Interview with the Princess
By Shannon the Twisted Link Worshiper
Part III ~ Awakening to a Love
~Author's Notes~ All the "fun" (cough-cough) stuff about copyright is at the beginning of Part I so go there to check that out if you plan to sue my poor ass. (I thought we established the fact that I am LAZY) Hmmm, anyways, somewhere in this part, we'll flow into the plot of Ocarina of Time, okay? So, er, get ready! Yeah baby!
Desperate for changing
Starving for truth
Closer where I started
Chasing after you
I'm falling even more in love with you
Letting go of all I've held onto
I'm standing here until you make me move
I'm hanging by a moment here with you
Forgetting all I'm lacking
Completely and complete
I'll take your invitation
You take all of me
Now…. I'm falling even more in love with you
letting go of all I've held onto
I'm standing here until you make me move
I'm hanging by a moment here with you
I'm living for the only thing I know
I'm running and not quite sure where to go
I don't know what I'm diving into
Just hanging by a moment here with you
There's nothing left to lose
Nothing left to find
There is nothing in the world that can change my mind
There is nothing else
There is nothing else.
Desperate for changing
Starving for truth
Closer where I started
Chasing after you
I'm falling even more in love with you
Letting go of all I've held onto
I'm standing here until you make me move
I'm hanging by a moment here with you
I'm living for the only thing I know
I'm running and not quite sure where to go
I don't know what I'm diving into
Just hanging by a moment here with you
Just hanging by a moment
Hanging by a moment.
Hanging by a moment...
Hanging by a moment here with you.
"Two years later, I had grown into a healthy, robust sixteen year old. Hermes did his best to make sure I was kept under the guise of a man, and as far as I knew, Jael and the others were still under that impression. From that day two years before, Hermes had grown in character and in body. Now he was strong and handsome as ever, but his eyes had changed from that cold stare to a warmer, more friendly gaze. Much to my relief, he was kinder and far more courteous towards me as well as the rest of the covens. To others, this was like some kind of miraculous working of a higher power, that such a change could come over such a person. However, I felt that he was happier now that he had left Kito in his past. And it made not only his life better, but mine as well.
"Over the course of time, Hyrule had become dilapidated and unkempt. Most places were crumbled, neglected and probably forgotten. Save a few small villages where the remaining Hylians had carried on with their lives, fearful but still somewhat peaceful, the whole land was reeking of death. Our city in particular was no joy at all. Full of wormy zombies and rancid monsters, we thieves had to keep a careful eye out for danger if we wandered the city streets. And this led to some rather large dilemmas as far as happy wandering went.
" 'Zelda! Yo, where the hell are you!?' I heard Hermes shouting at me from downstairs.
"I sighed, flopping back down on my bed. Sometimes I wondered if the bedroom in the townhouse was better than the catacomb room. Putting up with Hermes' loud mouth (a habit he'd kept about him despite his recent change) was quite a trip, being as he could yell pretty damn loud when he wished it.
" 'Zelda! Get your ass down here!' he called up again. I wondered what he wanted as I rolled from my soft bed. 'Do I have to drag you down here? Hurry or I'm comin' up there to get ya m'self!'
" 'Coming, coming,' I yawned as I sleepily meandered down the steps, almost too sleepy to open my eyes properly. 'What is it you want?'
"I found him tossing some onions to sauté into a copper skillet over the hearth in the kitchen. He had beheaded a small piglet, which lay gutted and ready to cook on the nearby countertop. Long strips of pork were there; the meat was ready to be thrown into the skillet. The whole display was making my mouth water. I really had to hand it to him; Hermes was actually a rather good cook.
" 'Money, Zelda,' he was saying as I hopped up on a barstool in the kitchen. 'We don't got too much money. Ever since the decline of the kingdom, rupees have become quite scarce. This anarchy has devastated Hylian economy, much as I hate to say it.'
" 'So what are you suggesting we do?' I asked as I watched him put the pork into the skillet with the onion and a few other vegetables.
" 'I don't know,' he said, 'but we need to find a way to get money and quick. I was thinking if there was anything lying around this hellish city that we could sell to the villagers in Kakariko….'
" 'Are you suggesting getting money honestly!?' I exclaimed, sitting bolt right up. 'I thought that went against your codes as a thief!' Then I laid my head back down on the counter, 'Not only that, but I doubt the boys'll be too pleased about it.'
" 'True,' he mused, 'but what else can we do? There is nowhere we could steal from….'
" 'Wait! Maybe there is!' I snapped up again. He looked at me with big questioning eyes, his food sizzling and spitting olive oil at him.
" 'What the hell do you mean Zelda?' he seemed interested though he turned away from me to stir his meat and vegetables around in the pan.
" 'There are a number of ancient temples in different regions of Hyrule,' I began, referring to the temples of the Ancient Sages who guarded the Sacred Realm. 'I'm told that they are home to many different varieties of great treasure and such things. Maybe we could go to one of those, although they are said to be armed with traps and monsters and things.'
"He was dumping the food from the pan into a large china bowl, 'I'll do it! Whatever it takes for my boys to have what they need to live, I'll do it! But, I am a little astonished that you have told this to me. Isn't it your role as the princess of Hyrule to guard these secrets?'
" 'It is also my duty as your apprentice to tell you of ways to keep your coven alive through these dark ages,' I responded tartly. 'Don't ask questions about it, Hermes. I'll tell you what you need to know.'
" 'Good, very good,' he was saying as he sat down beside me on the other barstool. 'Tell me, is there anything of value in that old temple in the back of this city?'
" 'The Temple of Time?' I questioned, resting my elbow on the counter top.
"He swallowed his food with a loud gulp before speaking, 'Yeah, that's the one. The place seems innocent enough.'
" 'So it might seem,' I said quietly. 'Yes, there are three jewels of great power residing there but there is bound to be a great deal of power binding them to the sacred alter. Really, Hermes, we could be struck down by the gods for tampering with it. Our chances might be better with the other temples.'
" 'Screw that!' he shouted, his mouth full of food. 'It's close by and has some treasure. It'll be a start. I want you to go there for me, okay?'
" 'As Zelda or as Sheik?' I wondered aloud.
" 'Sheik, of course,' he said as he raised his bowl to his lips as to sweep the food into his mouth with his fork much easier. 'Get me those jewels, Zelda. For not only me, but the boys as well.'
"He was begging me, and I found it hard to resist it. So, just for his sake and for the sake of Vans and Praedari and Jael and Odysseus, I consented, swearing I would go to the temple the very next day.
"I ran back up to my room, to collapse upon my knees and beg the gods forgiveness for telling Hermes such a thing about sacred relics. And I prayed like I never had before, beating my breast, saying that I had done it for the good of the coven.
"I think the Goddesses forgave me. There was a blinding flash of light and I was enveloped in a crystal light. There was the harpist. I noticed something this time about that harpist: he was playing the same harp that Hermes had given me so long ago! And when I squinted hard at him, I soon realized he wasn't a he at all, but a woman! Me, in fact! That harpist was me dressed as Sheik! Ah, but besides that, the harpist was alone. Link was no longer there, no longer sleeping. Had he awoken from his lengthy rest? Hyrule suffered without him! I hoped in my heart that he had risen. Where would he be? Were the gods telling me to go to the Temple to await their prophecy? It had been the tradition in earlier times, so why not now?
"I folded my arms behind my head, staring up at the wooden ceiling. Contemplating the current issue, I wrestled with my decisions. So I had recommended to Hermes that we desecrate the temples, and he in turn suggested that we steal from the Temple of Time, the most sacred temple. Surely the gods had planned this to happen for a reason! What was it that I was to do? I should go ask what to do when I visited the temple tomorrow. Yes… I'd ask the gods what I'd do until… until I saw him again…."
"Who!" someone called from the crowd of listeners.
Zelda turned to glare at him, and said calmly, "Why, Link of course! The hero of the story!" She laughed a little, looking down at the floor. "Yes, yes, Link."
"So what next princess!" Impa said with a laugh of her own, low and guttural. "You have an audience to please! Don't stop quite yet!"
"Hermes knocked loudly on my door the next morning. 'Get up Zelda! You have work to do!'
"I rolled over in my bed, pressing a pillow over my head to muffle his knocking and shouting. When he started kicking the door, I knew I couldn't ignore him any longer though. Wearily, I rolled out of the bed, still wrapped up in my warm blankets in the frozen morning air.
" 'Finally!' he sighed as I opened the door for him. 'I was beginning to think you had died in there Zelda!' he laughed
" 'Did not, did not,' I sighed, 'Let me get ready.'
"A shrug and a small laugh were the only responses he gave me to my commands.
"When he didn't move from the doorway, I gave him a hard shove with the tip of my foot, sending him crashing into the banister lining the stairwell, shouting after him, 'Well just what are you? Some kind of pervert!? You know that I'm a woman now, so you don't need to rub it in my face you insensitive jerk!'
" 'Okay, I am leaving, jeez,' he shakily got to his feet and wobbled down the hall. 'You're so damn violent. I pity any man who dares come close to you!'
"I slammed the door as soon as he was gone, sinking to the floor in frustration. That man could make me so angry sometimes. I rooted through my trunk, and produced a tight ninja style top and pants, dark blue and white. When I had dressed in that, I felt that my breasts were still too defined, so I wrapped my torso in white bandaging strips before throwing a white Sheikan cloak over the whole ensemble. And then I tied my hair back as I usually did with a green ribbon and swept all my hair up under the hood of the cloak. Heading for the door, I grabbed my harp as I set out the door. I never went anywhere without it, no matter where I was going.
" 'Lemmie see you Zelda!' I heard Hermes call as I descended the stairs. He emerged from behind the wine rack, a new bow slung over his shoulder and a quiver made of canvas in one hand. Though I was still a little upset by his actions before, I was able to see by these things that he was ready to be forgiven. I took the weapons from him, fastening the quiver to my hip and the bow to my back.
" 'Thank you Hermes,' I said as I did this. 'So, let me just make sure, I'm going to—'
" 'Check for anything of value you can steal from around here, alright?' he said quickly. 'You never know who might be hanging around that temple; I've seen plenty of villagers who still come to pray there so be careful.' He put his hands on my shoulders, and lowered his forehead so it touched mine as he went on, 'I want you to come home. You yourself say all the time how dangerous this town has become due to that man in the castle. Watch yourself good, okay?'
" 'Okay,' I said softly after a brief pause. 'I promise I'll come home and when I do, I swear on my father's grave, Hermes, I swear you'll be proud.'
"He nodded, with nothing to say to this for quite some time until he straightened and gave me a little shove towards the door. 'Well, uh, get moving 'lil Sheik. I'll be proud of you no matter what. Always have been, always will be….'
"The door slammed behind me as I leapt out into the cool morning air. I couldn't listen to this sweetness he was spilling forth any longer. It just wasn't like him and it made me hurt inside that he might be gone at any time. I was more afraid of his death than he was. That damned curse cursed me too! I would cure him. That was something I truly swore to him... as well as myself.
"The Temple of Time loomed over the misty rooftops. I saw its tall spires blackened with time and beaten from horrendous weather. It saddened me to see the beautiful building reduced to this. I wished that there were something I could do to make it like it was before this age of terror. Alas, not even my powers were that great. Not yet….
"The place was frighteningly quiet, and not a single person or creature leapt at me for some time, though there was a small incident with a zombie like creature that latched onto my arms. I was only able to escape by tearing off the sleeves of my robe, freeing myself of its grip before taking off down the street to shoot it from a safe distance. It was all too suspicious. I began to wonder what Ganondorf had planned. He must have something new up his sleeve; an ace that he had yet to play…. He knew when the Hero would return, and he prepared for it, ready to strike.
"Soon I was standing before the awesome cathedral, its massive stained glass windows dirty with ages of loneliness. Heroes of legends past no longer shone with the glory of the sun, but with the dismal glow of neglect. I shook my head of this sadness, and stepped over the threshold, pushing back the great wooden doors to enter. The temple was deserted, my footsteps echoing loudly through the marble building as I took in my surroundings. And there, before me, was the sacred place where the three sacred jewels shimmered, levitating slightly over the black garnet alter. Tiny script inscribed by magic told of the hero who came here and played the music of the gods as so he could touch the sacred treasures beyond the great wall.
"I stroked the words lovingly. He had stood here in this very spot once so very long ago. But where had he gone after that? Where was it that he slept? I wanted to know. Perhaps then I could wake him.
"Behind the alter was the empty chamber where the master key, the sacred sword, had been thrust by the heroes of those legends past. It was gone now, presumably taken by Link to that mysterious fountain of mysteries where he lay with that dream embodiment of myself. I remembered those visions so brilliantly painted in my mind, and thinking of them brought tears to my eyes. I smiled a little as I brought my hand up to dry away the salty droplets from my face. And just as I brought my hand back to rest on my quiver, suddenly, I realized something. I was not alone here.
" 'No, that can't be,' I told myself, shaking the strange thought away. 'No one is here. I am all alone, I know it!' And without another qualm about it, I went to steal the holy jewels from the alter. My fingers were just stroking the glassy smooth surface of the ruby, its power tingling my skin, when I heard a dull thud resonate throughout the huge church.
" 'What was that!?' I breathed sharply, snatching my hands away from the alter. Warily, I searched the place with narrowed eyes, watching for any disturbance. And then I heard a groan followed by the heavy sound of footsteps. I pulled the collar of my robe over my mouth and nose and pulled the hood lower over my head so my eyes were shadowed from view. Stealthily, I crept up the stairs that wrapped around the alter to the large room that was the gateway to the realm of the gods.
"And there he was. I drew in a breath at my surprise to see him. Beautiful, with lovely blonde locks falling in disarray over his hard face. Shinning blue eyes darted around the room as he examined the place, no doubt because he'd heard me muttering. His green tunic covered a strong muscular body. Surly he was an angel dressed as a mortal. This surly was a creature too beautiful to be a hero.
"…And yet somehow, he was….
"So, sucking in a breath and an ounce of courage, still astounded that he was actually here after all this time, I quietly stepped into the room behind him. He was at the time, arguing with his little faerie, a small glittering being that flitted around his head. She seemed to annoying him as an insect might as he swatted at her.
" 'I've—' oh I was so nervous! To think it would come to something like this, '—I've been waiting for you, Hero.'
"He spun around, surprised to see me, wide eyes and all. He absently swatted at the faerie again as he stared at me, as though he were trying to pinpoint exactly where he'd seen me before. Inside, I was praying that he wouldn't recognize me. It was still to early. Ganondorf might become aware that I was still alive. 'Do I… know you?'
"Biting my lip for a second before going on, I said in a somewhat assertive voice, 'I am called Sheik. I am one of the last survivors of the Sheikah clan and I have been commanded by the gods to assist you in your quest, Link.'
" 'My name,' he said looking away. 'You know my name. God, no one has called me by my name for what seems like ages.'
" 'Surely you know how long you've been sleeping,' I said, raising a hand as I spoke.
" 'No, I don't think anyone really called me by my name ever save the few friends I've ever had. If that is the case, I must have been asleep forever. Well, I might have been if it wasn't for her….'
"He slowly approached, and clenching his fists he asked me a question I never dreamt I would have to answer. 'Where is she? The princess Zelda? Do you know what has happened to her?"
"For a second, I was tempted to give in and tell him who I really was. But the time was not yet right. 'She… she… I do not know where she is right now.'
" 'She's not dead is she!' he exclaimed, a hand weaved into his golden bangs. He seemed frightened at the very idea. 'Dammit! I've failed her! Tell me she's not dead!'
" 'She lives,' I said simply.
"And he let out a sigh of relief, his hands dropping to his sides. 'Thank god. Oh, I'll never forgive should she be harmed. She protected me, why should I not her?' he closed his eyes, standing there blankly for a moment before fainting, his legs buckling beneath him as he fell forward. I just was able to catch him, leaning his head on my shoulder as a knelt beside his limp body. I supposed he wasn't quite used to walking around yet.
" 'Wake up Link!' his faerie glided down and balanced her tiny form on his shoulder. She quivered a little, tiny sparkles of light shaking off of her glowing body as she turned a slight shade of pink. 'What did you do to him you great bastard? Are you in league with Ganondorf? Where is the princess? It is imperative we speak with her. If you are truly an ally, you will tell us what has happened to her!'
"I sighed as I shook Link's body a little, throwing the faerie off balance. Slowly, he opened his heavy eyelids, revealing his lovely blue eyes. Oh god, looking in those eyes was almost sinful.
" 'Listen to me Link,' I said softly, my voice muffled behind the cloth around my neck. 'Link, go to the village of Kakariko. There you can become equipped for your journey.'
"He sat up, looking at me long and hard. 'I don't know where you came from or why you wish to help me, but I thank you, Sheik.'
" 'Of course,' I said loosely as I stood with him. He hefted his sword, buckling it over his shoulder. How he looked like a hero! It was in that moment that I realized what feeling swam through my veins since the moment I first saw him. In my heart, I found that I loved him and that I would die to protect him. Then again, would I only live to hear him call me by the name 'Sheik'? Would he never know of these feelings I now had? I would never be able to love him. I would one day just vanish from his life, with no words of the truth and not a hint of what I knew in my heart.
"Actually, by the time all these thoughts had gone through my head, he was nearly gone from the temple. But he stopped before the great oaken doors at the entrance of the temple, turning to me and with a voice that was hardly a whisper, he said to me, 'Will I see you again, Sheik?'
" 'Yes, yes,' I was murmuring blindly, too distracted by his face to really pay attention. 'I live to serve you, Hero.'
"He laughed a little before scampering out the temple, the door crashing closed behind him. I just stood there behind the alter, no longer able to touch those jewels. I didn't care anymore. The one I'd been waiting for was here. And just to throw a twist into the story, my heart told me I loved him. Some people said they had proven by science that one's life is controlled by the brain; I begged to differ, for it seem that my heart ruled mine.
"I trudged home to Hermes, my head in the clouds. I was totally oblivious to everything around me. I wasn't paying any attention at all, and I actually ran straight into Praedari, who was sitting on the remains of a crumbled fountain that once had been the centerpiece of the town square. I tripped right over his feet, falling onto his lap. Surprised, he caught me as I came crashing downwards.
" 'Watch what yer doin' there Sheik!' he exclaimed as he helped me to my feet. I stood before him as he mockingly shook his head at me. 'What will we do with you?'
"I brushed some non-existent dust from my sleeve as I said to him, 'Don't know. It's a mystery.'
"He found that funny, and laughed. 'Alright Sheik. Let's have it.'
" 'What?' I asked, thoroughly confused by his statement as I pulled the hood down from over my head.
" 'Tell me what's on your mind, kid,' he said, crossing his arms. 'I know you well enough to know where there's something you'd like off your chest.'
"I smiled inwardly, twisting the comment slightly in my head. But he was correct, I felt this new feeling taking over my soul like a disease, though it couldn't be quite like that because it felt so good. Then again, this love was tearing me apart. 'Well, I dunno if I should really say….'
" 'Aw hell, come on Sheik!' he groaned. 'I want to help you! Why do you shut us out?'
" 'Err, you see Praedari, it's sort of a personal issue and it's a little hard to explain…' I needed to get away from him! The man might learn too much, or, heaven forbid it, I might trip up and let on that I was a woman. I had sworn after Hermes found out that not another soul would.
"I briskly started to trot off down another street back home. For a moment, I thought I had freed myself of him until I heard his feet slapping down on the stone road as he chased me down. 'Sheik! Wait up!'
"With a sigh, I slowed down and waited for him. He caught up quickly, grabbing me by the shoulder and wrenching me around to face him as he came up behind me. Breathing heavily, he said, 'Jeez, it's like you were trying to get away from me. You think I got the plague or something? Come on man! Tell me what's up, okay?'
"I looked away, back up over the city skyline where I could see the hazy outline of the huge volcano that loomed up behind Kakariko Village. It was one of the last few beautiful sights left in Hyrule. And then my thoughts traveled from the volcano to the village, where Link might be. Ah, but what was this? How was it that every thought or word connected my mind to Link? It was ravaging me into insanity!
" 'Yo! Sheik! Wake up!' he slapped me hard on the back, bringing me throttling back to reality.
" 'Hn, what is it?' I asked, dazed.
" 'What is on your mind? Now I really wanna know!' he said with a laugh. 'Sheik, you confuse me so, and yet you're so interesting! I wonder what it is about you…'
"I laughed too though mine had a rather nervous ring to it, 'Guess I'm just one of those kinda people.'
" 'Yeah, I guess you are,' he said as he too gazed up at the dark cloudy sky, arms folded behind his head. 'Well anyways, why don't you tell me what's been going on, and we'll walk home to Hermes together, alright?'
" 'If you insist,' I said, giving in to him as we began to walk. After going about two blocks without a word, he nudged me hard in the side. We stopped under an iron lamppost, a string of shredded multicolored flags fallen and hanging from its twisted sconce.
" 'Well? What are you avoiding?' he asked again. I could tell he was starting to get irritated; yet I knew he was persistent enough that he would not give up until he had the information he wanted.
"I sunk down at the base of the streetlamp, 'What if there was someone you wanted to love, but you couldn't?'
" 'Aww, Sheik's finally discovered women!' he said giddily as he winked at me. Then he started to drill me with what seemed like a thousand questions a second 'What is her name? Where did you meet her? What does she look like? Is she funny? Who is her father? Why is it you can't love her? Tell me what you mean! Is she some—'
" 'Stop,' I held up a hand. 'What does it matter who or what my love is? I cannot love.'
"He brushed a stray lock of hair from his face. 'Are you physically unable to love? Your heart cannot love? Or is it something more personal than that?' he grinned slyly.
" 'You sick little shit!' I yelled, a little offended. Then I laughed, 'No, no, it's not like that. You tell me you wish to help me, and yet you joke at me and treat me like I'm not a man.'
" 'Maybe you're not,' he shot back, his sly grin still plastered clear on his face.
" 'So what if I am or not?' I dared to say.
" 'Trying to suggest something?' he put his weight on one foot, then the other as he crossed his arms back over his chest.
" 'No I'm not thank you!' I snapped. I had already said too much. And before I let my mouth spill anymore hints at my true identity, I took to my feet and sped down the road.
" 'Hey wait up!' I heard him call after me as he began to follow me. This was just a little to close for comfort. Maybe he was catching on. Well, sure as hell I wasn't about to stick around him to find out! I ran faster, whipping round a corner at the next square. I flew down the path, and I was sure he was growing suspicious of my peculiar behavior as he chased after me relentlessly.
"Unfortunately, I found myself coming to a dead end, a ruined cart crashed into the remains of a small vending stall. Scrambling up atop the cart, I climbed up to the flat roof of the building behind it. Briefly, I saw Praedari hauling himself up onto the cart after me as I went to make my way across the rooftops.
"Now, I was far more lithe and quick than the stocky Praedari, however, he had quite a bit more endurance than I, and it showed as I began to slow he began to quicken. I nearly fell to the alleyway below as I bridged the gap between two old taverns. But it wasn't until I reached the other side that I began to have problems. Balancing on the crest of the pointed roof, I crossed to the top of the tavern. Praedari was behind me, having just jumping over the alley. He was no more than five feet behind me.
" 'Will you stop!? Why are you running from me Sheik? I though we were friends!' he was shouting as he crept along behind me, his arms out to the sides to keep his balance.
"I gritted my teeth, refusing to answer. It hurt me to hurt him this way, however I needed time to collect my thoughts. I couldn't talk to anyone about this just yet. Suddenly, I skidded, my feet flying out from under me and I fell into the splits. I threw my hands out before me as to catch myself, however, I placed them in a weak spot; right out from under me, the roof collapsed, and I remember falling into the dark building below before I blacked out."
"I have no idea for how long I was unconscious, but when I awoke, I was lying in Hermes' bed. A candle, wax melted over the edges of the dish on which it sat, burned the only light in the darkened room. No moonlight came in; the sky was too cloudy to see it. I threw an arm over my head, and I was so tired and I wished to sleep.
" 'Awake now, Sheik?' Praedari was rocking on the back legs of a chair in the corner of the room, my robe slung over the back of it along with my bow and quiver. The light set him in a funny glow, illuminating only highlights in his sea green curls and on his body. He looked like an angel ripped out of some impressionistic painting.
"I sat up groggily, rubbing my eyes. 'What happened?'
" 'You fell through the roof,' he replied bluntly. 'Hit your head pretty damn hard. See, that's what happens when you rush like that!'
"I felt rather moody. I snapped harshly at him, 'Hey! I don't criticize your actions, don't you criticize mine!'
" 'Touchy, touchy,' he was saying as he shook his head. 'Maybe you ought to sleep more.'
" 'I'm perfectly fine thank you!' I tried to stand, but fell to my knees. Praedari stood and came over to me, helping me back onto the bed. He told me I wasn't well enough to walk yet and that I had hurt my ankle.
" 'No, no,' I desperately tried to get back up, though Praedari was insistent upon forcing me back down. 'I can't be injured! There is someone I have to look for out there!'
" 'Your woman can wait!' he snapped as he gave me a harsh slap across the face. 'What's important now is you!'
"That was right… he thought I had a lover… a female lover at that since he was under the assumption I was a man.
"With a somewhat cruel shove, he rolled me back to where I had been lying a second before, throwing the covers over my body. I might add that I was still bound and covered tightly, and he had no suspicions that I was aware of. Praedari dragged up his chair, placing it beside the bed and sat down, elbows on his knees and chin in his hands as he said, 'So let's hear the story Sheik. Who is she and what's the problem?'
"I looked away. 'Can't tell you.'
" 'Aw, yes y'can!' he nodded his head vigorously, his curls bouncing around his face as he did.
" 'It involves a deep dark secret of mine.' I said vaguely.
" 'All the more reason to tell me!' he said, voice bouncy like a child. Then he was a quiet for a moment before he went on. 'Besides, I thought we was dear friends! You gotta tell me on account of you'd be keepin' secrets from us all. That violates our trust Sheik!'
" 'Everyone's got secrets Praedari. You ought to know that,' I whispered quietly. 'Hermes had quite a few he was far from willing to share.'
" 'But 'ee's the boss.'
" 'And I'm the boss' apprentice so there!' I retorted coolly. 'I don't gotta tell you nothin'!'
"He snorted as he rose from his chair, whipping it backwards with an agonizing screech against the wooden floor. 'Fine! If you want to be such a bloody bastard, be my guest! You better rest up good 'afore comin' back downstairs. Y'ain't in the best o' spirits. It's pissing me off, really.'
"I heard his heavy footsteps as he stormed down the stairs and his harsh whisperings about 'that damn spoilt baby.' I yanked the covers over my head, shutting him out. I really was not in the best of spirits. I'd just broken my godforsaken ankle. The hell was I supposed to do about seeing Link now?
"I tried to stand again, but to no avail. I came faltering back down to the floor head over heals. I tried to stand and it wasn't until I fell over and hit my head against the chair that I gave up. Lying in the middle of the floor on my back, sobbing, I mulled over my careless actions and what I was to do about it all.
" 'Why-y-y!?' I shouted, much as it gave me more of a splitting headache. Listening to the sounds around me and hearing nothing but an owl outside, the scuffling of feet downstairs and the laughing of Hermes accompanied by the arguing of Jael and Vans, I began to cry as I unraveled the cloth wrapped tight around my wrists and torso. When I went to do the same to my legs, and couldn't because of the pain, I threw a tantrum at myself, banging my fist on the floor 'till it stung.
