Well, here's the last chapter of Bright as Night. It's been a joy to write this, and I probably consider it my best fanfiction work. It's certainly the longest, lol. Just like finishing any story, it's a bitter sweet moment. I'm happy to have this work completed, but I'm also sad to not be writing it anymore. I'm sure a lot of you want to know about future Zelda stories, so make sure you read the Author's Note at the end of this chapter and I'll give some details. 8D
Thank you all SO MUCH for your reviews and support! I write for people to read, so reviews are really priceless to me. A hundreds thank you's to thespiritmaiden, ForgethePyro, erico637, Melkor44, Joseph Kuo, WolfenAmpitheatre, Grape Icies, zelinkfan123, ShadowNinja1011, Zeldafreak2000, SkyeLimit, Screen, Guest, fanozeldasclares, zeldax, Desert Rose, goron10, and Luck Kazajian for taking the time to review!
Mangageek26: Thanks very much! No, I'm not doing NaNoWriMo. Outside of fanfiction, anything original I write is either for a contest or in hopes of getting published.
DragonBladerX5: Thanks! I neat idea, but since the Triforce as a whole doesn't belong to Link I wouldn't see it as going to him alone.
Disclaimer: I actually own this last chapter. No, just kidding, still don't. But the original characters and the plot belong to me.
Bright as Night
Link felt a cool, wet cloth wiping his face as he climbed back into consciousness. It felt really good, so he stayed still for a while longer. He felt a bed under him, and a blanket was pulled up to his chest. He thought he could hear conversation, but it sounded like it was a distance away. Maybe in the hall or outside.
The person who was wiping his face gave a soft sigh, and he thought he recognized the tone as Zelda's. He slowly opened his eyes, surprised at the effort it took. He blearily blinked, taking in a room with a pastel color scheme and a huge shelf of books. Sunlight came through a window somewhere behind him, hazy, golden, and beautiful. His gaze drifted to the side and he saw Zelda sitting on the bed beside him, smiling.
"Hey, there," she said gently, resting the rag against his cheek. "Good morning."
"Is it morning?" he asked, his voice thick and slurred.
"No, I'm just teasing you, it's the afternoon. You've been out since yesterday evening." Concern came through the bond. "You were running a high fever. It's amazing you were able to stand, let alone fight. We've brought it down quite a bit."
"Me and the doctors," she answered. "Even Acroff gave his opinion."
Link shifted in the bed, becoming more awake every second. "What's been happening since I was out?"
"A lot," she laughed, setting the rag aside. "Ganondorf and Acroff have really stepped up and taken charge. Bodies are being identified and buried. Enemy soldiers are being locked in the dungeons. Damage is getting cleaned up and any signs of Mordecai's reign removed. Papers are being posted around Castle Town about what happened. That the true heir to Hyrule's throne, Princess Zelda, led a rebellion to take back the castle and save everyone, or something like that." She sighed, shaking her head in amusement. "I've helped out as much as I can. I've been working on what I want to say to everyone. But mostly I've been here with you, waiting for you to wake up."
Link looked her over, and was a bit surprised at her state. There was a red line along her cheekbone from where Mordecai's sword had cut her. Her head was bandaged properly from Rolox's attack. She was just wearing a light blue robed tied at the waist. Her hair was loose and unkempt, and her face was drained and tired.
Link reached a hand up to touch her cheek, and then his attention was drawn to his wrist. It was newly bandaged, pristine and white. He held up his other hand, seeing that wrist also bandaged from the cuts of being bound for so long. He noticed his eye binding had been removed, but it was lying beside him on the pillow. He propped himself up on his elbows, the blanket falling back so he could look at his torso. His shirt was off, but barely any skin showed because of all the white bandages wrapped around him. He fell back down, letting out his breath in a discontented huff. "Wow, I got . . . really banged up."
Zelda giggled. "I've seen you look better."
"You've looked better, too. Have you slept?"
"No." She tried to soften the word with a guilty smile. "I've been helping to coordinate things around here. I've been taking care of you."
Link held out his arm. "Come lay down, you need to rest."
She grabbed onto his hand, kissing his fingers. "Thanks, but I can't. I still have so much to do. I have to-"
Link pulled, bringing her down to the bed. She gave a surprised laugh. He then wrapped his arm around her shoulders, effectively keeping her there. "Other people can take care of it. Just lay by me." He blinked eyes as wide as he could get them. "Pleeeease?"
She sighed, smiling. "Alright, fine. I am really tired." Zelda wiggled her toes until they were under the blanket, and then kicked it up over her. She snuggled up to Link's side, putting her head on his shoulder.
The minutes passed in silence, and Link felt relaxed and content. His body was sore and aching, but it was a good kind of pain. He felt the same coming from Zelda before a strange emotion came over her. He couldn't identify it and glanced down to see she was quietly crying.
"Whoa, hey, what's wrong?" he asked.
She craned her neck up to look at him. "Nothing, it's just . . . we won, Link. It's finally over."
"Are you sad?"
She sniffled, shrugging. "I don't know what I feel. I'm relieved ,certainly. I feel proud. But . . . the last five years of my life have been under Mordecai's rule. I guess I'm just really coming to terms with the damage he did. What he took away. And now how much of a mess we have to clean up."
