A Hylian Marriage

AUTHOR'S NOTE: I really wanted to finish Mayor Harkinian before I started writing anything else, but this idea has really stuck in my head. Not that this storyline itself is particularly novel, but I had a specific take on it that I was really connecting to. I hope you enjoy the story! Please let me know what you think in reviews, I really appreciate it.

Also, I can't think of a good title. Let me know if you think of one you think would be better.

Chapter 1

Link and his men sat together under the simple wooden shelter as they enjoyed their lunch. It wasn't raining, but it was a hot and sunny Southern Hyrule day, and they were all grateful for the shade. Link looked out over the Atun Valley and allowed a deep sense of well-being to wash over him.

The valley was beautiful-deep green grass climbed up either side, and while it was not as deep as Tanagar Canyon nor as majestic as the Lanayru Promenade, it had a beauty all its own. Its steep slopes were dramatically cut, and Link wondered absentmindedly if they had been the work of some ancient glacier. It was hard to imagine ice in this near-tropical environment, but Link knew better than most people the funny ways time could change things.

Finished with his meat skewer, Link leaned back on his pack and closed his eyes. Today had been a relaxing day. He and his soldiers had left Lurelin Village in the late morning and made their way leisurely towards Lakeside Stable. They weren't in a hurry-the whole purpose of a patrol was to check things out along the way, not to reach their destination quickly. When Link had first set up patrols around Lurelin Village, they had met with the occasional stray bokoblin, and even once a very angry Hinox, but things had quieted down now. That was good. It also meant the time was coming for Link to leave.

It had been about a year since Link and Zelda had defeated Calamity Ganon, and Link had already helped establish multiple patrol routes on behalf of his Queen. Zelda had thought that safer roads would mean safer citizens, easier travel, more trade, and a greater sense of cohesion amongst the inhabitants of Hyrule. Link had agreed wit her, of course, but even he had been surprised by the effect the patrols had had on the kingdom. Small children pointed at the Hylian crest sewn or painted on the soldiers' makeshift uniforms and recognized the symbol of their liege. Small town shops that had struggled to stock their shelves with a limited variety of basics now boasted exotic wares from around the kingdom. People spoke of Queen Zelda with reverence and respect. Things were going well.

Of course, that wasn't only due to patrols. Zelda had also reestablished relationships with the leaders of the four races of Hyrule, had begun rebuilding Castle Town, and had held a crowning ceremony for herself. Link remembered how uncomfortable she had felt setting the whole thing up.

"I just don't want people to think I'm seeking this out for myself," she'd said, face red as she'd blustered. "I… I just think it's better for Hyrule."

Link knew that's why she was doing it. That was essentially the only reason Zelda ever did anything, and he made sure whenever people gossipped about her that they knew that.

Link, who'd been sitting near the edge of the shelter, rolled over so he was lying on his stomach on the grass. He picked a long-stemmed flower and began chewing methodically on the stock. Zelda. He hadn't seen her in a while, what with the patrols and all. For the first month or two after Calamity, he'd hardly left her side. Zelda had been… nervous. Overwhelmed. Traumatized was the word Link would use if he was certain nobody would overhear. He didn't blame her-he at least had had the luxury of being asleep in his 100-year prison. Over those two months, they had grown very close. Just like before Calamity, Zelda had relied heavily on him for support. But then, she'd been crowned. Purah, Impa, Paya, and others had moved to Castle Town to help her rebuild, and Link had left to establish patrols.

Link took a break from chewing for a moment and counted on his fingers. It had been almost two months now since he had seen Zelda, and the last time he'd seen her before then had been another two months earlier. Link frowned. The past several times he had returned to the Castle, Zelda had seemed… different. She no longer confided in him in the same way, and she seemed to have little to say to him. Link never had much to say to anyone, so that meant their conversation had been sparse, and strained.

In one fluid motion, Link stood and picked up his pack. He looked over at Sebasto, and saw that the tan-skinned former fisherman was already instructing the other men to get ready to leave. Sebasto would do an excellent job keeping the Lurelin Road Patrol going, and it seemed Link's job here was done. He would leave for Castle Town tomorrow.

In four days time, Link found himself standing at the partially-rebuilt gates of Castle Town. Zelda herself stayed in the Castle, but only small areas of the cavernous building were currently inhabitable, so most of her fledgling court lived in the newly-refurbished parts of Castle Town. It truly was amazing how quickly buildings had gone up, stores had opened, and walls had been rebuilt. Of course, there were still abandoned houses, rubble, and stray pieces of Guardians laying about, but the progress was remarkable.

Link walked his horse over to the newly-erected stable and entrusted her to Jini, the stablemaster.

"Do you know if the Queen is here?" Link asked the man as he went to get oats for Link's mount.

