15 – Epilogue
In a lush garden set on an outcropping high above Hyrule, Princess Zelda gazed out over the waters of Lake Hylia, watching the broken sunlight glistening upon the waves. A rainbow of flowers swayed in the breeze around her, the myriad sweet scents making her nose twitch in pleasant delight. She took in a deep breath, her spirits soaring as a result, then made her way down the winding path that cut through the garden, her handmaidens trailing behind her. Link had ordered this garden built for her, a place where she could rest away from the world, a solitary place for her to find a balm against life's little worries. He'd sent her here now – much to her protest – to recover from her recent ordeal.
To be honest, even though she wouldn't admit it out loud, she did need the rest. Her body had been weakened by the poison, though, thankfully she liked to think that her mind was just as healthy as ever. A sigh blew through her lips - was this to be her fate, then? Would her life never truly be normal?
As the waves beneath lapped soothingly against the shore beneath, Zelda pushed the traitorous thoughts away. Wallowing in self-pity was far too indulgent, even for a Princess. This was her life - along with her husband, the Shadow Lady of Castleton made sure that the people of Hyrule could rest peacefully in their beds each and every night. They made sure that both the adults of the land and, as recent events had revealed, the children, too came to no harm. This was her life and, despite the hardship and the sacrifices, she adored it. She was, as she'd promised long ago, doing good.
The Princess let her hand trail over the flowers, dragging petals and stems gently in her wake. The stems bent and, just at the last moment, she let go, allowing them to spring back upright. So it was with her, she mused in a sudden moment of poetic reflection – she could bend, but she wouldn't break. Lost in her reverie, a dreamy expression on her face, the Shadow Lady paid no attention to the path ahead of her. Her sandals tripped over a loose stone and she wobbled on her feet, almost stumbling.
Her handmaidens rushed to her side, their fingers coming to rest on her elbow. "Mistress!" said one. "Let us help!" said the other.
Gently, she pulled her way out of their grasp. "No," she said, making sure not to let her irritation show. "I'm fine."
"Thank you for your concern." She smiled to soften her words. "But I can manage."
Disbelieving looks flitted across the young girls' faces but they reluctantly let her be.
Zelda walked on. People tended to underestimate her like that, she mused. She was no delicate flower that needed to be coddled, that was for sure. Why was it that those considered compassionate –not that that was how she viewed herself anyway - were treated with mild disdain, as though they were children or slightly insane? The Princess shook her head. It was a sad reflection on the world she lived where the natural state of being for all people was thought to be nothing more than undue aggression and shallow self-centredness.
The Shadow Lady stopped at a small tree where, hidden deep in the branches, she found a nest of small sparrows. One young bird bobbed its head as she reached out to stroke it. Her eyes searched the bird's wing, saw that it was mending well – she'd been nursing it back to health ever since she'd found it, broken and forlorn, at the entrance to the garden – and smiled.
There was a rustle in the air. A prickling sensation ran down the Princess' back like ice-cold water. Zelda glanced at the ivy-covered trellises that hemmed the garden in and, out of the corner of her eye, she spotted a dark shape hanging against the wooden beams. She turned to face it, but it moved just a fraction too quick, its eyes tracing her path. The Shadow Lady smiled.
"Leave me," she said, turning to her handmaidens.
Their eyes grew. "But-"
"I'll be safe." She softened the command with another smile. "Don't worry."
"We really shouldn't, mistress!"
"Then just stay at the entrance," said Zelda. "If I need you, I'll shout." She took them both by the hands and smiled warmly. "Don't worry. It's just a garden."
Zelda watched them go, shaking her head every time they tried to surreptitiously glance over their shoulders, then stood alone, the waves of Lake Hylia whispering against the land beneath her. She flicked at a flower, pollen powdering up into the air as a result. It was silent, except for those same rippling waters and the sounds of faint scratching, as though small animals were scurrying around unseen. The Shadow Lady hugged herself and smiled. "You can come out now, Link."
