Mornings in the Royal Castle were always the best part. All the guards were sleepy and none of them were holding onto their possessions very well; it was easy for Sheik to slip by and snatch things out of their pockets.

Even if he was only thirteen years old.

He grinned devilishly as he flipped down from the ceiling, landing with a cat's grace just behind a sleeping Guard Captain. He reached two fingers around his neck and filched the ruby amulet from around his shoulders, bearing the Royal Crest, and then shoved it into his pockets.

Zelda would be ticked at him, but… well, it was too fun to resist.

Suddenly a door blew open and Impa stormed into the room, awakening the Guard Captain with a jolt. His hands flew to his neck and he snarled out: "Hey, yeh little maggot o' a Sheikah! Yeh stole my amulet!"

But Sheik had retreated into the shadows again.

Unfortunately, the person who'd just entered was more than capable of finding him. The Guard Captain fumbled for a second and then stood at attention. "Oh, oh! Ah.. er.. mornin' there, miss Impa! M'apologies, but I'd reckon I jess got stolen from."

"And indeed you did. Sheik, the Princess wants to see you."

Sheik blinked, coming out of the shadows suddenly, hands thrust nonchalantly into the pockets of his Sheikah clothing. The cloth wrapped around his face couldn't hide his smile, though: "What, am I in trouble again?"

"No. And give back this man his necklace, will you?"

Sheik snorted. "No way. I earned it."

"You'll never be a full-blooded Sheikah if you keep that up, you little bastard," she retorted with her face aflame. Sheik gave her a shrug and bounded over the nearest balustrade and down to the flight of steps below, leaping easily without any remorse at all. "So maybe I don't want to!" he called back up.

He dropped from a small balcony to Zelda's garden below. She was standing in the midst of it, jaw open, hands clutched to her neck, staring at something in the doorway.

"Hey, Princess. You called for me?"

There was a figure in the doorway, a small boy in green garb, his shortsword slung casually over his back and a wooden shield strapped onto one shoulder. His ears were long and pointed and his blonde hair was almost entirely concealed beneath a long green cap.

"I—oh, did I?" she suddenly smiled knowingly, though at what, Sheik didn't know. She came over and took Sheik's hand, leading him over to the boy in the doorway. He couldn't have been more than half a year younger than Sheik, he noticed.

"You're Link, aren't you?" she asked the Kokiri, who nodded: "How'd you know?"

"Oh, I… just do," she said with a mild shrug. "This is my Royal Spy, and he's a Sheikah, too. His name's Sheik."

Link chuckled. "Good name. I came to make diplomacy between the Kokiri and the Hylians, miss Princess Zelda… the Deku Tree sent me?"

"Yes, yes. Talk to Sheik; he's in charge of all that." She waved one hand. "I hate that sort of thing. Politics and whatnot. You're going to live here for a while, though, so I'll have your things assorted upstairs, Link."

Link nodded, then turned to Sheik. "What do you do here for fun?"

"Steal stuff, mostly." Sheik grinned, revealing white, even teeth. At age thirteen he was rather short, but Impa had assured him he'd shoot up, and he was developed enough to have the beginnings of a lankish, slightly muscular form.

Link blinked. "Steal? But that's… wrong!"

"Nah, half the time they don't even realize it's missing," Sheik replied. "I'll teach you if you want."

"You'd do that?" Link's face lit up. He looked like an eager little kid, not the twelve-and-a-half he was.

"Sure. Meet me in my room tonight and I'll show you. It's upstairs on the third level, fourth room down." He folded his arms. "You look familiar to me."

"Yeah, I was noticing the same thing," Link said, and furrowed his brows confusedly. "Maybe I've seen you somewhere before?"

"No, I doubt it. But I'll be seeing a lot more of you, won't I?"

"Guess so."

They stood there awkwardly.

"Well, there's a bonfire tomorrow at Lon Lon Ranch, anyways," Sheik said. "You should come. It'll be fun." He flashed another one of those charming smiles. Even at thirteen most of the palace maids were completely obsessed with him. And Link had to admit to himself that he could see why.

"I'll be there."

Somewhere in the back of his mind Sheik felt a strange connection, an emotion so strong that he couldn't even give it a name. He didn't know this emotion. And far off, he thought he heard a song playing; he thought he heard, maybe, the notes of the Song of Time that Zelda liked to play so much.

But perhaps it was only an echo.