Link searched her face for a moment, then replied softly, "I know. But I'll be with you through everything. For the rest of my life."
Zelda smiled, her eyes shining. "That makes me very happy." She pushed up and met his mouth in a kiss that quickly grew heated. They wrapped their arms around each other, taking gasping breaths between each kiss. Link reflected on how good it felt to be with her again. He'd missed this. He'd missed her. And they had come so close not just to losing the war, but to losing each other.
Link pushed against the bed and flipped them over. He braced his knees on either side of her, not wanting to put all his weight on her, but she grabbed hold of him and pulled him down, biting at his lips. He couldn't tell how much pleasure was from him or coming from her.
He pulled his mouth away and kissed over her face. He felt her fingers tangled in his hair, grabbing hold. He kissed her nose, her eyes, along her cheeks. Just as he made his way to her jaw Zelda pushed against him and they flipped over, leaving him on bottom again.
Link blinked up at her as she propped herself up on her elbows. "Something wrong?"
Her cheeks were red and her hair messy, and the young man thought she looked beautiful. She sunk her teeth into her lower lip, smoothing his hair back. "No, nothing."
He pursed his lips, raising an eyebrow. He could tell she was up to something. Conniving devilishness and satisfied amusement were coming from her. "So . . . . what? You just like to be on top?"
"Oh, I do," she answered, smirking. "But, I just remembered something. The last time we saw each other before Mitch and Rolox captured you. We were in your room . . . kissing . . ."
He flashed a smile. "Oh, I remember that."
"But, we had to prepare for going to battle against Mordecai, so we didn't stay up very late. And we just finished that tournament." She made a pouty face, her voice a low purr. "You insisted we get sleep, so I said I'd remember where we left off."
Link swallowed his tight throat. She could be awfully sexy when she wanted to be."Oh? And do you?"
Zelda nodded, moving her face closer. "Oh, yes. I remember I left off right . . . here." She kissed underneath his jaw, working her mouth over his skin. He let out his breath, hugging her, and lifting his chin to give her more space.
Link let his gaze drift over the room. Zelda's old room, he realized. And then it occurred to him that he and Zelda were kissing in her bed and that they had just reclaimed Hyrule. He smiled lazily, his face burning from Zelda's attentions. If this was a look at what the rest of his life would be like, well, he didn't have any complaints.
"So," Acroff said, holding up a pad of parchment and looking through the list. "All bodies that could be identified have been. A new graveyard is being sectioned off for them. Tombstones are being made from the parts of Hyrule Castle or the town that were damaged. You know, recycling? I do have a question, though. Do you want the enemies buried with the heroes? And we have some family requests to have the bodies brought to their home; they want them buried in the yard or something weird like that. And Ganondorf here-" he gestured to the bulky man at his side "-wants to take all the dead Gerudos back to the desert."
Zelda thought this over for a moment, sipping on a steamy cup of hot chocolate. She and Link were sitting on her bed. It had been three days since Link had woken up. He was recovering rapidly, but was still striped with bandages and under doctors' orders to stay in bed. He had a cup of soup balanced on his lap, blowing on each spoonful before he sipped it. He had a loose white shirt on, and Zelda was wearing a comfortable, simple dress. She was still sore from all the fighting and didn't want to wear anything that would put pressure on her wounds or bruises.
They were still in her old room, Ganondorf and Acroff coming to update her on the progress. Galen was also there, sitting on a lavender sofa with his boots propped up on the low table beside it.
"Go ahead and bury the enemy soldiers with our soldiers," Zelda answered. "They were all my people, and were victims of Mordecai, despite some deciding to align themselves with him. And yes, if the family or Ganon wants the bodies transferred elsewhere, that's okay."
"Alrighty," Acroff scribbled notes on the paper. "Logon and Megan are seeing to reconstructing the army and Talisman and Isra are coordinating fixing up the castle. The progress is going really quickly, actually. It should be like new by the end of this week."
"That's good," Zelda acknowledged. "That's when we'll schedule the funeral and my speech, then."
"Noted," Acroff replied.
Ganondorf stepped forward. "What do you want to do with the bodies of Mordecai, Sephora, and Rolox?"
Zelda paused, sharing a glance with Link.
"Do you have suggestions?" Link asked the men.
"I want to burn them," Ganondorf answered.
Galen shrugged. "I was up for tossing them in the street and letting stray animals eat them."
"We could always bury them, also," Acroff suggested. "With marked or unmarked graves."
Zelda nodded, sunlight streaming from the windows and shining off her hair. The noises of people and work being done outside barely drifted through the glass. "Yes, I like that idea. Marked graves, and label them with the crimes they were accused of. So everyone will know what they did. And so Hyrule won't forget."
Link grinned at her. "Look at you, you already sound like a princess."
She batted her eyelashes. "I try."
Galen spoke up. "I was planning on taking a bunch of carriages and rebels, as many that want to come, back to the cave. So we can pick up our belongings and clear out. Do you either of you want to go?"
Zelda felt the longing to go coming from Link. She nodded for both of them. "Yes, we want to. To get our things, and to see . . . about Impa . . ."
Galen inclined his head, giving her a sympathetic smile.
"Alright, I'll write down a trip to the cave system," Acroff said, oblivious to Zelda's meaning. "When will you go?"
