AN: The first few chapters are currently being revised. This chapter has been revised, and I hope to post the other, newly-revised chapters soon. A re-read isn't necessary, as I'm not adding or dramatically altering the scenes, but I would still recommend it.
"Stone walls do not a prison make, nor iron bars a cage." – Unknown
They sit upon one of the many islands surrounding Skyloft, in the middle of a breezy, warm afternoon. Zelda watches her Loftwing sway and dart across the sky, followed soon after by a streak of brilliant red, Link's bird trailing behind.
A crown of flowers rests atop her head, their color bringing warmth to her skin. Her golden hair has been let free, falling softly and brilliantly down her back. Smiling, she watches the birds glide across the sky, zipping back and forth, left and right.
Link is too busy admiring her to observe the birds, nor pay heed to whatever she points to.
"Don't you think that cloud looks like a Rimlet, Link? See the ears, the fluffy tail?"
Link draws his eyes away long enough to observe it. He nods.
Frowning, Zelda slaps his arm. "You didn't even look at it! It was so cute, too."
The boy grins, as if being reprimanded by a withered old lady. Zelda turns away to gaze at the clouds once more, brows scrunched, shoulders hiked up; she's ungraceful in her anger, but Link admires her all the same. He stares at the color of her golden hair in the sunlight.
Their Loftwings call in the distance. The wind sings in his ears. Contently, Link closes his eyes, breathing in the fresh spring air.
Zelda turns to him, frowning, suddenly serious. She moves closer, so near he can see every fleck of color in her rainwater eyes. They gaze at him in a solemn, serious way he's unused to.
"Zelda?" He says, quietly.
Her lips part to speak, forming words he cannot hear. The wind sweeps them away.
Link wakes up. Slowly, his eyes adjust to the gloom around him; he's not in his own bed, with the warmth of blankets and the comfort of a pillow. He lies beneath a tree in the Deep Woods, a pile of long-cold ashes nearby. He's not in Skyloft, surrounded by clouds and endless blue. Looming over him are old trees twisted with time. The soil beneath his hands feels solid, confined, caged to the big, wide earth called The Surface.
Link closes his eyes, lowering his sandy blond head.
She comes to him then, glowing with magic, a fey blue light. Fi hovers beside him, feet barely touching the grass, unmoving blue face near his own.
"Master Link, it will be dawn in approximately three hours and forty-five minutes. It's imperative you get a minimum of eight hours' rest. Zelda is counting on you, Master Link."
His entire body is heavy, but Link finds the strength to nod. He looks into her peerless eyes. Fi tilts her head.
"Will I have that dream again?"
She's silent. For all her kindness, Link knows Fi isn't human, but she's something, at least, to keep him company.
"I do not have adequate information to answer your question. My apologies, Master Link. However, I wish you….pleasant dreams, nonetheless. Please rest now. I'll be here when you wake."
She disappears back into the sword at his side.
He's alone, again.
There's a feeling that this isn't right, that things aren't happening like they should, but Zelda does not know why.
The memories are like butterfly-smoke, whispering against the back of her eyelids. They fade in and out of focus at random. She can see familiar faces, others she doesn't recognize. They smear together like a botched oil painting on the canvas of her mind.
Zelda thinks she's going insane.
I'm not supposed to be here, not now, she thinks, sitting on the floor of her bedroom, bare floor cold against her naked skin. She's wet and dripping from a bath, but has no desire to dress. The room she lies in is decorated with only a grand bed and vanity, colored in rich red and gold. From floor to ceiling, everything else is blank, empty white.
Something tells her that she's meant to be somewhere, sometime different, but doesn't know why, or even how.
Does it matter?
She closes her eyes and breathes in. An image comes to life, a barren place of sand, and a great, looming sculpture of three triangles. These triangles have some important, mysterious meaning. She knows it, because it feels familiar, like she'd been there before in a past life.
If these aren't the images she sees, her dreams are full of nightmares.
Each night, she relives being captured, over and over again. She had been dragged deep within the dredges of the Earth Temple by monsters, and chained there, smoke filling her lungs. The old woman had warned her of a man named Ghirahim taking her away; for what purpose she was unaware.
