The Letter to No One
Jaek packed them up into a wagon to get them out of the ranch. It was not uncommon for drow to be up and active during the night. From what Link knew they were a nocturnal people by nature. Rontu always said it felt strange to him to start sleeping during the night instead of the day. They had vision for both times, so Rontu could adjust easily enough. Which brought Link to wondering about earlier, as Jaek grunted a greeting to the guards at the gates to the ranch, when he had been hiding on the shed and Jaek had scanned the area, and then when he had appeared out of the shadows and invited Link inside …
He was sure that Jaek had seen him in the dark with his heat vision. He must have known he would not show himself until he left. Jaek must have not gone far, not wanting to risk Malon’s safety with a stranger in the shadows. Of course, Jaek then knew he was a friend after hearing them talk and then could be trusted. Link just wondered how he had managed to get back outside so quickly to hear his conversation with Malon to then know that he was no danger to them.
The curiosity kept him from sinking down into the grief and guilt in the back of his mind that threatened to sweep over him in a great and overwhelming wave.
Yes, it was best to keep himself busy.
The wagon gently rocked him as it rolled outside the ranch walls. Rain pelted down, which made the rocking annoying instead of soothing as the wind howled at them. Jaek brought it to a stop next to the walls, out of sight from the entrance. Link uncurled himself from the wagon floor and leapt over the side. He stood straight and then stuck his fingers in his mouth and whistled her song.
In the early days he would have once feared that the whistle of her tune would not reach her ears in such weather. By now he knew there was something much more than sounds to this song and the horse. A few seconds went and he soon spotted the mare galloping over to him.
Malon rushed up to Epona before Link could even reach her muzzle. She eagerly touched her velvety nose and stroked her white mane. The horse did not finch away. She would always know the ranch girl that had raised her. In fact, he was sure that once Epona had seen Malon that it was not him she had been rushing toward anymore. The ragged ranch girl wrapped her arms around the horse in the howling wind and rain, like an embrace with a long lost friend that she was.
Link let them have their moment together in peace. He turned back to the wagon to find Jaek leaning against it. He was at such ease that you would have thought it a nice warm afternoon instead of a cold and stormy night. The old drow was watching the reunion with a warm glow in his brown eyes and a soft smile shaping his lips. The chaos of the wind whipped the white hair across his face but he made no motion to pull the hood of his cloak up over his head.
Jaek turned his head to Link and his smile increased, pulling at more of the wrinkles on his aging face. One could not help but be drawn in by him. The one steady and solid thing around them. He walked over to Jaek, taking the moment to give into the curiosity and the need of a distraction.
The drow waited patiently, as if he already knew what was coming next.
“Jaek-san … I was wondering…”
The warm brown eyes stared receptively, the hint of a smile still hanging on his mouth and wrinkles.
“You saw me on the shed.”
It was not a question, but Jaek nodded, confirming.
“You knew I wouldn’t come out until you left … I was just wondering how you got outside fast enough to hear …”
The smile came into full bloom again. There was a hint of amusement in it. Link felt like as if he had suddenly missed something very obvious. Something Jaek found amusing that he had over looked.
“Link … I never thought you meant Malon any harm. My boy, your eyes give you away. No one could conceive you to have ill intent; no matter how suspicious it may be to lurk on roof tops.” His voice was gentle yet firm enough to be heard over the wind.
He didn’t know what to say in response. He wasn’t even sure exactly what he meant by it--what this drow saw in his eyes that confirmed friendliness. Though, he supposed others have said similar things to him about his eyes and being.
He was sure, though, that this man was very wise and saw more with those brown eyes than most see in a life time. Jaek was a leader, but not an aggressive one. He was passive and content to protect the young like Malon. Jaek was like the Great Deku Tree. Link wondered how old he really was. Jaek felt almost as ancient as the guardian of the forest.
After the brief stop to collect Epona, they headed out again toward the castle. He rode in the back of the wagon again while Malon mounted Epona. He had been riding her for seven years, while Malon had been a slave and without her usual childhood companion. She told Link that she was very grateful. Epona was in great shape and she had managed to avoid getting sucked into the empire by going with him. She was certain that the drow soldiers would have bought and traded Epona amongst themselves otherwise.
He didn’t have much to say about this either. Talk of the seven years in Hyrule made him flinch inside. He had to force his concentration back upon his task.
