Crowns of Deception

By Forlorn Rain

Chapter IX - Adversity

The sun was in the middle of the sky when the count and countess of Haladin departed.

To gain favor in my father's eyes, I arrived early to breakfast and greeted them warmly and forced even more smiles.

Needless to say, I behaved amiably.

Admittedly however… it wasn't difficult to share my happiness, even though none but Impa knew the reason for my joyous mood.

After the treaty signing ceremony was over, my father, his counselors and I escorted them out to the drawbridge, where their carriage stood waiting for them.

Link was standing by the carriage door, ready to open it and help them in.

I smiled inwardly; it seemed he was also trying to gain favor with my father.

Even though my father was fond of Link, I was glad he was making an effort to please him; I did not want my father to find any excuse to keep us apart.

"It has truly been a pleasure, Count Agahnim, Countess Reala. You are always welcome in Hyrule," my father said merrily. "As is High Highness King Opeous and Prince Dragmire. Please send my regards to them." He briefly took the countess's hand and put it to his lips, his mustache brushing the top of her hand.

Count Agahnim bowed. "His Highness is most amiable, as is the lovely country of Hyrule." He glanced at me and continued, "King Dragmire and Prince Ganondorf will be most pleased to know this, I shall pass on your regards."

"Yes, enchanting really," Countess Reala added.

"I am humbled by your words, Your Graces. I pray your journey will be a safe one."

Count Agahnim then approached me and took my hand. He placed a kiss upon it and lingered for a moment.

I cringed inwardly.

"Until our next meeting, Princess Zelda. Hyrule's royal family is welcome to Haladin at their leisure."

"My thanks, Your Grace."

He smiled at me with that same, eerie gleam in his eye and turned back to my father and nodded his head. As he and the countess started towards the carriage, I forced myself to call out to her.

"It was lovely to meet your acquaintance, Countess Reala. Your company was most enjoyable." I curtsied and she glanced at me with a sour smile on her face, curtsying in return.

"I as well." she replied. She then turned and curtsied deeply to my father, fluttering her painted eyes. "Thank you for everything, Your Highness. Your kindness shan't be forgotten."

My father smiled and nodded. "Farewell."

Countess Reala stepped up to the carriage and Link helped her inside. She said something to him I could not hear and then took her seat.

Link bowed to Count Agahnim as he passed. The count nodded stiffly in return and the door was shut.

Their captain whipped the reins and the horses started down the road.

A few of our guards followed to escort them as far as the outer drawbridge at Castleton's entrance.

I let out a sigh when I could no longer see the carriage. I very nearly made an exaggerated comment of relief regarding the Haladian's departure, but quickly decided against it.

Now was not the time for levity.

I had decided to wait for the right time to ask my father to give his consent to Link.

The days flew by quickly and soon, nearly a week had passed since the count and countess returned to Haladin.

With each passing day, my courage waned.

It was raining heavily the day my guilt began to best my fears.

I shut myself into my room practically the entire day, contemplating what I would say to my father. I finally summoned enough courage and forced myself down to the throne room.

Link insisted on escorting me there and when we arrived, the doors were already shut, signifying a meeting was currently in session.

As I paced outside, my resolve slowly began to weaken. I prayed the meeting would end quickly before I fled to my chambers.

Link stood across from the throne doors against the iron balustrade that overlooked the entrance hall.

I paced back and forth and Link said nothing, merely watching me with amusement.

It was well after sunset when the councilmen finally exited.

I looked to Link and he nodded and smiled encouragingly. As I nervously walked into the throne room, the councilmen greeted me as I passed them.

Lord Counselor Beraniv was the first to bid me good evening. He was the Minister of General Affairs and though he was well on in years, he had an excellent memory.

Lord Counselor Iras, the Minister of Defense then nodded to me and said nothing. He never smiled and took his position very seriously, since his rank was not inherited, but earned.

Lord Counselor Raigen smiled and quickly bowed. He was the Minister of Law, and always wore a quizzical brow but was very intelligent; and he knew it.

Lord Counselor Shad then greeted me warmly and smiled. He was the Minister of Religion and was the youngest of them all, not even past thirty. Despite his young age, he could not be matched in his enthusiasm for history and religion. He was also the kindest of them all.

And lastly, I passed Lord Counselor Warnock. He attempted to stop me for pleasantries, but I quickly dismissed him and brushed past him.

