One Hundred Days
A love story
A/N: This story is dedicated to all you fabulous people who have been waiting so very patiently for another update. Thank you all so much for your unending support! It means so much! I hope you enjoy the story, and (disclaimer) I don't own any of the characters taken from the game. Esten and Damlea and everyone else is mine, though, but if you want to borrow them, feel free. Just link back to moi!
Anyway, on with the story!
I blame the king entirely for The Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me. I didn't know that that was what it would be at the time- I just thought we were going on another of his hunting retreats, standard procedure, you know: men's month out! Every once in a while, his highness would decide enough was enough at the palace and drag a century, otherwise known as a hundred of his favorite knights (myself included) out to a mansion of his located on the other side of the Southern Wood. We'd stay there for a month and be men to our hearts content- hunting, drinking, and womanizing were always the three activities that comprised our enjoyable breaks- and then we'd go back to the palace, refreshed, ready to delve once again in to the insanity of life there.
The aforementioned insanity that went on at the palace had been at a peak when the king called us on another hunting trip- the whole place was swarming with suitors, all of whom were begging for the Princess's hand in marriage. I myself thought it was rather amusing to see her royal highness juggling men- it seemed each time I saw her, she'd be with a different man. One day, the Prince Chagnry, the next, the Heir to Ikana, and then the day after that, even the Goron Prince Darnin. It seemed everybody was chasing madly after the poor Princess, bombarding the King with offer after offer after offer of marriage to her, and finally, both King and Princess had to escape the insanity. That's where I come in.
I'm Link, just another knight in the "shining seven hundred", the knights and leaders of the king's army, comprised of roughly three thousand or so. Making knighthood and the seven hundred was hard enough- I trained from childhood to be a soldier, and though I was proclaimed a genius of the sword, knighthood was incredibly difficult to obtain, especially for one of as low birth as mine. But the king was kind and knighted me, and I found myself one of the shining, and the protégé of the king. Protégé or not, however, one must pull a miraculous deed to find himself in the King's personal century, as I learned through his Lordship himself. My own ascent came up behind us all and shocked us- in a battle once against the Gerudo, the King nearly fell to the curved blades of the heathen women, and it was by pure luck alone that I saved him, my own adversary ducking out of the way of my blade and the woman behind her, the King's foe, taking the hit. It was pure accident and sheer luck, and this strange happenstance has earned me his highness' unconditional respect. Since my ascent, I've enjoyed myself immensely being spoiled rotten and being treated as the highest of the high in the country. I get a good seat at dinner each night, I get to go hunting frequently, I have nice clothes despite the lack of any title to speak of (save for my knighthood), and the king himself knows, acknowledges ,and even respects me- and more than that, he treats me as a friend and son instead of subordinate: I am the youngest knight in all of his century, and the same age as his daughter and sole heir, the princess. There have been times when he has asked me, friend to friend, for advice on his daughter, Zelda, and those are the times that I've done my very best not to let him down. My life for his in battle is one thing- my words for his daughter's happiness is something entirely different.
Despite the obvious factor of age, I still am uncertain why he asks me of all people about Zelda. She and I grew up worlds apart, and despite my spoiling, are still worlds apart. My set of values and reasoning, my education, my future and fate are all far removed from the princess, and moreover, I've only spoken with her once. Nevertheless, the king seems to insist that I alone know what's best for a woman I've only spoken with once, who my only knowledge of comes from observation and from the king himself- maybe he chose me because I seem to notice things a lot of the other knights don't. Not that they're clueless, or dense, or even anything other than sharp. I just so happen to be slightly more perceptive because I people watch. And, on the orders of the King (and moreover, as requested by a friend) I have watched the princess Zelda. She is, however, one mind that it seems impossible for me to figure out, despite how much I knew about her already, courtesy of her father, who often speaks of her to me as a father would tell his often absent son about his daughter's escapades. Not that the Princess looks upon me as a brother, though- possibly a distant friend of her father's, but I digress.
I was surprised to find that Princess Zelda was coming on the hunting retreat with us- I wasn't aware she knew how to hunt, or cared for the sport, or anything. More astounding was that she was accompanied by only five of her ladies, and even then, only because that was what was proper, as I overheard her telling her father. I myself didn't know if she was only coming because it was an excuse to escape the palace, or because she actually wanted to go hunting. So on the ride to the mansion, I watched.
