The Forgotten Princess
Part II: The Embittered Old
AN: Not entirely satisfied with this ending, but I would rather finish it up poorly and move on to better fics at the moment.
Impa had just settled into the moth-eaten downy of her bed when mental alarm bells blared a klaxon song. Her defensive trap for the princess's room had been sprung. A sigh wheezed out of her body. It had progressively taken her longer and longer every evening to find a position that didn't cause her a part of her body to protest at the pain—and naturally, just as she managed to adjust herself as comfortably as was possible, some fool thought it would be fun to stir up a little trouble. Skin folded over her eyes as she concentrated on the caught aura. It wasn't a soldier; Impa could discern that immediately; it was too small, too pure. She strained her magic to dig deeper, scan the body even closer. The princess's room had not been disturbed for ages. Believing her to be safe and secure for a minimum of two or three generations, Impa abandoned the lower rooms that festered with Agahnim's soldiers, taking refuge in a small secret chamber behind some moldy bookcases. Now she knew that she had had a burst of stupid optimism at that time; of course something would go wrong with the princess's chamber.
Blood leaked from her nose; Impa dashed it away on her sleeve, pushing harder and harder with the magic. A young man, alone, average build, and—
The answer clicked into place so suddenly and forcefully, she staggered backwards.
"The hero has returned." She retracted her mental tendrils at once, setting the lad free. It certainly would not do to immobilize the hero in the thick of such danger.
She knew that she must join him down in the depths of the dungeon. To walk would be suicide. Thus, although her body protested every step of the way, she used teleportation magic to arrive right outside the room's entrance in but a moment.
Link did not turn from the bed to face Impa. She doubted the boy had even heard her arrive, so she sagged against the wall, wiping the sweat from her forehead on the cold stone. When she had recovered well enough to manage simple conversation, she shambled into the room.
The hero did not stir from the princess's side even then—had he still not heard her? A faint concern stirred in her breast. If this Link did not learn to focus himself soon, he might not see the end of his journey.
The boy started to shake Princess Zelda's shoulder, coaxing her to awaken. "Miss, wake up. Please, you must—"
This was wrong, all wrong. It was not yet the time for this princess to awaken. If Impa did not hurry this conversation along, this Link's Zelda might be slain.
"It's no use, child."
Link whirled around to face her, eyes blown wide with fear. Well, that managed to catch his attention, at the very least.
Impa then came to the bedside to asses Zelda's condition. As she had assumed, even close contact with Link did nothing to disturb her sleep. Only then did she notice that Link was still brandishing his sword. His form was terrible.
"Put that thing away, child." Obedient as always, Link sheathed it.
"It's no use," Impa reiterated. He needed to go. Already he had seen more than he was supposed to. She could've allowed the spell to keep him paralyzed until she arrived, but the risk of his possible discovery by the enemy was too high.
"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? Tell me, and I'll do it. I don't care how dangerous it is." It seemed that although the contact did not affect the princess, it certainly altered the boy. Not good, not good. Link needed to offer his soul to the Zelda in the basement, not this one.
"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."
The boy was indecisive. Her patience was gnawed at by a growing irritation.
"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!"
"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."
He tensed, coming to a decision. "I will return, I swear it. Once this is all over, once peace is restored, I will come back for her."
He wouldn't, but she smiled anyway as he left, because the boy could only handle so much before he toppled with the weight of his issues.
Impa waited until the dust that was disturbed in the hero's wake settled before turning back to her charge. Not even a small twitch had passed her features throughout the entire disturbance; Zelda's face was smooth, calm, content: the epitome of peace. Fortunate child.
Impa lingered for a moment, then closed the curtain on the sleeping beauty before shuffling towards the door to redo the seal.
The magic wouldn't come at first. It cracked and sizzled against the leathery pads of her fingertips, but it would not extend any further. She drew deeply of her ever-depleting reserves and forced the magic out with a grunt. It stuck this time, thank Din. She wasn't so sure she could've mustered up enough energy to attempt it again.
Impa sank to the floor, wiping off the liquid effort that had beaded on her crevassed face. She faintly recalled a time when she was youthful, strong, awe-inspiring. An age that was truly obscured by the mists of time; no one today could ever comprehend life in the sky.