After he exited the chamber, I found my father was standing by the windows that faced the east garden with his hands behind his back.

I slowed and cleared my throat.

He turned to me and gave me a swift smile. "Zelda? What brings you here?"

I stopped a few feet away and bowed my head. "I humbly request an audience with His Majesty this evening."

My father raised a brow. "What is the meaning of this formality?" he inquired suspiciously.

"I have a selfish request to ask of His Majesty. If he would grant me this one wish, I shall never ask for anything again."

"Come now, Zelda, speak your mind freely."

I meet his light blue eyes and took a deep breath. "I must decline the prospect of marriage to Prince Ganondorf."

His brow twitched. "You are refusing to complete your duty as Hyrule's Princess?" He asked, his voice surprisingly composed.

"I-I am… in this respect… for it has become impossible."

He remained silent, waiting for me to continue.

"I have realized the one I love… the only one I have ever loved is Sir Link, and never wish to be parted from him from this day forth." Though I had planned my speech, saying such powerful words aloud struck me so intensely, it became hard to breathe.

But I did not look away.

My father's eyes darkened slightly and his face flushed. His breath stilled and he narrowed his eyes at me, as if he were trying to peer into my soul. I could see the anger within his gaze.

I suddenly dreaded hearing his answer.

My eyes began to burn and I fell to my knees. I didn't care if I risked showing weakness; I only wanted to convey the depth of my feelings.

I must.

If he understood, would he give his approval?

"Please… father… I beseech you… grant your blessing upon Sir Link and I." My voice sounded so insignificant.

He turned away and walked over to his throne. He slowly sat down and cleared his throat.

"Bring him to me."

I was relieved that he was willing to listen. "Y-yes, Your Majesty," I stood from the tiled floor and quickly went to fetch Link.

As I opened the door, I found him pacing in the entrance hall below. I started down the steps and he looked up, his brows slightly knotted. "His Majesty wishes to see you, Sir Link," I said in a strained voice.

Link quickly made his way to me and stopped one step below, our heights now level. He glanced about warily for anyone in sight; there was none.

He turned back to me and quickly brushed his lips against my forehead.

His touch sent a serene sensation through me and I took a deep breath, feeling my hope return.

He took my arm and together we climbed the stairs and entered the throne room.

As we emerged through the large doors, my father instantly stood.

Link stopped in the center of the room and I felt him tense as he released my arm. He dropped to a knee and bowed. "Your Majesty."

"Come forward, Sir Link. Zelda you may leave."

I looked to my father in objection, but he refused to look at me.

Link stood and stepped forward and bowed his head again.

"Zelda," my father warned.

I pursed my lips as I bowed curtly and left the throne room. I shut the door soundly behind me and immediately pressed my ear to the door.

I sighed frustratingly; I had forgotten that the thick wood of Kokiri soundproofed the door.

I tried to remember a spell that would allow me to hear into the room, but it took a few moments to recite the words properly.

I splayed my hands on the door and closed my eyes. Muttering the words to the spell, all else suddenly became muffled save for what was being spoken in the throne room.

"You must know how ill-timed this is," my father scolded, his voice sharpened from the spell.

"Yes, Your Majesty. The wrong-doing lies with me; there is no excuse for my breach of conduct... however—"

"Right and wrong can be disputed," my father interrupted. He paused and I could hear him begin to pace the floor. "Many things can cloud the mind and sway moral judgment; love being one of them. I can't help but wonder… where does your loyalty lie now?"

"Hyrule's future is priority, Your Majesty, but my heart will never be turned from her… this I know to be true," Link answered, his voice echoing with pain. "Yet I must confess… I am conflicted, Your Majesty. My adoration for Her Highness outweighs my obedience to duty. You cannot deny that breaking such an oath is wrong."

I could sense Link's confliction through his voice and my heart ached. I could not comprehend the turmoil that raged inside of him. I was so intent on convincing my father to approve, I did not consider the suffering it caused Link or even attempt to understand the contrariety he felt.

I hoped one day I could be forgiven of the many trespasses I had committed against him.

"No... I will not," my father began. "Although… perhaps it is I who is in the wrong," he said as if to himself. He then cleared his throat and raised his voice. "The purity of one's heart determines whether one can perceive right and wrong. So I ask you, Sir Link, do you love Princess Zelda… my dearest, only child?"

