Interview With the Princess
By Shannon the Twisted Link Worshiper
Part I ~ Just a Boy Named Sheik
~Author's Notes~ Music lyrics and the characters Link, Zelda and that whole gang are used without permission. Of course, there are characters in here that are 100% MINE, so there! Suing is not a good idea 'cause I don't get any money from my parents and I'm poor as dirt. But, I'm sure you'd rather just read the story then listen to me yap on and on about copyright. So here you go! Read your heart out. Oh, and I might add, this is eventually going to flow into the plot of Ocarina of Time, but it's different to make it more interesting. And another thing. A dedication. Just wanted to write this for anyone who spends part of his or her day creating. Don't care if it's another fan-fic or a painting or a sculpture or a movie or whatever. Anyone who spends part of their day creating: I commend you. Enjoy (the story, not Coke, silly)!
Now that she's back in the atmosphere,
With drops of Jupiter in her hair, hey, hey.
She acts like summer and walks like rain,
Reminds me that there's time to change, hey, hey.
Since the return from her stay on the moon,
She listens like spring and she talks like June, hey, hey.
Tell me did you sail across the sun?
Did you make it to the Milky Way to see the lights all faded,
And that heaven is overrated?
Tell me, did you fall for a shooting star,
One without a permanent scar?
And did you miss me while you were looking at yourself out there?
Now that she's back from that soul vacation,
Tracing her way through the constellation, hey, hey.
She checks out Mozart while she does tae-bo,
Reminds me that there's room to grow, hey, hey.
Now that she's back in the atmosphere,
I'm afraid that she might think of me as plain ol' Jane.
Told a story about a man who is too afraid to fly so he never did land.
Tell me did the wind sweep you off your feet?
Did you finally get the chance to dance along the light of day,
And head back to the Milky Way?
And tell me, did Venus blow your mind?
Was it everything you wanted to find?
And did you miss me while you were looking for yourself out there?
Can you imagine no love, pride, deep-fried chicken
Your best friend always sticking up for you even when I know you're wrong
Can you imagine no first dance, freeze dried romance, five-hour phone conversation
The best soy latte that you ever had . . . and me
Tell me did the wind sweep you off your feet
Did you finally get the chance to dance along the light of day
And head back toward the Milky Way
Tell me did you sail across the sun
Did you make it to the Milky Way to see the lights all faded
And that heaven is overrated
Tell me, did you fall for a shooting star
One without a permanent scar
And did you miss me while you were looking at yourself out there
A burning sun hung in the radiant blue Hylian sky. Plump white clouds of cotton white floated merrily over the fields and cities of the kingdom for the first time in years. This was the first morning in which the people of Hyrule could send their children to the schoolhouse without worry and the first day they could wander the countryside without the fear of being harassed by some monster. This was the first day Hyrule lived free of the tyrant Ganondorf.
The princess of Hyrule sat at a tiny round table inside a peaceful little tavern. Opposite her, a tall Sheikan woman with silver hair sat with her elbows resting on the wooden surface of the table. A fat round candle sat in the center of the table, its little flame dancing merrily on the wick. The hot melted red wax poured down the sides of candle in tiny carved stalactites.
The woman shifted her chair, her iron armor creaking slightly as it rubbed against the wood. Her broad mouth cracked into a smile, "Zelda, please, tell me where you have been for these years!"
Zelda drummed her fingers on the tabletop as she eyed the woman. Her gray hair was tied into a knot at the back of her head. Silver tears were tattooed beneath her eyes. The woman was quite muscular and heavily built for a female and she wore her iron armor as proudly as any man.
"I see," Zelda looked around the room a bit uneasily, reiterating what the woman had just said, "So you wish to know what things have befallen me for the past years?"
The woman nodded.
"Well, I suppose I should tell at least you," Zelda was tapping her foot beneath the table now, "You might not like it, but I think you'd be one of the few to understand it."
"Then you can be straight out and honest. No need to hide a single detail. Besides, it's likely I'd be the only one to get why you did what you did!" the woman laughed again; a hearty deep laugh that erupted from her throat, "I raised you, child!"
"Yeah," Zelda murmured as she broke off a dried piece of wax from the candle, "Well, Impa I don't understand why you care. I mean, it's a long story. It'll probably take all day for me to tell it and I…"
"That's alright," Impa waved it off, "I like long stories and I have plenty of time. We shall sit here until you have told to me what you have been doing up to this very moment."
She reached beneath her chair for her rucksack and produced a small leather bound book, a fresh unopened jar of ink and a quill. Popping the lid off of the jar, Impa dipped the quill into the ink and placed the tip to the first of the blank pages inside the little book.
"What are you doing, if you don't mind my asking?" Zelda queried as she crushed the wax in her fist. She dusted the red crumbs from her palm to the floor.
"Preparing to write down every word you say," the Sheikan warrior smiled so that the tattoos beneath her eyes wrinkled, "If we are going to take such time to do this, we might as well record it. One day you might want to look back on it."
Zelda shrugged and closed her eyes as she began to picture back all those years to when the whole story began. Sucking in a nervous breath, she began her tale.
"Seven years ago, if you'll remember, we were attacked by the dark armies of Ganondorf. The day had begun as any day would, and not a single soul in the whole of Hyrule expected such a disaster to strike. Supposedly, it had all begun when Ganondorf threatened my father, and then attacked him. I know, as hard as it is for me to admit it, that my father died somewhere during the course of those events. Well, anyway, when my father had been killed, Ganondorf's minions came swarming through the city and toward the castle. From beneath the ground they came in great numbers, killing anyone who stood in their path.
"The castle was in turmoil. Fires, screaming people, everything of a nightmare come to life! I had been waiting in the courtyard for the young hero Link to return with the last of those three Spiritual Stones. I was well aware of what was happening. I could see from where I sat, the fire and I could hear the people. But dared not to move. I was afraid that if when I left, my Link might emerge into the gardens right at that moment, and I'd have missed him. It was dire I saw him.
"But you would have none of my so called 'nonsense.' You insisted that I was crazy to put my faith in a ragged forest child. 'How?' you asked, 'How is it that you can sit so calmly with all this chaos around you? I don't understand you child!' I remember those words exactly, because you were saying them as you swept me up into your arms and carried me away from my courtyard. I was shouting at you to put me down. I wanted to wait. I wanted that last stone. I wanted to speak to Link. You would stand for none of it.
"I suppose you were hastily saddling up the horse while I looked back at the castle. I don't even remember what it looked like. I wasn't paying attention, because I had then, just turned around in time to see a high tiled roof cave into the fires. And who had died in that accident? What if Link had been there? I didn't want to think about it. I closed my eyes. I was too afraid to look on this horrible scene anymore. It was too much for me to grasp. The task Link and I had originally set out to do was now becoming more complex than it had been at the beginning.
"You mounted the horse and dragged me on. I was resistant, of course. You know my motives of staying, so there is no need to repeat them. Your grip was like a vice. You pulled me into the saddle with one mighty jerk of your one arm and there you held me, clamped against your body. In your haste, you tore my dress, and my legs were cold for some time until I managed new clothes. I felt like a wreck, more of less, my hair messy from the wind that whipped around me and I was muddy from the countless times I fell on my knees during our flight to the stables. It was making me livid. I knew you were only doing this because it was your duty to protect me. But I was still angry that you were taking me away from the only person who could save the kingdom. I believed in him, and it didn't matter if I was the only one who did. He would be our savior. I knew it."
Impa interrupted, her quill scribbling furiously on the page, "And did he save us? I still have no idea how Ganondorf was finally vanquished," she stopped, looking thoughtful, "Come to think of it, no one knows how he was killed."
"I'll get to that later, Zelda averted her glare, "But Impa, despite your actions that day, you had faith in him all the time. I know that. Couldn't you feel his power? It was magnificent."
"He was rather brave. You could see it in his eyes," the muscled Sheikan replied as she dipped the quill into the jar again, "Continue."
"Of course," Zelda leaned back in her chair, her arms crossed over her chest, "So we left. It had started to rain by then. I was crying hot tears as we galloped through the city. I saw the once lively market place in total disarray. The gaily-colored canopies were all torn and dirty. There was vandalism everywhere: broken windows, crumbling walls. And there were burning shops and houses and there were dead and injured people everywhere. I distinctly recall seeing a woman with one arm torn completely off and her other arm clutching tightly to a bawling child. She was bleeding heavily, and I wanted to go and console her.
"But I saw all these things only briefly as you pushed the horse to its absolute limit. You seemed so intent on getting me away from there. Nothing else mattered to you but my safety.
"Suddenly, I felt a presence. The air around me began to grow insanely hot even though the night was cold as ice. I could think of nothing but this unbearable heat searing through my body. I thought it would soon tear me apart. A pain that burned like the fires of hell erupted inside of me, seeming to shred my soul to ribbons. But just as the pain became unbearable, my mind saw a vision. There was a black horse standing on a hill. The hill was consumed in flames, burning and destroying everything. I was not surprised to see that mounted on the horse was that evil Ganondorf devil. Without warning, he kicked the horse into a gallop down the flaming hill. The hooves pounded like thunder on the ground.
"The vision ended, but I could still hear those hoof beats. They grew louder and louder. I turned to look behind us. Impa, you would never know the horror I felt when I saw that huge black stallion chasing after us in a full gallop. That horse was far bigger and far more powerful than our little white mare. Soon Ganondorf would gain on us. He would seize us. He might have killed us! I was thinking of the thousands of horrible things he could do to us!
"The drawbridge. I saw it before us. It was our escape! If we could only get over there, then we might be safe. I gripped the horse's mane tightly as I watched the great gate draw closer with the rain dripping of the sharp spikes of the enormous portcullis. Just a little more!
"Then I saw him. He was just standing there in the rain, watching our horse charge forward. His green tunic was soaked to his skin, and his hat hung dripping down his back. Hair matted and face smeared with mud, Link stood in the pouring rain with his large blue eyes on me, watching me. Here he was! Finally! He had not perished! He was alive and safe and well and he was ready to help me.
"But we, of course, could not stop. Ganondorf came closer every second, his evil aura becoming more and more sinister as it came onwards. I rummaged inside my dress. It was in there somewhere, the ocarina. I had kept it with me ever since he had come. The moment after he left from our first meeting, I had gone to fetch it and now it was time. He was to have it now; he was destined to. I pulled the ocarina from the folds of my dress. The rain droplets sparkled on its silver body, which shone with a mystical light. This is what Ganondorf had attacked us for. This little instrument was what he had wanted. He would never have it. Not if I could have any say in it!
"Our horse thundered over the wooden drawbridge. Link leapt backwards as we shot by. His eyes were filled with wonder and surprise. I shouted to him as I hurled the ocarina towards him with all my might, 'Link! Take this! Keep it safe! Please!'
"I watched his eyes follow the streak of silver as it sailed through the air, landing with a splash in the city's flooding moat, just as Ganondorf's horse thundered over the drawbridge. We were soon out of sight. The last time I saw him before he disappeared into the Sacred Realm was as Ganondorf slowed his steed to ask Link which way we had gone. I heard nothing, and I saw not much of their exchange, for soon, we were far, far away.
"Well, since you were there with me, I need not tell what happened to us on our jaunt across Hyrule. Not much happened anyway, save those few run-ins with some thieves. What ragged bunch of fellows they were! But since then, my attitude towards thieves has changed in a rather surprising direction, and I feel strongly towards my position on such people.
"Anyway, after the first attack, you thought it would be a good idea to dress me up. You decided to make me up to look like I was your son, and before we left for the ocean, you stopped at a little village for some clothes. You made me up to look like small Sheikan boy, knotting my hair behind my head like longhaired Sheikans did, be they male or female. My costume consisted of a baggy pair of desert pants and a manly long sleeved jerkin, which you embellished with a Sheikan eye on the breast. Then you took some paint and drew two large upside-down triangle shapes on my cheeks. When you were done, I did look rather much like a boy.
"Ah, but I jump ahead in my story. Let me continue at the time when the sun rose that morning we arrived at the harbor.
"So we rode on. You thought it would be fastest and safest to travel through the forests. It would be hard to follow and track us through Hyrule's dense wood and the ocean stood right on the outside. At the harbor, we could have found a ship or a fishing boat. We could have sailed far away, safely from Hyrule, and then returned when it was safe.
"If you must know, I was never too keen on that idea in the first place, Impa, but I went along with it because it was in the kingdom's best interests that one of the Royal Family be kept alive. As the heir to the throne, it was I who had to be so carefully protected. And even though I understood this, I felt so, so guilty about the plan to take off and sail away over the horizon for who knows how long, leaving Link with no one, simply expecting him to fulfill his destiny and save Hyrule. He might've been furious to think I'd been so cowardly. I suppose it was Fate then, who intervened when we reached the harbor that morning.
"You should have been expecting the assault. After all, we had been attacked by thieves at least three or four times. You were just… thankfully… careless. They came from behind a fisherman's stall, all four of them. Two looked like teenagers and another could have been about twenty years. The fourth hung back a bit, for he was only a boy who looked a little older then I. Thirteen maybe? Despite his age, he was certainly with the other three thieves, and actually seemed to command a bit of authority over the bunch.
"They made no move for a long while; they just followed us as we made our way down to the docks. When we stopped, they stopped, and when we began to move again, so did they. You were too busy looking ahead to notice them behind us, but I saw them. I saw them as they conferred with each other and I saw as the thirteen year old and the tallest one break away from the two teens. And then I watched as the two that were left continued to follow us to the docks.
"The docks were thronging with people, far more crowded then it had ever been. People must have heard of the attack on the castle by then, and were frantically trying to leave Hyrule. When you got off the horse to go and make the arrangements for our passage, it happened.
"Leaving me alone was silly. I'm not even quite sure why you did so. I guess that there was just a lot on you mind, Impa, and you weren't really thinking of the things that could happen to a lone little child on a white horse in the middle of a frenzied crowd. I watched you head off and I looked around for any signs of the motley pair I'd seen following us before, but they were nowhere to be seen."
Impa shook her head as she scrawled in her loopy script as fast as her hand could move, "You are right my princess, I do not know what had possessed me that day. I was just so bent on getting us out of there that I forgot all else! I think I just assumed you'd be safe disguised as you were."
Zelda smiled warmly, "Don't regret saying that. I understand. But if you please, I should like to go on."
"Yes, yes, do," Impa waved her free hand, her feathered pen still quivering as she wrote.
"Of course," Zelda cleared her throat and continued to speak.
