Chapter 10: Link; the Prince, the Pauper

Malon hadn't seen Link since he had returned from the battle with the Lokkamaand soldiers, aside from meals, where no one spoke anyway. She remembered her sudden terror at the sight of him, covered in blood, before she remembered, first, that it wasn't his, and second, that she didn't like him anymore. Either way, his absence from her days suited her. She had more-or-less resigned herself to her fate, but still dreaded it. There was no desire in all her mind to become like that woman who sat upon the Queen's Throne, with her silent, boiling vileness; to be married to a Link who was nothing more than the shadow of Ganondorf. She shivered involuntarily at the thought. No, she was in no rush to see Link again. So when he approached her one evening, the week after the Lokkamaand battle— no, the Lokkamaand slaughter —she was crestfallen.

Something seemed different about him, something Malon couldn't quite place. It wasn't his clothes, his usual black tunic over white linen, which contrasted sharply with the elegant gown she was implicitly forced to wear. The clothes she had come in seemed to have vanished overnight when she had arrived, replaced by these. The one she wore now was the simplest of those that had been delivered to her. By the same token, it wasn't his hair, which still hung unkempt, dangling before his eyes in places, the sharp opposite to her own. The servants did it up into strange and uncomfortable weaves and braids every morning, despite her protests. No, it was nothing physical about him. In that respect, at least, he had not changed since she had known him as Fairy Boy, save for the color of his tunic. She, on the other hand, had undergone a complete transformation since she had been brought here. They even had her wearing make-up. Make-up, for gods' sakes! She was a farm girl!

He stood before her now, and spoke.

"Malon, I need you to do me a favor, if you are willing." He didn't wait for a reply. "Come. My room is this way." Malon didn't move. She was horrified; shocked into silence by the suddenness of Link's demand. She knew that eventually this had to come, but she had hoped, prayed even, that it wouldn't happen at least until after they had been married.

"Malon? Why do you hesitate? Oh, of course. Go and prepare yourself, then return here. I will need you with me all night."

Oh gods, please don't let it last that long, she thought, as she hurried off. Reaching her quarters, she slammed the door shut and pressed her back against it, breathing heavily and trembling. She couldn't believe it. Even after the Lokkamaand slaughter she had not entirely abandoned the hope that Link had not changed completely, but now?

Back in the hallway, Link paced, his brow furrowed in quiet fury with himself. As soon as Malon had run away from him, fled from him in fact, he had realized what his request must have seemed to her, and she had become understandably frightened. But of what? Of what he had seemed to be suggesting, or was it the thought of doing it with him? Malon had been growing distant from him ever since she had come here. Part of that had been his doing, of course. If he maintained the illusion that Malon was simply a passing interest to him, Ketume would simply pump her for information, none of which Malon possessed that could harm him, and then leave her alone and focus again on Link himself. He should have explained as much to Malon. Damned hindsight. Damned politics, for that matter. When the night was over, he would have to tell her everything. In the meantime, the thought of her flight from him still worried him.

Tonight, at least, he could put her fears to rest.

Ah, here she came now.

Malon had finally changed into the simple dressing gown that had been provided to her for just the purpose its name suggested. Over this, she had wrapped a cloak in order to preserve her dignity, or that which was left of it. She was being treated as a common concubine, or so it seemed to her. And there was Link before her. He had been pacing until her approach, but straightened up as she came up to him. She opened her mouth to speak, but he cut her off.

"Before we go, Malon, I realized while you were absent that my words may have conveyed something that I did not intend, so I wish to put your mind at ease. In asking you to my quarters tonight, I did not mean to imply…that." He blushed at the word, and refused to meet her eye. She, at least, was grateful that…that…would not come to pass tonight. However, it did then beg the question, if not…that…then what did he want with her at this time of night?

"Come on, let's go," he said, taking her hand and leading the way. They climbed several staircases, followed a number of long corridors, and crossed a few bridges. Ganondorf seemed very fond of bridges inside his castle, for some reason. Until finally they came to a door.

