Chapter VI: Farewells
The procession had wound through the city like a solemn but unerring snake, weaving through district after district toward the castle gate. The few remaining souls who had lingered in the alleyways were rewarded for their curiosity by seeing firsthand the robe-wrapped body of the queen borne on the arms of twelve monks, the shield of the Captain of the Royal Guard resting upon her. The news had been spoken in the alleys, then in the houses, from the windows, from the rooftops. “The Queen is dead!” came the cry. “The Queen is dead, and her Captain! Mourn ye, for evil doth visit your houses this night.” Wilted weeping hung from the candle-lit windows like funerary banners.
The events of that night had not faded one ounce from Zelda’s mind. Nor had the sight of her mother’s form being laid out in a straight-boat the next morning, her face and body wreathed in coniferous branches, the boat being pushed out into Lake Hylia, the unnatural calm of the water, the unnatural brightness of the flame as it caught the branches, the unnatural thickness of the smoke had that robbed Zelda of her last glimpses of her mother. Only when the boat sank into the water did the smoke clear. But it was too late; she could no longer see. All that remained were the crowds of people on the piers, jutting out onto the lake. Zelda did not recognize most of them.
“Who are they?” Zelda had asked her nursemaid.
“Your mother had many subjects, all of whom she regarded as her family,” Impa had told Zelda. “They were like her own children. As queen she was the mother of many.”
“Well, I only ever had one mother,” Zelda had replied, “and now she’s gone.” And ever since, this image was all that Zelda saw: her mother’s body claimed by smoke, fire and water.
* * *
After the ceremony Impa escorted Zelda to the graveyard in Kakariko village where Delphineas Zora had brought the queen’s body to be entombed. “I only wish I could have done the same for my wife, Nayru keep her,” said the Zora king, recalling what Lutai had revealed concerning the circumstances of his wife’s death. “You truly had a remarkable mother, Princess of the Hylia.”
Zelda could not bring herself to smile, but she offered her thanks to the Zora king before he returned to the hidden waterways of Hyrule. Then Zelda was alone with her nursemaid.
For some time Zelda stared at the stone pillar with the names of the members of the Hylian Royal Family—her mother’s name was the most recently carved of these; Zelda marveled at the nearness of it. Then she shuddered at the thought that her name would one day be on this pillar; a testament in stone that she had lived. Yet, the cold, unyielding stone could never personify her…or her mother; it could never tell of the queen’s selflessness, her devotion to the Goddesses, or the sacrifices she made to serve her people. Zelda could not help but think that she was one of those sacrifices…and her face bent in an uneven frown as she choked on her regrets, catching them in her hands as they fell away from her, leaving her hollow.
Zelda was grateful that her father’s name had not joined her mother’s on the cold, blank stone. Impa had explained that the soldiers who protected her father had been reinforced by the Darknaughts once they had finally come to, and they had kept him secure while the soldiers drove the remaining thieves from the town.
Then, as Zelda was lost in thought, she heard a voice she had almost forgotten.
“I heard…” Link stood by, letting Zelda have a moment to assimilate his presence. “I…I’m really sorry.”
From anyone else it would have seemed false, but from Link—who truly understood what it was like to lose the most important figure in your life—it was real. Then, all at once the decisions Zelda had made that led to this end came flooding back to her; it had been she who had sent Link to get the Spiritual Stones, she had given him the Ocarina, she had let Ganondorf into the temple…
“I…I wanted to help…” she mumbled, her mouth straining to form words through the grief-wracking memories. “I just had a dream and I…I didn’t know, I didn’t know…” Her mumbles faded into weary sobs.
Then Link put his hand on Zelda’s shoulder and all at once she fell into his young arms with no more resistance than tissue, and seemingly just as fragile. This reminded Link of something very familiar.
“She reminds me of you, you know…” he said, tentatively. Zelda pulled away from Link’s chest. Judging from her expression, Link realized he would have to explain. He looked at her tear-stained face kindly. “When you were older, you looked just like your mom. When I saw her for the first time I thought she was you…I thought I hadn’t gone back in time…but I had.” Link hoped this offering was enough.
Zelda looked past Link, at the lawn between the gravestones. “…really?” she asked. Link nodded. Then, before Zelda’s face could settle on a smile, it contorted as a new stream of memories filled her mind. Link held her again, squeezing her gently to show her he wouldn’t leave.