"Hermes came racing up the stairs, looking at me quite strangely when he saw me lying on the floor. 'Praedari said you'd gone back to sleep in the bed? What are you doing on the ground Zelda? And why take off your bindings? You're lucky it was me who came up or whoever did would know your secret.'
" 'Are you done?' I moaned. I wasn't really in the mood. I just wanted to see Link.
" 'Look Zelda, I ain't gonna ask what happened or why you failed to bring home the treasure 'cause you're all banged up. However, I want you to get back on the bed and I want you to tell me what's on your mind.'
" 'Whatever,' I mumbled as I strained to get up, using the chair for leverage.
" 'Don't talk to me like that,' he snapped. 'I do not want you to think you have to hide anything from me. Tell me everything about what happened today.'
" 'I thought you said you weren't going to ask why.'
" 'I didn't ask why, Zelda, I asked what. Now tell me.' he sat in the chair after helping me to sit on the bed. Crossing his arms and one leg over the other, he leaned back and waited for me to talk.
" 'It's like this,' I began as I hoisted myself up into a sitting position. 'Today, it happened. He came. You know, the hero from my stories? He came back! And I saw him and I…' here I slowed a bit, for I didn't know exactly how to say it. '…I think I love him. It was such a shock, and he took me by such complete and utter surprise. I never expected it. It must have been fate… or instinct.'
" 'I see,' he said simply. 'Wasn't this hero just a friend though? You haven't seen him in over seven years! How could it be that you love him?'
" I let out a sigh as I stared out the window for a second, 'I just know it. I do what my heart tells me.'
" 'But how can you be sure?' he asked. He looked a little forlorn.
" 'Well how can you?' I shrugged. 'One can never be sure. The only certain thing about the future is uncertainty, Hermes.'
"He looked at me long and hard, as if trying to figure out what I was thinking… or maybe what made me think. I had spent years trying to figure him out, and now it was his turn to try and analyze me.
"Without warning, he said to me, 'Can you ride a horse Zelda?'
" 'Yes. Why do you ask?' I crossed my arms and looked at him.
" 'Even with that ankle?' he pressed me.
" 'I can get you a horse,' he said. 'I'll steal one for you from Lon Lon Ranch, and then you might be able to go to him. Would that be alright with you?'
" 'Wonderful!' I exclaimed. Forgetting about my foot I tried to leap out of bed and hug him, only to fall down again at his feet.
"With a laugh he said to me, 'Good. Here, let me help you.'
"Forcing me to sit in the chair, he retrieved some cloth and went about tightening it around my chest. He helped my wrap my legs as I wrapped my arms. He yanked the robe and the bow from behind the chair and tossed them to me. I covered my face with the robe as I had done before, then stood before the mirror as I fixed my hair so it covered my one eye. Then he led me to the catacombs and the ferryboats.
"Before long, we were drifting down the canal to the ranch dock where he would assist me in taking a good stallion. Casually, we slid out of the silo at the back of the ranch and wandered towards the farmhouse and the barn. The horses were free in the pasture. Taking one would be easy, and there was no need to bother with a saddle, for I could ride bareback easy.
"As he picked at the lock on the pasture fence, I leaned against it, and took in my surroundings, all the while sucking on a long gold piece of grass. I saw the owner of the ranch, an aristocratic fellow with a fat handlebar mustache and a frilly collar. Seemed like one of those indulgent types, though I could have sworn the last time I'd checked, the owner was a pudgy alcoholic who ran his daughter around doing all the work. Nearby, I saw a flock of chickens swarming around that redheaded girl, the rancher's daughter, who was feeding them all dried corn.
"I turned around to stare at the horses then, and I picked out the one I wanted: a tall rust colored mare with a silver mane. Feisty thing she was, but beautiful and strong.
"The owner waddled over to us, and I kicked Hermes in the shins. Promptly, he straightened and turned around, shoving his lock-picking tools into his pocket.
" 'What the hell are you people doing here? Didn't see you come in. Welcome!' he said with a cruel grin. I could tell his game was money, and he wasn't interested in us lest we have any.
" 'Ingo!' the redhead threw her basket down to be hoarded by the chickens as she stormed over to us. 'Leave the people be! They just want to see the horses, can't you tell?'
" 'Sure they can see the horses, but they gotta pay.' He glared at the redhead, who put her hands on her hips and pouted. As if doing that would do anything to sway the owner's cruel heart.
" 'You know they ain't gotta pay lest they wanna ride the horses,' she snapped. 'Ain't no fee for lookin' at 'em'
" 'See Malon, that's why I am in charge of this ranch now. Your lazy good for nothing father wasn't doing this establishment any good and with the way you're talking now, it doesn't seem like you would have done much better. At least I know a thing or two about making money,' Ingo seemed to not only have insulted the redhead, but also to have wounded her self-esteem.
"I was still munching on my shoot of grass as I looked at all of them. Hermes looked from Malon, to Ingo to me and then back at Ingo. With a smile, he said, 'Well it's like this sir. My cousin here needs a good horse—'
" 'A horse y'say!' he exclaimed. 'The hell didn't you say so! I'll sell ya almost any one you want.'
" 'Which do you like, Sheik?' Hermes asked me, glaring slyly at Ingo. I pointed to the rusty red one.
" 'Ah, 'fraid I can't give ya that one. I'm kinda savin' it,' Ingo pouted a little, his eyes narrow slits in his head.
" 'Well we'll go look for a horse elsewhere then,' Hermes grabbed me by the wrist, forgetting about my ankle and nearly snapping the damn thing off as he started to walk. 'I hear Gerudo horses are bred excellently.'
" 'No, no wait!' Ingo dashed ahead of us and cut us off from leaving. 'Maybe we can strike a deal of some kind.'
"I had to hand it to Hermes. He was very good at what he did. 'Well…'
"Using the wall of the barn for support, I slid away from Hermes and slinked back towards the corral. Malon flounced up to me, staring right into my eye, arms folded behind her back. I pressed myself against the barn wall as she said in a singsong kind of voice, 'Hey, you're kind of cute! Your cousin's good looking too! Are all your relatives so handsome?'
" 'Y-yeah, most,' I stammered. In all my years as pretending to be a man, this had never happened to me. It showed, as I had nothing really to say.
" 'Shy too!' she giggled. 'I like shy boys!'
"At least it proved my disguise was a good one.
" 'T-thanks, I guess,' I started to back off, limping quite a bit as I made my way backwards to where Hermes and Ingo were now fighting over money. And without realizing it, I backed right into one of them; or so I thought, for when I turned around, he said with as much surprise as I did, 'It's you!'
"Link… what was he doing here? He had exquisite timing though. I told him the truth… well as much of it as I could while remaining inconspicuous. 'I just needed a horse. I was going to go looking for you actually…'
"From what he told me, he was going to do the same thing. 'I knew the rancher's daughter once. I wanted to see if she was still here. There were some things I wanted to ask her.'
" 'Oh,' I felt a tiny twinge of nervousness. What if she wanted to cuddle up with Link, as she had wanted with me? Link knew that Malon was a woman, but he knew not that I was such. What had I been thinking! He'd never want me when there were so many others….
" 'She's right behind me,' I was saying, though when I motioned there, she had disappeared. She must have shied away, though she had seemed rather bold seconds ago. Then I noticed Ingo towering between us, Hermes frowning in the corner.
" 'Get with your damn cousin and get lost. Y'ain't got any money so I want you off my property!' he snarled.
" 'Make me, pig!' I snapped at him, swinging my fist around.
" 'Whoa,' Link put out his arm between us. 'Let's settle this like gentlemen.'
"Ingo turned to look at him, bushy eyebrows raised as he stroked his mustache. 'Gentlemen, eh? What is it you have in mind?'
" 'Oh, I dunno. Look, what can I do to get the boy and myself each a good horse,' he was saying. Link seemed to be another one of those clever negotiator types. He was working Ingo well, and it seemed like he might actually have his way.
" 'What, you mean besides paying?' he chortled. 'How about we have a bet. You go pick a horse and I'll race you with a wager of fifty rupees. I win, I get your money; if not, I'll give you fifty and I'll sell you a horse for cheap.'
" 'Hey! That's a rip-off!' I interjected. Ingo glared at me heatedly. 'Either way, you get the money since he'd still have to pay you for the horse.'
" 'Yeah, but it would be for so much less than I'd usually sell for,' Ingo retorted. 'Look at it this way: it ain't your money, so why do you care? He'd be able to get you a horse too this way you brat.'
" 'Whatever, just so long as I get a horse out of this deal,' Link muttered as he wandered over to the corral. Without even waiting for Ingo to unlock the gate, he hopped the fence and made his way towards the horses. I came over to the fence as fast as I could limp and pressed my face against it as I hissed to him, 'Get that red one, Link! She's a fast one. I guarantee you'll win with her!'
"He shrugged and went over to the rusty mare. She made a commotion as he approached, rearing back on her hind legs and kicking around like a wild horse would. He hushed her, stroking her muzzle and entwining his fingers through her mane. Oh, if only I could have been that horse, to have him treat me so affectionately and for him to stroke me. Damn my luck!
"Link hopped up on the horse's back as soon as he had her under control, easing her gently to the fence where he neatly jumped her to the other side.
" 'The hell?' Ingo looked in wonder. 'How did you get that maniac horse under control?'
" 'Kindness and attention can get any horse under your control. A ranch owner like you ought to know that.' Link mused as he led the horse in a trot over to where Ingo stood. 'Besides, this horse knows me. Familiarity helps a good deal too. Again, a horse man like yourself ought to have known that already as well. But being that these are your horses, I'm sure that is not a problem.'
" 'See Ingo!' I heard Malon shout from far off. She had her head poked out of the second floor window of the farmhouse, watching the whole scene as she spoke. 'My father might've been a slacker, but hell he knew his horses and his trade. Unlike you who ain't got the sense enough to know the difference between a chicken and a cow!'
" 'Shut the hell up and get back in there!' Ingo snapped. Then he turned to Link and said in a calm businesslike voice, 'So we will race then? Let me get me a horse and we'll begin.'
"Soon Ingo had mounted a palomino stallion and he was beside Link at the corral gate. I sat beside Hermes on the fence to watch. Link's faerie, quiet for once, hovered near my head. I was supposed to be the judge of the race, but Ingo thought I'd be biased towards Link. He figured if it was too close to tell they would race again. At least I got to start them off.
"I raised my hand in the air, the other hand upon Hermes' shoulder for support. With a shout of 'GO!' I swung it downwards and the two horses throttled forward. The race was close, Ingo's stallion just a hair ahead of Link and his rust mare. Link slapped his horse's flank and urged her on faster as they rounded the bend along the back length of the corral. Soon he had overtaken Ingo, sailing down and around towards the finish where I declared him the winner by a long shot.
"Ingo came over the finish line a moment later, sulking on the back of his horse. 'You cheated somehow, kid! Dammit, how could I lose to the likes of you!'
" 'Fair's fair,' Link snapped as he dismounted. 'Where's my money?'
"Ingo leapt off his horse too, strolling over to where we were. He had regained his cool as he said casually, 'Well I suppose we ought to go again. I went easy on you. Next time I won't be so nice.'
" 'Yeah, well, in your kindness you allowed me to best you at our wager. Now what was it, fifty rupees and a horse?' Link crossed his arms, grinning like a child.
" 'I did not promise you a horse!' Ingo snapped. 'Just the money. However, if you can beat me again, I'll… I'll' he looked around at me and Hermes, and then at Link again.
" 'You'll?" Hermes prodded, his grin almost as wide as Link's.
" 'I'll let you keep the horse!' Ingo blurted out so fast I could hardly make out what he said.
" 'This rusty one?' he asked.
" 'Fine!' Ingo snapped. 'You've wounded my pride. I intend to win it back!'
" 'Well fine then!' Link agreed, spitting in his hand and then offering to Ingo. Ingo did likewise and they shook, sealing the deal.
" 'No rematches this times,' Hermes commented to them as they mounted their respective horses and came over to the starting line.
" 'Yeah, whatever,' Ingo waved it off. 'Start the damned race already.'
"I raised my arm once more and shouted 'GO'! They took off again, but this time, Link didn't hold back as I could see he had before. With great ease, he overtook Ingo and was already almost finished with the course. Ingo was urging his horse as hard as he could, but the stallion just wasn't as fast as the rusty mare. Link won again.
"As Ingo approached Link after the race again, he was in a rage. 'DA-A-A-AMN YOU! How did you do it again? Right away you were able to get a head start! What is it?'
" 'The horse,' Hermes murmured softly, just loud enough for Ingo to hear. 'Obviously, it's better than you thought and now you must give it over to him. Too bad though. Either that or it's just that you suck at this kind of thing or that guy's a born natural.'
" 'A mixture of both, I reckon,' Malon shouted sassily from the farmhouse. She'd watched the whole thing. Hermes roared with laughter.
"Ingo dashed off towards the farm house, swinging a large gate closed behind him. It sealed us inside so we were unable to go. 'I'll keep my promise; the horse is yours to keep. However, you ain't getting out of here!'
" 'Damn you!' Hermes snarled as he hopped off the fence. Grabbing my arm, he dragged me over to the stallion and practically threw me on his back. Then he leapt on behind me, grabbing the reins as he urged the horse into a gallop towards the fence. Link hopped on the mare and followed, his faerie streaking behind him at a wicked speed to catch up, magic dust trailing behind her.
" 'The hell are you doing?' I asked Hermes as I gripped the mane for my dear life. 'You'll kill us, you psycho!'
"Link shouted loud from his mare as he rode up parallel to us, galloping almost as fast, 'Are you mad? Foolishness!'
" 'Just trust me, okay?' he called back. 'Follow me!'
"Hermes urged the horse faster, Link just behind us. Then he jumped the horse clear over the perimeter fence taking us free of the ranch. Link came bounding over the fence on his horse soon after. Before I knew it, or at least, when I opened my eyes again, we were in the field. I sat up straight and elbowed Hermes hard in the gut as I shouted him about how insane he was.
" 'Whoa kid,' Link was saying as he helped me down from the horse. 'Don't wanna make your injury worse, do you?'
" 'How'd you know I was hurt?' I asked as I slide out of the saddle and into the long grass.
" 'I'd have to be blind not to notice that limp,' he chuckled. 'What do you take me for? An idiot? Not me bucko!'
" 'Well Sheik ain't too careful with himself,' Hermes grumbled under his breath, just loud enough for Link to hear. Link looked at the both of us with a bemused look in his eye. Hermes turned the horse back towards his city, 'I'll leave the both of you to talk. I gotta go.'
"Soon after he had disappeared over the horizon, Link had clambered down from his muscled steed and was sitting cross-legged beside me. His faerie fluttered next to me, whining in my ear, 'Something about you just don't make sense. There's something about you and I don't like it one bit!'
" 'Hush Navi,' he said waving the faerie away, 'Sheik, you are indeed a mystery to me. Can you tell me about yourself? I should like to know about you, despite what Navi lets on.'
"I found myself unable to look into his eyes as I stared out into the shadowy clouds up in the sky. 'Oh Link, I really wish I could tell you, but there are some things that must wait. All I can say now is that I am to assist you in your quest. That is all.'
" 'Surely it is not!' he lay down on his side, supporting his weight with a crooked elbow.
"I shrugged, no words to say to him coming to my mouth.
" 'Well if you aren't gonna tell me anything about you, how about I tell you about me?' he asked. 'I want to take you somewhere very special to me.'
"Of course, there were things I wanted to show him too. However, whatever he wanted to show me was nothing of that kind. He helped me upon the back of his horse and led her by the reins towards the forests bordering the land of Hyrule.
" 'Where are we going?' Navi asked in her chirrupy voice. 'You have a quest to complete!'
"He paid her no mind as we went deeper into the woods. Soon the trees became scarcer and opened up into a large clearing. There were small huts fashioned from the stumps of great ancient trees. I could tell it had once been a magical place, but was now overgrown with weeds and infested with monsters.
" 'What is this place Link? Is this where you wanted to show me?' I had so many questions for him, though I wished not to be a bother to him, and yet I could not help myself. To be able to talk with him again, finally, was just such a sheer joy.
" 'No, this isn't what I meant to show you,' he said casually as we went onwards to where the forest became thick again. 'This is just a little stop along our tour. My home, Kokiri Village.
" 'So this is where the Kokiri children live.' I said with a little tinge of awe on my tongue.
" 'Yeah,' he whispered as we left the village. The trees were becoming larger, with great roots that arched overhead and long vines of dewy leaves and silvery bark. Spidery thin tendrils of fairy dust and sparkles wafted through the dimly lit forest.
" 'Well what's this place here? It seems different from the rest of the forest. Almost like its more magical,' I noted aloud.
" 'The Lost Woods,' was the simple reply. He seemed to have fallen into a sleepy kind of trance as he trudged along. Perhaps it was because he was just returning home after so long. Soon, after wandering through the twisting trees and shadows, we came to a long limestone staircase that was cut into the rocky side of a wall of stone. There were columns adorning the base of the staircase and many intricate carvings along the way up.
" 'We'll leave the horse here. Come, I will help you up the stairs,' he said with a drowsy edge on his voice. The magic here was certainly having an effect on him. He took me about the waist and pulled me from the saddle. Then he wrapped my arm around his neck and supported my body with his as we began to climb the stairs. Strangely, as we ascended, I felt the pain leave my foot, as though it were healing. When we were more than halfway to the top, I knew that was exactly what it was. The forest's magic was knitting and mending inside my body, cleansing me of my wounds. A quick glance at Link told that the same was happening to him; his face looked pure and refreshed.
"The top of the stairs opened up to a large clearing, surrounded by walls of white limestone. A gnarly bent over tree bowed over the remains of another ruined staircase that led to an ornate door.
" 'Looks like a temple or something,' I muttered to myself. 'I wonder which one it is. There's five others like it all over Hyrule, built to honor the spirits of the elements.'
"Link nodded, 'I know. Saria used to sit here and play her ocarina all the time. And I would come to listen to her stories. She told me this place was called the Forest Temple.'
"I was silent for a moment, the chirruping of lonely birds echoing in the forest around us. I could hear the magical tendrils tracing round my fingers. I said to him, 'And how did you know to come here, Link?'
" 'I just don't…' he started.
" 'Know,' I finished softly. 'You just don't know anything do you? You want to understand it all, don't you, Link? But you can't.'
" 'I want to understand who I am, Sheik. Can you understand that feeling?' he asked with a sad sort of look cast downwards to his boots. He shifted his weight from one foot to another, and then tapped one toe behind him.
" 'Oh yes Link,' I reassured him, reaching a hand out to touch his shoulder, 'By god I do.'
"He looked up at the temple. Down the darkened passageway above us that led into the monster infested temple above, covered in vines and moss. 'I can hear her though. I can feel her powers. Sheik! Saria is in there. Her power is waning, as though she has used what little she has to call for help. We must go!'
" 'Of course, hero,' I said. 'She has some of the power needed to destroy Ganondorf. I shall help you.'
"He looked at me long and hard for a moment before he said, choosing his words carefully, 'Is that the only reason you want to help? To get the power you need to exterminate Ganondorf?'
" 'No,' I said gently as I removed the harp Hermes had given me from the folds of my garments. 'I want to help you. If saving Saria is what you desire, I shall help you to do so, Link.'
" 'Sheik how did you….'
" 'Know?' I finished for him again, slowly plucking the strings to form a lazy forest tune; a magical tune inspired by the gods. 'I have been waiting for seven years just to see you. And now you're here, and now I have the knowledge of the gods to help the both of us. I am your servant.'
" 'No!' he exclaimed suddenly, grabbing me by the shoulders and shaking me a little, the notes going way off pitch at the disturbance, 'No man shall be a lesser of mine. Not on your life! Sheik, if you are to help me, by will of the gods or no, then you shall be my friend and companion. No less, no more.'
" 'Yes, yes,' I said, looking down at the ground, 'No less… no more….'
"Suddenly, there was a scream that resonated from the temple, reverberating through the whole forest, making the birds and all the woodland creatures stop their lulling din. Link snapped up straight, looking up at the temple's entrance. 'That was Saria!'
" 'We should go then,' I said solemnly, putting the harp away. 'But how do we get up there? I can't magic us up there. It would take too much power.'
" 'I see,' Link muttered to himself. 'Well then, we'll go like this!' He produced from nowhere a strange looking tool. It was a wheel and sprocket with a chain on a spring around it. At the end of the chain was a grapple to latch on to wood or ledges etc.
" 'How will that…?' I murmured to myself as I watched him.
" 'They call it a 'hookshot.' It's a dandy thing,' he said as he pointed the grapple at a low branch overhanging the top of the stairs. He snatched me by the arm, yanking me close to him and then wrapping an arm around my waist, he pulled a small trigger under the handle of the hookshot and the grapple shot forth, pulling the chain from around the wheel. It embedded itself in the sturdy wood with a thud and on impact, the chain recoiled, pulling both Link and I to the top of the crumbled staircase, Navi fluttering up behind us.
" 'Sure is!' I exclaimed as I took a closer look at the thing. 'Can I hold it?'
" 'If you want to, go ahead!' he said as he handed it over. 'You ought to try and get a handle on it yourself being it that it would get tiring to drag you up with me at the same time after a while. You aren't any feather, that's for sure!'
" 'I'm insulted Link!' I joked.
" 'Aw, get over it,' he shot back with a laugh. 'Let's be on our way, hmm?'
"We tramped into the gloomy dark, walking through a weed choked courtyard. It had grimy walls of stone rising up all around, moss oozing from the mortar between each brick and two ancient trees wrapped in thick vines.
" 'What a creepy place,' I mused as we made our way past the courtyard and through another long passageway. Spiders crawled in translucent webs knitted across the ceiling and the whole place stank of burnt and rotten flesh. Long shadows gave it a sort of unreal look, making things seem far more frightening and haunting than they actually were, and sometimes the best light we had was the flickering glow of little Navi.
" 'Question, Sheik,' he commented.
" 'That tune you played on your harp,' he asked, 'what was it?'
" 'The song of the spirit of the forest,' I replied. 'It is referred to in ancient texts as the Minuet of Forest. If you ever have to need to be here quickly, play it, and it shall be so.'
"He simply nodded, absorbing all I had said.
"After trekking down the hall, we came upon a huge atrium, the central floor sunken down two steps beneath the rest where a wooden lift stood, ready to descend to floors unknown. Four carved torches, wrought of gold, stood on garnet pedestals around the lift, each glimmering with a colored flame. There were long stairs reaching up to doors on the four walls of the room and then two small passageways at the northeastern and northwestern walls. There seemed so many places to go, and we knew not where to even begin to search for Saria.
" 'Well Sheik,' he said, putting a hand on his hip as he descended a few of the steps before us, 'which way do we go, huh? Any ideas?'
" 'Dunno,' I muttered softly. Navi shook around, saying that she had no idea what to do either.
"There was a cackling laugh, 'The only place you'll be going is to an early grave!'
"We looked up to the center of the room where the lift was. A ghostly hag, swaddled in ratty black and purple robes hovered beside the lift. The ghost was a poltergeist variation that was commonly called a 'Poe' after a morbid writer of our age. Soon, she was joined by three other ghosts like her, one in green, one red and another blue. The purple ghost snapped her the fingers of one blackened skeleton hand and the four torches were snuffed out, smoking slightly as their flames receded. The moment the fires were put out, the lift sunk into the floor, becoming no more than a wooden tile in the floor, carved with a twisted insignia.
"The purple Poe began to talk again, 'You are unwelcome guests in our temple. You shall not go any further lest you meet certain death.'
"The blue one spoke up, 'Leave this place.'
"She was immediately backed up by the red, 'The lowly specters that wander these halls are restless!'
"Then came the green, 'We shall haunt your dreams, for we are the stuff of nightmares.'
"And then the purple one took the lead again, silenced her sisters and threatened us again, 'You are warned. We shall kill you the next time we meet. Beware.'
"Then they faded into the darkness, quick as they had come. I turned to Link, 'Well obviously, our ultimate goal is to get down to whatever that lift takes us to. They wouldn't have locked it like that if there wasn't something of value down there.'
"Link nodded, 'We'll have to find those damned Poes again. If we kill them all, then their respective torches should be relit. If we get all those torches glowing back again, then the lift will come back and we can finish the evil that lurks here.'
"Navi spoke up. It seemed as though she had been pondering a thought for a while, 'Should we split up or go it together?'
" 'That's a good question,' Link acknowledged her. 'What do you think Sheik?'
" 'We would cover more ground if we split,' Navi said. 'Me 'n' Link will go to the east and you can go to the west, Sheik.' I could tell that Navi did not trust me at all.
" 'Yeah, but if we go it together than we'll have less a chance of getting killed,' Link said thoughtfully. 'There are good and bad points to both plans. I dunno. You decide Sheik.'
" 'Me!? Why do I have to pick?' I exclaimed.
" 'Ain't the gods giving you power? They ought to know what to do,' Link teased. I could tell that he was just playing, though he really did want me to choose what we were to do.
" 'Um, perhaps we should indeed split up. I mean we're both decent fighters and we want to get to Saria as quickly as possible. What if she's been hurt?' I said.
" 'Good point,' he nodded. 'So that's what we'll do. Meet you here, okay?'
"I nodded as well, 'Yes, and if you aren't here for some reason, I'll come to look for you, assuming that you are in some kind of danger.'
"So he went one way, and I went the other. Soon I was all alone, wandering through the temple. I found myself climbing ladders, running past monsters and other such heroic tasks. But in one room, a place with a huge oil painting of the green-garbed Poe, I stopped. Well, I could not really go any further since an iron portcullis had slammed down over the door the moment I set foot inside. What was I to do?
"Looking around, I tried to look for a way to get out of the room, examining my surroundings carefully. I saw, up on a raised balcony, the door (locked of course) leading back to the beginning of the temple. On one side of the door was a golden torch, similar to the ones in the large atrium. And on the other side was a wooden tripod with a large silver hourglass resting upon it. Then I examined that large painting again. The Poe seemed to leer at me, her narrow yellow eyes luminous and haunting. It angered me to even look at it, and just to spite the damned thing, I pulled out my bow and fired an arrow right into the canvas. There was a cackling laugh. 'To-o-old you n-o-o-t to sta-ay here. Fo-o-ol, now you die!'
" 'Show yourself, witch!' I shouted into the gloom. As if to reply to my command, the green Poe materialized into the light, laughing maniacally.
"She glowered at me, 'Gehehe, how shall I kill thee? Will ye die or will ye run free?'
" 'I'll kill you now!' I shouted angrily at her, shaking my fist in the air.
" 'I would love to see thee try,' she said with an awful laugh, long sharp teeth shinning behind her lips as she curled them back into a horrid grin, 'and then see thee die!'
With those words, she disappeared. I spun about, looking all around the room just in case she might have snuck up behind. 'Come back out here, coward!'
"Nothing happened for a few moments. Then, from the high ceiling, without a single warning, four large blocks fell to the floor, dust rising up as they crashed against the floor. I just managed to leap out of the way, almost crushed by the oncoming blocks. The Poe laughed from the depths of the shadows, 'Solve my puzzle and I shall meet you in combat.'
