Even at fourteen years old, Link had never told Zelda how he felt about her. In fact, he hadn’t seen her for what seemed like forever. Ever since his return to the forest, the Kokiri had been so dependent on him, especially when monsters came in from the outside.
“I’m gonna do it,” he told himself, trying to get up the nerve to make the trip to Hyrule. This was usually how it went: he would give himself a spirit-boosting talk, then either one of the kids would have a problem with a loose spider or his nerves would overcome him. But this time was different.
Link put on his favorite tunic and slipped into his old boots. He didn’t even care that the leather was faded and the heels were worn down to nothing.
“Link?” said a tiny voice. Saria peeked around the corner of his door. “Link, we’ve got a problem.”
“Oh God, what is it this time?!” he said angrily.
“I-it’s nothing, really,” stammered Saria. “J-just a Deku Scrub, that’s all.”
“Well, can’t it wait?” said a very frustrated Link. “I’m going to Hyrule today.”
Saria snorted and rolled her emerald-green eyes. “Oh please! You’ve never even gotten up the courage to leave the forest, let alone make the entire trip! As a matter of fact, you haven’t worn your good tunic in a long time.”
“I was going to go,” mumbled Link, rummaging for his Deku nuts and slingshot to take down the monsters. “But, then again, how could I be so egotistical? You children need me here.”
“Well…” said Saria. “I’ll tell you what: how about you go on to Hyrule? I’m sure we can handle it here for a few hours.”
“Are you sure?”
“Why not?” she said, taking the weapons from his hands. “I’m certain Nathoo knows how to properly handle one of these. We’ll be fine!”
Link sighed with relief, and straightened the tunic. “Okay, I’m going to go!”
“Looking like that?!” she asked. “At least comb your hair and wash that dirt off of your face! And if you think those boots are going to woo Zelda, you must be stupid!”
“What’s wrong with my boots?” demanded Link. “They’ve gotten me out of one disaster after another. I’ll have you know that these are the very boots I wore when I last saw Zelda.”
“Well, you must’ve worn them to nothing. That leather can’t last much longer.”
“Okay, I’ll get started on making a new pair AFTER I go to Hyrule,” said Link, putting together a satchel of travel necessities. “I’ll get some tougher leather at Malon’s, and I’ll stop by the river to wash up.”
“Good,” said Saria with a grin. “I’ll get to that meanie. Have a safe trip, okay?”
“I promise,” said Link, tousling her hair. “I’ll be back in time to make our supper, okay?”
“For Din’s sake,” said Link when he saw Epona. “You’ve been waiting for a while, haven’t you?”
The beautiful young mare was bucking and whinnying. She had been cooped up for the longest time, waiting for her master to come out for a ride.
He stroked her mane and lifted himself onto her back. With a quick whip of his makeshift riding crop (whittled and hand-painted, so that Zelda would think he was a refined rider), he began the two-hour trek to town.
Along, the way, he stopped at the river to give Epona a drink and to wash his face. Looking at his reflection, he saw his face, slightly dusty from the road, and his messy blond hair. I guess it couldn’t hurt, he thought, taking a comb from his satchel. He ran it through the tangled mass of hair and splashed the cool, clear water on his face. Wow, Saria was right. I do look a bit better. If only Navi were still with me; she always kept me going.
After he and Epona rested for a few minutes, he climbed back onto his beloved horse and continued his journey. It would only be another half-hour or so before he arrived to his destination.
Upon disembarking in town, Link found that all of the people were gathered in the square. A royal messenger was making a proclamation from the king himself.
“Hear ye, hear ye,” said the crier. “The royal family of Hyrule will be celebrating the coming-of-age of our very own princess, Zelda. In tradition, this is the age that she will be courting to find her future husband. There will be a ceremonial ball in celebration of this glorious occasion. Every Hylian boy of fourteen years is eligible to attend.”
Excited murmurs echoed throughout the crowd. Link smiled. I have a leg up on the competition, having known her for years, he thought eagerly to himself. I’d better go talk to her before she forgets who I am!
Link raced out of town square and onto the royal grounds. He mounted Epona and tried his best to look sophisticated. As Epona trotted up to the gate, the guards only paused for a moment before they realized who it was.
“Good afternoon, sir,” said one of the guards. “What business are you on today?”
“Oh, just visiting,” said Link.
“It’s about time,” said the guard, laughing. “The princess has been asking about you for the longest time!”
Link laughed with him, mostly because he was pleasantly surprised that she was so anxious to see him.
“You may go in,” said the guard with a smile. “She’ll be so happy to see you.”