Her breath left her in an instant as her husband leapt into the garden, took her within his arms and twirled her around, laughing. She had the briefest sight of his face, the slightest hint of his scent before his lips were upon hers and she was lost in the moment, her heart thudding in her chest, her breath lost again. She tried to pull away, but he held her firm, hungrily swallowing her in his embrace. She relented, losing herself once again.
The water sighed from below. The leaves rustled in the slight breeze. An eternity passed - or was it just a few moments? - and, at last, they parted, the Shadow Lady resting her head against Link's shoulder. "Missed me, then?" she asked, smiling.
"A little," the Shadow Lord replied, beaming with barely contained delight. "How did you know it was me, love?"
"You have to ask?"
The Hero of Time laughed. Arm in arm they walked down the path, leaves swirling around their legs, overhanging branches, sprinkled with sunlight, shading them from the midday heat. Link paused, crouched, then swept a crimson rose from one of the flowerbeds. Turning to the Princess, he pushed the stem into her hair and brushed the last few loose strands of her blonde hair back. Her hand reached up automatically to touch the flower, a smile playing on her lips.
They passed the tree once more and, without a word, Link fished into his hat, pulled out a small morsel of food and then flicked it into the baby sparrow's open beak. Watching her husband, Zelda was reminded once again about how so many people had protested their union – you're too different, they said. You don't have anything in common, they said.
They were wrong. Link and herself did have much in common, they just expressed it in different ways. They weren't exactly the same people, but they were similar enough – they complemented one another. It wouldn't work for many people in a similar situation, she knew. But she and Link were different – at their core they were both principled and committed. They worked. They made it work. Most people, those looking for instant gratification – the type of people Link loathed - wouldn't have the patience for it. They, on the other hand, had both been forced to learn patience, simply by the virtue of the never-ending experiences thrust upon them.
"Link," she said, a playful note to her voice. "How many times have I told you not to put food in your hat? I'm surprised it doesn't just fall all over your head."
The Shadow Lord looked sheepish. She always found that particular look quite charming. "Sorry, love."
Link let out a frustrated breath. "Terrible," he said. "Sign this, resolve that, listen to so-and-so – the same old dreary routine and it was getting a tad too overwhelming. Had to get away. That's why I'm here."
Zelda pursed her lips. The affairs of Castleton were something they usually handled together. "I should be there."
"No, you shouldn't, love," he replied, fixing her with a pointed stare. "You should be here – resting."
"Like you're doing right now," she said. "Well, you needed the-"
"I came for you, love."
The words were so simple, but the earnestness flooding his voice made the Princess' heart surge with love. "Stop here," she said, motioning to a bench set beside a bed of myriad flowers – an explosion of colour themselves – surrounding a small fountain, the spray catching the glint of the sunlight above. The water shone, as though the fountain was a nothing more than a plume of tiny, sparkling diamonds. The Princess sat herself down on the bench, one leg curling under the other, a sandal dangling from the end of her foot. Link laid his head upon her lap, and they sat there for a moment, the fountain gurgling beside them, saying nothing. They didn't have to.
Finally, the Shadow Lord opened his mouth. "Are you-"
"-getting better? Yes, I am." They both smiled. "Thank you."
"You know what, love?"
"Pray tell," Zelda replied, running a hand through his hair.
"I was thinking...when we record our last little expedition into the archive scrolls, I thought of a rather splendid little title we could give it."
"And that title would be?"
A beat, then: "'The Three Links Adventure.'"
The Shadow Lady blinked, one eyebrow arched. "That's almost as bad as your last title for that little quest we had to do last year."
Link gazed up at her from her lap, his mouth open in shock. "What was wrong with the last one?"
"It was silly."
"'The Four Swords Adventure!'" he said. "What's wrong with 'The Four Swords Adventure?' Was there, or was there not, Four Swords involved? Was there not a talking hat, a Red Potion drought, and a vicious megalomaniac cucco bent on world domination? Does that not, I ask, qualify as an adventure?"