"I was just sitting there when I suddenly felt a hand grip my thigh. I looked down with an astonished look on my face as I gripped the saddle tightly. One of the teenaged pickpockets was standing there, half leaning on me, a toothy grin on his face. He had a chiseled face and thick black hair slicked back over his elfin Hylian ears. On his feet were set of fine brown leather boots and on his hands were a matching pair of gloves, obviously stolen. His belt sported five throwing daggers, sheathed in more leather. I was certain he had more then just five daggers on his person though. He wore a sleeveless red tunic revealing heavily tattooed muscled arms. A certain tattoo on his left arm seemed to jump out at me, catching my attention. It was a black silhouette of a dragon's head, its long neck and its wing framed in a circle. I stared at it as he stared up at me.
"He spoke to me, his voice hoarse as though shouted frequently, 'Little ninja's lost? Need help? My buddies 'n' me'll give ya a hand.'
"I cringed back, afraid. I had been born and raised by nobles. Rich folk like my family tended to treat the lower classes with disdain. It was unfair. Terribly unfair, and now I see that more then ever. I had only met one peasant in my entire life, he being Link. But, Link is different. He has… something about him, a certain… beauty…. To me, Link was like a god. He was so close, and yet so far from me then. We had hardly had any time to simply enjoy one another's company. I yearned to know more of him.
"Well, I was cowering in fear, leaning in the other direction so far, I was beginning to slip out of the saddle. Just as I was about to fall, muscled arms caught me and pushed me back up on the horse. I looked down, expecting to see Impa, but it was not, much to my dismay. Instead, there was the other teenaged thief. He was a head taller then the other and just as muscular. But the think that awed me most, was the deep rich chocolate color of his skin. Never had I seen such a color! He had on a good pair of brown knickers and creamy white stockings, his feet clad in leather slippers. He sported a white blouse beneath a fine yellow vest. It was trimmed with green and hung down to his waist where a long rapier hung on one of his three belts. The blouse's sleeves had been torn off, exposing his sinewy arms. This one didn't have arms covered in tattoos like his companion, though he was not without. He had just one. On his left shoulder, was that silhouette of a dragon tattoo, just like the tattoo I had noticed on the other.
"I looked back and forth at the two of them, unsure of what to do. I failed to notice the wink they exchanged, a tactic I didn't pick up on until much later. Suddenly, they grabbed me, dragging me off the horse. The black haired one had his hand clamped over my mouth and the chocolate skinned one held me fast as they slipped back into the crowds.
"I was trying to call out to you, but the black haired one has his hand to tightly on my face, and I could scarcely breathe. In the insanity of the crowd, no one noticed as they dragged me behind the dock shoppes to a deserted alleyway.
" 'If you don't scream, I'll let you walk on your own,' the chocolate one whispered into my ear. I nodded my head vigorously, my eyes wide with dread. I dared not to breath a word as he let me go, for I feared what they could do to me. I expected the worst.
"The alleyway became a dead end. The only light there was the sunlight that filtered between the colored overhangs above us. In the slatted light, I saw the boy and the tall thief. The boy sat on a large crate, the awkward lighting setting him in an unnatural luminosity. His long pale blue hair was tied in a thick braid that hung down to his waist, a dark red bow tied behind his neck. He had narrow coal black eyes. The short-sleeved tunic he wore was white with a thick trimming of dark green, much finer then that of his comrades, as was the long sleeved shirt he wore beneath it. Two belts crossed over his chest, each supporting a curved blade on his back.
"The other man was impressive too. He had fiery red hair that hung down to his chin and broad shoulders. He wore a black sleeveless tunic over a silky blouse with baggy long sleeves and a pair of loose brown pants underneath. If it weren't for the three long scars that ran over his right eye, I would have thought he were a merchant or someone of that kind of trade. He spoke as we approached, 'Ah, you are back. And you have a guest. How pleasant.'
"I scowled cruelly, clearly showing my contempt towards them as the red head knelt in front of me. He took my face in his hand, forcing my head this way and that as he looked me over. He let me go and said in a smooth voice, 'Tough little thing you are. A child from the ninja people might do nicely. Your name?'
"I spat at him and the black haired teenager cuffed me harshly on the side of the face, dizzying me for a moment. I gave a snort and looked away.
" 'You do have a name, don't you?' the boy spoke now, narrowing his eyes into tiny slits as he stared at me. His voice was low and sultry like a bell, 'Dammit, tell me your name!
"I looked beyond the red head and stared right back at the braided boy, just as coldly as he stared at me. I snorted again, and then tried to make my voice sound deeper as I said, 'The likes of you has no right in knowing my name.'
"Then, he smiled, much to my surprise. It wasn't a warm smile, but one of a roguish quality. He beckoned me to come closer with his hand. The black haired teen behind me gave me a rough shove in the boy's direction. I stumbled forward, falling on my knees in front of the crate where the boy sat. He jumped from his perch and then lifted me forcibly to my feet. He sneered, 'Your name, Sheikah.'
"I was burning with insane rage. How dare they snatch me from my so-called mother, who was probably vainly searching for me, and then treat me with such ferocity for information. Then I remembered that these weren't respectable people. Cutthroats they were! Even this boy had probably killed. Looks shouldn't be the way I judged people, I was telling myself then. Without another thought, I slammed a hard fist into the boy's face. He staggered back a few paces, holding his throbbing jaw, glaring at me with those eyes. I saw hate there. Shear bloodthirsty hate.
" 'Lord Hermes!' the chocolate teen shoved past me to get to the boy, who seemed to be the one he addressed. He reached out to put a hand on Hermes' shoulder, but the boy swatted him away growling something about not being so weak that a little kid could harm him with a punch. The chocolate boy swore at him and stepped on Hermes' foot. While this little argument was going on, the scarred red head stepped towards me, a frown etched on his face.
" 'What do you want now?' My voice cracked. I was so angry that my vision was blurred and everything seemed to be a shade of red.
"He eyed me strangely as he said in his rugged voice, 'Hitting someone like Hermes isn't exactly a good idea. Are you looking for a fight boy?'
" 'No!' I was trembling now, 'I just want to go back to my mother and leave. Your lives are in my hands. If you kill me, Hyrule will die.'
"Hermes was coming over to us, stroking his cheek, his fingers sliding around his chin and then dancing back up to his temple again. He had apparently heard these last few words. 'Big talk for such a little mite. Look at you! How the hell old are you? Eight, nine?'
" 'Nine,' I snapped.
" 'And your name?' he went on to ask.
" 'I'm…' I racked my brains for a name. My moment of silence got some glares from Hermes and his gang and I had no idea what to say. I was becoming afraid, and so I blurted out the word, 'Sheik! My name is Sheik!'
" 'Hn, strange name,' Hermes straightened and looked at his companions. Now that I thought about it, it was a clever name. A sheik was a desert prince. Here I was in desert clothes, a princess disguised as a boy of the ninja clan, the Sheikah. I was rather proud of myself in that I had thought of such a clever name on the spur of the moment.
" 'Well, whatever, he'll have to do,' Hermes was saying as he grabbed my arm, dragging me to his side, 'Let's get out of here. Jael, Vans, grab your loot and get moving.'
"The two teens were grabbing some rucksacks from behind the crate as the red head and Hermes began to walk back down the alley. Hermes still had a grip on my arm as he dragged me towards the crowded docks; Jael and Vans following close behind.
"They were very casual as they made their way through the crowds. I had no idea where they were going, but I was sure it was to wherever they lived. As walked, I saw for a brief moment, you asking a fisherman if he's seen me. The bandits had obviously seen you too, and they yanked me onward before I could shout to her.
"I tugged on Hermes' tunic, and he looked down at me with his cold black eyes, 'What?' I frowned as I asked him why he had taken me in the first place. Hermes glared at me as he muttered, 'We need a kid to help us out around the Den.'
" 'That's all?' I said as I looked away, 'You want me to be a servant?'
" 'Oh, I wouldn't call it that,' the red head said thoughtfully as he turned down a little dirt path leading out of the harbor. It stretched over fields until it reached an old crumbling church that sat on a high cliff overlooking the sea. He walked a few paces ahead of Hermes, who walked a few paces ahead of Jael and Vans. The man stopped at the door of the church, waiting for us to catch up. Hermes knocked three times and the door opened.
"The church was far from deserted though. The pews had been cleared from the floor and they now lined a long table took up most of space where the benches had once been, and a few extra pews that didn't fit had been placed in a small side chapel. This place had once been a magnificent temple, I could tell, by the fine statues and carvings, mostly angels and depictions of the gods. Many arches and architectural splendors adorned the place, and many carpets and tapestries made the cold ruin luxurious. It reminded me very much of my own home. Of course, all these fineries had to have been stolen. The place was scattered with people who were presumably thieves too. And this place, I presumed, was their 'Den.' But no matter how fine the Den was, I was still angry at the foursome for kidnapping me and ever angrier still to learn they had taken me because they were in need of a serving boy. At least they hadn't seen through my guise, and they thought I was a boy.
" 'Boy, go with Jael. He'll show you around and then to your quarters,' Hermes snarled as he went off in the direction of a pair of women. I stared after him as he went, his pale blue braid swinging behind him as he walked. He seemed to one of those guys who was always in a rotten mood. I couldn't figure him out at all.
"But no matter what temperament Hermes chose to be in, I figured I'd be stuck in this thieves' coven for a while. I looked around for one of the teens that had escorted me here, not sure which of the two was Jael. I saw the chocolate one first, leaning on the table near the black haired one. I was beginning to get the idea those two were very close, which, indeed, they were.
"So I made my way over and tugged the chocolate boy's yellow vest. It was velvet. Not the fake stuff that street peddlers sold to poorer people, but real fine velvet. He turned at looked down at me with a smile. He didn't have to speak; I knew he was wondering what I wanted. I dipped my voice low again and said quietly, 'Um, are you Jael?'
" 'That I am,' he smiled, 'What do you need?' I told him what Hermes had said to me before he had gone stomping off. Jael laughed saying that Hermes was usually in a foul mood and that I shouldn't pay it any mind. Then he added that he'd be glad to help me around the Den.
"I was a bit surprised that a rogue could be so kind to a prisoner. My father had obviously misled me to think that people like Link and Jael were horrible and ugly. Neither Link nor Jael were unpleasant. In fact, both were rather likable. I was beginning to think this wasn't going to be so bad, so long as I avoided that sullen Hermes.
"Jael led me away from the main hall and the warm chattering of the thieves there. Down a darkened stone staircase and then through a long dank passage, he led me, the only light coming from iron lanterns that hung from every archway. 'These halls,' he said as he led me along, 'connect a vast network of catacombs. We use the catacombs and the passages as means to get around Hyrule without a soul seeing.'
" 'Could I cross Hyrule underground?' I asked. I was impressed, actually. I never knew such an organization existed beneath our streets.
" 'Aye, you could,' Jael nodded, 'And that, we are going to do. Don't worry, it's not as long as it might seem.' I followed him as we continued on, amazed at every slight detail I noticed. Every crack in the wall and every little carving there was wonderful. Ancient things had always excited me, and a catacomb was no exception. I had read that the old temples of Hyrule had their own catacombs, but never did I dream that I'd ever walk through them!
"Soon, the passage stopped, but it was not at a dead end. Instead, it opened up into a large atrium with torches flickering in iron sconces on each wall. When I came to stand next to Jael, I saw that the ground where we stood abruptly ended. The atrium, I realized, was a dock of sorts, filled with water and a single boat swaying in the water. I small lantern hung on an iron ring from its prow. The arched pattern continued on the walls and over the dark canal flowing out of the atrium.
" 'What is this place?' I asked Jael as he calmly hopped into the boat. He then reached over the water to lift me over the water and into the vessel. Without a word, he untied the mooring from a rusty ring mounted on the end of the passage where we had once stood. Then he grabbed a long pole from the bottom of the boat, which he used to push us off.
"Plopping down at the stern of the vessel, and I at the bow, he slid the pole into the dark waters to guide us through the still canal. Soon the tunnel opened to another water-filled canal, though here I realized that there was no need for oars, since the current flowed quickly, and pulled the boat along on its own.
" 'To answer your question,' Jael said as he reclined on the back of the little craft, 'This is a canal that serves as a sort of a highway. It makes a loop around the underground of Hyrule. It's much quicker than walking, and sometimes we have to get places fast. There are docks like the one we got on along the way, each a still pool of water so that the boat will no longer flow with the current.'
" 'How amazing,' I whispered as I watched the lantern swing its guiding light before us. Jael laughed quietly, saying how he had never seen a little boy so festinated with such things. He added that he had never thought that a Sheikan boy of all types would be such a child. I shrugged and casually said that my mother had been interested in ancient things.
"We drifted onward in silence. The only sounds I heard were the constant drips of water splattering in the corridors nearby and the rushing current of the canal. I began wonder where he was taking me. Presently, Jael steered the boat out of the main canal and down a tinier one where the water was still. Guiding the boat with the pole, Jael brought the boat to a halt by a dock similar to the one we had boarded on. He tied the little vessel's mooring ropes to a large iron ring in the wall, which also held the mooring of another boat.
"He clambered out of the boat and then held out a hand to help me onto the sandstone pier. Unlike the other place, this did not continue into a large corridor. It was instead, simply a shelf of stone with that arched pattern worked into the architecture; torches flickered on the walls. A spiral staircase wrought of iron twisted up to a floor above. Jael mounted the staircase, telling me to follow. I did, and soon I found myself in a fine Hylian townhouse. Tall windows reached from the floor to the ceiling were flung open unto the city outside, long red satin curtains swaying gently in the breeze that floated in. The floor was of a dark oak, polished to a glimmering sheen. Fine furnishings, beautiful paintings and other fineries adorned the place.
" 'What is this place?' I asked, as I looked around, amazed with all the fripperies around me.
"Jael smiled as he said, 'Lord Hermes' quarters. This townhouse is in the capital of Hyrule, where the castle is. See, if you look that way, there is the Temple of Time,' he pointed out of one of the windows on the southern wall.
"And to my ecstasy, there it was, that beloved temple where I had sent Link only yesterday morning. I wondered if he had recovered the Triforce yet. From the Temple of Time, my eyes wandered to the ruined castle sitting on the hill just beyond. The walls were charred and there were collapsed roofs and smashed windows. Ruined gardens, bent fences, complete destruction was all that remained of the beautiful palace that had once been my home. Jael noticed my blank look and shook me playfully. I snapped out of my trance, saying, 'You mean that brat with the braid had all this to himself?'
"Jael made a strange face as he sat down on a plush armchair, 'Well he would. His father just recently died, and he was the King. That makes Hermes now the leader.'
" 'King?' the word made me think of my father as I hung my head, 'The King of Hyrule is dead. He had no son.'
