Thank you for all your reviews. And now I present…the final chapter!
Chapter 27: The Rebirth of Peace
The wedding was a small, private affair. Unlike many of the grand celebrations in the past, there were only eight witnesses to this royal union. Impa, of course, was present to give Zelda's hand formally in marriage. Navi, Epona, and Saria stood near to the altar while Malon, still in considerable shock, stood farther back. Her presence was indeed a surprise to Zelda, for Ruto had been far too upset with the whole ordeal to consider attending.
The most surprising guests, however, were the three goddesses themselves. After Ganondorf's threat had vanished, they no longer had to worry about their powers being discovered. Since the deceased evil king held no priest in employment, Din, Nayru, and Farore were left to conduct the ceremony. They stood in front of the throne in the largest hall of the castle. Link and Zelda faced each other on the lowest step leading to the dais. The young man was wearing a crisp, white tunic embroidered in silver, while the princess had donned a matching layered gown in satin.
As the goddesses raised their hands into the air, the few gathered near the throne fell silent. Din, the fiery-haired goddess, stepped forward to begin the simple ritual.
"We are gathered here today to bear witness to the joining of a young couple in holy matrimony. With the permission of her guardian, Princess Zelda has come before us to be wed with Prince Link. With the exchange of the following vows, they shall be proclaimed man and wife." Din glanced at Link.
"Do you, Prince Link, take Zelda to be your wedded wife, to be the woman you shall cherish and love, in sickness and in health, in times of happiness and in times of strife, allowing none but death to break this vow?" she asked, extending her left hand to him. Link, who until that point had been wearing the edge of his tunic thin by his nervous fingers, placed his right hand in hers.
"I do," he replied. Din smiled and looked to her right, where her sister Farore turned to Zelda.
"Do you, Princess Zelda, take Link to be your wedded husband, to be the man you shall cherish and love, in sickness and in health, in times of happiness and in times of strife, allowing none but death to break this vow?" The goddess offered her right hand to the princess, who shyly placed her own hand over the green-haired woman's palm.
"I do," Zelda said. She briefly looked up to Link, who gave her a lop-sided grin that made her blush and look away.
Nayru at this time stepped between her sisters and placed a hand each on those of the groom and bride. She brought them together and spoke, "Let those in witness today observe this union as it takes place before the goddesses. The groom and bride have expressed their vows in earnest and now stand as husband and wife." The blue-haired goddess released Link's hand, but kept Zelda's right hand firmly in her palm.
"As the one who holds the Triforce, you alone may bless another with its power. Do you find Link, your husband, worthy to wield this divine force?"
"I do," Zelda answered. As she said those words, the mark of the Triforce on the back of her hand glowed brightly. She heard a surprised exclamation, and she turned to see Link stare at the back of his left hand. A dim outline of the powerful symbol was appearing on his skin. Nayru motioned for Link to place that hand on Zelda's Triforce symbol and continued,
"As the one to truly inherit the throne of Hyrule, you alone may choose the man to lead the kingdom by your side. Do you find Link, your husband, worthy to be king of Hyrule when you are queen?"
"I do." Nayru stepped back and joined her sisters as they chanted in unison,
"May the new couple be blessed with prosperity, in both health and wealth, in both their kingdom and in themselves. And may the Triforce continue to guard the land as it has done so for these many years. Prince Link, if you are firm in your promise to uphold the responsibilities your wife has entrusted to you, you may now kiss your bride and seal the vows."
"Oh, the wedding was simply splendid," Saria gushed later that evening. Gathered around her stood Ruto, Malon, Mikau, Sheik, and Marth as they waited for the coronation ceremony to begin. Ruto frowned in annoyance at the young girl's words, unaccustomed to being unable to command her. Saria no longer was servant to Impa's household and instead would live with the newlyweds in the castle.
"I heard very few were invited," Mikau replied politely. Unlike the woman he was courting, he bore no ill feelings towards the princess or her new husband.
"That is true," Saria said. "Link was concerned that Zelda, having been brought up in such a humble fashion, would be distressed and shy of any larger ceremony."