"…Most ardently…"

His tender whisperings stirred my heart and I felt my throat tighten. To hear Link testify so blatantly of his love for me to another, I found it astounding that my own love could grow from such simple words.

I bit my lip, trying to control my emotions from overcoming me.

My father did not answer for sometime; the silence was torture.

What seemed an eternity later, he finally spoke. "Indeed, your heart is pure, Sir Link; this truth cannot be disputed. I hesitated on agreeing to a betrothal between Prince Ganondorf and Zelda… I did not believe any man to be worthy of her; that is why I allowed her to choose whom to marry until now. I love my daughter, and I wish for her happiness, but I do not know if I can give my consent for you to court her… much is at risk."

I pressed my forehead against the door and prayed with all my might that my father's heart would be softened.

Never had I relied so much on the mercies of another in all my years; I promised myself I would strive to be a compassionate ruler.

My concentration suddenly wavered from my distracted thoughts, but I managed to hold onto it and continued listening.

"I understand, Your Majesty, our thoughts are as one," Link began in a low, monotonous voice. "I will honor my duty as Princess Zelda's Guardian, and never speak of this again. I ask for your forgiveness."

I wanted to pound my fist on the door in objection.

I wouldn't lose hope… I couldn't lose hope; I would try as many times necessary.

If Link felt even a portion of what I felt for him… then there would be no giving up.

"I shall take my leave of you now."

I heard Link start to walk toward the doors, but my father suddenly called out to him. "Is love not worth such a risk?"

Link stopped. "…Your Majesty?"

"You are not excused, Sir Link. You must know I favor you immensely, but answer me this: how deep does your loyalty lie? Persuade me why I should consider you as a suitor."

Link paused before answering. "I have pledged my life to serve Hyrule, to serve His Majesty and Princess Zelda. I would sacrifice anything for them," he said fervently.

My father grunted in acknowledgement.

And then Link said unexpectedly…

"I would die for her."

Once again, his words left me short of breath.

But just then, the doors of the entrance hall slammed open behind me and I jumped from the sudden noise. My concentration interrupted, the spell died and I moved away from the throne doors.

The commander of the Hylian army, Commander Virnen, came bounded up the stairs and swiftly bowed to me. His face was haggard, his uniform completely soaked from the rain.

"Pardon me, Your Highness," he said breathlessly. He passed by me and pushed open the throne room doors without hesitation. His wet boots squeaked against the tile floor and my father and Link stood staring at him, caught off guard by his sudden appearance.

"Commander Virnen! What is the meaning of this?" my father asked crossly. "Can't you see that I'm in the middle of—"

"Forgive me, Sire, I come bearing disturbing news," he interjected as he bowed.

I quietly entered the throne room after him and locked eyes with Link.

My father pursed his lips and sighed. "Continue."

"The Gerudo have taken siege of Crescent Harbor in the Tiran province."

I gasped and looked to my father. The city of Crescent Harbor lay to the southwest region, west of Lake Hylia.

My father stiffened and his eyes hardened. "How were you informed?"

"A Crescent guard barely escaped on horseback to warn us. He claimed the Gerudo attacked from the sea and there weren't enough forces to defend against them—"

"Where is this man now?"

Commander Virnen paused. "He received terrible wounds, Sire, he's dead."

My father rubbed his forehead, frustrated and gripped the arm of his chair. "Did he give any other information? What of the civilians?"

"He reported the Gerudo began to slay the men and pillage the town, and took some captive. The women and children who escaped ran and hid in the northern coves." Commander Virnen gulped. "But their… their survival is unknown."

My father clenched his jaw. "What is this treachery? How dare they break the treaty?"

The Gerudo chief, Nabooru I believed to be her name, had come to power nine years ago and immediately ceased the pillaging and robbing of caravans and villages. She sought a treaty with my father and they were permitted to trade with all the cities in Hyrule. In turn, the Gerudo caves were mined for gold and silver. They also grew rare herbs on their lands and business flourished for them.

From what I remembered, Nabooru was a proud yet honest ruler. Could she truly be behind this attack?

My father's face becoming impassive, he looked back to Commander Virnen. "What do you estimate their numbers at, commander?"

"From what the guard observed, Sire, one hundred."

"It is not possible to overrun the harbor with so few..."