" 'Hyrule's king?' Jael looked surprised for a moment, and then he burst out laughing, 'No! I mean Lord Hermes is the son of the King of Thieves. Lord Hermes is now the leader of our band, not Hyrule! However, he is not fit to be called the King of Thieves quite yet. He must go through the Rights of Passage. All six Thieves' Covens, including ours, will present Lord Hermes with a challenge to test his worth. That's why he needs a serving boy. He'll be exhausted while preparing and going through all of this, and he needs someone to just help him out.'
"I was still a little confused. 'Six covens? Of thieves? I don't understand.'
"Jael swung his feet over the arm of the chair as he explained, 'There are six Thieves' Covens: the Coven of Serpents, the Coven of Wolves, the Coven of Demons, the Coven of Eagles, the Coven of Griffins, and finally, the Coven of Dragons, which is this one, the High Coven. Each coven has its own leader, however, the leader of the Coven of Dragons is the King of Thieves. Understand?"
"I nodded. Never had I thought that such an organization existed. And here I was, in the middle of it all without a clue as to what was going on. Jael rose from his seat and took my hand, leading me back down the iron staircase. He brought me down a corridor I hadn't noticed when we had gotten off the boat. At the end of the corridor, was a door. He pushed it open and led me into an average sized room. The walls were just like all of the walls in these catacombs, arches hewn in sandstone. The ceiling was arched up too, a large lantern hanging from the center of the curved ceiling. Amongst the sparse furnishings, were an oak double bed, a round table with two chairs and a comfortable looking blue sofa. There were some fineries warming the cold room up such as some wall hangings and plush carpets. Sensual lamps of many different varieties sat on the table or hung from the walls or stood on iron stands in the corners.
" 'Here,' Jael cleared his throat, 'Here is your room. Lord Hermes will come when he's done with the Coven of Eagles. They inhabit that church we came down through.'
"I just nodded dumbly. Then he said something that caught my interest, 'Hey, did you know this room is built directly beneath the place where they say the Master Sword resides? Right above that lantern they say! This room is connected to many a legend. Some of the thieves who have slept here have said they have prophetic dreams or visions of things that are happening in other places. Premonitions if you will. Oh, I could tell you many, many stories.
"I was fascinated. I wanted to know so much more all of the sudden. I begged Jael to tell me more. I wanted to hear more stories surrounding the legendary Master Sword. I remembered when you used to read to me, Impa, from big old leather bound books, stories about the Ancient Treasures of Hyrule. I remember hearing of the Master Sword, the evil destroying sword of myths, which could only be wielded by the Hero of Time. What if Link were that hero? I thought suddenly. He had to be! According to the legends, the Hero of Time had to draw the sword from its resting place in the Temple of Time in order to open the gate to the place where the Triforce resides. And that was what my dream had foretold: that Link would become the Hero of Legends. I hoped that the Triforce was now safely locked away in his heart.
" 'Perhaps another time, little Sheik,' Jael interrupted my thoughts, 'I promised Vans I'd take him out to a nice place for lunch with today's loot. See ya!' he turned and walked out the door. I heard his footsteps fade and the creak of that old boat as he hopped in and then, as soon as I heard the splashing of water, I knew he was gone.
"So I was alone now. I ha no idea what was to become of me. I flopped down on the bed. The mattress was soft and feathery, much like the one I slept upon when I lived the life of a princess. A princess… that was something I knew I would never be again. I must have fallen asleep. I am sure I did, because I had a vision."
Impa stopped with her quill in the air, her eyes wide, "Again?"
Zelda nodded, "Yes, Impa, again. It was another prophetic dream. But unlike the ones I'd had before, this one was much more realistic. It hurt my soul. Perhaps, then, the stories Jael had told were true. And since having visions was not something I had never experienced before, I think the magic of the room was simply making my power more acute."
"I see," Impa murmured.
"Well, to tell you about this dream. I found myself sitting on the steps of a great round altar in the Temple of Time. How I knew it was the Temple, I wasn't quite sure, but there I was. The altar itself was a raised place in the center of a round motif situated in the center of the room. A lone window, intricately paned with iron, let a stream of sunlight leak right onto the altar, illuminating an object thrust in the center. I stood and climbed the steps to the place, and to my astonishment, I discovered the object was none other than the great Master Sword. I stroked the hilt and ran my finger down the little bit of the blade that was exposed, drawing a line of blood on my finger. I tried to pull it up, but it refused to budge even the tiniest bit.
"And then, suddenly, I heard a deep voice whisper, 'Step aside.' I turned to see a shadowed figure standing at the foot of the altar. He seemed so familiar….
"The figure approached the sword, and I stumbled out of his way. And as he entered the light, I saw that I had indeed seen this person before. It was Link, yet he was different. He looked like an adult. His body was hard and muscled, his face chiseled and his eyes solemn. However, he had grown to be more beautiful then I remembered him. Still… what had happened to the Link I knew? Who was this essence of the boy I had come to love as my best friend?
"He reached forward and grabbed the hilt of the sword, and not to my surprise in the least, did he pull it easily from its stone bed. The second the blade left its sheath, the whole altar glowed, and I found myself enveloped in the light with him. Above us, the Triforce twinkled merrily in its golden light. The adult Link reached out to touch it, and just as his fingers were about to graze the relic, it disappeared. A sharp pain coursed though my breast, and I screamed and awoke in a deep sweat.
"I panted and gasped for air. All the lamps in the room, save the large lantern that hung above, had snuffed out. I shivered.
"Just then, the door swung open, and standing there was a very irate Hermes. His eyes were like icy pools of black water, narrowed under his powder blue eyebrows. His mouth has drawn in a tight frown and his hand gripped the door handle tightly. Growling angrily, he said to me, 'What was that scream? You sound like a whinny little girl.'
" 'If it isn't the Braided Brat,' I stuck out my tongue and threw a pillow at him, missing him completely.
" 'Do you know to whom you speak?' he hurled the pillow back at me, though he didn't miss his target and the heavy cushion nailed me squarely in the chest. I was knocked onto my back by the strength of his throw.
"However, I still managed to give him a sarcastic comment in return, 'Yeah, His Royal Highness, Hermes, Lord of the Brainless.'
" 'You shut the hell up, girl,' he snarled back as he stalked over to the bed where I lay.
"I wasn't going to say anything, but remembering I needed to play the part of an egotistical male, I responded by saying, 'Who're ya callin' a girl?'
"He came to the bed and lifted me with one hand by the scruff of the neck. He stared into my eyes, narrowing his into tiny slits, 'You are to help me. I don't need a weakling as my assistant.'
" 'And I don't need a master with a rotten personality,' I snapped back, 'Might as well play it fair.'
"He snorted and dropped me onto the floor, 'Come on, I need you. There are still things that you must know.'
"And with that he turned on his heel and stormed out of the room, grumbling to himself all the while. I stood up and dusted myself off and I had only gone a few steps when he yelled at me to, 'Hurry my girl ass up.'
" 'You sexist freak!' I shouted at him as I jogged after him out the door. His stride was long so I had to move quickly even to keep up with his walking pace since my legs were so short. But when he heard that comment, he stopped cold. Turning he looked at me funny, and I covered my mouth in horror, thinking for one grotesque moment he had figured out that I wasn't a boy.
" 'What are you, strange in the head?' he curled his upper lip, 'What kind of boy calls someone sexist just for one insult against women? Come on, it ain't like you're actually a girl or something.'
" 'Yeah,' I whispered, 'How silly of me.'
' 'Well whatever,' he shrugged and kept walking. Soon he was climbing up the iron spiral stairs to his quarters. I followed him, keeping as close to him as I could for fear of his ire lashing out at me again because I was lacking in speed. Soon I was in that open breezy room again. It was the most open floor plan I had ever seen, with hardly any walls and a narrow staircase made of oak leading up to the next floor. A dark oak wine rack that went from the floor to the ceiling was built in such a way so that it served as a sort of partition between the sitting room and the kitchen area. A wheeled ladder such as one would find in a library was fixed onto the wine rack so that the top was accessible. The whole place was more long than wide and, as I mentioned before, not lacking windows in the least.
"He removed his swords from his back, letting them fall with a loud clatter to the floor. He crashed on the same armchair Jael had earlier, kicking his sandaled feet onto the table before him. He pulled the top of his tunic off so he could pull off his shirt, revealing a scarred and muscular torso. I wasn't surprised to see that he had a black dragon tattooed on his shoulder like Jael and Vans did. I was figuring it was a sort of symbol of membership amongst thieves. I didn't have long to look at it though for he was soon pulling his tunic back up over his body.
Finally he was settled and with an almost welcoming gesture of his hand, he invited me to sit. I sat down on the couch opposite him, my hands folded nervously in my lap, my eyes averting his, and my mouth in a grimace. How dare he even try to be hospitable!
" 'So, your name again?' he asked, his voice remotely warmer, but still ringing with cold.
"I rolled my eyes, 'Are we going to go through that again? Sheik. That's my name.'
" 'Are you sure? That's a strange name for a Sheikan,' he seemed untrusting.
" 'What? You think I don't know my own godforsaken name!?' I retorted, 'So my father wasn't Sheikan, got a problem with that?'
" 'No need to be rude,' he said calmly as he tossed his braid over his shoulder.
" 'You could do with some of your own advice,' I muttered under my breath.
" 'Anyway,' his voice froze into a superior tone, 'You're my help, so you do what I say. Got it, kid?'
" 'I have a name: Sheik,' I grumbled. If I was going to live with this boy, I wasn't going to make it easy for him. I actually figured I'd make his life a living hell so long as I was around. He was so full of himself and I thought he needed a good ego beating. I thought I'd be perfect for the job.
" 'I might add that you seem like one of those aristocratic types,' he frowned at me as he reclined back in the chair, 'Well we ain't gonna put up with any of that high and mighty crap here. We got a Code o' Honor and you better respect those laws 'else it might be your head!'
"I was a bit frightened by his attitude, and I just sat there shaking my head and cowering with the slightest feeling of fear. He looked like he was going to go on, and he was staring at me with a look of expectance, as though he wanted some sort of response. If I was going to be a terror for him, I couldn't be afraid, so I muttered a little sentence of acceptance of his terms. He nodded and went on speaking.
" 'As for you, personally, I think you should just cooperate. Learn the tricks of the trade and forget you were ever of any stature. And you better stop talking with the language of a noble while you're at it. It pisses me off!' he chuckled as he added, 'Besides, I don't think the Royal Family will be shoving any more unfair laws down our throats so I can pretty much tell you to do what I want without fear of you whining to them to have me hung. Hn, I heard that they were all killed anyway. It's anarchy baby!'
"I grimaced, 'How dare you speak of the Princess that way!' I snarled. I wasn't going to take that kind of insult right to my face, whether he knew who I was or not.
"He shrugged and snorted as he replied in a nonchalant tone, 'You act like you knew her or something, kid. Hold your tongue, you're on my flat now.'
"I looked away. I was not exactly in a good mood anymore. This Hermes fellow was really getting to me. Driving me out of my mind and making me boil with rage. I missed Impa and Link. I wanted to be with the both of them. And then, suddenly, I felt a horrid lurch in my stomach and I heard Link's voice ringing through my head, screaming my name. I clutched my temples and squinted my eyes closed. I could just dimly hear Hermes yelling at me, but Link's frantic yells dominated my brain. I think I started to shake uncontrollably and I was breaking out into that heavy sweat once more.
"And then it all stopped. I looked to see Hermes leaning over me, his hand raised as though he were about to strike me. I was certain something had happened to Link. I was positively certain of it."
Impa was anxiously tapping her quill in the page making large splotches of ink as she did so, "And what was that?"
"You'll see later. I'm going to tell you things as I learned them so just hold on, alright!" Zelda snapped back at her nursemaid. Impa mockingly cowered back, reloaded her quill with ink and prepared to write again.
"So, Hermes was just standing there, his face the very picture of annoyance. If looks could kill, I'd be dead and buried. He was absolutely insane. And I was absolutely frightened of him. He was starting grumble in his husky voice, 'You… what the hell was that all about….'
He went on like that for a couple seconds as he dragged me to my feet. And then, he stopped his ramblings and slapped me hard across the face. He was seriously pissed off. At the time I was fearing the prospect of being the lesser of this lunatic. I think he was about to hit me again, though he never got the chance to, for he heard the creaking footsteps of someone climbing the iron stairs from the waterways.
" 'Vans,' he snarled under his breath. How he knew who it was, I wasn't sure, but lo and behold, Vans was the one who emerged from the dark catacombs below, an ebony box under one of his brawny tattooed arms.
" 'Now?' Hermes glared at Vans, 'I'm not done with the little runt.'
" 'You mean you aren't done screaming and scaring the kid out of his wits? I heard you shouting your lungs out as far back as the Lon Lon Ranch dock,' Vans replied tartly as he ran his free hand through his thick black hair, 'Yes, now.'
"Hermes rolled his cold black eyes, an exasperated smirk on his face, 'Well whatever. Answer whatever the kid wants to know.'
" 'Where are you going?' Vans barked after Hermes, who was already climbing the stairs to the next floor.
" 'To sleep. I'm tired as hell,' he muttered as without so much as a backward glance, 'I can't put up with this.'
" 'Spoilt brat,' I grumbled as Vans sat his box on the table and gave me a little push, forcing me back onto the couch.
"He laughed, saying how Hermes was just very antisocial. Not the type who liked speaking to people. He had been only doing his duties of explaining what the Thieves' Ring was about to the rookie; however, he had obviously lost his temper. Vans went on to say that I shouldn't worry about it. He'd finish where Hermes had left off. 'And in a kinder manner!' he added.
"Vans knelt on the floor in front of me, flicking the box open as he did so. Inside was a needle, a few flasks of a clear liquid, which seemed to be sterilizer, and another box, round and flat in shape.
"I asked him what all these things were. He replied with a smile as he rolled up my left sleeve, 'Kid, you're going to be one of us now, so we're going to admit you into our Coven with our seal of honor.'
"He removed the needle and dipped it into one of the flasks of sterilizer, stirring it around a bit. He left the needle there for a few moments as he took time to flick open the round box. Inside was an arrangement of colored liquids inside of small bottles. I looked closer at the tiny jars of pigments, and realized that it was ink. I gasped, suddenly realizing what Vans was going to do, 'A tattoo! You're going to tattoo me!'
"He chuckled and nodded, 'It's not as bad as it seems. Look at me!' he held out his arms. They were completely covered it intricate pictures. Things like swords, dragons, arrows and snakes wound about his sinewy limbs.
"I was a bit frightened. I knew it would hurt, and to defile my skin like that! I shuddered. I wondered aloud, 'Do the girls get these too?'
