Disclaimer: All rights to the Legend of Zelda Series and characters belong to Nintendo.

Chapter 3: Friendly Wager

The Castle Town residence of the Marquess of Ordon was not located within the city proper, but rather Lord Link had chosen to construct a country manor a few miles from the city's gates, a common enough practice among the kingdom's wealthier nobility. However what was not common was the degree of opulence projected by the Marquess' manor; Zelda had never before seen a noble residence as breathtakingly lavish as the Marquess'. Peering out the window of her carriage, it was all she could do to keep her mouth from gaping in awe at the enormous mansion, rising some six stories off the ground, its ends stretching so far in either direction that it appeared more like an ornate version of the massive walls safeguarding the Royal Palace than a home. Although she was far away, Zelda could perceive what were in all likelihood immaculately cut rosebushes and pleasant hedges running along the expanse of the manor's front. The vibrant green lawn was likewise perfectly trimmed and even, dotted with the occasional majestic oak tree, and split down the middle by a wide marble walkway that led to the manor's front entrance. Along either side of the pathway several dozen statues, twice the size of grown men and possessing humanoid bodies and oxen heads, stood with enormous two-handed swords thrust into the grass on the walkway's edges.

The horses drew to a halt, and the driver leapt from his seat to open the carriage door. Exiting the vehicle, Zelda gazed once more in wonder at the incredible sight in front of her before she noticed a figure exit the manor's front doors. As the figure set down the marble walkway and drew nearer, Zelda recognized him as Sir Colin. Dressed as always in impeccable clothing, the youth appeared just as he had at the Hyrule Faire, except that this time the breast of his shirt bore a coat of arms superimposed over the face of a wolf: the crest of the Marquess of Ordon. When he finally reached her, Sir Colin bowed. "Welcome to the Marquess' manor, Your Highness," he greeted, smiling politely. "The Marquess is expecting you."

"Thank you, Sir Colin," Zelda replied smiling, although she could not help but continue to feel a tinge of irritation towards the young man due to his actions at the Faire, even though she now knew that he had only been acting under the orders of Lord Link.

Sir Colin swept a hand in the direction of the mansion. "If you will follow me, please," he told her. As he led her down the marble walkway, Zelda further inspected the statues. Towering above her, they stood with a stillness that seemed almost unnatural. Instead of eyes they possessed hollow sockets, dark even in the morning sunlight. Zelda felt a shiver run down her spine as she looked at them, and quickly redirected her gaze in front of her, focusing upon the manor doors that they were approaching. She had been anticipating this day ever since the Faire. After confronting Sir Colin and learning that he was under the employ of the Lord Link, Zelda, murderous with rage, had instructed the youth to inform the Marquess that she would be calling upon him the following day at his Castle Town residence. Unfortunately, as Sir Colin had so apologetically explained, Lord Link had been away on business, and was not due to return for a further two weeks. And so, frustrated and furious, Zelda had waited fourteen days' time for the Marquess' return to the capital.

They reached the mansion steps, and mounting them, Sir Colin led Zelda to the pair of beautifully carved oaken doors that served as the building's front entrance. Opening one of them, he gestured for her to proceed inside. As Zelda stepped over the threshold, she felt her eyes widen in wonder. She stood at the edge of a vast foyer, with marble floors and a high ceiling. Several large and beautiful paintings hung along the walls, all of various landscapes in various seasons. Below the paintings half a dozen doors stood closed, and Zelda surmised that they led to the remainder of the house. In the center of the room stood an enormous bronze statue of a middle-aged man dressed in some sort of armor, with a long cape draped across his shoulders and falling to the floor behind him. Zelda stared at the man, wondering who he was, when Sir Colin politely cleared his throat, breaking her out of her reverie. As Zelda turned to face him, the youth shut the door behind him. "Please follow me, Your Highness," he once again instructed her. Zelda walking behind him, the pair crossed the enormous foyer to one of the doors on its far wall. Opening it, Sir Colin strode in first and moved aside so as to allow Zelda room to enter.