Commander Virnen then shook his head. "Then it is true…"

"What have you not told me?" my father asked impatiently.

"The escaped guard mentioned he saw a black ship approaching from the sea after the Gerudo landed on the beach. I can only assume pirates aided the Gerudo in their attack."

My father fisted his hands until his knuckles turned white. He glanced at Link and his eyes widened.

…I did not trust that look in his eyes.

Commander Virnen then cleared his throat. "What are your orders, Sire?"

My father kept his gaze on Link as he replied. "Notify Captain Kurion he shall leave on the morrow. A company of three hundred infantry and ten knights will be sufficient. Send for Healer Eurick's students as well, the eldest ones. I'm sure their skills will be needed."

"Yes Sire."

"And capture the pirate leader and the Gerudo responsible for this betrayal. I want them brought here alive. If the remaining thieves do not leave immediately, use force."

"But Sire—"

"Do not question me, commander. If we were to simply annihilate them upon first meeting, it could lead to war. I wish to prevent any further bloodshed."

"Yes, Sire, I understand."

"And send your fastest horsemen to Chief Nabooru to inform her I demand to know her involvement or our agreement shall become null."

Commander Virnen then saluted and swiftly left the throne room.

My father then called for a page and bade him to summon the Minister of Defense, Counselor Iras to the throne room immediately and inform the rest of the councilmen to gather again in twenty minutes.

The page left quickly and my father sighed once more, becoming lost in thought.

Hyrule had been blessed with peace and had not used its forces for at least four years. I prayed the men sent would be protected by the Goddesses.

I carefully approached my father and placed a hand upon his. "Fath— Your Majesty?" I prompted softly.

He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. "You were not meant to hear such things, but what is done is done. We must postpone our discussion for a later time, Zelda. Please, be vigilant until I call upon you."

I bit my lip and nodded tentatively. "We shall take our leave then." I looked at Link helplessly and he started towards me.

As we began to exit the throne room, my father suddenly called out. "Wait, Sir Link."

We stopped and turned back.

He gazed at Link thoughtfully. "If you would truly risk your life out of loyalty for Hyrule, then I shall put you to the test."

A heavy weight pressed upon my heart; my suspicions were right.

An ominous feeling overcame me, the same feeling I received from my dreams and suddenly it was difficult to breathe. Though I had escaped being used as a pawn in my father's plans… the burden had now fallen to Link.

What cruelty would he be subjected to now?

"You must earn the right to court Princess Zelda. Are you able and willing?"

Link stepped forward and took a knee before my father and bowed his head.

"I shall do whatever His Majesty commands of me," he answered determinedly.

"As much as I suspected. Your fierce loyalty is admirable. I have trusted Zelda to you and will continue to. But you must realize… if circumstances allow a future together, you are merely a royal knight, and can never be king. You will be a consort and nothing more."

"Standing beside her is more than I could ever hope for, Your Majesty" Link said humbly.

"It is fortunate that marriage was not initially the motive for peace between Hyrule and Haladin. For the time being, I will find an alternative to maintain the treaty without a union between Prince Ganondorf and Zelda."

I smiled slightly, grateful there was a chance after all.

However, I could not shake the dread that filled me.

"I will give my approval for Sir Link to court Princess Zelda, if he successfully fulfills his role as lieutenant in Captain Kurion's company."

Link's hand hit the floor for support.

My eyes widened and I looked at my father; a small smirk tugged at his mouth.

Link then said with a shaken voice, "I… I am overwhelmed, Your Majesty. You have my eternal gratitude."

My father walked over to Link and bid him to stand. He clapped Link's shoulder and added, "But remember: my consent is not final, and will not be until you demonstrate your worthiness."

"I am simply obliged for your consideration, Your Majesty."

I felt immense pride for Link's humility, but he had always been so. It seemed ridiculous to me that I had not taken much notice before. How much more had my blindness kept from me; what would be the cost?

"I married my beloved queen out of love, and had lost hope Zelda would, hence my agreement to consider her betrothal to Prince Ganondorf. But you have rekindled a hope in me, Sir Link. It is I who should be thanking you."

My eyes pricked again, joy and anger battling within me.

I could see that my father had considered Link as my consort out of love, but it was his self-interest that assigned this test to him.

