The Great Hall was overflowing with people. Every year the Harvest Day Feast was crowded, but none like this. How strange, Maarei thought. The royal family of Hyrule is not here, yet it is more crowded then it has ever been. Princess Zelda had fallen ill with the Hylia Fever. It was a very mild case, but she was not fit to travel. The king of Hyrule had insisted that he stay with her.
Maarei's sea green dress bothered her so. It was showed the color of her House, the color of Beryl, and it matched her beautiful, almond shaped green eyes. She had not dressed up for only a week, but it itched continually. It did not help that the Great Hall was hot, loud, and still filling up with more and more people.
It was time to sit down. Maarei seated herself by the head of the table, near her father. Across from her was an empty seat. It is where her mother had sat. Maarei never really knew her mother. She had a few wisps of memory left of her, but that was all. After she died, father had left that space empty in her honor.
The announcer began to read the highborn guests. "Lord Marlow of House Jonquil, son of Newlin, and his wife, Lady Elysia of House Wynne," the announcer said.
Maarei watched as they walked across the hall and took their seats. Lord Marlow look regal, with his straight black hair freshly cut, and Lady Elysia's long, curly auburn hair was spilling down her back freely. She was wearing red and gray, the colors of House Wynne.
"Their children, Lord Tobius and Lady Brianne of House Jonquil."
Brianne is here! Maarei thought joyously. I haven't seen her in months. Brianne was only fourteen years of age, but Maarei and her were best friends.
"Brianne, sit by me!" Maarei whispered as she passed, and Brianne sat down next to her.
Brianne looked like her mother, with the same long auburn hair, except this time it was straight, like her father's. She pushed it away from her face to talk. "There are so many people here!" she exclaimed as she looked about.
"She's back at Hyrule Castle sick, with the Hylia Fever," Maarei told her. Brianne got a worried look on her face.
"No need to fret. It is just a mild case. She should be over it in a week or so." Brianne smiled and leaned forward. "Is Prince Aabon here?" she whispered. Maarei smiled back. She knew Brianne was sweet on Aabon, the Prince of Cyreene.
"I'm not sure. His Uncle Sym died, and he is giving a funeral on the morrow."
"That's too bad," Brianne replied. "I should have liked to see him here."
By that time the feast was starting. Suckling pig, beef, swan, and every kind of harvest vegetable was being brought to the table. The smell of it made Maarei's mouth water. Her father was at the head of the table, and before they ate, he made a toast.
"Din is kind," the king said, "She has brought us a plentiful harvest this year. Let us toast to her, and to all of Melanthos."
Everyone raised their glasses and said the words.
"May the three kingdoms prosper, may the three goddesses bless us all, and may the three pieces of the Triforce unite now and forevermore," they chorused. Wine made Maarei dizzy, but she drank it anyway.
"Before we eat, I also have one more thing to do," said the king. "My daughter, Princess Maarei of House Beryllos, has counted sixteen birthdays as of June 16, as you know. I think it is time for her to earn her first steel."
Maarei's heart leapt in joy. At last, a sword! she thought. A real sword!
"Maarei, will you claim this?" the king asked, smiling.
Oh would I! she thought. Maarei had been fencing for as long as she could remember. She ran to her father and looked him straight in the eye.
"Yes father," she said. His face shone with pride as he handed her the sword and scabbard.
The scabbard had huge beryl stone on it. It shone and glittered like magic. As she unsheathed it slowly, she examined the blade and hilt. The hilt was solid gold, and heavy. Just below the hilt, there was an engraving. M.B. it read. My initials, Maarei thought in awe. The blade was thin and bendable, a fencing sword. It was polished, beautiful castle forged steel.
"I would have had it for your birthday feast, but it was not ready," her father said softly as she pulled it out.
"I don't care if it's late," Maarei whispered back. "I love it."
As she held the sword high, for everyone to see, wild applause rang out. This is the best moment of my life, Maarei thought, and smiled.
* * * *
Later that night, Maarei was in her room brushing out her fine, jet black hair. It only reached down to just above her shoulders, but she liked it that way. It was easier to take care of, and she didn't have to spend tiresome hours every day combing and styling it, like some of the other ladies of the court. She should be in bed now, and she knew it. It was well past midnight and everyone was asleep. The guests would stay the night and leave in the morning.
Maarei examined her sword again, still not daring to believe it was really hers. Thank you Father, she thought happily. Thank you for finally excepting me.
