Disclaimer: Do you know we don't even have to write these? Absolutely nothing would happen if we didn't? So why am I doing this? Er…
A/N: To anyone who happens to keep track of my work (huh, I wish!) I have not given up on A Golden Age. I've just decided not to write another poem for it until I get more reviews. I find it interesting that there's over 50 hits but only 3 reviews so far. The poems aren't that bad!
All of the love we've left behind
Watching the flash backs intertwine
Memories I will never find
Memories I will never find
Falling Away With You—Muse
The Ties That Bind
The first time he visits her, he stays out of sight. He has always found it easy to hide—easier now than it once was, because he wasn't always so small, was he? —and it's no impossible feat to linger in the shadows, silent and awkward, out of place in this palace of cool marble. He could be caught at any moment; a sound, a restless movement, anything could give him away. He is lucky to have remained here so long. Regardless, he can't quite bring himself to leave.
She does not notice him, engaged as she is in the careful weaving of a flower-chain. Red and blue flowers with woven knots of green stems—so. This prompts another flood of the memories that have plagued him these last few months, three stones; green, red, blue. An emerald from the forest. A ruby from the mountains. A sapphire from…where was it again? He closes his eyes and frowns, but the images are illusive and slip like water through the fingers of his mind. Water! He almost snaps his fingers, just restraining himself in time with a furtive glance towards the Princess. She has not noticed. Silently he slips down the wall until he can sit, legs bent, arms resting on his knees. Water, he silently chides himself. A sapphire from the waters of the Zora people. How could he have forgotten?
He knows the answer to that, of course, or at least he did. He was sent back here for a reason, a reason that was meant to do him some good. Rest, perhaps. Recuperation. No, not that. But the explanations flee his mind as he gazes at her once more. The white-and-lavender scarf still holds her hair in place, but a few honey-coloured strands stray down over her eyes and she raises a hand to brush them away. The flower-chain falls onto her lap, she toys with it absently and sets it gently aside, seemingly unwilling to discard it. Perhaps she, too, struggles with memories of other days.
Timelines are a puzzle to Link, one he cannot unravel with this half-childlike mind he has been burdened with. Part of him remembers only his childhood with the Kokiri, terminated with the knowledge of his true parentage, release from their forest and current training as one of the pages of the Royal Guard. These memories are easy to recall, but something about them is wrong and he lies awake at night straining against their bonds. If he tries hard he can remember another life; mountains of fire and waters that were sentient, owls that spoke and swords that flashed and glittered with magic from beyond the dawn of time. He can remember monsters that fled from him shrieking their terror, people who called him Hero, the Bright One, the Saviour of Hyrule. Fantasies. Children's stories. Is it wicked, he wonders, to wish that it were so?
Now, watching a girl he has never see before—except in dreams of blood and moonlight, hooves striking a drawbridge, voices raised in desperate cries—he wishes he could remember what draws him to her so. She is pretty, true, in time she will be beautiful, and kings from beyond the sea will seek her favours with riches and tales of valour and proclamations of love. It is also true that she can see the future, or so it has been whispered, in the servants' quarters on icy winter nights. But he doesn't want her prophesies and he is no king seeking a bride, though he thinks he can imagine what she would look like to one who gained her love—ruby lips curved in a shy smile, cheeks flushed, eyes bright and full of tears… tears? Another puzzle, another riddle he may never know the answer to. He should be used to it by now, he thinks, and isn't the least surprised that he is not.
She hums softly to herself in the lazy hours of that summer afternoon. Her notes lack definition, but he thinks he detects the echoes of a song. He listens to this half-melody, wonders how it would sound on an ocarina. He would not know. He has never played one.
The second time he visits, he debates whether to show himself or not and reluctantly decides against it. Once he would have done so, he knows, once when he was younger—or was it older? —when fear and hesitation were as foreign to him as defeat. He tasted defeat again that morning, as his roughly forged blade once again snaps under a guardsman's relentless swing. He should be good at swordplay, he knows, but there are no monsters to lend desperation to his battles, and no magic swords from temples or forest glades. His movements feel slow and clumsy; he misses the easy grace with which he fights in his…memories? Dreams? He will improve, the guards tell him, he is already better than any youngster they have ever known, all he needs is time. He knows time, has skipped along its trails this way and that, and it feels humiliating now to have to plod like a beggar the path of which there is no return.
For he does not like these days, he has decided. Far better a world of fear and blackness, where at least he knows himself and does not grapple with memories that make him cry out like a child—is he a child? —in the depths of the night. Better to save a land than to watch it grow torpid with its own tranquillity. Better to fight for a princess than watch her, unnoticed, from the shadows of her garden wall.