Link would soon only be eighteen; to be ranked as a lieutenant at such a young age was unheard of. Though it should be considered a great honor for him to be ranked as such… I could not force myself to be gladdened of this.

Skilled as he was with a blade, I feared for Link's life for he had no experience in the ways of war.

Not only that… a voice, that came more as a feeling, whispered this was folly.

I blinked my tears away and tried to remember my gratitude.

"Zelda." My father motioned me to step forward. "Do you object?"

I cautiously approached him, keeping my composure and silencing the screams of warning in my head I so desperately wanted to voice

"No, Your Majesty."

My father then took my hand in his and I could feel Link's gaze upon me but I knew my resolve to suppress my fears would escape me if I looked into his eyes.

My father smiled slightly as he placed my hands into Link's. "I am pleased that you have requested my blessing. Your joy is my joy, but remember, Zelda… I can make no promises." I squeezed my father's hand but did not look at him.

"Thank you, Your Majesty" I whispered in a broken voice. I quickly dropped his hand, and Link's, then curtsied.

"Do not neglect your duties… nor yourselves."

"Yes, Your Majesty," Link and I answered together.

I bid my father good-night and I swiftly left the throne room, my emotions starting to overcome me.

….I did not want Link to leave.

I couldn't let him risk his life to prove his love and loyalty to my father. But how could I ignore Link's willingness and determination to win my hand?

I could hear the rain pounding violently outside as I walked through the corridors towards the library. I did not know why I was inclined to go there; perhaps I did not want Link to find me, for he would assume I would seek the privacy of my chambers; my fleeing from the throne room so abruptly would have solidified his suspicions.

I tried to shake the evening's events from my mind, but my eyes continued to water. My blurred vision and the blinding flash of lightning followed by sudden darkness caused me to stumble many times.

Finally I reached the library and wrenched the doors open, slamming them shut behind me.

The rain echoed in even greater volume in the room and the noise numbed my thoughts.

I usually didn't care for rain, but now its dull rhythm was a welcome distraction.

I walked around aimlessly, trying to sort out this heavy feeling of forebode until I came upon the balcony door. I stared out the door's glass panes, watching cracks of light etch across the sky. Thunder followed and it seemed to vibrate through the stones.

It reminded of my own insignificance; of my irreconcilable and selfish nature.

Everything at hand seemed so daunting and uncertain and I shivered at the prospects.

The shudder coursed through me again, this time causing me alarm. I blinked furiously, beginning to feel dumb. The room spun, disorienting me and I tried to steady myself.

Lightning crackled again and again, blurring my surrounding into unrecognizable shapes.

The entire room changed before my very eyes and everything darkened.

After one last flash of light, I found myself in a different room…

In another place entirely...

I was in darkened chamber, with only a few candles as the source of light.

A door behind me swung open and a man entered the room, shutting the door quietly behind him. He walked past me without acknowledgement. The candles flickered in his wake and made his way to the other side of the room.

I then noticed another man sitting in a large chair at a desk.

I cautiously stepped closer to see who these men were, but the darkness and shadows concealed their identities.

The man that entered the room reached the desk and bowed. "My Lord, everything has gone according to plan. The ships depart on the morrow."

I had heard this man's voice before…

I looked to the other man in the chair to see if I recognized him, but I knew I would have remembered one with such a threatening presence.

In the shadow of his face, I detected a smirk.

"You have done well; now all that remains is the girl." The man's deep, growl-like voice sent a wave of terror over me. As I traced up his face, he opened his eyes lazily.

I suppressed a gasp.

Gleaming, golden eyes, radiating with malice, was all I could see. I wanted to cry out, to tear from the room screaming, but I couldn't move.

His eyes kept me prisoner.

My heart racing, my breath faint, I listened further to their conversation.

"She is willful, My Lord. It may be difficult to sway her.

The man with the golden eyes scoffed at this remark, and chuckled darkly.

"That is hardly a concern, but interesting nonetheless. No matter, once this piece is swept off the board, nothing will stand in my way," the golden-eyed man said evilly.

"You have a plan then?" the first man asked.

"Patience is all that is needed; I will break her myself. It is only one woman after all. It's a shame she isn't as weak as her father."

"And if she refuses still?"

"Then her life will be forfeit." The golden-eyed man laughed.

I tried to swallow my fear and forced myself to walk closer but as I did, I began to tremble.