" 'Oh yeah,' Vans took the needle out of the sterilizer and wiped it gently on a soft sponge, 'But women don't get it on their arms like we men do. Rather, the tattoo is done on their breast, about here,' he pointed to his heart.
"Through barely open eyes, I watched Vans gently wipe my arm with the sponge before squinting my eyes shut as he dipped the needle into the vial of black ink and then brought it to my shoulder. He told me to keep talking to him and then it wouldn't hurt so much. I chewed my lip as he thrust the needle in that first time.
" 'Talk!' he ordered as he continued to draw on my shoulder. I asked him if he was a good artist since he was the one doing this tattooing business. He nodded with a smile, saying with a loud laugh, 'Well yes. I better damn well be! After all, this is gonna be on your arm for the rest of your life and you don't want some crappy ass job done on you if that's the case!'
"I managed a meager smile, not daring to look at Vans at all. I felt the pain as he went on with his task, the needle entering my skin over and over. I then remembered to talk so I could keep my mind off the hurt. I asked him another question, 'Vans, why did you pick me? Of all the children at the harbor, why me?'
"He knit his brow as he continued to work, 'You seemed healthy enough. You were Sheikan, which is always a good thing if you're to be a thief and to be honest, we were in a rush and you were the first suitable kid we saw.'
" 'A thief?' I opened one of my eyes and looked at Vans strangely, 'You want me to be a thief?'
"He giggled like a little schoolboy and replied, 'Yes, a thief. What do you think we all are, traveling players? If you're going to live as Lord Hermes' boy, you might as well train to be a thief. Who knows, you might even like it!'
"I closed my eye again, 'Well I'll admit it might take some getting used to.'
" 'Yep,' he started to whistle, 'So little Sheik, tell me a bit 'bout yerself, okay?'
"I nodded and began to speak, knowing he was asking only to keep me talking. He kept whistling as he worked and as I began to spit out some half-truth about where I came from, 'My mother and I lived at the castle. Mama was the Princess' own nursemaid and I was her playmate. We just lived at the castle and I was used to the life there. That's pretty much all there is to it.'
"Vans stopped whistling to ask another question and then picked up his tune right again after he spoke, 'So what happened over there?' he flicked his head in the direction of the ruined castle outside the window, 'Why'd everyone run away?'
" 'The Princess has a sixth sense, did you know?' I answered him, 'She prophesized a great hero would come and protect the Triforce from this horrible man who came to work for the king. He's the one who made the castle fall over.'
" 'The Triforce?' Vans giggled again, 'I thought that was just part of children's lullabies. You mean to say such a thing really exists?' he was dipping the needle into the jar of red ink now.
" 'Well this is the whole story of what happened,' I supposed I'd tell him about Ganondorf… just a little couldn't hurt anyway, 'There was this great stocky Gerudo fellow came striding into my… I mean… the King's Court one day. He proposed a truce between us and those desert Gerudo bandits. He said he'd be the Gerudo women's ambassador. When I heard this, I found it strange, since all the Gerudo were supposedly female. But no matter, Zelda was suspicious of him right from the beginning. She slinked by him in the corridors and frowned at him all the time. She told me to stay away from him too.'
" 'Gerudo thieves eh?' Vans said as he lifted my arm a little bit, 'They're all finely trained in our thieving arts. Pretty little things too. Ah but we all don't like to mix with them…. unless its for sex,' he laughed, 'They can be pretty hostile. Besides, we're city slickers. Them Gerudo ladies like it out on the edge of Hyrule where they can loot caravans and such. That just ain't our style around here.'
"I continued with my story when he was done, 'Well, then one day, this strange boy appeared. I saw the Princess and he talking. Talking all the time! I dunno what happened after that, but I bet those two were conspiring. Zelda always had this knack for causing trouble. She caused just a little wee bit more then she'll ever know….' I stopped. Vans was cleaning off the needle.
" 'All done,' he said with a little grin. I flexed my arm and then looked at my shoulder. A dragon like the one Vans had on his own shoulder now adorned mine. It was actually pretty neat looking with its twisted body curling inside a large round circle. The eye was colored red.
" 'The circle for trust and unity,' Vans traced the tattoo with his finger, 'A dragon for strength and honor. That is why the High Coven is the Coven of Dragons.'
"Rolling down my sleeve and shaking my head, I stood. The whole process had somewhat shaken me, and my stomach was swimming. I had no idea what to do anymore. All right, so I, the former Princess of Hyrule, had been accepted into the underworld of Hyrule, but then what? Was I to become a thief? How was I to save Hyrule and find Link if I was stuck here?
"Vans was packing up his tattooing kit. As he clicked the latches of the box closed, he asked me, 'So Sheik, what has your mother taught you?'
"I shook my head, not quite sure of what he meant. He rephrased his question for me, 'What training has your mother given you? Ain't you Sheikah the types who start all that combat instruction real early?'
"I shook my head, now understanding what he meant. I told him that I had only had basic fencing and arching lessons. Nothing quite beyond that.
" 'And how do you fair with the bow? Have you ever tried to wield a short sword?' he asked me many questions like that about my combat training. He wanted to know the details of my skills, what weapons I could use and how well I could use them. Was my agility decent? Did I know basic evasion maneuvers? Just how far could I throw a spear? Some of the things he asked or assumed I could do, I was unable to say I had tried. There were even some weapons and techniques I had not even heard of!
" 'Well, I suppose that'll do,' he shrugged and started for the iron stairs, 'It's a bit late and you'll want to get up nice and early. Why don't you go and get a good rest and Jael'll see you bright 'n' early.'
"I found my way to my room beneath the ground. I was desperately tired by then; I had had a rather exasperating day. I closed the door behind me and fell asleep in the middle of the floor.
"I awoke from a dreamless sleep to find Jael hunched over me, his dark chocolate skin glowing an odd orangey color in the lamplight. 'Wake up, wake up little Sheik!'
"I sat up and stared him in the eyes groggily. My hair had fallen out of the tight bun it had been in the day before, my pale golden locks barely tied up anymore, and my clothes were a sloppy mess. I stood up and stumbled over to the bed, where I tore a ribbon from a nearby tapestry hanging on the wall. As I tied my hair up in a ponytail, as it was stylish for young men to do, I came back over to where Jael was standing rather impatiently, waiting for me.
" 'Come on, come on,' Jael was shooing me out the door before I had a moment to react, 'There's things to do, people to meet and swords to play with!' he tapped his rapier as he practically skipped to the dock where a boat bobbed peacefully. Leaping into the little vessel, he reached over the water and pulled me in too. And quicker than I'd seen any sailor, he had freed the boat of its moorings and we were soon adrift in the main canal.
" 'What time is it?' I could hardly even see straight, I was so tired.
" 'Five in th' morning!' he whistled cheerfully, 'Just afore sunrise!'
"How he was so optimistic at this hour I had no idea, however, I managed a meager smile and leaned sleepily on the prow of the boat as we drifted on. I was nearly nodding off to sleep when I heard my stomach roar for something to eat. I realized that I had not had a decent meal in days. I complained to Jael. He let out one of his deep throaty laughs and said nothing. I frowned and clutched my stomach, my hunger pains making me irritable.
"Soon he was guiding the boat down one of the side canals to a dock. This dock looked a little more like a traditional dock with a low wooden platform built just over the water, a heavy metal lamp sitting there, giving the little wharf light. A ladder leaned on the high stone platform's wall as a means to climb up. Up on the platform, was a long dark hallway leading into the catacombs. Jael hopped out of the boat and onto the dock. He helped me out and led me down the hallway. Torches lined the walls, illuminating the way. Soon Jael stopped before a tall wooden ladder leading up into the darkness above. He slipped one foot on the first rung and began to climb. I followed him up, and soon we were no longer in the catacombs. Instead, we were in the dormitories of a ruined monastery complex. The living quarters seemed to be the only intact building remaining of the sprawling monastery. Out side the tall vaulted windows nearby, I saw a canopy of leafy foliage and crumbled walls and broken stone archways.
" 'Hurry up little Sheik!' Jael called. He was already far down the hallway, 'You said you were hungry, so if you want a meal before we begin, I suggest you come quickly!'
"I darted after him down the hallway. The architecture of the place was magnificent, the ceilings high and the floors of marble. The light of the rising sun was pouring in through the foliage and into the monastery through the shinning glass windows. Jael led me through a few twisting corridors, and down a tiny spiraling stone staircase which opened up into a vast kitchen at the bottom. Other people, mostly children with a few scattered adults were all crammed on wooden benches around a long dinning table. I was practically drooling at the thick aroma of ham and eggs. As if in a trance, I followed Jael as he found me a seat between a little brown haired boy and a tall gangly looking teenager with long curly sea green locks of hair. Jael squeezed in at the end of the bench next to the teen and served himself.
" 'Who's this?' the teen asked Jael as he nicked a piece of bacon from my plate. Jael responded saying with a merry laugh, 'New kid. His name's Sheik.'
" 'Ah, hello Sheik,' he replied as he stole more food off my plate, 'I'm called Praedari. Pleased t' meet ya!'
" 'Pleasure's all mine,' I said kindly as a placed my arm between him and my plate.
"Praedari motioned to the brown haired boy on my other side, 'And that there's Odysseus. He might be real short but he's my best buddy. A sly wit, sure, and damn clever. You can't beat him at a war of tongues.'
"I looked at the little child next to me, 'Are you just as old as him? I motioned to Praedari.
"Odysseus looked at me with a narrowed eye, 'Aye, I am a hearty lad of a good thirteen years. But just don't you go makin' fun o' me 'cause I'm a shrimp. Praedari should really talk though. He's too damned tall. Looks like a frickin' maypole if ye ask me.'
"I laughed and continued to eat. Praedari, Odysseus, Jael and I made idle chitchat as we ate. However, in the middle of a joke Praedari was telling, a strong voice rang out over the low drones of chatter. I could have sword I'd heard that voice somewhere before.
" 'Soon we will go to work ye scalawags,' I looked and recognized the speaker on the spot. It was the redhead who was with Hermes the day before. He seemed to command a lot of respect amongst the thieves, for they all had their eyes glued on him intently, 'When ye've finished with your meal, you are excused to go. Training will proceed until noontime when we will take a rest for lunch.'
"When he was finished, he disappeared out the door. As I watched him go, I asked, 'Who's that, Jael?'
" 'Lysander, the fiery red headed leader of the passionate Coven of Griffins. He's Lord Hermes' second man,' he replied as he took a sip of his hot cocoa, 'He's also in charge of the Griffin School of Thieving Arts. All thieves come here as children to be trained so they can face the world as adults.'
" 'He's my Coven's master as well as my father. I'm a Griffin,' Odysseus slide his jacket off his shoulders so I could see his tattoo. It was that of a griffin encircled in its wings, a sword grasped in its forepaws. The tattoo was inked in a deep red color.
" 'And I'm of the Coven of Eagles,' Praedari added as he brandished his sinewy arm. An eagle drawn with tiny detailed blue lines was there, its beak and eye colored a golden yellow color, 'Who do you belong to?'
"I looked at Jael and he shrugged with a smile. So I showed them my dragon tattoo saying that I was of that coven. I conveniently forgot to mention that I was to be Hermes' whipping boy.
" 'Ooh, a Dragon,' Praedari whistled, 'Lucky ass.'
" 'But he's got Lord Hermes' as an Elder,' Odysseus shot back at his friend, 'and everyone knows he's got the feelings of a rock.'
" 'True but the Dragons are the High Coven,' Praedari argued, 'There is always a price to pay for stature.'
" 'Don't you think Lord Hermes crosses the line just a mite,' Odysseus replied sarcastically as he made a gesture with his thumb and forefinger, squinting his eye as he stared through the circle his fingers made.
" 'Yeah but….'
"I held up a hand before Praedari could finish his thought, 'Hermes might be a complete maniac, however, I intend to try and make the best of things. If he wants to be a bitch to everyone, he can go ahead, but I'm not gonna let that sink my spirits.'
"Odysseus giggled and Praedari crossed his arms as he muttered, 'Well things sure were different when Lord Quince was alive. How his son got to such a rotter I'll never know.'
"Jael was pulling Praedari up and motioning for Odysseus and I to follow as Praedari was speaking. He led the three of us down another hallway adjourning the kitchens to a small room. It was what obviously had once been a small shrine for private prayers; however, it had been reverted to a tiny armory. Jael shooed Praedari and Odysseus to another door in the little room that was partially hidden by a rack of axes.
" 'So, little Sheik,' Jael leaned on a large chest, 'I think I'd like to just see you fool around with a sword today. Very basic things. Let me find a good one for you.'
"He turned and I saw in the dim light a whole wall covered with swords. All different kinds from broadswords to light thin rapiers. Jael pulled a thin sword down from the wall and handed it to me. It had a leather hilt and a tarnished brass cross piece and a dirty crystal pommel stone.
" 'Hold it out. Yes, just like that,' he instructed me, 'Now slash it nice an' quick like. Good. Now thrust it out. No, no, this one is no good.'
"He came behind me and took my arm, holding it out straight. Then he pulled my arm back and brought my arm through the motions of the stab once again, 'See how you shake the blade nervously when you do this? It's too heavy for you.'
"I pulled the sword away as he tried to take it away, 'No, wait Jael.'
"He cocked his head, asking, 'Well don't you want a nice light sword that you can whip around easily? That one is just a bit too heavy, and it might slow you down. Every fraction of a second counts in a battle and a heavy sword might cost you the two seconds you needed to stay alive.'
" 'True,' I admitted, 'but if I used a blade that was just a bit heavier, I could work up my strength. If I train myself with a heavy sword, when I go to use a lighter one for a duel, I'll be even quicker! I promise I'll only use the heavy one for drilling.'
" 'You're mother taught you that?' he asked.
"I shook my head yes. I told him that you had told me many little tricks to help one with training. He said he'd lend an ear to any tips I had and he led me out the door Praedari and Odysseus had went through earlier. I found myself in a long room. This seemed to have once been a chapel. It was a long room lined with tall stained glass windows. The pews no longer were in the middle of the room and instead lined the walls just under the windows so the room was empty. In the middle of the room, I saw Praedari and Odysseus playfully fencing with each other, the tall red head watching them.
" 'No! Praedari!' Lysander stopped the two, 'Look, you're holding the sword incorrectly again!'
" 'Aw, but Master Lysander, we're just goofing around!' Praedari complained as Lysander tore the sword from Praedari's grasp.
" 'It doesn't matter what the hell you're doing,' Lysander said as he curled Praedari's fingers around the hilt so he held the blade flat, 'When you are using a sword, it is always important you understand what you're doing and that you use the sword properly. Sword fighting is an art not be taken lightly! It's like kindling a fire. If you are ignorant of what you are doing, the fire will grow out of control and consume you.'
