other side, holding a dagger at the ready.
My eyes widened.
The golden eyed man began to mutter a strange, black speech and Link's back arched towards his hand… yet he was lifeless.
"Link! No, stop this!"My vehement objections did nothing.
The golden eyed man laughed. "Take comfort, guardian, you shall be reunited with your precious princess in death."
And then he raised his right hand… the mark of the Triforce glowing proudly in the darkness.
No… this cannot be…
Violent illness crashed upon me, stilling my heart and my breath. I wanted to cry in outrage, weep in hopelessness… die from my blindness.
The vision began to fade.
Agahnim raised the dagger, grinning madly, the golden eyed man extending his arms in triumph.
Then a green light suddenly appeared from Link's chest, surrounding his body like swirling smoke.
"Goddesses, please save him!"
The golden eyed man's laugh deafened my cries and a blinding white light swallowed the room.
But I was not the one who summoned it.
I awoke breathless, immovable… frightened beyond comprehension; this vision had been the most terrifying of all.
I felt heavy sobs come upon me but I made no sound.
The evil shadow that plagued my dreams… he possessed an essence of the Triforce.
Why… Goddesses, why?
How was this possible? How did wickedness become blessed with such sacred power?
I was bereft of hope, of worthiness… of conviction.
I allowed myself to weep, succumbing to the despondency of my heart.
He would come for Link… he would take him… and kill him mercilessly.
And then he would come for me.
"All I desire is to stay at your side."
"And I yours."
Tears fell silently down my face; was our fate marching on the horizon?
…Were we forsaken?
"Our lives are not ruled by destiny, Zelda."
I opened my eyes, wanting nothing more than to feel his arms around me.
He was right.
As long as I was queen… as long as I was blessed with the Triforce…
"…I believe now I was not only spared for Hyrule's sake… but for you."
As long as Link lived… I would not give up.
And I will not let you die... again.
Blind to all else, I rose from the bed to find a cloak.
Once again our promises would be broken.
I will do what I must.
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