King Rhoam, after long and steady council with his wife, is at last willing to see reason, and concedes that a mere twenty guards should be sufficient escort for their daughter on her first excursion outside the castle walls.
"No sense in being excessive, now is there?" he says without a drop of irony and a firm pat on his wife's hand.
"Of course not, my dear." Her words are decidedly with irony as she restrains a knowing smile and strokes the golden head of her One and Only. "And I shall accompany her, for you know how much good the fresh air will do me."
Plans are arranged, provisions gathered, safeguards implemented. King Rhoam nods his approval at the reinforced carriage, the heavily armed vanguard – armoured and mounted high upon Hyrule's finest war steeds. Nothing, he is satisfied, will have opportunity to harm she who must one day become the very foundation of the kingdom.
"And to lose her," he murmurs, "will be to lose everything." But he stifles his fears and raises one, gloved finger.
The castle gates open. The drawbridge is lowered.
The carriage rumbles through and onwards. The carriage window is set high, and Zelda, instructed to remain seated, is unable to watch the landscape rushing by. But the sky is hers to enjoy, and the sight of the clouds, full and winsome in their listless promenade through the sky, is fine company for the journey.
At last the wheels jostle to a slow, and finally a stop. A little neck cranes. A pair of little blue eyes peek over the window's edge. They marvel at the grand dignity of the Royal Hyrulian guard, who have formed themselves into a perfect circle around the carriage bearing the Princess and Queen, their tabards so alarmingly blue that Zelda hardly knows when the sky ends and they begin. "How shall I see anything beyond the knights, Mama, for they are so much taller than I am."
"Very true, my darling, especially when they are mounted. But perhaps if we ask very politely we can convince them to widen the circle – just a hair, mind – and then we may peer between their shoulders, or failing that, the horses' hocks."
Zelda, who is still young enough to believe anything a grown up says genuine, replies, "That will do very well, for I have spent all my life peeking through tight spaces." Between cracks in the mortar, over the battlements of impenetrable, stone walls. On warm nights she stares for hours out of lonely arrow loops at the glittering snake of the river that winds into Castle Town and the untouchable horizon beyond. "I won't mind at all, so long as I could see it!"
A liveried manservant opens the door. The stairs are let down.
"Go on, dear," her mother urges.
One, cautious, step. Then another. A crunch of grass and earth, a wide-eyed stare, and Zelda takes her first breath of un-castled air:
"It's sweet." And crisp and clean and free from the strangle of a thousand hearthfires, and when she closes her eyes and inhales again, it's as though she's never truly breathed before in her life. "Can you smell it, Mama?"
Her mother gestures to the sweep of raw color in the distance, staking a claim among the ubiquitous yellow-browns of the prairielands. "It's the wildflowers. See how well they thrive under the pure rain and unchecked sunlight?"
"Shall we go to them?"
They link arms. "I think we might." When they reach the back of the nearest knight, the Queen taps him on the shoulder, whispers something in his ear, and a door in the wall of guards opens. "As long as you don't tell your father we've breached his defenses."
"I shan't, not ever. I am very good at keeping secrets, you know."
"Oh, yes. There must be a thousand things I've never told anyone. Not even you."
The Queen merely smiles. "Secrets are a bit like perfume. Only a tiny sprinkle is ever needed. Too much, and you will not easily find anyone strong enough to suffer the heady effects, including yourself."
Too excited by the adventure, Zelda does not linger on her mother's warning. Her mother, well known for forever speaking in metaphor. Her mother, wimple flapping in the breeze as they traverse over the long grass, who wears only a simple circlet of gold upon her royal head.
Her mother, the embodiment of wisdom itself, kneeling down into the wet earth with no heed to her rank or costly damask frock. "This flower is called Amicas Dirae, the Moon Tulip. And here, my favorite one of all." She strokes a white-petaled wonder, but does not pluck it. "The Silent Princess. The most rare flower, and the most beautiful. The Royal Botanists say it will only grow in the wild, and that just to spite us all." Her eyes, the color of the sea in mid-winter, crinkle when she smiles. "Now, who does that remind you of?"
Zelda is sure she does not know. What rational person would trade the comfort of four walls and a warm hearth for the harsh winds and unpredictable skies of the wild? Much more does she prefer the tame, lady-like pursuits, the hours and hours spent in dusty rooms with dustier books, falling into the texts, relishing every word.
"Mama, I have read that the key to Hyrule's salvation lies buried under the ground."
"Very true. Which is why His Majesty has sent excavators across Hyrule, searching for this ancient treasure."
"I should like to be one of them."
"An excavator!" And before anyone has a chance to remind her of royal comportment and clean fingernails, she plunges her soft, alabaster hands into the ground and begins to dig. "Have they looked here, do you think?"
"I don't believe they have."
"Then perhaps I shall find it."
"Find what, darling?"
"The savior of Hyrule!"
She digs and digs, digs for what seems like hours, until all her fingernails are torn and great, dark stains loom up the hem of her petticoat. Never before has she drank in the dew, tasted the freshness of dirt upon her tongue. The allure of unwalled freedom sinks into her bones as the sun sinks into the sky, and through it all she has not once noticed the quiet coughing of her mother.