A/N: I'd just like to apologize for this traingle in advance. I ended up explaining this chapter to my Alpha with a diagram and by numbering different Zelda's, and when you have to do that I think it's time to reassess things. However, it's still like this. Also, Link isn't in this one. Skip it if you'd like.
I was Pirate Tetra, great and gallant woman of the sea! Someone said once that I was a descendant of the Hyrule royal family, and stuff, and the word 'Zelda' got thrown around, but I don't care!
That's how pirate I am!
People should cower before this level of pirate, and they were! They had better!
Because someone… someone was going to walk the plank for this! Tetra's pirates and I had banded together bravely and ventured into the unknown once again.
My 'Zelda' heritage or 'Hyrule' heritage, or whatever, had been put on hold indefinitely, I decided. It was the pirate's life, I had said. I had been so sure.
Implicit in that choice, however, was the understanding of my un-mutinous crew's good standing!
How dare they! How dare they! They had better cower before my Captainly wrath, if they know what's good for them!
Cower more, you infidels! Stop shyly looking away and shuffling your feet! Oy!
"How do you explain this?!" I demand.
"Er…" Link said timidly, "it was an accident."
"You accidently read the Captain's Log?!" I bellowed. It was not a screech, and certainly not one of indignation.
The senior members of the crew took a step back in unison, leaving the green-clothed cabin boy as the de-facto representative of their abysmal case.
They had learned quickly, these scallywags, that I had a tiny bit of trouble staying mad at a certain someone.
"Well… no." Link answered slowly. "We just wanted to know what a Captain's Log looked like." He justified. "We had no idea it was really your secret diary."
"Mutiny!" I step forwards and declare hotly. Out of the corner of my eye, I discretely check to see what page my Dia – Captain's Log had been open for perusal.
The weather is clement today. Wind is SE. Will change to NE when necessary.
Waters are calm. Today's Link had a silly sleeping face again. The ship is in a good condition. Food stores are in good standing. Today's Link had a wistful expression around lunch, like he was uncharacteristically thinking about something very deep, 9/10.
These bastards! I'll kill these scurvy bastards!
Brandishing the nearest weapon – a chair – hotly, I declare uniform beatings for everyone. I'm kicking everyone's asses right now!
"Wait! Wait!" Link cries out desperately, his face scrunched up into a cutely panicked look.
Wait, forget that!
"Just not the face." He says shyly, cupping his reddening cheeks in embarrassment. "Apparently it's my best feature, um, h-honey."
"W-What`s that supposed to mean?!" I gasp in shock and delight, sitting up abruptly, makeshift sheets falling away. What's with that 'honey'?! He's jumping to conclusion pretty damn far! Is he, is he saying he likes me back, for real? Finally! Or, not! I don't know. This is too sudden! "I-Idiot!" I declare, waving the chair… no. Not a chair.
A simple knife I had fashioned out of a sharpened spade was clutched tightly in my hand. Oddly enough, it was this discrepancy in weight compared to what I had been holding in my dream that brought me to my senses.
With a pained groan, I drop the instrument and bury my face in both my palms, my mind a mess. My heart a torrent.
I grind my teeth together. This is always the worst part. When I realize that it wasn't real.
I've been having these dreams for three years now, and somehow… it never got any easier. Worse, if anything.
I'm here, I remind myself regretfully. I'm me. I'm…
Which Zelda am I?
Something about… Princess Lillian and Termina and…
That's right. I was the Zelda who failed. The Zelda let Gannondorf wreck her beautiful land. I am in hiding, in a little cave somewhere so secluded I myself barely know it's location. I make little campfires that vent due to the soft incline of my cubby hole. I am the Zelda who has been waiting to counterattack for three years, and have four more to go…
"Not my finest moment." A voice says off to my side. Pirate-me… Tetra.
Her phantasmal form leaned against the rock face with arms crossed and a sour expression.
"You're going to have to stop looking into other people's memories like that. You're wearing thin."
I didn't want to get into that argument right now. I was presently collecting myself. So I decided to derail her. "That expression at the end… the embarrassed one…" I said, voice a little hoarse. "10/10."
"Yeah…" I could see Tetra's face flush crimson.
"After that… course was set for his hometown?" I inquired.
I said it purposely. Not 'you set course' and not 'I set course'.