Peering around, Zelda found herself in yet another large room, although the walls of this one were lined with weapons of all types. Sturdy longbows were hung over leather quivers full of arrows; maces were interspersed with quarterstaffs and shields. The Princess noted that one wall was entirely covered with swords, ranging from brutishly massive two-handed blades to small, ornate daggers. In the center of the room stood the Marquess of Ordon with his back turned to the door. His hands were gently clasped behind him, and although she couldn't see his expression, it appeared to Zelda almost as if he was lost in thought.

"Her Royal Highness, Princess Zelda, my Lord," Colin announced with a bow.

Without moving, Lord Link spoke, the sophisticated cadence of his voice carrying well in the chamber. "Thank you, Sir Colin. That will be all for now."

Sir Colin bowed and exited the room. Once the door had closed the Marquess turned around, and Zelda was for the first time able to observe his face in full. Eyes involuntarily widening, the Princess felt her pulse quicken as she stared at what was in all likelihood the most attractive male countenance she had ever seen. With no mask to impede her view, she could fully examine Lord Link's sculpted jaw, high cheekbones, sensual yet masculine mouth, stunning blue eyes framed by long lashes, and exquisite dirty blond hair, parted at one side and swept sideways, his bangs falling pleasantly across his forehead. And as if that were not enough, the loose linen shirt that he was currently wearing did very little to conceal the lean muscular frame of his torso. All in all, Zelda mentally begrudged, the Marquess was a sight to behold. Which would have troubled her far less if it were not for the smug glint apparent in his eyes as he looked at her, as if he somehow knew that she had found him so physically appealing.

"Your Highness," Lord Link spoke, bowing with a flourish of his hand, "to what do I owe the honor of your visitation?"

"I think that you know the answer to that," Zelda replied shortly. Good looks notwithstanding, she still retained a great dislike for the man who frustrated her to no end whenever she encountered him, and, somehow, even when she did not encounter him.

One corner of the Marquess' mouth turned upward, and a soft chuckle escaped his throat. "Oh, right, Sir Colin had mentioned that you were upset that he outbid you at the Hyrule Faire."

"On every item," Zelda snapped.

Lord Link raised a finger in correction, openly grinning now. "If I recall correctly, you did go home with a rather handsome bearskin rug…"

"Enough!" And Zelda was surprised at how loudly she had raised her voice. Was the Marquess really so easily able to get under her skin? "I want to know why you did it. Why have you made it your goal to annoy me? Is this your twisted, ill-advised way of flirting with me? Of trying to get my attention?"

Lord Link shrugged noncomittally. "Perhaps," he said. "You are very beautiful, after all." His eyes fixated upon her face, quickly swept down over her body (garbed in a dress of soft pink), and back up again, evaluating her much as she had earlier done him. This caught Zelda off guard and for a moment she didn't know what to say. "Of course," he added with a mischievous smile, "it could just be that it is endlessly amusing to see you so worked up over something so trivial as an auction." At this Zelda narrowed her eyes. But before she could formulate an acidic enough retort, the Marquess spoke again. "You're reputed to be a talented swordsman, aren't you, Your Highness?"

The question came out of nowhere, and it temporarily distracted her from the issue at hand. "I beg your pardon?" was all that she could say in response.

Lord Link gestured at the weapons handing from the walls, and particularly at the myriad of steel blades. "I have heard that you are an expert practitioner of swordsmanship. Apparently you won last year's fencing section at the Tournament?"

Trying to wrap her head around what he was asking, Zelda answered, "Yes, I will be defending my title at the Tournament next week."

"I see. Well, if you couldn't already tell, I too am a sword enthusiast." He once more directed her attention to the sword wall. "And I consider myself to be a rather competent duelist as well. So how about a friendly wager? I will ante up everything that Sir Colin won from you at the auction in a duel between the two of us. Not to the death, obviously," he added, perhaps seeing the flash of murderous intent in her eyes, "but simply to the point at which either one of us is disarmed or forced to yield. Agreed?"