"Praedari shuddered. He was about to thrust out at Odysseus again when he saw me standing with Jael, 'Hey Sheik! C'mere!'
"Jael gave me a shove as he said, 'Go ahead. I'll watch. Lysander is a much better instructor than me.'
"I came over a it timidly, my sword gripped in both hands nervously. I looked up at the tall teen before me and then my eyes wandered from him to his short little friend, hardly a head taller than me. And standing just beyond Odysseus was Lysander. His flaming hair shone in the strange colored light the stain-glassed windows brought into the room, 'Ah, Sheik. I trust you're first night was enjoyable? Hn, do forgive us for our seemingly cruel behavior yesterday, but do understand, we are in a bit of a tight situation here. So much is going on at one time!'
" 'You have no idea,' I said. He studied me strangely as I said that, however brushing it off and pushed through the two boys standing before him. He knelt and took my sword, gripping the hilt, testing it in his hands and running his fingers along the blade. He examined my arms, flexing them as if to see my strength. He made no comments about the sword's weight and I was sure he either approved of the sword being a bit heavy or he was oblivious to it or even maybe that he didn't care.
" 'Let's just see what you know,' Lysander grinned sadistically. It was almost scary, the look he had on his face as he beckoned for Odysseus to come over, 'Let's have a little match here. Figure out what the rookie can or can't do.'
"Odysseus looked different than I remembered him from only a few moments before. Now, instead of a bubbly friendly grin on his face and twinkling merry eyes, he had this crazy aggressive look, his short brown hair fallen out of place and over his forehead. His eyes were wide with excitement as though he lived to hear the hum of a sword cut through the air.
"He charged at me, swinging his rapier blade around at me in a neat crescent. I raised my sword and effortlessly blocked him. He was a little slow, as though he took time to make sure his movements were executed with immaculate perfection. While such a thing was good for drilling, in a duel, it wasted too much time, and I found myself gaining the upper hand.
"From the block I held Odysseus' blade in, I turned on my heal with a tiny leap and swung at him. I must have underestimated his speed, because no sooner had my sword left the mutual lock of steels, his blade had met mine with another block at his side. I am supposing his shortness and light weight made him quite agile and quick on his feet. I knew my skills were probably not honed to perfection, however, I felt I had what it took to beat him.
"Odysseus jumped back, freeing our swords, 'Not bad Sheik! But you'll have to do better to keep up with me!'
"I gritted my teeth and charged at him. Just as I was about to shove my boot into his chest and knock him down, he made a neat sidestep and was suddenly behind me. I faltered and stumbled to my knees. I felt the cool tip of Odysseus' sword at the back of my neck and I knew I had lost the duel.
" 'For the rookie, you're not bad,' Odysseus said as he helped me to my feet.
"Lysander came between us, 'Yes, yes, you are rather good for a beginner. You're training must have been rigorous in the past to be able to counter Odysseus. I congratulate you little Sheik.'
"Praedari was sitting on a nearby pew. He had discarded his sword and held in his hands now, a long trident. I had heard of them before. It was like an advanced kind of spear. One had to train for years with a spear before taking up a trident. I wondered if Praedari was trained in that way.
"Lysander saw me staring at Praedari and laughed. With a finger, he beckoned the boy over. Praedari hefted his trident and came over to us. Lysander placed a hand on Praedari's shoulder as he spoke, 'Praedari is an expert with this weapon. Though this is his first year with it, his extensive study of the spear has helped him hone his skill. I hope you will choose a weapon that suits you soon so we can start your training.'
" 'Weapon that suits me?' I wondered aloud.
"Praedari chuckled as he held the trident out to the side, 'You see, very early on, we choose a weapon that our skills seem to excel in. I found my heart in the trident, and so I took it up. Lysander and Jael will let you try many different things so you can find a weapon best suited to you. Or maybe, the weapon will find you!'
"I shrugged, still not quite sure how a weapon could choose a person. Maybe it was like destiny or something like that. Certainly, the future was something I could relate to.
"For the next few weeks it was like that. I would wake up early and go to the monastery with Jael and I would train with various weapons with Praedari and Odysseus. They seemed eager to help me master a weapon, however, no matter how many we tried, I couldn't find one. I fought with an entire host of swords, spears, throwing knives, axes and a great deal of others. We even grappled one day! But the weapon I was looking for wasn't any of those.
"And the more time Praedari, Odysseus and I spent together, the more I forgot about being angry at these people. I made myself scarce to Hermes and I barely encountered him during that time, much to my relief.
"But one morning, as I strode into the chapel with Odysseus bouncing behind me, giggling at talking so fast I could hardly understand him, and Praedari a few paces behind, his mind far from us in some distant sea of dreams, I laid eyes on Lysander, who was leaning on a tall longbow, Jael standing next to him with a short bow and a large quiver of arrows.
" 'Today, we do archery!' Jael announced as we came in. I did a little leap of joy. I had been rather skillful with the bow in my past. Maybe today I would find the weapon made just for me.
" 'Damn, damn, damn,' Odysseus was mumbling. His bubbly mood had evaporated the second Jael announced the day's training.
" 'Don't give me that bull,' Lysander slapped his son on the back. Odysseus began to cough uncontrollably as Lysander went on, 'If you're going to be a successful thief, you must be a master of many weapons, trades and techniques. You never know what life will throw at you and you need to be ready.'
" 'Well I know and you know that I can't work those stupid bows,' Odysseus snapped back tartly, 'So I don't see the point in trying.'
" 'All the more reason to practice,' Lysander shoved the longbow into Odysseus' hands, 'Find a bow for Praedari and Sheik while Jael and I set up the targets.'
"Lysander and Jael went off and Odysseus went into the little armory only to reappear a few moments later with another longbow and two short bows. Also among these, was a crossbow and three more quivers of arrows and a quiver of crossbow bolts. It was almost too much for the vertically challenged Odysseus to carry, and he stumbled forward, fumbling the bows and arrows while cursing loudly. All Praedari and I could do was watch and laugh.
"Jael returned with his bow and beckoned for the three of us to follow. He had drawn a line with black paint across the marble floor several yards away from a pair of targets that Lysander had hung on what remained of the chapel's altar. Jael snitched an arrow from Odysseus, aimed and shot the arrow at one of the targets, almost nailing a bull's-eye, 'Who's first?'
"Praedari calmly snatched one of the longbows from Odysseus' array of bows and lined himself up at the stripe of paint on the floor. I took the quiver of large arrows from the faltering Odysseus and handed it to Praedari. Taking an arrow, he closed his large amber eyes and notched the arrow in the bow. And then, without a word, he let the arrow fly. It just avoided missing the target, embedding itself in the outermost ring of the board.
"Lysander was nodding and said happily, 'Very good Praedari. You must work a little harder and then you will get it.'
"I snickered, 'Praedari, no offense but you must be one horrendous archer if that is considered good for you!'
"Jael shook his head, 'You seem to not understand Sheik. He did exactly as we instructed him.'
" 'I must really not understand then,' I replied, 'for I thought the idea was to hit the target dead on.'
" 'You mustn't worry about it so much. You must let the arrow take its course and in time, it will find its way to the target,' Jael answered me in a prophetic sort of voice, 'First master the technique, and then you will be able to hit the center.'
" 'If you think you can to do better, let's see it,' Praedari shoved his longbow into my hands. The bow was crafted for an adult, and the weapon towered at least a foot or two above my head.
" 'Not with that bow!' Lysander rooted through the bows Odysseus still had looped over his body and gripped in his hands. He produced a small short bow and handed it to me, 'This is more your size and will be easier to draw then that big old thing.'
"Thwack! The arrow buried itself in the dead center of the target. As did the next arrow, and the next, and the arrow after that. Odysseus dropped all the bows and arrows with a clatter and Praedari put a bony hand on his forehead, weaving his thin fingers through his ocean green locks in amazement.
" 'I think,' Odysseus was bent on the floor picking up the strewn arrows, 'Jael can work with him now. The bow is most certainly his weapon.'
"Lysander sighed and knelt beside me as he whispered into my ear, 'You're form is beautiful, however, you seem to take to much trouble aiming. Let loose your soul, little Sheik, and allow your spirit to guide the arrow to the target.'
"I sighed and stepped up to the line, closing my eyes and doing as Lysander instructed. I pulled the string back to my ear, digging my teeth into my lower lip. I was about to loose the arrow, when I heard the door behind us close with a tiny click. I lowered the bow and turned around. Much to my dismay, I saw Hermes standing at the back of the room with his arms crossed and his long braid draped over his shoulder. I could feel his dark eyes on me, and I could tell he had come for the soul purpose of seeing me.
His boots clicked on the marble as he approached. Lysander straightened and greeted him with a firm handshake, Hermes giving a small grunt in return. Then the imposing thief turned to face me as he said in his deep voice, 'So how is the runt doing? He had better hurry, for I'll need him in a few weeks.'
" 'Who hired you and how much are you being paid?' Lysander said merrily, his voice ringing with a twang of sarcasm, 'You're a thieving dog! Just like your father, that outlaw instinct comes second nature to ye!'
"Hermes whipped one hand onto his hip and said with a sly grin, 'I got a friend who's really into ancient texts. He said he's pay me a hefty sum to go raid the ruined castle.'
" 'You can't do that!' I cut into the conversation, grabbing onto Lysander's silken sleeve as I shoved between the two, 'The Royal Family's bound to come back. They'll pick up all over again! Just because that damned Gerudo tore the place apart while he was looking for the Holy Treasure doesn't mean you can just ride in and loot the ruins!'
" 'Holy….' Lysander was staring at me.
" 'Treasure?' Hermes had a maniacal grin on his face.
"I realized then what I had just blurted out. I had just hinted at the existence of the Ocarina of Time! The key to the Sacred Realm and resting place of the Triforce! I slapped myself in my stupidity. Hermes was mumbling about me being of more worth than he had previously thought. Praedari and Odysseus were arguing over which one of them was a bigger moron.
"Suddenly, Hermes was on his knees, his hands on my shoulders and staring into my eyes with a determined look on his face, 'Are we talking mountains of gold!? Jewels and necklaces?'
"I shook my head and Hermes glared at me as he shook me, 'Then what the hell is it!?'
" 'I cannot say. It is a secret guarded by the Royal Family,' I pulled out of his tight grip. Hermes plucked the crossbow off the ground and fired it. The bolt whizzed mere millimeters from my head, shearing a stray wisp or two of hair from my head.
" 'Spill it kid,' Hermes loaded the crossbow with another bolt, 'How do you know what kinds of treasures are at the castle? Who told you about these things?'
" 'The princess,' I replied simply as I rallied his crossbow with a smart arrow shot by his head.
"He fired at me in return, almost as if this little exchange had become some sort of game, 'Well whether you tell me or not, you're coming with me next week to the castle. I need some pocket change, got it?'
"I rolled my eyes as I drew another arrow to shoot back at him, 'Whatever, ya great Braided Brat.'
" 'Will you stop calling me that!?' he hurled the entire crossbow at me,' I'm you're Elder! Don't mock me!'
" 'You're just saying that 'cause you aren't used to someone with a snappy tongue being around to question you're authority you spoilt baby!' I made a nasty face as I chucked the crossbow back at him.
"All this time, Lysander, Jael, Praedari and Odysseus were standing back, watching us argue. I'm sure Praedari and Odysseus were wondering what in the hell was going on. Jael probably was amused at Hermes finally getting what was coming and Lysander was just shaking his head in amazement at my rashness.
"Hermes stood as he stroked his jaw. He spat at me and swore and then he looked at Lysander. Walking over to the red haired man, Hermes muttered, 'And while you're at it, get his attitude problem under control. I detest being demoralized in front of people who respect me.'
"Lysander nodded and turned to me with a sort of warning glare in his eye. I gulped and slinked behind Jael who put a comforting hand on my head."
Impa was riveted, staring at Zelda as she scribbled furiously on the page, "Yeah, and then what?"
Zelda waved her hand, "Let me speak, please!"
Impa nodded and rolled her quill between her hands and then nodded slightly as a signal for Zelda to begin again. The princess was about to open her mouth when she caught sight of a barmaid. Calling the shapely young woman over, Zelda asked for a tankard of ale. Both Impa and the barmaid looked at Zelda a bit strangely. A woman, particularly an aristocratic woman, wasn't usually found ordering beer.
Zelda shrugged, "So I developed a taste for cold hard alcohol over these years too. Give it a rest!"
"Jael eased the little boat into the wharf in the catacombs near Hermes' iron stair and my quarters. Leaping out of the boat with me in his sinewy arms, he dropped me in a joking manner into a heap upon the floor. Giggling I chased him down the hall to my room. He laughed, 'See, when you don't think about your mother or Hermes, you seem to be happy enough. I think you'll grow to love this life of dishonesty soon.'
"I crossed my arms and pouted, 'I just want to know what makes that Hermes fellow tick. The way his brain is rigged up, you can almost hear the cranks rusting and the pulleys snapping. Jeez….'
"Jael found that to be immensely funny and slapped me hard on the back, 'For a little thing only yay high,'—he motioned to his hip—'you're pretty damn funny, Sheik.'
"I smiled at this, happy that he was amused at my intelligence. I for one had never thought myself to be very funny. My father and most the people I grew up around thought my clever and cynical retorts were horribly unladylike. Here I could let loose.
" 'So,' Jael leaned up against the wall, squishing a spider with his thumb as he spoke, 'Vans tells me that you grew up at the castle. Is that why you don't want to go with Hermes?'
"I nodded, 'It's my home. Most of my friends and just about all my family and everything I've ever known are lying in there somewhere… save the princess… she got out. I don't want to desecrate the place. What's his deal with wanting to go there?'
"Jael shrugged, 'Hermes loves more that anything, money. He'll do just about anything so long as he's being paid. Some of his connections in the upper classes of Hyrule pay him to steal for them. Guess this is one of those.'
" 'But why bring me along?' I protested.
"Jael shrugged again, 'You're a thief now and I guess he wants you to see what it's like or something. Who knows with him! Anyway, soon Hermes will be over his head with training and preparation to become our leader. Might not seem like much to you, since you grew up around real royalty, however, down here in the underworld, we have to have our laws and status. You just might have to help him out. You understand?'
" 'I guess so,' I replied, my voice scratchier and lower than I usually made it.
"He snapped up and pounded his fist into his palm, 'So tell me what it was like at the castle! The princess, is she as beautiful as everyone says!? And the soldiers, you must tell me about the soldiers! What's it like!? Tell me everything!'