"Is it true the goddesses presided over the marriage?" Sheik asked. Marth, Ruto, and Malon glanced at him.
"The goddesses?" Marth exclaimed with an inquiring brow.
"Yes," Saria answered. "Apparently under Ganondorf's rule, any indication of their existence was hidden or destroyed to promote unswerving loyalty to the king. Now that he is no more, the goddesses are free to emerge once again. Zelda has expressed to me that one of her first decisions as queen will be to rebuild temples in their honor."
"Ganondorf," Marth muttered. "I am still a bit vague on the details of the whole situation. I must admit I was very surprised when that old woman – Impa, I believe – brought Link and Zelda down the main staircase in the throne room on the night of the ball hardly two weeks ago and exclaimed that Zelda was the missing princess. Did she ever mention to you the exact details of that night?"
Saria frowned. "Well, not clearly. She did mention that she 'defeated' Ganondorf and his shadowy assistant. And afterwards, I believe, Impa found them near the deceased king's body. Zelda told me she was too surprised by Link's proposal to think soundly, but apparently much later in the night she had confronted Impa with more questions."
"I remember that part," Malon interrupted. "I do not think Har – excuse me, Zelda – fully realized what my mother had done for her all these years when she was with Link on the roof. But once she calmed down and accepted Ganondorf's death, she had no less than a hundred questions for Impa. I must admit, even I was too astounded to fully voice my concerns and doubts until a few days later. My behavior that night was far from indicative of what I felt."
"But you have grown to accept this," Ruto remarked bitterly. "I for one am completely upset. How could we have harbored the princess all this time without knowing?" No one desired to comment at her outburst. They were spared the need when they heard the castle bell chime, announcing the start of the coronation.
"Just imagine," Saria said. "In a few minutes, Zelda and Link will be the new rulers of Hyrule. How pleasant!"
"Afterwards there is to be a grand celebration in honor of the fall of the previous king and the wedding, is there not?" Marth asked. Saria nodded.
"It will likely last the night," she said. "I hope we will meet with Zelda and her new husband then."
"If they do not decide to retire early," Mikau added. "With the wedding, the coronation, and the night's festivities happening in the course of one mere day, we can certainly expect their exhaustion." The others nodded and started to make their way to the front of the throne room where the best view of the coronation was reserved for them. As they walked, Marth neared Mikau and whispered under his breath,
"I suspect they will have other reasons besides exhaustion to depart so early." The Zora man chuckled at the implication, and before the others could suspect the short exchange, they made mild their expressions and joined the rest of the guests to await the auspicious time.
The crown suited Zelda. Even in the two hours after the coronation, it had become as much a part of her as if she had worn it her entire life. However, at the moment, the new queen was not concerned with the fine ornament. She reached up delicately, lifting the heavily jeweled piece off of her blonde tresses and setting it down on the vanity table before her. Her gaze then returned to dresser mirror in front of her and the reflection of the large bed that stood behind her own image on the glass.
In the morning, as Impa and the goddesses dressed her in the elaborate wedding gown, they were all too willing to give her bold ideas about the night that was to come. Zelda especially recalled Din, with her unabashed nature, providing enough detail to color Zelda's cheeks the same hue as the cheerful goddess's hair. The mere memory triggered another blush, and Zelda stared in disappointment at her discomforted reflection.
How will I face Link? Zelda wished that she would not need to answer that question for a few more minutes, but suddenly she caught the faint sound of the door to the bedroom suite being opened. As she glanced at the door through the mirror, she saw Link walk inside and gently close the door behind him, fastening the lock securely in place.
Zelda's heart pounded against her chest as her new husband gave her a wide smile and walked towards her. His handsome face, framed by his blonde hair, brought to mind more of Din's instructions that explained how to completely pleasure his finest senses, an account that left the other goddesses shocked and Impa pale with embarrassment.
"You left the celebration early," Link remarked lightly, brushing against Zelda's back as he came to stand behind her. The young woman briefly made eye contact with his reflection before glancing down at her hands.
"I was unaccustomed to such large gatherings," she explained. Link chuckled knowingly and placed both hands on either side of his wife's shoulders.