Zelda pursed her lips, considering the offer, while at the same time reveling in the enlightenment that it had brought her. Clearly this had been his plan all along. He had sought her out and made himself enough of a nuisance to her that she had called upon him at his estate, wherein he met her in his armory. This "friendly wager" held some ulterior motive beyond a desire to make amends for what had happened at the Faire. Which begged the question…

"And what exactly do you want if you should win?" she asked.

The Marquess smirked, probably knowing all too well that she had figured him out. "Nothing much, really," he said offhandedly. "Should I win, I would simply desire that you grant me access to the Sages' private records of Hyrule."

Zelda furrowed her brow in confusion. The Six Sages, the heads of Hyrule's religious order, had for generations recorded and preserved the kingdom's history within their private library, situated within Hyrule Castle and accessible only to them and to members of the Royal Family. Zelda had undergone her considerable education within that massive room, easily the largest in the castle, sitting amongst the endless shelves full of books and parchments that seemed to go on endlessly in all directions. Even now she often consulted the library on occasion in accordance with her magical studies. But although the Sages' private records were the most extensive compilation of literary knowledge in the kingdom, Zelda could think of several noble families who kept libraries almost as large. And surely the Marquess, with his visibly fabulous wealth, could easily afford to form his own considerable collection. In fact there was little doubt in Zelda's mind that at least one of the rooms in this breathtaking manor had been devoted solely to storing books. So what did he want that could only be found within the Sages' records?

"And what do you wish to learn from the Sages' collection?" Zelda inquired, searching Lord Link's handsome face for some visual response that could provide her with clues.

Unfortunately for her, however, the Marquess's countenance remained impassive. "As I told you at your brother's betrothal celebration, Your Highness," he answered with a smile, "it is my desire to thoroughly explore my heritage, and there is without a doubt no greater literary collection preserving Hyrule's historical legacy more so than the Sages'."

Something about the Marquess' answer did not sit well with Zelda. There was nothing politically sensitive within the records, but nonetheless she could not help but feel that he was hiding something from her. "You realize that I will need to be there with you," she said, now staring at him with open suspicion. "Anything that you look at in that library, I will also see."

Dark amusement danced within the Marquess' eyes. "I realize that, Your Highness. Does this mean that you accept my wager?"

Zelda spent several more moments pondering the offer before finally replying, "Throw in the magical armor that you had Sir Colin purchase from Malo Mart."

At this Lord Link burst into open laughter. "Very well, Your Highness." Now smiling in satisfaction, he gestured at the surrounding wall covered with swords. "Shall we begin? You are free to select any blade that you wish."

Zelda glanced at the array of shining steel. Surveying the weapons, her blue eyes eventually alighted upon a slender rapier. Reaching out with one hand, she spoke spell of summoning within her mind, and the sword immediately detached itself from the wall, leisurely floating through the air to land in her grasp. Examining it closer, Zelda found the weapon to be light but incredibly sturdy, and the rich black leather of its grip perfectly complemented the gold-tinged pommel and crossguard. Its flawless blade was razor sharp, denoting the deadly yet immensely elegant design of the weapon. It was a true product of the highest craftsmanship. Turning her gaze back to the Marquess, Zelda held up the rapier. "This will do," she said with a small smirk, wondering if her display of telekinesis had taken him by surprise.

To this Lord Link merely closed his eyes. When he opened them again, he carelessly raised his left had in front of him, palm up. Completely disregarding the swords mounted on his wall, he looked directly into Zelda's eyes, and as he did so, spoke in a tongue entirely foreign to her. "Ferrum in manu," he uttered, and Zelda's eyes widened as the air above the Marquess' hand began to shimmer. A moment later it coalesced into tangible substance, settling into the distinct from of an arming sword, which fell lightly into Lord Link's upstretched hand.