"I don't think so, Sir," said the man genially. "I saddled up some horses for her and Mistress Paya yesterday. I think the young lady said they were going to Zora's Domain."

Link felt his heart sink. What bad luck! Zelda no longer travelled the wilds of Hyrule regularly as she had before the Calamity. Zelda tended to spend most of her time in Castle Town now, where she could govern from a central location. Still, it wasn't unheard of for her to be off somewhere else, rebuilding the kingdom in one way or another, and Link had managed to arrive on just such an occasion. His primary purpose for returning from the patrols had been to speak with her, but it seemed that would have to wait.

Link headed off to the Castle Town guest quarters, which were really more just like the large tents that functioned as inns at the stables than any sort of fancy hotel, and unpacked his things. As Captain of the Royal Guard (whatever that meant with no official guard to captain), Zelda had provided a room for him in the Castle, one of the few rooms that had been refurbished so far, but Link preferred to stay here.

As he lay down in his small bed for the night, Link conceded that the beds in the guest quarters were indeed softer than the beds at the stables. He supposed Castle Town really was becoming more and more the permanent capital of the kingdom in fact and not just name. He also admitted to himself that he really should stay in the Castle next time instead of the guest rooms. Zelda had gone to the trouble of arranging a permanent room for him, and while it was empty and dreary in the still-very-much-ruined castle, he understood that Zelda needed to stay there, and that she would probably appreciate the company.

A cool wind was blowing outside, but it was barely audible over the chattering of folks out for a late night stroll or party. That was another change Link wasn't used to yet. He remembered the sounds of a city-he had memories of Castle Town before Calamity, although they were fuzzy. But Link had grown used to the quiet of Hyrule after Calamity. Everywhere he had gone, even the towns and villages, had been silent and still at night. Link sighed and rolled over in his bed. There were a lot of new things he'd have to get used to, he supposed.

"But there's always the chance that the next moment will change everything," Zelda had said that night long ago at the Sanidin Horse Park.

Since she had said that, so many things had changed. Link acknowledged that many of those changes since Calamity Ganon had been defeated were for the better, but there was so very little left of his old life that was recognizable to him. Zelda was one of the only things he had left that had remained more or less the same. He only hoped… he could only hope that things between he and Zelda wouldn't change too much.

Queen Zelda did not return to Castle Town for another two weeks, and that left Link restlessly waiting in Castle Town for much longer than he was comfortable. Link had never particularly liked staying in one place, and it felt especially constricting when he knew he had so much to do with his patrols. He tried to keep himself busy by looking for potential members of the newly-formed royal guard, but that was difficult too. Castle Town was a new settlement, and its citizens each had their own things to do to aid with the reconstruction. There weren't too many people interested in taking time out of their busy days to train to be soldiers.

Still, it was something to do. Eventually, Zelda did return, but Link heard of it from Gotter who heard it from Parcy who heard it from Jini. Somehow, it stung a little that he had to hear about it so indirectly, even though he knew that there was no way she would know he was in Castle Town. He set off to go find Zelda and report to her, but he ran into Paya first outside of Impa's newly-constructed residence near the center of the town.

"Oh, Master Link! Y-y-you're back!" Paya stuttered, although she stood straight and did not cover her hands. Being Zelda's lady-in-waiting was really helping her with her confidence, it seemed.

"Yes, I-" Link started, but Paya cut him off.

"Queen Zelda would like to speak with you. S-s-she said as soon as you returned you should come see her."

Link nodded, a little surprised that Zelda had already planned to speak with him as soon as possible, but not displeased by the information.

"She's in her rooms right now, I think you should go find her there."

Well, it looked like he'd get to go speak with her sooner than he'd thought. Link thanked Paya and headed straight for the Castle, taking the long walk up to Zelda's quarters to think. What was it exactly he wanted to say to Zelda? He'd report on the patrols, of course, but that wasn't really what he wanted. He missed… there was a closeness they'd had that did not require them to have a particular topic of conversation to keep each other company. He wasn't sure if that still held true.

A brisk walk later, Link knocked on Zelda's door, feeling strangely nervous.

"Paya? Is that you?" Zelda asked through the door, and Link heard some scuffling about inside. He smiled a little to himself, imagining Zelda rummaging through old books and stacks of musty notes.

"It's Link," he said simply. He knew he should technically say something like, "It is I, Sir Link, Captain of the Royal Guard and Hero of Hyrule," but he felt ridiculous using his formal title.

"Oh, come in!" Zelda said, opening the door herself and greeting him with a sweet smile.

She looked tired, but beautiful. She was wearing a white and gold riding dress and her hair was still tied up from her journey. Despite the smile, Link sensed something amiss in her demeanor. Zelda had never been very good at hiding her feelings, so every time she tried she would carry some tension in her shoulders and brow.

Link walked into the room and stood in front of Zelda, posture stiff and arms straight at his sides. He hadn't seen her for some time and as he grasped for their old familiarity, he found instead an uncomfortable awkwardness.

