A/N: It goes without saying that there are major BotW spoilers ahead...
She stood facing him, her white gown fluttering in the gentle breeze. Wispy clouds drifted overhead from a sky bright with sunlight, a sky that seemed to burst with the promise of a new age.
"May I ask…" she said, her voice clutched between hope and fear. "Do you really remember me…?"
The strange looking frog wouldn't even see her coming.
Oblivious, it sat happily on a rock slick with damp rising from the shallow pool around it. Inky eyes darted here and there while its bright orange chest throbbed in a steady rhythm. Another pair of eyes, large and piercing green in colour, watched the unsuspecting creature from the swaying undergrowth.
Princess Zelda shuffled forward on palms and knees stained so much with dirt that she could almost hear her late father scold her for her unladylike behaviour. She pushed the faint thoughts away. And waited.
Thin shafts of fading sunlight fell through a canopy of trees to caress her face with a distracting warmth. Zelda bit her lower lip and tried to blot everything else out. The surrounding noise of the small copse – a chorus of chirps, hisses, and squawks – all faded away. She slowly rocked back onto her heels, coiling all her energy into her legs.
Her heart slowed. Time contracted.
She leapt - and so did the frog, darting away to safety in an orange blur. Princess Zelda splashed into the water.
"Rats!" she hissed, smacking the filmy surface of the pool with her palms.
A shadow fell across her. A familiar shadow.
Zelda looked up at him, blinking water from her eyes. "I'm fine, Link."
Clad in the blue of the Hyrule Champions, her ever-faithful appointed knight didn't look too convinced. Haunted sapphire eyes peered out from under his dark Hylian hood, and his grip around the Master Sword's hilt tightened.
"Really, Link," Zelda persisted. "You must learn to relax. You've played your part. Admirably well, if I may say. You no longer need to think of yourself as the chosen one."
He opened his mouth, hesitating. "I…" A slight shrug. "I don't know anything else."
Ever few of words, Princess Zelda still managed to catch his true meaning. He'd taken on the responsibility and was unwilling – or unable – to let it go.
"Hmm," she mused. "I suppose I can understand that." She stood up. Water dripped from her blue tunic and black trousers.
Link sheathed his sword, then averted his gaze, as he often did in her presence.
A memory came to the princess. She had stood in front of the Great Deku Tree, and had asked him to pass on a message to her knight when he awoke from his long slumber.
"Now, then…" the wizened sage had said in a solemn voice. "Words intended for him would sound much better in the tones of your own voice, don't you think…?"
She remembered her own moment of shyness, rare as it was, before she'd acknowledged with a simple, "Yes."
Zelda smiled at the memory, then blinked as she realised that Link was now watching her with a curious gaze.
"Well," she said with a short sigh. "I hadn't seen that specific specimen of frog before. I've not even seen it recorded in the castle library. I can't believe I missed out on such a discovery!" She tugged on her tunic. "What kind of properties do you think it had?"
Zelda pursed her lips when he didn't reply and placed her hands on her hips instead. "Oh, well," she said. "Never mind. It's gone now. The frog."
Link jerked slightly, as though suddenly hearing her. Alarm shone in his eyes. "Frog?"
Zelda nodded happily. "Mmm-hmm."
Link's reply came instantly. "I'm not licking it."
The princess laughed. Her heart latched onto his words with hope. "You remember that…?"
He gave a wordless nod in reply. Zelda hadn't quite worked out how much Link could recall – or rather, wasn't too sure how firm his memories actually were. Sometimes they seemed to shine bright like a cloudless, summer's day, and at other times would fade into murky twilight.
And what of his childhood, and his family, I wonder? All lost…?
Zelda didn't want to prod, either, fearing that she'd cause his mind some unintentional damage. One thing rang clear from his actions, though: He certainly hadn't lost his devoted zeal to be her appointed knight.
Devoted to me.
Zelda shook away the distracting thought.
"I think," said Link. "I'll find something to cook."
The princess smiled. "You do that," she said softly.
"Other than frog."
Her smile widened. Link had found a childlike joy in making all sorts of strange dishes from an even stranger array of ingredients. He always had liked his food – she recalled describing him as a glutton in her diary once - and him standing hunched over a cooking pot humming to himself was the closest he got to breaking through the emotionless shell he'd cast around himself. Zelda just didn't have the heart to tell him how bad it usually tasted.
