Chapter III - Nightmare
Darkness consumed me.
I saw it, I felt it… I breathed it.
I was suffocating in nothing.
I could not speak or move and I called out desperately for help in my mind, praying the silent screams would be heard.
I wove in and out of consciousness, noticing each time that the pain from my wound had spread even further. Soon the entire right side of my body was overcome.
Suffering in silence was agony.
Then finally, I heard a voice other then my own.
It was my father's.
His voice was muffled and I could not understand what he said, but I was relieved. I tried to concentrate on his voice, but my strength waned.
I then felt warmth emanating from my hand.
My father's voice and the touch of his hand reassured me and I wished to stay awake longer.
If I slept, I would succumb to the nightmares that had begun to plague me.
Alas, I was falling and could not hold on to his voice any longer.
I lay upon a beach of blinding white sand.
My vision hazy, I tried to stand but the sand was hot and burned the soles of my feet.
I stumbled around, trying to determine my whereabouts until I tripped over something. I inhaled sharply and searched the sand for the cause of my slip.
I spotted a round object beneath me, buried in the sand.
It appeared as ivory.
I dug out the rounded object and pulled it out of the sand.
Blood rushed from my face and my eyes widened in horror.
A skull with empty eyes stared at me accusingly.
I screamed and it fell from my hands, landing in the sand without a sound.
I bit my lip to prevent myself from screaming again and I ran. As I turned back to look, more skulls rose from the sand.
One with a crown atop its head appeared; it was my father's.
Bile rose in my throat and I continued to flee.
But no matter how far I went, the beach continued to fill with bones.
Why did these grotesque remains pursue me? This had to be a dream… but the heat and the coarse sand I felt was so real, I didn't know how it could not be.
Exhausted, I slowed and fell to my knees. I buried my head in my hands and wept aloud, unable to escape…
Suddenly, I heard the gentle lap of water behind me and I turned around.
The hem of my dress was soaked and I looked up in confusion. An endless sea of beautiful clear water lay before me.
I waded into the cool water, wanting to escape the heat. As I did so, I found a green object floating some feet away.
Reaching for it, I recognized it to be Link's green hat he wore on occasion.
…He had come for me.
I looked about in relief, but he was no where to be found.
As I grabbed his hat, a dark red pigment suddenly began to seep from it.
It quickly spread around me and I touched the red water curiously.
It was heavy and it smelled strongly of metal.
Blood. I was in a sea of blood.
I covered my mouth and screamed silently.
Just then the ground began to shake violently and I sunk into the bloodied water. Angry waves descended upon me, throwing me deeper into the sea. I swam to the surface, wildly kicking myself up.
My hand broke the surface and I pushed myself forward. Inhaling sharply, I searched frantically for the shore.
But the waves of blood came crashing around me again and I was pulled down once more.
I tried to fight the tide, but my strength was spent; the burning in my lungs and my head was too great.
I stopped struggling and let my body sink into the abyss.
But then a muffled voice echoed from above.
I could not make out the words and it sounded again, this time louder. The voice was familiar and I tried to remember it as my consciousness began to fade.
It called again, its words perfectly clear…
It pleaded gently… lovingly.
My strength returned when I recognized the voice.
I swam towards the surface, knowing who waited above.
I felt something gently brush my fingertips then grab my wrist.
And I was pulled from the darkness.
My eyes flew open and I tried to adjust to the sudden light. My vision cleared and I found Link above me, gazing at me anxiously.
I suppressed my sobs of relief and thoughtlessly wound my arms around his neck, his body tensing beneath my touch.
"I thought you were..."
I couldn't finish; the details of the nightmare were too frightening to recall.
Link hesitantly put his arms around me, his warm body a comfort against my shivering form.
I was so relieved to find him beside me, I had forgotten of the tension between us.
For I could not stop remembering the echo of his voice calling my name.
After sometime, I calmed myself yet still held fast to him.