"As soon as Link's all healed up," Zelda replied, gesturing to him. "Maybe after the funeral is taken care of. You and Ganondorf can keep charge while we're gone."
She felt Link's mood sour, frustrated at his injuries, but knew he couldn't argue with her. His fever was gone, but he was in no condition for long travel. She glanced over at him, studying his face. It was still hollow from the abuse, but color marked his cheeks and there weren't dark circles under his eyes. She leaned over and kissed his cheek, which he accepted with a smile. She was so glad they were both okay. No debilitating injuries, no mutilations. Link had both his eyes. Compared to what could have happened, Zelda would gladly accept she and Link just having to rest a week.
"Do you have any questions?" Acroff asked, peering up at her.
"What about the Gorons? How long are they staying?" she asked.
"Darunia said they'd stay until everything was fixed," Ganondorf responded. "They're doing most of the heavy lifting. Logon had a letter sent to the Zoras telling them about Hyrule's freedom and that they could return to their home."
"That's good," Link commented.
"And what about Castle Town?" Zelda questioned. "What is the mood there? What do my people think of all this?"
Acroff gave her a sunny smile. "According to the rebels that have been out and my own soldiers, the mood is hopeful. I think you'll be welcomed graciously to the throne."
Zelda beamed, and Link wrapped one arm around her.
"And one last thing," the white-haired man said. "There has been a lot of people appearing randomly in the throne room as if from nowhere. But it didn't take us long to figure out what was going on. It seems everyone Mordecai sent into the Realm of Eternal Darkness is being freed now that the Sword of Spirits is destroyed." He winked. "Looks like justice is continuing to be served."
The new graveyard was in west Castle Town, a large square space bordered with trees. Many attended the funeral. All the rebels that had survived, the Gerudos to honor their fallen sisters, most of Acroff's army, and a good deal of townspeople. Everyone wore black and the mood was somber, but the sun was shining bright and the weather was nice. Zelda didn't make any formal speeches and tried to attract little attention. This was not the place to announce herself as ruler or to talk about Hyrule's future. She let Logon speak; he seemed the best fit to honor all the dead soldiers.
Afterward the funeral broke off and everyone returned to where they were staying. Some in the inns in Castle Town. Others had homes to go to, whether inside the town or not far outside. But the majority returned to the bustling castle. There was still a lot of business to attend to before Zelda's speech.
The day of her speech came soon, and the morning found Zelda in her bedroom getting ready. Link sat on her bed, dressed in brown pants and a loose white shirt. His eye binding was on, and the royal ring Zelda had given him rested on his collar bone.
The princess sighed heavily, staring at herself in the circular mirror. She wore a pastel pink under-dress and was currently trying to pin up her hair.
"I swear, Link, I've never had to worry about how my hair looked!" she exclaimed, exasperated. "I just had to leave it down or braid it. Even when I was a child at the castle other people took care of my hair for me. How is this bobby pin supposed to work?"
He suppressed his laughter with a large grin. "Sorry, Zel, I'm not the best person to ask for bobby pin advice. Or any hair advice."
"Pffft, that's easy for you to say. Your hair always looks great."
Link ran his fingers through his blonde locks, considering her observation. Deciding he liked it, he dropped his hand and said, "I doubt anyone will care how you look. You just saved them from a ruthless dictator."
"Oh, dear, naïve, male Link. We women, when in the public, are always judged by how we look. It's a sad fact of life."
"That is sad," Link commented, standing. "But if it's any consolation," he made his way over to her, wrapping his arms around her waist and resting his chin on her shoulder, "I think you always look beautiful."
She smiled, looking at their reflection. They really did make a nice couple, she reflected. "Thanks, Link. Will you help me get my corset on? I need you to tie up the back."
He chuckled, stepping back. "You're going to wear a corset? Why on Hyrule would you do that?"
Zelda glared at him, picking up a tan colored corset from her dresser. "Because it's formal wear. I'm going to wear a dress, for goodness' sakes, I have to wear a corset under it." Her shoulders dropped. "I haven't worn a formal dress since I was a little girl." Her worried expression met Link's gaze. "What if I . . . don't look pretty?"
"You looked pretty that night we had our first date," Link pointed out. "You wore a white dress and that Zora sapphire necklace I gave you."
"But that was semi-formal," she protested. "I'm going to have to wear layers of clothes and heavy jewelry and high heels. I spent most of my teenage years in a cave. What if I can't pull this off?"
He pulled her into an embrace, rubbing her back. "Hey, it's going to be okay. Don't worry. You have me, remember? That's all that matters." He fixed her with wide, shameless grin.
She couldn't help but smile back. "Yes, yes. You are my center of gravity."
Her tone was light and joking, but Link could feel the sincerity behind her words.
Zelda pulled away and turned around, roughly fixing her corset on. "Now just pull the strings tight. But not too tight. I'm still sore from all that fighting."
Taking one string in each hand, Link pulled slightly, seeing the back of the corset come together.
Giggling, the princess said, "A little tighter than that, Linky-boy."
"I don't want to hurt you," he huffed, pulling tighter. When she told him it was good he tied it off securely.
"Thanks," she said, glancing at her reflection. "Some maids will be by in a couple of minutes to help me with my dress. And one of the doctors will be with them. He wants to check your wounds again."
