Normal galas were held in the grand ballroom, but tonight’s affair was anything but normal. While most parties were to celebrate royal birthdays or the highest of holidays in Hyrule, tonight, there was something more to celebrate. It was the last night of the year, but apart from heralding in a promising new year, Hyrule had a coterie of brand new heroes to toast, heroes who had achieved the near impossible. It seemed only fitting, then, that this particular ball should be special.
As he glanced about, Jafet found himself agreeing immensely with Princess Zelda’s decision to hold the affair, not in the ballroom, but in the clock tower. True, it was a bit cramped, the wooden rafters a bit too low for some of the taller guests, but it seemed there was no better way to bring in a new year than beside the giant clock face, watching the silhouettes of the hands as they moved, backwards, closer together toward midnight.
Zelda had taken every measure to make the dark, drafty room as brilliant as possible, winding silk strands of ivy around those annoying rafters, hanging pink paper lanterns from the ceiling, polishing the old, rusting bells until they glistened, brighter than the stained glass of
. Adding to the felicity was the enormous number of happy people, packed into the cramped tower, chattering away as if Hyrule had never been tottering on the brink of disaster, laughing through their wine without fear. They were, perhaps, the greatest of all Zelda’s decorations. North Castle
Jafet milled about the room, nursing a goblet of wine, though there was hardly any left as it sloshed over the side each time he bumped into another partygoer. He didn’t mind. After all he had been through a little wine stain hardly seemed like a crisis. He passed through the room, smiling at everyone he knocked against, wishing them a happy new year, although it was not yet new. Still, the hands on the clock were getting closer and the words felt ever so pleasant on his tongue.
An abrupt hush fell over the room and Jafet whirled around, his hand instinctively going to his side, although Zelda had forbidden weapons of any kind at the gala. He was pleasantly surprised to see that rather than an attack on the Princess, she had merely climbed up onto a small dais before the clock face, raising a hand to silence the crowd. As though her dazzling presence weren’t enough to stop a stampede, he mused with a slight smile.
“Everyone,” she called, “I’ve just been told we have a special surprise.” She paused as excited whispers raced through the throng and died down once again. “Thanks to the efforts of our valiant new heroes, we have a special guest joining us tonight.” With one elegant wave of her hand, Zelda gestured to the entrance and everyone instantly followed her fingers. The doors opened like clockwork and an immediate cheer erupted, rippling across the room.
There, standing before the crowd, smiling in his endearing sort of way, was Link. Everyone clapped, no one louder than Jafet. He knew that this appearance was far more difficult than it looked. This was the first time in months Link had managed to stand without any help, much less walk. The recovery from his ailment had been a long journey. Naturally, Jafet had been at his side for as much of it as he could, offering him encouragement as the healers retrained Link’s muscles to stand and walk again. Their efforts seemed well worth it though, as Link, of his own volition, slowly made his way into the room without anyone clutching his arm. Of course, Nemi entered after him, watching him like a hawk should be fall. Link turned around though, giving her a great big bear hug and it seemed to Jafet that all of the worry lines on her face instantly dissolved.
“Midnight approaches,” Zelda called, drawing attention back to herself. Link moved to embrace Alrik next. She raised her wine goblet into the air. “Everyone, count the seconds with me.” At once, the party guests raised their goblets into the air. Zelda glanced over her shoulder at the backwards clock, smiling slightly. Everyone knew and the anticipation was as intoxicating as the wine.
“Ten!” they all cried, pumping their drinks in the air. The gold goblets caught the lantern light, gleaming like stars.
Jafet scanned the room. Where could she be? There was a strange little Kurian tradition he had been thinking about all night, somewhere in the back of his memory. It was silly really, but for some reason, he found himself longing to return to it as midnight rapidly approached. On the
, they celebrated the new year just like all other Hylians, only there was an unspoken rule. On the stroke of midnight, a Kurian man was supposed to kiss a beautiful young woman. It meant good luck in the new year. It didn’t matter who it was, not to most Kurian men, any girl would do, but tonight, it mattered very much to Jafet. islandof Kuria
Unfortunately, the thickening throng made it difficult for him to locate her. Carefully, he pressed forward, parting through the guests with their sloshing drinks, hoping that perhaps, with only ten seconds before midnight, he might be able to locate Lorenia.