Once she regained her composure she pulled away again, speaking between uneven breaths. “Im…Impa woke me up this morning,” she said. Then Link’s face told her it was her turn to explain. “She would always wake me up,” said Zelda, looking at her mother’s name on the stone pillar again. “My father would always tuck me in at night, and my mother would always come in to wake me up in the morning…sometimes I would wake up on my own and just pretend I was asleep." Zelda looked at her hands. “Sometimes she would stay with me so long the Sheiks would have to remind her it was time to attend to her duties.” Zelda was lost in thought for a moment, remembering pleasant memories, and she laughed—a soft, pure laugh that made Link feel as if the world could never have been cloudy.
“She always came to me in the morning,” Zelda repeated. And in that moment, though she did not know it, Zelda had decided that her children would always know her as the morning; full of new light and new life; and full of joy—the joy of knowing that no matter how pressing the affairs of the people a mother’s place was with her daughter. And Zelda resolved to love the Hylia as her mother had—with the love of a mother for her child.
* * *
That day as evening neared, Zelda and Link rode away from Kakariko, across the fields of Hyrule; Link on Epona and Zelda on a new foal gifted to her by Malon. Impa rode some way behind them, aloof, but observant.
“I have to go,” said Link.
“What?” said Princess Zelda, confused. “But we just started.”
“No, I mean I have to go. I need to…find someone.”
Zelda frowned. Of all the people that had offered her sympathy in the past days, Link was the only one Zelda really wanted to talk to. Not even Malon could understand her. Link knew exactly what had happened to her mother, and she felt he would be the only one she might ever be able to rely on. And now he was leaving?
“What for?” Zelda asked, disbelieving.
Link was silent for a moment. “Do…do you remember when I first met you? You knew who I was because I had a fairy. Well…now I can’t find her.”
“Link, she probably just went back to the forest to be with the Koroki…”
“No,” he said abruptly. Then his expression softened. “A Koroki’s fairy is like his soul. She was my fairy. I…I have to find her…”
“Link, you’re not…”
“I know!” he blurted, kicking Epona forward. Zelda watched Link as he slowed down a little ways ahead and then stopped, his head bowing.
Little pools gathered in Zelda’s eyes. She looked away and then drew her hand across her face. Then she urged her foal ahead to where Link was. She noticed that he rubbed his eyes before she pulled her horse to a halt next to him.
“I’m sorry,” she said. “I know this is important to you." Zelda thought a moment. “Where will you go?”
“I don’t know…” he said, staring off over Hyrule field. “Probably to parts of the forest I’ve never been. I don’t know where she’ll be.”
“How long will you be gone?” she asked quietly.
“Not long, I hope…” Half his mouth smiled. The other half didn’t know whether it could.
Zelda inhaled slowly and then let it out all at once. “Then I have something for you,” she said.
“Really?” he said, taken aback. “What?”
“This,” she said, pulling a small blue ocarina from her saddle bags.
“Is…is this…?” he asked, taking the instrument gingerly from her.
“Rauru recovered it from your other self after he was sealed in the Sacred Realm,” Zelda said. “It was important that it not be lost.” Zelda sounded like she was quoting Impa.
Then a thought occurred to Link. “What do you think will happen to him…the other me, I mean?”
Zelda shrugged. “Not even Impa and Rauru can guess. Maybe he’ll wake up in seven years, maybe he’ll sleep forever…”
Link stared through the grass. “I can’t imagine what it would be like to meet myself…” he said. “I wonder what I’d be like…”
“Well, if the other you is anything like this one…” she began, blushing. Then she guided her horse nearer to Epona. Leaning over she kissed Link’s cheek. Link’s face turned hot and he couldn’t move.
“Um…” he said, finally recovering. “I have to go, now…”
“You’re leaving already?” she said dejectedly.
Link nodded slowly. “I’m all packed up at the ranch.”
Zelda looked at him as if it was the last time she’d ever see him, taking in the sight of his hair as it stuck out of his green cap, his shoulders as they bore up his Hero’s Shield, his oversized green tunic, cinched at the waist. “Just be careful,” she said. “And come back. Even though it was only a short time…I feel like I’ve known you for…Well, I won’t forget you, anyway.”
“I’ll come back. Don’t worry,” Link said.
“Yes,” she said, smiling half-heartedly, nodding. “Of course you will…”
Half of Link’s mouth smiled again. “I’ll see you, then.” And he turned Epona back toward Lon Lon Ranch.
“If something should happen to you, Link, just remember the Goddess of Time. She’s protecting you!”
Link turned to Zelda, smiling, framed by the glowing orb as it set behind the low eastern mountains. And as he rode away toward Lon Lon Ranch, Zelda could hear the breathy alto notes of the Ocarina floating across the fields of Hyrule.