And that was when I noticed his scent; sweetgrass.
Link then pulled away and forced me back against the pillow.
"Please don't try to move anymore," he said just above a whisper. He gently reached for my face and brushed the tears from my eyes.
My skin warmed beneath his touch. "What happened?" I asked, my voice sounding foreign to my own ears.
"You were poisoned; you've been lifeless for nearly three days," Link answered monotonously.
I was surprised; it had felt like eternity.
Link stood up. "I must inform His Majesty you've awakened." He turned to leave and I tried to reach for him, merely glancing over the back of his hand.
That was when I noticed a strange mark upon the back of my right hand.
Link stopped and looked from my face to my hand. His hand outstretched to mine, but then decided against it. Instead, he took a knee and bowed his head.
I knew he wound try an apology, but I wouldn't allow it. "Please do not be vexed, Guardian." I paused and looked at him. "Forgive me for such foolishness."
Link grimaced and shook his head. "Do not attempt to relieve my guilt. I have failed you; my anger lies with my own self."
"You've done nothing wrong… it was my careless order that caused this," I argued weakly.
He shook his head. "I should have disobeyed your order and been punished. If I had been doing my duty, none of this would have happened," he said dismayed.
"I would bear any punishment if only to prevent your suffering."
My heart quickened at his passionate words, and I couldn't speak.
"…There is nothing I would not endure for your sake."
Link's eyes suddenly widened and he quickly looked away.
And his face shaded.
…I did not understand…
"…My Lady must rest now; I-I shall take my leave." He flew to the door and I could only stare after him as he left.
Impa entered the room after him and hurried to my side.
I paid no mind to her inquires; I could only wonder why Link's words and his touch left me burning so.
After a few days, I began to feel relatively normal. The slashes on my arm healed slowly, but well, yet the mark upon my hand remained and had grown to nearly the width of my hand, forming a straight line. I did not know how to account for it but since it caused no pain, I did not fret over it.
My father tried to convince me that the Spring Moon celebration should be postponed, but I argued I would be well enough to attend and greet the Haladian guests.
However, he confined me to my chambers on bed rest out of precaution until their arrival.
Link had avoided me since I had awoken, and only came to my chambers to note the progress of my recuperation.
Though I had complained of my confusion for him before, I was now utterly bewildered. The ferocity of his concern touched me, and those old feelings of fondness I had felt for him when we were younger, resurfaced.
Yet the indifferent, silent, composed guardian emerged once again, hiding his passion and gentleness beneath his stoic mask.
I did my best to ignore the conflicting, flustered feelings within me, but my patience was wearing thin.
But little did I know my patience would be tried even further.
The ambassador of Haladin arrived at the castle the day prior to the Spring Moon Celebration. It was nearly midday when we made our way down to the castle entrance to greet him.
I dressed in a deep blue gown, etched with red and gold designs at the request of my father to show the regal colors of Hyrule. A heavy gold crown sat atop my head and I shifted uncomfortably under its weight. My father also wore the traditional colors of Hyrule, in an outfit similar to mine.
Link had accompanied me us well and stood behind me, talking quietly with my father's guardian, Berin.
Link was dressed in his best informal attire; the red cape draped around his shoulders was rather befitting for him.
I quickly caught myself; why did I think such a thing?
The moan of the outer castle gates in the distance turned my attention back to the matter at hand and I looked away from him.
A lavishly decorated carriage creaked up the cobblestone road, followed by four Haladian guards on horseback as well as two of our castle guards. They slowed in front of the inner castle gate and the guards dismounted and opened them. The carriage proceeded forward and came to a stop at the drawbridge where we stood. The Haladian guards then jumped off their horses and opened the carriage door.
A man of solid build and average height stepped out and smiled at us, his dark mustache rising with his smile. His eyes and hair were dark brown and he had streaks of gray above his ears. A gloved hand then reached out from the carriage and a woman with sharp features was helped out. Her light brown hair was pulled up into an elaborate hairstyle and her dress was made of expensive fabrics. She looked to both me and my father and smiled sourly.
