[WARNING: Contains Twilight Princess spoilers!]
It had been a full month since the end of Hyrule’s tragedies, yet it hardly seemed as if any time had passed at all.
was still in shambles, rubble from the explosion, still littering the castle grounds and commingling with shards from the broken stained glass windows; such shards were ready to cut those who were less than careful as they assessed and began repairing the damage. It would take years, perhaps a full decade, before the castle, which had been a beacon of light to all of Hyrule for generations, would even hope to look like its former pristine glory. Thank the goddesses that the cost of Zant’s invasion and Ganondorf’s conquest had been so small a price, for indeed all that was truly paid and lost was my own home, and even that penalty had been considerably reduced as my citizenry struck the nerve to be so kind as to construct a small cabin for me upon the castle premises so that I would not be truly living upon the streets. Yet ironically without the castle, the castle that was timeless and ever unchanging, time seemed to stand still, each day a dull repetition of its predecessor. Though I knew a castle could not be built in a day’s nor week’s time, yet the shock of its disappearance still made my heart still itself whenever I gazed where it should have been. Hyrule Castle
In fact, the only true signs that time indeed had passed since the battle was that Midna had departed several weeks prior after permanently severing the connexion between her world and ours—all for reasons I know not why—and that Link, after departing from Castle Town with the purpose of returning to his hometown of Ordon and his fellow villagers, had returned my fair city one week ago, apparently choosing it over Ordon as his future and permanent home.
In truth, I was rather surprised by the latter event more than the former. For so long I had endeavoured to take a moment to know Hyrule’s hero, yet destiny sought to prevent that opportunity for much longer than I had wished. Even after that hilltop struggle, when finally I felt the sweet succour of freedom within my soul, I only had the honour and privilege of exchanging a mere few words with him, so few precious words! How discomfiting is it that a princess hardly had spoken with the one who had so nobly and selflessly defended her kingdom to the last challenge? My ancestors would be appalled by my negligence! Yet Castle Town had its needs to which I was required to attend, and the time of my hero was stolen quite frequently not only by the townspeople of Castle Town and Ordon Village but by those from Kakariko, the Mountain, and the Domain as well; I did for Link what time allowed me.
Yet despite that our words were so few, I felt I knew him beyond what such words could ever possibly convey; our conversations were like poetry, odes so exasperatingly brief yet impeccably and deftly crafted such that the impact of the meaning was beyond comprehension! With those few moments we had to sit down and converse with one another, I felt I knew him as if I had grown up with him, as if he had once been my childhood playmate. He was so ingenuous and amicable, his confidence and trust in me already well rooted. Yet I could also see his own origins, how the years of his residence in Ordona had shaped him, and truly he was still drawn to it. His fellow villagers were his family, and his heart longed to return to them. Peaceably I allowed his leave, urging him to return to his friends in Ordona.
How could I have predicted that he would return to
, not only to live but also to serve? The hero offered his sword and shield to Hyrule, wishing me to accept his allegiance. How could I decline such a surprising offer! After all, his trust in me was not unmatched for my trust in him was mirrored exactly, a feat none before has ever managed to accomplish. Our short poems were able to shatter my otherwise unerring façade of strength and distance, leaving me no choice but to present him with sincere and deep welcome. How glad I was that I was wrong about his seeming infallible loyalty to Ordona. Castle Town
Yet still, his sudden return from his home so loved continues to strike me as unbelievably queer, especially since he continues to make no mention of his reasons for abandoning Ordona. His return ever remains a mystery... a mystery I intend to solve... a mystery to which I hope to find resolution this very eve.
As expected, a rapping came from the door to my cottage within minutes of dusk. The few times we had the privilege of conversing, he had always been prompt. I knew it was in his character to make a personal effort to do such, a skill that he likely inherited from the ranches of Ordon. Already I had lit a score of candles within my small dwelling in an effort to temporarily push back the night so that I could obtain the dénouement to my curiosities.