Jaek took them to the gates of the castle town, where they left Epona to wait for them. The old drow stayed with them, taking them into the city in the cover of his wagon. As far as he could see from his crouched position in the wagon, the city hadn’t changed much, unlike when Ganondorf had taken over. It was mostly as dark as the fields outside, lacking candle light in windows often, and filled with white hair and imperial uniforms. Hylians were seen, but most seemed in a condition similar to Malon’s or worse. They were so pale in comparison that they seemed as ghosts.
It had become a ghost town.
He shied away from these Hylians when he saw them. He couldn’t bear the sight of their haunted faces and haggard forms. The guilt prickled at him, but he forced himself away from it. There would be plenty of time for that later.
Jaek eventually stopped in the mouth of an alley close to the gates of the royal castle. He seemed confident that the rescue mission would go well for he said he felt no need to stay longer to help them out of the city as well.
Malon was against this anyway. She didn’t want him to risk being exposed as the gentle and kind man he truly was. The others back at the ranch needed him still. So they left him in the alley, pulling their hoods up and their cloaks around their bodies. Malon kindly had kept any questions about Link knowing his way into the castle so well to herself. Perhaps she did not want to risk the sound of her voice. Any sound at all was risky, for the drow had sharp hearing, like the Hylians, with their pointed though smaller ears. Their heat vision made them even more impossible to sneak around. However, Malon said there had been no revolt from the Hylians for years so they were sure to be more relaxed with security.
Link wondered a little if he would ever see Jaek again as he turned his back to him in the alley way. It seemed a shame to leave him so quickly after only having just met. There was no helping the situation. He had to save Zelda. So they continued on until Link reached the familiar road that led straight to the castle. Malon and he crept slowly along the cliff wall that lined the side of the dirt rode. Rain was still pouring down on them, lightning flashed, and the heavens sounded like boulders falling and crashing down into each other.
Link found his way just like he did when he was young. The same vine and nooks in the wall as before. Malon followed him like his own shadow, a silent mimic as she climbed up the wall after him. They scuttled past the gate and the drow guards there, slipped down the other side of the cliff face, and darted across the dirt rode to the sanctuary of the grassy fields it carved through just before the castle.
He stared up at it in the rain, for just a moment. Like the city, it had not changed much either. It was dark and very few lights shined out its various windows and towers. Except for a dim orange that illuminated a gaping balcony, whoever was in it had left their drapes open despite the storm and chill wind. It glowed out to him like a beacon, a light house, calling, beckoning him forward. To where he was needed.
Link ran to meet it.
This part of sneaking in was always the easiest. The hard part was when they get inside. He guided Malon to the old familiar moat after scaling another gate. He gestured to the little stone river. All he heard of a complaint was very soft sigh that was then lost in the wind. Otherwise, she showed no sign of distaste for getting wet. The ranch girl swept forward and lowered herself quietly into the moat. She made no sound despite the ice cold temperature. He lowered himself shortly after her.
They drifted down it, following the current and hugging the stone side as to not be seen. Link made no movements to swim, which would have caused too much noise for the drow guards to ignore. Malon, his new shadow, did not either. Once they reached the end, where the flow met with iron bars that strained the moat of such intruders, Link grabbed the stone edge and pulled himself up and out of the water onto the walkway. On his knees, he reached down and helped Malon out as well.
He gestured to the door on his right and very quietly he whispered, “I’ll pick the lock but once we pass through that door it will not be so easy from here on out. Sneaking past the drow is no ordinary task. Not one extra sound or action can be allowed. They see much better in the dark than we. Their sight is different, as you know. So to get by them we must avoid the line of their sight as much as physically possible.”
Malon stared at him with absolute attention to every single word he uttered. Her worn and blue eyes were very determined and her jaw was set tightly, probably to keep her teeth from chattering.
“If we do make a mistake, I will do my best to silence them, and then we must hide them as to not sound any alarms. I wish for our presence to be left unnoticed until we least reach Princess Zelda. It will make leaving the castle with her a much easier task.”
Malon nodded afterward, confirming silently that she was ready and understood everything. She knew exactly how serious this was, for she still had not spoken a single word since they left Jaek.
When they slipped through the door, he found himself in the same familiar gardens as before. However, the drow were not concerned for its health so it had been left to grow and thrive on its own. Ungroomed for seven years, it now had a more wild and bushy look to all the green hedges. He found this comforting though. It would make sneaking around a little easier.
It wasn’t a dead garden at least.
It was still surviving.
Link led the way, as usual. They had slipped into an easy pattern with each other. Link the leader, Malon his shadow. The first area they passed was completely empty. Like Malon had said before, security was relaxed. It was the same for the next section, but upon reaching the third they found a group of three soldiers. These were easy to get past for they were seated in a circle and rolling dice, barking jokes, insults, and laughs.