"I sucked in a huge breath and launched into a speech about my past life, making sure to speak from through the eyes of Sheik, not Princess Zelda. I told him, as we walked down the long halls of the crypt, past my room and further into the heart of the catacombs, about the beautiful gardens and bubbling fountains in the castle and about the exquisite architecture of the castle itself. I explained in detail the exact procedure the soldiers went through at their drillings and what it was like to see the Royal Changing of the Guard. I spoke of the Royal Family and what it was like in the Royal Court. Jael was intrigued by every aspect of the whole thing and when I was finished and we were sitting on the edge of another wharf at the other end of the hall, he wanted to know more, even though I insisted there wasn't much else to say.
" 'Vans was telling me about what you said about the Princess,' Jael seemed extremely lively, 'I want to hear more…. about her I mean.'
"I chuckled inwardly as I thought to myself, If only you knew… Holy Nayru is it hard to talk about and praise myself.
"He knelt down to the ground, reaching into the murky waters and scooping up a handful which he splashed at me with a tiny flick of his wrist, 'What's with you!? Speak already!'
"I shivered and plopped down next to him, head cradled in palm as I said, 'Well… the princess… she's… beautiful! I mean, I'm just a little kid so I never really noticed but my mama says….'
" 'Aw, come on Sheik,' Jael grinned mischievously, 'You're a growing boy. Don't tell me you don't notice a pretty girl when you see one.'
" 'Well, maybe I'm not cut out for this kind of discussion,' I said, 'Wait 'till I'm bigger with raging hormones and maybe then I'll tell you lovely stories about the princess, alright?'
"Jael blurted out laughing as he choked out between sobbing chuckles, 'Alright, boy. We'll do that then. Is that a promise?'
"I nodded, 'Of course.'
"By this time, I was feeling the cool draft of sleep coursing through my body. I had had a long day. After the archery and the incident with Hermes, I had run myself ragged, pushing my body and letting arrows rip from my bow faster than I could count. My arms ached and my eyes were tired from staring at the target all day. I murmured as I began to stumble back down the hall towards my quarters, 'Jael… I need to… sleep. Good… goodnight.'
"He smiled and stretched his arms, a drowsy grin on his face as he reached up, standing on the tips of his toes, ''Night lil' Sheik.'
"I walked down the hall, rubbing my eyes and yawning every few moments. After what seemed like an eternity I was in that cold room of mine. Lighting a small kerosene lamp, I shed my jerkin and loosened my hair from the ribbon, letting it fall over my shoulders. I found myself standing before a tall mirror, examining myself. I almost couldn't recognize the person watching me from the other side of the glass with drooping eyelids. I saw no longer a princess, but a rugged little terror neither girl nor boy. But while my personality was shaped into that of a small boy, I still saw a small scared lonely little girl. Loneliness… that's what I felt. So I had my friends… Praedari and Odysseus… and Jael, Vans, Lysander…. Ah, but none of them knew me. Not really. They knew Sheik. They never knew nor cared for Zelda. Zelda was a nobody with no one. Zelda was alone and forgotten. Who loved her? Nobody….
"I sighed, a tear rolling down my cheek, as I crumpled into a pile on the floor before the mirror. I tucked my knees against my little chest, rolled up like a wad of misery. And then more tears came, for I felt nothing but remorse. How could I live like this? I couldn't carry this on forever. They were bound to learn the truth sooner or later. And with that whole Code of Honor that these people held so dear, they might see it fit to punish me and then if that were so, how would I help Link… so he could help Hyrule live?
" 'I hate my life!' I screamed as a pounded a fist on the carpeted floor. My hand stung as it met the ground. I rolled over, and then brought myself to my feet, quivering with rage and sadness and regret. In my anger, I hurled the first thing my hands could grab to the floor. My fingers closed around a box. As I groped it to find a way to grab hold of it, I felt tiny carvings and crystals worked into its smooth wooden body. I hooked my fingers around a little crank like protrusion on its side and yanked it from its perch on a tripod.
"It dropped with a loud noise as I flung it to the ground. The lid flew open as it made contact and the crank began to turn as the box emitted a little tune. I fell to my knees still sobbing a little to see if I had broken it. I turned the box upright. Underneath the lid was a stretch of fine silver strings on an ebony loom like structure spanning the box. The strings at one end were longer than the ones at the other and to my dismay two had been snapped. A cylinder with small knobs placed over it slowly turned, the knobs gently stroking the strings and pulling the notes together to make the beautiful little tune I heard then.
"I sat there and let the drum just rotate and play the music. After a few minutes, the crank stopped turning and the music stopped playing. I stared at the box dumbly for a moment and then reached to crank it back up again. And even though the music was missing those two notes, it still sounded wonderful. It would be easy enough to repair. Lifting the music box, I laid it on my bedside table, and fell asleep to its lulling sounds.
"That night I dreamt again. I was surrounded by a deep blue shadow. Before me was a figure bathed in a beam of golden light. He sat on a low stool, gently strumming a golden harp. His face was shadowed and in that golden light I could just make out his features. He wore a skintight blue Sheikan garb, his faced wrapped up in white cloth and his long blond hair hidden beneath bandages. I heard his voice quietly humming the tune he played, the music box tune.
"I came closer, a hand shielding my eyes from the brilliant rays of light. The closer I came, the more I saw. And soon, I was able to make out another figure there. He sat at the foot of the mysterious Shiekan's stool, his head resting on the harpist's knee. His eyes were closed and he looked as though he were asleep. It was that adult Link again who slept there. How innocent he looked!
"Oh! What did it mean? What did it mean? What did it mean? Why did I have these dreams about him? Was he sleeping? What had happened to Link!?"
"Why do you have these recurring dreams? What did they mean?" Impa stopped writing for a moment to stretch her cramped fingers.
Sighing, Zelda slurped a great chug of her beer and said, "At that exact point in time, I did not know. However, the next night, I had the dream again. And the night after that and after that and so on and so forth. Until one night…. One night I had that dream and instead of just fading away like it usually did, it continued, and then I learned the fate of my hero…."
"Another figure emerged from behind the pair that night in the dream. He was short and stocky, his girth robed in an ornate monk's habit. He had a trim white beard and a little rattail of hair sticking out behind his head. He stopped beside Link and ran his fingers through Link's golden hair, traced his firm jaw and ran his finger down the sleeping man's spine. 'Sleeping well, hero?' he whispered in a throaty voice as he twirled a wisp of Link's blonde hair around his fingers.
" 'Sleeping?' I said to the man. He laughed a deep laugh and said nothing, just stroked Link's neck and watched the hero's body rise and fall with every breath. I might add that the harpist had not even noticed this rude violation of Link. He just played and hummed, not paying anything any mind and simply looked forlorn.
" 'Hush now, he sleeps,' the man murmured to no one in particular, though I do think he meant to inform me, 'See how he sleeps. See how he grows. He will become the hero one day. Hero…. Hero… Hero….'
"I awoke in the day very, very, very late, almost dusk, to hear the sounds of someone whistling in my room. Sitting up in the bed, I saw Vans standing on the other end of the room, close to the mirror, a large black cage at his feet as he cleared a spot on the nearby bureau.
" 'Vans… what are you doing?' I asked as I slinked beneath the covers once more.
"Vans stooped to lift the cage up by the chain. Inside I saw a small Hylian goldfinch fluffing its little feathered body up and squeaking merrily. Vans stopped whistling as he spoke, 'Well Praedari snitched this beauty a few days ago but I ain't got anywhere in my quarters to keep it an' since you have….'
" 'Okay, okay,' I shivered in the evening air, 'I get the message. The bird can stay.'
"As soon as he had finished with the goldfinch, Vans dragged a chair up next to my bed. Swinging a leg over it so he straddled the seat backwards and resting his folded arms and head on the back of the chair he said to me, 'So, you got you're first big job with Lord Hermes today.'
" 'Really….' I rolled my eyes, then muttering sarcastically, 'And please stop addressing him as a lord.'
" 'Sorry, sorry,' Vans sighed, 'That's just what we're all used to calling him. You know, ever since you showed up, things have changed.'
" 'Oh yeah?' I chuckled, 'Sure… you go ahead and tell yourself that. Like I could influence you people at all.'
" 'Yeah, look Hermes for instance,' Vans replied, 'He can't take being bested in an argument. And look at you! You're what, nine years old? And you have an answer for everything.' He shook his head, obsidian black locks tumbling into his eyes as he did so.
" 'I've always been this way,' I said, pompously crossing my arms.
" 'Have you now?' he ruffled my matted hair affectionately. I nodded.
"He stood, 'Yes, well, you just might want to get cleaned up. Hermes will be expecting you promptly at dusk, so if you are going to do so, do it quickly!' He strode out of the room with his hands shoved into pockets hidden beneath the skirt of his tunic. I couldn't help but to stare at his tiny hips and his muscled build.
"He stopped, 'Well aren't you coming? Come on, I don't think you've bathed since you got here. That's sort of sick. Even one of us can't go that long without a bath. What's up? You too good to bathe with people like us?' He gave me a mocking sneering look.
" 'As a matter of fact, no,' I retorted, 'Fine, I'm coming.'
"What a mess this was though! I couldn't help but think of what a bath could possibly do to me and my cover as I followed Vans to the boat. He leapt in, as did I. Soon we were floating into another nook that I had not yet been to.
"Here there was a stone stair sloping in front of the edge of the ledge above. An iron fence with spikes along the top lined the stairs and the end of the ledge above. Tying the boat's rigging to the base of the fence, Vans led me up the steps. At the top there was a hall that branched in two different directions. A fire burned in a dish sitting atop a tripod at the spot where the hall split.
"Vans led me down the left hall, 'The other way leads to Jael and my own quarters. The other Dragons are down that way too, and a few are this way, near the baths.'
" 'Catacombs with baths?' I put my hands behind my head, 'I have to see it to believe it.'
"Vans chuckled as he whipped around, walking backwards, 'We did them ourselves. Like whoever built this place would put baths in. No, we rooted the pipes and such to this one large room and built in the showers and tubs and everything.'
" 'You bathe in that muck water that the boats are in? No hot water either, I bet.' I wrinkled my nose in disgust, 'It's almost better if I don't take one.'
"Vans did a little snappy jump in the air as he said, 'That's what you might think, however, we once had a woman who could do magic and she put an enchantment on the pipe work to make warm and purified water. Ain't that clever?'
" 'Magic?' my eyes were wide and interested.
"Vans seemed pleased that he had struck another interest of mine, 'Yep, yep, magic!' He stopped before a large oak door and pushed it inwards. Inside was one of the most wonderful places I'd seen yet in this nest of thieves. The arched sandstone walls sported sconces beneath each curve and two more sets of arches and pillars to support the ceiling of the huge room ran at lengthways down the room sort of splitting the room into thirds. The floor had been retiled with large slabs of marble. In the center of the room was a large sunken pool filled with steamy water. A small cascade of clear steamy water gurgled into the pool with a splash, keeping it constantly filled.
"Vans showed me to a bench beneath one of the rows of arches, 'Here, put your clothes on this and I'll just go right over there' —he strolled to the next bench, several arches away and hidden by a pillar—'and put my things right here.'
"I had no idea what to do. If I stripped, he would know I was a female. I was wringing my hands and seeing a towel thrown beneath the bench, I knew there was only one chance for me to make it through this little ordeal easer. Sure, there was a great deal of risk, but not bathing would arouse more suspicion. Next time though, I would prepare carefully for bathing and come here alone.
"Snatching it up and wrapping myself in it, I shed my clothes down to my undergarments. I wasn't going to take any chances. And then, chuckling sheepishly to myself, I walked toward the pool, dipping m foot into the water and stirring it around a little with my foot. Then I quickly slid in and sunk down so the waterline was just under my nose.
"I heard a whoop and a splash as Vans came bounding into the water. Giggling, he swam over to me and grabbed me in a fierce headlock, 'What's up with you lil' Sheik? Hiding under a towel an' under the water like that. It ain't like you never seen a naked guy before.'
"I let out a nervous laugh of agreement. It didn't click in my mind that Vans was nude until he mentioned it. I found myself bright red with embarrassment as I sunk completely under the water, closing my eyes tightly. I felt Vans' large hands grab my arm tightly, pulling me up from under the gently lapping waves, nearly loosing my towel in the process. I squealed fighting to keep my lower half covered as Vans shook me, his eyes wide with what seemed like concern, 'What's up? Ya sick? Are you okay Sheik, 'cause you're acting a lil' strange!'
"The water sloshed against his hard chest and dripped from his thick black bangs. His tattoos looked bolder now that they were wet and he looked even more rugged than usual when he was drenched with water. He came over next to me, and handed me a heavy bar of lemon scented soap, 'Scrub up nice an' quick like. Hermes will kill us if we're late.' He sat down on the ledge under the water that ran around the perimeter of the pool, his arms resting outstretched on the edge of the pool.
"Taking the bar of soap, I began to wash, careful not to attract to much attention to myself. Fortunately, it looked as though Vans had dozed off into a light sleep, his eyes closed as he reclined against the pool wall. I started to hum the music box tune as I ran the bar of soap over my arms and down my torso. I saw Vans grin a little, his tongue slipping out from his mouth and slowly tracing his lower lip.
" 'Pretty little tune you got there,' I heard him murmur, his mouth hardly moving at all, 'I've heard it somewhere before.'
" 'I found a music box in my room,' I explained, 'I like it.'
"Vans laughed a little, his eyes still closed, 'Must have been Hermes' at one time. Most the stuff in there is. He just can't fit all that extra crap into his quarters, that's why its there.'
"I frowned, 'Even so, I still think it is nice. Someone as ill tempered as Hermes wouldn't understand a beautiful song.'
"Vans snorted, his eyes still lazily closed and his mouth still quirked in that smug little grin, 'Perhaps. Ah, but there's more to Lord Hermes than what meets the eye. Maybe one day you'll understand.'
"I said nothing to that, and in fact, we didn't speak at all until Vans rose from the pool, saying that it was time to leave. Reluctant to go, yes I was, however, I was more than ready to impress Hermes with my skills, so without much protest, I crept out of the water and discreetly and quickly redressed.
"And then, before I knew it, Vans and I were back in our little boat, the fore lantern swinging gently as we rocked down the canal. Vans returned to the wharf with the iron spiral stairs up to Hermes' townhouse, and up there we went. I was not surprised to find that Hermes was nowhere to be found.
" 'Hermes,' Vans was shouting as he came up the iron stairs into the sitting room, 'Hermes where are you!?'
"I shrugged, 'Eh, too bad. Might as well just go get something to ea—'
"Vans held up a hand, waving my suggestion off, 'No, no he's around here somewhere. Why don't you go check upstairs? He's bound to be there.'