The captain of their guard cleared his throat, bowed, and said loudly, "announcing their graces, Count Agahnim and Countess Reala of the Ronan family!"
They bowed to us and I curtsied in turn.
Link and Berin bowed politely, and my father bowed his head.
Striding forward, my father held out a hand. "Welcome to the fair kingdom of Hyrule, count and countess," he began, "I am honored to finally make your acquaintance." He shook the count's gloved hand and then lightly kissed the countess's. "I am Aldir Harkinian, and may I present my daughter, Princess Zelda," he said as he gestured to me.
I lifted my skirts and curtsied again. "Welcome to Hyrule," I said quietly. I straightened and briefly met the count and countess's eyes. The count's dark eyes widened slightly and his mouth partially fell open. This happened in but a moment and then he and the countess bowed in turn to me.
Count Agahnim strode forward and politely took my gloved hand. He touched his lips to my hand and nearly smirked. "It is a pleasure to meet Hyrule's Princess," he said quietly.
The countess simply smiled sourly at me. "A pleasure indeed." Her gaze then wandered beside me and she suddenly grinned. "And whom, may I ask, is this young man?"
My father followed her gaze to Link and said proudly, "this is Princess Zelda's Royal Guardian, Sir Link."
Link bowed. "Your Graces," he acknowledged.
My father then introduced Berin, but the countess's gaze never wavered from Link.
Something I found rather irritating.
"We have prepared a banquet in your honor, Your Graces," my father said. "Won't you please join us? I shall have the servants take your belongings to your accommodations."
"Thank you, Your Highness. The journey has been a long one," Count Agahnim answered.
My father then politely gestured towards the entryway across the drawbridge. "Allow me to show you the way."
The count took his wife's arm and drifted to my father's side. They nodded at me as they passed and the countess flashed Link a smile.
Link, Berin and I then proceeded to follow them into the castle.
The feast went by slowly in the banquet hall.
My father had invited the grand council and their advisors, and lords of higher distinction to join us in welcoming the Haladians. As we ate, Link and Berin stood in the shadows by the enormous doors, observing our idle chatter with bored eyes.
My father and the nobles conversed politely with Count Agahnim and throughout the conversation, Count Agahnim's eyes hardly turned away from me.
I avoided his intent gaze and tried to speak with the countess. Her answers to my questions were short, but polite enough to escape offense. Her heavily painted eyes would flicker often to Link with a look I'd never seen before.
I finally turned to look at him; what was it about him that kept her attention?
Link glanced at me from the corner of his eye, but then quickly turned to Berin as if they were in deep conversation.
I furrowed my brows; he was ignoring me more than usual.
"How long has Sir Link been in your service, Your Highness?" Countess Reala suddenly asked.
I turned back to her and shrugged slightly. "I believe it will be five years before summer's end."
"I see. He seems very young to be a Royal Guardian," she said offhandedly as she looked at him again.
I raised an eyebrow. "…Yes… he is in his seventeenth year just as I."
"My, he is certainly younger than I thought! He must be very talented indeed!" she gushed.
I said nothing, for that odd irritation I felt earlier emerged once again. I turned away, trying to rid myself of such dreary thoughts.
Eager for distraction, I listened to the conversation between my father and the count.
"You are most generous, Your Highness, to welcome us with such warmth," Count Agahnim started. "The meal was excellent; I thank you for your hospitality."
"It is a pleasure to have you here, Count Agahnim. I am grateful you were able to come on such short notice. I hope it was no trouble."
"Not at all. It is a shame that we cannot stay longer than three days. I assume you knew of this?"
"Yes, I was informed. I have arranged for the meeting to take place this evening, after supper. Shall my servants show you to your accommodations to rest?"