"I hope I'll get to take my bandages off," he told her. "They're getting . . . annoying."
As if on cue a knock sounded, and a maid announced their presence. Link opened the door, letting in three women and an elderly doctor. Mordecai hadn't kept many medics in the castle. But after their victory had been won and so many were wounded, doctors that had been living in Castle Town had come to their aid.
Zelda began walking towards the door to her restroom. "Alright, ladies, we'll get me dressed in here." She knew Link wouldn't want an audience while the doctor talked about his wounds. Plus the fact that he'd be removing most of his clothes. Zelda wasn't comfortable with three women around to gawk.
They went into her large restroom and closet area, all white marble with gold trimmings. Zelda liked the luxury of the castle, but it still felt foreign. She wondered how long it would be until this room felt as homey as her rock space had in the cave.
The maids helped her into a gown of various pinks, with a flowing skirt and a top that created a 'v' around her hips. Zelda scrunched up her nose as a gold belt was locked in place and gloves were pulled on. "Why all this . . . pink?"
"Pink is a fine color for female royalty," one of the women replied. "It makes you look both feminine and wealthy. It makes you look kind."
Zelda sighed. "Guess there's no harm in that."
Heavy gold earrings were hooked on her ears, and a gold circlet was placed on her head. Tiny blue jewels sparkled in it. Next light makeup was applied and perfume scented her. When it all was over Zelda felt like she was worth a million rupees. She hardly recognized her reflection – a slender princess with dark eyelashes, goddess hair, and adorned with gold. The makeup even helped to hide the bruise on her forehead and the cut on her cheekbone.
"We also have a necklace, my lady," one of the maids said, holding up another piece of jewelry.
Zelda gently pushed it away. "No, thank you. I have my own necklace I want to wear."
She fetched the one Link had given her from a drawer, hooking it around her neck. The Zora sapphire glimmered, matching her regalia perfectly.
"That is very lovely, my lady," a maid commented. "Where did you get that?"
"It was a gift," Zelda answered, touching it as she stared in the mirror.
The woman smiled knowingly. "He must care for you very much to give you that."
Feeling a blush creeping on, Zelda said, "Thank you all for your help. I'll check to see if the doctor is finished." She walked over to the door, having to hold up her skirt. She opened the door fractionally, peering into the room. Link glanced up at her, about to pull his shirt back on. The doctor had a handful of bandages. She smiled. He was well enough for the bandages to be removed. Her eyes fell on his torso and she grimaced. It was marked with multiple scars. The majority looked like they would fade within a year, although some seemed fairly deep.
Zelda stepped out into the bedroom. "Can I see your back?"
Link took a step in retreat. "Oh . . . no, it's fine."
She put her hands on her hips. "Link, come on, let me see it." She heard a whisper behind her and glanced back at the three maids that stood in the doorway. "You all may leave, thank you for your service. Doctor," she nodded once, "thanks for taking care of him."
"My pleasure," the man replied. He and the maids quickly left the room, shutting the door behind them.
"Please turn around," Zelda pleaded.
"Why?" he asked, self-consciousness and nervousness coming through the bond.
She let out her breath in an irritated huff. "Because those are the scars that will be with you the rest of your life. Which means they'll also be with me. I want to see."
"They're not bad," he protested, looping his hands into his shirt to pull it on. Zelda took a few steps forward and grabbed it, stopping his movements. He blinked at her, at first seeming angry, and then deflated in surrender. "Fine. But don't . . . make a big deal out of it."
He turned around and Zelda stifled her gasp. The smooth planes of his back were slashed with red lines, so many that they crossed over themselves from his shoulder blades all the way down to his pants. It was a brutal sight. Not ugly, but she didn't think anybody could look at his back without openly staring in horror, wondering what had happened to him.
She pulled off one glove, gently running her bare fingers over the scars. "Oh, Link . . ."
He grunted in irritation. "I said don't make a big deal out of them."
"Hey, now," she drew closer to him, wrapping her arms around his waist. She pressed her lips to the back of his neck, saying softly, "don't be embarrassed. Not around me. You know what happened to my back." She could still remember the bad burns she'd gotten during the attack on Zora's Domain. Lying on the grass afterward and squeezing Link's hand as Jim Goro had patched her up.
"Yeah, but you're a girl," he replied. "No one sees your back. But now I can't take off my shirt without thinking that people are staring. It took me awhile to get used to the effect wearing my eye binding has, but now I have to deal with it all over again."
She tapped her fingers against his flat stomach, laughing softly. "When were you planning on taking off your shirt?"
She felt anger come from him. "I don't know! If I go swimming or get sweaty practicing my sword fighting."
"I'm sorry," she said quickly. "I didn't mean to make fun. You know, people probably will stare. You'll probably get asked 'what happened?' so much it will make you nauseous. But don't let it bother you. Cause you know what?" She pulled back, lightly punching his back. "They look tough. And sexy. Your back has badass written all over it."
Link laughed and she felt his mood lighten. He turned around to regard with an affectionate gaze. "Well, I guess that's a good thing." He kissed her forehead, and Zelda realized he was now almost a head taller than her. When had that happened? "Thanks," he added, pulling away. "And you look amazing, Zelda."
A genuine smile crept over her face. "Thank you. Now let's go to my speech. And put your shirt on; you're distracting me."