"Link," she replied, her patient voice level. "It's the most imbecilic title I've heard in my entire life." She quickly changed track. "Now...tell me something…"
"Tell me about your 'motley crew' of adventurers. The other people who helped you to help me, I mean. How are they doing now?"
"Well," the Shadow Lord replied, stroking his chin in thought, "Mr. Red and his rather unstable mate the ReDead have ventured out into a little business enterprise for themselves."
"Yes, love," Link went on. "Old Red was tickled by the whole treasure hunt razzmatazz we got caught up in and so he's decided that he and the Dead One are going to go around searching for…um…"
The Shadow Lord looked sheepish once again, as though embarrassed to have been associated with such people. "For bon-bons." He cleared his throat. "For the little ones."
"Yes, precisely." He rummaged under his hat. "They had a gift for you." He pulled out a long, thin box padded with velvet and handed it over to the Princess. She looked at it warily, then asked, "What is it?"
"The ReDead's finger."
Zelda drummed a finger of her own against her lips, surreptitiously hiding the gift behind a small tree just behind her. A gust of wind scattered her hair, once more spraying the sweet scent of pollen into her face. Her nose twitched yet again, her ears picking out the twittering of the birds nearby. She took in a deep breath, then asked the question that had been preying on her mind since she'd heard the whole escapade related to her. "What about," she said slowly, "that pirate lady? Excellent, I think her name was?"
"Oh, you know," Link replied, studying his fingernails. "She's doing what she does best – salvage hunting."
The Shadow Lady gazed out across the garden. "I heard," she said, a mischievous glint in her eye, "that she liked you. That you both had a lot in common."
Link looked up at the Princess, grinning. "Jealous, are you?"
"No," she replied truthfully. "Just curious."
"Well, maybe she did…but the poor love realised that it wasn't to be." He winked. "I am taken after all."
Zelda raised an eyebrow. "You mean she came to her senses and realised that you were nothing more than a mental mess of a man having lived across two time zones and, instead of a normal childhood, you had to twice battle against evil creatures that most people won't even think of unless in their most horrific of nightmares?"
Link's face wore an expression of mock-hurt. "You married me, didn't you?"
"Your insanity makes you adorable."
"And I love you."
Zelda smiled. "What about her picture?" she asked. "I heard you went a bit extreme with it."
Once again, the Shadow Lord looked abashed. "I got her a new one," he replied. "Had to go on another quest for it, too. In the end there were five to choose from, all but one having a slight flaw that separated it from the original and I had to…hey…" he trailed off and snapped his fingers. "The Five Portraits Adventure! That's a splendid title!"
"And," the Shadow Lady continued, ignoring him, "what did she say when you gave the picture to her? Was she pleased?"
Link's face creased into a frown. "That's the thing I couldn't quite fathom, love," he said, genuine puzzlement in his voice. "She was polite and thankful and everything…but she didn't seem happy."
"That's because," Zelda explained, "it wasn't the same. Because it wasn't the first anymore, and she wasn't the one who went to the effort to get it."
"I just wanted her to learn not to get so bleeding attached to the thing."
Link shrugged, unrepentant. "Maybe she'll have learned her lesson this time."
"But what if she doesn't, love?"
"Then it doesn't matter." She smiled when he opened his mouth to protest. "Don't fret over it, Link."
"Oh," the Shadow Lord added. "She was happy about one thing, though."
Zelda gazed down at him, expectant. "Which was…?"
"Her and young Simon DeLance."
The Princess grinned. "They're together?"
"Absolutely," Link replied. "Can't separate them anymore."
"Yes," the Shadow Lord said. "She tied him to the front of her ship and so, whenever he gets all funny and trance-like again, she can just pop over the side, ask him to point out where the relevant treasure is and, Ganon's your uncle, Nabooru's your aunt, there's a nice shiny pile of rather expensive 'salvage' for our little missy."
Link rubbed the bridge of his nose as he watched her intently. Zelda flicked him an amused glance. She knew what was coming. "What?" she teased.