So far it was going extremely well, which was what bothered him the most. It was oddly comforting when they came upon their first challenge. It was at the very end of the gardens, at the stone arch that paved the way to the area that Link had first set eyes on Zelda in eight years ago. In this arch, there were two doors on each side. They need to get to one of the doors to get in. Yet standing under this arch was a group of four, trying to avoid the rain together as they stood watch. They stood by the right wall, one of them leaning against it. A few feet away was the door.
Link surveyed this from their leafy coverage, peering through the gaps of branches and felt his brow furrow. He had wanted to avoid contact as much as possible, but he knew he was going to have to knock them out. He didn’t like this--so many bodies they would have to hide. It was unavoidable though. He turned back to Malon and pressed one finger against his lips. He gazed at her blue eyes very intently, meaning for her to make no sound no matter what. He then gestured to the ground for her to stay put. She nodded slowly, not taking her eyes from his until the last moment. They flickered over to the group of drow curiously.
Link turned his back on her and swept through the hedges to a hidden location closer to the soldiers. He crept over cautiously, with light and slow movements, not wanting any of his equipment to clatter as he moved. Once in his desired position, he reached into a pouch on his belt. He grasped one Deku nut, large enough to fit in his fist and force his fingers to spread over its smooth but lumpy surface.
It was true that the drow were gifted in the dark. None can sneak past their heat vision gaze. However, they do not fair as well in the light.
Near the hedge’s edge, he twirled around it with lithe movement, standing as he turned. With the spin, he threw the nut down toward the ground at the drow guards’ feet. Upon striking, the nut cracked open, emitting a single blinding flash. Link was familiar enough with it that the flash did not startle him. He blinked at just the right time as he rushed forward. He had started charging in the moment the nut left his fingers. So when it flashed and the men were startled and stunned by the light, he was already upon them before they could even understand what was happening.
It was quick work, which was always needed when it came to drow. It was best not to give them any chance to react. Once they were all unconscious at his feet, he turned and waved Malon over. She sprung from the hiding spot and darted over to him. Her eyes were wide with shock. He hadn’t had the chance to tell her what he was going to do.
“Quick, help me carry them over--” he had started to say.
It was then he saw that behind Malon and among the hedges was another group of drow. They must have been the next shift coming to replace the ones he had just knocked out. He almost felt it rather then saw it when they were spotted. They normally should have shouted sooner, but Link thought they must have paused out of utter disbelief. Seven years without any trouble, and now Hylians stood over the bodies of drow. They must have been too stunned to speak.
He didn’t give them time to react either. He yanked Malon close as he grasped another Deku nut and slammed it to the ground at their feet. Again, he had been moving just before the nut struck. Pulling Malon along, he rushed to the door nearest them and burst through. He didn’t know if there would be another group on the other side.
It could have been worse as well. They were lucky enough that the next shift came then instead of sooner. They would have been sandwiched between the both of them, and even Link didn’t know how he would have managed to get of it alive.
Lucky for them, the hall he charged into was empty. He was very grateful that Malon had had enough sense not to stumble or resist his pull. It would have been even more of a disaster if she had fallen. Now that she was running along with him, he felt it safe to release her arm. They twisted and turned down random corridors the first few times, just to make sure that they had lost the men that would have surely followed them.
Then Link stopped and pressed an ear to a random door. Thanks to his long pointy ears, he would be able to hear it if any drow were inside. All was silent on the other side, except for bubbling noises and the crackle of fire. He pulled it open and went in, trusting in Malon to follow. He just needed a place to stop and tell Malon the next plan from here on out. Now that the castle was aware of their presence, they would have to take a different approach.
The room they rushed into turned out to be a laundry room. It was filled with great big steel pots, some held over a fire or two to heat the water. Baskets of clothes--drow uniforms--and sheets sat against the walls with the long stirring sticks, waiting to be washed. Malon shut the door quietly after herself and walked forward to stand next to Link as he surveyed their hiding place.
It hadn’t even been a minute when the door burst open again and people came stumbling through. He almost thought it was another case of bad luck, but when he whirled around to face them, he saw that these two people that had rushed in were not drow. They were Hylians. The one that came in front was a young man about Link’s age. Behind him was a small young woman, perhaps just a year or so younger than them.