In his peripheral vision, he thought he saw a splash of red hair. Quickly, he spun around, nearly knocking his now-empty goblet straight into Calli’s jaw. “Sorry,” he mumbled, pulling back away from her. She turned a brilliant shade of crimson and quickly disappeared back into the crowd. He groaned inwardly. In the dark, he couldn’t seem to tell the shy brunette cleric from Lorenia. Luck for the new year was slowly beginning to slip through his fingers.
He turned around in his place, straining his eyes to make out brighter colors under the dull, pink lantern light. He knew she was here, somewhere. She simply had to be. Still, as he racked his memory, returning to her stellar entrance to the ball, he had to admit that he could not remember the color of her dress, nor what particular jewels she had chosen to wear. The only memory he could conjure of her were her two brilliant emeralds for eyes that always flashed when she saw him. Just thinking of them sent a delightful shiver down his spine, momentarily freezing him.
“Eight!” the throng declared. Time would never stop when Jafet wanted it to. Only eight seconds left to find her.
Picking a direction at random, he started again. There was a sudden pop to his right. Just as he was about to set his foot down again, a bright flash of blue light went whizzing through the air, directly across his path, nearly singing his wine-soaked tunic. His head snapped to one side, spotting Mark, sheepishly holding his sword out in Jafet’s direction. The infamous Blue Knight had just fired a blast at him! Jafet felt, first, a surge of indignation. Why had Zelda allowed him a weapon? That vanished into a quick panic. What was the crisis? What had Mark fired at?
Jafet whirled around in the direction the blast had flown scanning the clock tower to find whatever evil was threatening the new year. All he saw was a slightly burned wall and several resentful guests. As he turned back, ready to glare at Mark, he noticed Breannan, Lilypad, and Leo flanking either side of the Calatian vigilante, looking duly impressed. Jafet groaned. Now was not the time to be showing off! At least, not unless one was trying to impress a girl to kiss…
Instantly, Jafet snapped back, remember his quest. Scolding Mark for a breach in Hylian party protocol would have to wait. He pressed forward, gently guiding the guests in front of him out of the way. This allowed him to both clear the path and get a closer look at people’s hair, finally discerning red from brown. Silently, he cursed Zelda’s decision to hang those dreadful pink lanterns. Pink? Honestly.
Setting a hand on the woman in front of him, he was about to gently push her aside when he realized that her hair was, in fact, red. Instantly, he grabbed her arm and spun her around, planting a kiss on her lips. Before he could enjoy it, however, he felt her hands on his chest, pressing him back. Jafet stumbled away. “I…”
She pulled back and slapped him. His head snapped to one side and as he slowly turned back, he realized that he had kissed one of Zelda’s ladies in waiting. One of Zelda’s very angry ladies in waiting, planting her hands on her hips and fuming at him. His face stinging, Jafet bowed his head, quickly scurrying out of her reach. “Ever so sorry,” he mumbled.
The path had yielded him no success, so Jafet turned, moving to his right, into the thick of the crowd. Absently he rubbed his cheek. If there was one advantage of the enormous throng, it was that at least, very few people had seen that incident. Still, all the same, Jafet knew he would be the subject of gossip among the ladies of the court for weeks to come. It was a small price to pay, one he would willingly accept, if only he could find Lorenia by the stroke of midnight.
And it was as though Farore had heard his silent prayer. Before him, a window opened in the crowd and there she was, standing in profile, up against the bright face of the clock. Pale gold: That was the color of her gown. The lantern light fell over her face, giving it a sort of radiance that instantly made Jafet renounce his hatred of the pink. Her long red hair was twisted up on top of her head, held in place by two mother-of-pearl combs that looked like little wings sprouting out of her head.
She nursed a goblet of wine, pressing it to her lips to drink while all the others raised them in celebration of the diminishing seconds to midnight. Jafet found himself yearning to be transfigured into the goblet, if only to be that close to her lips. He could feel his heart racing, pounding against his chest and threatening to break free and run to her. His hands lifted, trying to wave her over, but to his great disappointment, Lorenia turned away, regarding the clock.
Filled with a new determination, Jafet pressed forward again. He could reach her in four seconds. It would be easy. After everything the two of them had been through on their crazy adventures, having only four seconds to cross a room seemed like no challenge at all.
It was just as that thought occurred to him that he set his foot down and heard a loud squeak. On the floor was a strange creature, fuzzy and purple, but looking suspiciously like a rat. He had stepped on its tail. Quickly, Jafet lifted his foot and the rat skittered away. Unfortunately, the sudden jerk caused Jafet to lose his balance and he fell backwards, crashing into the person behind him who happened to be Cordelia. She let out a shriek as the remaining contents of her wine glass tipped forward, going down the front of her gown.