"You didn't ask how I was!"
The Princess looked away, disinterested. "You look a picture of health to me."
"Actually," he replied. "I went through various horrors just to get here. Terrible business it was. Shocking."
"No!" she gasped theatrically.
"I was," he whispered conspiratorially, "pricked by a thorn."
Zelda flashed him a teasing smile. "Poor baby."
"I'm glad you think so," Link said, smirking.
The Shadow Lady laughed and shook her head. "Pumpkinhead."
A look of almost childlike surprise flickered over Link's face. He let himself fall into the little game, his voice taking on an extra edge. "Pumpkinhead…pumpkinhead…" He let his finger rest against his lips, as though in deep thought. "That's a name I haven't heard since, oh before you were born."
"I'm just playing, love."
Zelda took on a pensive look. "Just playing…when I was…in thrall…to that other man –" she refused to call him 'Link' "-I had to play being his lover. I never thought I had that kind of deception in me."
Link shrugged. "I certainly thought you did."
The Princess glanced down at him. "Oh?"
"Yes…" he replied.
"I did the right thing?"
"You did what needed to be done." He grinned his ever-present grin. "I see that I've taught you well. I am pleased." She laughed and, after a moment, the Shadow Lord joined in. "Besides," he went on, "I wasn't in the least bit worried."
"No." His eyes gleamed as he gazed at her. "I trusted you, love."
She couldn't help but grin and, strange as it was, she let her gaze drop, as though she were a bashful maiden once again. "Tell me," she said after she'd recovered somewhat, "what about the Faires?"
Link scowled. "Nasty little blighters…if I'd known the trouble they'd cause I'd have had them incarcerated a long time ago."
"You did have them incarcerated," Zelda pointed out. "At least, some of them."
Link frowned in confusion. "I did?"
Almost rolling her eyes, Zelda laughed. "Those Healing Fairies you kept in bottles? Remember?"
"Oh, yes." The Shadow Lord nodded. "Best place for them."
"I'm glad you agree, love."
Zelda shook her head, her eyes sparkling with amusement. "So…the Fairies?"
"Well…" the Shadow Lord said. He flinched as the Princess playfully flicked at his brow. "The little buggers are learning to live together in 'peace and harmony'." The bite in his voice told her exactly what he thought about that particular state of affairs. "There's the occasional tiff – someone getting their wings in a twist, as usual – but at least they're not trying to kill each other."
A sudden memory popped into the Shadow Lord's mind. "Oh, yes, I forgot," he said. "They've appointed themselves a Queen. A real one, too, not the nasty little poseur that was running around beforehand."
"Let me guess," Zelda replied, blinking. "Hawthorne?"
"No." There was a sly sense of satisfaction in Link's voice. "Navi."
The Shadow Lady's eyes widened. "Navi…" she breathed. "She's going up in the world, I see. Does this mean I have to call her 'Your Majesty' and open diplomatic relations with the Fairies?"
"Banquets and balls with the Fairies," said Link. "I can hardly still myself in anticipation."
"Just try not to cause an incident by accidentally sitting on one of them."
"No, I'll cause an accident by deliberately sitting on one of them."
The Shadow Lady gave him a playful slap. "The Kokiri…" she said. "How is Saria?"
"The little love and her friends have decided to stay in their fancy new village – secluded hermit's monastery that shuts out outsiders is what I'd call it – in Killyjanmaro. They seem to be quite content there." He paused, then, "That reminds me. I'm taking you to Kokiri Forest…you haven't been, have you, love?"
"Not since I was a child…I didn't see much. The Kokiri are very insular."
"Lonely, isolated and petty that's what they are. Oh, we are so special…we're little children living all alone in the middle of a vast forest. I swear, I'm sure there are laws against this sort of thing. And they were watched over by a very old – old, I say – talking tree. Does no-one else find this strange? Does-"
"Why," said Zelda, familiar with her husband's little digressions, "are you going to take me to the Forest?"