They all stopped immediately to stare at each other in shock. The man had raven black hair. It was short and seemed to grow up and out at odd messy angles. His skin was a pale ivory, though not unhealthy looking, and his eyes were wide in his shock and an extremely dark blue. The girl behind him stayed behind him, but peeked out at Link and Malon with emerald green eyes. Her hair was long, to her elbows, straight, and a beautiful silver sheen. From what he could see of her face, it was sweet and lovely, though scared.
Their clothing and appearance was not that of a slave’s. There were no obvious bruises, ragged tunics and leggings, or neglected hygiene like with Malon. They looked perfectly healthy and alert. The man wore a blue short-sleeved tunic almost as dark as his eyes with a white undershirt reaching down his biceps and black leggings. His hands were covered with black leather gauntlets that reached up just below his elbows. There was a faded black cloak draped over his shoulders. He was a fighter, for on the belt around his tunic were two short katana sheaths on each side of his hips.
The girl wore a few different shades of gray. Her tunic was a light gray with no sleeves and a black belt. The leggings were a medium gray and the cloak over her delicate shoulders was a dark gray. She had a black little duffle back slung over one shoulder. Other than that, he couldn’t see any visible weapons on her.
Link was the first one to come to his senses. He jabbed a finger at the open door mutely. The girl behind the dark haired man made a soft and strange squeaking sound and whirled around to shut the door. She turned back to hide behind him again. They all stood in silence a moment longer, partly out of the shock still, but also because all were listening very carefully to the noises outside. When they were sure they heard no one coming, they all relaxed and focused on each other.
“Who are you?” Both Malon and the other male Hylian asked at the same time. They both paused afterward, unsure of who should speak first. The dark haired one smiled awkwardly at her. He was also staring rather intently, almost distracted. Malon gazed back folding her arms across her chest, showing that she wanted him to go first. He got her cue and spoke first.
“My name is Serwen Khaz … and this is my sister, Leita.”
He smiled awkwardly again. His grin lasted too long and his eyes were flickering at the both of them, gauging their reactions. Malon had her eyebrows narrowed at him. She was guarded again, like when Link first saw her. Her worn eyes gained a colder gleam about them.
“Romani Malon … and this is Link.” Her tone was a hesitant one.
Khaz seemed encouraged despite her expression and tone of voice. He peered curiously at Link.
“Just Link …?”
He was about to explain, but Malon did first. Others often did this with him, speak for him. He never really understood why they always felt the need to. Perhaps it was because he was so quiet most of the time. They might feel as if they needed to fill in the facts for others who did not know him, as if they weren’t sure he would.
“He doesn’t have a surname.” She interceded curtly.
He watched Khaz take a step back mentally, feeling the way Malon seemed to block him with her tones. He did the awkward smile, eyes flickering from Malon to Link. He wasn’t even sure why she was behaving this way. It wasn’t really needed. They weren’t enemies.
“What are you doing here?” she shot at him next. But Khaz seemed distracted again. His dark blue eyes stared up and down her, eyebrows furrowing with something that could have been either confusion or concern. Malon’s jaw tightened with her irritation at this. She took a step forward and bowed her head lower to catch Khaz’s eye. He looked up, smiled again, eyebrows still furrowed.
“Uh … sorry, it’s just … well, you’re …” He gestured vaguely at her.
Link had already gotten a little accustomed to Malon’s appearance at the moment. To others it would be a shocking sight. She still had the same clothing on as before, ragged and dirty, wet now from the rain and moat they traveled through. The only new thing she had on was a dark cloak that Jaek had given her for the journey. Her face was very pale and gaunt, her eyes sunken in bruised shadows. Her hair was close to dreads, twisted and tangled and a murky red. Along with her guarded expression and tight jaw, she looked rather grim and worn.
Malon looked down at herself and then back up at Khaz. She arched a cold brow at him.
“I just escaped enslavement at Lon Lon Ranch--How would you be?”
His eyes widened. “No--I wasn’t criticizing. I was just concer--”
“It’s not important. What’s important is what you’re doing here.”
Khaz’s eyes flickered downward and then up again before speaking. “We’re … on a mission.”
Malon considered this, piercing at him critically with her eyes.
“You’re with the Forest Rebellion,” she assumed.
“Well … kind of, but not …” This time he looked almost coy as he smiled secretively. Malon wasn’t impressed though. She arched and lowered her brows at him again, frowning on one side.
“What’s that mean?”
Khaz pursed his lips, looking unsure of explaining it farther to her. After a patient moment, he said, “This isn’t really the best place to talk about it … What are you guys doing here? Maybe we can help each other, and then later--when we’re out of here--I’ll tell you all about it.”