"Well, then, you must be tired. Are you ready to go to bed?" he asked. The question immediately caused Zelda to tense under his touch. Link noticed her change in demeanor and frowned into the mirror.
"Is something the matter, sweetheart?" he asked. He noticed Zelda's blush and unwillingness to meet his gaze and his eyes widened in understanding. He released his hold on Zelda and reached to move her chin with his fingers so that her face was toward him. She reluctantly looked up, and he smiled gently.
"Zelda, do not worry. I only intend to lie beside you tonight – nothing more."
Zelda sighed. "I am sorry for being so alarmed. This morning, the goddesses were a bit too…" She trailed off, unsure of how to describe the conversation.
Link laughed. "So have I heard from Impa. She warned me that Din was a bit – what was the word? – uncensored."
Even Zelda forgot her nervous emotions and smiled at the remark. Link noticed his wife's improving mood and took her hand, guiding her away from the vanity dresser and towards the bed.
"Let us sleep now and talk more tomorrow. Do you desire to undress? If you would like, I can turn away while you change into something more suitable for rest."
Zelda glanced at Link's gentle expression and suddenly her apprehension melted away. She shook her head.
"I do not think I can manage the fastenings by myself." She turned around and moved her long golden hair so that it fell down her right shoulder. "Please?"
Link murmured in the affirmative and slowly undid the buttons on the back of Zelda's dress and untied the lace. Carefully, trying not to frighten her with the motion, he slipped the sleeves of her gown over her shoulders until it fell freely to the floor. The new queen still wore her full slip, but her arms and legs were suddenly bare. Link allowed himself the briefest instant of contact against her exposed back before he stepped away and Zelda turned towards him.
"What about you? Will you sleep in that tunic?" she asked.
"No. Will it be alright if I remove it?"
"Yes. Please allow me." Zelda reached forward and lifted Link's wedding tunic over his head. She let it drop to the floor and placed her hands on her husband's bare chest. He closed his eyes as she drew forward.
"I love you, Link," she said. Link opened his dark blue eyes and stared down at her. In the dim lighting of the bedroom, he could still catch the faint traces of anxiety in her expression. He wrapped his arms around her and placed a soft kiss against her forehead.
"I love you too, Zelda. Come, now let us go to bed."
The castle garden, for the first time in many years, was in colorful bloom in the peak of summer. Six months had passed since the royal wedding and already many changes had come into effect. Queen Zelda had officially outlawed slavery and improved conditions for those lawfully in the working class. She returned the lands of the Zora, Gorons, and Kokiri, and her husband, King Link, personally contributed to the rebuilding of Castle Town. With these changes came the overall appreciation and happiness of the people, which was evident in the satisfied smile the new couple always wore as they completed their royal duties.
"A letter for you, your Majesty." Zelda glanced over her shoulder as she sat in the garden one afternoon, her husband right beside her, and smiled at the young servant who held a small envelope extended in her hand.
"Thank you." Zelda proceeded to open the letter as the three goddesses watched curiously from their seats on the rim of the fountain across from her. The young queen reached within and withdrew a square piece of parchment and quickly scanned the written content.
"What is it, Zelda?" Farore asked. Zelda looked up with a broad smile at the goddesses before she glanced sideways at her husband.
"Malon and Ruto are getting married!" she exclaimed. Link rested his chin on his wife's shoulder as he also read the invitation.
"It seems they are to be wed in a month," he noted. He looked up at the side of Zelda's face. "Do you wish to attend?" Zelda turned her face so that their noses brushed and giggled.
"Well, of course. At least for Malon's sake – she has been most patient of our relationship and of our duties. Ruto still seems sour, but I cannot expect anything else from her."
"Malon is to be married?" Din asked. Zelda turned to glance at the goddess as she rose to her feet and sat with crossed legs on the grass, leaning against the fountain's marble side. "To whom?"
"To Sheik, of course," Zelda replied. "They were courting even before I was engaged."
Din seemed puzzled. "But they did not even hold hands or speak with affection!" She laughed at the concept. "Whatever shall they do on their wedding night – stare at each other from afar?"