They left her room and went down the corridors towards the balcony that hung over the entry doors. Zelda was reciting what she planned to say her in head as they walked. She hadn't wanted to write her speech down, afraid it would make her seem unprepared to rule. But now trying to remember all the points she wanted to hit made her nervous.
As they passed one bedroom with the door open, a servant cleaning inside, Link slowed to a stop. Zelda stopped with him, glancing at him curiously before looking into the room. And then she knew why. She rested her hand on his arm in support.
"It's gone," Link said simply, staring into the room that used to be his. All the furniture, the bed, the dark forest colors, had been removed. It was now a simple guest room.
"Yeah . . . I ordered it," she admitted. "I know you're okay, emotionally, but I thought you wouldn't want this reminder here every day."
He paused, then inclined his head. "You're right. I don't." He sighed and they started walking again. "Speaking of which, since I'm all better now I need to pick out a room here."
She reached down to take his hand, squeezing it. "Aw, you sure? I like having you close by."
"I hate to see you sleeping on your sofa all the time," Link protested. "Besides, it will be nice to have my own space again."
Zelda sighed in surrender. "I guess you're right. But it will be somewhere in the same hallway. I don't think I can let you out of my sight ever again." She pulled his hand to her face and kissed it.
Link smiled at her warmly, touched by her sentiments.
At last they came to the doors to the balcony. Link hugged her and wished her good luck before they both stepped through. Sunlight and wind greeted them, and it seemed all of Castle Town was laid out in front of them. Ganondorf and Acroff were also on the balcony, along with Logon, Galen, and Darunia the Goron. Zelda deeply wished Impa was there, but she drew comfort from her friends' presence.
She stepped up to the edge and looked over the people that had gathered. So many. So, so many, all looking up at her expectantly. For a moment her words caught in her throat.
You can do it, Link encouraged. Just take a deep breath.
She did as he suggested, drawing strength from him. And then she spoke as loudly and as clearly as she could. "People of Hyrule, thank you for coming to hear what I have to say. I am Zelda, the daughter of the late King. My Sheikah protector fled with me when the castle was attacked and Mordecai took over Hyrule. We hid in the wilderness for years, gathering our strength and forming the Rebellion. It was the Rebellion that was responsible for liberating the Zoras under General Sephora's reign, and for freeing the Gorons from General Rolox."
At this Darunia brought up his fist in an acknowledging salute.
"Unfortunately," Zelda continued, "General Rolox found our hideout and captured the Hero of Legend, Link." She gestured to the young man and felt his surprise through the bond. She hadn't told him she would mention him. "We planned an attack to rescue him and take back the castle, but it failed and we all were captured. We wouldn't have been able to escape if it wasn't for the help Ganondorf and Acroff provided." She motioned to the two men. "They were once generals for Mordecai, but saw the evil he was spreading and turned against him. With their armies, we were able to take back the castle. Sephora was killed by this man Talisman, and Rolox was killed by Hero Link. Link, Ganondorf, and I working together were able to defeat Mordecai."
Murmurs sounded from the crowd as the people glanced at one another. She had their interest, she could tell.
"I am sorry for the five years spent under such a harsh rule," Zelda pressed on. "I am sorry for the loss of lives and the pain and suffering you've endured. I lost my own father and many friends to Mordecai. Justice has been served, and I promise you I will continue to rebuild the castle and town until everything is like it used to be. From now on, any laws Mordecai had put into place are null and void. All of his prisoners have been released from the dungeons, and everyone he sent away using his cursed Sword of Spirits has been freed." She paused, seeing relieved smiles in the crowd. "I hope to push Hyrule into a new age of freedom and peace. If you have any problem you think I or Hyrule's army can help you with, feel free to ask for an audience with me. I wish to undo all the damage Mordecai has done, and so I'll help you in whatever way I can. It will take some time, but I believe we can get Hyrule back on track." She hesitated, then bowed her head. "Thank you."
There was a moment of silence before clapping and cheers were heard. Zelda tried not to let her smile get too wide. She waved at her people before going back into the castle. Once safely inside, she let out her breath, slumping in relief. She had successfully given her first speech.
And then Link was there, picking her up and spinning her around. "Good job! You did so great!"
She laughed, gazing down at him. "My heart is still pounding!"
He beamed as he started to walk down the hall, still carrying her.
"Hey!" she exclaimed, smiling back. "Where are you taking me?"
"Somewhere private," he replied, his single eye shining. "I want to kiss the Princess of Hyrule."
Most of the rebels had wanted to return to the cave system for their belongings. They traveled in a line of carriages and horses. Hyrule Field was endless and green around them, and everyone was smiling, laughing, and singing.
Link and Zelda both rode their own horses, and the princess thought it had been a long time since Link had laughed like that. She could barely keep up as he had his chestnut mare gallop over hills, weave through trees, and leap over obstacles. She thought he looked so much healthier; his face had filled out and had returned to its normal color.
"C'mon, Zelda, you're falling behind!" he called, straying further from the line of carriages as he topped a hill. He slowed his horse to a stop, allowing her to catch up.
"It feels good to ride out here," Zelda commented, breathing hard from the adrenaline.
"It feels great!" he said, looking out over the plains. "I love this horse, I think I want to keep her." He bent down, wrapping his arms around the animal's neck, cooing, "That's right, Epona, I love you."