"Shrugging yet again (a gesture I found myself using as a simple answer quite often) I mounted the creaking wooden stairs and climbed up. I found myself facing a door as I reached the top of the stairs. The hall turned and lined the wall, so the next staircase was rising up to the next floor in the same direction; right over the one I had just climbed.
"Three doors, besides the one facing the stairs, were in the hall, and then another at the foot of the next staircase, each of them closed. Behind the first, the door in front of the steps was a small storage room, filled to the rafters with silks, jewelry, swords and other wonderful things that I assumed were just part of a collection of stolen goods.
"Another door hid a study with a desk covered in texts and books. Six lamps were lit; each hanging from silken tasseled ropes from the ceiling. The two huge windows were cracked open, the curtain rods bare. A huge map of Hyrule hung on one wall and a wall scroll bearing an ink sketch of a bearded old man hung opposite it. I might add that I couldn't help but notice a small, framed portrait of a beautiful young woman sitting on the desk. The floor was covered with a plush royal blue carpet, tiny little gold patterns twisting all over it, colors that complimented the periwinkle painted walls nicely.
"And behind the next door, I found a small bedroom, walls of pale rose pink, with a single person bed, its frame of heavy oak. At least four down comforters were flung over the mattress and a green knit afghan was folded neatly at the foot. Nothing but a matching green throw rug covered the floor. A tripod bearing a lamp stood in the corner, its exposed little flame blown out from the breeze blowing in through the single open window, large just like all the other windows in the house, the translucent curtains billowing around the window-frame. A little writing table was pushed up against the bare wall opposite the bed and in the corner was a huge overstuffed chair covered with pillows.
"Next came another rather small room, big enough for only one window. This room was barren of furniture, save a simple wooden chair that faced the window, a harp lying on the hard seat. A simple music stand was nearby supporting a few pages of sheet music. The walls were ashen white, no curtains hanging on the window. There seemed to be a few nails in the wall, as though at one time there had been pictures hanging there. The room depressed me.
"Finally, the last room at the foot of the next flight of stairs was the most wonderful of all. A library it was. The walls were covered with built in bookcases, save three places where there were windows. Like the wine rack downstairs, there was a ladder that rolled along the shelves so one could reach books on the topmost places. A lush burgundy carpet covered nearly all the floor, two leather chairs facing the two open windows, a table sporting a silver kerosene lamp between the two chairs.
"I closed the door, not seeing Hermes in any of these rooms. I realized he must be up that last flight of stairs. With a heavy sigh, I began to climb.
"The room that greeted me on this top and final floor was nothing but a huge loft bedroom. A huge bed layered with quilts and coverlets and piled with pillows dominated the room. Like my own bedroom, many tapestries and wall hangings adorned the walls. Lamps of all shapes and sizes sat on the bureau and the desk and just about every other surface as well as hanging from the ceiling. And flopped on the bed, was Hermes, an open book resting facedown on his chest and his arm over his head.
"I stormed over to the bed and shook him, 'Wake up your lazy ass Hermes!'
"He rolled over, his face looking tired and overworked, but when he saw me, that tired face melted into an outright pissed of scowl, 'The hell are you doing in my room?'
"I crossed my arms, stuck out my tongue and retorted, 'Vans told me to look for you. I'll have you know that we busted our asses to get here on time only to find you asleep. Please….'
"He sat up, throwing the book aside, 'I'm coming. Get downstairs. We'll be going soon.'
"When I came downstairs, Vans was sleeping on the sofa. I ruffled his hair and threw a blanket over him. In his sleep, he snuggled the folds of the coverlet over his slim body.
" 'Hey runt!' I heard Hermes shouting as he came down the stairs. His feet made no sound, but his voice sure did, 'Let's go. Get your gear and we'll go.'
" 'Gear?' I looked at him confused. He slapped his head in frustration and came down the stairs completely.
" 'What do you need? A bow?' he asked, his voice gruff, as he opened a large cupboard at the base of the staircase. I nodded and he pulled a short bow from the closet and threw it towards me. Fortunately, I caught it, an action that seemed to impress him somewhat; he raised an eyebrow as he ran a finger along each blade of his twin swords before strapping them to his back.
" 'So let's go,' he motioned for me and we exited the house via the front door.
"We were now standing on the cobblestone street in front of the townhouse. The road was blackened with ash that the wind had carried through the streets of the city from the disastrous fires at the castle. From there, I could see the spires of the castle rising over the city on the hill where it once majestically stood. The few houses on the road leading up to the ruins had suffered as well, their walls black, burned and crumbled.
"He began to walk towards the castle, with me close at his heals; so close in fact, that sometimes his braid would swing out and lash my face as it swayed with his every step.
"Soon, we were following the path to the castle, however, we did not go up to the tall ornate iron gate at the end of the road. Instead, we cut between two broken manors to a section of the tall castle fence that was far from the main street. As Hermes crept up to the iron barred fence, I hissed at him with a tone of disdain, 'Why do you need to be so damn secretive. For Din's sake, it ain't like anyone's around anymore.'
"Hermes did not turn to look at me, but still growled a response, 'You don't know that for sure. Taking into account that a Gerudo did all this, one can never be too careful as what to expect.'
"I said nothing, knowing he was actually right. Ganondorf had destroyed the castle for a reason. Perhaps he had realized that in his rather bold assault, he had overlooked the ocarina. Maybe he was still….
"My train of thought, however, was interrupted by Hermes once more, 'And that treasure… what is it? What did you do with it? Tell me!?'
"I almost slipped, and told him that I had given it to the hero. Catching myself though, I quickly said that I had no idea; that the princess had taken it with her in her flight from the castle.
" 'Then where is the princess?' he asked as he produced a tiny dagger from his boot. The little knife caught my attention, its edge honed to the sharpest point I'd ever seen. It seemed to be enchanted, for tiny little runes swirled inside the metal blade and along the handle. 'Tell me!' he snapped as he used the dagger to neatly saw through the iron bars of the fence.
"Overcoming my amazement over the little tool I quickly said with a hint of arrogance, 'She is in hiding. Where I do not know. She waits for the Hero….'
" 'What hero?' Hermes didn't look up as he began to cut another bar away from the fence, his brow knit and his teeth grinding together as he worked.
"I rolled my eyes, 'Don't you know the Legend?'
" 'Legends are for weaklings with nothing but the ideas of a God to rely on,' he said simply, bluntly, 'No one believes in the old tales anymore. Certainly not a person like me. I have to see it to believe it.'
"I spat out my words like venom, angry that he doubted the existence of the Three, 'Well the story has followed the Legend thus far. A supreme evil has plagued the land and the princess took the Holy Treasure to the destined hero so he could open the Sacred Realm. She waits now for him to return with the Triforce.' But as I spoke, I realized that he should have come back by now. Something had happened to him. What had happened to Link?
" 'A load of filthy lies,' Hermes replied angrily as he stepped through the fence, 'Stop wasting time and get your ass in here.'
"He led the way towards the blackened castle. Arches and towers had collapsed, the moat run dry. The glass in the windows had been blown to shards from the panes. Rubble crunched under our feet and the creaking wood of falling trusses echoed above. The iron detail work and the carved walls were bent and deteriorated. Seeing all this simply made my loathing of Ganondorf rise to an irrepressible peak.
" 'You used to live here,' Hermes snarled as he looked up at the massive ruin before us, 'The hell would they keep the books?'
"I looked up. I could see the arched windows of the library just above us. Drawing an arrow and taking aim, I fired it at the window. The arrow splintered the cracked glass on the window apart, embedding itself in the windowpane. 'There,' was my blunt answer.
"Hermes looked up where I had shot the arrow, his mouth curled in a frown as he examined the wall and the damage for a way to climb up.
"I tugged his tunic gingerly as I said, 'I know the way up through the inside if you'd rather go that way.'
" 'No!' he snapped, 'I ain't tromping through this mess for my health… nor am I doing it to be a hero or adventurer of any kind. I'm doing this for money and I want to be alive to collect my earnings. I ain't gonna take advice from a rookie who ain't even been out in the real world in his entire life!'
"I crossed my arms and turned away, watching Hermes through the corner of my eye. He was loosing a long grappling hook and rope from his belt. Swinging it above his head, he threw the weighted catch up at the widow, grabbing the sill. Giving the rope a tug, he began to shimmy up with a quick snort for me to follow.
"Reaching the window, he swung into the library, with me following close. The room was nothing like I remembered it. The shelves had fallen in their bookcases, landing on top of piles of fallen texts. And the large desk had collapsed onto the floor. Chairs, tables and other furniture and decorative ornaments had fallen over. Even the door hung on a hinge, the top of the doorframe crumbled down to the ground.
"He knelt by the piles of books on the ground, 'What a waste. Rookie! Come here!'
"I crouched behind him as he reached into his pouch and produced a pair of black leather gloves which he slid onto his hands. Then he began to clear some of the debris away from the books. He snapped at me to tell him if I saw anything of value.
" 'What's with the gloves?' I asked.
"He gingerly lifted an olive green book with gold leafing on the pages. With a sadistic grin he said, 'If you're going to do a job, might as well do it right. I ain't about to leave a single trace that I was even here.'
" 'Like anyone would even care anymore,' I sighed. Reaching towards a large leather-bound book, I said, 'That might be worth something. It's an anthology of Sheikan myths known only to the Royal Family. Zelda would have mama read that to her all the time.'
"Hermes spat and then took the book and placed it on a pile with a few others he had selected. Wrapping them carefully in a bundle of silk, he stood up and made for the window again, quieter than my breathing. 'Crap,' I heard him swear under his breath.
" 'What is it?' I followed him and looked out the window. The rope we had climbed up on had come loose from the hook and fallen to the ground below. 'Oh,' I answered my own question as I realized that we had no way to get back down. Hermes frowned at me and then back out the window.
" 'This way!' I said suddenly as I began to walk towards the door. I knew the way back through the castle. Sure, I had no idea what lay in wait inside those halls, nor was I sure of the condition of the structure and I couldn't be certain that the way was free of blockage. However, it was better than staying there.
" 'Where are you going?' he asked as he picked his way over the rubble after me.
" 'I'll take us home,' I said wearily as I knocked the door open, tearing it clean of its hinge. The hallway just outside was in complete disarray; nothing like how I remembered it to be. The marble beneath my feet was cracked a broken and the curtains that had once hung over tall windows had been torn to shreds and lay on the floor. There was wreckage everywhere and not much remained of the home I once knew. I heard echoes of the wind whistling through the halls.
"Suddenly, there was a loud crash. I grabbed Hermes' hand and dragged him down the hall to the top of the grand staircase at the front of the castle. At the bottom was a tall red haired Gerudo woman wearing light pink Arabian pants and a small strip of cloth covering her chest. Her face was masked by another cloth, which she wore over her nose and mouth. She carried a tall scimitar with two little bells dangling from a red ribbon near the blade. At her feet was a broken vase and in her hands was a small scroll. Her eyes narrowed as she saw the two of us dash out of the darkness.
" 'Who are you!?' she snarled as she quickly pushed the scroll securely between her breasts.
"I was about to say something brash when Hermes knocked me aside into the remains of a torn tapestry fallen to the ground. He gripped his parcel of books tightly, gritting his teeth as he snapped back the woman, his voice even crueler than ever, 'What's it to you bitch? I could ask you the same thing."
"She leaned the scimitar on her shoulder, crossing her arms over it and turning her head, her eyes glaring up at Hermes as she snapped back, 'No business of yours.'
"I had, by this time, straggled to my feet and I stumbled over to where Hermes stood. I shouted down at her what I had meant to say before Hermes hit me, 'Hey you rotten little whore, if you have anything to do with that scum, Ganondorf, which you do, no doubt, I'll kill you!'
"She let her big amber eyes wander from Hermes to me, 'Little boy's got a rotten temper! How dare you! You should be taught a lesson.' With that, she whipped from her belt three sharp throwing spike which she hurled up at us so fast I hardly saw her hand move.
"Just as the three dagger-like projectiles were about to impale me, Hermes shoved me aside again into the wall. He stumbled and then fell on top of me, his braid whipping in the air as he fell to the floor. I shoved him off me, and he rolled into the corner with a groan as I stood.
The Gerudo had climbed the stairs and now stood opposite me. She laughed as she said, 'Well, you've seen me and spoken to me. A good Gerudo thief, that which I am, never lets one who has seen her live.'
"I drew an arrow and nocked it in my bow. Raising the weapon, I threatened her, 'And I, a good Dragon thief, never lets one who has seen me live.'
" 'Die,' she frowned at me cruelly, baring her teeth as she cocked her scimitar at me, the bells jangling as she pointed the deadly tip of the blade at me. Suddenly, she charged at me, shoving the scimitar forward as to run me through. I was panicking, my eyes darting from side to side and up and down in search of a way to escape this certain doom. Above me, a long spar of wood jutted out from the large broken window to my left. Without another thought, I leapt up, grabbing the wooden beam, its splintered surface cutting into my hands. The Gerudo skidded to a stop beneath me as she realized I was no longer there.
" 'Up here you big horse's ass!' I let go of the bar and dropped down. She was right beneath me as I nailed her square in the face with my feet as I came down. I neatly jumped to the ground. The Gerudo was slowly climbing to her feet, her hand clamped against her nose, blood leaking between her fingers. My hands were full of splinters and tiny specks of blood bubbled up from the little rippings in my skin.
"She lowered the scimitar and prepared to charge me again. This time, I was ready for her. I leapt up in the air, whipping my bow from around my shoulders and tearing an arrow from the quiver at my hip. As she hurtled beneath me, I loosed the arrow from my bow, the arrow zinging down between her eyes as I fell gracefully to the floor. Her eyes widened and her mouth opened and closed a few times as she slowly reached up, touching the arrow gingerly. Then she looked at me and nodded somewhat before she collapsed to the ground.
"By this time, Hermes had climbed to his feet, stumbling over to where I was, 'Amazing! The hell did you get all that skill from?'
"I crossed my arms, 'See, I am useful for something.'
"He smiled a little, 'So you are, I guess. Lysander and Jael were doing a damn good job with your training. Maybe you won't be such a screw up after all.'
" 'Thanks for your support,' I muttered under my breath as I turned away. Perking up a little, I said in a sapped voice, 'This way Lord Hermes. The entrance to the castle is close.'
"I leapt down the stairs two at a time, Hermes close behind me. He was struggling, his ankle seemingly injured, and he lagged after me a little bit with his bundle of loot and I stopped halfway though the grand hall to offer some help. Reluctantly, he gave in and handed me the package, leaning on my shoulder to help him along.
" 'You're awful damn small for a boy,' he commented weakly, coughing a little, 'Where's your muscle?'
