Chapter 16: Ow, My Brain

The sun was peeking over the waves when we got to the Tower of the Gods. I'd managed to stop shaking, but I still felt weak. I don't know if I had a concussion or something, or if it was just all the stress and lack of sleep catching up with me, but I hated it. I felt so helpless.

The little frown on Tetra's face had disappeared after a while, so I assumed she'd slipped from unconsciousness into sleep. I didn't know much about medicine. I knew you should eat a balanced diet and wash any wound that broke the skin. I knew you should put ice on any swelled bits, and not go to sleep if you'd been hit in the head. I didn't know why you should do all of those things, but most of the time I remembered to do them. As far as I knew though, none of those things applied to Tetra. I didn't know why she'd passed out, or if she was hurt, and I was afraid to touch her in case she woke up and hit me.

Luckily she did wake up when we got to the land beneath the sea. I'd just been debating shaking her shoulder or something, when she twitched and groaned.

"Ohhh... Owwww..." She sat up and winced, catching sight of me. "Link! You're all right?" she put a hand out toward me and I took it, helping her to her feet.

"I'm fine, just a little sore. What about you?"

She shook her head. "I don't know. I don't remember-" She looked around "What is this place? Hey! And Ganondorf! What happened to him?"

"Well, the-"

I was interrupted by buzzing from my chest. I pulled the charm out of my shirt, and heard King's voice come from it.

"Link! You must come now to the room where you got the Master Sword!"

"Who is using that stone?" Tetra asked, more to herself than to me. She addressed the necklace directly. "Just who are you? Link and I are the only ones who can speak through this stone! How dare you use what's not yours?"

I blinked at that. She sounded downright hurt.

"Your name is Tetra, correct? You must come with Link to see me at once!" King's voice said. Or at least it sounded like him. But the boat's carved head wasn't moving at all. Then who…

"Hmph!" Tetra folded her arms. "Well, don't you sound important! Fine, we're on our way. Just hold your horses, whoever you are." She grabbed my arm. "Come on, Link, you heard the stone. You're supposed to show me how to get to where that voice is."

"Er, right, it's this way."

Tetra barely gave the castle a once-over as we walked inside, and merely snorted at the décor. I felt the urge to draw her attention to the portraits, but couldn't seem to find my voice. Something was niggling at the back of my brain, something that I felt like I should have noticed or should have realized. Whatever it was, it still eluded me.

"Down here," I said, starting down the stairs.

Tetra ignored me, staring up at the statue of the Hero of Time.

"What is it?"

"You," she looked down at me and grinned, cocking her head a bit. "I thought I'd seen those clothes somewhere before. I wonder why I never noticed before."

"Huh?" I glanced down at myself. "Oh yeah, I almost forgot I was still wearing this stuff."

"It sort of suits you." She came down the stairs, grin softening into a genuine smile. "Green brings out your eyes."

I felt my ears getting hot. "You-you think so?"

"Yup! Bit dorky too. Perfect for you."

"Hey!"

She laughed. "Bit dorky," she repeated, "but overall heroic."

I blinked.

"Come on," she went down a step. "Down here, right?"

"Uh, right."

The dim colored light just barely illuminated the doorway, and it took a few seconds before our eyes adjusted enough to tell objects from shadows. It took significantly less time for me to realize that the room wasn't as I remembered it.

There was a man standing there, with his back to the door. He was tall, dressed in red, had white hair, and what looked like a crown on his head.

Several thoughts flashed through my mind. The King of Red Lions, the portraits in the hall, the conversations with Jabun and Valoo, the pirate's charm, what little I knew of the old legends.

I could almost feel myself slip into shock.

"Are you him?" Tetra demanded. "Are you the one who was speaking through my stone without my permission? Answer me!"

The man spoke with a deep rumbling voice I knew all too well. "This stone is an enhanced version of the Gossip Stones long spoken of in the legends of the Hyrulian Royal Family. I am the one who made it."

"You made it?" Tetra raised one eyebrow. "The royal family's Gossip Stone? I have no idea what you're talking about."

"Have neither of you have heard the tales? The tales of the kingdom spoken of in the legend of the great hero. The place where the power of the gods lies hidden. This place, where the two of you now stand, is that kingdom. This is Hyrule. And I am its king: Daphnes Nohansen Hyrule."

He turned, and sure enough he was the king from the portrait. The artist had made him look a bit younger, a bit slimmer, and a bit more stern, but there was no doubt it was him.

I saw, out of the corner of my eye, a look on Tetra's face that was a milder version of what I was feeling. Like the world was going crazy and she wanted to fight against it, but knew she couldn't. Still, the effort had to be made.

"Link, do you not recognize my voice?" the king said.

"Oh, I recognize it all right," I said. "But I thought you were back upstairs."

"Indeed, I am the one who guided you here. I am the King of Red Lions."

Tetra made a strangled sound.

"I'm mad at you, by the way," I added.