The mare whinnied as happy as a horse could sound, and Zelda wouldn't have been surprised if Epona turned her head around to kiss him. The two really had bonded well in such a short period of time.
Travel to the cave system was leisurely, and it felt nice not to have to worry about the castle or the town or even her princess duties. She knew Link was just as relieved to have some open air and freedom. Once they reached the woods it was like being back at home. The labyrinth of trees made the sunlight come through in splashes and splatters, and birds darted around the branches. They left their horses and carriages as far into the woods as was feasible before continuing on foot.
It feels like home again, Link sent to her, staring up at the trees.
It does, she agreed. I don't think we can ever leave this behind.
We don't have to, he told her. We can always visit.
She smiled, happy at the prospect. We will always visit.
The mouth of the cave loomed up ahead, and then nervousness overtook Zelda. Once she went inside and found Jim Goro, she'd learn Impa's fate. Was she dead? Had she survived? The wounds inflicted by Rolox had been lethal. But Impa was a strong woman and a Sheikah. She was built of tougher stuff.
Picking up on her mood, Link wrapped an arm around her waist as they walked into the shade of the cave. The rest of the rebels were talking as they went through the tunnel and entered into the main cavern. As the rest of the Hylians branched off to find their old rooms, Link and Zelda went into the East Tunnels towards Jim Goro's medical cavern. They went down the curved corridor and towards the white sheet. Just as they approached it the Goron stuck his head out. When he saw them he smiled. "Link! Zelda! I thought I heard the rebels returning. What happened?"
"We won," Link answered. "Hyrule is ours again."
Jim Goro's face lit up. "That's wonderful! I guess I'll pack my things."
"Jim," Zelda said, her voice strained. "Impa . . .?"
The Goron inclined his head towards his room. "Why don't you come inside and see for yourself." He disappeared into the cavern.
Zelda felt her throat lock. That meant Impa was alive, right? He wouldn't have said that if she dead. He would have apologized, or something . . . Or maybe he didn't want to hurt her feelings? The princess blindly grasped for Link, needing his comfort, and he wrapped both arms around her as they walked into the room.
And there was Impa, sitting up on the bed, looking tired but smiling and alive. "Zelda, Link."
"Impa!" Tears ran down Zelda's face as she raced over to the bed. She pulled herself up short of embracing her guardian tightly. "Oh thank the Goddesses! I was so scared you would be dead!"
Impa gently touched her shoulder. "No, I'm all right. Well, I'm stuck to a bed for at least another two weeks, but I will live."
Link pressed his hand to his forehead, letting out his breath in relief. "I'm so glad to see you, Impa."
"As I am glad to see you," she replied. "I was very worried. Care to tell me everything I missed out on?"
And so the two told her what had happened. Link started by talking about being taken to the castle, and Mitch being killed, and his time as a prisoner. He talked about overcoming his past pain and enduring Mordecai and the two generals. Zelda talked about traveling to Hyrule Castle and the attack that had failed. They told her of the whipping, and Mordecai threatening to blind Link, and of the escape and the battle and all the clean up that had happened afterward. Once they were done, Impa was smiling widely, and a heavy burden seemed to have lifted from her shoulders.
"I am so happy," Impa stated. "I am so very happy. Now we can move on."
A huge dinner was put together in the main cavern that night. They ate what food they had left behind that was still edible, and some of the food they had brought along. A few even went out to hunt or pick things. It was social and happy and people shared their memories of living in the cave system. Once that was over, everyone went walking through the tunnels, singing and laughing. They went through the area where they'd grown their crops and the kitchen. Then they'd crossed the main cavern into the Southern Neighborhood. It took awhile to make their way through that maze of tunnels, but everyone had the path memorized. Then they went into the West Tunnels – the storage rooms, the meeting room, the training area, the recreation room and the bath. And lastly they went into the Bridge Cavern and crossed the huge, natural bridge that spanned a vast emptiness between two sparkling walls. It was a fun, pure night to celebrate all that they had achieved.
The next morning found Galen in his old room, packing things for both him and Burning Joe. They didn't have many belongings, but he figured he should bring what little there was. He wasn't certain where Burning Joe had run off to, but he was sure his friend was reminiscing in the cave.
He glanced over his shoulder, seeing Talisman and Isra in the doorway. "Hi. Can I help you guys?"
"We wanted to talk," Isra said, rubbing one arm shyly. "About our family."
Galen paused, then set down his pack, turning around to face them. The lantern light cast their flickering shadows behind them. "Well, I guess since the Sword of Spirits has been destroyed there's now a time limit on our family. At least for you, Talisman."
The man had his hood down, and his angular features pulled into a small smile. "Indeed. The part of my soul Mordecai had locked into the blade is now free. I can feel myself aging again. It's an odd sensation."
"It is," Galen agreed. He'd experienced the same thing when he'd left the Realm of Eternal Darkness.
Isra stepped forward. "We're finally all here together, a chance we never got in the past. I was really hoping we could make the most of it. I was hoping we could all bond again."
Galen looked between them. "Are you two . . . getting back together?"
She nodded. "We are. We care deeply for each other."