" 'My father was small,' I said quickly. Thankfully, he seemed to buy that and said nothing more. We were now outside the castle wall, stumbling down the long road back into town. Along the way, Hermes buckled over in a coughing fit. I staggered to the ground next to him, rubbing his back and asking what was wrong.
" 'Nothing, nothing,' he managed to say before coughing again. I decided we had better hurry back to his townhouse before he became to weak to move at all."
"What is this? What is wrong with him?" Impa asked as she dipped a finger into Zelda's tankard of ale to taste.
"Impa, has it occurred to you that I will get to all the answers to your questions in time?" Zelda retorted sharply pulling her beer from Impa's reach and taking a long hard drink, "Please, let me speak! You just write!"
Impa pouted, crossing her arms as she licked her lips, "Fine, fine."
"Jeez, you're like a little kid!" she waved the barmaid down again, asking for two more mugs of ale; one for her and one for Impa.
"It wasn't long before we reached the townhouse. I dragged Hermes up the front steps and into the sitting room where I dumped him over the arm of the sofa. He felt around for a grip and pushed himself up, only to tumble back onto the couch with another round of coughs. I wasn't quite sure, but I thought for a moment that I saw a line of thick blood trail from his lip to his fingers.
" 'Are you sick?' I asked as I bent over him, 'Want me to call Jael or Vans?'
"He waved his hand 'no' as he sat up, his tongue quickly lapping at his lips. I asked if he was sure and he snapped at me to mind my own business. Much ruder than that, of course.
"I stomped my foot in frustration as I angrily dropped the books onto a nearby chair, 'So much for caring. Screw you! As if it matters to me if you die.'
"He glared at me, 'Die!? Hn, I would do nothing of the sort!'
"He got to his feet, a little of his strength seeming to have returned to him. He made his way over to the kitchen area. He pulled from a large barrel in the corner, a large chunk of heavily meat, snapping in my direction as he reached for a large cutting knife, 'Hungry?'
"I was, and though I was not too keen on sharing a meal with someone so unkind, I consented, for I tended to take food over matter. I sat at the wooden square table just behind the tall wine rack and waited for him. He returned with two plates piled with strips of the meat. He placed one before me before sitting down at the opposite end of the table with his.
" 'So,' I began as I slowly nibbled at my food. I had nothing to say really, and it didn't look like Hermes would either by the way he was tearing through his own meat like a cannibal. Obviously his coughing spell had not affected his appetite in the least.
"He looked at me with huge wide eyes, a strip of meat hanging from his mouth, and as he spoke his words were slurred since his mouth was full, 'Waff? Spith ith outh kid.'
" 'Nothing,' I shook my head, 'I was just thinking about… forget it….'
"He narrowed his eyes, the light glinting in his black pupils strangely as he swallowed, 'You are hiding something. I don't know what it is, but there is something about you that just seems like….'
"I was shaking my head, nervously prodding at my nearly untouched food. I feared he had guessed I was… I was a girl.
" 'Than what is it?' he snapped as he tore back into his food, 'Why are you so glum?'
"I decided I'd tell him as much of what was on my mind as I could, 'I had a… a friend. He was a dear friend of the princess. And now… he's just… disappeared. I have no idea what happened to him. is he dead? Alive? Hiding? I have no way of getting in touch with him and I… I just don't know what to do.'
"He placed an elbow on the table, cradling his chin in his hand, 'So? You expect me to care? Just forget everything that happened to you before you came here. Look into the future and stop dragging your feet in the past!'
"I abruptly stood, the chair screeching on the floor as I pushed it away, 'You think I'll forget the only true friends I ever had so damn easy? Well you've got another thing coming, Hermes. Don't you forget it!' "
"Zelda!" Impa furrowed her brow, "He was your elder! How could you snap at him like that?"
Zelda frowned as she crossed her arms and looked away. "Well it was like that between us for months and months. We'd argue, shout, and throw stuff at each other even. Yet all the time he never learned I was a girl."
"So what then?" Impa asked.
"I hurtled down the spiral steps into the catacombs. Near the bottom, Odysseus was balancing a large china urn in his arms. I throttled by him, making him wobble on his feet as he struggled to keep the huge vase in control. Gently setting it down at the foot of the spiral steps, he chased after me as I ran down the corridor to my room.
" 'Sheik, Sheik!' he was saying as he entered my chamber, 'What's up?'
"I was sitting on the bed with the music box in my lap as I gently spun the little crank. The box spouted out its little tune. There were still splinters in my fingers, and the blood stained the mahogany wood as I stroked the lid.
" 'How did it go?' he plopped on the bed beside me, 'You have a good time with Lord Hermes?'
" 'Damn that bastard!' I said angrily, 'I can't stand him! What a pompous ass he is!'
"Odysseus crossed his arms and rolled his eyes, 'I think you and Hermes need to come to some kind of agreement. Stop this senseless bickering. It might loosen the seams of the Coven if one person sidetracks the leader. We have to work as one!'
"I didn't meet his eyes, nor did I even look up for that matter. He touched the back of one of my hands, turning it over to see the bloody splintered flesh, 'This is?'
" 'Accident,' I responded simply.
"He looked at me long and hard and then stood. Rooting around in one of the drawers of a bureau nearby, he produced a small medical kit. Popping the silver lid open, he took out a dainty little golden tweezers. Then he gently began to ease the splinters from my flesh as I watched on in silence, flinching every now and then.
"I wanted to tell him about myself; the real me. I wanted to tell him that I was really lonely. Sure, everyone was kind enough to me… but I felt I didn't quite fit it. Was I all alone in the universe? I felt that way. Link was gone. You were gone… as was my family and everyone I had grown up with. In fact, I was about to open my mouth and blurt everything out when he spoke.
" 'Vans gave you Praedari's bird I see,' he said, tearing me from my thoughts with this trivial matter. I guess he was just trying to make conversation.
"I shrugged, 'I suppose it's a nice thing to have around.'
"Odysseus nodded as he drew out another long bloody spike of wood from my palm with the tweezers, 'That much? You miss your old life that much?'
" 'Not so much the life, but the people in it,' I sighed.
" 'Like who?' he asked. I had no idea if me meant to pry. Was I to tell him? "
" 'My best friends,' I began to say, 'The princess'—for in a sense, the Princess Zelda was only a friend of mine who has as well, faded with my past—'and then… there was this… boy… this boy called Link.'
"Odysseus 'mmhmm'ed as he stoked my other palm to bring the splinters to the surface.
"I went on, closing my eyes as visions of his smiling face swept through my brain. I could see him almost in perfect detail: his bright cerulean eyes and his messy golden locks right down to his booted feet, 'He's gone though. I miss him.'
"Odysseus grinned and made a small grunt, 'Get over it.'
"I pulled my hands away from him, 'How could you be so cold! Do you not feel any sympathy at all?'
" 'Such is the heart of a thief,' he said quietly as he reached for my hand again. I jerked further away.
" 'Go away!' I was seething with hate, 'Why, why? No one here understands! I should just give up waiting if I must forget him! I'll curl up and die!'
"He laughed and said in a sing-song sort of tone, 'Too young to die, too young to die! Death is no answer! You in a rush to get to Hell or something?'
" 'Maybe I am!' I thought of that damned Gerudo, Ganondorf, 'But whether I go now or later, Hell gallops towards us as we speak. It hails from the desert and Death is at the reins.'
" 'What the hell kind of poetic prophesy is that?' he laughed hard; so hard tears came to his eyes.
" 'Truth,' I snapped, 'It will come to pass. There will be Hell to pay!'
" 'Hell, hell, hell,' Odysseus slipped back into his sing-songy voice, 'For a little thing you sure seem to know a lot about death.'
" 'I learned just a bit too young in my life if you ask me,' I snapped back.
"Suddenly, there was a great gust of wind that whistled through the corridor outside, and burst into the room, blowing the door wide open. Tapestries twisted about and all the lamps in the room blew out, leaving Odysseus and I in sheer darkness.
" 'The hell was all that about?' he said in an irritated voice as he struck a match. His face was illuminated strangely in the light, only half of his face bathed in golden light. The light streaked his auburn hair and danced merrily in his dark blue eyes. But as the light waned, the flamed eating up the match, scalding his fingertips, he dropped the extinguished match, howling in pain, 'Ow, ow! Dammit, ow!'
"We were in darkness again. I groped around until I had latched my fingers around his belt, slowly tracing it until I found the pouch where he kept his matches. I slid the small matchbook out and struck another match, this time bringing the flame carefully to a nearby lamp. I whispered quietly as the fire licked at the lamp's wick, 'He's here.'
" 'What in the hell are you talking about?' he said as he snatched his matchbook back out of my hands.
" 'Ganondorf, Ganondorf,' I quivered with fear at the thought. So he had come. And I was deathly afraid. He had armies. He had evil power. Oh! That power! What was it? Oh, what was it? Too powerful, far too powerful to be Ganondorf. But no! It was Ganondorf. I felt that presence. It was most certainly he. Oh yes, it was. But still… that power… what was it?
" 'Sheik?' he waved his hand in front of my blank stare, 'Sheik, you're really scaring me. Sheik? Speak to me dammit! Sheik!'
"I barely heard him. My mind was elsewhere, slipping back into that dream state. Flying, like the wind into that dream. I heard a thousand chorusing voices ringing through my head. I found myself wandering through a golden reality. That power? What is it, what is it?
"I could feel that evil power bombarding me like a hail storm. Pounding, pounding, constantly. Was that my heart? Thumping, thumping. And there were those voices, now nothing more than a dizzying humdrum. It wailed in my ears. The power seared in my head. And it frightened me.
"And yet… and yet there was this small flicker of warm power that eased me of the painful Darkness. I knew this had to be Link's power. It was a small power, a new power, yet it was growing. Welling in that Sacred Realm where he slept was his power. His strengths and prowess was becoming more acute. He was like a lone flame, flickering in the Dark, sure to erupt into an angry blaze soon.
" 'Zelda,' I heard the voice of Ganondorf drone, 'Zelda, where are you? I'm looking for you, Zelda.'
" 'Shut up, shut up,' I covered my ears. As my dream self did so, my physical body did as well. Odysseus was pulling at me. I could feel him tearing me away from the dream, away from that tiny flame of Link's power. I wanted to run away from reality. I wanted to run towards Link. Closer! Just a little more. Hark! There was his warmth.
" 'DAMMIT SHEIK!' I felt a harsh slap across my face. But that voice wasn't that of Odysseus. Hermes. Damn.
"He was holding me by the collar, now shaking me fiercely, 'Little screw up, little SCREW UP! Wake up!'
"My eyes focused and my head swam. I had a horrid headache and my limbs were pins and needles. Slowly, I saw the hulking form of Hermes bent over me. I could just make out Odysseus' small outline behind him in the dim light, a sheepish smile. 'I had to get him. I didn't know what to do!' he was mumbling as I scowled at the two of them.
"Hermes was barefoot, his tunic falling loosely off his body. He was bent over me in such a way that I could see right down his tunic, realizing that he wore nothing beneath it. And my cheeks were suddenly hot and red as I inched back a few feet.
"He licked his lower lip, arching one pale blue brow, 'Yes, welcome back to reality little screw up. Jeez, what is your problem?'
"I said nothing and crossed my arms and turned away, 'Felt a presence and tried to warn your little thief boy over there.'
" 'Who, Odysseus?' Hermes snapped, 'With any luck you'll grow to be half the man Odysseus is.'
" 'He looks like a boy to me,' I grumbled.
" 'A minor detail!' he snapped again sarcastically, 'You know damn well what I mean.'
" 'And I take it you what I mean when I say that Hell has arrived, here, in this very city!' I retorted as I slinked off the bed and across the room, far away from the both of them.
" 'I see no danger,' Hermes brushed it off with disdain as he straightened and turned to face me.
"I snarled, 'Don't take that creeping Evil so lightly.'
"I saw Odysseus in the background of our argument, looking hurt and a little crestfallen. He saw me looking at him and promptly hissed, 'Why're you pissed at me? I didn't do a thing to you!'
" 'You brought that… that bastard in here!' I pointed a quivering finger in Hermes' direction.
" 'If that's the case, then perhaps I should be angry at Lysander, Vans and Jael for bringing you into my ring of thieves,' Hermes replied in a calm voice, smooth as silk and casual as you please, 'You shouldn't be so hasty as to point the finger of blame.'
" 'Yeah, and if it weren't for us, you'd prob'ly be dead by now,' Odysseus added in a cold tone, 'You and that bitch of a mother who brought you screaming into this damned world would be beaten and dead at the harbor by now if it wasn't for my Lord Hermes.'
"He really did not need to have said that.
" 'And that anarchy you and your gang seem to enjoy so much,' I was jumping on the defensive, 'if you value it so, then go join ranks with that damn Gerudo who gave it to you!'
" 'We don't do work with Gerudo thieves,' Hermes said bluntly. Then he smiled and put a hand on his hip, the other twisting the tail of his braid at his side, 'Well I guess if you can't stand Gerudo thieves it's a start. Better than working from scratch.'
"Odysseus was smiling too as he nodded in agreement with Hermes.
'Just look at your arm, at that tattoo and remember what it means,' Hermes said as he and Odysseus began to head for the door, 'You are one of us. Don't you dare forget it.' "
Trembling with rage, I spat after him as he disappeared round the bend. Why was my life so hard? I threw myself back on the bed, staring at the ceiling and wishing that Link was there, for surely he would know what to do….
Every night in my dreams,
I see you,
I feel you,
That is how I know you go on.
Far across the distance,
And spaces between us,
You have come to show you go on.
Near, far, wherever you are,
I believe that the heart does go on.
Once more, you opened the door,
And you're here in my heart and,
My heart will go on and on
Love can touch just one time,
And last for a lifetime,
And never let go until
Love was when I loved you,
One true time,
I hold you,
In my life we'll always go on.
Near, far, wherever you are,
I believe that the heart does go on.
Once more, you opened the door,
And you're here in my heart and,
My heart will go on and on.
There's nothing I fear,
And I know that my heart will go on.
We'll stay forever this way,
You are safe in my heart and,
My heart will go on and on.
Hey there! Link Worshiper here! Like it? Well if you're bored with it, know it's just gettin' kickin'! More action on the way! Kindly enough, I decided to put this monster story into chapters, just for you picky people who hate big drawn out things or just need a space to stop and rest at. Have fun and read on! Comments/gripes/thoughts/Link/chili dogs/love accepted gratefully. Oh, and if you didn't like it, I'd like to hear more than just "I hated it." For god's sake, at least be creative with your insults! Did it ever occur to you that I actually use reviews to write the next story?
The Link Worshiper