Link smiled nervously and Zelda blushed. Farore and Nayru, who still were seated above Din, shook their heads disapprovingly. They descended into silence as each wondered how to proceed from Din's last remark.
"Zelda," Link finally said. "Will you perhaps join me in a little bit of training? I am still unused to my new Triforce powers, even if I helped you develop your own in the last year."
"Gladly. Farore, would you like to see the invitation?" Zelda rose to her feet with Link and handed the parchment to the goddesses. The young couple walked a couple of paces away to a clearer expanse of grass while Din returned to her original position on the fountain's rim.
"I think Malon and Sheik will make a fine match," Farore said as she read over the details on the wedding. "Of Ruto and Mikau I cannot say. Ruto is quick to anger and Mikau is a jolly fellow. I wonder how that will turn out."
"It cannot fare better than the marriage between Zelda and Link," Nayru said. "Zelda is kind and always forgiving. She held no ill feelings towards Impa even after learning the truth, insisting that she felt the old woman had done the right thing by protecting her. And Link…he is understanding and patient."
"Not to mention extremely handsome," Din interjected. "I wonder how Zelda can restrain herself so well in his presence. I myself would have been hard pressed to keep my hands away from him."
"We are goddesses, Din. We do not ravage mortal men," Farore deadpanned without missing a beat.
"But all the same," the flame-haired goddess returned slyly. She turned away and giggled. "Ravage, you say. You seem to have borrowed a few terms from my vocabulary." Farore frowned at her. Nayru smiled lightly at her two sisters as she added,
"Din, it might be true that Zelda exercises discipline of affection, but Link appears to harbor no such moderation." She pointed to the young couple as they exchanged small blasts of magic, which they easily countered. At one point, Link used his mark to produce a small golden rope that he used to draw Zelda against him. Instantly the battle was forgotten as he pressed kisses to his wife's lips as she struggled playfully against him.
"Oh, Link, stop!" she whispered against his mouth. "You embarrass me!" Link pulled away slightly but raised an eyebrow.
"We are married, Zelda, and for this six-month have been so," he replied with a laugh. "And of all the ways by which I have come to know you better," he paused to give Zelda a wink that painted a scarlet blush across her cheeks, "I would hardly think this the most worthy of your embarrassment."
The young queen allowed him to pull her to the ground and shower her with more kisses. However, when he fully let down his guard, she laughed and pushed him away, rising to her feet. Link was quick to follow, but he noticed his wife sway suddenly. He caught her as she collapsed into his arms.
"Zelda!" the goddesses cried in alarm as they rushed to her side. Link kneeled and placed his wife so that she could use his arms for support. Her eyes fluttered open and she looked up at him.
"Link? What happened?" she asked.
"You fainted," Link said with a nervous tone. "Did you spend too much of your magic?"
"I do not believe so," she replied. The goddesses surrounded her. Din put a hand to the young queen's forehead. A peaceful feeling spread throughout Zelda's body and she sighed.
"Thank you, Din. I feel well," Zelda said. Din furrowed her brow in thought.
"You are rather warm, Zelda. Do give me your right hand. There is something I would like to see." Zelda obeyed, and Din fingered the outline of the Triforce symbol. The edges lit up in a familiar yellow glow before slowly fading into a light pink hue. The goddess gasped excitedly at the change in color and Farore clasped her arms around Zelda's shoulders.
"Oh, Zelda, we are so delighted!" she exclaimed. Link and Zelda exchanged a baffled glance. Link turned to Din for an explanation, and her eyes twinkled.
"It seems as though you two at least have done more than just stare at each other at night," she said. Link caught her suggestive tone and he smiled widely.
"Do you mean…" he trailed off and his grin widened. He pulled Zelda into a passionate kiss. She pulled away, frowning.
"I am still unaware of-,"
"Zelda you are with child!" Din gushed. "Congratulations to you both!" Zelda swallowed nervously.
"With child?" she echoed. The goddesses nodded proudly. Zelda stared at Link, who smiled warmly and patted her shoulder. Zelda placed a hand over the soft blue fabric that covered her stomach and bit her lip.
"We should inform Impa immediately," Farore said. "She will desire to know."