Zelda stared in shock. Materialization was one of the most advanced and most difficult of the magical disciplines; even she had yet to fully master it. For the Marquess to have so easily and so casually performed it…who was he? The circumstances of it all began to align in her mind's eye: his sudden appearance at court, bearing wealth and sorcerous talents greater than those of anyone she had ever previously encountered…and what was that mysterious language that he had spoken, so different from any magical tongue that Zelda knew of? Amidst all of these confused thoughts, one thing stood clear to the Princess: she had to learn more about this man.

Almost as if he could read her alarmed thoughts, the Marquess gazed at her expectantly. "Something on your mind, Your Highness?" he asked.

Zelda forced herself to remain calm, refusing to allow Lord Link the satisfaction of seeing just how unsettled she was. "I'm fine," she answered. She gestured to her dress, and, as at the Faire, it bent to her will, reshaping into more suitable fencing clothes. Then, imperiously, she snapped, "I don't have all day, Your Lordship, are you ready?"

Lord Link smiled, but his vibrantly blue eyes hardened in concentration, sending a small chill down Zelda's spine. As he began to silently walk towards her, she began to consider the disconcerting possibility that he might be just as talented a swordsman as he was a sorcerer. "Oh, and I would rather that we not use magic for the duration of this duel, Your Highness," the Marquess added, stopping six feet away. Zelda nodded in agreement. Raising his sword, Lord Link looked to her for when to begin. The Princess squelched her misgivings, reassuring herself that she was, after all, the defending champion of the Hylian Tournament's swordsmanship competition. Even if Lord Link was a skilled fighter, she was confident in her ability to hold her own against him. She lifted her own blade, and nodded to her opponent.

The Marquess immediately led with a fierce thrust, one that Zelda nevertheless easily parried. Steel rang against steel as the two weapons met, and Zelda found herself on the defensive, blocking and deflecting Lord Link's attacks as they came. Moving slowly backwards, she patiently waited for an opening, and, finding it, stepped sideways and slashed from below. The Marquess in turn dodged, but yielded to the defensive as Zelda pressed her attack. They continued to move around each other as their swords flashed in front of them, and Zelda felt herself slip into the rhythm of the duel. As they fought, Zelda noticed that the Marquess was grinning at her. "Having fun, Your Highness?" he asked. She did not attempt to respond, however, as at these words Lord Link's movements became more rapid, and his sword seemed to almost whistle as it cut through the air. It was all Zelda could do to hold him at bay, twice narrowly blocking his blade as he directed it with expert precision to exploit openings in her defense. Leaping back to avoid a well-timed thrust, Zelda felt her breath hitch in her chest as the Marquess leapt after her, forcing her to stay off balance. He moved her back towards the wall, leaving her no chance to reverse the momentum, in spite of her furious parries. At last, Zelda felt her heel touch rich mahogany. She quickly tried to sidestep, to move around the Marquess, but in that moment Lord Link seized his chance, and, knocking Zelda's rapier from her hand with the flat of his sword, he brought the tip of the blade to rest delicately beneath her elegant chin.

Knowing that she was beaten, Zelda sighed. To his credit, Lord Link inclined his head with a small bow, and then lowered his weapon. "A fine duel, Your Highness," he said, breathing heavily from the exertion. Zelda too was struggling to catch her breath. "I can see why you are the reigning champion."

"A title that will soon be taken from me, it would appear," the Princess replied shortly, dearly wishing that she had seen through what now stood as having been such an obvious trap.

The Marquess shrugged. "There is still a week left until the Tournament. You may yet improve." Not that it would matter much, Zelda thought darkly. Judging from the speed and brutality with which he had employed his blade, it was clear to her that the Marquess possessed not the fencing training that accompanied aristocratic life, but rather the exponentially more effective combat experience that one could only obtain in war. Zelda thought back to what Midna had told her on the way to the Faire. "Anyway," Lord Link continued, "enough of that for now. It is nearly lunchtime, and what sort of host would I be to a Princess of Hyrule if I did not extend an invitation to her to dine with me at my humble abode?"