“Enter,” I called to the door, my voice still impersonating the nonchalant strength that my people required of me. The habit of such introductions was so ingrained within my decorum that I could not spare even Link from it. I glanced to the oaken door as it swung inwardly, revealing the silhouette of the hero returned. No further visuals were needed to confirm such; I knew it was him merely from that. I gave him a simple smile.
“Princess, it’s good to see you again,” he said plainly yet contently as he entered, closing the door behind him. He was glad to be here, I could tell; he always seemed to be in good spirits when in my presence. Perhaps he was as uplifted as I with our poetic verse.
“Likewise, Sir Link,” I replied, finally able to shed my cloak of indifference from my psyche. Alas, if only my trained formal diction could have been cast aside as easily. “Please, allow me to take your cloak for you.”
“Princess, that is completely unnecessary—”
“Of that I am aware. However, you are yet my guest this eve, and there are none who are present to perform the various responsibilities of a hostess other than myself. Please, allow me to humbly provide you the service.” I paused for only a moment before adding, “It would be my pleasure.”
Link smiled slightly, his guard gradually lowering as well as he once again adjusted to our more casual relation. It always took a few moments for him to do so, forcing away the typical requirements of formality. Such kindnesses as were the norm between us could not be bestowed in public, my people expecting their princess to portray the epitome of measured steadiness and equity, and I am but their pawn portraying the role assigned me. Yet here within the quietude of my abode, such considerations to a trusted individual could be granted freely, and Link, just as I ardently wished, always yielded to this in such environs.
With his cloak removed, I took it carefully from his hands, crossing the room to hang it upon the improvised pegs upon the wall. “Tea?” I asked, already knowing that he’d accept.
He chuckled slightly. “What would everyone say if they knew you were treating me so well, Zelda?”
I turned around, my simple skirts—alas, my finer dresses also lost, but again, such minutiae compared to what joys still swelled within me—shuffling about me as I did so. “The citizenry shall only find out, good sir, if you are the one to reveal it.” I cast a wry smile toward him, my arms crossed in staged yet faux annoyance. His smile revealed that he could see me plainly despite my feint. “Tea, or no?” I repeated.
“Of course,” he answered with a false sigh as he slowly took a seat within one of the wicker chairs inhabiting my sitting room. “Just not too strong.”
“I remember,” I said, stifling my amusement. How could I forget, after all, the look on his face when we supped together upon the night at the festival? Hyrule was known for its strong and biting blends, and Link had nearly sprayed it upon those around him after a small sip. “Though in truth, what you Ordonans call tea is practically an insult to the beverage.” I did not need to look to know that Link was scowling at me from across the room; his silence was sufficient to determine as much.
Having filled the small iron kettle and placed it over the kitchen fire, a simple chore of which I had grown quite fond of performing now, I quickly returned to my guest and sat myself daintily within my own chair, seeking eagerly to engage in the conversation which had prompted my summoning of him.
“So... Zelda,” he said softly at first. It always took him a few moments to completely forget that I was his princess and ruler and allow our strong closeness to completely conquer his mind. “What honour did I do to be in your company this evening?”
I could not help myself from laughing airily at his whimsical speech. In truth, his words intended to mock mine own speech, unerringly rigid in their grammatical turns of phrase. This exercise he particularly enjoyed when in private with me, secretly hoping, I dare believe, to see if he could possibly alter my verbiage with but the slightest nuanced imperfection. “Your words wound me, good sir,” replied I, defiantly refusing to play at his diversion. “Have you and I not grown in such a way that I may invite you into my royal chambers? I should certainly hope I have not erred in judgment in trusting you, Sir Link, for I would then be required to ask you to depart!”
Link, of course, seemed amused by the private ruse, knowing that he had failed once again. Oh but could I finally escape my prison of eloquence if only to encourage his game, yet luckily it seemed that his courage unfailingly would not prevent him from trying time and time again, much to my salvation. “No, no, you are right, Zelda,” he answered with a light-hearted chuckle. “It’s just been quite some time since we’ve had the chance to talk like this. I forgot what it was like.”