It looked no different than any other in the castle: simple dark oak, unadorned. She was slightly disappointed. Ketume's door was covered in effigies of Gerudo warriors. She had somehow imagined Link's to be covered with carvings of knights, or something of the like. Maybe this wasn't—

"Here we are then, my chambers."

—not his room.

As he opened the unexpectedly plain door, Malon couldn't stop herself from gasping. The room beyond was nothing like what she had imagined. It was so…tiny. As she stepped over the threshold she surveyed to room. There was a single, small bed, large enough for one and no more. At its foot rested an old trunk covered with peeling black…covering. There wasn't any other word for it. There was a small window overlooking the courtyard and the market far below, and beneath it sat a desk and chair, both dark with age. The desk was bare. Link's sword and shield hung from a nail driven into the back of the door. The walls were every bit as bare as the desk. There was simply…nothing here.

This was not the Prince's bedroom. It was not the chamber of the heir to the Hylian Throne. It was just the place where Link, the Link she had known as a child, slept. She looked at him. There was something different about him in this light. He looked…older, tired, haggard. As if something was weighing terribly on him.

"I should explain," he said. "Have a seat." Once she had settled herself on the chair and he had seated himself on the bedside, he tried to begin again. "Malon, I… I mean, I've been…I've done…" He faltered, unable to finish his sentence. In this room, even his speech was different, no longer the slick, charming Prince's voice, but now the same clumsy words of a young man who was more at home with a good, heavy sword than with wispy, intangible things like words. Malon waited patiently; hypnotized by this sudden change in the young man she had learned to dread. After a few deep breaths, he tried again.

"I, I've been having trouble sleeping lately, Malon. It started shortly before I brought you here. See, I've been having horrible nightmares that wake me in the middle of the night, every night, in a pool of cold sweat. And what's worse…the nightmares…they're not nightmares, so much as they're…memories." He had hung his head as he spoke. Now he raised it, looking to Malon with pleading eyes, begging her to understand. When she spoke, her voice was soft.

"But Link, what memories could you have that could be so painful?" Even as she said it, images of the Lokkamaand slaughter came unbidden to her mind's eye. Link gave one short cough of a laugh, one without humor.

"You watched when I fought the Lokkamaand soldiers, didn't you? Can you honestly tell me that the things I did that day weren't the stuff of nightmares? And I've done far worse."

His head collapsed into his hands, and Malon drew back from him, pressing herself to the back of the chair.

"Two nights ago I dreamed about Darunia of the Gorons, and my battle with him. Of all my sins, that is the one I hate myself for the most." Link was weeping openly into his hands now, his tears dribbling through his fingers and splattering on the stones of the floor. His words became broken, and stammered. "Malon, I…I, I stood over him, holding his hammer in my hands as he clung to the cliff side over a lake of lava, and, and, and I told him that I never understood what he had meant when he called me, when he, he called me his brother. Then, then I smashed his hand to pulp with his own hammer, and watched as he fell into the lake of fire! And I laughed! I laughed about it later!"

Link slid off the edge of the bed, landing on his knees of the floor, his head bent to the ground as he continued to sob.

"I'm a monster, Malon! Just my father's killing machine! I hate myself, hate what I've become! I'm even too afraid to sleep!" His body began to shudder with the force of his sobs.

Malon, unable to ignore her urge to comfort Link, fell to her knees beside him and wrapped an arm around his shoulder. After a few minutes of this, he stopped shaking. Helping him back to the bed, she laid him back and covered him with the quilt. After a moment's consideration, she sat on the edge, near the head of the bed, and pulled him into a sitting position so that his head rested on her shoulder, and wrapped an arm around his back, holding him to her.

For several minutes more Link cried silently, muttering quiet apologies under his breath before he quieted and fell asleep. After a little longer, Malon pulled her legs up into the bed to make herself more comfortable. A little after that, she fell asleep, too.

Sometime during the night, Link woke up once, took a groggy look at Malon, then returned to a blissfully dreamless sleep.