"As much as I would like that, Your Lordship," Zelda answered, layering as much sarcasm into her voice as she could muster, "unfortunately, I already have plans to dine with the King and my siblings today."

The Marquess bowed to her, unfazed. "Very well," he conceded, smiling politely, "I do not wish to keep you from your family."

"I thank you." Zelda held out the rapier. "This is a very fine blade, my compliments to the quality of your collection."

"I am most honored, Your Highness." He waved a hand of rebuff. "Please, feel free to keep it, it suits you."

Zelda shook her head, continuing to proffer the weapon. "I couldn't possibly—"

"Think of it," Lord Link interjected, staring into her eyes with a warmth that she had not previously seen in him, "as a gift from one swordsman to another."

Taken aback by the surprisingly kind gesture, Zelda relented. "Very well; thank you, Lord Link."

Once more the Marquess gave a gesture of dismissal. "And that is another thing," he said. "Although I realize that protocol dictates that you continue to address me by my title, feel free to simply call me 'Link' when we are in private."

"You suggest a familiarity that I do not believe is there," Zelda countered, frowning at the man's request.

The man shrugged, a cocksure expression once more returning to his countenance, and once more erasing any sympathies that Zelda had begun to feel for him. "If you say so, Your Highness. My offer still stands, however."

Her eyes narrowing, Zelda felt her patience wear thin. "When can I expect you to come to the castle to collect your prize?" she inquired, wishing to conclude her visit and leave the Marquess' manor as soon as possible.

Link smirked, which only irritated her further. "I shall be leaving the capital shortly after lunch today," he answered, "and I am not expecting to return until the first day of the Tournament. Will you be available to escort me into the Sages' library on that morning? Or," he added, his eyes glinting mischievously, "would you prefer to use that morning to further practice for the swordsmanship competition?"

Zelda felt involuntary color rise in her cheeks. "No, that will be fine," she told him. "Be at the castle at nine o'clock sharp, or the deal is off."

Link chuckled. "I am nothing if not punctual, Your Highness," he said.

Zelda seized the opportunity. "Good day, Your Lordship." She took pleasure in crisply articulating his title with every air of formality that she could muster.

As she turned to leave, however, Link called out a final time. "Please pass my regards along to His Majesty the King, Your Highness."

Without turning around, "I do not think that His Majesty will derive any special joy from hearing so." By this point her tone was acerbic.

Far from sounding perturbed, the Marquess merely repeated his earlier statement: "If you say so, Your Highness."

Zelda left the armory, rapier in hand. She found Sir Colin waiting for her in the foyer, his polite expression as fixed as ever upon his youthful face. He silently escorted her to her carriage, and, reversing the spell upon her clothing, the Princess climbed inside. Laying the sword on the seat beside her, she leaned back as the driver tightened his grip on the reigns and directed the horses to begin moving. As she journeyed back to Hyrule Castle, she took time to reflect upon her visit to the Marquess' manor, and upon the increasingly disturbing revelation of just how precisely and perfectly the Marquess had manipulated her.

Zelda arrived back at Hyrule Castle at eleven-forty, and walking straight from the carriage to the Royal Dining Room, pausing only hand Link's rapier to a servant with instructions to carry it directly to her room, she entered to find the King already seated with Daphnes II and Sheik. Zelda smiled—the men in her family were known for their impatience.

