Well, it's almost been two months so that means I gotta update. :O I wasn't exactly sure what this chapter was going to be about...so...inspiration is hard to come by. -.- Ah, well, hope you enjoy. As always. (I say this every single time...X.x)
NOTE: This chapter is a bit gory. Just wanted to warn you, in case you have a weak stomach. (It's not that bad, but just in case...)
Disclaimer: I don't own LOZ. :P
The Princess and the Hero
The ancient marble floor echoed with her footsteps; the sound seemed obtrusive compared to the stillness within the chamber. Sunlight filtered through stain glass windows, coloring the floor scarlet, indigo, and gold. The air was cool and had the distinct scent of old age and sanctity—crisp, pure, untouched. Few people were within; those that were prayed silently: only their moving lips proved that they were not statues.
Zelda glanced at those around her through the corners of her vision, but made a point to draw little attention to herself. Veiled and clothed modestly, she closed the distance to the altar of the sacred Temple of Time and kneeled before it, her hands clasped in obeisance. Lifting her eyes, she watched as the supervising priest began to pour crystalline water into a small cup, his eyes closed and his lips moving in silent prayer. After a moment, the priest looked down upon her and asked solemnly, "Will you receive the blessings of the Goddesses on this day?"
Zelda nodded, her eyes now upon her clasped hands in a show of humility. "May I be worthy of Their blessings," she intoned, the words stiff with formality. The priest began to sprinkle her with the holy water while mumbling ancient words of prayer. Cool drops fell upon her hair, her veil, and her neck. Zelda controlled the urge to shiver as the water slid down her skin like a sensual, yet cold, caress.
After the cup had been emptied of water, the priest touched Zelda's shoulders, allowing her to rise. Kissing her forehead, he murmured, "May you go with the Goddesses, Child. Heed Their wisdom and counsel. They will direct you upon the path that is right for you." Stepping away, he smiled slightly before adding, "You are welcome to stay and worship for however long you feel is necessary."
Zelda curtsied. "Thank you, Father," she murmured in gratitude before turning towards an empty pew. Settling upon a hard cushion at the end of the bench, Zelda fixed her expansive skirts before clasping her hands and bowing her head in prayer. Her thoughts, however, skittered from entreaties to the Goddesses and instead headed towards those that had been troubling her for weeks now. It seemed that even in this place, the Goddesses were silent in their counsel.
It always led back to him. Every trouble, every concern, every anxiety were a result of that man. After the infamous "park incident," Link had become cold, aloof, and uncharacteristically indifferent to that which was going on around him. He made an obvious point to avoid Zelda any chance he got. If he somehow found himself in her presence, he would speak naught but two words of greeting before seeking company elsewhere. He seemed bent on sulking for the rest of his Goddess-damned life.
Zelda clenched her hands together in an effort to control the anger swirling within her. Unaware of the pain her fingernails were causing her own skin, she viciously stemmed the flood of emotions that were so close to bursting. Link knew very well the regret she had felt—still felt—yet he seemed quite happy to flaunt it in her face as long as he wanted. Petulant bastard! As if he was the only one to experience pain and betrayal in his life.
She'd had no choice. Still didn't. What did he truly expect? He had agreed to be her consort. Did he think he had no duty beyond speaking to her from time to time? He was fool, then, for thinking so. And she had been a greater fool for thinking he would docilely go along with her plan.
Deflated, anger spent, Zelda slumped and covered her face in her hands. Dear Goddesses, she was tired. Exhausted and weary to the marrow of her bones. Not only was Link causing her anxiety, but the subjects she had thought loyal were beginning to question her authority. Many lords refused to send aid to neighboring noblemen being attacked by raiders, despite the explicit order of their monarch. Other lords were encroaching and gradually stealing land that had belonged to particular families for generations. Spies once thought loyal were caught daily—and sent to their deaths at the execution block. Traitors within the court seemed to found everyday. Not to mention the food shortages and famine rippling across the land, resulting in hungry mobs of peasants demanding their due from greedy lords unwilling to share the little sustenance left.
