Intrigue
By Queenie Z

Out of all the mortals that the White Goddess Hylia had met, the warrior known as Link was by far the most extraordinary and intriguing. An expert swordsman who possessed a kind of courage and resiliency that had impressed even the Old Gods, he had become the object of Hylia's intense observation during the time that he and his men prepared for battle. Of course she wanted to keep a watchful eye over her chosen champion, but there was more to it than that - he was a man full of mystery and contradiction, who loved the rush of battle yet longed for an era of peace, who would have given his life for his friends yet was want to wander off to be by himself, who had the strength of a ferocious lion yet treated others with tender kindness... a man who had been imprisoned for so long yet still desired to fight for the land that had wronged him.

These puzzling pieces of his personality were what drew Hylia to him during this short time of respite before the great battle with Demise and his minions, and during this time she began to understand him more and more. And though she allowed Link his privacy when he desired it, there came a point when Her Grace became unbearably curious about his secret treks. Where did he wander off to, and why? What did he do there, and what would he think about? Even a being as powerful as herself couldn't see into his heart; so, one night, when the air was chilly and the sky was slightly overcast, she decided to follow him.

Of course, Link was a seasoned war veteran; he would have surely noticed her presence had she not used her magic to cloak herself. She felt a tinge of guilt as she followed him through the forest and towards the edge of the falls that fed into Lake Floria, but she justified her stealth as simply watching over her chosen one as she was supposed to. When Link reached the end of the platform that loomed over the lake, he glanced around with sharp blue eyes before sitting down with a loud sigh, dangling his legs from the edge.

For a long time, he remained silent, enjoying the view of the lake with a soft smile. Hylia could help but be warmed by the sight - he truly did love this world and everything in it, despite his often ferocious demeanor. But after a while, he let out a low laugh and tilted his head to the sky.

"Heh... How desperate the Gods must be, to give their sword to someone like me," he muttered in bewildered amusement.

Hylia's heart sank. Of course, she thought, the man had thrust upon him a great destiny, it was only natural for him to question it. Yet his disbelief in his own strength made her heart ache. Perhaps she could help him see in himself the qualities that made her choose him to be her champion.

With a wave of her hand, the goddess rematerialized, remaining silent to allow the hero to notice her on his own. And notice her he did; after a short moment, his hand went immediately to his sword.

"Link," she said calmly, stopping the warrior in his tracks, "it is only I."

He turned to look at Hylia before letting out a relieved sigh and lowering his hand. "Surely a goddess knows better than to sneak up on a warrior from behind," he said with a small chuckle.

"I tried my best not to startle you," she replied, walking towards him. "I apologize."

"No need. I had a feeling someone was there regardless."

"You did?" She tilted her head and smiled. "Who, pray tell, did you think was there?"

Link shrugged. "A ghost, perhaps?"

"You seem awfully calm, then, for someone who thought a ghost was following him."

He smirked up at her. "It would take a lot more than a ghost to frighten me," he said, moving a little to his right to allow her room to sit beside him.

"So you acknowledge your courage," Hylia said, taking her seat gracefully. "If you know your strength, Link, why do you question the reason you were chosen?"

He stared at her for a moment. Then, he turned away, running a hand through his messy blond bangs. "...I suppose I just don't believe that I'm the pure hero you seem to think I am."

Hylia frowned. "And why do you think that?"

"You should already know, Your Grace." He hung his head sadly. "I've done and seen far too much. I've been broken, I've been betrayed... I've seen the worst that my kind has to offer."

"And you believe that the hurt you feel makes you a poor choice."

Link nodded slowly. "It makes me hardly suited to wield a holy blade, I think."

"But you can wield it." Hylia placed a gentle hand on his upper arm. "Why do you suppose that is?"

"That's what I've wondered every night since we met."

"Would you like for me to tell you, then?"

The weary hero looked back at her curiously.

"It's because," began Her Grace, "after all of your hurt, after everything you've seen and done... you still possess the ability to love."

"The ability... to love?"

"Yes. You still have so much love left in your heart, for your friends and for the world we're trying to protect." She moved her hand until it covered his. "When I saw your love for this land in your eyes after you were released, I knew I had made the right choice - I knew you would be able to wield the gods' sacred weapon. That, Link, is why you were chosen."

For a moment, Link was speechless. Had those words come out of the mouth of any normal human, he would have laughed at them. But to hear it from their world's guardian goddess, from this bright and shining exemplar of grace and power...

He looked down at the lake beneath them to hide the smile that slowly crept onto his face. "I suppose if the goddess herself says it," he said, "then it must be true."

Hylia smiled again. "Don't believe it because I say it. Believe it because it's the truth." She removed her hand from his and giggled, noticing his smile underneath his wild hair. "You're an intriguing man. You possess all of this love, yet you seem afraid of showing it."

He laughed. "Exposing your heart to others is terrifying for many people. You could call it a quirk unique to us mortals."

"Is it now?" She brushed his bangs back behind his ear. "...You can expose it to me without fear."

"You want me to confide in you?"

"If you want to."

Link thought about her offer. Then, he lifted his head, giving her a confident smile.

"All right, then. I'll tell you a secret."

Hylia's eyes began to sparkle with curiosity. "Go on."

"You tell me that I'm so full of love," he said, his face gradually softening into an expression she had never seen on him before - embarrassment. He continued, "and yet I've never been with a woman in my life."

The goddess was genuinely shocked by this revelation. "You? But, goodness, you're so handsome! I would have thought that women would be quarreling over you!"

Link scratched his cheek. "Oh, it's not that I haven't gotten any attention from them. It's just... I've been too busy to pay them any mind." He glanced back at the sky. "When peace is restored and my name is cleared for good... perhaps then I can finally begin looking for a wife."

"And I'm sure you'll have plenty of willing women to choose from," chuckled Hylia.

"Heh... let's hope." He stayed silent a moment longer, then stood. "Tomorrow will be another long day. I should head back to the base and retire for the night." He began walking away, but he stopped when Hylia called his name.

"Link," she said, standing, "please, wait a moment."

He turned. "Your Grace?"

She approached him, placing a slender hand on his rough, war-worn face. Then, she leaned in and kissed him tenderly on the lips, causing him to let out a muffled cry in surprise. When she finished, she took a good look at her hero's flushed face, giggled, then kissed him again. This time, Link was far more receptive - he shut his eyes and wrapped his arms around her waist. The thought that he was kissing a goddess didn't even occur to him; he only knew her in that moment as a woman whose love he was eager to receive and reciprocate. They parted, and Hylia gave him a warm, affectionate smile.

"Now you can say that you've been with a woman," she said. "...Now you have someone else to love."

He stared back, flabbergasted, yet strangely content. He cracked another smile and began chuckling. "I do believe I've just fallen in love with a goddess," he said with an edge of amusement, "I can only hope heaven doesn't strike me down where I stand."

"It won't in the least," assured Her Grace, taking his hand in hers, "of that I can promise you. Come, we'll walk back to your base together."

Link nodded, and together they began the long trek home through the dark and chilly forest.