Author's Notes: This is set in the fic universe of my multichaptered story, "Til the Sun Grows Cold and the Stars Grow Old," but although references to events in that story are made, you don't have to have read it in order to get this. All you need to know is that Link and Zelda are married, Auru and Ashei are captains in the royal guard, Shad is the court linguist and historian, and Rusl is retired. The title is a spoof of a film called If It's Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium, but has nothing to do with the plot; when I realized this would have to be more than a one-shot, I decided all the chapter titles would be movie spoofs too. None of them have anything to do with the plot either, except for one. Feedback welcome!
If It's Dinsday, This Must Be Castle Town
Chapter One: The Goddesses Must Be Crazy
I had already returned to Ordon and my family when Link came to the village to bring us some interesting tidings. The first, of course, I had already known - he was the celebrated Hero of Twilight, he'd saved us all, no surprises. I wasn't even too shocked when he informed us that he and Princess Zelda had married in the restored castle's chapel, though the fact that the castle had been restored so easily is something I've never quite gotten the straight of. Link has always been pretty vague on the matter. He seemed horrifically embarrassed that he was now technically a 'Highness,' and truly humbled by the fact that Uli and I had named our infant daughter Linka, in his honor.
The only thing that really did come as any sort of surprise was his gift to me. Auru, Ashei and Shad had all accepted royally-appointed posts, but Link apparently suspected that I was going to refuse. In lieu of a captaincy, therefore, he'd brought me a very fine horse from the royal stables, one which had apparently belonged to Princess Zelda's father before his death. "I mean to come and visit when I can," he explained, "but how often that's likely to be, I can't really say. My...well, my duties are different, now." He rubbed the back of his neck, looking boyish. "So I thought that Desdra, here, would help keep you from being too much of a stranger to Castle Town. Telma has a room with your name on it, she says."
"Well, I guess I can't refuse an invitation like that, now, can I?"
It took a while for me to fall into any sort of a pattern, but gradually, one did emerge. Every sixth week, I found myself saddling Desdra and preparing to ride into Castle Town for a few days. It wasn't a totally social arrangement; the Princess had expressed a desire to see increased trade among the different provinces, so I took on the responsibility of transporting Ordonian crops and wares to the market in Castle Town. I suspected Link of encouraging the Goron tradesman with whom I did business to be generous with Ordon, but he would never own up to it. In any event, it gave me a sort of official reason to take the trips.
Once business was concluded, of course, I made my way to that warm and familiar bar that had been like a second home on so many occasions. Telma was always glad to see me, but then, she'd always been an emotional sort of lady. I'd sit and wait, and soon, my friends would make their way to join us. Link couldn't come very often, what with being a Prince and so on, but he'd always send a message by Shad to give his greetings and invite me to tea at the palace before I went home. The first message of this sort made me laugh in my sleeve - Link, the ranch hand, inviting me to high tea in the Hylian court as though we were both to the manor born. I laughed even harder when I actually arrived, fully expecting dainty porcelain cups and stilted conversation, only to find that we were really sitting down to a few glasses of ale and some of Telma's meat pies. "Well, we do have an image to maintain," he explained with a grin. "So I let the nobles think we're having tea."
Apparently, our friends were in on the ruse. Shad and Ashei took it in turns to smuggle the meat pies up to the castle once a week. As Auru put it, "A man needs real food."
"And you don't get much more manly than Telma's meat pies, yeah?" Ashei concurred.
For the first several months, I was rather distracted, just relishing the fact that I could still be a part of all my old friends' lives as we shared in the days of peace. Link became a father and was gracious enough to schedule the infant's blessing at a time when he knew I'd be in town, so I could enjoy the distinction of being godfather to Princess Midna Zelda. It was like a family reunion whenever I arrived, and the pang of leaving them again was only eased by the knowledge that I had my other, dearer family waiting for me, and it wouldn't be all that long until I saw this one again.