She has her nursemaid with her today, not Impa, of course—Impa? — but a small, sharp-eyed woman barely more than a girl herself. She wears a loose-fitting gown; doubtless concealing weapons, but less effective than the leather armour her predecessor sported, and her hair is black, not white like it should be. She watches Zelda with obvious affection, but he cannot help wonder what this child would do if danger threatened her Princess and her kingdom. Scream for the soldiers, most likely, and run blindly to save her own life. Who else but the Impa he vaguely recalls would ride away with her charge clasped to her breast and conceal her with spells and illusions that not even evil itself could penetrate. This place is wrong, he thinks despairingly, and even Zelda cannot make it right .
He remembers—is it remembering? Or only dreaming? — others besides Impa. He remembers a thief who decked herself in rich women's jewellery and dropped coins like pebbles in the desert for beggars to find. He remembers a woman with cool, wet hands and lips that tasted of river-water, and someone else who laughed so hard that entire mountains shook and rumbled, and rocks jumped with the rhythm of his dancing feet. He remembers a girl with an ocarina, and eyes both innocent and wise, who sang to him under the boughs of ancient trees. There was a man, too, wasn't there? A man with a voice like summer who whispered that he was the hero of legends.
The Princess—I am Zelda, call me Zelda—laughs at something her nursemaid says and tugs the headscarf from her hair. It spills onto her shoulders, a wealth of gold that shames the palace treasures, as if she somehow released sunlight from beneath her scarf. He has never seen the princess with her hair uncovered, no commoner will until she reaches her majority, and yet he knows the colour of her hair, and the fall of it, and the way she has of settling into its warmth like another mantle. But he had seen it in a temple, where dust motes made a halo around her head, and again in a room clouded with magic as he battles a darkness that no one in this happy land could even imagine. He had felt that hair on his own shoulders as her lips brushed his in the shadow of a kiss—You have saved this land, my hero—and then her hands had slipped around his, gently stealing something from his grasp—an instrument? An ocarina? —before she raised it to her lips…
Sunlight stretches across the courtyard, forcing back the shadows at the base of the marble walls. The Princess peers at them suddenly, white-gold brows meeting over eyes as blue as cornflowers. Something has caught her attention; not so much a noise perhaps as a feeling, but then, she has always been sentient. The shadows are blank; empty as ever. There is no one there.
He is not sure if he wants to visit her again. The third time is the charm, they say; doubtless he will pluck up the courage to talk to her eventually. He is not sure if he wants to. Being near her alone raises so many conflicting emotions, so many voices and visions he is left to struggle with after he leaves her. Quests and prophecies and blood, hot and burning, blood he has shed—for her? For Hyrule? Better to stay away, he thinks, and keep his sanity. Better to sleep soundly in his bed instead of remembering nights on cold ground, huddled in his cloak, feeble light cradled in his palms as he prepares to fight another day.
It never happened, he wants to cry. It never happened; the world is safe and there are no demon-kings and no sages and no heroes of time. The forest is empty of singing and the Gorons bow to another king. He has never been to Zora's domain and he may never go; children do not trek the land in search of medallions and magic stones and fairies do not come to Hylian boys, regardless of their upbringing. In spite of this, he keeps his green clothes and often catches himself cocking his ear, listening for advice in a voice like crystal raindrops. Needless to say, he is disappointed.
He will probably be disappointed again, he tells himself, if he ever takes it upon himself to meet with the Princess. Most likely she too will be a shadow of what he remembers—soft smile, childish hands clasped in greeting, you and I will save this land, Link! This is another time and another Zelda, gone are the days when fate drew them together and destiny bound them as surely as skullata-threads. She will not remember that this land is safe; green and golden, young again, because of their battles and their promises. She will not remember him.
He thinks, suddenly, that he will leave this land if she does not remember. So little holds him here already, so feeble are the ties that bind, a blank look from her would sever them altogether. He does not belong here. Perhaps heroes do not belong anywhere…even if they aren't heroes anymore. Heroes need battles to fight, and demons to slay, and a land to save…certainly Hyrule needs no saving. There is no darkness here—what use is a bright one where his light cannot be seen? She is the only thing that holds him here, best then to receive her dismissal and be free to go, free to sever the last of his bonds to this place that is everything and nothing like what he remembers.
Maybe she'll dismiss him quickly; a wave of the hand, a princess has no use for the likes of you, my good sir. Maybe she'll sympathise, my dear, I've never met you, you'd best be going, and then the rumours will start, low and underhand, that the strange boy from the forest has lost his mind at last. Maybe she'll simply shriek for the guards, and he'll never get to speak to her at all.
Or perhaps she'll smile, and beckon him to her side, gazing at him with those wise, innocent eyes of hers—who else had eyes like that? He can't remember—while echoes of a lullaby stir the flower-scented air. Perhaps she'll remember him from those other days, and they'll sit close and share whispered stories of days past or future (it doesn't matter, really— time has no meaning to a child). Perhaps she'll even tell him how they came to be that way, unwilling threads in the tapestry of fate, the design of which they can only guess at, while all around them the world turns and the grass grows and the flowers bloom, regardless…
Perhaps she will teach him what it feels like to belong.