"I looked closer at the blocks, and realized that each on had a portion of some kind of picture on it. I supposed I had to push them together to make the picture whole. Simple.
"…Or so I thought, for then I heard a small click, and I saw that the hourglass by the door had flipped over, and the creamy sand was quickly spilling into the bottom portion.
" 'Ah, so that's the catch,' I said to myself. 'Gonna time me, eh? Well I'll get you yet!'
"Thinking quickly, I began the endeavor. Many combinations, tried and failed, and with only a few seconds remaining on the hourglass, I tried one last desperation. As soon as I had pushed the block into place, the picture identical to the portrait on the wall, they all sunk into the floor by means of some higher magic. Cackling, the Poe returned.
" 'I never thought ye to be the type to finish it,' said she, 'but just barely. Let's see how well you do with me as your opponent.'
"My will to fight was really broiling by then, and I swung out my bow and strung it so fast, the Poe had hardly had time to blink. Aiming the bow, arrow nocked, at the Poe, I began to advance on her. She drifted ever so slightly backwards with every one of my steps as I came upon her.
"Zing! I let the arrow whiz from the bow; the taut string vibrating the entire weapon as it let the arrow flew. It found its mark, embedding itself inside her breast.
" 'Gehehe,' she squealed as she gripped the shaft of the arrow with a charred black hand and tore it from her rotten flesh, green ooze and worms spewing forth as she did so. 'I shall not be defeated so easily!'
"Gritting my teeth, I groped through my clothes for another weapon of some kind. I found a set of small shrunken, laced together on a chain to my belt. I loosed one of the shinning ninja stars and flung it at the Poe. It sliced through one of her yellowed eyes, black stuff spurting out as it flew through.
" 'Blinded!' she shrieked.
"Ready for anything, I threw another shrunken at her, this one finding her heart, near where I had fired my arrow. The shrunken was inside her deep, and the Poe was unable to wrench it free. She wriggled and screamed in pain, but I gave her no sympathy as I rushed forward and began to fiercely pummel her with my fists. Whack! Slam! Wham!
"I showed no mercy to the squat little ghost, surprisingly solid for a specter. Next thing I knew, she was slowly crumbling to dust in my hands. And then she was gone. Shoulders heaving as I took a deep breath, I stood and looked around at the now silent room. The golden torch flickered with a dull green flame and the doors unlocked.
"I flew up the stairs and burst through the door to find myself on a high balcony. Below me I saw Link, surrounded by five Poes! How could that be? I wondered as I leaned over the rail, squinting my eyes to get a better look. Link was on his toes, his eyes darting from poltergeist to poltergeist. His sword was drawn as he tried to pick one to attack. I watched as he flew at one of them, only to have his sword slice through nothingness. Then the real Poe came up from behind and slammed him with her lantern.
"I realized that he was unable to see all of them at once, therefore unable to distinguish the real from the false. However, from my vantage point, I could see all, and I decided to use that to my advantage.
"He had not seen me; he was too preoccupied with the Poes. I nocked another arrow and took aim at one of the Poes. I could easily tell which was the real one, for when Link had his back turned to her, she would swing her lantern round and round, making faces at him all the while.
"I let the arrow sail and it hit the Poe dead on. The fakes disappeared and both Link and the real purple Poe spun around to see who had fired the arrow. Link looked relieved to see me, while the Poe looked positively seething.
" 'Damn you!' she screeched.
"Link whirled around on his heel, sword drawn, before she could utter another word. He had soon sliced and hacked his way through her rotting flesh, and she had sizzled into a pile of ash at his feet. Soon the fourth and final torch was ablaze with a purple flare, and the lift rose up from the ground.
" 'Shall we go then Link?' I scampered onto the lift excitedly. The feeling of adventure was coursing through my veins, and I was eager for more action. Link clambered on the lift, and it sank down a long dark shaft into the temple's basement.
" 'What an eerie place,' Link said, crossing his arms, 'I don't like it one bit. Sure hope Saria is okay.'
" 'She will be,' I whispered, 'I can feel her. She is alive, and she is in this temple. I know it.'
" 'Thank the gods,' he said just as softly. His head hung slightly as he stared at his boots, his golden locks tumbling into his eyes. He looked so sad, and I reached out a hand for him to hold, so he would not feel so lonely.
" 'Why do you seem so sad?' I wondered aloud, not realizing that had voiced the thought. He looked up at me as he replied.
" 'Sad? I guess I'm just a little preoccupied with some things. I'm sorry if I seem distant. Here you are as my comrade and I am no joy at all!'
" 'Some things?' I tried to look him in the eye as we stepped off the lift when it touched the basement floor.
" 'People I've lost, Sheik,' was the answer. 'I am told they are alive and well, but I have no idea where to turn. I want to find all those dear to my heart!'
" 'I see,' I ran ahead to the large door before us. 'I shall be the one to help you mend your broken heart. We'll find your friends together! There is no need for anyone to be alone. Especially you, Link.'
" 'Why me?' he followed me to the door and helped me to push it open. 'What makes me special?'
" 'You are the Chosen….'
" 'I mean aside from all that bullcrap!' he shouted at me so suddenly, it startled the living daylights out of me. His sultry voice reverberated through the huge room we now stood in. It seemed to be the remains of an old art gallery, with huge decrepit old landscape paintings hanging all around the circular atrium.
" 'Because the Princess wills it to be so,' I replied simply, truthfully, as I stared him in the eye. He looked at with a look of amazement, almost like he did not believe that it could be so.
"As we were speaking to one another, we had been slowly making our way into the center of the room. The moment Link set his foot on the Triforce emblem in the center of the tiled floor, the whole room shook with the sound monstrous voice. It rumbled through us as we clung to each other, trying to find balance. 'Who art thou who enters upon my Temple?'
" 'Who are you!' Link shouted at the voice. 'Are all the creatures of this temple cowards? Why is that they never show themselves?'
" 'I, the Guardian of the Forest Temple, am no coward!' the voice retorted. There was a sudden bright flash of white light. Then, before us, mounted on a powerful black steed, was Saria, held tightly by… Ganondorf!?
" 'What the hell are you doing here, pig?' I shouted at him. 'You call yourself, honorable? Only a coward would hide behind a child!'
" 'He's right about that, bastard!' Link stepped forward, arms akimbo. 'Leave her out of this! The struggle is between us!'
" 'Oh, but this involves her more than you'll ever know,' Ganondorf crooned. 'Her power is necessary for my quest to retrieve all of the Triforce.'
" 'You can never have it,' I snapped. 'There is no way you will find the ones who posses the Triforce in their hearts!'
" I'll be the judge of that!' Ganondorf snapped. He clapped his hands, and Saria disappeared. Then he placed a hand behind his ear and pulled. Much to my surprise, he tore his olive colored flesh right off his face! Why, this was not Ganondorf at all, but merely a phantom in his shape. I gritted my teeth.
" 'Let me take care of this!' Link shouted as he shoved my harshly to the side of the room. I rammed into the wall, crumpling over with bruises all over. Link apparently did not know his own strength. Perhaps he still was not used to his new body. I watched from the edge of the room as he prepared to battle.
"On his toes, Link watched the room warily. The phantom had disappeared into one of the paintings by means of some kind of magic. Link had drawn his own bow and had it drawn taut, arrow nocked. Suddenly, the phantom, hunched over his steed, leapt from on of the paintings, sailing over the room. Link had not expected this at all, and was at the phantom's mercy when it struck a great bolt of lightning upon the hapless hero. Link buckled down on his knees, and struggled to stand up as the phantom galloped down another painting, laughing.
"But this seemed to renew Link's courage, and he got to his feet just as the phantom came flying out of another painting. Link let his arrow fly and it hit his mark, wounding the phantom's arm. As had the Poes, the phantom began to bleed writhing maggots and diseased flesh. The phantom cried in pain as he disappeared down the painting. Link grinned sadistically.
"When the phantom reappeared a third time, Link's arrow wounded the phantom horse, and it bucked and put up a commotion, the specter finding it hard to get the stallion under control. I could tell exactly what he was thinking, and he was plotting to destroy the horse, as to make it easier to attack the phantom.
"A few rounds later, Link had torn the horse apart, and the phantom hovered over Link's head, his great staff held in a ready position. Gathering magic at the head of the giant rod, the phantom let a great ball of electric energy fly at Link. Link threw his arms up over his face, sword in one hand. The magic was absorbed into the sacred Master Sword, and then flew from the blade at the wretched poltergeist. It screeched in aguish.
"Time after time, the Master Sword would let the phantom's magic explode back at it. Link merely had to swing his sword at the oncoming magic, and it would rebound back, rendering the specter immobile. Then Link would rush forward and hack and slash at the monster, guts and flesh flying about and bones crunching under Link's weight until the phantom would gain its fight again and rise back into the air. Using this tactic, Link whittled away at the monster's life. Soon it threw its head back in defeat and just as Link was about to thrust the sword through the phantom for one final blow, a new voice boomed through the room.
" 'Worthless creation!' the voice cried as the phantom's limp body was lifted into the air over a swirling vortex that had materialized on the floor. The phantom was flung in and the vortex closed. 'Next time, you'll fight the real me, and it won't be so easy to win!'
" 'Ganondorf!' I was on my feet. The voice did not reply, but faded with a great din of laughter.
"Link sheathed his sword, 'He'll be back Sheik. Don't worry, you'll get yours.'
"I nodded. Over the emblem in the center of the room was a dim glowing portal of an icy blue color. Standing in the center of the light, was Saria, hands folding before her, her face downcast. Link was walking slowly towards her, as if in a trance. I found myself being drawn into the light as well. When we had both set foot in the portal, there was another great flash of white light, and we were whisked away from the temple.
"We stood in a place beyond the great taboo of dimensions where time and space stood still. Link and I were near Saria, a child who looked up at us with the eyes of an adult who had seen much pain. Link whispered under his breath, just so I could hear, 'The Sacred Realm….'
" 'Link,' Saria spoke, 'You have traveled far, undergone much pain and sadness. And here you are again. Are you ready to accept your true quest?'
"He nodded. 'But aside from all that Saria, are you alright? How has it been?'
"She looked away from him, 'I missed you, Link. You went away and you never came back for years and years. Now look, you've come home. Are you going to stay now?'
" 'Saria,' he looked at her sharply, 'You know I can't.'
" 'Why not? You made us wait for you. Everyone in the village thinks you're dead, you know.' she wondered. I moved further back, staying behind Link, leaving the two to talk alone.
"Link looked as though he might cry; his eyes were wet. 'Saria, my place is not with the Kokiri. I belong with someone else.'
" 'Link, that's not true! You don't really believe that, do you?' she jumped up and down in her impatience. 'Who do you hold in more importance than me, your best friend? Link, there isn't anyone else!"
"Link's anger flared at her, 'Shut up! You don't know what happened to me after I left. You don't know who I met and who I….' He slowed and stopped talking.
" 'Link, please don't be mad!' she exclaimed, obviously hurt by his fury. I chose then to step forward.
" 'Saria,' said I, 'do you realize what your own destiny is? Do you understand where we are and what you were summoned to do?'
" 'Frankly, no,' she said, her voice iced and upset. She sounded much like an adult, and not a child at all. Saria was no longer a little girl.
"I knelt before her, putting a hand on her shoulder. 'Saria, Link has been requested by the gods to save Hyrule. And your part in his destiny, is to become the Sage of the Forest and to lend him your power.'
" 'Like I could do anything to help,' she whispered, looking deep into my eye. 'I just want Link to come home. I want things to be like they used to.'
" 'Oh Saria, things can never go back to the way they were,' Link said in a mournful voice. 'You are my friend, but there is someone I need to find out there, before I can ever even think of returning to my old life. But even then, things could never be the same.'
" 'Accept your calling,' I whispered into her tapered ear. 'Join us, and give us the power we need to defeat the evil of Ganondorf.'
"Resting her head on my shoulder, she spoke in a hoarse murmur, 'Very well. I shall help you. I do not yet understand but…' her voice became even lower, so quiet even I, who was right beside her, could barely hear her, '…but if the princess of Hyrule says it is so, then it must be so.' She cupped her hands, closing her eyes, and in a flash of green energy, a jade medallion with the seal of the forest engraved upon it appeared before her. She handed it to Link.
"I said nothing, knowing Link had not heard as he dumbly accepted the round medallion. Simply, I rose and stood, speaking briefly to Link, 'Let's go Link. There are other things we must do to further our progress.'
"He nodded and followed me as we left Saria behind us. I could hear her sobbing, and my shoulder was damp with her tears. As we disappeared from the Realm, into the shadows that would return us to Hyrule, I heard Saria's voice echo around us.
" 'I will always be….
Your friend, Link…' "
Impa was meditating for a moment before she wrote those last words. There was a lingering silence around the tavern. Every soul was gathered round the little table, Zelda solemnly sitting there, hands folded and all.
"Dare I to go on?" Zelda asked the people around her. They nodded and shouted affirmative remarks, urging her to continue. Zelda smiled, pleased that they cared so much about her. After a sweet pause, she spoke again.
"We explored another temple after the one in the forest, spending about another four days trekking through the smoldering volcano shrine. The Fire Temple in the heart of the volcano presented us with sweltering heat and a group of imprisoned and abused Gorons. Ganondorf had wanted to feed the poor things to a dragon and Link was appalled that his friends would be treated so cruel. With passion, he tore through the temple, freeing his sworn brothers from that awful fate. We found the leader of the Goron race, Darunia, to be the Fire Sage.
"After that, Link seemed to be in a sort of zone. I suppose finding that two dear friends from his childhood were Sages, he needed time to think. Dazed, he murmured a sleepy goodbye to me, and wandered off into the sunset, his horse clopping clumsily behind him. I stumbled into the ruined capitol city and made my way down the streets towards Hermes' townhouse. I too, had been affected by these first experiences in the temples. There was some kind of power there that seemed to affect the mind. I was drawn by it, and I felt like sleeping for a week.
"I nearly fell into the door. 'Hermes!? Ya home?'
" 'What?' I heard him shout from the second floor. I dragged myself up the stairs and found Hermes lounging in the library. The great windows were opened, a harsh breeze chilling the room. He had a large book on his lap, and he was close to sleeping as well.
" 'Hermes,' I sat down on the ottoman near his chair, 'I need to talk to someone. Might as well be you.'
"He closed the book and laid it on the table next to him. He massaged his temples, his mouth in a tight frown before he looked up at me, put on a kind of half smile, and said, 'Alright then, what is it?'
" 'What am I to do?' I threw my arms in the air. 'I think I'm in love, Hermes, and the one I love… have always loved… he thinks I am a man. He treats me as a man, like a friend, but I wish he were more!'
"Hermes folded his hands, 'Love advice? I'll do my best but I can't say I'll be of any help…'
"I leapt from my seat, flinging myself into his arms, 'Oh Hermes! I'm not asking for you to help. Please just listen.'
"He tried to push me off of his lap, his face looking a little disgusted at my affectionate display. 'Alright! Gerrof me.'
" 'Hermes,' I said, 'I can't tell him. It's too dangerous Hermes. It's even risky that I am like this now. Hermes, Ganondorf wouldn't hesitate to kill me.'
" 'Stop saying my name every other word!' Hermes snapped.
" 'Don't be impatient with me, please!' I hated it when he was like this. Too many memories of the old abusive Hermes came with his foul moods. I knew he was trying to do something before I had come in and I had interrupted it.
" 'Sorry Zelda,' he murmured when he saw my sadness.
" 'S'ok,' I muttered as I left the room. 'Catch ya later.'
" 'Zelda!' he rose from his seat and followed me from the library, his arms spread wide out. 'Wait, Didn't you hear me say I'm sorry! Come back and we'll talk!'
" 'Hermes, I can tell you're busy with other stuff,' I shouted as I stormed into my room. 'Can't be bothered by my problems, can you?'
" 'That's not it at all!' his robust silhouette was outlined in the doorway by a bright corona of lamplight from the hall. 'Talk to me Zelda. I am sorry that I was harsh with you!'
" 'Liar!' I retorted angrily as I pushed by him and out into the hall. 'You haven't changed at all! You're still the same Hermes who abused his comrades years ago! You won't change. You can't change! I hate you!'
" 'Zelda, wait!' he was chasing me down the stairs. He had no time to say anything else, for I had slammed the front door behind me in a rage as I stormed from the house. I glanced back for a quick moment before taking off at top speed down the road, and I saw Hermes leaning on the windowpane, his breath clouding the glass as he watched me leave. I left the city without another thought about him.
"I ran and ran for a day. All across Hyrule 'til I came stumbling through the gates of Kakariko. It was a decent village, pretty in its own right, considering the times and all. Lots of staircases, hewn out of the mountain rose from the grassy village square, wrapping round houses, shoppes and taverns. I was near tears. Perhaps I had been a little quick with poor Hermes. There had to be something that was making me like this. Why had I been so quick to explode at him, even after he had told me he was sorry. The temples… there had to be some sort of spell that was affecting me. By that time, it had begun to rain, the heavens suddenly ripping open and letting waters pour down upon me. I was oblivious.
"I was exploring the town halfheartedly, and even though I had never been to Kakariko before, I seemed not to care. I was so tired and angry as well. I dragged myself by a tavern, leaning my forehead on its glass windowpanes just to check out what was going on inside out of curiosity. Inside I was startled by the sight I beheld. There, at a grand piano in the center of the tavern, sat Link, playing quietly, his face downcast at the ivory keys beneath his flying fingers, Navi hovering in her little glowing light just over his head. The piano was surrounded by a dozen girls and a few men, most of them leaning on the piano, beers in hand. They seemed to be quite enthralled by Link, however there was a sad aura about them, as though they had nothing left in life to look forward to. I could tell that some of the women were trying to flirt with him, but (thank the gods) to no avail. Link seemed not to be interested. For a brief moment, he looked up, and he saw me outside of the tavern. Now I could see his face. His lips moved as though he might be talking and he gave me a little nod. I took it as an invitation to go in, so I did.
"I never knew Link had such an exquisite voice! The strains of his voice serenaded my ears as I strolled inside. He smiled at me when he saw me come in. The people around the piano all glared at me, but I ignored their hard stares and sat myself right next to Link on the piano bench. He gave me a playful nudge with his elbow as he reached across me to stroke some of the keys in front of me. Oh, but his voice!
" 'Look into my eyes - you will see,
What you mean to me.
Search your heart - search your soul,
And when you find me there you'll search no more.
Don't tell me it's not worth tryin' for.
You can't tell me it's not worth dyin' for.
You know it's true,
Everything I do - I do it for you.'
"As he played, he stretched back a little, rolling his head around and then laid his eyes on me. I felt my heart skip a beat as I smiled back at him. Of course he was unaware that I loved him. Despite the horror of the times, he managed to keep in jovial spirits. Look at what he had done for these people in the tavern! He had given them the best out of a sad dreary day in a sad dreary age.
" 'Look into my heart - you will find,
There's nothin' there to hide.
Take me as I am - take my life,
I would give it all; I would sacrifice.
Don't tell me it's not worth fightin' for.
I can't help it there's nothin' I want more.
Ya know it's true,
Everything I do - I do it for you.
" 'There's no love - like your love.
And no other - could give more love.
There's nowhere - unless you're there.
All the time - all the way.'
"Somewhere in the back of my mind, I wondered what inspired such beautiful words. Or maybe who inspired such beautiful lyrics. Certainly a woman had. And I knew it wasn't me… because I was just Sheik.
" 'Don't tell me it's not worth tryin' for,
I can't help it there's nothin' I want more.
I would fight for you - I'd lie for you,
Walk the wire for you - Yeah I'd die for you.'
" 'You know it's true,
Everything I do - I do it for you….'
"His voice faded into silence as his ballad ended. There was a moment where time seemed to linger before everyone, including myself, burst out into rapid applause. He shook his head and blushed with embarrassment.
" 'How did you come up with such a wonderful song?' I asked him.
"He turned ever redder as he said in a sort of shaky voice, 'Well, there is this woman I knew. She inspires everything I do. Everything I do is for her. There's your song Sheik.'
" 'Oh.' I was a little hurt. There was someone then….
" 'Sheik?' he looked at me, noticing how my shoulders suddenly drooped and my downcast gaze. 'What's wrong? Was it something I said?'
"I shook my head in the negative, standing up and looking around the tavern. I watched the people all around me. They were all glum, and despite Link's constant serenade, they were lethargic, perhaps because of the rain outside. I saw a fiddle lying on the countertop and I wandered over to pick it up. 'Let's make this a more merry occasion, shall we?'
"When I was young, my cousin (my real cousin, not Hermes) had come to visit the castle from wandering throughout the lands as a traveling minstrel. He'd given me music lessons and had taught me to play the violin with much expertise. Actually, it was due to him that I could read music at all. With a sly smile, I struck up a merry tune, the bow in my hand as I let it fly over the heavy strings.
"Link looked up at me with a bemused glint in his eye. He leapt to his feet from the piano bench and grabbed the nearest girl by the hands. It made me a bit red with jealously, however I knew he was just trying to excite the people. Skillfully, he spun her around, his feet moving exactly in time with the beat. Then he lifted her high, laying her around his shoulders as he danced circles around the bar goers who were becoming livelier with every second, some clapping and whooping along with me.
"When Link had let the girl dance off with some other man, he took it upon himself to really get them all going. He tore open his collar, exposing much of his chest. Navi flitted around his head in embarrassed excitement (Navi was ultra protective of Link. The fact that he was even partially exposing himself was driving her insane.). Leaping upon the piano, he tapped his feet in a quick and merry jig, his lips parted slightly and his tongue gently caressing the upper one. There was something absolutely alluring about him as he swung his hips with fervor in the wild dance. Everyone in the tavern was greatly amused by his antics, and soon they were all jigging around the piano. I was dancing around it too, the fiddle on my shoulder, my arm flying faster and faster with the bow.
" 'Some party you got going here Sheik!' he said with a smile as I flew by.
" 'I'll say,' I shouted back. 'It's all 'cause of you! You got me excited and here I am, hotshot!'
" 'Blame it on me, eh?' he shot back with a wide grin as he sped up his pace, forcing me to fiddle faster. 'I'll show you.'
" 'You have no heart,' I commented sarcastically.
"The whole place was really going with excitement and revelry until the door swung open with a loud creak. Everything stopped. At the time, I had jumped upon a table and was bent downwards, my bow paused in midair. Every person in the room had frozen in the middle of their dance. Link had slinked off the piano as the visitor came in, footsteps heavy as stumbled through the tavern.
" 'Hermes!' I exclaimed when I realized who it was. I was quite surprised at his appearance though. His face was dirty, and blood leaked from the corner of his mouth as though he had suffered one of his major coughing spells. He carried a bottle of brandy, half empty.
" 'Oh it's your cousin,' Link remembered from the ranch. 'My, my he certainly looked much better the last time I saw him.'
" 'You're tellin' me,' I murmured as I watched Hermes stagger towards us. His eyes were glazed, and he looked a fright.
" 'Cancha fergive—' he hiccupped, '—me there? Whuss wrong wit ya?' he slurred his words heavily and I could swear he might have dropped down dead before me.
" 'Get this man a place to lie down!' Link took charge of the situation right off, directing people this way and that. He called for some bedding and a pillow and asked me to get Hermes a tankard of frosty cool water, loaded with ice chunks.
"I went outside to the village square to the place where a large well stood in the middle of the frigid night. The rain had stopped, though the world was still damp and sodden with water. It was old but still served its purpose; not failing to let the bucket sink quickly into the dark chasm. I leaned on the large weed covered crank when I heard the splash at the bottom of the well, holding the mechanism in place. The sky was inky black speckled with diamond white stars. I sighed, thinking of Hermes back at the tavern. He had never been so drunk before. Had I really hurt him with my rash exit?
"And then, of course, my thoughts drifted off to Link, carefully tending to Hermes in his drunken state. Ahh, it was so noble of him to take charge of the whole situation like that. I really admired him for those little things that he did. Why couldn't I be like that?
" 'Sheik!' my thoughts were interrupted as I heard his voice echo across the village square. 'Sheik, is there something wrong? Does the well not work?'
"I suddenly got to my task, cranking the bucket back up. He had come over to where I stood, looking down into the well's depths. He crossed his arms and leaned on the mossy stone well, eyes still fixed on the bucket as it made its steady climb to the top. I, on the other hand, had my eyes cast upwards, watching the well's heavy old rope roll through the mechanism as it slowly creaked around and around. Beyond that was the expansive heavens, beyond shimmering stars, streaks of violet clouds and all. More sighs.
" 'How is he?' I asked. He looked up and turned his head to look at me. I found my gaze settling upon him too.
" 'Your cousin, you mean? Oh, was his name, Hermes or something like that?' Link smiled. 'He's doing better. Vomited a couple times, very bloody ordeal I might add, and he has trouble sitting up right…. Sheik….'
" 'He keeps muttering, 'Zelda, Zelda.' Does he knows whereshe is?' Link had a look of concern over his face. 'You must tell me!'
"I looked away, 'You never know who might hold allegiance with Ganondorf. I cannot give her away so casually. Not even to… you, Link,' I whispered. My breath was a frosty cloud before my mouth.
" 'I see.' That's all he said. I supposed he understood where I was coming from. It hurt me to keep a secret from him, as I'm sure it hurt him not to know. Did he love me? How could he? How?
"Without another word, I brought the bucket on the wall. Good fresh mountain water it was, and I knew it would help Hermes to feel quite better.
" 'You know, he's sleeping now,' Link remarked.
" 'So we don't have to rush so much," he said as he took the bucket from the roping and sloshed the water about inside a little.
" 'I see.'
" 'Right, so,' he heaved the bucket forward, all the water drenching me with a great splash. I was absolutely frozen, as the water was nearly as cold as the night.
"Shivering and laughing, I shot back at him, 'Evil, evil man! You'll get it!'
" 'What're ya gonna do about it, huh?' he rolled his eyes with a goofy sort of smile.
" 'This! Bye, bye!' I grabbed his tunic and flung him over the edge of the well. He fell down into the deep pool at the bottom with an even greater splash. Water flew up over the edge of the well.
"His voice echoed up from the bottom, cold, yes, joking too. 'Sheik! I'll kill you! Get that bucket down here before I bite your legs off!'
"I couldn't stop laughing as I lowered the bucket down into the well. He was laughing pretty hard himself, and as he stepped in the bucket, it swayed back and forth, making it quite hard to pull it back up. As he rose out of the well, one hand gripping the rope and one foot inside the bucket, the other out to the side and his other arm spread out wide, he was singing as he came up. God I loved hearing him sing. Glad he seemed to enjoy it too.
"I was standin',
All alone against the world outside.
You were searchin',
For a place to hide.
Lost and lonely, now you've given me the will to survive.
When we're hungry, love will keep us alive."
"I actually almost let go of the crank in my surprise as I saw this beautiful sight rise from the depths. Tiny pearls of water clung to every strand of golden hair upon his head, his tunic sodden and his hat drooping down his back. His skin glistened in the pale glow of the tavern lights behind us. I adored him.