“Forgot?” I queried in mock-offence, my hand covering my heart in jest. “My good friend, with such vile tongue lashings as yours, I shall not last the night under your torment!”
“No, no... I don’t mean it that way,” he began in a vain attempt to justify his comments, but by the end of his phrase, I was already tittering in laughter, and my humour eventually infected him as well such that he could not punctuate his sentence.
“There is no need to apologise, Link,” I said, still quite amused. “It has been far too long since we have conversed with one another, something I do intend to remedy, rest assured.” Link seemed to bow his head, his arms half-extended outward slightly in an expression of gratitude, obviously welcoming my proposal. “However, I shall confess that you are a perceptive one, my friend.” In truth, Link had seen through my clever masquerade, although his earlier inquiry was likely only a chanced guess and not a rupee over; yet even if it were so, some urge within me could not simply pass upon his comment without a full admission. To do so to such a dear friend would be nothing short of committing perjury, and the damage it would incur upon this most valuable of companions would be more than that wrought upon Hyrule’s beloved castle by our former nemesis himself. As my mother had often conferred upon me, confession was good for the spirit.
“Oh?” Link asked with curiosity, his eyes locked upon me like a hawk circling upon his prey. Little did he know that he was the one being hunted in lieu of being the hunter! “So you did call me here for something, to use me for your wicked schemes! Alright then, out with it, Zelda. What service am I here to provide you this time?”
I chuckled slightly at Link’s good-humoured accusation, relishing the good frivolity. “Wicked I guarantee is something I could become if you continue to mock me so, Link, but I assure you I have no outstanding intent for you at this moment.” I looked at him innocently through the tops of my eyes as a simple smile radiated from my lips. He could not resist that “charming” look no matter how overused it had become; his resistances always seemed to melt away like snow banks in the early spring, and already it was having its effect.
“Alright, I take back my rude remark,” he said mock-sheepishly. “But still you have not revealed this secret motive of yours, Princess. Pray tell me,” he continued as he covered his heart with both hands, his insincere humility signalling that he had began his clever little game once more, “in what way may this most humble servant of yours please your royal self?”
“Alas, you have me trapped within a corner. I shall relent and reveal my motives, good sir.” I smiled and giggled in an effort to seem as if our conversation was nothing more than a casual occurrence, yet only half of such was sincere, for in truth my demeanour was equal parts childlike intrigue and unwieldy confusion. “I must admit that you have managed to surprise me, Link.”
“Surprise you?” Link said as he raised an eyebrow at me. Certainly he had not been expecting something quite so trifle. “I can surprise half a dozen people every day by performing some simple swordplay demonstration in the square, but I would have fervently believed that surprising you would have been impossible. Whenever I think I’ve found something that might surprise you, you always seem to have expected it already, as if you could see the future.” Link smiled charmingly at me, obviously somewhat amused at the claim.
“Ah, if but I could do the thing you claim,” I answered, strolling leisurely yet momentarily in the temporary daydream that Link had described, yet soon enough I refocused upon my guest, innocently waving my finger at him. “Yet you keep forgetting that I not am a sorceress but a princess, and I fancy that there is a distinguishable difference ‘tween the two.”
Link smirked, pleased with himself for what he believed—and honestly, was—a clever tease. “How silly of me,” he answered almost with a laugh. But continue, Zelda: How did I surprise you?”
I paused for a few moments as I searched for words, grasping onto what precious seconds to which I had access so that I might have the time to safely recite the phrases I would choose internally prior to revealing them for his ears to hear. “Well, you are correct that I am able to surmise your actions prior to you deciding them, or should I more accurately say, prior to you actually realising what it was that you had been wanting for so long. You have been a close confidant and intimate friend since we had the privilege and pleasure of meeting; deducing you is not as difficult as you pretend it to be, Link.” I smiled warmly as I wallowed amongst my close, innermost feelings for him, and it was delightful to see that smile returned in earnest.