She had been happy to serve the Goddesses, then. Now she was just tired.
She wondered when the Goddesses would finally conclude her servitude. A lifetime had never been not enough for them. They stretched the years of her original life until the Temple of Hylia had began to crumble, vines invading the walls, shoots of grass and moss sprouting between the brickwork. She watched over Lady Hylia for centuries, waiting for the first hero to arrive, bright-eyed and naïve, desperate to find his love. As she waited ever so patiently, with nothing but her own mind for entertainment, they robbed her of youth, strength, beauty, even height, her back developing a permanent slouch with the increasing weight of her years.
And this was alright, this was expected. When the reunion betwixt Link and Zelda at last came about, Demise finally vanquished, albeit not before cursing the former's descendants, Impa was finally permitted to rest, her soul exploding outward from the rotted, useless lump that was once her body.
Impa believed that would be the end of it; yes, as she died, she even thanked the goddesses for their kindness. But she was abruptly jerked back from the welcoming embrace of death, and instead thrust into the life of a different young Sheikah girl who shared her name, dedicated to serving and protecting the royal family at any cost. It was then that Impa came to a sickening realization: the Goddesses would not allow her to crumble into dust and memory until Demise's curse ended; until Link could live a normal life, uninhibited by destiny; until Zelda no longer needed to be protected.
A splinter of fear had been driven into her heart at the thought. Only the Goddesses could possibly know when the curse would at last be extinguished by time, when the Gerudo boy's roots of immortality and power were finally cut. The cycle couldn't possibly go on for all eternity, could it?
When the Hero of Time reawakened to set out on the second half of his journey, hope once again stirred in her breast. The "second" Link had confronted and sealed away the wind mage Vaati, and let it never be said that the lad was nothing less than valiant in his efforts. But Vaati is but a speck on a flea on the titanic boar that is Ganondorf. However, when she saw the Hero of Time, she knew that even the mighty and powerful Gerudo King could find himself at the receiving end of the Master Sword. Though undeniably soft-spoken, the Hylian had true presence, an aura about him that could never be accurately labeled or pinned down, but just simply was. Embedded in his eyes was a firm promise, a promise to avenge every slight, every tragedy, every horror that Ganondorf inflicted upon the people of Hyrule. And Impa allowed herself to be swept up by his presence, emboldened and assured by his quiet strength. The Hero of Time could be the one to end Demise's curse once and for all. Instead of simply sealing the wretch away, postponing the confrontation once again, this Link could end it all. He was courageous by nature, had gained wisdom through his innumerable trials. And one need only look at the young man to feel the power trembling just below the surface.
So when the final confrontation between hero and villain began, Impa had the audacity to sit and watch the bloodbath from a rock formation just outside Ganondorf's castle. She just sat and watched, like a peasant at a play, as they dueled upon the wreckage, as her calm crumbled into despair as the Master Sword was knocked from Link's grip and engulfed in flame, as Ganon's blade splintered the boy's shield and rent apart his flesh and she realized that he had never truly been as powerful as he seemed was it all in her mind was it just wishful thinking why did this happen she was so sure he was the one how much longer must she toil when would it end when would it
Then for a time there was nothing to do but wait, to sit and watch as evil again choked the land, as the forces of light struggled to achieve an uneasy equality with their opposite. Nothing to do but bumble around the slumbering princess until she could divert her attention to the birth and raising of yet another Princess Zelda. And she would watch over the princess, they would play the same games every time, and Impa would always sing the same lullaby, over and over and over and over and over again.
Had Impa disobeyed the Goddesses somehow? Is that why they forced her to watch child after child after child be slaughtered as she herself grew older and frailer, progressively more and more unable to help them when they needed her the most?
She was sick of it. Sick of the perfect and pious Zelda, the ignorant and cheerful Link, the pigheaded and cruel Ganondorf. Sick of it all. She was sick of these same three people who tore and shredded shredded and tore at her nerves until they were pulp they were nothing she can't so sick she's had it
Impa was sick. Impa was tired.
Impa directed her eyes skyward.
"When will it end?"
Her plea rang throughout the hall.