The countess interrupted before her husband could reply. "If I may be so bold to ask, Your Highness, I would rather much like to see the splendor of Hyrule Castle." She fluttered her eyelashes and smiled. "I've been trapped in the confines the carriage for too long. Perhaps Princess Zelda and Sir Link would be so kind to accompany us as well?" she suggested.
My father grinned. "Yes, of course, it is no trouble at all." He turned to me and nodded his head, commanding me silently I must accept the invitation. "But I'm afraid my presence would only be a hindrance; the years have hardly been kind."
"Your company will be missed, Your Highness," Countess Reala said.
"I would be delighted to accompany you, Your Graces," I said quietly.
The Haladians smiled.
As my father rose from his chair, all those at the table did as well. He bowed his head in dismissal to everyone. "I shall wait for you in the drawing room then; carry on."
Link was suddenly by my side and uncharacteristically, held out his arm for mine. I stared at him in surprise but he did not meet my gaze and simply waited for me in silence. As I reached out to him, the count and countess appeared before us.
"Your Highness, it would be my honor if you might escort me. I would like us to become more acquainted," Count Agahnim suggested with an eerie gleam in his eye.
I forced a smile. "Yes, of course."
He held out his arm for me and I hesitantly took it.
A chill ran up my spine and I resisted the urge to pull away.
"Sir Link," the countess said, "would you be so kind as to be my escort for the afternoon?"
I strained my ears to hear his answer over the chatter of the nobles.
"I would be honored, Your Grace," he said with a bow. I bit my teeth and squared my shoulders as I led the way to the doors.
Our journey across the grounds and through the castle went by even more slowly than the banquet.
My face began to tire from all the forced smiles and I had trouble concentrating on what Count Agahnim was saying; I was too preoccupied with listening to the conversation between Link and Countess Reala.
She walked very close to him, gripping his arm tightly and pressing herself against him on occasion. Did her husband not notice her unacceptable behavior? Her constant giggling and superfluous compliments caused me such irritation, that I was not attentive to my steps.
We were in the gardens, walking on the cobblestone path that wound its way through the lush foliage when I suddenly tripped over a loose stone.
My grip on the count's arm was so light, my arm slipped from his before I could steady myself. I closed my eyes and inhaled sharply, waiting to hit the ground.
Suddenly, an arm wrapped around my waist and pulled me up.
I steadied my feet and looked to my savior.
"Are you alright, My Lady?" Link asked abruptly, his face tight and impassive.
I merely nodded. It had hall happened so quickly, the count and countess had no time to react.
Link righted me and turned to Count Agahnim. "I humbly ask that I escort Princess Zelda for the remaining time."
It was not a request.
I looked between Link and the count and I saw something in Link's eyes I had not seen him dare show to nobility: anger.
My throat tightened nervously.
"I am her guardian, and it is my duty." he added in a possessive tone.
My heart suddenly felt as if it leapt in my chest.
Count Agahnim raised an eyebrow in annoyed curiosity and conceded. "Of course… Sir Link," he condescended.
I felt a stir of anger at such mockery towards Link.
"How chivalrous!" Countess Reala giggled.
I stopped myself from rolling my eyes. This woman vexed me to no end, but I knew not the reason for my loathing of her. The mere presence of the Haladians was maddening, though they had just arrived hours ago; it would be a long three days indeed.
I cleared my throat and gestured forward. "Forgive my lack of grace, Count Agahnim," I smiled apologetically. "Shall we continue?" I asked in mock happiness.
They nodded to me and I led them through the rest of the gardens.
Thankfully, my clumsiness did not make another appearance for the remainder of the journey. We finished the touring of the castle in the gallery of the north wing. As the Haladians observed the Hyrulean art, I noticed a familiar look in Count Agahnim's eyes as he praised each one.
The way he admired them, was the same way he looked at me.
I sighed in relief. I was used to people admiring my so called beauty; I began to think it was a curse. Yet I was not flattered; the gleam in the count's eyes still disturbed me.
