Author's Note: From this point on the story might begin to get a bit confusing, but I do promise to take care of the loose ends before finishing for good, loves! Go ahead and ask your questions when you review because that will help ensure that I take care of tying everything up. I really do appreciate all of the support and your feedback will greatly help speed up the process of writing this story! Thanks in advance for all of your help and support.
Also, I wanted to apologize, as usual, for taking so long to update this story. I have finally managed to make a decision about a definite direction I want to take this story in and I'm already brainstorming on how I'm going to accomplish that. And, best news yet, I've already started on the next chapter. Expect an update soon!
Thanks for being patient! I hope you enjoy this chapter!
'Am I awake? Or is this a dream?'
He asks himself that question, knowing that perhaps he may never really know the answer to it. Whenever you're awake amidst reassuringly familiar scenery you always get that kind of feeling.
It was the sound of the ocean waves; the feel of their icy touch pulling him further and further into the dark uncertainty. He could feel the weight of the sea so heavy on his chest, rolling onward, over and forever. It was salt so fresh that he could smell it, taste it rushing across his face. But mostly it was fear of losing himself to the bitter monotony that seemed so permanent it might have been the only thing keeping him alive.
She was there, Princess Ruto, standing in front of him with her eyes so bright and hopeful. She was looking at him; perhaps searching for something; inviting him closer, he could feel it as though some unknown force pulled him towards her.
He tried to reach out to her. Link tried desperately to stand, to move, to do anything that might bring him even slightly closer to her; the beauty that seemed always to haunt his dreams with her magic and mysteries.
'I should be dead,' he realized as the thoughts began to flow through his mind of just how easy it might be to let these waves carry him away. 'But it isn't my time. Not yet.'
He should be dead he realized.
But the more he tried to remember why, the more his head throbbed.
It was her again and, despite how puzzled he was to be seeing her so soon after their 'falling out' of sorts, Link couldn't deny that he was glad to see her. Princess Zelda was sitting over his bedside, dabbing sweat away from his face with a damp cloth. His eyes scanned the room; quite aware of its vague familiarity. He'd been there not all too long ago and being back didn't necessarily please him.
"Oh!" Zelda exclaimed softly, moving the warm cloth from his forehead and turning her head just slightly to the side so that she gazed down at him with a rather thoughtful expression. "I see you're awake, Link!"
There was a smile on her face that she would have been unable to make so believable had she still been angry at him for leaving her; this realization brought a bit of relief to Link as he gradually began to shake off the last bit of fatigue clinging to his still-tired limbs. His bright blue eyes met hers for a moment, searching to be sure that he wasn't mistaken and that she really had seemingly forgiven him. He suspected she wouldn't let him know about her anger, if she still possessed it, until he was slightly better recovered from whatever this latest affliction might be. But eventually that chapter would be opened and her anger would be well-addressed in a series of 'ladylike' punishments such as her 'silent treatments' and the ever-so-wonderful 'guilt trips' she had somehow perfected in the years Link had known her.
He attempted to sit up slightly, realizing a bit too late that his arms wouldn't yet support his weight. His head landed rather suddenly back on the pillow only three inches higher than it had been a few moments before.
"Now, Link!" Zelda scolded while trying to muffle a bit of laughter. The crystal sound of her voice pervaded not hint of anger or malice. It seemed, to Link at least, that all had been forgiven.
"I think you'll come to agree with me that rest is the best thing for you!" she helped him sit up slightly in bed. He was still too weak to be of much good on his own. "And try not to move. I'd expect you won't much like the consequences of sudden movements; not with your ribs broken as they are."
"W-wha?" Link cleared his throat, attempting to bring volume to the struggling sound of his voice. It felt like he hadn't spoken in ages and the parched, cracking sound that escaped his lips was only a slight indication of that. The words emerged from his throat as though they brought fire with them and the poor boy couldn't help but bring his hand to his throat.
"Shh," she whispered, bringing a glass of water to his lips and helping him drink it slowly. "There, there; perhaps that is a bit better?"
Link coughed, this time being a bit more cautious as he tried to speak. But eventually he managed to bring volume to his words as he began asking so many questions of the princess at once, "What's going on? And how did I get here? Where's Epona? And haven't you forgotten that I was not invited back to the castle?"
Zelda's expression was a bit concerned after his first question, changing to one of relief, then astonishment, and finally to one of bitter amusement by the time he asked his fourth question. She halted her laughter for a moment before scolding him ever-so-slightly, "Why, Link! I'm quite frankly not surprised you don't remember. You had a nasty blow to the head in your battle with Gannondorf! But you won and you are the Hero of Hyrule! You will be forever welcome here in the castle."
Link looked at the Princess with a look of total confusion on his face. His final battle with Gannondorf? Why in the world would she be bringing that up again when he'd already recovered from that and had suffered a different injury? An injury that he expected was a near-fatal drowning meshed rather nicely with a bit of hypothermia from the icy weather paired with the cool water of Zora's Domain.
"Oh Link!" Princess Zelda frowned, brushing a few strands of his golden hair out of his eyes with a rather sympathetic frown fixed on her face. "It's best for you to not worry of these things; I will explain everything once you're well rested. But for now, I fear you're wearing yourself out a bit too much!"
"Princess Zelda!" he protested. "I must know the answers to these things!"
His voice carried a tone of impatience and a slight hint of anger. Link was terribly confused by her at this moment and she could clear up this misunderstanding with just a few simple answers. He didn't need details; Link just needed the what and the when.
"Link, don't worry yourself," she smiled, covering him up with the finely sewn quilt and dimming the oil lamp that was hanging on the wall beside his bed. "Epona is fine, she's in the royal stables and you're here in the castle. Everything is fine. You are fine. Hyrule is fine. Please, just try to get some rest."
She kissed his forehead and helped him lay back down, an action to which he struggled rather fruitlessly against. His body was still weak and, while he could move slightly on his own, walking out of the room to follow her was completely out of the question. So he was left alone to the dim lighting in the room and the sound of leaves rustling in the trees.
It was still barely winter. It was almost spring. And there was an all too familiar chill fighting its way under his covers and down his spine.
Something wasn't right. And, for now at least, Link was utterly powerless to discover it.