"He leapt from the bucket and over the wall of the well to stand beside me again. With a look of mock self-pity, he said to me, 'Not funny!'
" 'Yes it was.'
"He smiled and shrugged. 'Maybe a little.'
"I laughed. He smiled to and laughed out loud with me as we wandered back to the tavern. Before we even got inside, I could see through the window that Hermes was indeed sleeping on a bed of quilts underneath the bar. He looked sort of… cute there….
" 'Yo, Sheik,' Link placed his hand upon the handle of the door. Before he turned it, he grabbed my arm and said to me in a hushed whisper, 'Sheik, when will it be time for us to go again?'
" 'What do you mean by that?' I wondered.
" 'I mean to another temple,' he said. 'Is time running short? Is Zelda still safe? What now?'
" 'What does your heart tell you?' I asked him in a firm voice.
"He closed his eyes, his fingers slipping from the doorknob as he breathed, 'I feel in my heart that a temple of waterfalls and sea creatures beckons us. I feel… I know in my heart that Zelda is alive and waiting for me. But now is not the time to go to her.'
" 'You are wise indeed,' I said. 'You know, she is waiting with you.'
" 'How can that be?'
" 'In your heart,' I replied. 'That's where the Princess resides. She is waiting for you. She knows you are the Hero, and she is ready to protect you with all her power.'
"He was silent after that, and without a word, he opened the door to the pub and we slid inside unnoticed. The both of us then went to sit at the bar to drink, though we hardly spoke to one another. I could sense there was as much on his mind as there was on mine. I wondered if he was thinking about the same sort of things I was. Did he ever contemplate love like I did?
"Around or maybe even a little after midnight, Hermes was still sleeping. I slung him on my back and draped him carefully over a horse I had borrowed from the pub owner. Then, leading the muscled steed by the reins, I slinked into the night without another word about it.
"When I came back to the townhouse, Hermes on my back, his head lolling on my shoulder as he snored lightly and arms drooping around my neck, I was greeted by Odysseus and Vans who were up to some kind of nightly vigil.
" 'There he is!' Vans exclaimed as I came in the door, helping me bring the stoned Hermes to the couch. 'He ran out of here a while ago, drunken and crazy all the while shoutin' for ya. We had no idea where he had gone!'
" 'He can cause quite some trouble when he's drunk,' Odysseus added. 'Where did you find him?'
" 'A tavern in Kakariko,' was my reply as I fetched a cool damp cloth from the kitchen. I placed it over Hermes' brow.
" 'How did he get that far?' Odysseus wondered.
" 'Beats me, but he was sick as a dog and was ranting and raving. Totally mad, I swear,' I explained the whole incident briefly.
" 'The best thing for him is sleep,' Vans said as he hefted him on his back. (How Hermes slept through all this carrying was beyond me) He began to climb the stairs, 'Hey Sheik, come on. I have some stuff I wanna ask ya.'
" 'Okay,' I said quietly as I gave Odysseus a quick hug goodnight before following Vans up. We walked in silence to the top floor where we laid Hermes down on his soft bed. I was throwing a knit afghan over Hermes when Vans spoke up.
" 'Where have you been running off to, Sheik? You've been acting really strange lately. All started that day Praedari brought ya back with that broken ankle,' he crossed his tattooed arms, staring intently at me. 'Tell me.'
" 'My destiny,' I muttered under my breath. Even softer, I said, 'My hero.'
" 'Hero, destiny, what?' Vans looked confused. 'Sheik, that's odd. What the hell do you mean by all that?'
" 'I've been… running… from everything. My destiny and my hero,' I went on. I felt myself slipping into a trance.
" 'Talk sense boy!' Vans shouted. He had lost his temper completely. I believe it was a mixture of frustration, fatigue, and worry for both Hermes and I. When he stopped his screaming, he put a hand to his head and sunk down into a chair with a sad look on his face. Hermes slept through it all.
" 'My life, as I lead it, is a lie,' I whispered, my voice no longer my own. 'I am here to fulfill my destiny and take my role as the one to lead the Sages to the glory of Hyrule.'
" 'Sheik, ple-e-ease,' he moaned.
"I came forward, towards him. He looked up into my eyes, cloudy and shadowed as I approached. 'What can I tell you Vans? Secrets, secrets, yes I could tell you those. But everyone has a secret or two they are never willing to share. Even those closest to you.'
"Vans stared at me strangely, his head cocked to the side a little and one eye large, the other narrowed beneath a furrowed brow. 'What secrets do you keep, Sheik?'
" 'Oh many,' I whispered vaguely as I bent down before him, a hand on each arm of the chair and my eyes level with his. 'Keep your eyes on me. What do you see? If you can see my heart, you'll know the truth.'
" 'What truth is there? I know you,' he said as he looked at me with that same odd stare, 'You're a young man of our band of thieves. You're never afraid to speak your mind and you have a strong sense of justice.'
" 'Is that all you see?' I asked slyly. I had this feeling as through I were seriously drunk. 'Dammit, Vans! You must look harder.'
" 'I see that you—'
" 'No use in pretending to be able to do something you can't,' I said, straightening up and turning away from him, arms crossed behind my back. 'Forget it.'
" 'Sheik, now that gives it away,' Vans flew from his chair to his feet with a loud thump as his heavy boots hit the floor. 'What are you hiding?'
" 'What's it matter?'
" 'It matters because,' he began, and then, after a moment of silence, he continued, slowly, 'because you're my… friend, Sheik.'
" 'You're my friend too, Vans.'
" 'Then tell me!' he was desperate. But I couldn't tell him. Not him or anyone for that matter. I began to descend the stairs. Van was following me, still pestering me.
" 'Get off it, Vans,' I said. 'I'm sure there's things you haven't told me.'
" 'Yeah, well, I'll tell you whatever you want!'
" 'Leave it!' I shouted at him one final time as I entered my room. He jumped as I slammed the door in his face. After a few knocks, he was gone. Gone, and I was drifting into a land of dreams, whispers of the future as the music box played softly in the background."
By this time, the large clock behind the bar at the little tavern had struck five and one as the sun set with six strong bongs. Yet, not a soul in the place paid it any mind, for they were all intent on Zelda's story. Impa had run out of paper in her notebook, and was now scribbling the story on spare linen napkins. The barmaids and the bartender had pushed all the tables in the tavern into a ring around Zelda's table. Every person was crowded around them, eyes focused upon the storyteller, urging her to go on for the whole night long.
"You know, I can't stay here forever,' she remarked. "What if I cannot finish this night?"
"You won't leave until you do," Impa said with a grin. "If you're in such a hurry to get out of here, then hurry it up and talk!"
"I awoke the next morn to find Hermes leaning over my bed. I sat bolt right up, covers wrapped tightly about me. He too straightened and crossed his arms before he spoke. 'Zelda, I want to… to thank you for what you did last night.'
" 'I did nothing,' I answered. 'Everything was because of Link.'
" 'This… Link,' he said, 'is he the one you tell me that you… love?'
" 'Is he?' he pressed.
" 'Yes,' I whispered.
" 'I see,' was the reply. More silence. Then he began to speak again, 'I caused too much trouble, didn't I?'
" 'Not too much out of the ordinary,' my tone was cool as I looked at him through narrowed eyes.
" 'Why do you hold me in such contempt?' he shouted suddenly.
" 'When I wanted consolation you gave none!' I roared back at him. I will admit, I was a little harsh with him, but then again, I had always been that way with nearly everyone I had ever known. Perhaps it was the rude awakening that morning or maybe the fact that he had caused so much trouble the night before, worrying not only me, but Vans and the rest back at home while he had been out running crazy.
" 'Well anyway,' I went on, standing up and pushing him away from me. 'I am going. I have to meet Link before he goes forward with his adventure.'
" 'You have time for foolish questing but no time for us,' Hermes flung his arms to the side in a rage. 'It's almost like you aren't one of us anymore!'
" 'Maybe it isn't my destiny to be among you all!' I was rather irate. I just wanted to go.
" 'Maybe it isn't!' his rage seemed to grow angrier the angrier I got. 'If that's how you feel, then get out!'
"I stopped right where I was. Once again, my big mouth had gotten me into trouble. I said nothing and kept my back to him as I paused in the doorway.
" 'Well? Get going!' he urged irately. When I did not move, he said to me with a smirk on his face (I could see his expression reflected in a mirror that hung beside the door), 'You're too afraid to leave us, aren't you?'
" 'What would I do if I did,' I whispered more to myself than to him.
" 'What would you do, hmm?' he said sarcastically. He was just trying to get me even more upset. He knew he had me right where he wanted me and was ready to tease my feelings.
" 'Nothing,' I breathed. 'There would be nothing I could do. I need you all. Because you're….'
" 'We are?'
" '…My friends.'
"He let out a tiny chuckle, 'I see then Zelda.'
" 'And you know who I am.'
" 'Just me,' he said. 'Are you trying to make a point?'
" 'Not really.'
" 'Might want to at least change before you go off,' he remarked, leaning on a large overstuffed armchair in the corner of the room. It was then I looked down at myself and saw that I was still in my bedroom attire, a short linen tunic.
" 'Whoops,' I flushed bright red as I began to toy with the hem of the tunic.
" 'I'll leave you to yourself,' he said with a sly grin on his face as he left the room, singing the words to the music box tune as he strolled down the hall."
" 'Sheik, before we go down into the next temple, I want to show you something,' Link said when he saw me appear before him just outside of the water shrine. He was sitting on the bank of the lake, his boots thrown aside and his bare feet dipped in the cool water. I came to sit beside him as we stared out to the lone island in the middle of the water beneath which the temple was erected.
" 'Sure Link,' I said, making my voice hoarse as I usually did when I was in disguise. 'Where do you want to go? We don't have to rush into everything right away.'
" 'It's a surprise,' he said as he stood, pulling his boots on as he did so. 'Come on, I think you'll like it.'
" 'I rather like surprises,' I said with a laugh, as I too rose. I followed him as he took his horse by the reins and led us away from the huge lake.
" 'As do I,' he smiled at me. 'Perhaps you'll repay me one day with a surprise of your own?'
" 'Perhaps I will,' I said softly.
"He laughed merrily as he guided the horse and I down a weeded little path on the edge of the forest. It wound and turned on itself, leading deeper and deeper into the woods all the while. Soon we came to an overhang of branches dripping with lush leaves and vines. 'Here,' he said as he pushed the branches away revealing a beautiful pond full of fresh water from the caves beneath Hyrule, hidden away here in the woods. A cascade of pure water poured down in a waterfall from the top of the mossy cliffs just beyond the pond were the jagged Hylian mountains rose up from the earth.
" 'Wow!' I exclaimed. 'This place is magnificent!'
" 'Figured you might like it here,' he said. 'I come here when I want to be alone. When I want to think and contemplate just who I am and what I'm doing here… I come here.'
" 'Completely alone?' I asked.
" 'Yes,' he said. 'I chase my faerie away and come here. She knows the spot, because she was there when I first found this place, however, I never bring her. She's too chatty. I can't think with her around, though she is a great companion and friend. But I know she is always in calling distance, if there should be some emergency that requires her.' He rolled his eyes sarcastically.
" 'Then why did you show me this place?" I went on to inquire.
" 'Because,' he began before he stood there with a little pause, 'Because you're different from the rest of them, Sheik. From everyone I have met since I awoke. Because, you remind me of…. Of someone very special….'
" 'Who is that?' I wondered aloud.
" 'Just someone I knew a long time ago,' he said vaguely, 'but I haven't seen since. That's all. You need not worry about it.'
" 'I did not mean to pry…'
" 'It's fine.'
"I nodded. Link pushed his way through the branches, holding them back so his horse could come through and then held them back for me as I stepped into the clearing. The branches whipped back into place as he let them go and came over to the pond, unbuckling his belt and pulling off his tunic as he did.
" 'What are you doing?' I asked, turning bright red as he began to unbutton his white shirt.
" 'Relaxing,' he said as he discarded his gloves, 'Is that not why we came?'
" 'That is true,' I said, crossing my arms, 'but why are you…?'
" 'The wind feels good on bare skin and the water is refreshingly cool,' he stooped at the bank and dipped his hand into the water. With a flick of his wrist, he splashed me, a childishly cruel smile on his lips. 'Besides, I don't want my clothes to get wet.'
" 'You are pure evil,' I said.
"He gave a little mock bow, 'Thank you.'
"I did not say anything in return, for I was far too preoccupied with him. He was smiling at me, completely oblivious to my thoughts of him. His shirt hung loosely off his crouching form, open and revealing his broad muscled chest. The sunlight streamed through the canopy above, highlighting patches of golden light upon his body. His eyes sparkled cobalt blue.
" 'Aw, come on,' he grinned, 'You're a guy. It's not like you've never seen a man naked before. Let's go swimming, okay Sheik?'
" 'Yeah,' I muttered in a choked voice. I was turning hotter and redder by the moment.
" 'So let's get to it! I am boiling hot here!' he shrugged off his shirt, and I moaned a little. He looked at me with a questioning glance, as though he were pondering exactly what was going through my head.
" 'I think I'll just sit on the bank and put my feet in,' I said uncertainly.
" 'Aw, you're no fun,' he said with a sigh. 'Well, if you don't feel comfortable with that, I'll keep my undergarments on, how's that?'
" 'F-fine,' I stammered. God, I would have loved to see him, but it just was not right, I felt, to gaze upon him like that. Not when he did not know me as a man nor love me as a woman.
"He dove into the water's depths wearing naught but his tight cream colored leather pants. He was such a graceful diver, and darted through the water like a sleek dolphin before popping up from under the gentle waves of the pond. Golden hair dripping with water droplets and wet skin shinning, he glided back to the bank where I sat with my feet plunged into the water. He folded his arms on the moss covered rocky shore and laid his head down, turning it slightly to look at me. With a sigh he spoke, 'Aw, there's something about you, Sheik. Can't put my finger on it, but I'd swear I have met you before.'
" 'Some people are like that,' I replied, staring out over the pond at the waterfall.
" 'So I'm told,' was his answer. After two seconds pause, he spoke again, 'So the water shrine awaits us now. Do you know who the sage is? I wonder if I'll know whoever it is.'
" 'I saw all the sages once in a dream,' I told him, 'and I hardly recollect who they were. However, I believe I saw a Zora woman amongst their number. Does that help?'
" 'I've know a few Zora folk,' he mused. 'I wonder…'
" 'You have shown amazing courage and strength through the past few weeks,' I said to stir up a new round of conversation.
" 'You really think so?' he held his head up a little higher. 'I feel quite weak. I'm so helpless. For Din's sake, I've been sleeping for seven goddamned years!'
" 'You're still an amazing warrior.'
"He buried his head back into his arms, quivering as though he were crying. I had never seen a man break down like this before and I reached out to touch his back. I slid by fingers under his chin and lifted his head. 'Link, listen to me.'
" 'What is it now?' he said with wet eyes. 'You don't know why I weep.'
" 'If you would tell me, perhaps I could help console you,' I said warmly.
" 'Perhaps,' he mused as he pulled himself from the pond, the water pouring down his body, rolling over his flesh and through the tiny creases in his pants. He threw on his shirt, tunic and hat and yanked on his boots. 'But, do you understand my pain and torment? Of not being able to protect the one I love? The only one I do this for?' he said as he strapped his sword to his back.
" 'Oh god yes,' I replied as I came over to where he was. 'I understand that like no other.'
"He came over to me as he adjusted his cap. Placing a hand on each shoulder, he looked down into my eyes (for he was a few inches taller than I) as he spoke to me in a voice that suggested he had to swallow his tears and summon his courage to speak to me. 'What would you do if there was someone you knew once, long ago and you went away for some long period of time, leaving that someone behind. And then when you returned, you run and run, looking everywhere, and yet, you cannot find that person anywhere. It pierces your soul and makes your heart bleed.'
" 'Sometimes the best place to look is right in front of you,' I said, realizing that he was referring to me, Princess Zelda. It made my heart soar that he was. 'These things tend to be right under your nose the entire time. Look harder at the things around you. You'll find her one day, I swear it.'
" 'How can you be sure?'
" 'Because I see it in your heart that you will not rest until she is with you,' I said. He looked at me with softened eyes.
" 'You are truly wise,' he said in a reflective voice as he mounted his horse. 'My quest revolves around the Princess.'
"My breathing became irregular and my heart was leaping all over the place as he said that. But what was his purpose to find me, Zelda? Was it beneficial to his quest that he seeks me, or was there another reason…?
" 'Come on Sheik,' he said as he shook the reins, 'We have a temple to conquer.'
" 'Quite,' I said as I took off in a jog after him."
"The water shrine proved to be a real test of skill in combat dexterity, swimming and other such odd proficiencies. When we first reached the place though, we were greeted by the Zora princess. Link told me the story of how, when he was a lad, he had been 'tricked' into becoming her fiancée. Of course, he had not been to pleased with that, but since it had been the only way to get the water gem from her, he consented. Now that she was a full-grown woman, she had returned to seek him as a husband. Link groaned. I whispered that I had seen her in a dream, and that she was to be the Sage of Water.
"When at last, the temple had been purified, and we had warped to the Sacred Realm, it did indeed prove to be so. Ruto stood there, Sage of the Water. She looked at Link, and told him the truth.
" 'Link, when I was young, I thought it was brave the way you rescued me. I thought that I loved you for it,' she looked away for a moment, golden eyes watching me, then Link. 'But as I grew, I realized there was no love there. It was but a silly crush, Link. I wish you to know you are free of the promise I tied you to so many years ago.'
" 'Thank you Ruto,' he smiled. 'You have grown then. You realize your own heart.'
"Her mouth broke into a happy grin as well. 'After all these years, yes. My destiny is not with you, Link. You seek the Princess?' she looked over at me, a knowing look on her face. She knew who I was.
" 'Yes!' he looked hopeful.
" 'She is near. Do not be afraid. She will reveal herself in due time. Take this, a symbol of my power. Perhaps it will aid you in your quest.' She conjured a medallion of deep blue sea coral with a wave of her hand and then gave it to Link.
"His face became slightly downcast that she said nothing more about it, however, I think that he had a renewed sense of hope. It made my heart soar to think that he was searching for me so desperately. Perhaps there was love after all… alas….
"No matter, soon we had returned from the Sacred Realm back to the lake. Link lay down in the tall soft grass that sprouted beneath the tree. He let out a heavy sigh as the sun rose up from behind the horizon, little wispy clouds streaking the sky.
" 'Link, you seem tired,' I commented as I too raised my eyes to the heavens.
" 'Damn straight,' he yawned. 'So much is happening and it's happening oh so fast, Sheik. What am I to do now?'
" 'Persevere,' I replied in a firm tone. 'Hyrule depends upon you! The Princess depends upon you!'
" 'I know,' he sighed, 'but I need rest. Look, it's been only, what, two weeks? And we've been running all over Hyrule. For god's sake, we've been through three hellish temples already! Plus the added fact that half the people I've ever known turn out to be sages, meaning that I can no longer interact with them until this whole thing is done with.'
"I was sure he was going to go on. I understood how he must have felt, and I cut in, 'Link, let's go to Kakariko, shall we?'
" 'Not another temple,' he groaned, 'Please Sheik. I am wounded in both body and mind.'
" 'I know,' I said, 'That's why we're going to visit a tavern first.'
" 'Splendid,' he smiled at me. 'Oh Sheik, you're ever so good to me. You understand everything! I know I seem like a complainer, but I just… I'm not ready for all this.'
" 'It's understandable. I'm not quite up to this whole thing myself, however, the fate of the world is resting upon our shoulders, Link. That is why I go on,' I reassured him with an arm around the shoulder as I guided him back over the bridge to the mainland. What I didn't tell him was that he was the reason I went on. It was he who I meant to serve.
"As he grabbed his horse's reins, I went on speaking to him. 'And Link, don't worry so much about the Princess. She is perfectly fine. Why do you keep prodding me about her?'
"He was quiet for quite a long time before touched upon it, leading his steed along in silence. In fact, I had forgotten I'd even said a thing when he answered. 'I miss her, Sheik. She was the best friend I'd ever had.'
"I smiled inwardly. 'How so?'
" 'She understood everything about me. Sheik, when I first met her, no one loved me. I was a poor lonely little boy, lost in the world without a soul to care for him. But she made me who I am today. She gave me strength and courage. Look at me now. I am her warrior.'
" 'A beautiful warrior,' I said. 'You fight with passion.'
"He gave a nod and said nothing more until we reached the village."
Impa was quite solemn. She looked up slowly as she spoke, "You found Kakariko in flames when you got there, didn't you?"
Zelda took in a deep breath, sadly reflecting all the lives lost in that town because of the shadow demon. "Yes, we did."
There were a few gasps of horror from the men and the women had dainty fingers at the mouth as they heard this. A hushed whisper rose up in the tavern. Things like, "So that's what happened to Kakariko!" and "A demon was the source of evil there!?" were exchanged every which way.
Zelda raised a hand in the air, waving it around and calling for silence. "Yes, yes," she clarified, "It was a demon. A demon released from its prison beneath the well by that damned Ganondorf."
"Godforsaken bastard!" someone shouted and all at once, the clamorous din rushed up again.
"Please!" Zelda cried out at the top of her lungs, pounding a fist upon the tabletop. The flame shook on its wick as the wooden structure shook with the force of her hand. Impa was taken by surprise at both her strength and the amount of her anger. "If you want to know exactly what the hell happened, then shut up and I'll explain it to you all! Exchanging rumors won't do any of us any good at all!"
They were silent immediately.
" 'What the hell is this!' he cried out, dashing into the village. The place was bursting with smoldering fires and crackling cinders. Ash flew about, covering the ground in an inch thick blanket of pale whitish-gray debris. Not a soul was seen. Either they had fled or… or they were all dead.
" 'Link! We have to stop this!' I said frantically as I flew to be at his side.
" 'No shit,' he said as he looked about him in horrific disbelief. I too, let my eyes wander about the doomed village, frozen to the spot as I watched the place fall apart. As my eyes traced by the well, I noticed something. The structure seemed to shudder, as though something were trying to break it apart from within. I went over to investigate. Link soon came dashing over as well.
" 'Get back, Link!' I threw an arm out to the side, pushing him back a few paces. I knew it for sure that there was something at the bottom. A demon or monster of some kind, I could feel its evil presence all around me.
" 'W-what do you see?' Link dared to advance back towards me a few steps, to my side again as so he could peer down into the shadowy depths of the well.
" 'I said get back, Link!' I snapped at him, and I shoved him hard, sending him stumbling down the steps. He looked up in time to see the shadow beast explode with tremendous force from the heart of the well, flying up into the sky and then descending upon the village. The moment I saw the monster, I had a sudden vision of you, Impa, running through the darkness of a temple, greenish lights illuminating your face. With a life of its own, shadow medallion spun like a coin in the air before you in this vision, and you reached out to snatch it, only to graze its edge, the relic being just out of your reach. I snapped out of the trance suddenly and unexpectedly as the shadow beast slammed into me full force. I was thrown into the air like a rag doll and came crashing upon the steps. I saw through barely open eyes as I raised my head, Link rushing to my side. He looked my over with worry oozing out of his crystalline eyes. Then he turned his head to stare at the monster. Getting to his feet and yanking his sword from its sheath and throwing his shield up over his face, he prepared to face the creature. I reached up, trying to stop him as the beast charged forward, but it was too late. The creature slammed into his shield, throwing him back forcibly into the well. The stones crumbled at the impact, the might of the monster was so great. Link seemed to be unconscious as he slid to the charred earth. The sword clattered upon the cobblestones around the well as it fell from his grasp. Satisfied that it had terminated the hero, the shadow beast took to the skies and sailed to the shadow temple.
"I rushed to him. He was indeed out cold, a trickle of blood running from the corner of his mouth, face bruised and torn and his body limp. I lifted his head gingerly, slipping my other beneath his knees as I lifted him and brought him to the center of the town square. Laying him down, I looked about me and saw that the fires were dying down. It had begun to rain.
" 'Uunngh,' he tossed his head about as though he were having a nightmare. His faerie was deathly afraid for him, whimpering apologies for past rudeness as though it was her last opportunity to before he died. His eyes were squinted tight as he regained consciousness, little round droplets of dew rolling down his cheek as he struggled to sit up.
" 'You're awake,' I murmured as I offered a hand to help him up.
"He shook his head, blond locks flying about his face as he did, little droplets of water splashing from his hair, 'Unnh, what happened?'
" 'Don't be so reckless, Link!' I said in a slightly preachy tone. 'That monster could have ripped you apart. You were in no shape to fight it!'
" 'Well I will have to eventually, won't I!?' he argued, the rain plastering his hair to his damp forehead. 'What was wrong with going at it right then! It had hurt you Sheik! That was reason enough to attack, hero or no!'
" Why do you feel that way?' I asked solemnly, looking hard into his eyes. He watched me with that beautiful determined gaze.
" 'You are my friend and protector,' he said, his eyes not leaving mine. 'I need you to pull through. I help you, you help me, Sheik. That's how it works, is it not?'
" 'So it is,' I said as I reached out with my thumb to wipe away the blood trickling from his lip.
" 'We must do something for Kakariko!' he sat up, resting all his weight back on his elbows.
"I grabbed him by the shoulders and looked at him with unwavering eyes, though I could feel a tear or two welling up inside. 'Link, there is nothing we can do to fix what has happened here today. Kakariko will rebuild itself, just as the rest of Hyrule will. You'll see. But right now, all there's left to do is to go help Impa in the shadow temple.'
" 'Impa… perhaps she will guide us to the princess…' he was thinking aloud to himself, a finger curled under his chin as his deep sapphire eyes darted to the side in deep contemplation. Navi shook in agreement.
" 'She is the Sage of Shadow,' I said to him. He turned to me and knew by the look on my face what we were to do. He knew it in his heart we had to help her seal that shadow devil again. Then she would awaken as the shadow sage.
" 'Well then, we shall go!' he got to his feet slowly. I could tell he was still a little dizzy from the blow; still he was able to find the strength in himself to fight. Navi settled herself on his shoulder, cuddling in the folds of his floppy hat as we took off for the graveyard, where the temple was sure to be. But as we neared the entrance, he slowed his pace to a jog, then to a slow walk before finally coming to a halt. He looked to me as he said, 'Sheik, we can't just leave those people. There are sure to be many wounded and missing. Surely there will be quite a number to be buried. I can do this alone, however, the villagers cannot do those things alone. They need a strong leader to help them! Sheik, that person should be you! You are a Sheikan by blood. They look to you for guidance. Go to them.'
"He had moved me greatly with his words, however, I refused to budge a single inch. When he saw me standing there, eyes not leaving him and making no move to leave, he questioned me. 'Sheik!' he cried, 'How could you be so cold! This is their hour of need!'
" 'I cannot leave you, Link,' I said to him, plainly, simply.
" 'If you truly wish to be of service to me, you will do as I ask,' he said, his calm voice twanged with an imploring edge.
" 'But the temp—'
" 'The people, Sheik,' he said. His eyes were so determined. He seemed to have his heart set upon this. 'If you do not go, then I shall, and return to the temple later. They cannot wait. The temple can… though it would be more effective to do both at once.'
"I let out a sigh, 'Oh Link, how right you are.'
"And he smiled at me.