"My Queen," he said, suddenly feeling the need to bow on one knee. Zelda eyes widened, and she seemed almost alarmed by his obeisance.

"Oh Link, there's no need for that," she said, hastily pulling him up by an arm. When he rose, he found that she was standing very close to him, and she colored, quickly turning back away.

"I have something I must discuss with you."

Again, her formal words left Link at a loss as to what to say. She herself didn't seem to know what kind of atmosphere, familiar or formal, she wished to convey.

"Yes, my Queen… Zelda?" he added her personal name, trying to strike a balance between the warring tones in the room.

"Yes, well…" Zelda said, turning back to him but not meeting his gaze.

"First, I wanted to thank you for the excellent work you have done with the patrols. I have received far fewer reports of attacks, and many notes of thanks for your efforts. It seems Hyrule is beginning to feel like a safe, unified kingdom once more."

Link nodded his acknowledgment of her thanks. He appreciated the gesture, but no thanks were necessary. He was just doing his job, after all. Zelda continued, hands behind her back, eyes focused on the carpet.

"Hyrule… Hyrule is beginning to return to its former days, but its foundations are still tenuous. I am currently the only member of the royal family, and if I were to die, all we have worked for might fall apart."

Link resisted the urge to frown. He did not like to contemplate the idea of Zelda dying. His whole life's purpose for several years had been to keep her alive, after all. Zelda looked up and her eyes met Link's, determination brightening them like sun reflecting off the ocean.

"I cannot let that happen. It is simply not responsible to allow the entire fate of the kingdom to rest on my survival."

Link nodded. That made sense. He also approved of the notion of Zelda sharing the burden of holding her kingdom together. For too long, she had let herself believe that the happiness of every single one of her citizens rested on her shoulders alone. Link knew that that was an impossibly heavy weight to bear.

Zelda looked down, fiddling nervously with her hands.

"If I were to produce an heir, preferably multiple heirs, the royal family would be stronger. The people of Hyrule would have a greater sense of security, that their future would be clear," Zelda said, and she was beginning to babble, her sentences emerging point after point like a clearly logicked mathematical proof.

"Of course, in order to produce heirs, I would need a husband-a king," she continued, her words slowing. She looked up again, forcing herself to stare right into Link's eyes.

"I have considered the options, and I feel firmly that you would be the best candidate."

Link blinked uncomprehendingly.

Him? Husband? Heirs? From the growing panic evident in Zelda's eyes, he could see that he had remained silent too long. Desperately, he grasped for something non-disastrous to say.

"So… You want me to… marry you?" he asked, the notion sounding even more ridiculous as he said it aloud.

Zelda turned again and began pacing across her room, her hands gesturing in an explanatory fashion along with her.

"Yes. I know it sounds… odd, but I really feel it would be for the best. I must marry, and there are no longer any nobility in Hyrule. You are known to almost all in the kingdom, and you are near universally loved and respected. Not to mention you wield the Sword that Seals the Darkness, and defeated Calamity Ganon."

Link kept his expression still, thinking it unwise to allow his thoughts to be visible in real time, before he'd had a chance to decide how he felt about all of this and curate his emotions. For instance, he did not particularly like the way Zelda casually mentioned that he was a good choice since there weren't any more nobility. However, he also found that he was not averse to the idea of marrying Zelda altogether.

"I… see."

He felt like there was more he should say, more questions he should ask, but she had honestly already presented her arguments clearly. All that was left for him to do was make his decision. Still, he wanted to buy some time.

"When would you want to… to marry?"

Zelda turned towards him again from the other side of her room, looking hopeful.

"As soon as possible. I know we are young… only eighteen. But that was actually a normal age to marry for the royal family. And because of the kingdom's current tenuous situation…"

Link gave himself another moment to think. He knew most people wouldn't believe him, but he had honestly never considered a engaging in any sort of… romantic relationship with Zelda. It simply wasn't his place. He knew it, she knew it-the entire kingdom knew it. Oh, that didn't mean he hadn't noticed that she was beautiful, and dedicated, and selfless. And of course, you'd have to be blind to ignore the shapeliness of her thighs and the allure of her curves. But every time his attention had been drawn to something like that, he would simply shove the thought aside and refocus on the task at hand. He'd force himself to remember the things that made her less than perfect: her short temper, her jealousy towards him, and the weird way her eyebrows were several shades darker than her hair.

But now… Now this was a whole new Hyrule. And Zelda needed him. In the end, he knew what his answer would be.

Link's moment to think had probably felt like an eternity to Zelda. When he refocused on the present, he saw her dark brows knitted together in concern.

"Link, I… I'm sorry to spring this on you. If you need more time to consider…"

"-No need," Link said shortly, cutting her off. "I accept."