She looked around, noticing the first approach of twilight begin to encroach in over the copse. They would have to find light and shelter soon. Unlatching the Sheikah Slate from her hip, the princess peered at the screen, her face bathed in its ethereal glow.
"Zora's Domain is so far away," she sighed as she idly tapped the device with the tip of one finger. The Domain was their first port of call - Zelda felt duty bound to tell King Dorephan what had befallen his daughter Mipha. "Even with our horses." A cool breeze that heralded the coming of sunset fluttered through her golden hair and shivered the nearby tree branches. "And your ability to instantaneously travel to a shrine appears to have been lost, Link. I wonder why…?"
Zelda blinked. "Still. It gives me time to think. If we are to unite the races of Hyrule –"
Zelda looked up in surprise. Link still stood there, yet to embark on his foraging trip.
"Yes?" she asked.
"Don't you feel…troubled?"
Rare as it was to hear him speak, to find him asking her a direct question was sheer alchemy itself.
She slowly lowered the Slate to give him her full attention. "Troubled…?"
Link shrugged, setting all his equipment off in a discordant metallic tune. "We lost everyone, princess."
Anyone else would have waited for the knight to elaborate further. Zelda, though, knew well that he was done.
Her gaze moved to the Zora trident tied to his back. Zelda swallowed, and felt an odd tightening in her heart. "She meant a lot to you, didn't she…?"
Link blinked, caught off-guard by the question. He shrugged. "I…think so."
Then he looked away, suddenly abashed. The time he'd spent in her service had eventually taught Zelda to be patient to his ways.
Silent Knight. The name the gossip mongers and tongue-waggers in the Royal Court had mockingly given him behind his back.
But Zelda knew his true value.
Though that had not always been the case, had it? She felt a twinge of guilt at that thought.
"No, Link," she said, breaking into a smile. "I, for one, haven't lost everyone."
He looked back, and her eyes met his. She went on. "And our troubles today pale in comparison to Calamity Ganon – and he has most certainly gone, so..." She smiled. "It all gets easier from here on in, I assure you."
Zelda looked back down at the Slate, then frowned. She gave the ancient technology a shake, then a light smack.
"Princess…?" asked Link. "Is something wrong…?"
"The Sheikah Slate…" she replied softly. "It doesn't appear to be working. I can't access the runes. And the maps have gone. It shouldn't malfunction like -"
A twig snapped.
They both looked up in chorus, then looked at each other.
"Wait here," said Link. "I'll go check."
Zelda frowned. "You don't have –"
He gestured with one hand, waving her back behind a tree – irritating her no end - then fell into a half-crouch himself and moved through the undergrowth, his boots not even making a hint of a whisper in the fading light. Zelda watched as he slowly reached over his shoulder to unhook his bow.
Such little effort, she thought. It's second nature to him.
Princess Zelda had no intention of standing idly by, though. Her hand began to glow, the power that had eluded her for so long now coming easily, sheathed by a light as piercingly bright as a star on a moonless night.
Link stopped, so motionless that Zelda thought – absurdly – he'd become petrified into a statue. A profound silence fell like a cloak over the copse. The princess could hear the thump of her own heart in a world that seemed to momentarily hold its breath –
And then Link launched into the air, bow aimed with one hand, the other freeing an arrow from his quiver to nock against the creaking string. He seemed to hang there impossibly, the arrowhead flashing as it caught the last of the sunlight, then he let the shaft fly.
Zelda saw the arrow shoot across her line of sight before it hit something that erupted into a purplish-black cloud of smoke. She broke into a sprint before Link had even landed into a crouch, and caught up to him within moments.
"What was that?" she gasped. "Did you see it?"
"A Bokoblin," Link replied as he lowered his bow.
A frown creased Zelda's brow. "How could that be?" she said, shaking her head. "They should have all perished when their master fell."
"I don't know."
The princess looked down at what remained of their would-be pursuer. A broken fang lay next to a horn in a circle of blackened ash. Her gaze moved to the Sheikah Slate.
"It's completely dead," she said, looking at the black screen.
Zelda felt troubled by a clammy touch to her heart. She put her unease into words.
"It's not yet over, is it?" she said with dismay. "Who else is out there who will come to haunt us still…?"