"I watched as he began to dash off towards the ominous looking temple before us. 'Wait, Link! Are you sure you'll be okay?'
" 'I'll be fine!' he threw a hand out and waved at me without even turning around as he disappeared into the gloom. With nothing to do to change his intentions, I set back for Kakariko.
"When I returned, I found the bulk of the village's populace huddled in the village square, hands joined in desperate prayer, the rain still pouring down upon them. I could hear the hoarse chant rising above the sound of the pitter-patter of rain upon the tin roofs.
" 'Look, look!' someone was pointing straight at me. 'The gods have heard our prayers! An ancient Sheikan has come to aide us!'
"How had Link known that they….
"A tiny girl ran from the safety of her mother's skirts and came to me. She wore a soiled little yellow dress, her brown hair in two little pigtails, a blackened bruise beginning to show around one eye. 'Are yoo an angel, sir?' she looked at me with big round greenish eyes.
" 'No, I am not,' I said to her. How could I lie to a three year old?
"She looked a little crestfallen. Her mother came to her and hefted her upon her shoulders. 'Then who are you, angel?'
" 'I am not divine,' I said again. 'I am a Sheikan, and I have come to aide you in this time of trouble. I can't tell you more than that.'
" 'Well, whoever you are, you have arrived when we asked the gods for help,' the woman told me. She bowed respectfully in the traditional Sheikan style. I bowed as well. As I straightened, I saw the other people of the village a few paces behind the woman. There were indeed a great deal of them wounded, not only in body, but in spirit as well. Burns scarred their flesh and hearts.
" 'I can knit flesh, but no power of heaven or earth can mend a broken heart,' I told them as I approached. 'However, I shall do whatever I can to aid this process of healing.'
"I came to the woman and lifted the girl from her shoulders and held her close. The girl looked up at me as though she were looking at the face of the loving Nayru herself. Her eye seemed enflamed with that bruise about it. I laid a bandage wrapped hand upon her forehead and began to chant the Sheikan prayer of healing I had learned from you, Impa, as a child. I was not sure it would work. At the time, I did not think it would and was merely speaking these words as a blessing. However, no sooner had I begun then the Triforce began to glow upon the back of my hand. I had not seen it since the day I had discovered it within me so long ago. My powers usually worked only when I had an intense magical aura after hours of concentration or minutes of heated anger, however, this time, the magic flowed easily and quickly through my fingertips. I opened my eyes slowly when I realized what was happening, and watched in awe as the bruise slowly faded away. The girl's eyes were squinted shut, but as she felt the pain ease away, she too, slowly opened her eyes. Her little mouth opened in amazement.
" 'Din be praised,' the woman gasped as the girl wriggled free of my grasp. I looked from her to the child, to the townspeople, and then back to the woman again. I knew what I was to do now.
"Hours later, I was healing the last few of the people. I had exhausted myself, however, I was pleased at the work I had been doing. The people seemed rejuvenated though I knew they were still full of sorrow from family losses. There were still those who had to be buried. We had not even begun to count the dead.
" 'Can they be raised?' an old sage looking man asked as he hobbled to my side, leaning on his knotted cane. His long silvery beard hung down his chest, a mop of similar hair crowning his head. He sat beside me where I lay, arm flung over my face and breathing heavily as I rested, waiting for my powers to rejuvenate.
" 'Those who have died? No, once they have passed the ninth gate, there is no bringing them back to the world of the living,' I said solemnly, throwing my arm to the ground at my side and looking up at him from behind a mask of cloth and bandaging. 'We will work well into the night to give our last respects to those who perished here today.'
" 'True, very true, angel,' he said with a cackling sort of laugh.
" 'I'm not who you people seem to think,' I said, sitting up.
" 'Oh, a few of us have figured that,' he said with a sly smile. 'It doesn't matter what you say. I know the truth about you, angel.'
" 'I thought I explained that I was not divine….'
" 'Never said that you were,' he smiled again.
"My eyes grew wide as I stared at him, frozen. 'Is it that easy to tell? You know the real truth of who I am?'
" 'A great many things about you, Princess,' he whispered hoarsely. 'And no, it's not that obvious. No, not at all. But, a Sheikan can tell his own kind. There are still a few of us who descend from the Sheikan clan. I am one of those, and that is the only reason I know that you are not one of us.'
" 'Is that all?' I asked, slightly relieved that there was a decent reason for his knowledge.
" 'No, not really,' he went on. 'You know or once knew a true Sheikan warrior, did you not?'
" 'Yes. She is a great a warrior. Impa of the Sheikah,' I boasted proudly of you, my nursemaid.
" 'Ah yes, Impa,' he seemed to be relishing the thought of such a warrior. 'You know, her ancestors were the ones to establish this village, some hundred years ago. They sealed that wretched monster that flew from the confines of the well and it slept there a good many years until today. It is the duty of that family to protect these people. Obviously, Impa has sent you. Am I right?'
" 'Actually, no,' I said truthfully. I paused for a moment, figuring just exactly how I ought to approach this. 'You… know the story of the Sleeping Hero, do you not? Old Sheikan tale—'
"With a wave of his wrinkled old hand he said, 'Yes, yes, of course I know it. I grew up on that story. 'Twas the legend of a boy who became a hero and slept for a length of years waiting to grow into the body of a man. Why do you ask?'
" 'Because the legend has come true,' I said in a low voice. 'I was here before, with him, the Hero. And we tried our best to stop the creature before it fled to the shadow crypt, but to no avail. And I was about to go with him into the depths, to help Impa defeat the evil there, but he would not allow me. He said my place was here, helping you people. Of course, he does not know who I am, as you do. He thought that since I was Sheikan, I should help this Sheikan village. That is who sent me and why I am here.'
" 'I am told that destiny is not something decided at the beginning of time. Rather it is the paths that each separate individual chooses. You are here because you chose to be here, yes?' he smiled at me. 'You had your reasons to stay alive. You hid yourself, and disguised yourself as a man. You chose this fate for a reason, correct?'
" 'Yes.' I replied, reflecting on the truth of these words. 'I…I…I wanted to be… with him… the Hero…'
" 'Ah yes, I see,' he smiled.
" 'Well what will you tell me!?' I exclaimed, a little upset that he had nothing to say. 'Have you no advice for my situation? You, who knows so much, knows so little! The first person I could talk to about my love, cannot help me!'
" 'Ah, no one can,' he said wisely, 'A heart is something that cannot take direction from another. Let it guide you, and you will know what to do. I promise you that.'
"I could say nothing to this, and without a word, I stood and walked away from him, not turning back. I don't know for how long I just wandered through Kakariko that night. I kept my face covered as much as possible, the only feature revealed, a piercing blue eye beneath a cascade of blonde hair. Silently, I would materialize from the shadows to solemnly help with the dead and dying, only to disappear as mysteriously as I had come. I noticed the people had stopped calling me 'angel,' and now were referring to me as 'the hooded ghost.' I was too lost in thought to speak to anyone, my mind turning over and over in my head the words of the sage old man and the love advice of others. And it always came to the same conclusion: love knew no bounds or ties. Nothing could stop my love for the hero, Link, and the longer I was kept from him, the more burning the desire became. No, it was not lust. It was love from afar. Because I knew him and I loved him for his courage and wit… and his beauty, his pride and strength.
"When the moon had risen to its height and then begun its slow descent into the horizon, I was touched with a pang of terror through my heart. It was that intuition of mine, the gift that seemed to let me know of things as they were to happen. I was alone, ascending a small flight of steps in a little back alleyway when it happened. I fell to my knees, my hand clutched to my chest. I could feel my heart pounding beneath layers of cloth and tightly wound bandages. It sent a wave of agonizing pain through my veins with every heartbeat, this feeling. I had felt like this before, when I had thought something horrid would happen to Hyrule so many years ago. The vision that stormed my mind's eye was so lurid, I though I would reel out all my insides. The colors were strangely inversed as I watched a vicious play of Link and that shadow beast battling in the darkness of the temple atop what seemed to be a large drum. Link was bounced about as he tried to aim his hookshot contraption at the creature's enormous hands as though to decapitate it so he could strike. I watched him take careful aim and let the hook shoot forth with the clicking spring of the chain. It flew through the great hand, greenish blood and venom spewing from the rotten flesh. The chain and hook flew back around the wheel, a smug grin on Link's face as he watched this. But what he didn't see was the monster's other hand, high above him, poised to strike from high over his head….
" 'LINK!' I screamed out loud as the hand came crashing down, the vision blacking out before I could see what happened to my hero. Then I was upon my hands, my head drooping down as I vomited a continuous flow of stomach bile for Faore knows how long. I knew I had to go to him. His life could be in danger!
"I was on my feet before I knew it, dashing towards the graveyard. The hood whipped around my head, my long hair flying all about my face. 'Look, it's the Hooded Ghoul!' someone shouted. I shoved through a crowd who was paying their last respects to a comrade near the mouth of the cemetery. I bounded over the deep chasm where the coffin could be seen at the bottom. Nothing would stop me from getting that godforsaken temple! Soon I was inside. I could easily see where Link had been. Most the traps had been disarmed, and the carcasses of monsters lay scattered throughout the place. In a few rooms with sandy floors, I could even see the footsteps left from an intricate sword dance he had engaged in only hours before. Hours… come to think of it, it had been quite some time since he had come in here. Of course, this temple was far bigger than any other he had taken on before (well, perhaps rivaled by the water temple, but all the other times, he'd had me at his side.). I couldn't stop running. Nothing stopped me. A stray bat flew by, scratching my face with its vicious little claws. I didn't care. I just wanted to get to Link before the worst happened.
"He was just turning a large key in an equally large door by the faint light emitted by his faerie when I caught up to him, panting. He whirled around on his heel when he heard me behind him, sword drawn. When he realized it was only me, he looked a great deal relieved. He was probably tired from all the fighting he had been doing. At first he seemed quite happy to see me, but then he frowned as he said, 'I thought I told you to go to the village! What are you doing here, Sheik?'
" 'I… came to… see you,' I panted. 'I… did go to the… village but… there's not much else… not much else I can do… for them. And… I had a dreadful… vision of you… and I didn't… know if it meant… you had… died or what… so I rushed here…. That's all… Link….'
"After he had heard this, he smiled, saying, 'Well if that's the case, I commend you Sheik. You truly are a messenger from the gods. I feel a great deal braver when you are near. Will you help me defeat the shadow beast?'
"The key was still shoved in the lock and only about halfway turned. He looked at its shining gold head and then looked at me again. I gave him a broad grin beneath the folds of the hood around my neck. My hair was in a loose (very loose) ponytail still. I reckon I looked quite funny. Nonetheless, I was Sheik to him, and I was there to help.
" 'Let's go,' he said, giving the key a final twist. I heard the deadbolt pull back into the door. He shoved the great door open and trudged into a stone circular room. In the center was a large hole that plummeted into darkness. A small faerie sat upon a pot off to the side. I gathered her up in my hands and whispered to her that I wished for her to lend me her powers and heal my companion. She obediently flew from my open palm to Link and shook her faerie dust all over him. His eyes closed as the magic took effect on him, healing his wounds. Navi quivered a bit jealously over his head.
" 'Alleyoop,' he shouted playfully as he jumped gracefully down the hole. I heard an echoing badump as he hit the surface of whatever was down there. I followed suit, finding that the badump noise was made by the impact of us on the tightly drawn skin of this oversized drum upon which we now stood.
"An echoing laughter came shaking from the darkness. 'I've been waiting for you two saps to show up,' the scratchy voice said. It seemed to come from all directions. I had no idea which way to turn or what to expect. 'I, Bongo-Bongo shall serve my master who awoke me from centuries of sleep and kill the two of you. Ganondorf shall rule forever!' the thing erupted in cackling laughter.
"It came dropping from the ceiling like an enormous spider. What exactly it was (besides ugly) I was not quite sure. Indeed, it was the shadow monster, but it looked much different. It had those large hands I had seen in my vision as well as a rancid body with a single huge red eye that had not been in my vision, and soon I would learn why. As soon as the eye closed, the body disappeared in a fizzy cloud of purple and black. The huge hands began beating the drum in an untimely rhythm, making us bounce about on the drum's surface.
" 'What do we do?' I shouted at Link who was fumbling with his hookshot. He said nothing and let his actions take the place of words as he fired the hook at one of the large hands. It was beginning to shape up like my vision. Instinctively, I looked above us, only to see the other hand rising up into the air. And a quick glance at Link showed that he was completely unaware. I whipped my bow out and nocked an arrow as quick as lightning. Before Link could even realize what was happening, I had let the arrow fly. It embedded itself in the humongous palm, that greenish gore dripping down upon us.
"But as the monster stood stark still, wringing its hands in pain, it lost its concentration, the spell cast on the main body wearing thin and the red eye visible. 'Link! The eye!' I shouted. I needn't tell him twice. Already he had flown at the eye and hacked and slashed at it with the sacred blade. Its holy power smote the rancid evil mind of that monster, and soon, it fell at his feet, melting back into the shadows from which it came.
" 'H-how?' it moaned as it flew towards its final resting place in the confines of hell.
"Link stood, his shoulders heaving up and down with heavy breaths as he pitilessly watched the devil die. When the corpse had rotted into nothing more than a few bones and strings of tendons and flesh, all laced with blood, he turned to me with a smile. 'Ah, one more to go! Shall we be on our way Sheik?'
"I smiled, 'Of course, Hero. We have a sage to meet.'
"In the center of the drum, a blue portal to the Sacred Realm had unfolded. It shone with a pure holy light, contrasting against the gloom all around us. Link stepped into the center of the light and extended a hand out to me. I grabbed it as though I were giving him a hearty handshake. With a grin, he yanked me into the circle of light, sending me stumbling against him.
" 'Childish and playful as ever, I see,' I laughed as I punched him jokingly in the shoulder. 'You'll never grow up will you; no matter how many years you sleep in the Sacred Realm!'
" 'Guess not,' he smiled, squinting his eyes so he looked all the more sarcastic. The warp began to lift us heavenward and soon we stood in the center of the Holy Realm. Impa stood before us, arms folded as she looked at us with both pride and honor.
" 'The Hero and his protector,' you broke the silence, looking at me with a mixture of surprise and love, 'At long last you are here.'
"He bowed his head respectfully. He had always had a special admiration for you, Impa, ever since he was a child. 'Impa, I'm sorry we didn't come faster. Kakariko was decimated before we even got there.'
" 'Don't blame yourself for that, Link,' you put a hand upon his shoulder. I don't know if you noticed, but he looked up at you as a son would look to a mother. Perhaps that's why he held you in such high esteem; he never knew a mother, and perhaps you were the maternal figure he looked up to.
" 'But it's my—'
" 'I said, don't blame yourself,' you said sternly, your grip tightening on his shoulder. I saw him wince in pain a little. 'Now….'
"His head snapped up and he looked at you, Impa, straight into the eye as he spoke, his gaze entreating. 'Impa… you are nursemaid to Her Highness Princess Zelda,' he said, addressing me by my full title. You looked to me discreetly, a tiny smile on your wide mouth. You knew who I was after all. 'Holding such a position must mean you know where she is hidden! Please, for her sake, tell me where she is so that I might protect her.'
" 'Believe me Hero, you protect her already,' you put a hand under his jaw and lifted his head as so you might look straight into his eyes.
" 'I do not understand,' he said sincerely.
" 'There are a great many things we do not understand,' you said as she embraced him warmly as a son. You spoke in a soft motherly voice, just loud enough for me to hear it as well. 'But in time things reveal themselves. You just have to wait and see.'
" 'How long must I wait for her?' he whispered. 'How long, Impa?'
" 'In time, you'll see,' was all you said.
" 'Come Link,' I said. 'We should be going. There is still one last temple to cleanse. The sooner you do that, the sooner the one you seek shall be able to show herself.'
"He broke from your arms, nodding in gratitude to her for her guidance. Not speaking a word, you turned your hand over, and there, lying in your palm, was a deep purple amethyst pendant, glittering with the powers of shadow. And without a word, Link took the relic, nodded to you again and turned around, grabbing my hand and leading me to the warp with a determined look upon his face. It seemed as though nothing would get in the way of his quest now.
" 'Please,Protect the Princess….' "
"I remember saying that to the pair of you," Impa said as she scrawled the words down. The bartender had lent her the tavern's account book to write upon.
Zelda let out a sigh, her mind floating deep in thought, "Yeah."
"You seem like you're in a daze," Impa commented. "Whenever we stop like this, you just sigh and go off into your little world. Care to share with us?"
"Like you said," Zelda said, "In time you'll see. Just wait, alright? Perhaps later I will feel like sharing."
"Hmm, if you insist Zelda," Impa said, rolling her eyes.
"Of course I do!" she snapped a bit impatiently before clearing her throat, taking another long swig of beer and then going on with the tale.
"Vans was reclined upon a large pile of pillows in a gondola moored to a large ring in the wall near the stairs Hermes' place. The long sleek boat bobbed in the murky canals beneath Hyrule, the water gently lapping against the side of the little vessel. On his lap was a huge velvet bound book full of crisp white pages and at his side was a leather artist's pouch, unfolded revealing a collection of charcoal sticks, sharpening tools and lead pencils. I was climbing down a ladder, watching his blackened hands fly over the paper. The ladder came from the alleyway that ran behind Hermes' house where there was what seemed to be nothing more than a basement door. Jumping off at the bottom, I made my way over to the boat where I leapt in. The boat rocked a bit violently, but Vans' hand remained steady. I plopped beside him and looked over his shoulder.
" 'Oh, that's exquisite!' I said with great admiration for the artist. On the page had unfolded from his charcoal strokes, a beautiful rendition of the Temple of Time as it had looked in years past, with white marble turrets and lush gardens all about. It was drawn as though he had been sitting right there.
" 'Aw, it's just a little doodle, Sheik,' he said, rubbing the back of his head in embarresment.
" 'That is not a doodle!' I exclaimed, throwing my hands out at the masterpiece. 'That… oh… that belongs in the Princess Zelda's bedroom!' I would have loved to have it. It would have looked good in my old bedroom.
" 'Please!' he said, 'it's really not that great. You don't have to praise something just because it's mine.'
" 'But I'm not praising it because it's yours,' I protested. What I said was the truth. 'I'm praising it 'cause it's good.'
" 'You really think?' he asked.
" 'Yes Vans, I really think so,' I said. 'If you aren't so fond of it, I'll gladly take it off your hands. Perhaps it won't make it to the Royal Palace, but it will go as far as my wall.'
"He laughed at that. I think he found me quite funny. 'Sure then; take it.' He ripped it out of his sketchbook and gave it to me.
"I took it from him gingerly, scrutinizing the work as I did so. Looking closer at the front steps of the temple, I saw sitting there, the shadowy sketch of a young boy. He was playing an ocarina and carried a short sword. I asked him, 'Vans, why did you put that boy there? Who is he?'
" 'Oh, him,' he shrugged. I heard his knives clink together as he shifted his weight, 'Well, this drawing is based on the Temple as I remember it. One day, I was at the place, checking out the beautiful architecture of the place from the eastern gardens, when I saw that kid dash from the village square into the temple. I wondered where he was in such a rush to get to, being he was just a kid and all. Kids usually don't hang around places like the Temple. So I was curious to see, and I quietly followed him inside. He didn't see me; at least, I don't think he did.
" 'I watched him play a magical entrancing tune upon the ocarina and then, right before my very eyes, three pretty stones floated from his pack to the alter as though the notes carried them through the air. Once the settled upon the alter, the great carved wall in the back of the temple slid apart to reveal a whole part of the temple I had never seen before. There was the most perfect sword I had ever clapped eyes on, just thrust into the stone there, bathed in a stream of light from the lone window above.
" 'And as the child pulled the sword from the pedestal, there was a great flash of light that blinded me completely. I fell to my knees and blacked out. That's all I saw there. But, that whole experience, for some reason, was stamped upon my mind. The ocarina boy and his magic will live in my mind forever. He inspires much of my art, actually. If you look closely at my work, you'll see him somewhere.' He was showing me other drawings where I did see him, hanging out in the shadowy backgrounds. And the harder I looked, the more I realized who it was.
" 'I… I used to know that boy. He was a friend of mine.' I stammered, hoping to the gods my revised version of this story wouldn't sound too farfetched. 'He'd come to the castle to see the princess a lot. We became friends. I think he was running errands for her or something. I don't know really.'
" 'Errands?' Vans raised an eyebrow. 'That sounds a little odd.'
" 'The Legend perhaps?' I hinted.
" 'Oh yes, that,' Vans smiled and nodded, remembering the stories I had told him about Link and his quest. 'So that's why he was there. It was his adventure huh? So do you still talk to him? What has become of him?'
" 'He has awakened as the Hero of Time,' I said.
" 'Oh you told me all that,' he waved it off. 'I mean, where is he now? Do you spend a lot of time with him? You've been in and out quite a bit lately Sheik. Something new come up? I hardly see you anymore.'
" 'Just… catching up on… old times,' I said shakily as I got to my feet. I knew my mouth would eventually get me in trouble if I didn't soon shut the hell up. 'Look, I need to go see Hermes. Talk to you later Vans.' I took off as quickly as I could for the spiraling stairs.
"The place was oddly quiet when I got up there. I shouted, 'Hermes? Hermes? Hey Hermes, I'm home. Where are you? You know, this isn't very funny. Come out now Hermes!'
"I hiked up the stairs to the second floor, looking first in the study, then the library and then the empty room where he kept his music. I gave up with a sigh, figuring that he had fallen asleep up in his room. So not wanting to disturb him, I pushed the door of my room open only to gasp at the sight I beheld.
"Hermes lay there on my bed, stone still, his arm falling over the side and the other resting on his chest. He was hardly breathing! I think he had collapsed there from one of his cursed attacks for the pillow was stained with a puddle of blood near his parted lips. His eyes, barely open, wore a blank sort of expression.
" 'Hermes!' I ran to him. 'Oh not again. Dammit! Wake up!' I slapped him.
"He groaned, shaking his head from side to side. I smacked him harder again and again. Soon, he began to come back to reality. 'Zel… Zelda?'
"Shaking with relief, I yanked him up into an upright position and hugged him close. I think I was trembling. 'You need to be more careful with yourself Hermes. Don't think I don't see it. You're getting weaker with the day! Your gonna kill yourself one of these days if you don't watch it!'
" 'I'm okay,' he murmured weakly.
" 'You're sure?' I stared into his black eyes. They were dull and weary. 'Don't you be lying to me. Hermes, you always told me you hated liars.'
" 'I… I do,' he smiled at me, but just barely. He was obviously still quite sapped of his strength. I wondered how long he had been lying there. Had there been more instances of this before, when I had not been there with him? Surely, for I had noticed how much more frequent his attacks came, and I was sure that he was growing rapidly weaker. I had to find a way to help him and quickly!
" 'Hmm, shall I help you to your room?' I asked him as I helped him get to his feet. He was still leaning heavily on me. He was shaking.
" 'No, no, I can do it myself,' he started to move towards the doorway, stumbling over his feet. He was hardly able to stand up and I could have sworn that he would fall down any moment. 'D-don't trouble yourself Sheik. I'll go by myself.'
"I watched in horror, unable to make my stone heavy feet move forward to catch him, as he suddenly collapsed onto the floor. His knees just buckled beneath him, and he did nothing to even try and break his fall.
" 'What's going on in here!?' Odysseus shouted as he burst into the room. He had probably heard the crash from below as was coming in.
" 'Don't ask any questions,' I said brusquely as I fell to the floor and lifted Hermes' head into my lap. 'Just help me with him.'
" 'Oh, oh dear,' he looked down at Hermes' blank face, 'Of course Sheik.'
"We held him between us, Odysseus gripping his ankles and I with my hands wrapped about his wrists. Sure, it was a bit improper, however, he was out cold, and couldn't feel a thing as we roughly brought his limp form up the stairs to his room. We laid him out on the bed and Odysseus lovingly tucked the covers around his cold body.
" 'What is this?' he asked me.
"I sat down behind Hermes' desk, a little writing table much smaller than the great oaken thing in the study below. Rubbing my temples, I explained the whole thing to him. Told him about how Hermes had kept the whole predicament a secret as so he wouldn't worry the rest of us.
" 'Then how do you know all this if it's such a secret,' he demanded to know. I also explained all that and how I had found out, leaving out the little part about Hermes finding me with Nabooru in the middle of my female cycle. I gripped the chastity ring around my finger.
"He crossed his arms and seemed to ponder this for a while, the odd grayish light streaming in from the huge windows and playing over him. After he seemed satisfied with whatever the hell he had been thinking about, he turned to me and continued to drill me with questions. 'So that's one mystery solved. Now for another; where have you been lately, Sheik.'
" 'Oh, me?' I got a little nervous, though I was still able to retain most of my composure. 'Around, just doing this and that.'
" 'Are you sure?' he obviously didn't believe a word of it.
"So I went on shooting to bull, 'Yeah well, Hermes being ill and all, and since I'm the only one who knows, well, he just gets me to do errands and such for him when he can't get anywhere. See, that's why I can't tell you people because it would involve divulging Hermes' secret. Just don't want you to worry, that's all.'
" 'Are you sure, Sheik?' he stared at me long and hard, his eyes level with mine when I sat and he stood right before me. 'Are you sure that's the truth?'
" 'It's the truth,' I murmured.
" 'You are absolutely sure?'
" 'What, you don't believe me?' I asked him, staring right back at him. 'You can't believe your own brother?'
" 'Can I call you… Brother?' he asked. He seemed quite suspicious. 'Are you really one I can trust that much? Can I trust you like… like a brother?'
"I was silent for a moment, and then, finding it nowhere in my heart to lie… I said to him with a sad shake of the head. 'No, Odysseus… no, you can't trust me like a brother.'
" 'But Sheik, I was just…' he started to say.
" 'I said you couldn't trust me that much and when I say it I mean it!' I shouted at him. I just sort of snapped at him, and he stepped back a few paces in fear of my rage.
" 'Why not?' he breathed. I thought he might begin to weep by the tone of his voice and the droop in his stance. He wasn't the proud little warrior he had been moments before.
" 'Because… I am not who I seem,' I whispered back at him, my voice hushed and laced with distraught. Suddenly, I hated myself. I loathed myself, despising myself for the lies I'd told in my life to those who trusted and loved me most. And for that moment, I wanted just to die.
" 'No one is who they seem!' Odysseus argued. 'What about Hermes? He seemed a tired lonely grouch from the depths of hell itself but was he? For the love of Din, no! Who taught him to look inside himself for the truth? You, Sheik. You. And what he found inside was a man who just wanted some love. And once more, it was you who gave him that one hidden desire. He is loved, and I could swear on everything sacred to both you and I, he loves you more than life for it. I just know it.'
" 'But does he love me or who I seem to be?' I was watching tiny raindrops begin to pour from the heavens outside. Just a few drops at first, but when the first crack of thunder exploded through the skies, the waters drenched the earth like it would flood the whole wretched land.
" 'Does he know you?' he asked.
" 'Do you?' I returned the question, taking my eyes from the window briefly to look at him.
" 'Y-your eyes, Sheik,' he sank to the floor, tucking his legs to his chest and wrapping his arms about his them, head cushioned upon the tops of his knees. 'Oh Sheik, you have beautiful sad eyes. I hate to see your eyes so… forlorn though. God I hate that.'
