This is it guys...the final chapter...*begins sobbing uncontrollably*. I need to thank every single person who took the time to read this story, because it means so much to me that people enjoy my writing! I put everything I have into EVERYTHING I write, and it's good when I get to see it flourish. So thank you. Also, I need to thank my little sister, LoneMouse444 (look her up she's got great Zelda and Degrassi stories). She read almost every chapter before I uploaded it, and she was pretty much my editor! SO THANKS SIS. Okay...before anybody thinks otherwise, I just need to say that I've had this ending planned ever since I started the story. The ending has always been solid in my mind, because I agree with muzy95: the ending is the most important aspect. When I write anything, I almost always know what the ending is going to be :) But thank you again to EVERYBODY, I love you all soooooo much! This story was so much more successful than I ever imagined! Link's reward is NOTHING compared to this reward ^_^ I've really learned quite a lot from your reviews, not to mention the confidence they've given me to continue. YOU ALL INSPIRE ME! If anybody ever tries to tell you that your writing is bad or that you can't do it, don't listen. Fanfiction isn't about writing a novel that's meant to be a bestseller! It's about writing about what you want and doing what you love! So keep on writing everybody, thank you so much! Enjoy the final chapter of Link's Reward. TuT
Chapter Fifty-Five: Beautiful Things Never Last?
Link's entire body was completely hollow. His eyes simply stared straight ahead, and his arms trembled mechanically. He didn't even blink when the door of Renado's house flew open with a loud crack. The shaman called his name loudly, but Link couldn't hear anything. All that his mind could process was the empty road of Kakariko Village spread out before him, and the warm water of Eldin's spring beneath him. No thoughts ran in or out of his mind; he felt no emotion. He simply...was.
"In the name of Din almighty..." the shaman breathed as he ran into the spring.
Link still couldn't realize what was happening when Renado bent down and scooped Zelda from his arms, leaving him feeling even emptier than before. The wind blew a few specks of dust into his eyes, and he finally blinked tightly. That's when his entire being seemed to snap back into reality, and he let out the deep breath he had been holding. His shaking fingers clutched his queasy stomach, and he doubled over. More hidden tears flowed over the verges of his eyes and dropped into the water, creating slivery ripples that made his head spin.
"Link, my boy, Link!" Renado's voice appeared once again, and though the shaman was standing a few meters away, Link heard it as though he was yelling savagely in his ear. He flinched, and put a hand to his throbbing head. "Darbus, come out here!"
Link could barely sense the fact that he opened his mouth and let out a terrorized scream. Then he heard splashing, and a strong, firm hand grabbed onto his arm. Link was lifted onto his shaky feet, and realized that it was the large Goron who was supporting him. For a few moments, as Darbus led him out of the spring and toward Renado's house, Link felt a slight sense of relief...
All of it disappeared when he bent over, coughing horridly and throwing up blood and bile onto the orange ground. Darbus grumbled in concern, and stopped momentarily. Link felt as if two clawed hands were wrenching and twisting his stomach, and the fluids wouldn't stop. Each time he tried to halt his coughing, it only came harder, and the sudden loss of energy made his head spin.
"Come, brother," Darbus continued. When it seemed as though Link had thrown up all of his insides, Darbus picked him up in his beefy, sturdy arms and carried him into Renado's house with ease. "This brother needs a bucket."
The next thing Link knew, he was sitting on a bed, breathing hoarsely and sweating like a hog. Across from him, he could make out Luda sitting on a stool. Refreshing relief came over him when she dabbed a cold, wet towel on his forehead. Then, his stomach began turning again.
"Here you go," she said. Then she handed him a bucket in which he gratefully relieved his pains. "Everything is going to be fine. Darbus just left to get Telma from Castle Town."
Link wiped his forehead with the back of his sleeve and groaned.
"You can take off your tunic so that I can clean up your wounds now."
As Luda stood up, Link put the rancid bucket on the ground and proceeded to pull the tunic over his head. He threw it along with his hat and knapsack into a pile in the corner. Luda returned in a few moments with another towel, and knelt in front of him.
"Sorry, but this might sting a little bit."