"Now go and bring me Sakon. There is still much work to be done concerning Calatia," the golden-eyed man snapped.

"I swear it will be done," the first man said.

Just then, my surroundings blurred once again and dizziness overtook me.

I shouted in objection; I had to know who these men were. I had to know who they conspired against.

Suddenly, the evil man's golden eyes were upon me and my right hand burst with a searing pain, the pain threatening to take me.

I cried out and fell, the golden eyes following my descent.

I came to and found myself outside in the rain, my hair and clothing soaked against my skin.

I lay in a puddle of water but did not have the strength to move; I merely stared at my hand, feeling the burning begin to diminish.

Slowly, I sat up, trying to comprehend what happened.

Who were those men, who seemed so familiar, yet so frightening?

The vision began to fade from my mind as quickly as it came, but the man's terrifying, yellow eyes would not disappear.

I shivered and wrapped my arms around my body as I tried to rid myself of their memory.

"My Lady!" Link suddenly shouted behind me. His voice sounded miles away.

I slowly turned to him. "…Gua—Link…" I said faintly.

He rushed over to me and shielded me from the rain. "You'll catch your death out here; you've only just recovered!" His warmth was a welcome comfort and I clung to him desperately. He lifted me effortlessly into his arms and brought me back into the safety of the library. He set me down by the fireplace and pulled a coverlet from one of the chairs and wrapped it about me. Lifting me into his arms once again, he carried me back through the castle, holding me tightly against him.

"What were you doing?" he rebuked, "Your illness may now return."

I could not answer him for even I did not know how I ended up outside. I was not frightened by the prospect of illness, but of the man from my vision. I shook my head and shut my eyes.

"You're trembling… what is it?"

"I-I don't know, I don't understand…"

"Try me," he demanded bluntly.

"It was only a dream…"

Link steps faltered for a moment, tightening his hold on me. "…You have nightmares in waking?"

I nodded weakly and heard him sigh deeply as he continued forward.

"Tell me."

"…I don't want to remember."

Despite the possibility of wandering eyes, Link risked a display of affection and softly kissed my hair. "Would you not let me ease your fears, Lady Zelda?" I felt a stir of irritation at the contradictory nature of his actions and words. But I could not reprimand him… not in the echoing halls.

I simply pulled the coverlet tightly against me and he said nothing more. I forced myself to concentrate on the sounds of the castle so my mind would not wander back to that nightmare. As I focused on the feel of Link's arms encompassing me so, my fears waned and I calmed slightly.

He set me down when we reached my chambers and quietly opened the door.

I moved inside, but he did not follow.

"I will send for Lady Impa. Now quickly, go change."

I grabbed his hand and shook my head, my former fears returning in an instant.

"…Stay…" I did not want to sleep; I did not want to see those eyes again.

Link's mouth fell open slightly and furrowed his brows. "Lady Zelda—"

I tugged him with as much force as I could and he stumbled into my chambers. "I do not… cannot… be alone."

"I will not risk tarnishing the trust the king has bestowed," he argued.

I put my arms around him, and the coverlet slipped to the floor. "It shan't be; I only feel safe with my Guardian beside me."

I heard his heart quicken and I sighed unevenly. "Please."

Link reached a hand behind him and shut the door, his hand lingering on the handle. "As you wish," he said in a low voice. "I will wait here, now please… go change."

I mumbled a quick thank you and tore myself away. I left him in the sitting room and crossed into my sleeping quarters. A small fire was already burning and I stood by it to change. I hurriedly peeled the damp clothing from my body, but had trouble ridding myself of the corset I wore.

I wrapped thick bindings in its stead for decency's sake and then began rummaging through my closets for a warm gown. Finding a suitable one, I stepped into it and clumsily tied the back.

I made my way back to the sitting room and found Link standing by the second fireplace, attempting to dry his own clothing.

He turned at the sound of my footsteps and I buried myself against him.

"Tell me what you saw, Lady Zelda," he said seriously.

I took a deep breath and hesitantly recalled the strange vision. "I saw two men… speaking in a darkened chamber… conspiring against something… or someone And Calatia… Calatia was mentioned."

"The country across the sea?"

"Yes… and… they spoke of a girl…plotting her death…" I suddenly shivered involuntarily.

"Go on," Link encouraged.