Zelda sighed, her shoulders slumping. There was only so much one person could do, she reflected bitterly. And she could only be crowned Queen of Hyrule when an heir was produced, someone who would lead the people after she died. But that could only be accomplished with Link's help. Zelda had to stifle a cynical laugh. His help, indeed. He knew how dependent upon him she was, how his help—or lack thereof—could shape the path of her life as the ruler of this country.
If Link remained unwilling to fulfill his role as consort, Zelda had contemplated seeking aid elsewhere. But the thought of infidelity sickened her, even if her husband was not worthy of her maintaining such morals. No, if she bore a child of another man, Link would know and would denounce her without a thought. And then where would she be? A whore without a throne and a bastard child to care for would be her reward. Ill at the thought, Zelda pushed away such a nightmare from her mind.
Coming to the Temple today had done nothing for her state of mind. For some reason, she had hoped that the Goddesses would be merciful and grant her a bit of wisdom, but it seemed they only granted such to those worthy of it. And she had lost such worthiness long ago.
Rising, Zelda left the pew and walked along the marble floor to the exit, the sound of her footsteps forever trailing behind her.
The sun was shining warmly and a pleasant breeze was blowing, but Zelda continued to shiver. She knew, of course, that it was not the weather but the event soon to take place that made her tremble. It always did.
Sitting underneath a canopy so as to shade her from the sun, with her ladies in waiting on one side and her consort on the other, Zelda clasped her hands demurely and waited. Waiting was always the worst part, for her mind seemed bent on concocting and imagining horrid, haunting images. Closing her eyes, Zelda prayed silently to the Goddesses. Din, Farore, Nayru, give me strength to endure this again. Give me dignity and poise on this day.
When the sun had reached its zenith, the traitor was brought out. With shackled wrists and ankles, he slowly stumbled to the scaffold, his greasy hair flopping in front of his face and his eyes upon the ground. The guards prodded him to continue from time to time when he tripped on the uneven ground. His garb had once been fine, but with the grime of imprisonment, it was now nothing but dirty rags. Slowly, he was led to the scaffold, where the executioner sharpened his axe methodically, his face covered with a black hood.
Zelda watched as the prisoner was led up the steps, one by one, slowly but surely coming closer to his death. Unconsciously gripping the arms of her chair, Zelda's body tensed and her heart began pounding. The prisoner's gaze never left the ground until he was before the execution block. There, he twisted in his guards' grip and shrieked, his voice inhuman, "You dirty bitch! You killed my father and my brother and raped my sister and now you'll kill me!" He started laughing hysterically, tears and rage filling his eyes. "I hope you meet a fate similar to all of the ones you brought upon your victims, Princess Zel—"
His words were cut off when one of the guards clouted him in the temple. With a moan, he crumpled to the ground and began to sob pathetically. Groaning, he was roughly placed before the execution block; his head was forced down upon it. The executioner set down his sharpening tool and came forward, his axe shining in the midday sun. With nods, the guards stepped away from the man. While the prisoner continued to whimper, the executioner slowly and methodically raised the blade above his head, and with a swift downward stroke, cleanly sliced the man's head off.
Zelda couldn't think. At the sight of the spurting blood, she found herself going numb. The man's words continued to echo within her mind and his face would haunt her dreams for ages. Many of her ladies in waiting either began to cry or faint. Zelda could do neither. All she could do was watch as the executioner raised the prisoner's dismembered head above the crowd and shout with a voice that sickened her. Many in the crowd responded with similar enthusiasm. Executions might be necessary, but Zelda would never understand how people relished in them.
Shaking uncontrollably and cursing the Goddesses for not answering her prayer, Zelda covered her face with her hands. She felt comforting pats from her ladies, but when one squeezed her shoulder, she looked up into not a woman's eyes, but Link's sapphire ones.