Leading them back to the drawing room where my father waited, I then excused myself from their company, claiming I needed a respite.
I did not lie for I did feel unwell. My head ached and I was weary from the new, arbitrary feelings that discouraged me so.
They must have been a side effect of the poison… there could be no other explanation.
Link followed me to the library and as I reached the door, I sighed aloud.
"I wish to be alone," I began. "You needn't stay. I'm sure Countess Reala misses your company." I immediately regretted my words; where had this malice come from? Why did I feel such anger towards the countess… and now Link as well?
He said nothing and opened the heavy doors for me. "As you wish," he replied softly with bemusement.
I opened my mouth to apologize, but seeing such a distressed look upon his face, my shame prevented me.
I simply fled into the safety of the library.
I closed the door quickly, slumping against it as I roughly tugged at my hair.
These emerging ill-will thoughts were causing me to despise myself.
I couldn't make sense of it; why did it matter that Link was kind to Countess Reala, but indifferent to me? Contrary to Link's indifference however, he followed me loyally and displayed sudden, deep concern for my well being.
And I could not deny I was elated when he held me so possessively and stole me from the count.
Nevertheless, through the flurry of emotions I incurred during the day, there was one I could not ignore…
The heavy weight I felt in my heart when the countess looked at Link, and he at her.
Her gaze upon him was unsettling and it caused me to cringe inwardly.
I did not understand; why my guardian?
I bit my lip and took a deep breath. Despite her reasons for giving Link such attention, I could not help but feel a bit sorry for her. It was apparent that no love was lost between the count and countess. Is that how my life would be when I was forced to marry? Bound to someone I did not love nor even care for?
That will be your future; you cannot deny this…
My head ached painfully and I sighed.
I moved from the door and made my way through the maze of bookshelves to the table in the corner by a window. I moved the curtains aside and gazed longingly outside.
The sun wove in and out of distant clouds and I hoped a storm would not threaten the festivities we had planned for the next day. Though perhaps a storm would be in my favor; I would not have to entertain the Haladains.
I sorted through the books I had left on the table, but the book I sought was not there, so I went in search of it. Because I had been confined to my bedroom for the last week, I hadn't the chance to research the strange appearance of the wolfo in the forest. I started my search in the section that shelved ancient document writings.
I grabbed the spine of a worn book that looked promising and brought it back to the table. I sat in a cushioned chair and flipped through the book. It contained writings of previous sages, clergymen, and mages. Towards the end of the book, I found a chapter that contained compiled notes of short prophecy writings. One in bold, black letters caught my attention.
Year 1032 of the Warring Age. 88th day of Autumn.
Brought about as revealed to Sage Sariah, descendant of the Great Priestess, Faron:
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.
Written by Devah, keeper of records. Following Sariah's words, bishop Kendire theorized the meaning:
Hyrule's bloody history is evidence of the truthfulness. One lusting for power shall destroy all. Once set in motion, the destruction cannot be undone. The Goddesses shall command the earth to purge the golden land of the abomination, and none shall be spared. Only one of royal blood, decreed by the Goddesses, shall be blessed. Courage, wisdom, and power are the balance of a chosen ruler. 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.
I finished the passage, and the commentary that followed.
Then I sat in silence for sometime, feeling a sense of heaviness overcome me; my chest tightened.
Did this indicate… a deeper meaning to this prophecy?
There was a possibility of its truthfulness; the appearance of wolfo.
Was the beast truly meant… as a warning?
My thoughts were suddenly drawn to the nightmares I had been having nearly every night of blood and destruction.
No… no, such a gift was impossible; none with that ability had been born for nearly three hundred years...
I was simply too eager for a conclusion and purposefully sought a deeper meaning.
Sighing heavily, I shoved the book away.
Confliction even raged within me during my studies; could I not escape it?
I grabbed a spell book from the table and sank back into the chair and immersed myself in memorizing defensive spells, finding peace in this diversion.
…But the tightness in my chest would not alleviate.
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