“However, when you left for
with my blessing,” I continued, “truly I had expected that there you would find the solace you so well deserved and sought following our rendezvous with fate. You mentioned many times over in our conversations the love you had for your hometown, and so I had convinced myself that the love you had for Ordona and for the peace you would find there would be so great that you would make true your promise to your fellow villagers and return to them to stay. While I knew that our parting upon that day would not be the final time we would have the satisfaction of meeting and conversing with one another, that we would one day come together once again to share such intimacy together, you cannot imagine the shock that ran through me when you returned to Lanayru and Castle Town with the intention of finding your home here in lieu of your native province. Ordona Province
“I do not mean to say that I am at all displeased, of course,” I added quickly, not certain if my words could be read more harshly than I had intended them. “In truth, that I will be able to see you on a more frequent basis delights my heart to no end. But you must pardon my curiosity at this, my friend: Why is it that you returned? If I might be so bold as to inquire, what caused your heart to not care for Ordona as it once had?”
The question seemed so innocent in my mind. It seemed quite simple, as well. Even if there had been multiple reasons to cause him to choose this course instead of that which I—and indeed he—had originally believed, such causes should have been easily explained even in the more plain speech which I continually tried to achieve in my conversations with Link.
However, my beliefs in this were as misaligned with reality as were my beliefs that Link would have remained in Ordona. Nay, almost immediately upon delivering the final question, even despite my care to phrase my enquiry in a kind fashion, Link’s brow furrowed without him realising it, and he now, instead of I, was the one stalling for the same seconds that had been a most invaluable asset earlier. He then looked at me, analysing me slowly and intentionally as if he were deciding whether or not I was worthy of the prize that his answer seemed to represent. In his pause, I watched his face with great assiduousness, trying to infer from his outward emotion what could possibly be occurring within.
“I really don’t know,” he finally said in response, shrugging at me as if the precise answer was not important. “When I went to Ordona, I was, as you said, truly excited to go home, to once again sleep in my own bed, to put aside the cares of the world and worry only about myself and my good friends... and the ranch, of course. I missed it while I was away, and the thought of going home was partially what kept pushing me onward. But after I got there... it just wasn’t the same. I really don’t know.”
I stared into his sapphire eyes as he spoke, taking in every word and contrasting it to the infinitude of words that his eyes were speaking unbidden. The words did not match. He had spoken at first with a pause, as if there was something hidden deep down that he was deciding whether or not to reveal, and then upon speaking he subsequently answered in a tone that seemed practised and unemotional, deciding in the negative to reveal the truth of his tale to me. He spoke as if his decision to depart Ordona had meant nothing to him... while his eyes clearly told the opposite story.
There was a reason. He left Ordona for a reason, and my curiosity would not be satisfied with such an amateur fabrication.
I placed my hands upon my lap and leaned forward slightly, trying to appear friendly and interested in case my emotions were not properly being conveyed. “Link, it will probably sound brash or uncouth of me to say this, especially considering who you and I are to one another, but to me it seems as if you are not being completely truthful with me. I do hope you will forgive me for my brazen curiosity in being so inquisitive, but... I do wish to understand, and in the event that something has happened whilst you were at the ranch, the least I can offer you is a kind ear to listen and to help if I am able.”
Upon this, Link looked away slightly, and what remained of his polite smile had disappeared, thereby confirming my intuition. There was indeed something within him that he felt unable to reveal, some deep pain that I had inadvertently brushed with my silken verbal caress, and truly I was saddened that something had wounded him deeper than the fiercest of his prior physical battles had managed.