I'd always known the princess was sharp and perceptive- I watched her eyes trail the paths of two rabbits that I myself wouldn't have noticed, saw the way her lips quirked up at a cry of one of the king's hunting falcons- my own falcon was being brought along as well by entourage of five falconers who accompanied us every time on the hunt. She rode easy on her steed, a beautiful glossy black stallion called Hengest, who she affectionately called "Henny" or "Handsome" in turn. She chatted little, despite her maids' ceaseless gossiping banter. Several of my fellow knights looked rather put out about having women along on the trip, while others were practically squirming in their seats with eager anticipation of the ravishing that would ensue.
The mansion was far away from the castle and its reaches- it was two days' ride to the south, though it only took a day to reach the forest that it was located beyond. We camped that night just beyond the trees in Hyrule Field, pitching our tents and building campfires, eating the food we'd brought from the castle on logs, talking all the while.
I was sitting before my own particular campfire, enjoying my meal and the company of my trusty horse, Epona, all by myself. My good friend Esten had unfortunately stayed at the castle at the king's election for this hunt, not only to keep the peace as Esten was one of the highest ranking knights in all the country, but also as his wife was expected to give birth soon. On this particular trip, it seemed I would be alone- I didn't mind, however. Solitude brought no loneliness to me. This is why I was very surprised when I found myself joined by the princess herself.
I stopped mid-munch, raising my eyebrows at her as she sat down on the log next to me. She shot me a grin, pulling out a sandwich much like my own that she had obviously pilfered from the kitchen earlier that morning- just like me.
"They're all staring at me," she offered by way of explanation. "I don't think they like the idea of a woman sitting around the campfire with them. Or they're afraid my maids'll join me." The princess gave a laugh, and it was all I could do not to swallow my bite whole. Had she hit her head on a rock? Never in all my observation had I seen her behaving like this.
"Well don't look so surprised," she stated as I blinked cluelessly at her. "You were sitting all alone, and what sort of person would I be if I let you sit here all by yourself?"
I swallowed, managing to get my mouth to work again. "I don't mind being alone," I told her. "It's good time to think."
"I agree," the princess said, looking into the fire. For a moment, a brooding expression darkened her countenance as she studied the orange flames- then she smiled and it was gone. "I'm glad to be gone from the palace. I get no solitude there. There's always someone around- maids, suitors, escorts, suitors, my father, suitors… it's like privacy isn't allowed."
"None of us have any," I replied, biting off another hunk of my sandwich. Chew, swallow. Then: "I used to be stuck in a general barracks with all the other soldiers. It drove me insane. There was always someone around no matter what, or someone awake at three in the morning, or someone sick, or even worse, someone snoring in the bunk above you when you were trying to sleep the night before review. It was awful."
The princess made a little face and then laughed. "I can't imagine," she replied. "At least I can dismiss my maids at night and have some small amount of time to myself before I collapse from exhaustion. You're Sir Link, by the way, are you not?"
"Yes," I replied, again startled. "And feel free to call me simply Link. Honestly, I'm surprised you remembered my name at all."
"Bother," stated the princess, shaking her hair, which had been left down around her shoulders. "We've met before."
"Once," I replied with a little smirk. "At a ball. When you were running away from that fancy duke…whatshisface."
"Lord Ryder," laughed the princess. "I couldn't help it! He was truly irritating me. You weren't angry that I spilled punch all over your doublet, were you?"
I shrugged smiling. "No, highness. I never liked that doublet much anyway."
A frown creased her pretty features, and she looked into the fire as she took another bite from her sandwich. I bit my lip, worried. "Have I offended you?"
"Please call me Zelda as well," she said after a long moment. "I know that my father views you as a close and trustworthy friend, and speaks of you often and fondly. He considers you almost like a son, or a nephew." She shot me a brilliant smile, saying, "it's the least I can do to allow you to use my name. Besides, Link, I have the feeling that we'll be becoming good friends on this particular trip."
This was shocking. "But your ladies…"
"Are a bunch of worrying hags who are too afraid of you 'savages' to even come out from their tents," she blurted out, and then covered her mouth with laughter. "You mustn't repeat that I said that or Marianne will have my head!"
Her buoyancy was contagious. I smiled, laughing a little too, my tensions easing. Inside, though, my mind was whirling. This was nothing like the Princess Zelda that I'd observed before, this loose, bubbling, friendly girl so different from the reserved monarch that drifted powerfully through castle life. My only conclusion was a division between self and soul- a Princess and a Zelda, two totally different people.
This was confusing, but still, I smiled, and allowed myself to slip into easy conversation with the princess- no, with Zelda. And it looked as though she'd been right in her prediction that we would be becoming good friends as we related interests, upbringing, and who we disliked most at the palace. Somewhere within me, I hoped that this wouldn't be just a passing friendship, that even once she returned to the palace and resumed her regal composure, Zelda and I would still be friends.