" 'Look,' I gestured to the window, 'the heavens weep. They cry for the land. It is dying. The spirit of the earth is slowly wasting away. Gaia cannot survive much longer… just like Hermes cannot. I cannot go on living while they both waste away before me. A hero has come, and he will cleanse the earth. But Odysseus, tell me, how can I be the hero to save Hermes?'
" 'Not everyone can be a hero, Sheik,' he said.
" 'But why not me?' I asked, not even really to him. 'Why can't I be the hero for our Hermes?'
" 'Sheik, I just told you…' he tried to speak to me again, and yet another time, I would not allow him to get out a word.
" 'Just leave me alone,' I whimpered. I hadn't even bothered to try and disguise my voice as I said it. I sounded like a woman, the woman I was supposed to be. 'Please, just go… away….'
"I watched him turn to go towards the stairs with a sigh. I didn't watch him for more than a few seconds, my eyes quickly returning to the pouring rain outside. I was feeling quite low. On the verge of depression you might say, but even I was too timid to attempt suicide. Besides, I had two people worth living for. Two very wonderful people indeed.
"I arose from my seat and walked to the bedside. He looked so cold and seemed like the very vision of death itself. My hand found its way to his forehead as I knelt there, and I slid it beneath his powdery blue bangs, gently stroking his damp brow. My voice cracked as I tried to open my mouth to speak words to his motionless body. Nothing came for a few seconds, and for that time I feared I had lost my voice.
" 'Free the dream within,
The stars are crying,
A tear…. A sigh,
Escapes from heaven,
…And worlds end.
" 'Breathe the Dream within,
…We tremble and spin,
"I sang from my heart. His weakened state made me want to cry. I hated this helplessness. Tearing the ribbon from my hair and letting it fall about my shoulders, I touched his eyelids lightly, and I felt a moist tear wet my fingertips. Was he crying?
" 'Look beyond,
Where hearts can see,
Dream in peace,
Trust love… believe,
…We tremble and spin,
" 'Free the Dream within,
The voices calling,
A song… a prayer,
From deep inside you,
…To guide you.'
"By this time, I had risen from Hermes' bedside and returned to the window. I couldn't look at him anymore. It made me depressed. I swear, just sitting by a cold seemingly dead person will make you depressed. Believe me, it's not cool. So I flung the window open, the cold misty rain rushing onto my face. It made my hair curl into little ringlets around my ears. Sweeping a blanket around my shoulders to keep me warm from the cold outside, I sang out into the night, the heavens mourning with me. I thought I heard footsteps in the street, but I was so distracted by Hermes, that I paid it no mind.
" 'Be the Dream within,
The light is shinning,
A flame on the wind,
" 'Look beyond,
Where hearts can see,
Dream in peace,
Trust love… believe,
…We tremble and spin,
"As I began to wrap up my song, I wondered who was wandering about down there in such weather. Peering over the windowsill, I saw… I saw Link, standing there in the rain, the water drenching him to the bone. He had a large red umbrella in his hand, but it wasn't open and I saw his faerie nestled inside the folds of the red cloth. The rain seemed not to bother him, and his eyes were glued to me. 'Zelda… I found you,' he whispered.
" 'Free the Dream within,
The stars are crying,
A tear…. A sigh,
Escapes from heaven…
…And worlds end…'
" 'Link… I…' I looked down at him. 'What are you doing here?'
" 'Looking for myself,' he whispered. 'I want to know who I am Zelda. You know… I've been looking a long time for you. My, you've grown into a lovely lady... and how you sing!'
" 'Oh,' was all I could say. 'But what about Ganondorf?'
" 'What about him? I'm working on it, okay?' he smiled at me. He has such a sensual mouth. How I wanted to kiss his beauteous lips. 'The gods must favor me. They sent a messenger to guide me. He shows me where the powers of the Six Sages are hidden and to him I owe a debt that I cannot pay back in any way that would be enough to show my thanks.'
" 'What is… his name… Link?' I asked. I knew I shouldn't really carry on this conversation too much longer. It was far too dangerous. Who could be listening? Who would know to tell Ganondorf where I hide?
" 'He goes by the name Sheik,' he replied. I sucked in a breath.
" 'I thank you both for your work thus far.' I said. 'Link I… I would love nothing more than to speak with you… but you know how dangerous it is for me. Just go onwards, and pretend you never saw me.'
"He took a step down the road, his eyes still glued to me. He had an impish grin on his face as he opened his umbrella, the faerie swirling from its dry confines to Link's shoulder. He brought the umbrella to his other shoulder and rested it there as he winked at me. 'I could never forget that I saw you, Princess. My quest has new meaning. I can go on with a new hope knowing for sure that you are alive.'
"And with that, he set off down the street, his outline illuminated somewhat by his faerie's twinkling little body.
" 'Fare thee well, Link,' I whispered as I reached out to close the shutters as to keep out the cold. Hermes was shivering. I wanted to just hug him tightly to my breast and keep him warm. Oh, but how he would have hated to wake to that. By Din he would kill me!
" 'Zelda? Is that you there?' I heard him mumbling in his sleep. I rushed to the bedside and grabbed his hand.
" 'Hermes. Don't you dare die! You damned son of a bitch better not die,' I shouted at him.
"He was struggling to sit up, his eyes squinted closed as he groped for my other hand. When he found it and had it firm in his grasp, he slowly opened his eyes. 'Zelda, you came home. Where have you been, Zelda? Zelda answer me?'
" 'On a quest to save the world,' was my answer.
" 'You could save the world, but can you not save me?' he asked. His voice was weak.
" 'I ask myself that every day Hermes,' I said. 'I don't know what to do anymore.'
" 'Who does?' he looked away. 'I heard you talking to someone down on the streets. Zelda, ho ere you talking to? Was it… him…?'
" 'Who is 'him?' ' I asked.
" 'That… hero,' he sputtered as he began to cough again. It seemed to be getting worse and worse.
"I nodded, 'Shhh, Hermes, don't speak. You need rest.'
"He slid down into the pillows. I tucked the covers tighter around him and even threw a few extra blankets upon him. 'You've shown me great kindness, Zelda. Even after all that I used to be; you are like a sister. A real sister….'
" 'And you have given me a whole horde of wonderful brothers; more than I could ever hope to have!' I said, squeezing his hand tighter as though it might hold him in this life for a few more years.
" 'And will you stop talking to me like I'm gonna die,' he snapped at me suddenly. 'I plan to hang a round for a hell of a lot longer. It's gonna take way more than some crappy disease to kill of me.'
"I laughed, 'Yeah, that's true. You're made of steel, Hermes.'
" 'I know.'
" 'Um, Hermes?' I started to grip my robes in nervousness.
" 'How do you know love?' I asked him. I was turning a hot red color. It was so embarrassing asking these kinds of questions to Hermes of all people.
" 'Love?' he rolled over on his side, so his back was to me. His long braid trailed down over the blankets and the tip of it hung off the edge of the bed. 'Why do you ask? And why are you asking me?'
" 'Because love found you once,' I said. 'Once upon a time, you had a woman whom you loved deeply. But what was it like? How did you know?'
"He reached behind him and groped about a bit until he caught my hand, 'Zelda, love is not something that can be expressed in words. Love is just an emotion. It's a feeling that burns inside you; a feeling like no other. When you meet that special person, Zelda, believe me, a man who has made many mistakes of the heart, you will know it is there. Trust me.'
" 'But is love real?' I asked. 'It's not just a story that you read about in stories. Can true love exist?'
" 'Stories make love comical or cute… or they make it lust, but in a story, love can never be true,' Hermes said. 'True love is so rare and so beautiful. True love takes root in the hearts that are most pure. It doesn't happen every day, but by Din, it is magical when it does.'
" 'Was your love… true?'
" 'As true as love can be,' he mumbled into his pillow. 'Don't be fooled though. Your love might be the most pure and magical, but it can still leave you for broke. Just look at me. Oh Zelda, the course of true love never did run smooth. Whether it be a difference in age or class, or perhaps just the feelings of parents or friends, for love will spark between the Queen and the poor player who plays the King. It was never easy to love.'
"I said nothing, and silently rose to my feet. He seemed to be dozing off. I wanted him to sleep and regain his strength. I would get Vans to watch over him. I had to go find Link. The last temple beckoned me."
"Did he… recognize you?" the bar owner asked. He spoke with a twinge in his voice that made it seem like he was truly immersed in the story. "I mean, did Link see that it was you who was Sheik?"
"If he did, I wasn't aware of it," Zelda replied. "He just had one of those smiles that made you wonder what he was thinking. He had the heart of a child, so innocent and carefree. It was I who had lost his innocence for the both of us. I carry that pain and… I'm sorry for all of the trouble I caused."
" 'Tell me then Sheik,' Link was saying as he placed the bridle on his horse's muzzle. 'Where exactly is the last temple located?'
"I sighed, shaking my head as I held his saddle while he draped the blankets over the mare's red back, 'A place you would never expect, and a place I didn't think I'd be going back to for a long while.'
" 'And where's that?' he smiled as he took the saddle and placed it on, tightening the leather straps around the horse's thick body.
" 'Gerudo Valley,' I said simply. I really didn't think I would have to go back there, however, I remembered that Nabooru was one of the Six Sages and we had to go. That whole incident of Din knew how long ago was something that was branded in my memory for all eternity.
" 'What!' he exclaimed, his focus still on the horse. 'Gerudo Valley!? Isn't Ganondorf a Gerudo? Are the Gerudo thieves not his kin?'
" 'I was shocked when I learned it as well,' I said with a shrug as I stroked the horse's soft nose. 'But there can be no mistake. The leader of the Gerudo, Nabooru, is the last sage. I don't know how it could be, but it is.'
" 'And she is second in command to Ganondorf, yes?' he inquired.
" 'Well, in rank, yes she is,' I said, 'However, when I spoke to her many years ago, she told me that she was not fond of Ganondorf nor his conquest to rule the world. I don't know if her principles have changed but I doubt it. I mean, if she is a sage, then why would she owe allegiance to the sworn enemy of the gods.'
" 'It would seem so,' he said with a nod as he pulled the stirrups down. 'I would certainly hope she is our ally, for it would prove good for us if she could get the whole of the Gerudo clan to back us.'
" 'Not all of them would, even if we did get her to say so,' I pointed out, 'Ganondorf would always have his followers. He always will. There are always those willing to sacrifice their lives for the cause of evil, just as we have given ours for the cause of good.'
" 'You are right Sheik,' he had a sweet smile on his face. 'My, you are wise. It is almost as if you have the wisdom of the gods within you.'
" 'Perhaps I do,' I said with a knowing smile.
"He stroked his horse's red flank, 'So shall we go then, Sheik? The world shant wait for us, you know.'
" 'True, true,' I said. 'So let's go.'
"Gerudo Valley had long since changed from what I remembered it to be. The bridge that had once spanned the great gorge was hacked and slashed at the ropes, stopping travelers like us in our tracks. As for the fort itself, well, the roofs of the fort were no longer slanted and gabled, nor were there so many watchtowers. However, a great gate had been erected at the mouth of the desert and far more guards wandered the grounds.
" 'How will we span the gap?' I asked Link. He had that smile on his face again, as though he knew something I didn't. God I hated that. But then again, he must have gotten irritated with the way I always knew exactly what I was talking about and had knowledge of just about everything he asked. He always said he wished he could be as wise as me. I told him I wished I could have been as clever as he, and then he would just shake his head and go on with whatever he had been doing.
" 'Why, we'll jump it of course,' he laughed.
" 'How the hell will we do that?' I exclaimed. He burst out into a greater fit of laugher at the sight of me like that.
"He smacked the horse's flank again, 'Old Epona can fly like a bird when she jumps. We'll use her, of course!'
" 'Is she really that good?' I asked.
" 'Oh the best,' he smiled, 'The absolute best there is.'
"He mounted and slid forward in the saddle and then offered out a hand. 'C'mon now Sheik. Swing on up here and we'll go.'
"For a second, my face turned so damn red you would have thought I was on fire or something. 'S-sure.'
" 'Awful nervous about sharing a horse for a fearless messenger of the gods,' he said as I plopped into the saddle behind him. I wrapped my arms around his waist and laid my head on his back. I knew he was looking at me oddly from the corner of his eye. I could feel him staring at me. I didn't care though. At that exact place, at that exact time, I wanted to hold him forever, no matter what he thought, because no matter what, he was the man I loved.
"So all that went just as we had hoped… somewhat. I won't bore you with tiny details. There's not much to tell about this point in our quest. Well anyway, we came across and I was still a little tense about riding so close to him. If he had any thoughts or feelings about it, he didn't show them at all, which just goes to show that I think he was one of those types who just didn't care about that sort of thing. He'd rather live life to live, and not worry about little things like that. Damn, I've strayed from the tale again. You have to tell me when I do that!
"Going on with the story, as we were entering the fortress' main parade grounds, a chubby old man of about sixty or so came waddling up to us. He grabbed Link's arm and pleaded to him in a sort of pushy way, 'Hey, hey, you're going to the fortress? Yeah well, you look clever and strong so could you do me a favor'—at this time Link asked what kind of favor and the man went on— 'Well it's like this you see, my apprentices got fed up with trying to repair the bridge because we've got limited supplies and a deadline, so they decided they wanted to go to the fortress to become thieves. Well I knew those dames wouldn't want a lot like them as thieves, especially since they're all men… though I don't think anyone would. Well, that's not the point m'boy. The main thing is, d'you think you could go in there and see what's up? Maybe even bring 'em back or something? I mean you don't have to, but since you're going that way anyway, I was just thinking you might want to help a guy out.'
"I always hated people who just talked and talked and yet could never get to the point. This guy was defiantly one of those.
"Link shook his arm free of the old freak's grasp as he said in a kind voice, 'Well, gee sir, I just don't know. We have a bit of an agenda here, however, I don't see why we can't take a little peek around for your boys.'
" 'Link! Do we have time for this?' I protested. I didn't want to help such a whinny old man out. Funny how selfish I could be sometimes.
"He whispered into my ear, 'Well, what else can we say? Besides, it might give us a chance to scope the place out for this… Nabooru….'
" 'You are right, Link,' I sighed, 'Let's go do this, then.'
"Link nodded in agreement with the man and we went on our way. And just as it had been so many years ago, no sooner had we approached the place, were we surrounded and thrown into a large cavern that served as a jail cell. I was pretty much about at my wits end when Link, without a word, grabbed me about the waist and used that handy little hookshot of his to reel us up to the top. We stood on a ledge overlooking the whole fort and from our vantage point, we could see where the prisoners were being held through the tiny windows in the fort. After about and hour or two of sneaking around and warding off unwanted Gerudo guards, we had freed all four of the carpenters, not seeing Nabooru anywhere we looked. We were just about on our way when a voice halted us. We were raising our hands into the air, about to admit defeat when the voice went on to tell us not to fear. I turned around suspiciously, Link soon following suit after me.
" 'My, my,' the woman crossed her arms. She was wearing a green outfit and from her clothes, I recognized her as Aiya, right hand of Nabooru, the same woman who had done Hermes and I in years ago. 'To be able to sneak around here barely unnoticed and free our prisoners, why, you must have wonderful thieving skills!'
"We were both looking at her oddly.
"She went on, 'Well since the pair of you seems to be ever so talented in the ways of the thief, I guess even I, a Gerudo, must make an exception to the rule and allow you to join our band. Surely, even though you are just men, you would do fine with us.'
" 'What are you talking about?' I wondered aloud, 'Aiya, I thought the Gerudo were strict about their codes.'
" 'How did you know my… name?' she looked at me hard, striving to remember where she had seen me before.
" 'Just a voice from the past,' I said, looking away from her.
" 'You seem… familiar somehow….'
" 'Don't think on it,' I said quickly, waving it off. Link was looking at me a little strangely. I guess I had been a little tense all day and I could understand why he'd start to wonder. I honestly wasn't quite sure how long I could keep my Sheik disguise up though.
" 'Yeah well, no matter what the heck you two are talking about,' Link cut into the conversation much to my relief, 'We have things to do. Miss Aiya, it is kind of you to accredit us with such praise, however we have a place we need to be.'
" 'Where is that?' she asked. 'If there is a way I can aid your journey just to show how much I think of you….'
" 'The Spirit Temple,' I said.
"Aiya's face darkened somewhat as she paused for a second before going on, 'That is in the middle of the desert. There is not much I can do for you besides opening the gate to the desert for you. You can follow the flags we've set up to the temple so you don't get lost in the sandstorms. My Lady Nabooru has gone there to take a journey of spiritual cleansing. If you see her, tell her that we wish her success on her quest to learn her own heart.'
" 'I will,' Link beat his chest in a solemn pledge. Aiya nodded and sent us on our way. We journeyed all day through the desert to reach the Spirit Temple. As we trudged through the sands, we soon came across a little stone hut in the middle of the desert where we stopped to rest for a bit. Plopping sown against a wall, Link began to speak.
" 'Sheik, what would you do if I told you that I saw the Princess Zelda, alive and well with my very own eyes!'
" 'I would say you are a lucky man,' I replied as I curled up next to him, sort of dosing off to sleep in a little ball on the floor.
"He put his hand on my back and began to massage my tense muscles. He was always a good… friend… that way. 'Sheik, you cannot even begin to understand what a burden has been lifted off my chest since I saw her. I feel like I am flying now. Do you know how exquisite she is? Sheik?'
" 'Unn, never really noticed before. Is your lady beautiful?' I said sleepily. I wasn't trying to fake it! Really, I was just so tired from the hard trip so far.
" 'Well, Sheik, perhaps then I have simply been enchanted by her,' he sighed. 'Oh she is like a goddess of love! I want to see her again. I want to speak with her again! Her lips, oh, if the rose on the branch could feel envy, why it would wither away to a blackened husk and her song is like… like…'
" 'A lark?' I said sleepily.
" 'No, no, not the twittering chatter of the lark,' he said dreamily, 'more like the deep serenade of the nightingale. Then again, even they would be reduced when compared to her song.'
" 'Oh she sings does she?'
" 'When I saw her, she was,' he said with a content sort of look crossing his face. 'It was the most beautiful song I had ever heard.'
"I sat up for just a moment to say my piece, 'Oh Link, you speak of her song and her lips but how could you say these things when her lips and song may be no more beautiful than mine. Is she what they call… your true love?'
"He just stared down at me, smiling with this sort of dazed look on his face. He seemed to be in a sort of pleasant state of daydreaming. I fell asleep around then, feeling immensely good about myself and saying the words over and over in my head. Link… I love… you….
"When we arrived, we indeed found Nabooru as Aiya had said. She stood at the top of the stairs inside the great colossus, bent down over a small hole in the wall. We startled her when we came up behind, and she was suspicious of us immediately. I guess she hadn't wanted anyone to find her trying to loot the temple instead of praying.
" 'Who the hell are you?' she snapped as she jumped to her feet, hands thrown out and her foot in the air and her knee bent in some martial arts stance.
" 'Whoa, feisty!' Link said, reaching under his long green hat to rub the back of his head. 'Are you, Nabooru perchance?'
" 'Who seeks her?' she asked, her eyes still narrowed in suspicion.
" 'I am Link, the Hero of Time!' he said. 'And this is my dear companion, the ninja warrior Sheik. We come seeking the Sage of Spirit.'
" 'Link!' I hissed into his ear, 'She hasn't been awakened yet. She doesn't know her fate yet. There is still evil crawling through this holy place and until it is cleansed, the gods cannot send forth their calling to her.'
" 'What were you saying about evil here?' she asked, looking at me with a inward sort of smile. No doubt, the woman remembered exactly who I was. 'You aren't kidding when you say that. A pair of nasty old Gerudo witches has been using this old temple as a place to do their incantations and spells. The two are the grandmothers of Ginza, mother of Ganondorf, therefore making him their great grandson. I hate that man! He has his old crones summoning a hellhole full of evil to roam Hyrule freely! That's really why I'm here, but I can't get through that hole and the block on the other side is too big for me to push. I dare not go back to the fortress for help because I know they won't justify my cause. They like Ganondorf and anyone related to him for that matter! Hmm, but if only I had the legendary Silver Gauntlets, then I could get behind that block and to that damn old room where the witches hide.'
"After hearing her story, Link said he would bend the very fabric of time to help her, and she didn't understand that he meant to do exactly that. See, Link had been thinking the whole time Nabooru had been yammering on and on about the twin witches. He explained his idea to me as we left the temple, and I told him that I could teach him how to do the task he wished to undertake. Seeing the little hole there had him thinking that if he were a small boy again, then he could slip through and get the gauntlets for Nabooru. Treasure in hand, he could return to this age and allow Nabooru to get beyond the crescent block and help her to defeat the witches. To aid him with this task, I whipped out my golden harp and taught him a melody that would warp him from anywhere in Hyrule to the front steps of this temple. Then I told him that if he returned the Master Sword to the pedestal in the Temple of Time, he would be brought to the age right after Ganondorf had stolen the Triforce. He readily agreed to the plan.
"Since all this defied the delicate fabrics of time, I have no idea what happened to Link after he warped back to that boyhood age nor can I tell you how long it took him to retrieve the gauntlets. What I can relay is that when he returned to me with the treasure, we went immediately to present them to Nabooru. Oh, I hate boring you so, so I will cut this part short as nothing wildly exciting happened. Nabooru was sitting outside the temple when we came back, and she jumped for joy when she saw the gauntlets. Link was about to hand them over when suddenly, those witches came flying out of nowhere from the heart of the temple and knocked Nabooru to the ground. She had barely gotten to her feet when they had created a large vacuum like portal beneath her feet, which began to suck her slowly into the ground. Link and I were standing right at the edge and were hardly able to leap away. The witches cackled and wheezed like all old ladies do as their magic began to swallow a little bit more of Nabooru every second.
" 'If you want your precious sage…' the one decked out in red said in a whinny voice as the portal closed over Nabooru's head.
"… 'Come inside and get her, Hero,' her blue counterpart finished. 'We'll be waiting! Kehehe! Oohahaha!'
"So we did simply that. Rushing inside, we dashed as fast as we could by monsters and traps, quickly solving puzzles and the like. Before we even knew it, we were standing in a huge room with sandstone walls and arched ceilings. What seemed like thousands of burning candles made the room sweltering hot in the boiling desert air. The witches materialized and needless to say, after Link and the two of them quarreled back and forth about morals and heroics etc. a great battle ensued. They flung their magic left and right and Link barely had time to reflect it back at them with the shinning shield he had found in the temple a little earlier.
"So basically speaking (and forgive me for rushing, but the events that happen next are far more exciting and interesting than this), that's how Link rescued the sixth and final sage from the grips of evil. As with all the other sages, we received from Nabooru, in the Sacred Realm, another sacred pendant, which completed our wave of power. We now had all six pieces of the puzzle. We could take on Ganondorf with no fear! But there were things that had to happen before that. I had to stop this charade.
"I had to tell him who I was….
"When we returned to the drawbridge of the city, Link cheerily waved goodbye and headed off into the sunset. He said he was going to rest and clear his mind as so he could be ready to take on Ganondorf without another thought about it. He wanted to be totally ready for this showdown with the evil king and wanted to give that tyrant a fight he would never ever forget.
"I watched him go, and as I did, I remembered what I was ready to tell him. I couldn't just let him go. I was, in fact, just about to call out to him but he was long gone when the thought occurred. I just began to wander, having no idea what I should do next and soon found myself wandering through the woods. A voice in the back of my mind was whispering to me, telling me that I would find Link here in the forest. I would indeed tell him. It was finally time.
"After a while, the trees and paths seemed like those I had seen somewhere before. It wasn't that I was going in circles or anything. I just felt like I had come this way before, and seen this place. I was sure of it.
"And I soon realized why when I reached a low overhanging branch that brushed the dirt path with its long droopy boughs. I heard him laughing, talking to his faerie. It was that spring he had shown me before. I was suddenly bursting with excitement. Perhaps it was because I was feeling like it would relieve a great burden to tell him my secret, or maybe it was just the thought that he might be bathing naught but a few yards ahead of me… and then again, maybe it was a combination of both. But whatever the hell it was, I was soon kneeling just behind the leafy foliage of the branch, peering through at him (because sure enough he was there) where he was slowly unbuttoning his shirt, jabbering away with his talkative little faerie.
" 'What about him Navi?' he was saying as he chucked the shirt aside on a pile of his clothes a bit behind him.
"The little ball of light twittered about, 'I just don't know if we can really trust him, Link. Yeah, sure he's helped you out with awakening every sage but there's something about him that just doesn't make sense. I'm not quite sure what—'
" 'Navi turn around, please!' Link turned bright red as he began working on his pants. 'Faerie or no, you're a girl! Can't a guy have any privacy at all?'
"I sniggered from my little spot. Deciding things were starting to get good and also considering that they appeared to be talking about me, I figured I ought to find a better place to watch. I quickly scaled a nearby tree and made myself comfortable by lying out on the strong limb that reached out over the spring and gave me the perfect view of the scene below.
"Navi gave an small indignant grunt (well as much of a grunt as a faerie can give) as she bobbled up and about on her papery little wings. She went on with her griping. 'Well anyway, about that Sheik character, I mean come on Link. Maybe he's in league with Ganondorf and it's all some intricate plot that they have planned to trick you. You're just all too trusting Link.'
" 'You're just all to suspicious, that's it,' Link shot back at her. He was in the water and since the stuff was so sparkling clear and all, I could see… everything. And oh, he was beautiful. He was made to be a god.
" 'Now look here Link!' she whirled around. 'You can't be angry with me for being worried. I'm your guardian faerie. I'm supposed to watch out for you! I swore to the Deku tree I would!'
"In a flashing second and a small splash of water, he dove to the bottom of the spring and came up with a smooth pebble from the very bottom which he hurled at Navi, missing on purpose, but still making his point. 'Turn about, Navi! What was I saying about guys and their five minutes of privacy?'
"His horse, Epona, was tied up to a tree nearby. She didn't like all the arguing and commotion and wasn't afraid to let the two of them know it. She neighed irately. Link shook his head with a smile and pulled himself out of the water and dressed scarcely (his pants and his shirt) to go over and calm his ride down. Navi, who was angrily floating around the canopy of trees rather dangerously close to me, was bright red with embarresment. She knew what was behind her as did I, except I could see it. It was like a dream.
"Well that's pretty much where the trouble started. Then again, it was trouble only depending on how you looked at it. So while Navi was huffing about ever so close to me (and I could have swatted her if I had wished it so) and Link was trying to calm Epona down, though there seemed to be something else bothering her besides just the fighting. Did she know I was there…?
"Suddenly, Navi screamed in her tiny little squeak of a voice. It was closer than I had thought, and when I looked from Link to the two inches in front of my face, well, there she was, hovering right before me and shaking with fury. 'L-Link! What did I tell you? He was spying on us! You hear that? Spying!'
"I jerked upwards, but my sudden movements caused the branch to crack right out from under me and next thing I knew, I was falling from the top of this tree, catapulting down towards the spring. Link saw the tree tremble and I remember watching him from the corner of my eye, dashing towards the water and making a dive into the spring. That was pretty much the last thing I saw before I blacked out and hit the water."