Link dismounted and walked Epona to the iron fence and tied her there. He then proceeded to walk into the throne room to meet her. He held his head high and sauntered confidently.
There she was, sitting on her throne. She was even more beautiful than he had remembered; long, golden tresses flowed down to her waist. A silver tiara rested on top of the waterfall of curls, ready to be replaced by a gold one when she was crowned as queen. Her beautiful sky-blue eyes flickered with excitement when Link walked in.
“Link!” she said, throwing her arms around him. “Oh, it’s been so long! How have you been?”
“I’ve been…er…fine, I suppose,” he couldn’t help think about the children, always needing him to fight something off for them.
“That’s nice,” she said. “Well, why don’t you come out to the garden? We can have tea and biscuits.”
Link readily agreed to this, especially since he hadn’t eaten dinner that afternoon.
Outside, the garden was overflowing with lovely flowers. “This is my favorite part of the castle,” she said, leaning over to take in the sweet aroma of a rose.
“So, how have your lessons been?” asked Link, hoping that the subject of the ball would come up.
“They’ve been incredibly boring!” she said with a chuckle. “Learning how to sit up straight and walk daintily is so tiresome. I’ll tell you, when I become queen, I’m going to be a different type of ruler.”
Link couldn’t help but admire her spirit.
“So, have you heard about the ball?” she asked.
“Ball? What ball?” said Link.
“There’s going to be a ball for my birthday,” she said. “It’s a traditional courting celebration.”
“Courting? So you’re going to find yourself a beau,” said Link.
“Yes,” said Zelda. “It’s going to be so dull, meeting all of these boys. Would you like to come? It’d be so much more fun with you.”
Link’s heart skipped a beat. “Er…ah…yes, I-I would like to come.”
Zelda laughed. “Glad to hear it.”
“Zelda?” called a booming voice. “Zelda, where are you?”
“I’m out here, Father,” she answered.
A tall, portly man entered the courtyard, looking at Zelda with loving eyes.
“Good afternoon, my blossom,” he said, giving her a kiss on the forehead.
“Good afternoon, Father,” she said. “I’d like you to meet my friend, Link.”
The King’s gaze suddenly became scrutinizing when he looked upon the boy. “So, this must be the famous Link that Zelda’s told me so much about,” he said.
“It’s my honor, sire,” said Link, bowing. What do I do? He thought frantically. Where’s Navi when I need her?
Zelda broke the silence. “Father, would it be okay for Link to attend the ball?”
“This lad?” he asked. “Where is he from?”
“I live in the forest right now,” he said.
The king looked upon him disapprovingly. “You would like to court with my daughter?”
“Father, please,” said Zelda.
“No,” he said. “I don’t know that I approve of his kind.”
“Oh?” said Link, angry that he was being insulted. “And what kind might that be?”
“Sleeping on the ground, eating fruit and nuts, running around like a ragamuffin,” he said. “I don’t know if you should associate with my daughter.”
“Father, let’s not do this,” said Zelda, trying to escort her dad out.
“I can prove that I’m worthy for you,” said Link. “How should I begin?”
“Let’s see…” said the king. “First, put on some trousers underneath that tunic. For God’s sake, your legs are too long and the tunic is too short. Second, those boots look that they might fall apart any second now. If you can do this in what conditions you have, maybe I will consider it.”
Link stood up. “Fine. I’ll be back in a week for the ball. You might not even recognize me.” He turned on his heel and stormed out of the courtyard garden.
“Hold still, Link,” said Saria, thoroughly combing his tangled hair. “The ball is in four hours and your hair is still a mess!”
“Hurry up, I want to get there early!” he said, poised on the edge of his chair.
“Relax!” said Saria. “You’re going to have plenty of time to get there before the other boys.”
Link continued to fidget. He couldn’t help but think that her father wouldn’t allow him to marry his daughter.
“Why are you so jumpy?” asked Saria. “You know Zelda will probably pick you.”
“It’s not that,” said Link. “It’s more or less the king I’m worried about.”
“He’s so strict; he says that he doesn’t approve of our kind.”
“Our kind?” asked Saria. “There’s nothing to be ashamed of about your upbringing. I raised you rather well, if I do say so myself.”
“I dunno what his problem is,” said Link. “All I know is that it’s going to make it that much harder to win his consent.”
Saria finished combing his hair and held a mirror up to him. “It looks better than it has in a long time,” she said happily.
Link swished his head and let the dark blonde locks fall in front of his eyes. “Zelda likes it this way,” he explained when Saria gasped.