But that would have been a lot to hope for, or so I thought.
We arrived at the manor the next afternoon where a small army of servants who lived there greeted us. We all dispersed to our respective rooms- two knights to a room, and as Esten and I usually boarded together, I had a chamber all to myself. Thus, I didn't have to race someone to "claim the best bed", and so I found myself in the stables tacking down Epona- in the stall next to me, the princess was doing the same, humming lightly as she did so.
"You had that horse long?" I asked as I began to brush down Epona, despite the fact that I already knew the answer- I'd picked out the horse myself for the princess' birthday two years back, as requested by the king.
"He was a birthday gift year before last," the princess called back. "I've been out working with him whenever I could since then. I finally got him tame enough to ride near other horses. Even when he was a hellcat, I loved him and he loved me. Right Henny?"
Hengest gave a little whicker and stamped one of his hooves. The princess laughed lightly at him, and I looked over my shoulder to see her tousle his main and kiss his cheek before resuming her work. I smiled lightly to myself- she had so much spirit. It was astounding.
I finished tacking down Epona, slipped her an extra carrot, and stood waiting for the princess to finish tacking down Hengest. She was surprisingly deft in her work, finishing less than a minute after I did.
"Thank you for waiting for me." She tossed me a slightly frazzled smile that caused my heart to drop out. "It was very kind of you."
She was indisputably beautiful- her sleek sunshine hair was hanging down her back in a simple braid that ended just below her shoulder blades, from which a few wisps had escaped to frame her face. Her sparkling blue eyes were bright, cheeks rosy, lips full and red and smiling. And then I shook it off- she was also a princess.
"Just being a good person," I replied shakily, offering her my elbow. "Shall I escort you back up to the manor?"
"Why yes you shall!" She swept her travel skirts up with one hand and placed her elbow neatly in the crook of my arm with her other. "And if my ladies begin to ask about you, I'll tell them that you were so kind as to escort me out to the stables, as I am a weak female unable to do anything myself. That's what they like to hear- or something of that sort, anyway. You know, damsels in distress being rescued by knights who are all chivalry and honor…"
"Chivalry and honor," I said thoughtfully. "And knights. Why are those three things associated with one another so often?"
"Possibly because you knights are painted as heroes," the princess replied teasingly. "Picking up ladies' handkerchiefs, riding bravely into battle…"
"…rescuing small animals from trees," I added, chuckling at the memory of six knights attempting to get a small dog out of one tree in the market that had been causing one merchant particular trouble. Zelda giggled lightly, and I grinned.
"What I don't understand," the princess stated simply, her fingers drumming a little cadence on my arm that made my whole body tingle, "is why the damsels must always be in distress! I wish we women could be allowed to take care of ourselves." Zelda sighed, looking skywards. "What I wouldn't give to be a mistress of archery."
It could have been the elegant pout of her rosy lips or the fact that she somehow had ensnared me, body and soul, but I found the words bubbling out before I could stop them: "I could teach you the ways of the bow."
She clapped, delighted. "Oh, Link, would you really?" She beamed brilliantly at me, and then sobered, straightening herself. "Someone's coming," she shot to me out of the corner of her mouth, her carefree gait transforming into one of stately pride as she nodded to the doors of the manor, which were opening ahead of us. I caught on immediately, straightening up as well, and smiled dashingly down at the princess.
"As I was saying, Milady, the Lake is beautiful at this time of year. The waters are a remarkable shade of blue, and the many flowers surrounding it are in bloom."
"Why, Sir Link," Zelda stated charmingly, "it sounds truly lovely. Perhaps I can commission my father to take a short side trip there upon our return trip home? I am aware that it is a day out of our way, but it would be so wonderful to see such a beautiful sight."
"Of a certainty, Highness, it is lovely," I concurred, keeping my face carefully devoid of the laughter that was sure to erupt any moment, "but there are many lovelier things closer to home. Kakariko Village, I do believe, is said to be breathtaking this time of year, though I am afraid I can't attest to that, as I was stationed in Kakariko during the cold of winter."
Two older knights passed by us on the right as they trotted down the manor steps, bowing to Zelda and nodding to me. Zelda curtsied in return and I bowed as well, and then carefully guided the princess up the steps of the manor, holding a door open for her.
"Why thank you, Sir Link," she stated cordially, and stepped inside. I followed after, and the moment the doors were shut we burst into a fit of laughter.
"Were you really stationed at Kakariko during the winter?" She asked me, and I nodded, laughing.
"And it was miserable! The place is freezing in the winter- I'm surprised I escaped with all my fingers and toes."
This sent Zelda into another round of the giggles, and then she straightened up.