“I’m so sorry,” Jafet muttered, righting himself and quickly brushing away the wine before he realized that he was now fondling Cordelia. She let out a second shriek, pulled back her arm, and slapped his other cheek. “Sorry.” He backed away quickly as she gave him a cold look and turned away, folding her arms across her chest in a combination of fury and embarrassment.
Red in the face from shame and two rather severe slaps, Jafet attempted to move forward again. Now everyone, not just the ladies of the court, would know of his blundering tonight, but that fear could wait. There was no time to hesitate. Lorenia was more important than his short term reputation after all. This thought occupied his mind as he suddenly tripped over something that had not been there an instant before. Jafet crashed to the ground, knocking his jaw against the wooden floor.
He craned his neck, looking behind his shoulder to see what he had fallen over. Scuttling across the floor was Garmay. Although she had been dressed to look like some kind of noble girl in a cream colored ball gown, she was on her hands and knees, racing across the floor to chase after the purple rat Jafet had managed to step on. Even Jafet falling over her didn’t manage to break her stride and she continued on, disappearing into a sea of silk dresses, lifting up various hems and petticoats to find her quarry. Jafet might have been amused. Under other circumstances, he would had found the rustic affectation charming, but there was no time for that.
Jafet jumped up to his feet. With only one second left, he could just barely manage to reach Lorenia if he surged forward. True, he might knock a few people over, but he could always apologize to them later. This was his final chance and he raised his foot to rush forward. Suddenly, he felt a pair of strong arms grab him from behind. Jafet struggled, trying to break free, but instead, he was pulled back, pulled up against the chest of someone behind him. And it was then that the party guests let out one final, disappointing chant.
“One!” they shouted to thunderous applause and laughter. “Happy new year!”
He broke free of the arms around him and turned around to discover Link behind him. “Thank you for everything,” Link told him sincerely.
“You’re welcome,” Jafet replied with a weak smile.
With that, Link turned away from him, heading over to offer Cordelia the same big hug he had been giving everyone else. Jafet sank down to his knees, watching through a haze as the hero they had fought so hard to rescue offered everyone the appropriate thanks. Jafet supposed he should have been grateful, but Link’s thanks had robbed him of his only legitimate chance to kiss Lorenia. Instead of being at her side now, he sat there, watching as Garmay’s rat scuttled back in front of his knees and disappeared in the opposite direction.
If he could have, Jafet might well have remained where he was, on the floor, but for the fact that he was dangerously close to being stepped upon himself. Sighing lethargically, he rose to his feet again. Everyone around him was hugging, letting out less than courtly cheers, drinking toasts, all in all, celebrating the new year. Yet he had failed. He had been unable to uphold the silly Kurian tradition. Instead, all he had managed to do was to make a fool of himself, getting slapped twice, knocked over, nearly set on fire. He could feel a groan rising in his throat, but something stopped him.
That voice! He knew that voice and quickly turned around, his heart rising to replace the groan in his throat. There was Lorenia, a vision of loveliness as always. She glanced at him, up and down. “You’re all wet.”
It took him a moment to register what she had said. He blinked, clearing the cobwebs from his mind. “What?”
Lorenia gestured to his tunic. “You’re all wet.”
He looked down, realizing she was referring to the dripping wine stains he had obtained from pushing through the throng. “Oh.” And with that, he felt his tolerance for humiliation crack. “Right,” he mumbled, turning away.
Suddenly, Lorenia put her hand on his arm. He looked at her and before he realized what was happening, she leaned forward, kissing the corner of his mouth. He felt his lips burn where she brushed them. It was all too sudden, too short to savor. She pulled away again, offering him a sly smile. “Happy new year, Jafet,” she told him.
“What was that for?” he found himself asking, although he wasn’t entirely sure why.
She shrugged. “For luck. In the new year.”
His eyes widened slightly. “You know about the Kurian tradition?”
“Tradition? What tradition?” And with that, she turned around and walked away from him.
Jafet stood there, watching her go. Around him, Mark resumed his demonstration for Breannan, Lilypad, and Leo, Cordelia complained loudly to Link about the brand new stain on the front of her teal gown, Garmay continued to chase after her rat. None of this really registered with Jafet. Instead, he touched his fingers to his lips, feeling a stupid smile spread across them. Perhaps, just perhaps, it might just be a happy new year.
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