“Oh, there’s a surprise for you,” she said, going outside. Link sat in front of her bureau, thinking. He pictured Zelda, in her powder blue formal dress. He imagined that her hair would be plaited in a loose braid that went down her back, with the silver tiara resting gently on top. This made him all the more eager to go.
“Link?” said Nathoo, peeping around Saria’s front door. He was followed in by Mido, Fado, the twins Helena and Hermosa, and Saria. They carried a package with them.
“We thought that you might want something nice to wear to the ball instead of your Kokiri clothes,” said Fado, looking from underneath her blonde bangs.
“This was tailor-made…” said Hermosa.
“…just for you!” finished
Link opened the parcel and held up its contents. The children had gotten him a regal-looking white tunic, chestnut-colored trousers and chemise for underneath, and a shiny, new pair of boots. He was speechless.
“You guys did this for me?” he asked. “Where did you get it?”
“It was a special order from
,” said Saria. “We all chipped in for it.” Castle Town
“You didn’t have to do this,” he said, holding the tunic to his chest.
“We wanted too,” said Nathoo. “Even Mido helped out.”
Mido stood solemnly, staring at the ground. His sister nudged him gently.
“You too, Mido?” asked Link.
There was a long pause. “Yeah, I threw in a couple extra rupees. Nothing much, really.”
Link smiled and patted him on the shoulder. “Thanks.”
“Enough sappy talk!” said Saria. “Get dressed! You’ve got a princess waiting on you!”
“Right!” said Link. The children skipped happily out of the room while he dressed. The tunic fit him perfectly and looked spiffy with the fitting trousers. He stepped into his new boots.
“Oh, you look great!” said Saria. “Zelda is sure to love you!”
“Thank you,” said Link, giving her a hug. He stepped outside. “Thank you all. I love you guys!” He embraced all of his Kokiri friends in an enormous bear hug.
“Well, I’m off!” he said excitedly.
“Hold on, Link,” said Saria. She held out her ocarina. “If you need any help, you can always ask me. I can be Navi for the night,” she added with a giggle.
“Thanks,” said Link. He mounted Epona and waved good-bye one last time. Then, he headed out to meet his love.
The castle was extremely busy when Link trotted in. Loads of carriages were carrying Zelda’s family, royal friends, and of course, the hopeful young men who hoped for her hand in marriage. Link couldn’t help but notice that they were all very confident. I think I can handle this, he thought, tying Epona back to the iron enclosure.
In the royal ballroom, everyone was mingling, waiting for the music to begin so they could dance. Zelda was in the grand doorway, greeting her guests. Link sauntered in.
“Link!” she said happily, and then hurriedly changed to a formal tone. “I mean…ahem…thank you for your presence.” She leaned towards him and spoke in a hushed tone. “Save me a dance later?”
“Of course,” he answered. “I’ll meet you by the fountain.”
Link walked in, keeping up his posture as best he could, while trying to be refined. However, his excitement was growing, and he couldn’t help but smile giddily. “Save me a dance later?” Her words echoed in his head.
The king, dressed in his finest robes, spotted Link and made a beeline for him.
“Well, I see you’ve cleaned up nicely, lad,” he said.
“Thanks, your majesty,” said Link, tacking those last words.
“Well, I’m off to greet some of our guests,” he said. “Look: even now I can see the Duke of Keltzar. He’s a fine boy, you know.”
Link felt his face getting hot, but refused to say anything to the king. He would show him how much he had changed.
“Introducing” said the herald, “her royal highness and the lady of the evening, Princess Zelda.”
All of the guests raised their wine goblets in a toast to the princess as she walked through the big double doors.
“Thank you all very much for coming,” she said formally. “Well, enough talk; let the dance begin!”
Everyone cheered, and all of the boys lined at the grand stairwell, hoping to be the first ones to dance with her. Zelda shot a look at Link, as if she were asking him for help. Link was about to elbow his way through the crowd until he saw the king leading his daughter to the Duke of Keltzar.
Shoot, thought Link. If I don’t hurry, there’ll be an arranged marriage!
To stay inconspicuous, Link stood next to the table where the cake was being served, watching everyone start to pair off for a dance. He wasn’t worried one bit by the dancing couples in the center of the ballroom. All he was concerned with was Zelda.
“Want to dance, handsome?” asked a girl in a very flirtatious dress.
“Uh…” was all Link could say before she pulled him out to the dance floor. Pretty soon, she had one hand on his shoulder and the other in his hand. Link was now flustered, not just because he was further away from Zelda than he wanted to be, but mostly because he didn’t really know how to dance. His left hand held the girl’s hand while his right hung limply at his side.
“Here, let me help you,” she said, taking his right hand and placing it on her waist. Link had never felt more awkward in his entire life!
