She'd always hated in when those dreadful, white clouds rolled overhead. It reminded her of bliss, of better days, and of the rain that followed. The fluffy apparitions that floated beyond the walls that kept her inside, were a constant reminder of her woes—she told herself often that she ought to arrange for a retreat from those clouds, perhaps Lake Hylia or Gerudo Valley…
She'd seen them come and she'd seen them go, but regardless of her feelings for them, one thing was clear:
They reminded her of him.
Those bitter, pitiless, cobalt eyes of his would be imbedded in her dreams forever. The way he showed no emotion when she was slumped on the floor sobbing, made her blood boil. The way smirked at her and walked away…one could only take so much.
Zelda Harkinian clenched her dainty hands into fists, until her knuckles were painted white.
She knew why the ball of fiery anger had ignited in the pit of her stomach. How could it not, now that she knew who her Father had chosen to be her future husband? The fact that her future had been decided without her consent bothered her little, compared to who she'd be spending it with.
The coldest, most arrogant man in Hyrule: The Hero of Time, Link.
That name made her want to fling the heavy tiara that lay shinning on her pale forehead out the window of her tower. It almost made her laugh at the image it inspired; of her tiara being flung out the window, only to hit her future husband right smack in his handsome, arrogant face.
In fact, she took the liberty to do just that. Gingerly releasing the gilded symbol of her status from her forehead, causing a few sunshine tendrils of hair to fall carelessly before her eyes, she took it in her hands and stared down at it for a moment.
In the depths of the ruby positioned in the center of the tiara, she saw herself. Those almond shaped eyes that held the most beautiful, amethyst color. The dark, curling eyelashes, the long tumble of golden hair, the full, pouty lips that could make any man weak in the knees. Zelda didn't mind admitting that she was beautiful. She rather liked that addition to her overall person.
Deciding it would be unwise to throw the expensive piece of jewelry out the window, she set it on the red oak vanity that she was sitting at. Sighing, she stood, letting the sapphire skirt she wore fall attractively around her ankles. Permitting herself a small smile at the 'swishing' sound it made, she made her way to the small study that connected to her large room. She figured the vast shelves of books that surrounded her privet little study would take her weary mind off that rogue, Link.
Grabbing her favorite novel, Andromeda, from a shelf, she seated herself in the comfy scarlet couch, placed in front of a large bay window that looked out on her beautiful courtyard below. Wetting a finger, she slipped it into the middle of the book, opening it's slightly yellowed pages to her favorite part, in which the heroine, Andromeda, finds true love in her close friend Valiant.
She silently wished she could be Andromeda. How lovely it would be to find true love, and have it returned! But of course, she thought darkly, true love was for fairytales and silly girls. Her thoughts were interrupted by a light rap on the door.
"Come in." She called in a regal voice.
She heard the door open, letting who ever it was shuffle in. Zelda already guessed who it was from the sound of those quick, deliberate footsteps. Soon the serious, yet loving face of her caretaker, and mother figure, Impa, peeked through the entrance of her study.
"I'm sorry to disturb you, Highness, but Lady Willow has arrived, and wishes to see you in the Great Hall."
Zelda felt a smile tug at the corners of her lips. Willow was her best friend and cousin. The thought of Willow's bright green eyes, and freckled, smiling face, melted her previously unfriendly mood.
"Tell her I'll be down in a moment."
"No need Cousin," chirped a familiar voice behind Impa. In walked Willow herself, in a long, apple-red sundress that complemented her wavy, flaming hair that fell to her waist.
"Oh Will," Zelda cried, the regal image crumbling as the Princess launched herself into her beloved cousin's arms in a bear hug.
"Sorry I couldn't wait Zelly, but I just had to talk to you!" Willow gushed happily. "I heard about your engagement! I'm so happy for you darling!" Zelda paled as her friend hugged her tighter with obvious joy. Looking to her Sheikah caretaker for help, she frowned when she noticed Impa had disappeared.
"Much thanks Cousin, but I--"
"Oh you have to show me that ring!" Willow interrupted, making a deft grab for her cousin's left hand.
The proof of Zelda's unfortunate engagement shone brilliantly with all the colors of the rainbow sparkling in its diamond center. Zelda knew Link had only bought the ring to please her Father, who was completely beside himself with happiness at his daughter's impending nuptials. But looking at it, she found it hard to pretend he'd gotten it for her as an act of his undying love for her.
"Oh Gods Zelly! I've never seen such a beautiful ring! Is it Zora-make?"
"Not sure, could be," Zelda answered indifferently, yearning for the conversation's demise.
"What's wrong, Zelly? You don't seem yourself!" Concerned for her cousin's well-being, Willow led Zelda back to the red couch and sat her down.
"You are happy...aren't you?" Willow asked hesitantly.
"Well..." Zelda wasn't sure of outright telling her that she flat out hated the idea of marrying Link.
"You're just nervous; all brides are when they find someone so wonderful to marry." Willow gulped at the look of disagreement flashed in her beautiful friend's eyes.