"Kindly, do escort me to my room. I'm afraid I haven't been here before…"
"This place isn't quite as confusing as the castle," I stated as I led her around a corner. "It is, after all, just a manor. Our rooms are in the west wing, and we dine in the main wing, in the great hall. Stables and the falconry is to the north- that's where we came in. To the west is mostly unused- meeting rooms, parlors, the like. Ah, you are actually hunting with us, correct?"
"I love to hunt, Sir Link," Zelda stated genially, resuming a stately walk. "I find the chase thrilling, though that is terribly unladylike of me. Despite my recent tribulations at court, I would not have come along on this trip if I had not intended to partake in the activities." Zelda looked a little sadder as she stated, "this also my be my last chance to engage in such before I am wed."
I nearly slipped. "What do you…" her eyes widened, as though to warn me of my incoming idiotic remark, and I quickly caught myself, "…prefer to hunt, higness? Which kind of game is your favorite?"
"I favor hunting for smaller creatures, such as rabbits, Sir Link. I must confess, I am not disposed towards hunting for venison, for no reason other than it saddens me to see such a majestic creature put to the shame of such a death."
It had been wise of Zelda to pick up our little ruse, as more and more we found ourselves in the company of the other knights. I trusted the king's century with my life, his life, and Zelda's life, but when it came to court, many of the knights were utter barbarians, or worse- they would tell the king of Zelda's informal behavior, and where the princess would be then, I didn't want to imagine. So we played our secret game until I had escorted Zelda to her rooms. She left me wish promises to come and find me at dinner that night, and entered her room, leaving me standing in the hallway. One of her maids began to squawk, and I smiled and turned away as I heard Zelda beginning to relate the story of my helping her tack down Henny, who was just too difficult for a woman as delicate as her to handle sometimes.
I walked to my room and entered, throwing down my saddle bag and flopping upon my bed, staring at the rafters above my head. Zelda's words of earlier rebounded within my head- "this may also be my last chance to engage in such before I am wed"… "last chance"… "before I am wed"… "wed"…
I awoke with a start and realized blearily that I might have missed dinner. I wondered that I'd fallen so suddenly asleep and, snorting and sniffing, pulled myself out of bed and meandered down to the great hall. It looked as though I was in luck- several other knights were just entering the hall for dinner. I sat down next to the end at one table, remembering Zelda's promise to come and meet me at dinner, and blankly stared ahead of me, only coming out of my slight trance when a buxom maid walked over with a platter of roast pheasant, setting it down smartly in front of me and snapping me out of my thoughtless inattention.
"Glad to see you knights are back," the maid said to me, waggling a finger. "The manor's dreadfully boring when it's just the servants. I don't suppose," she leaned closer, and my eyes were involuntarily drawn to her large bosom, "that I could endeavor you to a little fun tonight? You're the best looking of all the men here, I think."
"Not tonight," I said, forcing my eyes back up to her face and swallowing. "Perhaps tomorrow."
She pouted with her luscious lips even as she curtsied. "You can come find me if you change your mind." And then she was off.
"I can't help but ponder how long it'll take before that attitude possesses my maids and this entire building goes wild?"
"I'd say about a week, give or take. Good evening, milady." It was all I could do to restrain the red pinwheels of embarrassment in my cheeks. How humiliating that Zelda had walked in just as I was commissioned for a wild night of carnal pleasures.
"Swallow your shame, Sir Link," the princess said, taking a seat across from me. "I don't blame you for her behavior."
My embarrassment abated slightly. I smiled at her as I began to dig into my roast pheasant and asked genially, "how was your afternoon, highness?"
"Rather boring, I confess," Zelda replied, smirking a little. "My maids kept me locked in my chambers with nothing to do. They wanted to keep me up there and 'safe' for dinner, too, saying that they would ring up some servers to bring us our meals in my quarters, but I refused, and here I am."
A manservant carrying a steaming platter set it down before Zelda, then turned on heel and left.
"It's pleasing that you chose to venture into company tonight," I replied, carefully chewing a hunk of pheasant. "My closest friend, Esten, unfortunately had to remain at the palace for this particular trip, to oversee your suitors and to await the birth of his son. His wife is due this month, see. I have yet to develop a closer bond with many of the other knights in this century. They're all much older than I," I added. Zelda nodded, smiling, and swallowed her meat.
"It's nice that you and I are the same age. All my maids are at least five years older than I, and their company is tiring."
A maid came over then and dropped a curtsy, eyed me up curiously, and then said to Zelda, "beggin' your pardon, milady, but the King wishes you to join him at the high table for supper t'night."