Link finally brought his eyes back to my own, replacing his pained countenance with one of false peace and calm. He shook his head slightly, forcing his lips back into a smile. “Zelda, I shouldn’t speak completely freely of my motivations for returning to
. What I said earlier was true; it wasn’t the same as it was before. Something I was searching for was missing. Because of that, it wasn’t home anymore. Castle Town just... it has something that the ranch doesn’t have, something that makes it rather than Ordona feel like home to me now.” Castle Town
Despite his most sincere efforts to placate my insatiable hunger to understand his reasoning, my incredulousness remained, leaving me in a vain effort to struggle with seemingly contradictory tales. His explanation referred to something quite simple and innocent, the presence of a minor detail that Lanayru held in favour over fair Ordona, yet still he persisted as if this nuanced desire was some ridiculous complication. It seemed as if the two could not possibly exist within the same world, though clearly they were; my trust in Link’s words was absolute.
“I apologise again; I know that I am probably causing you undue burden with this,” I said, vocalising my thoughts, “but it would seem that such a minor detail would not be so grandiose a matter that you could not speak your mind freely.”
“Zelda,” Link replied hastily, “please. You are easily forgiven for asking questions and trying to be kind and assist, but you worry too much about this. This matter isn’t as trivial as it—”
“Link,” I interrupted, not wishing to further distress my poor friend, “you are under no such obligation to reveal your intentions. When we are alone together, I am not your princess but solely your companion, and I could never bring myself to require you to perform such a task to your disliking.” I remained silent for a moment, nervously thumbing the handle of my empty teacup as I furiously sought a means to undo the damage I had apparently inadvertently caused. Yet try as I might, I could fathom no escape from this most awkward of predicaments, and so the uncomfortable silence lingered well beyond the span of time that I had intended it to last, once again adding undue pressure and burden to the man whose pain I was trying to alleviate. Desperately needing to shatter the prolonged moment, I rushed to speak again, hoping that the difficult ordeal would be forgotten. In what was likely to be a vain attempt, I decided it would be wisest to leave the conversation within the depths of history, ne’er to be opened again.
“So—” I continued, searching for a new avenue of conversation.
“It was you.”
I only had barely managed to register that Link had even spoken, much less answered my enquiry at long last. “Pardon?”
“It was you that drew me here to
,” Link said in a quiet and low voice. In fact, it seemed by his tone that he was quite ashamed by the admission. He averted my gaze and preferred, instead, to eye the humble wooden floor of my abode... out of what? Embarrassment? Concern? Humiliation? Without his eyes, I could not diagnose him. “It was you that prompted me to leave Castle Town ,” he repeated, this time with improved clarity yet still with deep personal disturbance. Ordon Village
“Me?” I asked, attempting, yet failing, to hide the sound of surprise within my frail voice. “You came back to Lanayru for me?”
Link nodded almost grimly. “I tried hard to keep this deep down within me, Zelda,” he said, his voice imploring me to look upon him with kindness. “You know not how hard I’ve tried, how hard it has been to maintain the proper distance I should, the distance that must be there. My will was strong at first, yet gradually it decayed, prompting my move. I thought it would be enough to hold and hide, that we would merely continue as we had.” He paused for a brief moment before finally turning to me with a frighteningly pained visage. “Yet I failed, and I am certain that in doing so I have broken some rule of decorum or such, and, even if I have not, I can yet tell that you are likely displeased with—”
“Link, stop,” I said, perhaps a trifle too harsh, yet I could tell that his strength was waning quickly, and if an ounce of harshness would be sufficient to prevent further damage to his psyche, it was my responsibility to wield it, even to a friend so trusted and dear. I could see the panic welling within his face and frame, most prominently deep within his eyes. In truth he suddenly seemed like a wounded hawk or eagle, his wishes for release from its pain so plainly apparent within his eyes yet fear overriding all sense of rationality. He needed to be treated much the same way as such a creature needed; he needed reassurance, peace, and love. “Stop,” I said again, this time with much greater compassion. I took a deep breath and grasped firmly my own wits and sense of patience. “I believe I have an inkling as to the nature of the secrets that you withhold from me, yet I fear that it would be most wise for me not to leap prematurely and find myself clinging onto a wild boar instead of a tame kitten. Tell me your secret, Link, but before you do, know this above all else. You are privileged amongst all of those whom I know; we share a bond that is uniquely intimate, a link that is not as easily severed as you might fear. There is no Court for us to abide by here; when together, we have our own rules of decorum, you and I, rules far different than those to which all others must adhere. Do not be afraid; please, share with me your fear.”