Zelda glanced at him briefly before she had to focus on the Duke, who was gazing stupidly into her eyes. Without realizing it, Link started to lean towards Zelda. His dance partner seemed to like this.
“I love it when a man leads,” she said. “You lead the way, sweetheart.”
Hmm... thought Link. I must be doing SOMETHING right. He continued to lean towards the front of the ballroom.
When he was about halfway there, another girl tapped his partner on the shoulder.
“May I have this dance?” she asked in a timid voice.
She pulled away from Link and let the new girl come in. Link had barely noticed the change.
Unfortunately, this girl wasn’t as coordinated as the last one, so leaning to one side made her loose her balance.
“Oh!” she said, nearly tripping over her long skirt. “That was clumsy of me!” Link didn’t hear a word. He continued to tilt.
“Watch out!” said his dance partner. Link came out of his determined trance and saw what she was yelling about. They were heading straight into the Archduke of Milicon and his wife, who were happily enjoying a waltz until the young dancers lost their control.
“Woah!” they yelled. Link stumbled over the girl’s long skirts and crashed to the floor. She toppled over him and rolled right into the Archduke. Both couples ended up on the ground. Everyone in the ballroom, especially the king, got a good, hearty laugh from the scene. Link felt his face turn as red as the cherries on Zelda’s cake.
He stood up and quickly walked to the fountain, hoping that he could stave off another accident until after his dance with Zelda.
Zelda managed to pull away from the Duke and push her way through to the fountain.
“Hi, Link,” she said breathlessly. “Are you okay?”
“Yeah, I’m fine,” he answered. “I’m sure the Archduke can see to forgive me. And I think his bruises will fade in no time.”
Zelda laughed. “Don’t worry; he’ll forget after a while. He’s got short-term memory.”
Link started to bow and ask her for a dance until the king rushed over with another lad with him. He pushed Link aside and introduced the boy to Zelda. She looked at him before they started dancing.
I’m sorry, mouthed Zelda.
It’s okay, Link mouthed back.
Link walked over to the table where the cake was, watching to see when she was finished. The Duke of Keltzar was waiting for him.
He sighed dreamily. “Isn’t Zelda a gem?”
“Yeah,” said Link, eyeing him suspiciously.
“And she’s such a wonderful dancer.”
“Oh please!” said Link. “She wasn’t even looking at you.”
“What are you scoffing about?” said the Duke, his attitude changing from love struck to angry. “I haven’t seen you speak to her all evening!”
“Oh, I’ve spoken to her,” said Link. “In fact, I’ve known her for years. If I’m not mistaken, you just met her tonight?”
The Duke’s face flushed red with anger. “You know she’s going to pick me! Her father would never allow his daughter to marry the likes of you!”
This was the final straw for Link. “I’ll show you who’s unworthy!” He threw a punch aimed for the Duke’s jaw. He dodged the attack, which sent Link stumbling into a few dancers. He ignored their complaints and swung his fist again. This time, the Duke wasn’t quite quick enough, and he got a blow to the nose. He shoved Link into the table and pinned him on top of it. Link was about to try and fight his way out, until he saw Zelda’s cake sliding down the table. Summoning all of his strength, he threw the Duke off of him and stood back up. When the Duke was recovering from his dizziness, Link turned and shoved him out of the way. Unfortunately, not according to Link’s plan, he went flying headfirst into Zelda’s cake. The Duke’s royal blue robe was now covered in white icing.
“What is the meaning of this?!” bellowed the king. “I demand to know who’s responsible for this!!”
The people around Link slowly backed away, revealing the guilty, crimson-faced boy.
“You!” shouted the king. “I knew no good would come out of this!”
“Link!” said Zelda, tearing through the group that had formed around him. “Link, how could you?”
“Zelda, I’ll tell you how,” said Link. “It’s because I love you!”
Zelda gaped at him. “You…you do?”
“That’s why I fought him. That’s why I tripped all of those people. I care about you. That tart would never have loved you the same way I do. That’s why I did what I did.”
There was a long silence.
“I think that is great.”
Link looked around, trying to find the person who said that.
The king stepped forward. “If you care that much about my little girl, I’d sat you’re perfectly suitable to be her beau. Why, I’d even be honored to call you my son-in-law one day.” He patted Link on the shoulder.
Link smiled up at him. “Thank you, sire.”
Zelda looked deeply into Link’s cobalt eyes. “May I have this dance?”
Link smiled broadly and bowed. “It’d be my pleasure.”
Together, they danced for the rest of the evening. And even the king was glad to say that Zelda met her one true love on that fateful day.
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