"I don't want to marry him Will," Zelda murmured.
"Oh Zelly, you—"
"I don't want to marry him," Zelda repeated firmly.
"I don't understand Zelda," Willow sighed. "I don't understand you, either."
Zelda knew she was unhappy; Willow rarely used her real name. "You've always been a recluse to the world, Cousin. And now you're getting married! Just think of it! Married!" Willow sighed again. "Why on earth don't you want to marry him? I don't know this Hero of Time myself, but I hear he's quite a looker."
"Oh Will, he is, but that's not the worst part."
"Worst part? I thought that would be the best part!"
"No. He's such an arrogant fool, Will! And the fact that he's the handsomest man in Hyrule makes it even worse!" Zelda held back the tantrum that threatened to undo her.
"Oh Zelly, most handsome men are arrogant! It's just the way it is. I'm sure he's not that bad."
"Like you said, you don't know him."
"I'm sorry. If you really feel that way, why not tell Uncle Harkinian? Surely he wouldn't force you to marry this man."
"I know he wouldn't," Zelda said sadly, rising from the couch to look out the window with her arms crossed. "But I couldn't bear hurting him like that. After Mother died, he's just never been that happy; and just look at him!"
Willow rose to stand beside her cousin. She looked down at the courtyard where her Uncle the King was talking to her Father. Zelda was right, Uncle Harkinian did look happy. She reached out, sympathetically taking her cousin's hand and squeezing it reassuringly.
"It'll be alright."
"I do hope so, Will," Zelda's voice faded somewhat as she noticed a new figure enter the courtyard.
He was wearing a white tunic that held the crest of Hyrule's nobility, a long, red cape hung loosely down his strong back, making him look like a knight from a fairy tale.
This of course made Zelda's anger simmer as she watched the Hero of Time give a slight bow of respect to her Father, who in return clapped his future son-in-law on the shoulder. Though she couldn't make out what they were saying, the pitch of their voices held great excitement. Save for her fiancée's.
He merely stood there, listening to his King with the utmost respect. She could tell his mind was on other things as he ran his long finger through the unruly bangs that fell at the side of his face.
By Din, what a handsome man…
She knew it was a betrayal to her own contempt for him, but she really could not help herself.
"Zelly? What-? Oh…" Willow murmured, her eyes following her cousin's until they landed on Link. "That's him, isn't it? That's Link."
Zelda nodded, feeling her heart wrench painfully when Link's eyes moved and landed on her. He always had such a strange look about him, it only multiplied when he was looking at her with his cold, scrutinizing eyes.
Her Father looked up as well; catching sight of his beloved daughter he crooked his finger, signaling for her to come down to visit.
"Oh Zelly, you're terrible," Willow giggled, pointing at Zelda's tiara. "Princess, remember?"
"Oh, go jump off Death Mountain."
"Y'know, I heard some crazy man from Catalina tried that when he visited here. It was the talk of the town for..." Zelda only half listened as her dear cousin rambled on. Willow was one of the few people the feisty Princess loved, but more often than not, she was a little frivolous.
When they'd reached the bottom of the winding staircase of Zelda's Tower, she froze.
There he was; waiting to escort her to her Uncle and Father.
"Hello Ladies," Link murmured in a low voice, nodding his head in respect. "Milady," he coolly set his gaze on Zelda. "You're Father wished me to escort you to the courtyard."
Zelda sighed unhappily, her self control wavering as he deftly reached for her silk-clad hand. She tried to focus on seeing her Uncle Emanuel after missing his absence for three long years.
Uncle Emanuel was a giant of a man, with red hair like his daughter, and flashing cobalt eyes that could tear into you better than any dagger. Yet no such look was received when her dear Uncle's eyes fell on her and Willow. After loosing his young wife, Katrina while she gave birth to Willow, her Uncle Emanuel had changed subtly. He used to be an affable man to all who took the time to visit him at his castle in Dunkerk Valley, to the West of Hyrule's Lake Hylia. Yet now the only tenderness he showed was held only for his lovely daughter and Zelda herself.
"Oh dear me!" Emanuel rumbled in his thick accent of the Valley. "Look how the Lass has grown! You were naught but a child when last I looked at you!" He pulled Zelda from Link's grasp into a tight, affectionate hug. Zelda couldn't see, but she was sure Link was smirking.
"Yes Emanuel," Her Father spoke proudly, casting off his quiet demeanor. "She'll be seventeen soon! And married!"
"Ah yes," Zelda's Uncle withdrew from his loving embrace with his niece to look at his brother-in-law. "When's the blessed even, Hark? Soon I hope, tis been a while since Willow and I attended a proper celebration!"
"The end of spring, when the Kailt berries start growing again; you'll remember them to be sure!"
"So soon?" Willow queried, catching the bewildered look in her cousin's eyes.
"Of course! I've always had a fondness for spring weddings," The King announced happily, his gaze locked on his daughter and Link.
"Well what does my niece and her Fiancée think? They happy with the arrangements?"
Link cast a withering look at Zelda, one that she failed to receive as she stared helplessly at her feet.