"I could not see their faces, but I they were not Hylian. One man… he had terrifying, yellow eyes and…" I faltered and hid my face into Link's chest as I took an unsteady breath. "Nearly every night… my dreams are filled with frightening beasts, more terrifying than the wolfo. I dream of sand… of an endless sea and… blood."

Link pulled me away with a hardened look on his face. "I wish to the Goddesses that you were not afflicted so, but they are just dreams—"

"It is your blood."

His eyes narrowed. "…My… blood?"

I fisted his tunic and closed my eyes. "Your cap Link; I find it tainted with blood." Though he was not wearing it now, I could still see it placed around his head.

"Zelda," he began, "these dreams… they must be lingering from the poison…"

"They do not linger; too much time has passed."

"If you know the cause, then please tell me."

I paused. "I do not know."

Link remained silent.

"This may seem impossible… but I cannot keep from suspecting… foresight."

His brows furrowed. "…Foresight? I do not understand…"

"I fear I am seeing what will come to pass… that my dreams are premonitions."

"But this is the first time you have spoken of it; how can one suddenly see the future?"

"…You do not believe me…"

"…I want to," he said as he looked to the fire.

I sighed. "I wish I could explain… but I know for certain… it is too perilous to go to Crescent… that is what these dreams must be telling me."


"Please do not accept—"

"There is nothing I would not grant you… but do not ask that of me."

I sighed at his stubbornness. His fierce loyalty was his greatest strength and greatest weakness. How could I persuade him to stay from Crescent Harbor?

"Then what of this," I continued as I held my hand to his face so he could see the markings. "They appeared when I awoke from the poison. In sleep, the pain has awakened me night after night."

Link said nothing and simply stared at my hand.

"I've seen the markings on your hand as well, Link. Do not deny it." An uncomfortable silence passed between us, and I could only hear the crackling of the flames beside us.

"I am not," he finally spoke. "But I do not see why these scars should cause me to stay."

I looked away, frustrated. "I may not understand these premonitions or the markings, but they must be connected. They must be a warning but, Link, please… consider the future—"

Suddenly his lips were upon mine, silencing my pleas.

I fought against the calmness that began to make me forget myself; I would not be fooled by Link's attempted distraction and drew away. I opened my mouth to continue, but he wouldn't allow it.

"I am considering the future," he said quietly. "For you all I see."

I closed my eyes and bit my teeth, trying to ignore the whisperings of my heart.

I could not win.

His sincerity increased my desire for him to stay ten-fold. Though our numbers were greater than the Gerudo… there was no assurance that it would force a retreat. He knew nothing of war… nothing of merciless bloodshed.

I would not have him risk his life if I could prevent it.

I took his face into my hands. "Do not accept my father's test."

"You know I must," he said gently. "This may be the only chance to win your hand; I would gladly endure anything to stay at your side."

"Now you have become blind," I said dishearteningly, my hands dropping to my sides.

He then took my face into his hands and shook his head. "I swore to protect you, Lady Zelda. I swore my loyalty to the crown, and I will obey, by your consent or not."

My lips trembled. "There must be another way."

He shook his head. "This is only way to prove my worthiness to His Majesty… to you… to myself."

My face fell. His words did not assuage me in the slightest, and the overwhelming feeling of unease would not leave.

"Your care for me has caused you nothing but suffering… I—"

"Do not begin such nonsense. Doubtful words will not sway me, nor make this any easier."

I stiffened at his chastising words and closed my eyes, nodding defeatedly. How could I selfishly keep him here? How could I tell him it was not only because of the danger, but because I felt it was wrong for him to leave?

Yet I could not help but be doubtful, for I did not even know if I had conjured these fears, or if they truly were a warning from some greater force…

Or if I was using these strange happenings as excuses so he would stay…

…No, whatever the matter, I would not speak of these misgivings any more.

I did not want Link to believe I did not believe in him.

Slipping my arms around his neck, I pulled him towards me.

My lips had only brushed his when I suddenly heard voices pass by my door.

I remembered myself and pulled away, watching the door. "We shan't be alone for long." I tried to withdraw but Link wouldn't allow it and pressed me closer to him.


He kissed me once again, urgently, and I half-heartedly tried to escape.

"We are alone," he murmured softly. "They won't come."

"How can you be sure?"

Link laughed quietly, his lips curving into a slight smile against my own. "I locked the door."

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