When Link lay down to rest, he couldn't do so much as close his eyes for a minute, even though his aching limbs felt significantly better. The entire room was dark, with a small shaft of light entering from the crack in the wooden blinds of the window. He stared blankly at the ceiling, and his brain was still trying to recover from what had happened. He didn't know how long it was: an hour...two hours...an entire day...But sometime in his daze, Telma barged into the room.
"RENADO!" she cried, and Link winced at the sound of the door slam. Darbus scurried in behind her. "Why is it so damn dark in here?"
Link managed to sit up weakly just as Renado came down the stairs into the large, main room of the house, opening a window as he did. Link shielded his eyes from the sudden, bright light. Telma's face had taken on an expression of ferocity, but Renado looked solemn and patient.
"Telma, thank you for coming," he began.
"Where are they?" Just as she asked the question, her eyes fell on Link. "Oh, Link! You poor little thing!" She rushed over to him in a flurry, and put her meaty hands on his warm cheeks. Then she scanned his torso and the wounds and gashes that covered it. "In the name of Farore, what happened?"
"Telma," Renado interrupted. She turned towards him with a concerned expression and worry glistening in her deep eyes. "I need your help. Please come with me."
"Luda has taken care of him. He can rest now...I need your help elsewhere."
Without another word of resistance, Telma lifted her hands from Link's face and followed Renado out of the room. Link was left alone in the room with Darbus, who stood beside the empty fireplace. The Goron eyed him awkwardly, and Link put his head back on the pillow. He opened his mouth, attempting to find his voice. While he struggled, the Goron patriarch stomped around the room, causing a rumble without truly meaning to. Before Link could say anything, Darbus spoke.
"Thank you, tiny human," he finally said. Link turned his head, a surprised look on his face. Darbus's face was flushed, and he looked a bit embarrassed. "You saved my people."
"It was all the princess," Link said modestly. He was shocked by how low and raspy his voice sounded. He turned his head back to the ceiling. "The princess..."
"Princess Zelda will be fine," Darbus reassured. Link clenched his teeth and pulled on the ends of his hair. "Sleep, brother. You need rest."
"I can't..." His voice trembled dangerously.
"She's in good hands."
"She wouldn't need to be if it weren't for me." He turned in the bed, so that his back was facing Darbus. The giant creature sighed, and then moved to light the fire. The crackle of the flames licking at the firewood was relaxing to Link.
"Are you afraid, little human?" Darbus suddenly asked. Link closed his eyes.
"...Yes. I've never been so scared in my life."
"Human," Darbus broke a piece of firewood and began chewing on it absentmindedly. "The goddesses will not let the princess die for nothing. They have a reason...a plan, for everything."
"What reason do they have for this? How could they ever justify this?"
"Your faith lingers, brother," Darbus said. Link was slightly surprised at his sudden words of wisdom. "They put obstacles in our path to test our loyalty. You must trust in their decisions."
Link couldn't respond, mostly because he knew that Darbus was exactly right.
"Are you in love with her, human?" For a moment, Link wished that the Goron patriarch would be quiet...but then he found his gruff voice strangely comforting.
"Very much. She saved my life." Link suddenly found himself choking back a sob. "It should've been me." He looked at Darbus, whose glassy eyes were staring emptily into the dancing flames of the fire.
"Sleep, tiny human. Staying awake and tiring yourself will not help her."
The words sank in, and Link realized how true they were. As if on cue, his eyelids drooped heavily, and he curled into a tiny ball beneath the blanket. His mind shut down, and he drifted off to an uneasy sleep with the fire and Darbus's heavy breathing in his ears.
"Link...Link, wake up, honey." A hand touched his bare shoulder, and the sudden cold jolted him to consciousness. He turned beneath the covers and sat up hastily, only to find himself face to face with Telma in an empty room, in the middle of the night. Her large facial features had taken on a gentle expression, and her eyes were red and puffy, while the black make-up brimming her eyes smeared a bit. It took Link a few dizzy moments before he came to his senses, and his memory returned.
"How are you feeling?" she asked, rubbing his back. He nodded, and ran a hand over his face. "Link, sweet pea, you need to tell me what happened."
"She's asleep in the other room. Don't worry about her," Telma reassured half-heartedly.
"Can I see her?" Link moved to get out of bed, but Telma hurriedly held him back.