"Delighted Sir," Link said gruffly, his eyes still on Zelda. Inside, she felt like screaming. But of course, she couldn't.
"Zelda darling," Her Father sighed, reaching forward to place a finger beneath her chin and lift her blue eyes to meet his brown ones. "Are you alright? You seem rather quiet on this joyous occasion."
"I'm alright Father, just a bit overtaxed from all the excitement," she whispered despairingly.
"Perhaps you should go rest," Her Father decided. "Link shall escort you to your room I think. Link?" The King gave a questioning lift of dark eyebrows. "Will you?"
Link managed a forced smile as he none too gently took Zelda's arm and steered her towards her tower, barely giving her time to flash a frightened look to her cousin.
When they'd gone out of earshot of her family, Zelda wrenched her arm from Link's grasp.
"I believe I can handle myself, thank you," she seethed.
He regarded her from under hooded, blue eyes that flashed dangerously close to something that resembled anger. Yet he said nothing as he grabbed her elbow and pulled her up the winding staircase.
"I demand that you release me!" she all but yelled, trying desperately to free herself from his offending company.
"Oh shut it, Zelda," he hissed, his grasp on her elbow growing stronger.
"Have you no respect for the Princess of Hyrule?" she gasped, planting her feet firmly in the crook of the next step, causing him to stop and look at her with an exasperated sigh.
"I've no more respect for your title than I have for you," he said, viciously calm, as he bended in a mock bow.
A fierce sense of satisfaction fell over Zelda as her hand connected solidly with his cheek. Leaving him quite stunned with his mouth hanging open, she quickly ran the rest of the way up the stairs.
Shutting the door behind her, she gave a silent prayer up to Nayru, her patron Goddess, for the courage she knew she hadn't been born with.
I'm just so tired, she thought as she slid down the length of the door.
Looking up at a ceremonial sword that hung above her bed, visions of herself walking down the aisle towards her certain end, then her bringing forth a life from a husband she hated, dieing alone and unloved...forgotten...they swirled around her, angering and saddening her at the same time.
With one certain decision, all that could be avoided. Death seemed like some surreal fantasy beyond her understanding. But there it was, her salvation, her escape, hanging on the wall waiting for her.
"Zelda?" The quiet voice disrupted her thinking as Zelda turned to run her cheek along the smooth oak of her door sadly.
"Who is it?" she asked.
"It's Willow. Look, I know you hate this, I know what it's doing to you, but try to look on the bright side; you'd never be alone again." Willow reasoned softly through the door, knowing her cousin needed a lifeline.
When Zelda didn't answer, Willow slumped to the ground, defeated.
"I've heard you cry in you're room at night" Willow wasn't sure if Zelda could hear her, but at least she knew it was worth a try.
"I know what he did to you Zelly. I can see it every time you look at him. You loved him once. Very much, I'm sure." Willow hoped she wasn't going too far as she dared to go on. "Your maid, Bella, told me that you stayed locked in your room for two weeks, and when you came out, you looked like one of those awful skull-children that run about at night."
Zelda blinked on the other side of the door. She remembered all too well when that had happened. Just thinking about it made her want to reach up and lock the silly door again.
"I saw Link head for his room. Did you give him that mark? He was holding his face like he'd been in a brawl!" Willow tried to laugh but found it rather hopeless in her present situation.
"Somebody had to hit him," Zelda finally muttered, opening the door a crack and peeking out at her red-headed cousin.
Willow gave her a shaky smile before slipping her fingers through the crack to caress her cousin's soft face.
"Courage Zelda. Courage."
TO THE SIREN On the floating, ship less oceans I did
all my best to smile till your singing eyes and fingers drew
me loving into your eyes. And you sang "Sail to me, sail
to me; Let me enfold you." Here I am, here I am
waiting to hold you. Did I dream you dreamed about me? Were
you here when I was full sail? Now my foolish boat is leaning,
broken lovelorn on your rocks. For you sang, "Touch me
not, touch me not, come back tomorrow." Oh my heart, oh
my heart shies from the sorrow. I'm as puzzled as a newborn
child. I'm as riddled as the tide. Should I stand amid
the breakers? Or shall I lie with death my bride? Hear
me sing: "Swim to me, swim to me, let me enfold you." "Here
I am. Here I am, waiting to hold you."
On the floating, ship less oceans
I did all my best to smile
till your singing eyes and fingers
drew me loving into your eyes.
And you sang "Sail to me, sail to me;
Let me enfold you."
Here I am, here I am waiting to hold you.
Did I dream you dreamed about me?
Were you here when I was full sail?
Now my foolish boat is leaning, broken lovelorn on your rocks.
For you sang, "Touch me not, touch me not, come back tomorrow."
Oh my heart, oh my heart shies from the sorrow.
I'm as puzzled as a newborn child.
I'm as riddled as the tide.
Should I stand amid the breakers?
Or shall I lie with death my bride?
Hear me sing: "Swim to me, swim to me, let me enfold you."
I am. Here I am, waiting to hold you."