The Forgotten Princess
Part I: The Hopeful Youth
A/N – Some spoilers for Skyward Sword. Also, it is important to know that according to the official timeline, ALttP occurs after Link fails to slay Ganondorf in OoT.
The soldier died messily. The sword Uncle had given him was certainly well kept and cared for, but it wasn't quite sharp enough for Link to conclude the sideways slash he had attempted to execute: the blade was still firmly wedged in between several pounds of muscle and two sturdy ribs. Link lowered his foe to the ground—to allow the fully-armored man to clang loudly to the tiles would attract some greatly unwanted attention—and, after placing one booted foot on the man's blood-soaked chest, he clenched the sword's hilt with both hands and lifted. The blade slid out with a slight spurting sound, quickly followed by a new wave of lifeblood that pooled on the soldier's torso, the excess spilling over onto the floor.
Link grimaced at the sight, clamped his hand to his mouth to staunch the bile. He quickly and carefully wiped his bloodied sword clean on a nearby silk banner hanging on the wall. Uncle often reminded him to always clean his blade after every battle, if possible, to stave off damage and rust, despite Link's protests that he would never need to wield a weapon of any kind, not in these times of peace.
Uncle. Link stifled the sudden wave of fear and sadness that assaulted him at the thought of his beloved relative. He could collapse later; right now, there was a princess in desperate need of his help.
So he pressed on, leaving the fallen soldier behind with his emotions as he descended further into Hyrule Castle. Eventually he arrived at fork in the road. After furtively checking for any cursed soldiers lurking around either corner and finding none, he unfurled the map he had pilfered.
Link frowned. The hallway to the right had not been drawn in; rather, the corridor neatly curved to the left, leading down to yet another staircase that led downwards even further into the depths of the castle. Why would the mapmaker not include this particular hallway? What could possibly be down there? Link backtracked a little, thinking perhaps he might've read the map incorrectly and thus thought he was in the wrong location, but everything else seemed to match up perfectly. Coming back to the fork, he debated on which path to take.
Princess Zelda had explicitly told him in the dream that she was in the very bottom dungeon of Hyrule Castle. But the curiosity was maddening. What could be down the right path? Shoulds and wants warred for dominance within his mind. He took a step towards the left, stopped short, pivoted, and started up in a light jog going in the opposite direction. He was just going to quickly check what was down the right hallway—if there even was anything—and then he'd be right back after the princess. It wouldn't take but a minute. It was probably just a forgotten storage room, anyway.
A plush carpet, its red hue dulled by age, picked up at the beginning of the hallway, coming to a stop right before the lone door at the end. It was a rather plain door for a castle of such royalty; it was smooth chestnut, with not a lone decorative carving to adorn it.
Link grasped the gilded doorknob, and he nearly choked at the resulting immense ripple of magic that washed over him. It was a protective ward, one that Link had read about before: it was an ancient design that had been abandoned by the court wizards for more advanced spells long ago. It paralyzed whoever activated it as it scanned the trapped being for possible theat. He could be left there for hours, days, months even, depending on the caster's desire and strength. If he could have moved, Link would've kicked himself. How could he have been so foolish, walking into a trap like this? A cursed soldier would be upon him any moment. What would happen to the princess now?
It was old, but indeed still very powerful; he couldn't shake himself of it. He could only stand there stupidly, mouth agape, as the magic coursed through his veins and bled into his limbs, scrutinized the gray matter of his brain, tightened around his quivering heart.
Just as the chill of panic began to settle in his bones, the magic concluded its scan. Its caster must've deemed him worthy—the alien sensations squirming through Link's body faded, and with great relief he turned the doorknob and entered the room, his control over his limbs restored.
The room was small, seemingly constructed of the same white marble as the rest of the castle. It was bare of any furnishings, paintings, statues, anything at all, really, sans a single canopy bed at the furthest edge of the room. Lush red velvet drapes surrounded the bed frame, obscuring whoever, if anyone, that was resting from his searching eyes. Link drew closer, sneezing at the copious amount of dust that had settled everywhere.
