The first sword she takes hold of is a children's toy.

They've cleared out the king's old playroom, laid mounds of stuffed animals and wooden blocks and games before the little princess. She inspects the collection with already sagely eyes, holding on to her father's hand as he shows her the things that amused him as a boy.

There is a little wooden sword and shield, far more intricately carved than the rough crosses the village boys play with. Zelda inspects them gravely, then reaches out to grab the hilt of the sword, holding it up inquisitively.

"No," the king tells her with a voice tailor-made for headstrong young princesses, "You don't need that. That's for boys."

And she doesn't need it, but she wants it, and sulks until the train set distracts her.

The second and third swords she takes hold of are for rookies only.

It's an inspection of the barracks today, and Zelda is bored. The adults seem terribly fussed about things like regulation and training regimes and schedules, and she sulks a little off to one side as they fine-tune things she has little to no interest in.

Instead, other things have caught her attention. There's a rack of weapons on the wall beside her, and she's giving it an inspection of her own before reaching out to pull one off.

The tip of the blade hits the flagstones with a muted ting, and Zelda winces a little as she hoists it up. It definitely isn't light enough for an eight-year-old, and she struggles to hold it steady.

And then there's a gloved hand on hers, gently slipping the sword from between her fingers. "Let's try a smaller one, my lady," Alfonzo murmurs, offering her both a smile and a much smaller sword.

When she wraps her hands around the hilt of the rookie sword, Alfonzo nods in approval. But it's barely a moment in time before the adults finish, the sword is taken away, and Alfonzo can only give her a small sad smile as they lead her away.

The fourth sword she takes hold of is like air.

It's not her hands that holds the Phantom's blades, neither steel nor flame. Her borrowed metal body is nerveless, pain remembered and not experienced, her skin numb. She is not the one to wield its weaponry.

It's only when she reaches for Link's own sword, resting against the side of the seat as he curls up some time between a temple and a tower, that it really sinks in. Her pale hands pass like mist through the hilt of the training sword, and Zelda stares at it blankly.

And then she releases her grip on the ground and lets herself drift upwards, through the insubstantial roof of the train, into the rainy night air. Drawing herself up, she watches rain drizzle off the train's roof, the water ignoring the small feet that would otherwise block its path.

It's a disconcerting feeling. The world is like fog to her, insubstantial and invisible. She feels like the only solid being left alive, and yet her logic tells her that it is the opposite - that the world is real and she is the one slipping away.

She longs to be useful again, to take hold of the world, and she waits.

The fifth sword she takes hold of slays a demon.

Suffused with power and fizzy with magic, laughing and giddy and manic, the bow cast aside in favour of another weapon, she wraps her hands around Link's, around the handle of the Lokomo Sword, and pushes it deep within the Demon King's skull.

Malladus dies with her hands white-knuckled around steel, and she feels like a hero.

The sixth sword she takes hold of is blunt and heavy with jewels.

But she holds it steady because she must, since decapitating her best friend by accident instead of knighting him is probablya bit of a faux pas. Link eyes her nervously then breathes an audible sigh of relief when she finally lowers the ornamental thing, and she gives him a hard stare only he can see from this vantage point.

A nervous, apologetic grin pops onto his face.

"I name you a Knight of New Hyrule, Link," she tells him clearly, and he still looks bashful even as he rises to his feet. Nearby, Alfonzo watches on in approval; seated in the first row, Niko looks teary-eyed. Teacher begins the applause, and Link flushes a little at the attention.

Zelda, for her part, is a little distracted with trying not to drop the ceremonial sword...

The seventh sword she takes hold of is well-worn and wicked sharp.

Two years on, and she's fifteen, old enough to be crowned Queen of New Hyrule. The celebrations take a night and a day, and in her third day of her regency, she returns to Aboda Village with Link and Alfonzo.

It's ostensibly part of her royal tour, visiting each and every corner of the kingdom she's now meant to rule. It's also an opportunity to relax- go swimming in the ocean, watch as Link communes with the seagulls, sit back with a cup of tea in Alfonzo's house while he and Link talk shop.

At least, up until the point where she sets her cup down delicately, gets to her feet, grabs the well-used sword up on Alfonzo's wall, and whirls around with it in her hands, tip pointed unerringly at Alfonzo.

He does, to his credit, look mildly terrified.

"Teach me to use a sword properly," she demands, and is gratified when he agrees.

The eighth sword she takes hold of is a gently blunted practice sword.

"Proper forms, first," Alfonzo tells her, and she allows him to correct her grip. This is a privilege she's fairly sure only she could have - the Legendary Swordsman, returned from a stint as a master engineer, to tutor the young queen personally. Link watches eagerly from the side, munching on a sandwich, his own stint as a swordsman not forgotten.

Still, Link has his first love, a train of his very own. And while she may have declared him the Hero of the Spirit Tracks, Alfonzo is the teacher she wants.

Her feet learn the dance with ease, and Alfonzo remarks that their ancestors fought for a living. First, her moves are too overly eager, uncontrolled and unrefined - soon, she learns both technique and observation, subtle clues to pinpoint an opponent's movements.

Soon, she learns the moves the rookies learnt in their training. If she could, she'd declare herself one of her own knights - she can fight for herself, a fire in the blood that had ignited in the Tower of Spirits and had yet to diminish. Soon, Zelda begins to refer to herself as a swordswoman, and soon, the others begin to as well.

Link grins as she and Alfonzo spar, and when she orders him not to hold back, she's gratified when she finally manages to win.

The ninth sword she takes hold of is the one that cuts through barriers.

She's started a school, the finest accomplishment in her third year of her reign. It's one just meant for girls, like the one in Castle Town - but unlike the one in the town, this one is meant to teach girls to fight.

It causes a minor political scandal when the Queen of New Hyrule herself steps up as an instructor in how to swordfight, and she takes hold of a ceremonial sword - the symbol of the school - to slice through the ribbon.

"It's not the role of a woman to sit aside and watch others take control of their destinies," she explains to the assembled crowds evenly and calmly. "I was prepared to sit idly when the Demon King attempted to take our land. And I learnt very quickly that that would get people killed."

Link, watching from the side of the balcony, gives her a sheepish smile. Alfonzo, watching from the other side, gives her a thumbs up.

"And so," she tells her land, her voice as sharp and as steady as a sword blade, "I hereby declare the Queen Tetra Hyrule School of Combat to be open!"

And the blade slices through ribbon.

The tenth sword she takes hold of is her own.

It's crafted for her hand and hers alone, a replacement for the knight's sword she used throughout her adolescence. This is a dangerously sharp piece of glittering metal she now holds aloft, small multicoloured gems embedded in the crosspiece.

Only she and Link alone know the significance of the colour and order of those gems. She and Link and now Alfonzo, her teacher and her confidante, to whom she has told everything.

Slowly, Zelda raises the blade, slices a pattern into the air. She jabs once, twice, following the musical staves of old songs that sing in her memories.

The sword moves as part of her arm. Her movements are fluid and accurate and lethal. She can fight off assailants and cross blades with the finest swordsman in the land and with young heroes and nothing will stop her.

She takes destiny into her own hands. Once, Link's sword cut through enemies for the sake of protecting her. Then, she took up the blade herself and told destiny rather firmly that she was quite capable of protecting herself, thank you very much. And now, other girls, girls who were once like herself as a child, are learning to become their own knights.

With a twirl of the blade, she sheaths it in the scabbard on her back. And then she marches out of the room with a grin, ready to take on destiny herself.