"When I came to, I was sitting up, supported by his arms. He was shaking me slightly, and I don't think he had noticed my eyes were now open. I was looking up at him, admiring him. This was becoming an obsession! The very feeling of love I had for him was tearing me apart from the inside out. I wanted so badly to tell him. I was ready to tell him…. I kept telling myself that's what I came here to do. So do it!
" 'Link?' I spoke in my regular voice.
"He looked down at me, smiling that I was awake. Turning slightly red as he looked a bit longer at me, he went on to say, 'Sheik… is there something you would… care to tell me? Because I….'
" 'Hush Link,' I reached up and put a finger to his lips. 'There are secrets that come sooner than others. I have told you many of Hyrule's secrets, but now, I think it's time you learned one of mine.'
" 'But Sheik,' the fingers of the hand that wasn't holding me up traced down my shoulder and over my exposed collar bone, down to where my clothes seemed to have been (which I discovered with horror)… torn… by the tree. Gently, he slipped his forefinger and middle finger under the blue cloth and tugged and the already loose bandages that had bound my chest down, my breasts becoming more clearly defined as he did so. 'You were in disguise the entire time? And you never told me anything? Why? Who are you, really?'
" 'That's what I want to know!' Navi buzzed rudely between our faces, glowering right into my eyes. The little pixie thing made me kind of nervous in a way.
"I was silent for a moment before I lifted a hand to Link's cheek. He caught my hand and pressed it against his face, urging me to speak. I looked deep into his eyes for the first time in what seemed like a long time, 'I am your slave and your lover.' Then I reached up and took his face into my hand, pulling him down to mine and hurriedly kissed his mouth. He tasted sweeter than I had ever dreamed he would and though our lips touched for hardly a few seconds, I was already flooded with such a feeling of absolute peace and happiness that I was beginning to think if I never stopped, I could never die.
" 'Zelda,' he breathed.
"And with those few words and that sudden whim of a kiss, I tore from his grip and dashed from the clearing. I don't know why I ran. I think I was either embarrassed or choked with emotion or maybe paranoid that someone who shouldn't be watching was. Probably was a mixture of all three.
"I heard his voice shouting after me, 'No! Wait! There's so much we must talk about! Come back! Princess!'
"I was quite far by this time. I turned around for a split second to see him quickly balling his tunic and hat into a bundle and jamming them into his saddlebag before untying the horse and driving her into a gallop before he had even mounted. Like a skilled horseman, he swung into the saddle as she began to gain speed and soon he was giving chase. He was coming after me at such a speed that he would soon overtake me running. I saw coming up, a low branch. As I came nearer to it, I leapt upon the springy limb and catapulted myself amongst the treetops. Soon I was leaping from branch to branch with Link following close behind on the ground. My thieving skills and litheness aided me greatly as I went. As I flew about, Link was calling out to me, and what I beheld nearly made me falter.
"He was quite the rider, for he was standing in his saddle, preparing to leap after me. Dodging under low branches and leaping over others, he was soon gaining on me. That horse had far more endurance than I and was also a great deal faster. There was even a moment when he had overtaken me and he leapt from the saddle and ran along side his steed, gripping tight the bridle. Then he slide under his ride's graceful neck and back into the saddle though this time he was now facing backwards, all the while calling out for me to stop. He would have been able to grab me if I had not hung a quick right on a nearby tree. He had to cut from the path to follow me, the horse's giant hoofs flattening the underbrush before her.
"To explain why I was running in the first place… well, I'm not quite sure really. I think it was because I was just so embarrassed by the whole situation. I wanted to get away and have a few moments to cool down and think things over. Maybe I hadn't been ready for this quite yet… then again; I never expected I would do something so bold as to kiss him.
"Next thing I knew, we were throttling out of the woods. I had no more trees to jump from so I just let the recoil of the branch sling me as far from that last tree when I reached the edge of the forest. And I just pushed myself, thinking about a safe place to go. If I could only get back to Hermes' house… but then it was just a matter of outrunning that horse of Link's.
"Then there was a stroke of pure luck. A messenger from one of the villages was speeding along in a chariot pulled by a team of two fine white horses. I ran in front of his path, frightening the horses and cutting him off. Without another thought, I quickly jumped on one of the horses, slashing it free from the chariot with a small dagger I kept at my belt and then I was off.
" 'Why are you running from me?' I heard him shout over the clopping hooves. I said nothing and just urged the horse faster. Soon I was steering it around the tight corners of the city towards Hermes' house, certain I had lost him for the time being. I jumped off the horse and left it as I dashed down the alley that ran alongside the townhouse and fell to my knees at the entrance to the catacombs disguised as a cellar door as the darkened heavens opened up once more and torrents of rain began to fall. My hands were fumbling with the lock when suddenly, I felt myself being watched and slowly turned about.
"There stood Link standing beside his steed with the reins in his grip, his wrinkled tunic draped over one arm and his hat sitting on his crown of golden hair, the faerie nestled in the soft mane between the horse's ears. The sudden onslaught of rain wet his skin and made his hair stick to his face, his shirt and pants already sodden with the falling water. 'I knew you would come here… Zelda…' he panted, 'Zelda don't ever do that again. Why did you flee me?'
" 'I thought I was ready to tell you Link,' I thought I felt raindrops rolling down my face, but I soon realized they were actually tears. 'But then I saw you looking at me and the way your eyes were so sad made me feel as though you weren't pleased that I was really not a boy named Sheik. I felt like you would never look at me the same way. Oh Link, will you forgive me for lying? My falseness has deceived so many people who once called me 'friend.' '
"He dropped the reins of the horse and came to where I sat on the slanted doors. 'Zelda, I would love you no matter who you want to pretend to be because I know no matter how many faces you wear, deep down, somewhere inside, you are my Princess Zelda.' And then he wrapped his arms around me and pressed me against his chest, gently loosing my hair from the already falling out ribbon and letting it all fall over my shoulders. Then he laid me down on the cellar door (which was just the right slope to recline of comfortably) and held himself above me on one arm. 'So hush now, Princess, because you have nothing to fear anymore. I am here to protect you.' He bent low and his face was so close to mine, I could feel his hot breathes and his soft elfin eyelashes stroking my skin as he closed his eyes.
" '…Also, I was afraid of what you thought after I had… kissed you… Link,' I whispered.
" 'Do you want to know,' his lips brushed my cheek as he spoke, 'what I was thinking then?'
" 'You were angry, were you not?' I stated a little brashly.
" 'No,' he said in his soft voice, 'Oh god, no. I was thinking how, it lasted hardly any time and yet, it felt like forever. And I was wishing then, that you would kiss me once more, because I love you.'
" 'Link, how could you love a woman like me?' I asked.
" 'How could I not?' he replied as he bent lower and grazed his lips against mine. I guided him again to my mouth and met him with a kiss, slow and passionate this time. And this was what I told him with that fiery gesture, though not a word was spoken between us: that not even the fabrics and taboos of time itself nor the great Evil King Ganondorf himself or even the powers of the Three Goddesses could withhold me from my dearest Link, for this was true love.
"…And true love doesn't happen every day.
"I would have held him there in the rain, pressed to my bosom and his lips nearly against mine for all eternity if the Spirit of Love (Eros himself) hadn't played one of his mischievous jokes upon us then. As I said, before Link arrived, I had been fumbling with the lock on the doors beneath us. Well, the clasp had sort of half way been turned when he appeared, but now, with the both of us there, the lock couldn't hold our combined weight and they gave way just as our lips had barely touched, and we fell down into the candlelit darkness below.
"Fortunately, Hermes kept a large pile of silks, cushions and other such soft fineries at the bottom to break that sort of fall ever since Odysseus broke his arm in a similar accident. We hit the silks, wrapped in each other's arms still locked in each other's embrace as though nothing had happened, the rain dumping down the open doors upon us. Just beyond Link, above us was where I saw the faerie fluttering over the door. Using her pixie charms, she created a spell to close the doors of the cellar. I think she was ultimately after Link's happiness and seeing his pleasure with me caused her to just let us be. I smiled at her as she disappeared behind the door in the damp world above and I saw her give me a friendly twinkle in return.
"Link gently rolled me over onto my back, climbing over top of me again. He was so gentle with me, handling me as though I were a porcelain doll as he slowly brought his mouth close to mine again, and closing his eyes again, his thick eyelashes damp with rain. My eyes slowly closed as well, a feeling filled with equal love for him burning inside. I was sure he had craved another kiss as much as I.
"The torches firelight felt warm against our cold wet bodies. 'The gods have a cruel sense of humor,' I laughed suddenly, right as his lips were about to kiss me. Damn, screwed it up!
" 'So they do,' said he with a merry laugh. He had such a beautiful whimsical laugh to him.
"After a brief and awkward silence, I put my fingers on his lips, gently stroking them as I spoke, 'Link, tell me a story.'
" 'A story is it? Very well, my princess, I shall tell you a story.' said he as he caught my hand and pressed it to his cheek. After a brief pause, he began. 'I shall tell you the story of a girl, who pretended to be a boy, who saved the soul of a fairy child, destined to die alone. And I'll tell you how that fairy child found his way on a journey to save the land that the girl loved so much. Yes, I could surely tell you that story.'
" 'Well then what?'
" 'One day, the fairy child met a girl who changed his life forever. She entreated him to venture on a quest to open the gateway to the Realm of the Gods and retrieve the holy Triforce to protect it from all evil. However, their plan backfired, for a dark shadow kept to the fairy child's heels as he went on his way, following him eventually to the Triforce and snatching it for his own. The fairy child was too weak of body and heart to stop him and so evil entered the world. But wait, hope is not lost. I have not yet said all.
" 'The gods must have pitied the fairy child and his princess for all their struggles seemed in vain. They took the boy up into their bosom and bade him to sleep. And sleep for seven years he did. And when he awoke, he found that he had awoken to a new quest: a quest to save the princess he loved so much and to protect her from the evils that infested the world.'
" 'How does it end?' I breathed.
"He pressed himself against me, his lips just against mine, 'I don't know. It's a mystery.'
"And then, finally, after waiting so long, he kissed me. It pleased me so to think that the one man I ever loved was indeed in love with me as well; for he was kissing me with such passion that I could hardly believe it to be real. And I kissed him back. He stopped for a moment and then spoke in a low whisper, 'You know, Zelda, for seven years, I slept in the Sacred Realm. And for those seven years, I dreamt.'
" 'What did you dream, Link?' I asked in a sleepy tone, winding my arms around him, afraid that he might suddenly be snatched away from me.
" 'I dreamt only of you,' he said in that soft voice. 'I saw your face, watched you grow older. And every time, you were more beautiful than the last.'
" 'So the whole time you knew….'
" 'No, no,' he smiled again, 'All I knew was that I had to find you no matter the cost. I had to protect you. As a child, I loved you, Zelda. But a child does not know his feelings. He cannot even begin to comprehend the true emotions of the heart. However, those years I dreamt, I began to slowly mature and understand. It wasn't only my body that grew older. My heart has aged as well. I have become a man for you. Only for you….'
"I found my hand snaking around his waist and beneath his tunic, the other entwined in his wet mane of golden hair. And soon, his hand found the open cloth of my shirt, his hand upon my breast….
" 'Wait, wait,' he murmured against my skin, 'We shouldn't do this here.'
"I pushed him up into a sitting position. 'You are right, Link. I was too forward, was I not?'
"He only smiled at me and gave me a quick kiss on the forehead, changing the subject. 'So Zelda, where are we? I never knew such a place existed under Hyrule.'
" 'Neither did I until we were separated as children,' was my reply. I went on to tell him my own story, this very one you hear now! I told him of how Impa was wrenched from me and of how I cam into the care of Hermes and the rest. And I also relayed to him of Hermes' wretchedness and of how I came about to change his horrid person. At this, Link was most pleased and he kissed me again as he praised me.
" 'That is truly'—a kiss upon my forehead—'wonderful, Zelda! How'—another kiss, this time upon my cheek—'how you are quite a woman of many virtues!' And a kiss on the mouth again, which grew steadily more passionate between the both of us.
"When we were through kissing, he was simply lying on top of me, he head buried between my shoulder and my chin. I could feel his moist lips upon my skin, his breath warm and sweet. I pressed his tired body against mine and as I did so, I heard him begin to sing softly." 'Maybe it's intuition
Some things you just don't question
Like in your eyes
I see my future in an instant
And there it goes
I think I've found my best friend
I know that it sounds more than a little crazy
But I believe
" 'I knew I loved you before I met you
I think I dreamed you into life
I knew I loved you before I met you
I have been waiting all my life
" 'There's just no rhyme or reason
Only the sense of completion
And in your eyes
I see the missing pieces
I'm searching for
I think I've found my way home
I know that it might sound more than a little crazy
But I believe
" 'I knew I loved you before I met you
I think I dreamed you into life
I knew I loved you before I met you
I have been waiting all my life
" 'A thousand angels dance around you
I am complete now that I've found you
" 'I knew I loved you before I met you
I think I dreamed you into life
I knew I loved you before I met you
I have been waiting all my life'
" 'Link,' I said in a voice hardly above a whisper as his song came to a close. 'I've always loved you. I knew it the moment I first said hello to you so long ago.'
" 'I've been waiting all my life, Zelda,' he said, just like in his song. 'I was born to love you. I feel like that is all I am able to do. And for that one kiss, I would defy a thousand evils.'
" 'And I would never regret a single thing that happens from now on, because I'm doing it now with you.' Said I reflectively. Then after a brief pause, I snatched his hat from where it lay nearby and leapt to my feet, dashing towards the iron stairs that led to Hermes' apartments above.
" 'Hey!' he said in a surprised voice when he saw what I had done. Grabbing his tunic, he was soon after me, laughing and saying, 'Aw Zelda, give it back!'
"Long ago, way back when we were mere children, Link and I were dear friends. He would come to the castle quite often after our first fateful meeting and we would talk and roughhouse with one another, our games beginning with me usually snitching his hat right off his head and running with it. He would peruse me and (he being much faster than I) would soon catch up and tackle me. And yet, there were other time when he would tell me about the forest where he lived and I would tell him how much I would love to live in a place like that, insisting that castle life was about as good as being a fish in a bowl.
" 'Zelda, you sure like having me chase after you,' he said as he flew up the spiraling stairs after me, laughing, 'Always been that way, haven't you?'
"I giggled, 'Uh huh. Well just keep on coming, silly.'
"When we popped up into the townhouse, Link made one leap at me, which I skillfully dodged. And then he noticed where we were, and his jaw dropped. Obviously he was amazed at all the fineries around him. Though nearly all of it was no doubt stolen, it was still an impressive sight indeed.
" 'Where is this?' he wondered aloud.
" 'Oh, my lord Hermes' home,' I said to him, not even really noticing how I had referred to Hermes as 'lord.'
" 'Aye, I remember you speaking of him,' he said, 'So where is this Hermes? I wish to meet this man? He is your dear friend is he not?'
" 'That he is,' I nodded. 'However, I think he has gone away for the day. Probably won't be back until well into the morning.'
" 'Gone?' Link looked a little disappointed when he heard this, however he soon perked up and made another grab for his hat.
" 'Ah, ah, not yet,' I said as I yanked it away. I grabbed him around the waist and went on speaking. 'Give me a good reason why I should give it back, silly.'
" 'On account of, if you don't I'll have to do you in,' he said with a joking glint in his eyes, knowing perfectly well that he could very well escape from my grip if he so wished it. 'I'm serious Zelda, you'll regret it if you don't.'
" 'Will I now?' I laughed.
" 'Probably,' he grinned, looking oh-so-irresistible.
"The hand I held the green hood in was high over my head now, though I doubt it did much good since he was a good two or so inches taller than I. He reached up as well and grabbed my hand, his eyes staring in to mine all the while. He could have easily wrenched the hat from my grip, but he did nothing of the sort and simply closed his hand over mine, lowering it to about shoulder height. I found myself going sort of weak at the knees, and unable to resist his charms… especially now.
" 'What are you thinking of now, Link?' I asked.
" 'How much I want my hat back,' he joked.
" 'Aw, well, you can't have it,' I tried to pull my hand away, but he held it fast.
" 'Nope, not until I can have my hat,' was his answer.
" 'Then you'll have to wait until I feel like giving it back, bucko,' I retorted cheerily.
"Still smiling, he began to walk towards one of the plush sofas nearby and I had no choice but to move with him as he would not let me go. And then, in one fell swoop, he tackled me to the couch. I kept a firm grasp on the hood and fell under him. We wrestled around for a bit, he always trying to win back his dear cap and I, laughing all the while, pulling it away from his reach with a thief's speed. And then I rolled out from under him and onto the floor, falling with a thud as I hit the ground.
"He was still reclining on the sofa, and he reached over and took his hat, which was just laying there beside where I had fallen. He said with a sarcastic smile as he reached down to the floor, 'I'll just take that.'
" 'Okay, okay,' I groaned, 'tonight you win.'
" 'I always do,' he laughed, neatly folding the hood and arranging it over his tunic, which lay on his chest.
" 'Liar!' I sat bolt right up and jumped on him, 'When we were children it was I who always won our games. You sucked.'
" 'Did not, did not,' he argued back at me with a silly sneer on his face. I knew he was just joking with me. We always argued over who won what when we were kids. It was almost ritual. We were just finishing up the tradition.
" 'Aw Zel,' he scratched behind his head, 'I don't wanna argue with such a lovely lady. Let's just call it a tie.'
" 'Fine,' I said with a smile. It always ended in a tie.
" 'You Link,' I said, 'For these past years I've been trying to find myself. I had wanted to figure out who I was.'
" 'Were you lonely looking for yourself out there?' he asked.
" 'Not anymore,' I said, 'because now I've come back and found you here, and I know in my heart who I am. I've achieved a self-peace. And it's all because of you.'
"He smiled warmly as he began looking around himself again, still admiring Hermes' place. Then his sights fell on the stairs going up to the next floor, 'Where do those go? Can I look?'
"It wouldn't have mattered what I said for he was already going. I had to follow. But as I was just getting up to go after him, a great roll of thunder sounded and lightning cracked across the sky. Just when we were beginning to think that the sudden thunderstorm was startling, a huge gale of wind whistled through the alleyway outside the windows. As if the gods were really in the mood for toying with us, the wind went and blew the window right open, candles dying out as the current of air sailed through the house. I fought my way against the onslaught to the window and closed it, a task that took quite a bit of my strength. Then I followed Link up the stairs. I was just showing him around the library and the other rooms up there when he noticed the way up into Hermes' room
" 'What's up there?' he asked full of wonder.
" 'You're just like a little kid,' I said, holding the candle I had lit in the study to his face, 'Do you want to see it, Link? It's my lord Hermes' bedroom.'
" 'Yeah,' he said with this sort of bewildered twinge on his tongue. We mounted the stairs and climbed up.
" 'This is where I was that day you saw me… singing,' I said a bit timidly as I walked over to the window by the bed. For some reason, Hermes had left it open. I guess he hadn't expected it to rain, but no matter, it felt nice to have to cool air on my body while I stood there.
" 'You're almost as cruel as the fates are, Zel,' he whispered as he came over to where I now stood. At this, I felt that weakness in my bones again, and I flung myself at him, resting all my weight upon him and feeling to frail to stand on my own.
" 'The fates are cruel to make the Hero so goddamn beautiful,' I told him as my head fell on his shoulder.
"He lifted my chin, 'I could say the same for what they've done to my Princess.'
"This was really the first time I had to really look at him, and examine every minute detail of his face and body. I saw every tiny line of blue painted inside his deep and complex eyes and the way his long dark eyelashes curled over them. He had a broad sensual mouth and gently curving nose. His gold hair was parted messily over his forehead, and it tumbled down over his ears and just behind his neck (it wasn't that his hair was long, it was just lusciously thick). With skin colored by the sun and a neck that was somewhat long for such a robust man but still made him ever so sexy, especially with the collar of his shirt unbuttoned a bit, revealing his neck-bone and a bit of his chest. His muscles were shaped just perfectly and he was neither scrawny nor overly bursting with muscle. He wasn't wearing his tunic (he hadn't had time to put it back on) and wore only had his shirt and those tight leather pants of his. (I supposed he had left his boots and gloves with the horse or something for he hadn't got those on either.) The rain had sodden him to the skin, and it just made his coloring all the more rich and beautiful.
"He crushed me against his chest, burying his face into my hair. I kissed his neck, lovingly fingering his nape with my hand. He kissed the top of my head as I did this, dropping his tunic to the floor by the bed and reaching down to his hip to grab my free hand and entwine it with his own.
" 'Link….' I whispered his name against his skin, almost like it was a word so delicate that if you spoke it above a whisper, it would rise like a wisp of smoke and vanish into the air.
"Suddenly there was a huge gust of wind that flew in through the open window by which we stood and another great clap of thunder and a clash of lightning. The electric light lit the house brightly giving some objects odd lighting in the dark. But that was for less than a second and soon the light disappeared into nothing leaving us in total darkness. The wind, you see, had blown out all the candles in the bedroom and I cold hardly see him standing before me.
" 'Zelda,' I heard his voice, breathy and close, 'Zelda, I can't see you. Where are you?
"I reached out and took a hold of his hand, pressing it close to my cheek, 'Are you still afraid of the dark, Link?
" 'Terrified,' he whispered. 'Always terrified.'
" 'There is no need to fear,' I said soothingly, kissing the back of his hand. My lips crept up his wrist, pushing up his sleeve as I kissed up his arm.
"And soon, I found myself kissing him more passionately than any time before, pushing him into the corner of the wall and the bedpost of Hermes' great antique four-poster. My hands slid from his shoulders down his collar, slowly opening the shirt and revealing his manly chest. I could hardly keep from running my hands over his smooth flesh. I heard him give a moan as he rolled his head upwards, grabbing the bedpost with one hand and steadying himself on the windowsill with the other. And when I began kissing him, his chest and stomach, his breathing only became heavier and more sensual. It excited me to feel him like this at my touch.
" 'Zelda,' he murmured into the cool air, 'Could your Highness ever love a poor peasant like me?'
"I stopped and looked up at him, he watching me with a tender gaze. 'Can you love a fool?'
" 'If the answer is 'yes' then kiss me again for I am surely dreaming,' he said in a hoarse voice as he put a finger beneath my chin and guided my lips to his once more. Neither of us seemed to able to have enough of one another. Seven years deprived of one's true love would do that mind you.
"I paused and then took his hand and placed it on my breast, 'Is this a dream, Link? No longer must you chase after me, for here I am, just for you.'
" 'My nymph has stopped running from me, and she has not fastened herself to the bosom of the earth. Rather, she turns to me and opens her arms to hold me,' he said with a smile. He remembered everything it, seemed. As a child, I loved stories, and the story of the woodland nymph Daphne was my favorite.
"I held up a hand, the one with the ring that Nabooru had given me so long ago, its red jewel glistening in the odd light, 'This ring made me a man for so many years. It kept me sterile and unable to bear children… however tonight….' I drew the ring from my finger and lay it on the bedside table, 'Tonight I shall become a woman. I have no need to hide anymore.'
" 'But Zelda,' he protested, that innocent caring look that I loved so much in his eyes, 'What if you are with child because of this night?'
" 'If I know that it is your son, then it is alright,' was my automatic answer. 'I would bear only your son.'
"Soon, I was sliding his shirt from his shoulders and discarding it with his tunic and cap on a small pile at our feet. And I went on kissing his shoulders and stomach. He tasted of sweet rainwater and smelled of the good scents that dwell in the woodlands. My shirt was loose and torn, and I knew when I bent over he could see my breasts. Not that I minded… nor he either.
"He pulled away from me for a moment and then collapsed on the bed, his body falling in such a seductive position that I could do nothing but fall there on top of him, deep in kissing once more. He rolled me gently on my side and lay there next to me on the huge spread of pillows on the bed. His hand crept over the blankets to my shirt, which was already quite open from tearing on the tree branch when I fell. He pulled away at the bandages and they came loose around me, gliding down my torso and about my waist. He came a bit closer, gently peeling the tight blue cloth of my shirt around my shoulders and down my arms.
"I watched him from under half closed eyelids, savoring his very touch. And just as I had kissed him so passionately, letting my lips explore his torso, so he did for me. As he had removed half the garment, exposing most of my upper body. And it actually felt quite good to be so free, not tightly confined beneath layers of cloth and bandaging. To feel the cool air of the room around us grow steadily hotter on my naked flesh was a wondrous sort of feeling that I had not experience in a long while. His body so close to mine made that heat between us all the more exciting. His lips wandered over my breasts, and I felt myself right then lose it entirely, and I collapsed under him on the bed. Soon, he was straddling me, his lips still caressing my skin softly and lovingly.
" 'Oh Link, pray, give me my sin again,' I groaned when he stopped for a moment and just rested his head on my chest.
" 'I am only a man, no matter what you think,' he whispered in a lazy voice.
" 'Whatever you are, I worship you as a god,' was my weak reply.
"At this he pulled up and looked at me straight in the eye. He didn't look angry, nor was he. He just looked a bit upset. 'I would rather you love me as a man—as your equal—than for you to worship me as a god.'
" 'Is that your wish, my prince?' I asked him, my fingers reaching up to wipe a tear away from his eye.
" 'It is all I ever wanted,' he nodded, 'I only want for you and I to love one another as lovers do: completely and mutually. I don't want for you to be my slave, because I love you too much for that.'
" 'Link,' I said in a hardly audible voice. 'I love you too much to displease you.'
"Without a word, I slid the ninja top from my body completely and cast it off the side of the bed as I sunk beneath him once more. And he, without a word, without a word, whipped back the sheets and blankets upon the bed, a few of the smaller pillows falling off the great bed as he did so. He lovingly tucked me beneath the covers like he would a small child and kissed my forehead.
" 'Would you sleep well now, princess?' he asked me sweetly.
" 'I don't want to be alone in this great bed. It frightens me more than anything to be alone. That is my deepest fear, to be alone,' I murmured. 'Don't tell me you are leaving me now. Not so soon.'
" 'I would never leave you, kitten,' he purred to me as he crawled on all fours over the bed and held himself above me. 'Not now, not ever. Not even death could stop true love; only delay it for a while. You could strike at this love with the strongest sword or with the greatest army and yet, true love would never falter. That is why we cannot be defeated, Zelda. Because love is on our side.' Then he kissed me again and slid underneath the blankets to lie alongside me, a pleasure I could hardly have enough of.
"I felt his hand resting on my stomach and I caught it and guided it down lower on my body. I felt his fingers trace my leg lightly, up and down, teasing me. And I let his hands eventually ease the rest of my ninja garb gently from my weary body and toss it aside. I lay next to him now, completely naked and never in my life had I felt so free and so pure. There I was, as I had been when I first entered the world, and in Link's arms was eternity, so up into the arms of heaven would I go as I had come.
"And he, his body glistening in the pale moonlight that was now beginning to peer out from behind the storm clouds, took my hands and guided them down to the buttons that held his tight leather pants to his body. He needed to only place my fingers upon his hips, and I could not control it as they crept over his pants, slowly undoing them and sliding them from his body. And before I knew it, I was throwing them to the floor, he too now naked, lying beside me. He, this beautiful young god, so perfect and defined, right there beside me… only for me.