"Should we do anything for Zelda?" Link asked. "Perhaps she will need to rest more? Will she need special food? Is there any medicine she requires?" The questions tumbled out of his mouth hurriedly. Nayru smiled at his concern.
"Do not be so anxious, Link. Though our presence in the past has not been as constant as it has with your reign, the three of us have helped every queen with her first pregnancy. I assure you that we will take good care of Zelda. Your only task is to stay with her always and comfort her during this time. Her body will be experiencing many changes and you will have to support her."
"That is easily done. I shall not part with her for an instant," Link promised. His dedication amused Din.
"Zelda is a very lucky woman," she said. "With rest, she will fare very well." She smirked and caught Zelda's eye. "So, for this period, you should refrain from very intense activity." Her suggestive tone made even Link stammer awkwardly. The other two goddesses gasped and Zelda very nearly fainted again from embarrassment.
Nayru was the first to scold. "Din, of all the things to possibly mention in the presence of others! It is completely immodest."
"I was simply referring to their magic training," Din replied as innocently as she could manage.
Farore rolled her eyes. "But your gaze said otherwise. Do not speak of such things to Zelda – especially if her husband is in our company." Din threw back her head and laughed at the offended expressions on her sisters' faces. Link shook his head and rested his cheek against Zelda's hair as the goddesses continued to quarrel about Din's lack of modesty.
"Are you alright, Zelda?" he asked. Zelda smiled, though her husband could not see her expression.
"I am a bit uneasy about this, but it will be fine. I have the goddesses, and I have you." Zelda turned in her husband's arms and held his face with her delicate hands.
"Link, in the many years that I spent as a slave, I could have never imagined a more perfect future. It seems like just yesterday that I wandered into the castle and you took me in." Zelda kissed him briefly before pulling back and playing absently with the sleeve of his tunic. "Thank you."
"There is no need for that, Zelda," Link replied. "I love you." Zelda's fingers paused over Link's arm and she looked up at him again.
"Do you remember that story you insisted that I read that one time? About the princess and her evil stepmother?" she asked suddenly.
Link smiled at the memory. He pulled Zelda closer, brushing his nose against hers. "Yes, I do recall."
"Do you remember how I pestered you about the story's ending?" Zelda questioned again.
Link pretended to frown. "Now that I remember clearly." Zelda laughed but continued,
"Well, recently I fancied that I was much like the princess in that story. I was treated harshly since birth – though out of necessity – and I had to hide my true identity – though I had no knowledge of that. And in the end, I inherited my kingdom once more and lived happily ever after." Zelda pushed herself away from Link and stared at him intensely. Link was taken back by her sudden movement.
"Link, my story is very similar, but there is one big difference, and you have to know." Her tone worried Link. Before he could voice his thoughts, Zelda shook her head and continued to speak.
"Do you know what that difference is?" she asked, her voice growing softer. "Do you know what makes my story better than hers?" Link's gaze bore into Zelda's. His earlier concern melted as he saw in her eyes the answer to her own question. Just as he was about to tell her how much he adored her, she buried her face into his shoulder and sighed, expressing her love without even saying the actual words.
"Because I have you, Link. And that is far better than any normal happy ending."
The end! I enjoyed writing this chapter. In fact, I enjoyed writing this whole story. I think this is my favorite so far! Did you know this was originally supposed to have only eighteen chapters? And then I changed it to twenty-five. And then I changed it to twenty-six. And then I saw a twenty-seven chaptered story was somewhat of a trend, and I really wanted to include this epilogue-style chapter, so I changed it again! This was my most successful story and I owe that to all of you who have read and reviewed. I really learned a lot from your comments and I hope to keep those in mind when I am writing my future stories! Thank you!
Oh, and speaking of future stories, I have had an idea ever since last year, July 7th, when Deviantart put up their deadly sins challenge. I was hoping to finish off this story earlier so I could get a head start, but sadly, that didn't happen. But I still intend on publishing it on July 7th and trying to get at least a few chapters done over the summer. It's a modern Zelda story in first person, something I haven't tried before. And Zelda will have quite a different personality, at least in the beginning. So if you are curious, I invite you to come check it out!