"Zelda," he said quietly, "let us leave here."
Zelda's eyes began to swim with tears and her vision became blurry. With a sniff, she nodded. She rose slowly, with Link's hand on her arm, and was led inside the castle, her ladies and guards following behind. Her vision became worse, and she felt as if she were in a horrible nightmare. Hardly thinking, she whispered to Link, "I don't want them to follow me."
She vaguely remembered Link ordering the women away, and that only two of the guards stayed and followed, before darkness enveloped her completely.
Hands clasped behind his back, Link gazed out the window at the expansive land before him. Right below lay the city, with its bustling streets and people; beyond that lay the seemingly never-ending Hyrule field, its emerald vastness spreading into the horizon. But the beauty of his country did not aid in easing the anxiety within his heart.
It was not as if Link had never seen a man's head sliced from his head before. He had seen much worse in all of his travels. But after watching Zelda transform into an ordinary woman—one who could become vulnerable and upset—he had felt an odd stirring within his heart. Pity, perhaps? Distress over Zelda's sudden delicacy? He had no idea. All he knew was that he had acted instinctively: he had protected and taken care of her.
The bitter part of his personality scoffed at his weakness for helping a woman who deserved little kindness. But the kinder, gentler side that he was wary to display whispered that he had done right. That also happened to be the side of him that still cared for the Zelda he had once known: the Zelda he had loved, long ago.
But did he not hate her now? She continued to use him and yet he found himself always drawn to her, always wanting to help her. He hated her schemes, but couldn't bring himself to hate the woman. Of course, it was simpler to preserve an outward appearance of hatred. It was easier than trying to justify his unfounded loyalty to her.
Combing his fingers through his unruly mop of blonde hair, Link sighed. Sweet Goddesses, he was a fool. Could he not make up his mind about this woman? She had used him repeatedly, yet he continued to return to her side like a whipped dog, begging for more. Pressing his face against the cool glass of the window, Link closed his eyes for a moment. Fool, fool, fool, he murmured to himself. You are a complete idiot, Link.
It was not until the door to his personal parlor opened and closed did Link tear himself away from repeating his mantra. Turning around, he found himself gazing at his wife.
Her chin held high, her blue eyes sparking with their usual fire, Zelda looked beautiful, as she always did. Slowly, she walked towards him, her steps confident and certain. When she reached him, however, she seemed hesitant. Eventually looking away from his gaze, she murmured, "I wanted to thank you for what you did today. It was very...kind of you."
Link swallowed. She was actually thanking him? "You're welcome," he replied hoarsely. He attempted to speak once more, but his vocal chords seemed to have snapped completely in two.
Her gaze upon him once more, Zelda continued. "As you know, I usually do not become queasy when watching executions, but it seems today my stomach thought otherwise." She smiled grimly. "I suppose I became a normal, delicate woman for a time."
Bemused, Link merely shrugged. "It happens to the best of us, Your Highness," he replied. "I've seen grown men sob like infants at such things. You are not alone in it."
"No, I suppose not," Zelda replied slowly. Sighing, she clasped her hands together. "There is another matter I wish to speak to you about, Link. Perhaps we could sit on the sofa?"
Wary, Link nodded and followed her suggestion. Seated on a chair across from her, Link prepared himself for the worst.
"As you know, the Council has been making a point to look into our marriage every chance they get," Zelda said, her blue eyes now filled with the resolve Link had always known her for. "And they also wish for an heir as soon as possible." She swallowed and fell silent.
Link felt the anger stir again. Although he could not hate her, she was still able to push and prod him into a temper. Licking his lip, he replied roughly, "And you need me as your breeding stallion."
Zelda flushed, redness creeping up her neck to her cheeks. "You have always been good at vulgarizing things, Link," she replied steadily, her eyes narrowing. "But you were a fool when you thought you would not have to perform such duties when you became my consort."