Knuckles whitening around Uncle's sword, Link warily pulled the drapery to the side. A young woman was laying there, hands clasped over her bosom as if in prayer. She wore a beautiful pink nightdress—it looked to be silk—and reddish brown ringlets of hair curled around her small shoulders. The maiden's face was pale, waxen, as if she'd been denied the sight of the sun for all her life. It gave her an ethereal glow that only served to enamor Link further. With time, he imagined, he could love her. A curl of remembrance stirred in his breast at the idea.
With some alarm, Link could not see the steady rise and fall of her chest.
His hands reflexively darted out, shakily curling around her dainty one. She couldn't be dead. Not her. This was not the princess who called out to him in his dreams, and yet…and yet….he couldn't deny that they were connected in some manner. He'd only just gazed upon her beauty, and an almost immediate wave of nostalgia washed over him, as if he had known the mysterious young woman for years—as if she was an old friend, that this was an old love waiting ever patiently to be rekindled.
He couldn't lose her.
The worry gnawing at Link's stomach dissipated as he felt a sluggish yet steady rhythm pulse from her cold wrist. She was alive. She was alive.
Coming back to himself with a shake of his head—how could he let her beauty inundate his senses like that, there's no way that true love could bloom so quickly and sweetly—Link quickly repositioned her hands, awkwardly skimming her breasts in his haste. Strangely enough, she did not awaken from her slumber at his ministrations. Very strange, actually. Who, exactly, was this woman? Why would she not stir? Why was her dusty, barren room guarded by powerful magic cast long ago? Who would want to shield her from the world? And why?
Link, forgoing his normal manners, began to jostle her shoulder in earnest. "Miss, wake up. Please, you must—"
"It's no use, child."
Heart leaping into his throat, Link whirled around to face the speaker, brandishing his sword in what he hoped was a threatening manner. But it was not a cursed soldier that greeted him; rather, it was an old woman.
She did not look well. The few grey wisps of hair that remained looked as if they'd come out if one merely touched them. The beginnings of fat folded under her trembling chin and the bare bit of arms that peaked out from her brown cloak. Said arms were mottled here and there with black spots of decaying flesh. She gazed at him with exhausted, yet determined eyes that were sunk deep into her weathered face. When she crossed the room to join Link by the young lady's bedside, she did so slowly, with stooped shoulders and creaking bones, as if every small movement of her weary form brought her great pain.
"Put that thing away, child," The woman clucked disapprovingly, pointing one shriveled hand towards his blade. Link sheathed it at once.
"It's no use," she repeated, wheezing slightly. "Princess Zelda was cursed many, many years ago by an extremely powerful magic to slumber forevermore. There is but one way for her to ever awaken."
"What is it?" Link demanded. "Tell me, and I'll do it. I don't care how dangerous it is."
"It is not a matter of your dedication or courage, child. It is not yet time; you are not the one fated to save her."
"You needn't concern yourself with this matter. The Princess Zelda you seek is further down into the dungeon's depths. If you make haste now, you should still get there in time."
Link glanced to the open door, than back to the woman who was supposedly a past princess, torn.
"What if the one fated to come never shows? Will she lie here eternally, trapped in her mind forever? I can't be at peace knowing that she is to suffer so!"
The old woman upturned the crevassed flesh of her lips upward into a smile; a few teeth were missing. "You're a very kind lad. But your anxiety over her is superfluous. The destined one will come, in time. Now go, Link. You have dawdled long enough here. Rescue your princess before it truly is too late."
"Save the Princess...Zelda is your..."
"Uncle, no, please, don't leave me!"
Gritting his teeth in despair, Link at last relented. "I will return, I swear it," He declared fervently, as he backed out of the room. "Once this is all over, once peace is restored, I will come back for her."
The old woman merely smiled at him again, neither accepting nor refuting his claim.
As Link ran, descending down, down, down, he realized he hadn't caught the elderly woman's name. After a few more steps he recalled bewilderedly that she had addressed him by name, even though he was sure he had not given it. Those tired eyes had gazed at him with unsettling familiarity, similar, he imagined, to how he felt when he gazed upon the maiden. How? Why? Oh, he wished Uncle were here. He could have explained who the old woman was and how she knew him, and why the sight of a long forgotten princess made his heart ache and his very soul weep.