"Oh, no, no, you need rest," she argued. "You're not going anywhere."
"Telma, let me see her."
"She...she's fine, don't worry." Telma brushed the hair out of his face and stroked his cheek comfortingly. "She just needs some rest. Now please, tell me what happened."
Link took a deep breath to compose himself, for his insides were about to burst open in rage. He knew that no matter what he said, Telma would surely not allow him to visit Zelda any time soon. He'd had enough experience with her stubborn personality to know that there was no point in attempting. So after a few moments of calm silence, he told her.
Link told her everything. He explained all the way from the voice he'd heard in the spring to the final battle with the Source. The entire time he was talking, Telma's face remained blank. As the words flowed from his chapped lips, he felt a heavy weight lift from his shoulders, and his entire being felt significantly lighter. Telma's eyes lit up with soft caring, and he saw the shadows of the fire flash across her skin as he spoke. The quiet, tranquil atmosphere brought him slight peace.
"And then...we were in the spring," he finished. Telma's stare finally broke, and she sighed deeply. Without a word, she gathered Link into her arms, holding him tightly. He buried his face against her neck, and her hands robbed his back softly. He managed to hold back the tears as she whispered in his ear.
"It's all over now," she said. "You can rest easily."
"It's my fault," he choked. "It's my fault Zelda's hurt."
"I-if I had seen the sword, then—"
"Shh, Link, it's over," Telma continued. "You're both safe." They pulled apart. Link looked away, refusing to look into her eyes. "Link, Link look at me. You saved Hyrule. You have nothing to worry about."
"Can I please see her? I need to see that she's all right." This time, Link gazed deeply into Telma's eyes, and he saw hesitation linger inside of them.
"Just give her some time," she argued. "She's not ready to see anybody. Now get some rest, sweet pea. Everything is going to be fine. Before you know it, Zelda'll be up and around." An uneasy smile plastered itself onto her face, and Link swallowed anxiously with a nod. As Telma stood up, he lay back down.
"You're not ready to see anybody, either."
In less than a moment, he slipped back into sleep, and the nightmares returned.
Link's energy had almost completely returned when he woke up again and found the windows open and sunlight pouring into the room. Darbus was asleep on the ground, and the Goron's snores echoed throughout the entire vicinity. Guessing from the light and the amount of energy coursing through him, it was around midday. On his hand, the Triforce glowed, but only faintly, as if to let him know that he was still alive. He felt perfect until he swung his feet onto the floor and stood up. Immediately, he became light-headed, and steadied himself on the post of the bed. The fire had died down in the fireplace, and was reduced to slightly glimmering ashes in a burnt pile.
Moving to the basin on the other side of the room, Link splashed his sweating face with ice-cold water. It felt wonderful dripping down his cheeks and bare torso, though it slightly stung his bandaged wounds. Suddenly, Darbus sat up, and his beady eyes opened widely. "Human! You have been healed!"
Link chuckled nervously and wiped the towel across his face and chest. His body felt rejuvenated, but his mind was still in a haze. In the front of all of his thoughts was the worry he felt for Zelda.
"How long have I been asleep?" he asked curiously.
"Two days, I believe," Darbus thought pensively. Link put a hand to his forehead in surprise.
"Two days?" he said. Darbus nodded, lifting himself onto his sturdy feet.
"You were very injured."
Link became lost in his thoughts as he put on his tunic, hoping it would help him to start thinking straight again. As he did, his eyes fell onto a glistening object near the door of the house. There, lying on the floor was his Master Sword. He approached it cautiously, and his stomach began to feel queasy again when he saw more closely. It was covered in a mixture of green and red blood. The blood of the Source...and Zelda's blood.
Just then, Telma and Renado came walking down the stairs, whispering to each other in hushed tones. Link and Darbus whirled around to face them, and he was all too glad to rip his eyes away from the bloodstained blade.
"Link! You're awake," Telma cried, putting a hand to her chest. She seemed strangely startled by his presence. Renado simply nodded in greeting, and Link smiled uncertainly. "How are you feeling, sweet pea?"
She scurried over to him, feeling his face. When she realized that he was fine, she stepped back. There seemed to be words standing on her lips and the edge of her tongue that she wasn't willing to let go, and Link furrowed his brow suspiciously. Renado stepped up beside her.