Malon’s face had hardly changed. She still looked so critical.
“Your answer was kind of vague. What’s your mission here?”
“Ah. Right. We’re here to rescue Princess Zelda.” Khaz smiled confidently and folded his arms across his chest.
Malon’s eyes widened, finally breaking her carefully set expression. She turned her head to exchange a glance with Link. He was surprised himself. What were the odds really? No revolt for seven years, and then on the same night two separate groups of Hylians came to do the very same thing. It was meant to be. They would save her tonight. He knew it was true. This was a sign.
It was fated to be.
“… What are you here for?” Khaz asked curiously, taking note of the obvious shocked glances both he and Malon were giving each other. She gazed at him and then let her eyes flicker toward the other Hylian. Link nodded, agreeing with her. Malon faced Khaz’s way again, not as guarded as before. It seemed this odd sign comforted her as well.
“Same as you. To save Princess Zelda.”
Khaz’s eyes grew large too with his awe.
“No kidding …?! We definitely should team up then. We’ve got the same goal.”
Malon nodded. “Hai … though, Link and I have made this a little more difficult for everyone …”
Khaz grinned boyishly. It seemed he had a natural glowing charm that prompted him to smile a lot. Chuckling, he said, “So that was you? Yeah, you guys have got this place on red alert now.”
She furrowed her eyebrows skeptically at him. “Gee, you sure look worried.”
His boyish grin turned to a knowing smirk. He raised his brows and said,
“I don’t have to worry. ‘Cause I’ve got her.” He jabbed a thumb backwards at Leita behind him. She had been slowly exposing herself more and more from behind his body, but when he called attention to her again, she instantly ducked back, hiding herself completely, which wasn’t difficult due to her petite stature. Link had seen her face turn a soft pink at this mention of herself before quickly bowing her head, silver hair falling in front of her face like a closing drape.
Malon witnessed this strange behavior as well and arched a concerned brow. Khaz looked over his shoulder, seeing the two of them stare at her. He smiled, and Link watched his eyes turn soft and praising. His adoration for his sibling was noticeably obvious. It was a fact that this brother found the girl’s ways to be absolutely endearing. Yet there was something about the softness of his eyes that seemed almost sad about it as well.
“Leita-chan,” he coaxed, trying to turn around so that she could not hide behind him anymore. “It’s okay. You don’t have to be so nervous. Say hello, ne?”
Leita tried to side step to keep behind her brother, but he caught her shoulders and pulled her to stand in front of him. She kept her head bowed so that her silver hair veiled her blushing face. The girl mumbled something, but it was so quiet that Link didn’t hear it. Neither did Malon, for she leaned forward and said, “Eh …?”
Khaz rubbed his sister’s shoulders gently to soothe her and softly said, “A little louder for them, hm?”
Link saw her face turn a deeper color through the gaps of silver.
“S-s-s …” she started but seemed to be stuttering so badly that she had to pause for a moment. Her voice was still very soft but beautiful. “So sorry … um … hello …”
Link smiled softly, wishing to pacify her nervousness in some small way as well. So he spoke for the first time himself.
The hardness in Malon’s being seemed to melt like wax before a flame. She smiled warmly, which was the first time Link had seen such a gentle and bright expression on her face since he had found her. She waved a little with a hand.
Khaz beamed at their kindness and then leaned his head gently against the top of his sister’s. Leita peeked out from her hair, pulling the veil open just a little. She smiled back very carefully. Malon seemed a little distracted, still smiling softly back at her, but asked, “So we don’t have to worry …?”
It is a late and dark hour, and my mind in a dark and hopeless place. Full of ache. Hyrule’s pain. My pain. We are one. As my father had always said it would be. The river and fall run dry as his veins do. Even this down pour will not fill it again. I have stopped forming plans for escape. I have stopped sending for Impa. I have stopped hoping for rescue.
There is no hope.
The Goddesses cannot save me now as they have before. There is no danger to the purity of the Sacred Realm. It is safe and yet my kingdom is ravaged. And I still do not know why I am kept here. Why does he keep me here?
That is the only thought that comes to my mind these days. These days I have submitted to my grim apathy. I have abandoned the garden that keeps my hands busy. I have not left my room for a week. Why bother? Why get up in the morning? Why keep sucking in that next breath?
I have no reason anymore.
So I have decided that tonight is my last. I have prepared my bath. My blade is ready. Now all that is left is this note. This letter to no one. Why do I write it? I am unsure even now. But I know the certainty of my future. I have seen myself writing it before I started. It was then I knew I had already chosen my only other option. This is the only way out. I am powerless to save Hyrule or even myself from him.