"Ah, I should have surmised he would," Zelda replied with a little sigh, shaking her head. "Thank you."
Zelda stood and gave me a smile, and I stood as well. "It was a pleasure talking to you, as always, Sir Link. Perhaps tomorrow you will accompany me around on the hunt?"
"I would be delighted. Good evening, Highness."
"Good evening." Zelda dropped a curtsy and I bowed, and she was away, a maid following her and carrying her platter. I sighed and dropped back into my chair, suddenly lonely. For a while, I picked at my pheasant, and then on a whim, wrapped my meal up in a napkin and left the hall for the stables, where I ate with Epona.
That evening as I was walking back to my room, I heard Zelda's beautiful voice and stopped. She was in her father's chambers, and arguing with him by the sound of it.
"I don't want to marry any of them," I heard her exclaim vehemently. "They're all snotty, spoiled, stuck up, and after your throne. I don't know a single one of them that would make half the king you would… Darunia's son is the only decent one of them all, but too soft-hearted to lead this kingdom, and the Hyrulians would hardly accept him as a leader."
"You have a soft spot for the Goron Pince?" the king asked, surprised, and I felt my heart drop out.
Her response was shrill. "As a friend, yes, father, I do. Darnin has been my steady friend from the cradle. I would see the world for him, and yet I could not be his wife, nor could he be my husband. Father," Zelda's tone took on a note of attempted patience, "I want the best for Hyrule, as well as for you and for myself. None of these men are what's best for the country, or for you, or me. They're all greedy and unjust, and I would be mistreated and miserable, which would in turn make Hyrule an utter mess. Listen," she tried again. "You loved mother, didn't you?"
The king's voice was sad. "With all my heart, I did."
"Your marriage was happy and prosperous and you led the country well then. The people of Hyrule saw the unity of the Royal Family, and in turn, united gladly under you. If I marry any of these men, it's going to be the opposite!" Zelda's voice escalated, and I heard her take a deep breath. "I know," she continued, "that I'm nearing womanhood, and I know that you are aging and need an heir. Here's my proposal." Zelda took several long deep breaths, and then there was silence. All my senses were at peak- from what was happening inside the room to the empty halls around me. If someone caught me eavesdropping like this….
"Give me one hundred days," Zelda suddenly stated. "A hundred days to find a man who would make a good king, or, if I can find none, a hundred days to find a man who I would be happy with as my escort. I intend to lead this country if no other is worthy, but it is imperative that I have a partner I can be happy with, no matter what." Zelda sighed, and I could practically hear her bowing her head. "Please, father. One hundred days is all I ask. On the Day of Din, you can proclaim to the whole kingdom that you have found a husband for the princess, and tell them his name. If I can find no one, you will choose the suitor that you think would make the best ruler, my happiness aside. Please, Father." Her voice was imploring, begging. "I only want what is best for Hyrule, and I think this is best. No matter what, in one hundred days you will have the future of Hyrule secured. A hundred days is all I ask."
The room was so quiet I was certain that they could hear my almost-inaudible breathing out in the hallway. I looked carefully around, and then glanced back at the door to the King's chambers. At long last came his quiet answer.
"You've been thinking on this for a long time, haven't you?"
"Do you already have someone in mind?"
"I have several small ideas, but I doubt that they will amount to anything. Either way, we will see."
There was a pause, and then the king said slowly, "Zelda, I really do want you to be happy-"
"Then give me this chance," Zelda stated. "If I wind up in a marriage I didn't choose, at least I will know that I did all that was within my power, and that it is no fault of mine, and just the path that the Goddesses have chosen for me. I will be happy," Zelda added. "As long as I have my chance, even if I fail I will be happy because I will know that it is my destiny. Please, father. Please."
Another long pause. Finally, the king spoke two words. "Very well."
I turned and quietly made my way to my room, mind whirling. What was Zelda doing? Who did she have in mind? I scanned through people in my head that I'd seen with her, various princes and courtiers and dukes. None of them struck a bell, but I had quickly learned that the princess was incredibly perceptive and amazing at hiding her opinions and thoughts. But who did she have in mind? Who did she think would be a good leader? Who knew so much about the monarchy and the governing of the country that they could ascend to the throne or to her side with relatively few problems? One of her fathers advisors? They all seemed so old, too old for Zelda…
I stripped and got into bed, blew out my candle, and rolled around in my sheets, wondering.
Who would Zelda trust that much? Who had given infallible advice time after time? Who, who, who…
I slipped into uneasy repose, the same cadence echoing through my dreams all night long. Who, who, who…
Uploaded: Wednesday, November 2, 2005. 7:35 PM Central