"Zelda!" King Daphnes Nohansen Hyrule exclaimed upon seeing her, rising from his ornate chair at the head of the table. A man in his early sixties, the King still stood tall at a height of nearly six feet. Although his hair and beard had turned to white, they did nothing to take away from the step of youthful vigor that was still present in the kingdom's monarch. However, time had taken its toll on the King in another way; decades of peace had engorged his waist size, and although Zelda would not deem her father to be an obese man, he certainly was not the mighty warrior that he had been at Daphnes II's age. Not that this mattered much, for there surely was no merrier a father in the kingdom, no man more willing to indulge another's joke; he received all with joy and love, and in turn was received by all in a like manner. Hyrule could not have asked for a more benevolent king.

Zelda curtseyed in respect to King Daphnes. "Father," she greeted, long instructed that within the Royal Family formal titles were to be reserved for only the most formal of events.

The King beckoned her to the table. "Come and sit down!" he called. The Princess saw that he had a letter open in his hand. "Your brothers and I have just been talking about you."

"About me?" Zelda inquired, moving to sit beside Sheik. Her second eldest brother, garbed in princely vestments of royal blue, pushed away the strands of his long, blond hair that were forever falling in front of his eyes, and shot her a grin with some unknown meaning. A quick glance at Daphnes II revealed that he too was smiling triumphantly at his sister.

The King went on. "Very much so," he said, the chuckles of his deep voice sounding much like the playful rumblings of a lion. "I received a very interesting letter this morning from one of the nobles. Can you guess who might have sent it?"

Zelda looked to the parchment in the King's hand. Although from her angle its contents were obscured, she could nonetheless discern that there was some ornate crest imprinted on the top. The Princess furrowed her brow in confusion. How was she supposed to know from whom the letter had come? Had yet another duke or influential count at court written to her father asking his permission to court her? Zelda had long grown used to being pursued by a regular cadre of suitors; all three of the Royal Princesses had. Of course none of the ones that she had thus far encountered had proved to be of any interest to her, and she regularly turned down their advances. "I don't know father," Zelda answered, curious to learn what sort of missive the parchment held.

Still grinning broadly, the King held up the letter. "Perhaps this will provide a helpful clue then." Zelda felt herself physically jump in her seat as she laid eyes upon the crest. In hindsight she would reflect upon the possibility that her blood had begun to boil even before her brain had registered the head of a wolf beneath the coat of arms. At her reaction, the King roared with leonine laughter. "You've figured it out, have you?" He shifted his warm, dark eyes to the parchment. "Imagine my surprise when my I was told this morning that the Marquess of Ordon had written me a letter graciously offering to throw a party in celebration of your brother's betrothal!"

Zelda was finding it difficult to speak. "He-He what?" was all that she could stammer.

"He has sent an invitation out to nearly every noble in the kingdom, from what I've been told. Normally I would have dismissed such a thing as yet another attempt by a noble to get into my good graces. After all, we've already received several invitations from other Peers wishing to do the same thing. But once I had shown the letter to your brother Sheik, he informed me that you had left this morning to pay a visit to the Marquess. And so it all became clear to me."

Zelda had an idea of what her father was getting at, although she desperately hoped that she was wrong. "What became clear to you?" she asked in a hesitant voice, imploring the goddesses that the King was not thinking that which she suspected that he might be.

King Daphnes once again roared with laughter. "Oh come on Zelda, the game is up! You've finally found a suitor that you like, and with this party Lord Link wishes not to impress the King, but your father!"

Zelda felt scarlet fire bloom in her cheeks. "Lord Link is not courting me!" she replied defiantly, realizing only now the full meaning of the Marquess' last words to her at his manor. "And even if he was, I have no interest in him."

"If that's the case, then why did you accept that sword from him?" Daphnes II interjected, grinning with mischievous mirth. When Zelda glanced at him interrogatively, he added, "A servant informed us that you had returned, and that the Marquess had given you a sword. An absolutely exquisite blade, too, from what he told us; Lord Link certainly knows your tastes." He winked at her, to which Zelda responded with a withering expression.

Zelda clutched at the last leg that she had to stand on. "Ask Saria and Midna, they'll tell you that I can't stand the Marquess!"