The young man couldn't help but smile at that. It was hard not to be happy when they had at last achieved victory. And in all honesty the idea of putting back together a family he'd never gotten to experience sounded good. He wanted it. "I'm happy for you. And yes, I think it would be nice to . . . do some family things. Be together on the holidays and stuff like that."
Talisman seemed relieved. "I'm . . . so glad to hear that."
Isra ran over to hug her son, and he returned the embrace. She said, "I love you, Galen. And this time, Mordecai can't destroy that."
Link let out his breath, staring over his small room. The cot seemed tiny and insignificant nestled in the back. The cabinet with his few possessions sat beside it. On the wall was the charcoal portrait of himself at fourteen, looking determined and heroic, that Burning Joe had drawn for him.
"I suppose I'll take it all," Link mumbled to himself, eyeing the mirror, comb, toothbrush, and books on the cabinet. Some of his clothes were visible under the cot.
"I took all of mine," Zelda's voice came from behind him.
He'd known she was there, watching him. He could feel her. But he rather liked the idea that she was watching him in silence. It was flattering. It made him feel special. "I bet you did."
She laughed, walking up beside him. "There really are a lot of memories here."
"I know." He reached down and touched the cot. "All those nights I spent here, in this little space, sometimes having nightmares about Mordecai and other times dreaming of a happier future." He straightened, remembering. "Or a happy present. You know, not all of the times spent here were bad."
"They really weren't," Zelda agreed. "And although I'm glad we've accomplish our mission, I can honestly say I'll miss this life. There was something romantic and adventurous about it."
He nodded, and took a moment of silence in honor of the years spent in this cave. Then he said, "The castle will be a new kind of romance and adventure, though."
"It will," she acquiesced. "I can already see it now." She stepped behind him, wrapping her arms around his chest. He leaned back against her. "You'll probably join Hyrule's army so you can further your duties as Hero. I bet Logon or whoever decides to take charge will promote you up so many ranks that you'll have a lot of authority. You'll train people."
Link hummed contentedly, liking the thought of that.
"And I'll rule Hyrule from the throne," Zelda continued. "Taking care of people and making sure no evil gets that kind of grip on this land again. But I'll also keep up my Sheikah training and maybe even teach a student of my own."
He grinned, happiness at the prospect making him feel light-headed.
"And we'll ride our horses, and fight crime, and visit Ganondorf and Acroff and hold the greatest parties in the castle," she told him. "That will be our adventure." She paused for just a second before her hands started caressing him, and her breath was hot on the back of his neck as she said, "But our romance will be even better than it was here in the cave. Because we love each other, and we have our bond, and our relationship is moving beyond casual. I'm serious about you, Link. And as the princess of Hyrule, I can get us all sorts of private places where I can do whatever I want to you." Her teeth scraped against the side of his neck.
Link let out his breath in a quick puff, arching against her and reaching back to hold onto her head. Keeping her where she was. "Zelda . . ." He swallowed, adding, "You are starting to sound indecent."
She chuckled darkly, her hands all over his torso. "It might not be indecent for much longer."
Link felt a surge of emotion in him at her words. That promise of a future. But he knew – and she knew – that now was not the time to make huge decisions about their relationship. That could come after everything had settled down. But the very idea that she wanted what he wanted – a future together – was enthralling. He spun around and grabbed her, lifting her up into a hot kiss. He pushed her against the rocky wall and she moaned, kicking her legs around his waist and burying her hands in his hair.
I love you, he sent, his tongue too preoccupied to form words.
I love you more, she returned.
Link's chosen room was at the end of the hallway that Zelda's was in. It was large and rectangular, and Link really wasn't sure to do with all the space. When he picked it, it was just a sparse bedroom with a bed and dresser. But in the course of a few days, it was turned into a lavish area of blues and greens. A large window gave him a few over the army's training area. He was looking out, watching Logon coordinate the organization of weapons, when there was a knock on his door.
He turned around, his shadow falling across his room from the sunlight. "Come in."
Ganondorf and Acroff entered, their smiles holding a twinge of sadness. Link knew what they were going to say before Acroff told him, "We're leaving today."
The Hero sighed, slumping against the window. "I thought so."
"I'd stay longer if I could," Ganondorf said, "but my Gerudos are eager to return home and I need to be there for my people. It doesn't look right for a leader to be gone for so long."
"No, I understand," Link assured, crossing the room to stand a few feet from them. "You have duties, also." He turned to the white-haired man. "What will you be doing, now that Mordecai is gone?"
Acroff shrugged. "Well, I'm going to go back to my ranch house and tell everyone the news. They all seemed to really like me there, so maybe I'll get to keep the house and help run the area."
"I hope so," Link told him.
There was an awkward pause, the silence stretched out among them. The young man looked at the brown carpeted floor, gathering his thoughts. When he looked back up at them, his single eye was shining with tears. "You know I wouldn't be here today if it wasn't for you two," he said, his voice shaky.
Acroff's smile fell and he crossed the space between them to pull Link into a hug. The Hero returned it fiercely. Ganondorf then came up, wrapping his large arms around the both of them. Seconds passed as they just stood there like that, and Link reflected on where he would be now if these two hadn't been in his life.
"Link-" Zelda came to a stop as she walked into his room. A touched smile spread over her face.
The three pulled apart slightly, and the Hero looked up at her. "Hi, Zel. What do you need?"