I don't, in hindsight, remember exactly what it was that made me start paying attention to 'the kids,' as Auru and I have always referred to Shad and Ashei. Some indefinable spark, some brief shared gaze...the exact details are fuzzy at best. Gradually, however, I began to realize that there was something going on there, and I spent probably more time than a grown man should watching for evidence. It came in spurts - the way Shad, always the first to arrive, would watch the door like a hawk until Ashei walked through it, was suggestive. More suggestive was the unwonted flush that colored her pale cheeks when he admired her new captain's uniform, not to mention the simple fact that she allowed him to live after making such a remark. It was a slow observation process, hindered by my infrequent visits, but I was pretty convinced that I knew the score.
"Oh, heavens, yes," Telma said, when I made a discreet inquiry. "You don't know the half of it, Rusl m'dear. I don't think I've seen two young people so hopelessly oblivious to their own feelings since...why, I think since you were pining after Uli." She gave me a sly grin.
"That wasn't so very long ago," I replied with a laugh.
"I'm trying to give Ashei a nudge in the right direction," she added conspiratorially, "but I might have better luck convincing Louise to flirt with the boy." The cat, hearing her name, glanced up and meowed. "Perhaps you might try putting a flea in his ear? Let me know if he takes the bait."
I was game enough, but the opportunity didn't strike until my next visit. I was just coming out of the Castle Town branch of Malo Mart, having stopped in to give the peculiar toddler businessman a message from his parents, when I spotted Shad getting his shoes shined. By the look of it, he'd stepped in a puddle or something, and well, the court historian and personal aide of the Prince Consort must keep up appearances. But it was the slightly rapt, slightly offended expression on his face that caught my attention.
"Soal, you can't be serious?"
"Oh, aye." The shoeshine boy nodded gravely. "Riled her up something fierce that day, they did. Cap'n Ashei must have chased those girls clean across Castle Town, threatenin' to scalp the lot of them."
"But why? Ashei's not a violent sort."
"Said something about her being a right hoyden. No manners at all. She was ignoring 'em well enough until one of them said something about her father and how he didn't do a very good job of raisin' her. She just kind of snapped after that."
I couldn't really blame Ashei; she'd been only thirteen when her father died, and she had idolized him. From what Soal was describing, she couldn't have been more than sixteen when this particular infraction had occurred and, knowing what I knew of the empty-headed girls who hung around Purlo's gaming stand, I could easily believe them capable of that sort of malice. But it was Shad's reaction to the story which interested me most. He adopted a quietly angry look, of a sort that I have seen on his face but rarely, and said, "They've no right to talk. She's worth twelve of them any day of the week."
If I'd harbored any doubts about Shad's feelings up to that point, they were obliterated. I didn't let him catch sight of me, however, but made my way to the bar and waited for him. For a time, the evening progressed in the usual fashion; I sat with Shad at the bar and indulged him while he nattered on about I don't even know what. Across the room, Ashei had assembled enough players for a round of five-card draw and was dealing the cards.
"Sometimes," I quipped, "I want to warn the people who play cards with our girl." Our girl was a term of endearment Auru had devised long ago to describe Ashei. "They really need to hang onto their wallets."
"Well, she is very good at what she does." Shad smiled, his gaze straying in her direction.
"And their hearts," I added slyly. "She's grown up quite pretty, I must say."
We were silent for a moment. I watched Shad's eyes; they were following every move of the dealer's white hands. Finally, throwing caution to the wind, I ventured, "You do realize that we all know?"
He looked at me quickly, pale. "Know...what?"
"Shad, come on. I've known you how many years? And how long have I known her? It was always just a matter of time."
The pallor was replaced by a deep flush. "I...I've tried to...keep it hidden," he admitted. "I tried for ages to deny it even to myself. I'm not the sort of gentleman who interests her."
"So...why not do something to change that?" I suggested. "Do something to get her attention. Something that would impress her."
I tried not to laugh at the hungry look in his eyes. "I don't know. Maybe...start playing cards more. Mind like yours, you could become an expert in no time. Or beat her at darts, you know how she is about darts."
"Something to impress her...get her attention...do you really think that would work? I mean...do you really think...I'd have a chance?" He was so dubious. It reminded me of myself, when I was his age.
"Honestly? I think you'd have the best chance of any man in Castle Town. She already lets you take liberties that no one else is permitted - nobody else is allowed to call her Ash, not even Telma. And I really think if any other man had told her the cut of the new uniforms flattered her, she'd have given him a black eye or worse. You? You got a blush and a sock on the arm!"