My few comforts are that at least this time it was not my fault. This time I was not playing with the power of the Goddesses with my young arrogance. This comfort is small and meaningless. The next brings me a little more satisfaction. I am comforted that Link left before all this madness fell upon us. His life has already been difficult enough for him. I pray that he never comes back. I pray for his ignorance of what has happened here. I pray for his happiness. He has sacrificed enough for Hyrule. I dare not ask anymore of him.
This letter must be my last prayer. My last spell. My last wish.
I pray for Ren and Tasuki to find their way. I could not keep them from choosing that bloody path. I hope that if any should find this letter that it should be Ren. So that he may know that I forgive him.
It was not your fault. There was nothing you could have done. I never blamed you once. I love you.
I forgive him and Tasuki. I never really hated them for what they did, despite how much it hurt me. I pray for them to know how much I love them. They have been the brothers I had never been blessed with. Please, let them find their way out of the darkness. Please let there be hope for them.
There must be hope for someone.
~Zelda Nayru Nohansen
She set her quill down, staring at the page, watching the letters blur in her now clouding vision. She felt the ache in her throat as she swallowed. She sat with her foot up on her chair, thigh close to her body, draping her left arm over it. Zelda slouched in the chair, her blue silk robe slipping off a bare shoulder. She wore a white cotton gown underneath it. The wind blew in from her open balcony and touched chillingly to her exposed flesh, leaking in through her thin clothing.
She had left it open because she didn’t even have the energy to care anymore. It was cold but that wouldn’t matter in a few minutes. In a few minutes, Zora’s River will never have a chance to flow again. If the empire ever did fall somehow, in the future, her people would elect someone to rule them. But it would not be a Nohansen. The line of royal blood would end with her. It will be as dry as the river now. For this was the way, they were linked to the kingdom in a way that was more than just social formalities. They were one with this land. Just as all the Zeldas before her were and all the kings that married--united--with them.
They were Nayru’s chosen ones. Chosen to guard the secret of the Triforce, the legends, and the keys to the Sacred Realm. Some said that they were her blood daughters. Males are sometimes born to the queens of Hyrule, but they never became kings. The queens would birth another child and it was always a girl. That baby would always be named Zelda, the future queen. She would grow up and then search for her soul mate, the man that would share the throne with her. Any brother of a Zelda would often become a captain of the royal guard, but history showed every single one to be infertile. They could never continue on the blood line. So they could never be king.
It could not be anything less than love for the daughters of Nayru. The river would only flow for the man she loves. It would only flow once she had united with him and he took the throne with her. It was Nayru’s sign for them, that this man would be connected to the land just as much as the queen was. It was said that the daughters could only find love in a just and kind man. A kind of man meant to rule them rightly. A man that would protect the land and the Sacred Realm.
This was why her father never talked of arranged marriages.
It was not their way.
It shamed her that she was choosing this way. She was not only killing herself, but the ancient blood that runs in her veins. She knew she was shaming her father and Impa as well. But she knew the secrets she was meant to keep, would be kept and die with her.
She was supposed to be the wisest. That was why she bore the Triforce on her hand. Yet her wisdom told her that even the wisest were just people. People with their own flaws. Their own pains and trials. Even the best of them could fall. She had not the courage Link had. It was in this that she understood the incompleteness of a lone Triforce. Alone it had many flaws. Ganondorf had proven this just as well as she was proving it now.
It was only her shame and sense of responsibility that made her hesitate. She would have done it much sooner if it hadn’t been for these things. But when she saw herself writing the letter, she had not the strength or courage to fight against this future. She had learned that some futures could be changed, but others couldn’t. It depended on several factors. Like when she had seen Ganondorf taking over Hyrule, it was too deep into paths of destiny for her to stop it. In fact, her very action only led to ensuring that future because her path was one of destiny. So the best that could be done was to act anyway and trust in fate. Or simply rise to meet it as she was now.
She had submitted to her future.
She folded the roll of parchment up, picked up her quill one last time, and wrote Ren on it like a last hopeful thought. She set it back down and wiped the tears from her face and eyes with the sleeve of her robe. Lightning flashed outside her open balcony. The thunder shook the air in its great crash.
She was ready now.