Link turned to me once more, the fear still present within his visage, yet gradually, the hawk I sought to tame began to trust that I would do him no harm, even if his talon should accidentally tear into my flesh, and with his renewed faith, he took in a weighty breath and continued.
“I– I have feelings for you, Zelda,” he said at last. Despite his submission to the truth, still his muscles were tense, ready to flee at the first indication of danger. “As you’ve said, we share a special bond. Even though I have opened my life to many of my friends in Ordon, never has a friendship grown as fast or close as ours had over the span of time that we have shared together.” He paused a moment before finally standing and walking toward the window, glancing outside into the dusky evening. “At first I had thought it infatuation; you are a charming woman, after all, and I would be lying to say otherwise. Yet as each day passed in Ordon, though there were many happy memories added after Ilia’s and my return, I felt something missing within my life, a dull sense of incompleteness. It wasn’t an all-consuming feeling, for I knew we still shared that something special, but something within me called me away from
Ordon Villageand back to ... and back to you.” Castle Town
He shifted slightly and turned toward me, and it was a relief now to see that his keen sense of fear had all but dissipated, his look now nearly filled with seriousness. “It was then, I knew. I cared for you, Zelda. Perhaps more than I should, but that... that has yet to be put to a true test.”
Never before in my life had I ever felt as I did at this moment. I was touched, genuinely so. Before me was my dearest and deepest friend admitting a thing I had never dared to consider he—nor any, in truth—would ever confess. Before this day, I had always been content with sharing the simplest of joys with my subjects and citizenry. Their celebrations and festivals appealed to me favourably; I rejoiced in the news of their marriages, new births, or reunions with those they had thought lost forever. Their joy was mine, and though it was always a muted joy, for indeed it was far inferior to their own personal jubilation, the benefits I always drew from their festivities had always been enough to content me. I had never before considered that such a treasure might fall down at my feet, open and willing for me to take it within my very arms, offering and providing me for my own private bliss.
Yet here it was, staring at me from the window through those twin sapphire eyes.
I stood up, perhaps too quickly for suddenly I felt woozy, yet I ignored the strange sense of vertigo as I tentatively took a step towards the hero—nay, my friend. My eyes met his once again, and a torrent of contradictory emotions paraded through my heart. Uncertainty and confusion were among those at the forefront, yet celebration and happiness were among the mixture as well, standing in perfect formation behind the former. I continued walking towards him, step after tiny step, until I came before him with barely a few inches separating him from me.
I placed a hand upon his shoulder, yet somehow it slid down to find purchase upon his arm, and, as if I were without my control, I leaned into him, suddenly finding myself against him in a half-embrace, my temple resting upon his chest and my other arm between our bodies. I closed my eyes, content to remain wordless for just a few moments longer.
“Zelda?” Link asked suddenly, obviously quite confused and surprised by my actions. I could not fault the man; I most certainly would have felt the same had I his unfortunate position!
I shook my head against him, refusing to leave his side. “I do not know what precisely this is, my friend, my Link, nor do I know at all what may come of this. Such concerns, I fear, are things about which that I currently have no intentions to worry nor fully contemplate. I do however know one thing. I too care about you. Perhaps more than I should... but...” I paused slightly, my wisdom in utter disbelief as it raced—failingly—for control of my body against my quickening heart. “But... that remains to be put to a true test.”
I felt his arms around me then, still somewhat awkward, for into such terrain neither he nor I had ever ventured so far, yet despite the seeming omnipresent awkwardness there was infinite tenderness, and the latter made all the inelegance of our position a mere nuance.
Seconds later, the whistling of the tea kettle upon the kitchen fire sought to deny us our shared moment together in my humble cottage, but I was quite content to let the batch of tea burn. Quite thankfully, Link seemed to share my sentiment.
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