For all of Maarei's life, her father had wanted her to be a lady. As a child, she was scrawny and unkempt. When Maarei was two, her mother had died, and ever since then her father had always been wanting Maarei to be the same as her mother had been. Always kind, gentle, respectful, sweet. Most of all, he had wanted her to fit in with the other ladies of the court. But instead of looking up to Lady Elysia or Lady Skye and saying, "I want to be just like them," Maarei had always looked up to the knights, and sometimes even sellswords (without really knowing what they were) and said, "I want to be just like them."
It had always made her father shamed when his daughter preferred stick swords to dolls, and talked back with equal measure when people criticized her. People would laugh and say "Are you sure that isn't your son, Y'Grace?" He knew they ment it as a joke, but it embarrassed him so. When she was five, she started taking fencing lessons from a knight, who thought she was funny. Her father soon found out, but he dismissed it and told her, "You may do just this for fun, my daughter, if it appeases you. Otherwise, please, be a lady."
Finally, after all these years, her father accepted her as she was. "In the name of Beryllos, prepare to die, fiend!" Maarei exclaimed as she slashed at invisible enemies with her new steel. She loved the sound it made as it cut through the air.
Suddenly she was unbearably tired. Her eyelids drooped and her shoulders sagged. Maarei seathed her sword and slipped under the sheets before drifting into a deep and dreamless sleep.
Maarei awoke slowly, a numb fear eating at her soul. Why am I afraid? she thought. I am here, safe in my tower, in my own bed. There is nothing to fear.
Oh, but there is, child.
Who said that? Maarei sat up in her bed. No one, she thought. I was half asleep, still having a dream, that's all. It was still night. She heard shouts outside the walls. She bolted from her bed and to the window. She peering out, she could see several torches. Maarei tried to make out what they were saying, but the people were speaking in a language she did not know.
Suddenly, with a shout louder than the rest, arrows flew. Grace to Nayru, what is this? she thought. Quickly she got into a robe and took her sword. Father, she thought wildly. I must find father. Maarei ran down the steps as fast as she could, and darted through the corridors to the King's tower.
People were running through the halls in terror of the attack. Maarei ran up the steps of the King's tower, gasping for air as her legs pumped ferociously. It was such a long climb. When she reached the top, all was silent. The air reflected an eerie mystery. Where are all the guards? she thought. Her hand lingered at the hilt of her sword. She tripped over something and went flying to the floor with a clatter. She turned around to see what she had tripped over. It was a body, sprawled on the ground on it's back, dead.
Maarei's eyes went wide. No bruises, no blood, just dead. Things like this don't just happen, she thought fearfully, and backed away.
All was dark in the hall. She counted the doors. One, two, three, four on the left, here is father's bed chamber.
The door opened slowly with a creeeeeak. Maarei's father was lying face down on his bed.
"Oh Father!" Maarei exclaimed. "Wake up! They've-" She stopped in mid sentence. Her Father was not moving. "Father?" she whispered.
Maarei walked over slowly to him, tilting her head slightly so she could she better with the scarce light coming in through a slit in the curtains. She saw a huge black mark on the back of his white sleep shirt. Ink? she thought vaguely. She brushed her fingers atop it. And held it up to the light. Not black...red! Maarei looked at her dead father, and felt horror and grief coil up her neck.
"Father! Father!" she yelped, hearing a sob escape her. She fell to her knees. Pull yourself together! a voice in side her said. But she couldn't, she was drowning in a sea of mindless grief.
A noise behind her made her snap back to reality. On reflex she drew her sword in a blur, and whirled. A tall figure shrouded the doorway. Only the tip of his sword was visible in the light, and it was smeared in blood.
"Usurper!" she hissed loudly, her cat green eyes narrowed in anger.
"Who are you?" she demanded.
As the shape took one step toward her, Maarei could not believe her eyes. The light from the curtains made a thin line across his face, just enough to see by. Red hair and dusty colored skin shone in the moonlight. There, standing massive in the doorway, was Ganondorf.
"But you're dead!" she half whispered in astonishment. "Maybe I am," Ganondorf replied.
His voice sounds strangely familiar.... Then, all at once, Maarei began to understand. The deep sleep, the voice, the dead guard, all of it had been tricks of sorcery. The extra guests at the feast, she thought. Gerudo spies. All of them. Where were the guards? Off drunk, probably.
"You seem vexed," Ganondorf said calmly.
"Why did you do this?" Maarei said angrily, her voice flavored with loathing.
"You named it yourself. I desire the crown," he said. The crown was on her fathers bed stand, inside a chest. Ganondorf undid the cask and slipped it out. Melanthos was the wealthiest of the three kingdoms, and the crown showed it well. He placed it on his head and grinned.
"From now on princess, I ask the questions."
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