Before she could stand or make another move, the door across the room swung open. Zelda froze, staring at her letter still. She would feel his eyes before she saw him. She had paused, waiting for it but the eerie, skin prickling sensation never came. So she finally turned to look. Her room was dimly lit by a few lamps. She could have lit more of them but she lacked the energy to. It was a large room as expected for royalty and filled with the usual extravagant things. Though she’d say hers lacked in that area. She could have filled it with many more things. It gave her room a more empty feeling. Lots of space left unfilled.
It seemed even emptier now for there was no one standing in the doorway. The door gaped openly at her, and then it swung shut all of its own accord. Zelda’s heart leapt up at the sight. She kept frozen in her chair, staring out at the mysterious door. And then suddenly there were people in her room, instantly blinking into existence. There were four of them, all Hylians. There were two women and two men. Only one of which she knew. She would know his face anywhere. She thought her heart would stop.
It should have stopped.
It must have skipped and then jumped into a racing beat that filled her entire being. It was the only thing she could hear. It couldn’t be true. This had to be a dream. It felt too surreal. How many times had she dreamed of him? How many times had she dreamed of his face, his sapphire eyes, his golden blonde hair? He was even wearing his green like he always did.
She must have stopped breathing because the room swam in her vision, becoming dizzy. She felt herself starting to slip from her chair. Everything went black for a moment, and when it all returned and she started breathing again, she was in his arms. He was wet and cold, but she didn’t care. He was also strong and stable and cradled her so firm but gently in his arms. Link stared down at her with panicked blue eyes, his gold brows furrowed deeply.
“Zelda-sama …!” he called to her urgently.
She watched his face blur in her tears as her eyes burned. She reached up and touched his face. His cheek was damp and chilled like the rest of him. It was really him. He was really holding her now. If it was a dream, she prayed she’d never wake. She sat up and wrapped her arms around his neck, grasping him tightly as she wished to grasp onto this reality.
Never let go.
Her fingers sank into the hair at the back of his neck. It was long now. He had a ponytail. Her other arm wrapped around his shoulder; almost clawing at his back. His arms responded instantly, holding her close and tightly. So much that it was impossible to hold back the sobs. These were violent gasps of air being sucked into her mouth, but then the rest was just silent trembles into his shoulder. He held her like this for a while, letting her cry, pressing her tightly to him. After a time, he spoke in her ear.
“Zelda-sama, we came to get you. We must leave quickly now. The rest of the castle already knows we’re here.”
His whispers seemed to whisper sense back into her again. She felt her mind clearing. Energy unlike anything she had felt for a very long time surged into her, forcing her heart to pump. He was breathing life back into her again. Her tears and sobs and trembling stopped immediately. She let go of him and looked up into his beautiful eyes. He touched her face, trying to brush away her tears, but his damp hand didn’t help a lot. His eyes were narrowed intensely for her, staring deeply into her. His beautiful blue eyes ached with her ache.
“Let’s leave this place.”
She nodded slowly. He helped her stand up. When she looked around she felt as if she could truly see again. All the colors and everything seemed so much clearer. As if she was waking to reality again. As if she had just been caught in a horrible nightmare. She had entirely forgotten that Link had other people with them. They stood back and were looking anywhere but at them, to give them privacy it seemed. They noticed when they were done with their intimate moment and now brought their eyes back.
Instantly, all three bowed to a knee and there was a hushed murmur in unison of,
It had been a long time since anyone had bowed to her. It wasn’t that she missed it or anything. It was just startling. She had forgotten how she used to handle these formalities.
“Oh …!” was all she managed at first, but after a moment’s pause, she said, “Um, please stand. What are your names?”
They were all a little wet at least, but Link and one of the women looked the most drenched. The soaked woman was an awful sight. Her clothes were rags and absolutely filthy. She looked pale, as if she had not seen the sun for years, and her eyes were surround in deep and dark circles, almost like purple bruises. Her hair was a muddy red color, nearly as twisted and tangled as dread locks.
“Romani Malon, Your Grace,” said this woman.
Zelda lost her breath for a moment.
“Romani? Of Lon Lon Ranch?”
Malon nodded for Zelda, confirming this.
The Romanis were famous, known throughout Hyrule for their production of milk, eggs, cattle, and horses. She had met with Romani Talon before. This woman was his daughter. She had seen her once before as well. When they were children, their fathers were busy talking trade and business and they played together once. Link later told her that he was very good friends with the Romanis.
She hadn’t even recognized her. Yet her appearance now made sense. Lon Lon Ranch was now turned into a different kind of trade. The slave trade.
Next the black haired Hylian spoke.
“Serwen Khaz … and this is my sister, Leita.”