"He brushed a strand of hair from my face, seeing the emotions storming through my eyes. 'Are you afraid, Zelda? There is no need to be afraid anymore. Just trust me, Zelda.'
" 'I trust you, Link,' I whispered. 'I trust you more than anyone on this godforsaken earth. And that is why I want you. That is why I want to be with you… why I love you….'
"He said nothing and was soon kissing me yet again. At first, he pulled away from me sharply as I made a small little sound when he would hurt me. I knew he couldn't help it, and I loved how the next time he would be slower and far more loving than he had done before. And soon, when we had become more accustomed to this whole new universe of love, it no longer hurt so much and just felt like the gods were stroking me with their soft touches. I suddenly made a deeper more guttural as a feeling inside me exploded. I twisted beneath him groped for his mouth with my lips. His mouth met mine and I dragged him beneath the blankets with me as we traveled deeper and deeper into this new world.
"I need not explain much more. I'm sure all of you know what happened next. But I will say that it was a night like no other. Never had I been given so much love and attention before in my entire life, nor had I had the pleasure of having someone I loved enough to return that affection. That night we explored that completely new universe together, and it was magical."
"Zelda, Zelda," Impa shook her head, a knowing smile on her face. She was still writing furiously. Only a determined soul would have still been going at this, for it had been quite some time since they had begun and Impa's poor hand had endured quite a bit of pain whilst talking down all of this story.
"Well I warned you at the beginning that you might not like ever single detail of what I had to tell you. I'm not quite sure what you think but…' she stopped and rested her chin in the palm of her hand, staring at Impa intently. 'So shall I continue?'
"Is the story finished? Don't think so,' Impa said, wagging her quill at Zelda. 'I told you I want to hear the whole thing, start to finish. So start talking.'
"I lay in his arms, cuddled against his warm breast in the cold room, my arm wrapped around his waist and the other draped over his thigh. Thunder rumbled deeply in the distance and faint splashes of lightning occasionally lit the midnight sky. He had long fallen asleep with his arms wound around me. I had been sleeping too until a few moments ago. Something, a small sound, had awoken me. I listened intently.
"I heard the soft laughter of Vans, Praedari and Jael mingling with Odysseus' deep voice on the first floor. They must have just gotten back. Then there was the small thud of footsteps… on the stairs? Not the stairs from way downstairs, but these to Hermes' room. I peered into the shadows and saw the faint powder blue color of Hermes' hair as his head disappeared down the steps. I could have sworn for a moment I saw him look at me with this sad sort of cloud about him. I sank back into the thick pillow behind me and rolled my head on its side. And then I saw, draped lovingly over the back of the chair beside the bed, was a beautiful dress of lavender silk and all the feminine trappings to go with it. Had Hermes left this for me?
"Suddenly, I felt Link jerk against me in his sleep. He was moaning something. I sat up and looked down upon him, placing a hand upon his forehead. He had broken out into a cold sweat and was tossing and turning. Was he having a nightmare?
" 'No, no! Don't you touch her, pig!' I heard him cry out in his dreams. 'Leave her alone! Ganondorf! I said don't touch her!'
"My eyes filled with worry, I shook him awake, 'Link, Link! Wake up! Please, love, wake up. It's only a bad dream! It's just a dream, Link!'
"His eyes snapped open. 'What… what happened?'
" 'You were dreaming, Link,' I said consolingly as I gathered him in my arms. 'It was only a nightmare. Don't worry about it.'
" 'It was so real,' he panted. I could see that whatever he had seen had disturbed him greatly. He was shaking. 'Zelda, it was as if the whole world cried out in agony and I could do nothing to soothe it. And then, from the shadows, came a wretched hand; a hand that I knew could belong to no other than Ganondorf. He reached out and snatched you away from me, and no matter how fast I ran, I could never catch you. I couldn't save you. I'm no hero if I can't even save the girl I love.'
" 'But it was only a dream, Link,' I whispered in a calm voice. 'You have nothing to fear. It was only a horrible, horrible dream.'
" 'Yeah,' he rasped.
" "Look, you just lay here, and I'll go fetch you a cool glass of water, alright?' I eased him back down into the pillows, stroking his forehead lovingly.
" 'But Zelda… I don't want you to leave me in this darkness,' he whispered. I could hear the fear in his voice. That dream must have shaken him greatly.
"I rolled out of the bed and pulled his tunic on over my head to cover my body while I ran downstairs. It was huge on me, falling down just over my knees. Then, groping around on the bedside table, I found Hermes' tinderbox and struck a long match. I could see Link's pale face in the soft glow as I lit a dragon shaped lamp that hung near the bed. 'Is that better, Link? I shall only be a minute.'
" 'Okay, Zelda,' he said as I went towards the steps. I smiled at him as I left, and he gave me a weak little smile in return as I disappeared down the stairs. 'I'll wait here for you.'
"When I came down the steps, the whole hall seemed hauntingly quiet. Odd shadows played about here and there and the place was chilled with the night air. As I walked by my room, I saw that the door was ajar. I stopped to peer inside, and there I saw Hermes, sitting on the edge of the bed. He was shivering with cold but he made no move to close the great open widow beside him. Slowly, he turned his head as he realized hew as being watched. 'Zelda… come in….'
" 'Hermes, you're cold,' I said in a worried voice. 'Let me close the window for you. You know you shouldn't sit in such a freezing climate in your condition.'
"He looked at me with those great sad eyes of his, 'Zelda, please, sit.'
"I was about to when there was a shout from downstairs. It was the voice of Vans, 'Hey Hermes, are you coming down? 'Cause we're starting a new round, ya know? Shall we deal you in?'
" 'No,' he barked back. 'No, I don't think I'll be coming back down. I'm a bit tired.'
" 'Well is Sheik up there? Does he want to play?'
"He looked at me and gave a feeble smile before he turned back to the door shouting back down to Vans, 'He's got a lovely lady-friend in there with him. Don't want to interrupt, do you? You want him to give that same privacy to you, wouldn't you?'
" 'Yeah I guess,' was the answer. I heard some murmurs from the other guys. They were saying things like, 'Well is he coming down?' or 'Sheik gonna join us too?' and 'I knew that Sheik would get around to women sooner or later.'
"He shrugged at me with a silly look on his face. It made me smile. 'Well it wasn't a total lie, was it Zelda. You do have your young boyfriend with you.'
" 'Actually, he's seventeen. I'm sixteen.'
" 'Still a lovely creature, is he not?' Hermes looked at me with a sort of longing gaze. 'Please, do sit down. You shouldn't be uncomfortable in your own room, Zelda.'
"I obeyed and sat down beside him on the little bed. 'What is it, Hermes?'
" 'What?' I asked again. He seemed nervous about something. 'Is there something you'd like to talk about? Hermes?'
" 'I…' he began. And he paused for a moment before opening his mouth. He was about to start his sentence over again when he suddenly began one of his coughing spells again. It seemed far worse than usual. His breathing became heavy and labored as he struggled for air. Blood poured from his mouth all over his white tunic. It was completely out of his control and I grabbed him in fear.
" 'Hermes!' I said, shaking him a little, as though it might actually aid him in his recovery. It was one of those moments that seems like hours but is truly only a few minutes in which he was like that. I was so afraid. As I said, it had never been this bad before. I could tell he was growing steadily worse and the window of time I had left to save him was drawing closed.
" 'Zelda, I… was that man… your hero? That Link?' he managed to ask when his coughing finally ceased. 'You are lovers?'
" 'He is my destiny,' I said in a soft voice. 'I was separated from him when I was young. I had known there was something special about him when I first saw him, but what that was I wasn't exactly sure. Yes, our paths did cross for some reason. I believe that fate brought us close and then wrenched us apart as so to better our understanding of that love we had for one another. It has only grown stronger.'
" 'So you have room in your heart for only him,' Hermes said, looking into my eyes. He still looked so depressed. It was a spirit of the old Hermes still dwelling inside.
"My eyes grew wide with shock for a moment, 'Hermes, how could you say something like that? I love him, yes. But there is love in my heart for so many others as well. I love you and Jael, Vans, Praedari and Odysseus. I always have, because you five were… are… my family.'
" 'How do you love him, Zelda?' he asked suddenly.
"I said, 'Oh, like a sickness, Hermes… a sickness and its cure together.'
"He nodded, 'I know what that feeling is like. I knew that feeling long ago. But….'
" 'Yes?' I urged him to continue, taking his hand. He curled his fingers tightly around mine, squeezing it so hard that his knuckles became white.
" 'I have felt it again,' he looked up at me with a desperate pleading look upon his face. 'I felt it when I looked in your eyes.'
" 'Hermes…' my hand fell from his grasp. I was so taken with surprise as he said this! Standing, I began to stumble backwards towards the door. 'Hermes, you were always there for me. But it was not meant to be. I could never forget you, my lord Hermes.' I bowed hastily and left the room. Looking quickly over my shoulder, I saw him look down at his hands, which were folded in his lap, and I saw the shimmer of a tear as it fell from his eye.
"I found a cup of bone in Hermes' study and went to the small storage room where there was a tap and a cooler of ice so that you wouldn't have to go all the way downstairs for a drink. Hermes had always been that way. He thought of such things all the time as to better convenience himself and his men. Good thing too since the boys were still downstairs and I looked like anything but a man.
" 'Here Link,' I said as I came back to him. He was sitting up in the bed, still naked (much to my pleasure) and wrapped in the blankets. He was still shivering, though he managed a smile when he saw me return. The lamp had begun to die and I relit it as I handed him the cup of water.
" 'What took you so long,' he said with a little laugh. 'I was beginning to think that you had forgotten me.'
" 'I ran into Hermes, that's all,' I said to him in a monotone kind of voice.
" 'I see,' Link said as he sipped the water. It seemed to calm him much to my relief. I hated seeing him so shaken and disturbed. 'What did he have to say? Surely he has missed you during this past month.'
" 'He… Link… he said he loved me,' I said with a downcast glance. 'I don't know what to think. I mean, Hermes is very dear to me, and I do indeed love him… but not as I love you. It's a different kind of love. I can't really explain it.'
" 'Like the love one would have for a brother?' he asked as he took me in his arms again, crushing me against his chest. The tunic fell over one shoulder as he pulled me tighter to him. 'Zelda, the love I have for you has blossomed from that of a brotherly love to that of a lover's love.'
" 'But I don't want Hermes to be alone. He has suffered so much,' I whispered against him. 'But I also don't want you to be alone anymore Link. You, more than anyone on this earth, have suffered too many hardships. There is only so much a man can bear, and the fact that you are approaching the end of this adventure with kindness and compassion still in your heart is reason enough to love you.'
" 'Do you truly mean what you speak?' he asked in his thick drawl.
" 'I mean every syllable of it. Most people speak from their minds, but I,' I looked up into his eyes at this moment, 'I speak from my heart. You are what my heart aches for more than anything. I would give up everything just so I could be with you. I would sooner become the daughter of the actor who plays the king and have you as my prince than stay cozy on my throne as queen without you.'
" 'And I, I would become anything you command so I could please your desires and return from my journey to see you smile. Why do you think I even considered undertaking this quest to begin with? I wanted to make you happy. I only did it because you asked it of me. For no other would I have risked my life.'
" 'Link!' I held him tightly. 'Don't leave me again. I will stay with you. I will protect you. I will do anything for you because… because I love you.'
"I awoke the next morning to find Link above me, kissing my face tenderly. I was still in wearing his rumpled tunic. When he saw my eyes flutter open, he spoke, his mouth in a wide grin, 'Good morning, love. Sleep well?'
" 'Knowing you were naught but a few inches from me all night eased my rest greatly,' I told him as I rolled out of the bed. It was the truth. I felt much safer with him nearby. His love and his strength were all I needed to survive anymore.
" 'That is good,' he said, still smiling at me warmly. His peaceful eyes danced in the glum atmosphere about us, and shafts of sunlight stabbed through the cloudy sky and played over his face. He reached over the edge of the bed and pulled his pants back on and threw his shirt around his shoulders not bothering to button it up again. I removed his tunic and returned it to him and he threw it on over his shirt and then yanked on his cap. With a motion to the dress Hermes had left for me he said, 'Go put that on. I think that it would make you look like a real princess. It's time you assumed your role as Hyrule's queen.'
" 'If you insist,' I said with a shrug.
" 'I do,' he caught my hand and looked at me with a determined sort of gaze. 'Quickly now, love. We have work to do.'
" 'Yes,' I went over to the window and flung it wide open. 'It's a beautiful day. We shant let it escape us. Ganondorf shall die by nightfall.' Link nodded assent. I came close to him and our lips were about to meet when…
" 'Sheik?' Jael's voice interrupted us. We jerked away from each other in flushed embarresment. The other three came up behind him and looked at us intently.'
" 'Sheik, what did you do to your hair?' Praedari crept up to Link (much to my private amusement) and ran a few fingers through his hair. 'You cut it, did you? What a shame. It was so beautiful.'
"Odysseus came up to me (and all this was still quite amusing to me) and said in a quite flirtatious tone, 'So, you're Sheik's pretty lady? Did he show you a good time? He even snagged for you Hermes' bed. Lucky Hermes likes him so much or you both would have been dead by now.' I noticed his face become ever so slightly downcast. It was a change so subtle you'd have to know his facial expressions very well to notice it. 'Well, at least, you would have been.'
" 'But you seem to not understand,' Link pulled away from him. Then he turned to look at me as he said, 'You said these boys were your dearest friends… like brothers… and yet, you never told them? Surely you would have by now?'
" 'I was planning to go downstairs right now to,' I said. 'As with you, Link, the time was not right.'
"Now Vans had been standing behind the others, his arms folded and his eyes staring intently at the floor. He was thinking, obviously and now he looked up at me and then at Link. And he walked right over to me (shoving Odysseus out of the way as he did so) stared me right in the eye and spoke. 'You're Sheik, aren't you, little lady?'
"I looked right back at him, 'Yes, I am, Vans. I am the one you called Sheik.'
" 'Then who is…?' Praedari tossed his head in Link's direction. And then after a pause and a quick glance around the room (the disheveled sheets upon the bed and the miscellaneous clothes still strewn over the floor) he smiled at me and said, 'Your… lover? Wait, wait, I'm on a roll here… he's the Hero Link you kept obsessing about… and your lover?'
"My face turned bright red, 'Very good, Praedari.'
" 'Aw yes! I am so good!' he threw a thumbs up in our direction. But then his cheeriness faded like a ghost in daylight and his face became more crestfallen.
" 'What is it now, boys?' I asked. I noticed all of them looked quite dejected all of the sudden. 'Look, I'm sorry I've lied to you all. If you're angry with that, I shall allow you to beat the crap out of me for it. But please, don't look so upset.'
" 'No, no, Sheik—'
" 'Zelda,' I interrupted. I began to bow but then stopped in the middle and sank into a deep curtsy before them all. 'Princess Zelda at your service. But please, just call me Zelda.'
" 'Sheik, Zelda… whoever you are,' Jael came up to me and took my hand, 'please listen to me closely. And please—' at this he began to weep— 'please don't cry. Be strong for all of us as I tell you what we discovered this morning.'
" 'What Jael?' I was confused. All of them looked so upset and none would raise their eyes to meet mine.
"At first I thought that Jael would be unable to tell me whatever horrible news he had to tell for he seemed far beyond the point of consolation. 'My dear,' he was fighting to speak through his sobs, 'this morning we knocked on your door to see if you were awake. We had spent the whole night downstairs gambling, you see and we had been hinted that you had a lover with you. So we were quite curious, of course. You know how we can be sometimes,' at this he smiled weakly and I had a terrible thought as to what he might be leading up to. 'But when there was no answer at the door, Odysseus knocked again… and again… and still, there was no answer. I tried the handle, but it was latched shut so I got Praedari in there with his lock picking kit and as he pushed the door open, Odysseus dropped dead away into a faint when he saw what lay within….'
"Tears poured down his cheek as he went on. I felt a lump rise in my throat as he spoke. 'There lay my lord Hermes, sprawled on the bed, his head lolled back and blood smeared over the bed and his tunic... blood all over his face and covering his arms. His hand was curled around a small parchment of paper, which read I leave it in your hands now, Zelda…. Now it all makes sense as to what it meant, though how he knew he would… die that night… is surely beyond me. Perhaps he had the Sight too….'
"And I flung myself into Jael's arms and I cried like I had never cried in all my life. I felt Link's strong reassuring hands on my shoulders and his voice in my ear gently hushing me and whispering soft solaces to my pain. I looked up from the folds of Jael's vest and into his face, 'Did he… was it a suicide?'
" 'No,' Vans said from nearby. 'It was his sickness. It finally took him.'
" 'And I did nothing,' I whispered as I stood upright, falling back into Link's arms. 'All this time and I did… nothing.'
" 'There was nothing you could have done,' Odysseus said, hanging his head sadly. 'What my lord suffered from was no mortal sickness.'
" 'My lord Hermes died from a broken heart,' Praedari put in. 'No earthly medicine or even the magic of the gods would have save him from that.'
" 'Last night,' I choked back my sadness, 'he told me he loved me. And I refused his feelings. I said to him that my heart belonged to another… a man who I had loved since the beginning of time. He told me he understood, for he had seen true love before… and that he had found it again in me.'
" 'It is all my fault,' Link said after standing silent through all these proceedings. He held me tighter to his breast as he spoke. 'If I had not come and spent the night with her, this would not have happened. If I hadn't….'
" 'Hero,' Vans put a hand on his shoulder, 'don't blame yourself for our problems. You did nothing shameful. All you did do Hero, was fall in love.'
"And I saw Vans and the other three plus Link, the best five friends I had left in the world all there around me, comforting me and holding me close. We all were bound together in a tight hug, knotted together as we all wept. Even Link, who never met Hermes in his entire life, shed a few tears. He felt my pain.
" 'May I go to him?' I asked.
" 'Of course,' Odysseus said. 'And then, you will become our leader as Hermes so wished.'
"I was taken aback at this. 'Oh Odysseus, everyone, I can't do that. There are so many other who are better for such an honor.'
" 'But Hermes wished it, Zelda,' Jael said.
" 'Well I command that Lysander be put in charge,' I said. Even though I had not spoken to Lysander in Din knew how long, I knew that he would be fit to lead the thieves towards a more prosperous future. 'Look, I know you would really love to see that happen, but it could never work. After we deliver Hyrule, I will have to assume the throne once more. Being the leader of Hyrule's greatest network of thieves would not be ideal for the Queen. But more than anything I would love to be with you… I just can't. And this is the hardest thing I will ever have to say, but I shall say it, and none of you, out of respect for Hermes and for me, shall not argue it a single bit. I shall go to visit Hermes one last time, and then, I shall take my leave of you, dear brothers, forever. May the fates guide our paths across one another once again.'
" 'Lysander shall become our leader, as you wish it, but in our hearts you shall always be our true master, and our brother, Sheik… Zelda,' Praedari said putting on a strong noble face.
"I nodded to him and then to each of the others. I grabbed Link's hand and took led him down the stairs, away from the four men who were my dearest friends in all the world.
"When we reached my bedroom, I pushed the door open and began to enter. Link hung back, his head turned in shame. 'I cannot come to mourn a man I never knew. Zelda, this is your last moment with your greatest friend. I shall leave you to yourself.'
"I turned around with a small smile on my face, putting hand on each of his shoulders, 'Link, no matter how noble you try to be or how brave you make me out to be, I cannot do this alone. Come with me. I think it's time you met my lord Hermes.'
"Solemnly we entered the room. I knelt at the bedside with Link right behind me. Placing a hand on Hermes' lifeless face, I spoke to his spirit, wherever it might have been at that moment. 'Hermes, Hermes, I couldn't save you. I tried. I wanted to so badly. But something happened along the way, my lord. I fell in love. I found true love. Dear friend, my selfishness has cost all of us your life. Both women in your life betrayed you unknowingly. No matter where you are Hermes, I pray that you have forgiven me.'
"I found myself beginning to sing softly.
" 'Free the dream within,
The stars are crying,
A tear…. A sigh,
Escapes from heaven,
…And worlds… end…'
"And I kissed his cold brow and got to my feet. I went to the bedside table and wound up the music box as far as the little key would turn. I set it down and let it play, grabbing Link's hand and leading him out the door and out of the townhouse, away from everything I had ever known and into a new void of darkness…."
As Zelda spoke of Hermes' ill-fated end, tears sprang to her eyes. She hadn't cried too much when it had happened, but now, she let it all out. Impa, trying hard to be strong for her dear princess, reached out over the table to put a consoling hand on her shoulder. Zelda looked up at her and smiled. Looking round the room at everyone else, a bleary eyed group ever since she had spoken these things of death and sadness. They shared her pain, and that made her heart soar, knowing that Hermes would not be mourned alone and forgotten.
"Thank you, all of you," she said in a raspy sort of voice between sobs. "Thank you."
" 'Let's just get out of here,' I was trying quite hard to bite back tears of rage and sadness. 'I never thought this would happen. He was too good for this kind of fate. Just when he had figured out who he was too…. Oh Link, will I die now that I know who I am too?'
"He grabbed me and whirled me around, looking into my eyes. He had a habit of doing that whenever he was going to say something he felt was important. 'Don't you dare say that. Saying things like that will only make it happen. Think of more important matters, like the imminent defeat of Ganondorf. Hermes would want that, don't you think?'
" 'You are right Link,' I said softly, wrapping my arms around him. 'By Nayru, you are right.'
"With a silly exaggerated grin, he swept me off my feet and held me in his arms as he said in a mocking voice, 'And so Princess, where to now?'
"I threw a fist into the air as I would if I had just beaten a game or something, 'To the Temple of Time!'
" 'Why there?' Link said with a slightly awed voice. The Temple had always held a special meaning for him; that I knew. After all, it was there that his true quest began. It was from there that his destiny had begun to take shape.
"I wrapped my arms round his neck and whispered into his ear lest someone might be listening, 'We must discuss our plans against Ganondorf somewhere. I have nowhere else to go but there. So… shall we be on our way?'
" 'Quite,' he said with a laugh.
"Soon, he was sitting me down upon the steps of the beautiful cathedral. He sat beside me, clapping his hands between his knees as he sucked in a breath of air. I smiled at him, putting a hand on his lap. 'Link, everything is suddenly happing so fast.'
" 'I know,' he replied, looking up at the churning storm clouds above. The rain and storming had long stopped, but the sky was still dark with the ominous looking nimbuses. 'First you tell me who you really are, and now, this with your lord Hermes. What shall befall us next, Zelda?'
" 'Link, I think it's my turn to tell you a story,' I said. 'This is a legend that Impa told me once and it came to me in a dream many years ago. Now it is time I told you this, the true secret of the Triforce.'
" 'True secret?' he looked at me strangely.
" 'It is this,' I began. 'The power of the Triforce is somewhat like a mirror. It reflects what is in the heart. If the power is retrieved by a person who is pure of heart, within whom the three essences of the Triforce are in perfect balance and harmony, then that person gains the True force to govern all. However, if the Triforce is taken by someone with dark intentions, someone like Ganondorf, then the Triforce will split into three, and only the essence that that person most believes in will remain. As with Ganondorf, his heart was consumed with greed and power lust, so with him, the Triforce of Power remained. The other two parts were secured by the Goddesses within certain chosen ones whose hearts are pure.'
" 'So who has these other parts of the Triforce?' Link asked. 'Whoever does, we should finds so we might attack Ganondorf with two-thirds of the power of the Three.'
" 'We needn't look far, dear Link,' I said, 'for within your heart rests the Triforce of Courage, a symbol of your bravery and your role as the Hero of Time. As for the other part, the Triforce of Wisdom, it is carried in my breast. That power is given to the one destined to become the Seventh Sage and leader of all the rest. Together Link, you and I are more powerful than any other beings on this earth. We are bound by our love and the power of the Holy Three Goddesses. We shall win this day.'
" 'So you want to think,' a hideous voice boomed over the courtyards. I knew that voice like I knew the voices of my nightmares….
" 'Ganondorf!' I shouted at the voice. 'Where are you, coward!? Show yourself!'
" 'Why should I come to you when I could just bring you to me?' Ganondorf's voice retorted indignantly with a haughty snort.
" 'The hell are you talking about, pig?' Link was on his feet, his eyes scanning the temples grounds warily for traces of the evil tyrant king.
" 'Oh Hero,' Ganondorf said disdainfully, 'I didn't even notice you were there. Huh, well no matter. I suppose it's better that you see me capture your meddling little girlfriend.'
" 'Don't you touch her! You hear me, pig?' Link snarled. 'Don't you dare to so much as look at her.'
" 'A bit late for that,' he said. 'She caught my fancy ever since she started wandering around in the open without her little costume on.'
" 'Have you been watching me all this time?' I shouted to the sky. 'You knew I was Sheik?'
" 'You give me too much credit, my dear,' he answered. 'No, I didn't see through your disguise. However, I figured if I let your Hero wander around freely, you'd reveal yourself eventually. And now to finish my perfect plan.'
"As he said that, the area was engulfed in a bright pinkish light and when the flash receded, I was trapped in a prison of rosy crystal. Link flew to me and banged on the walls of the crystal as though to shatter it, but to no avail. 'What is this Ganondorf?' he screamed. 'Let her go! It's me you have the fight with. Using a girl as a shield is cowardly and cheap!'
" 'Don't give a damn about fair fighting, Hero,' Ganondorf sneered as I felt his magic begin to raise my prison into the sky. 'Come my dear, there is much we must discuss. You can ask me all the questions you like until this brat comes after you. I know he will. After sharing a night like the two of you had, I'm sure he would certainly do anything for you. Die even? Which he will. He will certainly die.'
She rolls the window down,
And she talks over the sound,
Of the cars that pass us by,
And I don't know why,
But she's changed my life.
Would you look at her?
She looks at me,
She's got me thinking about her constantly,
But she don't know how I feel.
And she carries on without a doubt.
I wonder if she's figured out,
I'm crazy for this girl.
Yeah, I'm crazy for this girl.
She was the one to hold me,
The night the sky fell down.
And what was I thinking when,
The world didn't end.
Why don't I know what I know now?
Would you look at her?
She looks at me,
She's got me thinking about her constantly,
But she don't know how I feel.
And she carries on without a doubt.
I wonder if she'll figure out,
I'm crazy for this girl.
Yeah, I'm crazy for this girl.
Right now, face to face,
All my fears pushed aside,
And right now,
I'm ready to spend the rest of my life with you.
Would you look at her?
She looks at me,
She's got me thinking about her constantly,
But she don't know how I feel.
And she carries on without a doubt.
I wonder if she's figured out,
I'm crazy for this girl.
Yeah, I'm crazy for this girl.
Well we're nearing the end of this big ol' story. Not even I thought it would drag on this long! Hehe, did I say drag? No, no, it's not dragging. Why, it's merely reaching the climax! We all know what happens, but I think I might be able to do just a wee bit better at this story telling romance thing than Nintendo did it the actual game. Don't worry all, the shortness of the next part will compensate for the length of this one! Hope you all really like this so far. Only story #2, really. Aw, I better shut up before this little blurb gets out of hand, ya know what I mean? Too late though….
The Link Worshiper