"There's a surprise for you in the entry hall," she said.
The group left his room and went down the halls and stairs, making their way through the castle. Link observed all the life that castle now had. So much more than when Mordecai had ruled. There were vases of flowers in the corners; the old art of Hyrule's history had been hung back up. The place was clean and bright, and there were so many people all looking happy. Servants and soldiers and guests. It brought Link a lot of joy to see Hyrule Castle like this.
They came to the entry hall. It had gotten a lot of damage from the fighting there, but had been cleaned up nicely. All the blood had been washed away, and the walls had been patched up from the slices and burns they had sustained. A portrait of the late king hung up, and one of the three goddesses, and others of important people in Hyrule's royal family.
Zelda took his hand excitedly and led him up to one of the paintings. And when he stared up at it, it took his breath away.
"Oh, wow!" Acroff laughed. "Look at that."
It was a painting of Link himself, his full body on a background of darkness and fire. He was wearing his usual fighting clothes – black pants, boots, his fingerless gloves, dark green shirt, and eye binding – and a wind was pulling them to the side and blowing his hair. In his left hand he clutched the Master Sword, its blade shining brilliantly. And, just like in his charcoal portrait, his gaze was looking somewhere in the distance and he expression looked every bit the Hero of Legend.
"Oh . . ." Link breathed, resting his hand on Zelda's arm. His stare roamed over the painting before he saw the artist's signature in the corner – Burning Joe. "He . . . He did this for me?"
"He did," Zelda replied, beaming. "I tried to find him, but he's wandering around the castle somewhere. I'm sure you'll see him for dinner tonight, though."
The young man passed a hand over his face. "I . . . I love it. I really can't believe it. And you hung it here?"
"Of course," she laughed. "You're our Hero."
Link was glad for Acroff coming up to hug him again. It let him look away from the painting. Because he thought if he stared at it another second he would cry.
Months passed as Hyrule regained its footing. The four kingdoms that Mordecai had established were united into one again. The Zoras returned to their home that Sephora had taken away. The Gorons, with Jim Goro, left Castle Town and returned to Death Mountain. Acroff was able to maintain a ranch estate, and the Gerudos were closer to Hyrule's government than they'd ever been before.
The Rebellion broke up and each went their own ways. Many found their old homes in Castle Town. Some decided to move out into other villages. The majority of them, though, joined Hyrule's official army. Logon and Galen led it, with Link being their second in command. Megan was also in charge of the archery division.
Galen and Burning Joe both took up rooms in the castle. Burning Joe had a position as a wise, if not slightly unstable, advisor. Talisman and Isra moved into a cottage outside of Castle Town, but a close enough distance so that Galen could visit them. And he did every few weeks.
Impa healed up, though she was left with a nasty scar along her side. She also took a spot as Zelda's advisor, and continued to oversee her Sheikah practice and taught her more advanced tricks.
Ganondorf and Acroff came to visit once a month, much like they had when Mordecai was in charge, only this time it was voluntary and they looked forward to going. Link always loved to see them, and at last they could spend their time just being friends.
One afternoon Link returned to his room after helping Logon and Galen train some new recruits. He took a long drink of water from a glass as he opened his door, stepping inside. It felt like home now, and he liked it.
He was just about to kick off his boots when he noticed a white sheet of paper lying neatly on his bed. He raised an eyebrow, walking over and picking it up.
This is your Favorite Person in the World, aka, Zelda.
I was missing you, and I'm all done with my princess duties today. If you're done with your Hero ones, then meet me on the south battlements. Super secretly!
Lots of love and sunshine,
Kisses and hugs,
He smiled, sitting the note down. Leaving his room again, he jogged up the stairs and onto the battlements. The sun was shining brightly, a warm wind ruffled his hair. The castle was alive with activity, but sitting there on the corner of the wall, in the shade of one of the towers, Zelda was completely alone. And in her traveling clothes. She grinned as he approached.
"Well, I got your note," he chuckled, stopping in front of her. "What is this secret meeting about?"
She looped her arms around his neck, batting her eyelashes. "Well, I was thinking you and I could go spend some time in the cave system. A little romantic adventure for you and me."
"Oh?" he wrapped his arms around her waist. "That sounds like fun, but it's a long way there."
She held up two fingers, drawing them seductively across his lips. "I was thinking we could take a short cut."
He flashed a grin and hooked one arm under her knees, picking her up. "I like the sound of that! Hey, why don't we kiss while we teleport? That way we'd be sharing one kiss in both the castle and the cave."
"Oh, I like the way you think," she stated. "Let's go for it."
They met lips in a warm and loving kiss. It took Zelda a moment to focus on something else besides his mouth, but once she did she struck two fingers against the stone wall of the castle. And they were gone.
I do plan on writing more Zelda stories. I actually have an idea for one I'm really excited about. But I'm going to take a quick break. Writing epics is a lot of effort, and I want to take some time to edit my older stories that are in need of improving. Between this story and my next Zelda one, though, I'll turn out a few oneshots.
If you ever want me to be able to get in touch with you again about anything relating to this fanfic, or my Zelda works, or even a video about my writing process, then leave a signed review. To all my anonymous reviewers, I won't be able to get in touch with you unless you sign in this time.
Thanks for all the love! I had a great time, and this story has exceeded my expectations.