Serwen. How was that name so familiar? It was something from her past too. Something about her father, but she couldn’t seem to summon it to mind at the moment. It wasn’t really that important anyway. There were a lot more pressing matters at hand. Her eyes wandered over to the small girl next to Khaz. She bore no weapons, but now Zelda remembered the door to her room opening and closing on its own again.
“You’re a mage, aren’t you?”
The girl suddenly ducked her head and let her hair fall in her face. She nodded. Zelda smiled gently for her.
“That was very impressive; I didn’t even notice. You focus your mana perfectly. Not even one particle was leaked. That was a cloaking spell, was it not?”
Leita shook her head, still hiding behind her silver hair. She heard the girl mumble another response but it was too quiet. Zelda arched a brow. Khaz touched a hand to her shoulder and the girl spoke again, louder this time but not by much.
“Artifice … Insipid Artifice.”
Ah, now she understood. A cloaking and an artifice could be very similar, especially with the type of spell this girl used. Technically, she could make things invisible, but it was really that it made them so unnoticeable to everyone that it was as if they were not there. In reality, Zelda had been staring straight at them when they opened the door but simply could not notice them standing there due to the artifice’s affects. It made sense that they were able to make it to her room even when the whole castle was aware of their presence. The guards would walk right past them without noticing anything. An artifice was often an illusion spell or charm of some kind.
She nodded after Leita explained. She then brought her hands together and signed a prayer. Her gown and robes suddenly writhed and melted together, fading into different clothes and molding to the shape of her body, growing if more material was needed for the design she wanted. Her clothes formed into an outfit almost identical to the one she would use when posing as her male counter part, Sheik. However, this outfit was made for a womanly figure. The faded white hood wrapped around her head and scooped up her long hair as it formed and sat at the back of her neck. The rest bunched below her chin and neck, waiting to be pulled around her mouth and nose.
She moved over to her dressing wardrobe and pulled a belt with a long and curved knife and a set of a hundred needle-like darts that hung from it. She would leave everything else. She did not value anything else in her room, except for …
Zelda moved back over to her desk and quickly snatched up her letter. She tucked it away in a pouch that hung from the belt. After this she turned back to face Link and the others.
She was ready now.
She almost, still, could hardly believe this was happening. Just a few minutes before, she had resigned to complete and utter hopelessness. Before, she had almost been dead, and now she stood with her unexpected rescuers, full of hope and life and ready to make her escape.
That must be why they had succeeded. Nottuu was always prepared for Impa to come for her. He must have become very well accustomed to the feel of her presence. He must have been checking to see if Zelda had been sending to her with her mind. He couldn’t be prepared for this, and that was why it worked. She didn’t even care to know where they were going. Anywhere was fine really. It wouldn’t be here and that was enough for her. It would be with Link and with hope that Hyrule could survive this.
Hope that someday that river might flow again.
Link took her hand, but instead of leading her to the door he gestured to the balcony. Zelda saw Leita nod to him and they all followed to the open balcony. She understood quickly, for it brought back an old memory. It was when Ganondorf had been after the Ocarina of Time. She and Impa had made their escape from the very same balcony with the use of a floating spell. The only one who seemed a little wary about this method was Malon, who approached the railing last, staring down with furrowed brows. Zelda pulled her hood up and wrapped the scarf part tightly around her face. Rain sprinkled down on her, and the wind breezed right through her thin outfit.
“Ready?” called Khaz.
“Hai …!” everyone uttered, even Malon. They stepped up onto the railing.
“On the count of three … one … two … three!”
And they all jumped. Zelda gripped Link’s hand as the ground rushed toward them. However, they started slowing noticeably until they were smoothly gliding to the grass below. They had managed to avoid the moat on their descent by drifting on the wind. It was almost like flying. Like she was no longer so heavy or earth-bound. Zelda hoped no lightning struck them. It didn’t, so they made it back to the earth safely. Leita then cast Insipid Artifice again and they were able to walk right past the drow guards as if taking a stroll on a sunny day. It was the same for their walk through town. They made it out the gates without any trouble at all.
Despite all this, Zelda’s heart still thundered in her chest as they passed through the gates. Some part of her was still expecting him to show, to take her back again. To take all hope of escape and rescue from her once more. She squeezed Link’s hand as they made it past.
He never showed.
So Link, Khaz, and Leita called their horses. Malon rode on Khaz’s with him, apologizing with bitter sarcasm if her stench was overpowering. Zelda rode with Link on the back of Epona. She had missed this horse. This was the horse she had seen him ride away on seven years ago. Now they rode away together on it.