"All I know is that she couldn't stop talking about him," a coy voice sounded from the Dining Room's entrance. Zelda whirled around in her seat to see Midna and Saria walking in, having arrived for lunch. It was her eldest sister who had spoken, but both had expressions of wicked glee on their faces.

"She certainly made a big deal out of it when his servant outbid her at the auction at the Faire," Saria chimed in.

Zelda slumped in her chair, not knowing how to respond to this multi-directional bombardment. Still chuckling, her father good-naturedly beckoned her to sit up. "Come now Zelda," he said in a milder tone, "it's all in good fun. We're just all happy that you've finally found a man who has caught your attentions." Zelda was about to respond to this when the Dining Room doors opened once more. In strode Impa, still dressed in her traveling cloak; she had to have just returned from her intelligence mission to East Eldin. Clearly she had had orders to report directly to the King as soon as she returned. "Ah, Impa," the King called, caught off guard by the Sheikah's sudden entrance, "what news do you have to report? Is all not well in East Eldin?"

Impa bowed to her monarch in greeting. "I am afraid not, Your Majesty," she spoke in her usual stern tones. "My journey has unearthed some unsettling news."

The King sighed. "Very well; I shall receive you in my chambers after I have finished eating with my family."

The Sheikah bowed once more to him. "Your Majesty," she uttered, and turned to leave.

As she passed by Zelda, an idea blossomed inside the Princess's head. "Impa, do you have a minute?" she asked. The older woman nodded. Informing her family that she would return in a few moments, Zelda accompanied Impa out of the Dining Room.

"What is it that you wish to talk about, Your Highness?" Impa inquired, her red eyes gazing at Zelda curiously.

"Would it be possible for you to send one of the junior Sheikah agents to keep tabs on the Marquess of Ordon?" Zelda realized that knowledge of this request would only further confirm to her family that she was interested in the Marquess. Which, admittedly, she was, just not in the manner that they suspected; she wanted to know why the Marquess so frequently left the capital, and where his journeys were taking him. Between that, his powerful sorcerous talents, and his strange interest in the Sages' library, she was almost certain that there was more to Link than met the eye. He was up to something, and she was determined to discover what it was.

Zelda half expected Impa to question her motives for this request, but the Sheikah simply remained silent for a few seconds, before at last replying, "Yes, Your Highness, I will see to it that it is done. Is this something that you would prefer to be kept from your siblings and from your father?"

Zelda nodded. "If at all possible, yes," she said, desperate to avoid a repeat of what had just occurred in the Dining Room.

"Very well. Although all Sheikah missions designated by Royal Family members are required to be entered into our records, I shall make sure that Lord Link's identity is not mentioned." A hint of a smile played around her normally severe mouth, perhaps indicating that she somehow knew the reason why Zelda wanted this request to be kept below her family's notice.

"Thank you."

Impa bowed. "Your Highness." She turned and began to walk down the corridor.

Recollecting herself, Zelda took a deep breath and reentered the Royal Dining Room.

Author's Note: This was a fun chapter to write, although it took me a week and a half to find the time to write the last 1000 words. Thanks for all of your reviews; it's really rewarding for me to read what other people think of this story and of my writing. I would like to give a shout out to Joseph Kuo, who mentioned this story's similarity to Into the Woods, by the fanfiction author Lyxie. I cracked up when I read this because I have been a longtime fan of Lyxie's writing, and it was actually reading the first few chapters of Into the Woods that inspired me to write this story. Granted Into the Woods and Intrigue have very different plots, but I did get the idea of Link and Zelda interacting within the context of the Hylian court from her. I highly recommend that you guys check her out; just search for the author "Lyxie" on this website. Oh, and while I'm on the subject, I have also drawn a lot of inspiration from The Count of Monte Cristo (fantastic book, I'm rereading it now, actually), although again, the plot of Intrigue is very different from it. Anyway, I hope that you all enjoy this chapter; I'm going to try to get the next one done as soon as possible!