"You have a right to be," he admitted. "I felt there was no need for me to reveal my true identity to you so long as the Master Sword could defeat Ganon. But now..." He trailed off, and when he spoke again he seemed to have changed what he was going to say.

"Both of you must listen to me. Once, long ago, this land of Hyrule was turned into a world of shadows by Ganon, who sought to obtain the power of the gods for his own evil ends. My power alone could not stop the fiend, and our only choice was to leave the fate of the kingdom in the hands of the gods. When the gods heard our pleas, they chose to seal away not only Ganon, but Hyrule itself..." His expression turned grave. "And so, with a torrential downpour of rains from the heavens, our fair kingdom was soon buried beneath the waves, forgotten at the bottom of the ocean.

"Yet all was not lost. For the gods knew that to seal away the people with the kingdom would be to grant Ganon's wish for the destruction of the land. So, before the sealing of the kingdom, the gods chose those who would build a new country and commanded them to take refuge on the mountaintops." He looked at me and Tetra. "Those people were your ancestors. Hundreds of years have passed since then... So long as Ganondorf was not revived, Hyrule would remain below, never waking from its slumber."

He was silent for a long moment, looking at the patters the stained glass windows made on the floor.

"Tetra, come to me," he said finally. She did; there was no arguing with that tone. He held out his hand, and the gold necklace from before again floated up out of her shirt and both it and his hand started to glow.

"The necklace you wear is part of a sacred treasure called the Triforce of Wisdom, which has been passed down for many ages within the royal family of Hyrule. Your mother passed this down to you and instructed you to treasure it and guard it with your life. Am I not correct?"

She nodded. "But how-"

The king interrupted her. "The Triforce of Wisdom is none other than the sacred power of the gods that we have kept from Ganon's clutches for so many long years. The gods placed upon your ancestors the task of protecting it from evil's grasp. You, too, must abide by the laws of the past..." He looked sad. "And so the time has come for me to teach you the fate into which you were born, the very reason that you live."

The king's other hand began to glow too, forming a triangle with Tetra's necklace. The light grew brighter and brighter, until I had to shield my eyes, and when it died down…

I stared in shock at the scene before me. The king from the portrait, and now the princess as well. Except it wasn't the princess, it was Tetra.

Her tan had faded and her hair was flowing loose around her shoulders, kept out of her face with a gold tiara. She was wearing a pink dress with more gold accessories, and long white gloves.

She looked beautiful, but she didn't look like herself.

On the back of her right hand three triangles appeared, the Triforce, and one of them glowed.

"My...fate..." Tetra's voice came from the princess's mouth. She sounded distinctly shell-shocked.

"You are the true hero of the royal family of Hyrule" the king said. "The last link in the bloodline. You are Princess Zelda."

"Zelda?" Tetra repeated. "I'm...a princess?"

"You are confused, aren't you? I suppose such is to be expected."

I thought "confused" was probably the understatement of the century, but didn't say anything.

Tetra looked back at me, and she looked so lost, so scared, so overwhelmed, that something went wrenched inside of me. In that moment, I knew I would do anything, anything, to help her. I would go to the ends of the earth, face down monsters great and small, risk death and dismemberment, anything, as long as I never saw that look in her eyes again. Whether she wanted me or not, I was hers now.

In retrospect, that was probably the moment I fell in love.

"Link!" the king said, forcing my attention back to him. "I am terribly sorry that you have been caught up in these events, but now that it is known that Tetra is indeed Princess Zelda Ganon will be searching frantically for this child in an attempt to get the power of the gods she possesses. He will not rest until he has found her. If he succeeds, my ancient kingdom under the sea will be turned into a land of shadow and despair... and so will the world you know above the waves." The world above the waves wasn't as important as the girl beneath it at the moment, but I sensed somehow that shadows and despair were a bad thing. "Link, I need you to lend me your strength in this dark hour. I have a suspicion about what has caused the Master Sword to lose its power. I need for you to come with me back to the lands above the water and return the power to repel evil to the Master Sword."

I nodded. "Right."

He turned back to Tetra. "Zelda, it is far too dangerous for you to join us in this task. Fortunately, this sacred chamber is not yet known to Ganon. It is my wish that you wait here in hiding until we return."

"But-"

He vanished, poof, before she could get another word out, and I heard his voice from behind me.

"Link! We must go!"

I turned in time to see him in the doorway, then he vanished once more. Just winked out of existence.

He was dead, I realized suddenly. A spirit, bound to his kingdom and his descendants. He and I were going to have to have a serious talk, and soon.

"Link," Tetra said, her voice holding that same heartbreaking note of loss as her eyes had. I looked at her, and saw she was literally wringing her hands, face screwed up in pain. "I- I don't know how to say this…"

"It's all right," I said, trying to sound comforting, "Tetra."

She almost jumped at the sound of her name, then shook her head. "Everything that's happened to you and your poor sister... It's all been my fault… I- I'm so sorry."

