Every Shard of My Heart Belongs to You: The Grave
"Every shard of my heart belongs to you," she whispered, leaning her head tentatively against his collar. She pulled him into a tender embrace and kissed the side of his face.
He pulled away from her reluctantly. "You think I am being ridiculous for feeling this way? For feeling responsible, I mean."
"No, I understand that you feel responsible, but you are not solely responsible. And it's useless to regret, Link. We should simply move forward, pull up the anchor that keeps us trapped in the past, and work towards a better future."
"I feel incapable."
"Oh, don't say that." She held onto him with such tenacity as if he would otherwise dissipate. She stroked his shoulder with her thumb. "You were always so strong. You were always my hope. Be so once more."
"Zelda..." He wanted to say that it wasn't that easy, but then he considered that perhaps it was.
The shame that burned within him was neutralized by her alkaline tears. His pride was appeased by her insightful wisdom. She needed him, and that was all that mattered. But the purge was somehow incomplete. He was not yet satisfied. She had not freed him, but she did enlighten his mind to its fetters.
"Forgive me, Zelda. Forgive my confounded pride."
"Forgive you? You've done nothing against me."
"But I wanted to protect you. I wanted to be there for you. I feel like I couldn't... It hurt my pride." Zelda wasn't sure whether he was talking about the incident of Iain's death or how he left her all those years ago, but it didn't matter. The idea was the same.
She spoke wisely, "I think the only forgiveness you need is from yourself."
That was the key that would unlock the irons of his guilt. It was the radiation that would kill the cancerous beast of shame. Zelda had forgiven him for leaving those five years ago, but had he forgiven himself? She saw beyond his shortcomings, so why couldn't he? Was it only himself that he had failed?
"I guess that's true," he admitted aloud.
One cannot forgive oneself as one forgives another. It is not simply a decision to overlook an error or fault or misdeed. For when a man trespasses against himself, he requires more of himself than pardon. He requires sacrifice. To forgive oneself is to pry open the reason of the mind and relinquish an immutable past in uncertain hope of the horizon. It is to live once more, in knowledge and acceptance of oneself, with peaceful consciousness and renewed vivacity. Simply, it is to let go.
"So true that I am embarrassed by my actions. I would have liked to hide my weakness from you."
"Not weakness, but doubt," she assured with a smile. He smiled also.
"I feel quite foolish." He laughed, looking up at the sky. The sun had long since retired, and the night air was refreshingly chill. For a long while they remained silent, viewing the vastness of space before them.
After some time the silence dissipated.
"Link?" Zelda asked, leaning over the edge.
"Yes?" he answered, looking at Zelda.
"When did our lives become so complicated?" she sighed.
"Oh... I believe it was when a Kokori boy left the forest in search of the Princess of Destiny. Or no, I think it was her prophetic dream that turned the world upside down—Aye, it was all her fault!" He laughed at her as she shook her head and rolled her eyes and smiled unwillingly. She was pleased to see him as himself once more. Though always reserved in public, his mischievous nature privately thrived between them.
"I spoke with the council today." She leaned over her folded arms. "You have been commissioned."
"Commissioned?" He looked at her with a puzzled expression.
"For Captain of the Hylian Guard." It had formally been Iain's position.
"Of what purpose? Isn't there anyone better qualified? I am still so young, Zelda."
"Young and capable. There are none other more fit."
He smirked and raised an eyebrow at her. "Flattery will get you nowhere with me, my dear. What do I look like, some young maid to be courted? 'My lord, my lord!'" He curtsied and mimicked a woman's voice. "My father is but a mendicant tanner, and can afford no dowry!"
Zelda laughed heartily at his antics and then folded her arms. "In seriousness, Link." Though she could not even sober herself. "There shall be great pomp and ceremony and speech and—"
"Cake! Oh, are we having a wedding?"
"No, not a wedding, you facetious oaf!" She slapped him playfully on the arm.
"Might I at least don a bride's frock?" He pouted in jest.
"If you don't stop this silliness, it will your uniform!" she teased.
Their insides ached with laughter, and when it grew quiet again they heard guards arguing in the nearby rose garden about when the daffodils would be in bloom. They erupted into an encore of laughter. They tried to hush and calm themselves, but only wheezed and snorted and slid helplessly to the floor, where they could not help but laugh once more.
At last they unwound, content with releasing their pent up foolishness and lying on the scarlet carpet with their heads close to one another, looking out into the night above them.
"We are such children," Zelda admitted with a sigh.
"Aye, we are but our age," Link agreed.
"The council is right. I cannot administer to this kingdom alone."
"Alone?" He tilted his head toward her. "What do you mean?"
"My father's funeral is in two days. A regent shall rule for an interim while 'I mourn', but as I am of age, it cannot exceed half the year. The council has advised that I marry before my coronation. I suppose I should marry by then. The council, the wise and generous council," she exaggerated, "They have already drawn a list of recommended suitors!" She laughed out of hysteria rather than humor.