He took her away without warning or reprieve, placing her in his castle like a pretty, caged bird with clipped wings. Zelda counts the days in misery and anxiety; she's been here for two weeks.
She has to relive seeing his face each night, and when she wakes, Zelda finds Ghirahim has followed her out of her nightmares.
Zelda folds herself into the smallest ball she can, teeth digging into the skin of her knees.
The sunlight shining through her window forms prison-bar shadows across her body.
Although Zelda is imprisoned, she's been given freedom to roam the halls of this giant, empty castle.
Not even his pig-like minions preside in this palace, full of rich fabrics and fine furniture. Each room she enters is lavish, fit for any king. Flames erupt in fireplaces without aid, nor wood to fuel them. Though it's the middle of summer, Zelda shivers in her gown, alone in these great, wide halls of stone.
"What's the purpose of such a huge castle, with no one to fill it?"
Her voice echoes.
Zelda stops before a window, sunlight a weak, gray streak across the floor. Spring clouds amass overhead, strange blues and purples stirring within their depths. The first droplets of rain pepper the glass before her. Her blue eyes follow one solitary drop as it descends down, farther still, before being swallowed up by more rain.
When she reaches out to touch her fingertips to the glass, it warps, bending around her hand, as if made from something flexible and soft. No matter how far she outstretches her hand, the glass does not break.
"What strange sorcery," she drops her hand, tingling with magic.
The castle's empty halls loom up around her. She feels impossibly small, impossibly alone. The only breath which stirs the air is her own.
She wraps her arms around herself, sinking to the floor, forehead resting against the stone wall. She thinks of her Loftwing, the smell of grass and spring air. Clouds. Her favorite book, the lullaby her father sang to her as a child.
She thinks of these things to fill the void of this castle without a single living thing inside it.
No matter how many times she asks, the old woman will not reveal her name.
Zelda sits in the grass, peering up through cracks in the ceiling. Moss clings to the walls, vines cramming their way between every stone. This temple is old, withered like the woman who guards it, with a strange smile and frail little hands. She is nameless, so Zelda calls her grandmother.
The old woman stands before her, all but a few feet high. Her back is hunched, and what little of her face visible beneath her pointed, crimson hood is wrinkled with age. Her skin is dark like worn leather, but her hair is blonde and braided, swinging down by her side. Zelda stands as she approaches.
The old woman smiles mysteriously. "The Goddess herself wore a dress such as the one you wear now. How does it fit you?"
She pulls at the flowing sleeves of her gown, as if she's done it many times before, though she's never worn it until today. The blueness of it reminds her of an early spring morning. It's familiar in an old, mysterious way, the smell of it, the cut and color.
It feels like a mantle weighing her down.
"It fits well," she says, hoping the lie doesn't taint her words.
The woman holds out one leathery hand. "Come with me. It's time you left; as much as I would like to keep you here, you have much to do."
Zelda takes her hand, following the old woman to the great stone doors. They creak and rattle when pushed open, sunlight washing into the ruins of the old, withered temple. The outside world spreads out before her.
Zelda has never seen grass so green, or flowers so fresh and colorful. Faron Woods looms up before her.
The old woman squeezes her hand, skinny fingers trembling. Her voice is very, very soft.
"Don't be fooled, girl. This path is a dark and twisted one. I must tell you once more: Avoid capture at any and all costs. Everything, past and future, will be lost if you are."
Zelda looks out across the grass and flowers, brighter than anything she's ever seen. She swallows heavily.
"Yes, I'll be careful. Thank you," she pauses, swallows again, "but what do I do now?"
The old woman lets go of her hand, stepping back into the Temple. "Go to the temple to purify yourself. You have my prayers, and my thoughts. May the Goddess watch over you."
The doors rumble shut once more. Zelda is alone.
"Eat, girl. My patience for this ordeal is quickly fading."
Ghirahim sits, rather, drapes himself in the chair across from her, platters and bowls of food spread out in a dizzying arrangement before them. The table is at least three times her height, and wide enough, if she wished, to lay upon. They sit in a room so large Zelda has to tilt her head back to see the ceiling, and one, singular bay window lets moonlight flood in.