"Which, from a lady whose hands are encased in steel gauntlets at the time, is not precisely a love tap," he replied wryly, rubbing his upper arm at the memory. "Well...nothing ventured, nothing gained, I suppose. I can try."
"Rusl! Honey, you are not going to believe what's happened since you were here last."
A month after Shad and I had our little discussion, I walked into the bar and was hailed by Telma. "What's wrong?"
"It was last weekend," she said, gesturing toward a stool as if to say I needed to sit down for this news. "Shad was in a fistfight."
I paused, then stuck a finger in my ear and wiggled it. "I'm sorry, Telma, my hearing must be going. I thought you said Shad was in a fistfight."
"Right here in the bar!" She looked agitated, and yet oddly pleased. "He walked over to a man, they exchanged a few words, and then Shad punched him clean across the jaw! Of course, he was promptly knocked senseless by the man's friends, but oh, I couldn't believe he had it in him!"
"Why in the world would he do that?"
"We had to wait for him to come around to find out. Rusl...the man made a comment about Ashei. He was defending Ashei's honor!" She looked giddy, like a schoolgirl. "Oh, she was so angry..."
"Angry?" All I could think was that when I advised Shad to do something to impress the girl, getting himself beaten up was not what I'd had in mind. "Why angry?"
"Oh, she thinks he thinks she needs to be protected, and he keeps trying to tell her that's not it at all...of course that's not it. But when I tried to suggest that maybe he did it because he's sweet on her, she dismissed the idea right away."
"What did the guy say, anyway? The one that Shad hit, I mean."
"He wouldn't be specific. I got the impression it was somewhat...lecherous." Telma scowled at that; Ashei was essentially her foster daughter. "He ought to be grateful that it was Shad who overheard, and not me."
"Or me," said Auru, joining the conversation in time to overhear the last of it. "I still can't believe he did that, though. He's always been an asset to the Resistance, but more in an intellectual capacity than a lethal one. Let's face it, the boy is a pacifist. This is...entirely out of character."
I pressed a hand to my eyes for a moment. "I think I may have put the idea in his head," I confessed.
"Accidentally." I glanced at Telma. "You did suggest I put a flea in his ear. I said he ought to try something that might...impress her."
"Oh, no. Rusl," said Auru, shaking his gray head, "I'm surprised at you. A man of your age and experience...you should know better than to try matchmaking. At least, it shouldn't be attempted without help."
"You want to help, Auru honey?" Telma looked shocked.
"You aren't the only ones who are tired of watching those two circle each other like a pair of lovesick Keese," he retorted. I couldn't suppress a guffaw at the mental picture.
Neither could Link, when I related the matter to him over "tea" a day later. I was honestly waiting for him to drop to the carpet and roll around laughing, so uncontrollable was his mirth. "Oh...oh," he managed, finally catching his breath. "I saw the black eye...didn't want to pry...and here it was for Ashei's sake? That's priceless."
"A little bit," I agreed. "I'm not sure what to do now, though."
He sobered. "I suppose I could ask Zelda for her opinion," he mused, "but matchmaking's not entirely her forte - especially not when it comes to the palace guards. If Ashei were one of her ladies-in-waiting, it might be more easily arranged."
I snorted. "Now there's something we'll never see."
"True," he agreed. "It's kind of a pity. Zelda's been itching to throw a royal ball of some sort, but we'd never get Ashei into a dress."
"I don't think we should try. Telma might persuade her," I mused, "but there'd probably have to be threats of violence involved, or serious guilt-tripping. And Shad might not survive the shock." It was Link's turn to snort, and soon he was laughing hard all over again.
"Something amuses Your Highness?" asked a droll voice, and I looked up to see Shad opening the door. The black eye was faded somewhat, but still visible. "Hello, Rusl. Terribly sorry to have missed you last night."
"No harm done, old friend." Taking a liberty to which I figured I was entitled, I peered at him. "That's quite a shiner."
He flushed. "Yes, well...battle wounds, you know."
Link sputtered in a most un-royal fashion, hiding his face behind his ale tankard. "All's fair in love and war."