"No!" I exclaimed. "Tetra, no! It's not your fault! You didn't know about any of this! You've already helped me when you didn't have to, you-"

"But it's because of me!" There were tears in her eye. Tears. In her eyes. "Because I'm the princess! Ganon was looking for me. I brought that bird to your island. I- I-"

"It. Is. Not. Your. Fault." I said it slowly and carefully. "I chose to get involved in this. I could have stayed on Outset, safe and sound."

"I wish you had!" She stared at the floor, her face now doing that 'I'm-not-gonna-cry' frown. "I don't want anything to happen to you…"

I took a step toward her. "Nothing is."

"I wish I could go with you…"

"You're safer here." I took another step.

"I don't want to be safe."

"Tetra…"

I was close enough to touch her now, and I wanted nothing more. My "crying girl" instinct, the one that makes all men want to wrap their arms around the girl in question and tell her everything is going to be all right, was in overdrive.

But something was holding me back. My subconscious had built an invisible wall to keep me from doing something sublimely stupid. But what…

Tetra's fist was clenched hard in that white glove, shaking a little. She was frowning so hard I thought the lines would be permanently etched into her face. If she had been anyone else, hell if she had been me, she would be sobbing by now. But Tetra refused to cry. Even now, even when it was just me, she wouldn't show weakness.

Tetra may have looked like Princess Zelda, but she was still Captain Tetra at heart. She was a princess by birth, but a pirate by nature.

If I had hugged her, she would never have forgiven me.

So I shrugged my shoulders, smirked, and said. "You'd just get in my way."

She blinked in surprise, and looked up at me. I smirked at her. She squinted and cocked her head.

"I would get in your way?"

"That's what I said."

"Why you cocky little-" She shoved at my shoulder, tears forgotten. "Is that any way to speak to a princess?"

"Princess? Ha! I'd say I'll believe it when I see it, but I see it and I still don't believe it. It'll take more than an accident of birth to turn you into someone I could bow to." It had taken much less, actually, but I wasn't going to tell her that.

"You seem to be forgetting I'm still your captain. You owe me for getting you off that dinky little island."

I waved my hand casually. "I would have gotten off by myself eventually."

"Bullshit. Without me, you'd still be gutting fish with that old rusty sword of yours."

"Well then, Captain, what's your assessment of the current situation?"

She looked at me for a moment, than looked around the room, then her face grew distant, and a shadow of her previous sorrow crossed it.

"I'm what Ganon wants, and you've got what can defeat him. But it can't defeat him, not yet." She bit her lips. "It's…probably better if I stay here. Where he can't get me. Just until you recharge the sword or whatever!" She pointed at me. "The second that sword is worth its weight, you come back and get me. That's an order!"

I saluted smartly. "Aye-aye Cap'n!"

I turned and started for the door, but Tetra's voice stopped me.

"Link?" Tetra had yet anther new expression on her face. She almost looked…shy? No way. Of all the crazy things that had happened today, that I couldn't believe. She looked up at me, not-shyness in her eyes. "Have you…ever kissed a girl?"

"Of course!" I responded automatically.

"A girl who's not your sister or your grandmother."

"Er…"

"That's what I thought." She smirked a little, that old cockiness coming back, and started walking toward me. "It's not right, for someone to die before they've even had their first kiss… In fact, I forbid it."

"For- forbid it?" Dammit, why was I stuttering?

"Uh-huh." She looked at me with half-lidded eyes and let a slow smile spread across her face. "Link, as your captain I forbid you from dying before you receive your first kiss. And as your princess…" She reached out with one gloved hand, and placed a finger on my lips. "I call dibs."

I blinked. "Dibs?"

"That's right. Dibs. So don't go kissing any other girls."

"Never," I said before I could stop myself.

"All right then." She withdrew her hand and stepped back. "Well, what are you waiting for? Go save the world!"

I found myself grinning like an idiot, and I didn't care. "Aye-aye Cap'n!"

I saluted again, then swung my arm down and turned it into a bow. Tetra's laughter followed me as I ran out of the room and up the stairs.

As soon as I was out of the way, the statue of the Hero of Time slid back over the hole, sealing Tetra inside. I looked down at the seam between statue and floor for a second, then raised my head and looked up at the statue.

"I think I understand you a little better now," I said to the legendary hero. "You had a princess too, didn't you?"

And with that, I went to have a talk with my boat.

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AN:

Excuse me for a moment while I laugh maniacally.

BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!! Heheh. Ha... Whoo... Okay.

I've had this scene in my head almost since I first got the idea to write this. Tetra calling dibs on Link's first kiss. Still funny!

I think I've found a better way to make sure I update on time. It means the updates on my other story will be more sporadic, but I think it's worth it. I've only got one or two more chapters I can write in that one before I need to take a break and figure out the plot. It's a bad idea to start writing beofre you know what you want to write. I learned that lesson the hard way.

Happy reading!