Though she's starved enough to eat every morsel, Zelda touches not a single thing.
His white lips curl into a snarl, a triangle of pointed teeth leering at her from beneath his lips. The color of his hair mimics the moon outside, one side cut in a harsh, blunt line across his jaw. The other side is cut shorter, fine strands pushed behind his one pointed ear. A blue earring dangles entrancingly from it. She dares not ask why his other ear doesn't match, hidden in his hair.
Ghirahim speaks to her as if addressing a dull-witted child.
"Starving yourself will not save him. As is, the boy is in no danger, at least not by my hands. It appears he's managed to kill my pet, Scaldera. What an annoying little rat he is."
Zelda smiles inside, where he can't see it.
Ghirahim drums his gloved fingers against the table. She watches the movement as to avoid his eyes, night-dark orbs outlined in deep purple, like terrible holes in his head.
He vanishes in a burst of colorful diamonds.
Then he's right behind her, faster than she can breathe, hands curling around her shoulders. His grip is like iron and just as cold. Zelda shudders as his breath washes across her nape.
"Eat. Now. Would you rather me tie you up and spoon feed you? I will, if it means you get something down that nasty, human mouth. I won't have you becoming sick, not at all. You're more useful to me healthy."
Zelda reaches up to shove his hands away, but he's back at the other end of the table before she can. He laughs, though there's no mirth in it.
"Why don't you eat, Ghirahim?"
He scowls at her as if she's insulted him. "I can, but I don't need to. What an unfortunate quality of you humans, the need to eat. It's a nasty habit, really. How dare you even ask."
She looks down to the table, falling silent. Her stomach rumbles.
Zelda breathes in the scent of cooked meats and fine pastries, foods she's never seen nor tasted, exotic and colorful. Her stomach clenches, growling. He looks at her expectantly, grinning wide. Her fingers shaking, Zelda plucks a slice of meat from a nearby platter, shoving it into her mouth, hardly chewing. She piles more nameless foods onto her plate, greasing her hands and slopping sauces onto her dress.
Ghirahim says with disgust, eyeing her up and down. "Your manners are terrible, but given the circumstances, I suppose I can forgive them,"
Zelda pretends he isn't there, that she's here alone with this feast, piling more food onto her plate. Not wondering what it is, or how it will taste, because she's too hungry to care. He watches her finish plate after plate in silence.
When it feels as though she'll burst, Zelda pushes the last plate away. Ghirahim practically bounces in his chair.
"That wasn't so hard, was it? I pity you, just a little, living in the sky with a select number of foods to eat. Here, you can have whatever you wish. You need simply ask, my darling little bird."
He tries to sound sincere, yet Zelda can hear the falseness in his voice. She glares.
Ghirahim smiles a wide, lazy grin, eyes crinkling up. She wonders briefly why his skin is so pale; it's the color of wet marble, as if his veins are bereft of blood; he's not human, not human at all. Ghirahim is the direct foil of Link, in manner and appearance. This realization fills her with deep, empty longing.
Her gaze follows the movement of his hands as he folds them before his face. His eyes peer at her from the pointed tips his fingers make.
"You're thinking of him, hm? That soft little boy in green. You should feel very special, to be loved so much for someone as shy and incompetent as him to search for you. This is unfamiliar land to him, and every inch is covered in claws, ready to tear him to shreds. He will not find clemency here."
Zelda sets her jaw, makes herself as tall as possible in the chair.
"Why didn't you kill him when you first met? If he is so incompetent and soft, why let him live?"
His face falls into a deep, ugly frown.
The room darkens, shadows throwing themselves upon the walls, writhing up and down, into every corner. Zelda looks upon them in horror, because walls aren't supposed to move, not like that, but they do, here, in this place without law.
Sweat begins to gather on her upper lip. She licks the saltiness away, turning her eyes toward Ghirahim, now standing, tense and terrible, pale white mouth snarling. He disappears into nothingness, but his voice drags across the walls.
"You have quite the mouth, skychild. Be sure to keep it in check tomorrow evening, or I may decide not to feed you at all. You think of that soft little boy a while longer for me. He's all you have."
The walls fall still and silent.
She's alone, again.