It was a diplomatic answer.
My past selves were… possessive. I hardly saw why. Their entire existence here and now was based around giving me their history.
We were one unbroken chain, throughout time. One does not regard a chain and value it as a series of distinct and interlocking metal. One regards it as a single chain, and we are the same. I am the same.
"We set course for his home, yes. You saw that scene the other day." Tetra agreed. "You make a nice detective, huh? Linking those events together. But reason me this: what's the point? I would understand if you were trying to absorb my swashbuckling, or the ability to navigate by the stars –"
"I have learned enough of that." I wave dismissively. "Hardly practical against the mass of power that is Gannondorf."
"-but what are you going around digging up my love life for?!" She exclaimed. "It's not even a good story! My Hero was an innocent bumpkin from an island with less than 10 houses on it! He was just an idiot!"
"He was earnest. He was… young, despite everything he'd done." I said distantly. "He was cute."
"He was mine." She said bitterly. "My cabin boy. My lover. My idiot. He was all mine."
"And now you're dead." I explain. "And you left me in your Will."
The fact that she does not become enraged at this statement is the proof that she, in fact, is not real. A real person would care. Memories do not care. Memories can fake being worried, or helpful, shocked, or even angry. But they are not, in actual fact, really feeling any of those things. They are just matching the appropriate face to the appropriate situation.
What I said was very correct, if harsh, and so Tetra looked at me with acceptance. Over the years, I had learned how to manipulate them in this manner. I knew the operative code of behaviour that drove these… phantoms. With a push here, and a prod there, they were like puppets. They were open books, and I could leaf to any page I wanted.
"You have to do those mental exercises." Tetra explains. "You can't keep dreaming that you're someone else."
"Why not?" I ask absently. I could dismiss her, and be done with the prattling. But company was… nice.
I lived on the run. Gannon's eyes were everywhere, these days, and my entire battle plan against him hinged on the simple act of waiting for the Hero of Time to awaken from his slumber. I could fix everything, if I just had him. I could make it so that none of this ever happened. And since all of this would be undone, it hardly mattered what Gannon did to this world, in the long run. I had seen evil and petty pride infest this country. Worse, I had seen good and innocence persist, but starve to death. And I was numb to it, for as I said it really didn't matter. If anything, the clamour allowed me to move unhindered.
It was very simple: I just had to stay free for now. I had inadvertently sent the Hero to slumber for seven long years, and I had to be there when he woke up. To help him. To guide him. To see him.
I wanted… more than anything… to see him.
"No one's ever done it before." Tetra explained. "No one ever just took the Triforce of Wisdom and… and hid for three years. Much less plan to hide for seven in total! None of us dared to do such a thing!"
"Hardly a reason." I shrug dismissively.
"You're taking too much of us into you." Tetra argued. "We rate… my Cabin Boy's faces the same. Isn't that weird? We didn't do that when we started out!" She said, now sounding afraid. "You're getting all… mixed up. Like an… aggregate Zelda, or something. I can't tell where you end, and we begin anymore. Like when you pour drinking water into the ocean, you know?" She tried for a sailor's analogy. "You can't just scoop that fresh water back out anymore."
"You talk too much." I sigh. "Say it concisely."
"You're becoming a monster." Tetra said. "You can take instruction from us as much as you want when awake, but stop dreaming that you are one of us."
"It's all I look forwards to, anymore." I reply simply. "Now… that's enough. Leave." I say, weary of her.
"Fine." She had no choice.
I blinked twice. On the second blink Tetra was gone, but she had left me with a problem. Something she had said bothered me.
'… a monster.'
It was then I realized it. I realized that I was the wrong Zelda.
I was heir to the Hylian throne, and all the responsibilities and privileges that entailed. I was in the middle of a forest when I went to sleep. How did this rock wall surround me as I woke up?
And I was not on the run. And I was not 13.
A sense of dread seeping in, I feel the Zelda that I… am… fall away. Like some kind of invisible cloak. A… personality cloak. What calm I have remaining leaves at that point.
I feel around nervously for that discarded makeshift knife of 'mine'. Hands almost shaking, I hold it up to the dim light what remains of my campfire. Through that dirty metal and the reflection-warping curve of its surface I see…
"Oh no. No, this isn't right." I mutter.