"Can I see Zelda now? Please?" he pleaded. Telma and Renado looked at each other with anxious expressions, and Link's stomach flipped dangerously. Finally, the shaman spoke...calmly. It was almost too calm.
"Link..." he sighed. "Zelda's gone."
Link's entire brain shut down. Telma covered her mouth to suppress a choking sob. He opened his mouth, but nothing came out.
"We did all that we could to save her, but the wound was too severe," he tried to explain. Slowly, Link regained control of his muscles, and his head began to shake slowly from left to right. His brain was still moving as slowly as molasses.
"Zelda's...gone?" At that point, the words Link was thinking began forming. The shaman began stumbling over his words, but Link could no longer hear anything he was saying. Telma turned her face away, wiping the tears from her glistening eyes.
"No, no, that can't be," Link chuckled emptily. "She can't be gone. We...we were going to get married. She promised me."
"I'm sorry, Link." Renado rubbed his temples as he shook his head. "But Zelda's dead." Behind them, Darbus sighed heavily and stared down at the ground solemnly.
"No! Y-you're lying!"
"Link, honey," Telma stepped towards him, and her voice was shaky. "I know you loved her—"
"Stop!" He backed away, pushing her outstretched arms away. "Zelda...Zelda can't be dead." His fingers clasped clumps of his hair, and he pulled at them mercilessly, and he felt as if nails were being driven into his brain. His entire sanity was slipping through his fingers. His knees buckled, and he found himself sliding to the ground. The world was spinning in a crooked, misshapen circle. His shock was so great that not even a single tear appeared.
"Link, listen to us..." Telma's voice dropped to a hushed whisper. "You need to accept this." Link straightened up and glared at her. Yet his eyes fell once more on the sword beside him...the sword that had killed the princess.
The sword that had killed his princess.
Without another word, he sprinted out of the door. His legs moved swiftly, and he wouldn't stop as the world rushed by him. He ran straight past the spring, and his feet instinctively led him away from Renado's house and into Hyrule Field. His surroundings were all irrelevant; the real world had disappeared. Link had become immersed in the twisted universe of his aching mind, where everything was crumbling like a helpless row of dominos. The sun beat down harshly on his back as he continued running, wiping his eyes with the back of his sleeve as he did.
Link's legs burned, crying out for relief; but he refused to stop. He ran for what seemed like ages. Finally, his legs simply couldn't take it anymore. Stumbling, he fell into the grass of Hyrule Field, causing a new rush of pain to run through his wounded body. He was face to face with the earth, and while his hands clenched into disbelieving fists, he pounded it meekly.
This can't be happening... he thought, letting his cheek fall into the dirt. Suddenly, nothing was making sense. His hand entered his pocket habitually, where we fumbled for a moment before pulling something out.
The ring was still unscathed and beautiful, glistening with colors that made Link's weary eyes ache. He stared at it despondently, and the sight made his heart stop. Lifting himself onto his knees, he gritted his teeth. Then, just as the tears began flowing inevitably, he pulled his arm back, ready to let the ring fly...but he couldn't do it. His fingers refused to let go of the engagement ring, and the one thing that remained of the woman he loved. Clasping it even tighter, he put his fist to his forehead. As soon as his eyes closed, he saw her face, and her haunting voice echoed in his brain.
I love you... It said tauntingly. Link...I love you.
He opened his eyes to try and free himself from the vision, but even with his watery eyes open, her image was still in front of him. She seemed so real, and so beautiful standing before him, and her ethereal voice calling his name drew him to his feet. Slowly, he lifted a trembling arm toward her. Her angelic, glowing face beamed with a magical smile as she reached out her hand towards his. Link actually found himself smiling just before his fingertips brushed hers...and then she evaporated, and her lovely voice disappeared, and the cold truth hit him once more.
Link would never hear Zelda's voice again. He would never see her smile...and he would never feel her hands stroke his cheeks soothingly. He would never feel her lips, or experience his body intertwined with hers. Link would never again get lost in her beautiful, mesmerizing blue eyes, and see his world flashing in them. He would never see Zelda again...
Princess Zelda was dead.