He already knew of his foolishness. Had he not been telling himself just that before she had come to his quarters? But her retort still stung; as a result, his anger rose. "Well, then, I suppose I am a fool," Link snapped, "but what choice did I truly have, Zelda? Do you think the Council would have allowed me to say 'no' and be on my way?"
"You always had a choice, Link, and you know that," Zelda replied stonily.
Thoroughly irritated, Link rose and began to roughly comb his fingers through his hair and pace up and down the room in an attempt to calm himself. Sweet Goddesses, this always happened when they spoke. Always the same argument. Always the same result.
"Link, listen to me. I did not desire this any more than you. But there is nothing we can do but work with what we have. The reason I came here today was to propose that we spend some time with each other, everyday." Link stopped his feline-like pacing and watched her silently. "Perhaps," she murmured, "we can figure something out after a time."
Link clenched his jaw. "You speak as if you desire to be friends, but I do not think that is possible, Zelda."
Taken-aback, Zelda gazed at him with an expression of confusion. "Why?" she eventually asked.
Link became stone-faced, his eyes now unreadable. "If you don't know by now," he murmured, "then I was mistaken in thinking that you were intelligent."
With a swift intake of breath, Zelda rose, her face flushed with anger. "You always do this, Link. You always bring back the past and keep it as a wedge between us."
"And a wedge it shall remain until you discover how much you have hurt other people, Zelda!"
"You are not the only person to have been hurt, Link!" she cried, her voice becoming shrill. "And I am not the only person who has made mistakes! Sweet Goddesses, Link, will you never let the past go?"
Link fell silent. Images of sleepless nights, listening for monsters, filled his mind. The sound of metal clanging, screams echoing, people dying in agonizing pain... Perhaps if his memory was wiped clean, he could let the past go. But until the nightmares ended, he couldn't forget. And he couldn't forgive.
"Leave, Zelda," he murmured quietly. "Speaking to each other is useless."
Looking away, Link listened for Zelda to respond; instead, she merely opened the door and left him, her footsteps echoing throughout the corridor. Slowly, Link went to the window once more and placed his face against the cool glass.
You always had a choice, Link. Always...
I didn't really like this chapter. -.- I was hoping to resolve some differences, but now I've just made Link look like a whiney bump. Ah, well. Characters can only be great if they have flaws. Well, I was very pleased w/ all of the reviews I got last chapter. 37! Yey! I'd love it if I got that many again:D
oOoDancingQueenoOo: Your review got cut off, so I only got to read the first word of it:O I wish I could have read the rest of it... :(
babowonsuni: Well, Link and Zelda aren't going to start liking each other until later. :3 But I like conflict! It's fun. xD
PinkyTheSnowman: And it took me almost 2 months to update again! Sorry. X.x Sometimes my muses just die...and it takes a while for them to come alive again. But I'm glad you liked the chapter (I'm sorry it was confusing, though). The best kinds of stories are the ones you read over and over again. :D
Moonbeam: Well, there won't be too much romance, yet. Sorry. O.O But there will be eventually! I guess you'll have to be patient. xD
Wish Upon The Stars: I find it amusing that I got three different reviews just from you, WUTS (hahaha, am I allowed to call you that? xD). And I do seem evil for toying w/ our favorite couple. But I'm glad you have faith in me. I will get to the fluff. Someday. Over the rainbow. O.o
ZeldaChik63: Nope, I have no idea how to play chess. No one's ever taught me. I also don't know how to play poker, blackjack...and I can hardly play BS w/out embarrassing myself. It's very sad, I know. xD
Edgecutioner: Well, I think Link and Zelda still hate each other...maybe even more than they did before:O But hatred is such a great emotion, because it can be twisted and manipulated and before you know it, the characters are in love:O :O
Dakyu: Actually, Link himself never did anything to her. Zelda just resents the fact that he was the one to save Hyrule, that she was unable to do anything w/out his help. And Link hates Zelda b/c he thinks she just used him and toyed w/ his emotions... So their hatred for each other is basically just one huge misunderstanding. xD
Alantie Mistaniu: Hehehe, you like the conflict, you know you do! I do, at least. xD I think hatred is almost more interesting than love (well, sometimes; depends on my mood :D)
Nagem: Winter break seems forever ago. (sigh) Now it's February and maybe someday this school year will be OVER! (such a wonderful thought, sigh...)