Link glanced up at her, the earnest look back on his face. "Because you'll love it, that's why."
The Princess smiled. "Anything else I need to know?"
Swinging his legs off of the bench, the Shadow Lord of Castleton hauled himself upright, took his wife by the hand, and gently pulled her to her feet. "Just one," he said, as they began to walk onwards. "I'll like to introduce you to the team I've assigned to this garden to guard the Shadow Lady."
"Shadow Lady," Zelda said, resting her head on his shoulder once more. "I was thinking…maybe I should have a different title…one that's not connected just to you…one that shows my bond to the Royal Family as well."
Link snickered. "Don't want to live in my shadow, love, is that it?"
They went over a rise, then descended down towards the gold-gilded door that marked the entrance to the garden. "What did you have in mind?"
Zelda shrugged. "Oh, I don't know…'Twilight Princess', maybe?"
Link smiled, but said nothing. He pushed open the door. "Behold," he said, satisfaction thick in his voice. "Your new personal guards."
Zelda, her mouth agape and her blinking eyes wide, stared at the two individuals standing in front of her.
"Ah, Princess," said the taller of the two. "Just seeing you and thinking of the horrors you had to endure makes me want…to…" Tears flew from his eyes. "I'm …so sorry…I just…" He threw back his head and bawled.
"Egads…" Zelda breathed.
"Alright, then!" the smaller one said, hanging onto the other man's shoulder. "Who wants a piece of this then?" He started making rather bawdy gestures that the Princess found slightly nauseating.
Link stepped aside, grinning.
Zelda turned to stare at him. "Dark Link?"
"I know!" said the Shadow Lord. "Wonderful, isn't it?"
"Are you insane?"
The smile from Link's face vanished in a flash. "But-" he protested, genuine confusion lining his face. "It was your idea!"
The Princess gaped. "My idea?"
"Yes!" The Shadow Lord looked hurt. "You're the one who's always saying we shouldn't kill the criminals in Hyrule, that we should, instead, rehabilitate them so that they make a positive impact on society."
"Do you actually think I feel safe with him? I'd feel more secure with Tingle dancing naked in the rain."
"Oh well, that can be arranged, let me tell-"
"I cannot bloody believe-"
And so we leave the happy couple, enshrouded in the dizzy haze of true love, to their tender little confabulation, their voices scattering the birds in fright and sending small animals diving deep underground for cover. It wouldn't be long before they would kiss and make up, realising that tiny obstacles such as this were not enough to even dent the cast-iron bond - forged in the fires of friendship, mutual understanding, a penchant for avoiding certain death and a healthy dose of patience - that had grown between them. And, as with all tales involving fairies, the Shadow Lord and the Shadow Lady lived happily ever after.
Until the next time, that is.
A/N: So, the one-shot that morphed into a full-length story has now spawned a sequel. Well, that was fun; hopefully this one was a little more structured and a little less mean-spirited than the last one.
When a certain someone politely prodded me (it involved torture and threats to burn down my house) to write another Shadow Lord story, I decided I would go back to basics – to go back to the tried and trusted plots of the original Zelda games and write a fairy-tale style save-the-princess story. Only this time, the pop-culture references and the Shadow Lord's sense of humour added just an extra twist of lemon (no, not that kind of lemon! Get your minds out of the gutter!).
And, I finally filled in that plot hole from 'The Apprentice.' Since someone asked two chapters ago and for those of you that have followed all four of my stories, the 'Last of the Links' appears as a semi-good guy (I guess he learned his lesson) in the 'Moment of Truth' chapter in 'The Apprentice.' His appearance, though, contradicts the events of 'Rebel Assassin' (if you think about it) and so I had to find a different 'Last Link' to use. And so the circle is now complete (that's five Star Wars references in this story for those keeping score) and all four of my stories have a loose thread that ties them together.
A big thank-you to everyone who left a review. I really do appreciate it. Let me know what you thought of this one!
Hmm…I'm almost tempted to write a story using little Link and little Zelda…