Epilogue: Broken Promises
The young, handsome soldier sat on the steps in front of the castle, and his garb was different than that of the other Royal Guards. Instead of the heavy armor and protective helmets, he wore a simple, thin green tunic over chain mail. Brown boots covered his legs, and an unusual green hat sat on his silky blond hair. His expression was pensive, and his twinkling blue eyes were immersed deeply in thought. One gloved hand was cupped around his chiseled chin, idly stroking the blonde stubble beginning to grow there. The other hand was open in front of his eyes, and in it, he held a thin chain. His attention was undividedly focused on that single chain, and the citizens passing by gave him curious looks and whispered amongst themselves in wondering, hushed tones.
One citizen, however, didn't just walk past him. She halted before him, looking down with soft eyes. The man was concentrating on the chain so much that he did not even notice the old woman gazing at him. She did not say a word; she simply stood like a statue. Finally, the man seemed to snap back into reality, and glanced up at the source of the shadow that had blocked out his sunlight. The woman smiled calmly, and he just stared hollowly back at her. Then his open fingers wrapped into a fist, protecting the chain in his palm. Silently, he stood up. He was at least one foot taller than her, and the woman found herself craning her neck to look into his eyes sufficiently.
"May I see what you're holding, young man?" she asked. The soldier in the green tunic, without hesitation, gently placed the chain into the old woman's wrinkly palm. The woman then saw that it wasn't only a chain; at the end of the link was a lovely, shining ring, just as she had expected. An understanding smile crept onto her face as she held it up to the light.
"I remember this ring," she said. When she looked back up into the soldier's face, he was smiling shakily, as if to hide invisible tears. "And I remember the day I gave it away as if it were yesterday." The old woman chuckled, and the man steadily retained his composure again without wavering. Though his appearance showed nothing, she could see the pain glistening brightly in his eyes.
She lifted the delicate necklace, and as if reading her mind, the young man bent down towards her. Trying to keep her hands from shaking too much, she slid the necklace over his head and onto his neck, and then put her hands on his cheeks. His smile became steadier, and the woman wiped the single tear on his cheek with her thumb. Both of them were completely oblivious to the other people walking by, going through their routines; they were in their own small, peaceful world.
"How long has it been?" she whispered.
"One year today," he replied. His voice was as smooth and lovely as she remembered.
The old woman lifted her hands from his face and tightened the shawl wrapped around her shoulders. A breeze was beginning to blow through the streets of the town, and her fragile bones were easily chilled. The feral blue eyes of the soldier flashed brightly, and she could look into them and see words of destiny written in his pupils.
"Tell me, soldier," the woman began. "What are you going to do now?"
"Swim with the flow of destiny's river, I suppose," he sighed. "I've tried fighting the current for too long."
"Sometimes we need to fight the current to get where we need to be. That makes the journey all the more difficult...and exciting," she persisted with a sneaky wink. He anxiously played with the ends of his hair. "You're young. You still have the strength to fight the current."
"I have no strength left," he admitted with a bitter chuckle. "It all disappeared one year ago."
"And yet here you are, standing before me." Her thin eyebrows lifted, and the soldier looked down at the cobblestones. "She would want you to live your life."
"I..." He paused for a moment, and stared blankly at his open palms. "I can't do that. I can't live my life without her." His voice finally broke.
The old woman gently stepped forward and grasped his hand, kissing it comfortingly. They took no heed to the people who were walking by, throwing them estranged glances. The woman stroked his hand, murmuring words that only he could hear.
"When was the last time you cried?" she asked quietly.
"The day that she died."
He stood up straight, and gazed into Carlotta's eyes. His eyes were still red and slightly puffy, he retained his look of stone...the look of a broken hero.
"Do an old woman a favor, young soldier," she said. He remained quiet. Then she grabbed onto the ring around his neck. "Never let this go."
"I couldn't, even if I wanted to," he replied. Then he ran a hand over his face in exhaustion. "I've broken enough promises...I can't break anymore, even if she broke hers."
The woman smiled contently, and turned to walk back down the street. The soldier watched her, and his eyes twinkled with admiration.
He had broken promises...and his princess had broken promises.
He had promised that he wouldn't let anything hurt her.
Now she was gone.
She had promised him a reward.
And Link would never get that reward.