"I've never known such hasty old men." He knew one day he would have to withdraw his affections from her so that she might perform her royal duty to marry and procreate. He had not expected her to be ripped from him so soon.
"Aye, true, but they are advisors, not a legislature. I am not even required to marry should I not desire it, as great a political error as that would be, considering I now have no living family. Or maybe I shall marry a commoner out of spite for these proud nobles!"
"They would not approve."
"Perhaps not—not wholly, and not immediately, but in time I know Hyrule will love you as I love you.
Link sat up and looked at her, aghast at her words. "Zelda, you can't possibly—"
"Did you think that I could have chosen any other?"
"I think you have greater faith in me than all the faith I have. You're certain your reason is not clouded by sentiment?"
"As certain as I lie beneath the heavens, it is reason that commands it." She lay back with her arms folded behind her.
"Though it remains an honor too high for one with such common origins as me." Link leaned his back against the edge of the balcony beside her and buried his face in his arms. "Your will is no longer free, but captive of obligation, milady. Remember, duty before honor."
"Modesty does not befit you, Link. If only you could step outside yourself and see you for who you are. You're an exceptional man." Link looked over Zelda's hand, the Triforce of Wisdom very much eminent in her as well as her comforting words.
"Oh Zelda..." he sighed. "Only you could make me feel as such, but if you've considered the consequences of this decision, if you truly want this, then I should be proud to take your hand." He stood and helped her from the floor, pulling her close to him. He closed his eyes and breathed deeply. Opening them, he took Zelda's face in his hands and caressed her cheek. The brilliance of her violet eyes melted his countenance into a smile. His infectious expression caused her to smile as well. He leaned down and kissed her so softly, as if she were as fragile as a formation of ash and as sacred as the stained-glass windows of the Temple of Time. Returning from her lips, he smiled again and whispered in her ear, he softly in her ear, "Really though, I can't afford a dowry."
She smiled amusingly. "Oh stop it."
His voice turned serious again. "I will stand with you to the grave," he whispered, "Your hand for mine."
It had grown late into the evening and so the princess decided to retire, lest the court get suspicious of her midnight affairs. Link walked her to the foyer where they parted.
Link rose early the next morning, hoping to meet Zelda before she was again called upon by the council. He did not even need to open the door to her room in the west tower. It was already open. It was also empty. The bed remained, though bare. A few pieces of furniture still clothed the floor. Perplexed, he looked about the west tower. There was one servant cleaning on the first floor who informed him that the princess's chamber had been moved to the master bedroom in the south tower.
He did not find her in the south tower. Indeed, he never arrived at the south tower. As he walked down the royal hall from the west to the southwest, he saw her. Her back faced him as she gazed at a portrait hanging on the wall. It was the portrait of Silvanna Hylia. Zelda did not stir as Link approached her, but stared intently at the painting.
"She was my mother, wasn't she?" Her voice was staid. She did not refer to the woman in the painting, but the one she had sentenced to death. Link did not respond. She continued, "I know you know." She glanced at him briefly.
"Let the bones of history remain buried, Zelda, buried in ambiguity where they can do no harm."
"I only want to know the truth," she insisted.
"I will not burden you with it. Please, let it go, and think of it no more."
She bowed her head and nodded. "I have another meeting with the council this morning, but I won't announce our engagement until next week, after this business with the memorials is finished. They shall be more agreeable then." He smiled awkwardly, as one who tries to smile when everyone else remains as grave as a garden sculpture. Her fingers grazed his arm affectionately as she left.
When he could no longer hear the echo of her footsteps, he looked once more at the painting, at Silvanna's grace and impish smile. It tried to mock him, though he would not allow his memory of her the pleasure. He removed it from the wall and carried it surreptitiously to his room.
Silvanna Hylia Harkinian, the last of the Hylian Dynasty, was not buried in the royal vault of her family. Her flesh was not burned from her bones, nor were her ashes pervaded by the winds of justice. She professed that Hylia would live forever, and she lived now. She lived in the portrait that had adorned the royal hall. She lived in time. She lived in his memory, which would outlive anyone else's memory of her.
He had not taken the breath from her body, but he would kill her yet, and this was his method. There her portrait fed the eager blaze of the ornate marble fireplace as well as the conflagration of his satisfaction. He stood before the fire, entranced by the recoiling edges of the burning canvas, the blurring oils, the famished sparks consuming all before them. With each moment her vitality would wane until at last she would be forgotten. His final breath, though he knew not the hour, would be hers also, her memory interred with his own eventual corpse. Side by side they would be buried, bound together for eternity.
Such is the substance of conspiracy.
Ending Notes: This story is just never finished, but I'll continue to work on it. Thank you, reviewers, for your continual support.