Shade89: I apologize if any of my fic is confusing, but please remember that although this is based off of the games, I have also changed it so that Link and Zelda don't like each other. And, truthfully, in the games you never know how they feel about each other. That's why I like doing fanfiction about LOZ b/c you can interpret the characters, basically, however you want. And to clarify: only Link and Zelda remember what happened during OOT. No one else does (and I don't remember the game ever saying that anyone other than them did). Also, if you continue to find certain aspects confusing, let me know, so I can fix them and try to avoid such in the future.
Forlorn Rain: You're welcome! I'm very glad that you like it. And I apologize (as I always seem to be doing) for the delay. X.X My muses have been so uncooperative lately. (sigh)
sawyerzelda: Yeah, I changed my name again. :O I get bored easily. Hehehehe And I'm glad you can't choose between Link and Zelda (who's worse than the other) b/c that's exactly how I wanted it to be:D
Starry Starry Wonder: I don't really understand what you mean by that...but thank you, I guess! xD
Sakurelle: Yeah, I guess someone always does have to make their relationship worse. Actually, that person is me. Hehehehehe xD
anime/videogame freak: Well, the romance will come...someday! xD Sorry, but I must tell you just to be patient! It will come, I promise. :D
Perfect Soldier 01: Yes, guilt is fun to write. O.O But poor Linky. That guy never gets a break. xD I should be nicer to him...(naw:O)
aslan-chic: Thank you very much! Sometimes after I write a chapter I feel that it's horrible, but all of these reviews make me feel better. :D
SoulessCalibur: I'd be devastated if my fics were deleted. o.o I hope you can put yours back up soon! It's silly that ff. net deletes fics for something like author's notes. It doesn't really make much sense. :
Some Say the World will END.: I guess I didn't update very soon... X.X And I don't think FI is going to be updated anytime soon...or ever again... :'(
Story Weaver1: You know, for some reason, I kind of like Annika. (shrug) Maybe I have a fascination with ambitious women... xD But, yes, Zelda will be more aware of poor Linky and the fact that he's hurting inside. (awwww xD)
DLandZel: Well, I'm not really one for suicide in fics. O.o And I don't think it would work with where my story is going, you know? But thanks for the suggestion!
Choco: Four words: thank you very much! I am always DESPERATELY in need of constructive criticism, and I really really REALLY appreciate the fact that you gave me some. I will definitely work hard to incorporate more conflict (although the conflict or turmoil that I was trying to go for was Annika's ambitions...guess I didn't get that across x.X) and I will provide some more LZ interaction. Keeping the plot moving and doing characterization gets so hard, you know? But I will keep trying! xD And, btw, I also like Annika. I don't know why...
chaosdragon326: Yup, lies and misunderstandings and hatred are GREAT! (like Frosted Flakes rawr xD) Sorry...I get weird sometimes...xD xD xD
RavenTay: I'm glad you like it! And I guess it is kinda sad, and I think it's only going to get sadder:(
Rose-Wisteria: I like your new user name. It's very pretty. :o) Well, I have a tendency for having predictable plots. Hopefully this fic will continue to be different. :3
Anthius: Thank you:D
Alliriyan: Well, I don't think Zelda could send Link back in time w/out a good reason... So I don't know about that. o.o But thank you for the suggestion, all the same:D
Mina-chan: Yeah, Link doesn't get a break, does he? Poor guy. :( But don't worry; I won't make him always suffer! (cackle)
Arcia: Thank you! I hope this chapter provided the "more" that you needed:D