The face that looks back at me is older. I might be at the delicate age of 13 in this dream, but I look twice that, if one judged me by the strain around my tight expression. The severity. The… deadness of it, as if the life expectancy of this person's ability to emote had simply expired long ago.
I know that face.
"Monster." I whisper.
I was dreaming I was someone else. I dreamt I was Tetra, and then I dreamt that I was Monster-me. A dream within a dream.
That's fine. People have those sometimes. It's an oft-employed gimmick in contemporary theatre.
And I'm… I'm still dreaming. That's all.
I pinch myself. It hurts. I do not awaken to my caravan, my generals, Princess Lillian, and my Sir Link.
Well, it might not be so simple to wake up. It isn't a regular dream. More like a memory.
I turn and kick what remains of my makeshift campfire. I turn and punch the rock sting of my weak hit has no effect. I need something more incomprehensible, that Monster-me could never have done in any memory.
Panting with nervous energy, I grasp the makeshift knife and one of the kindling branches that had failed to catch. It's fine. It isn't real.
I place the thin branch between my teeth and thrust before I lose my nerve.
And the blade goes into my leg and stops abruptly halfway, hitting bone.
The pain is… very real. It might just be the most real thing I've ever felt.
Predictably, I collapse bonelessly.
How is this possible?
I was trapped. And, I think, possibly in more ways than one.
If it's a dream, then why couldn't I wake up to the real world? If it's a memory, then why was I in control? Why am I able to do new things?
I had awoken in a sense, but this…
This was not reality.
This was me, felling flat as a sheet of paper, for I had been trapped in a 2-dimensional space. I was stuck in a painting on the wall, awaiting… a hero.
This was another Zelda.
Except I couldn't even try to wake myself up this time. I couldn't stab myself. I couldn't do anything.
I was conscious, but I was as immobile as a painting, because that was my life now.
For a brief moment, I wonder if maybe… this was my reality. Maybe I was a Zelda in captivity, and driven delusional. Maybe I had always been this Zelda.
But no. My people. My men.
Sir Link, his warmth as he hugged me that one time. Reluctantly, I knew, but it was a step in the right direction. He was so warm, like he was powered by a roaring inferno. And he had a scent of… a horse of all things. Likely due to his steed, Epona. It was so strange, and not remotely romantic, but I hadn't even thought twice. It suited him. It made me want to scrunch up my nose and laugh.
Yes. I cling to that memory. It can't be fake. That's my memory.
I wrack my brain furiously, thinking back.
Sir Link and… Marno, yes, they had been fighting. Or, mutually attempting to hunt each other, I suppose. I had to stop them. I called out Monster-me, and she did, but we passed out after. And I woke up in my caravan, yes. Some time had passed, and my people needed me still. The aftermath needed to be addressed, and quickly. But my body was a wreck, and I was so tired. So I called Monster-me again –
Did I… ever actually call her? Did I actually task her with anything?
I remember thinking… that she would be well suited. But did I call her, really?
If I think carefully… No. She showed up on her own.
They were capable of doing that on their own, so I hadn't thought much about it at the time. That's how I met them in the first place. But there was something off…
It was then that I realized just what had bothered me in those final moments on the bed. The grasshopper that landed without jumping. The missing factor. The cheat. The scam.
To employ Monster-me before, I had taken her hand. That had been the method I had deduced, and felt within my instinct to be correct. Even though she had been the one to fight Marno and Sir Link, I had been the initiative. I made the executive action, the right of the ruler, to have her do something about it. If I hadn't taken her hand and entrusted it to her, nothing would have happened and that wolf and boy might be fighting even until now.
But lying on that bed, I did nothing.
I was contemplating giving Monster-me the control, but I did not, in fact, do anything at all. She had shown up, made contact herself, and taken it.
And that little nuance, I now realized, changed everything.
Was it a mistake? An accident? An opportunity?
No. My monster… did not seize opportunities. She created opportunities. She manipulated so deftly that she strung fate itself along. That was the true form of the 'strongest Zelda' I had wished for.
But why? What was she after? It seemed obvious that she had put me here so that she could retain my body, but what was the point? Where did it all end? In fact, from which point were these plans created? Did those plans just stretch on for infinity?
I don't understand…
A/N: I just want to apologize again.